Thursday, August 10, 2017

Duane Street Summer - a new Tribeca Summer Impression...

...from a photographer's notebook

It’s been quite some time since I’ve engaged in one of those late night visual fugues and turned one of my photographs into something more impressionistic…or, as I like to call it, “messing around with a few thousand innocent little pixels.”

Fact is, I’ve been rather busy with the “literal,” especially since purchasing my first full-frame digital SLR, the exquisitely capable Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, prior to my recent week in New York.

Nonetheless, as Canon celebrated earlier this year the 30th Anniversary of its highly successful line of EOS auto-focus cameras, causing me to realize I had been an EOS shooter almost from the git-go, jumping aboard in 1988 with one of the first two EOS film SLRs, this became a rather special month, what with jumping, no...plunging!... into full-frame D-SLR shooting with one of Canon’s high end statements (and so glad I waited to do it for what the 5D-IV brings to the party!).

But neither this little ramble nor the product of my “messing around” has to do with my new 5D. Rather, it relates to that first EOS film SLR that competed with my trusty Nikon manual focus SLRs for this photographer’s affection back in 1988, the EOS-620.

After serving me quite well for a couple of years, the trusty little 620 stepped aside in 1990, for no fault of its own, to make way for the industrial strength professional iteration of EOS technology, the EOS-1, which I had to spring for once it was clear EOS cameras would be part of my shooting tools, and which I happily still use.

However, in shall we call it a wave of sentimentality (and if you know me, you know those waves crash often upon this shore), I purchased a “new” EOS-620 a few years ago, remembering in this era of menu-driven camera controls just how straightforward was its operation by comparison – sort of a part-time return to a more “comfort-food-y” experience with a camera that had the basic essentials for getting it done without a lot of unnecessary fuss.

The 620 also reminded me of my first exciting visits to both Paris and the Swiss Alps. And, if another excuse was needed, well, the price was right – a minty 620 for twenty-eight bucks, shipping included! Yes, by this point, in 2012, digital photography had pretty much knocked the bottom out of most of the film camera market. And besides, the EOS-620 had been superseded several times by newer EOS film camera models with more features, so in EOS terms, it was a very “old” model. But it was those solid “essentials” I was looking to have in my film camera arsenal once again. So, a happy “new” addition to the ol’ tool kit…

Becoming aware of the 30th anniversary of Canon’s EOS system, I wrote a story about my (almost) thirty years of snuggling my eye up against various EOS cameras’ viewfinders, including both the one that got it started for me, the EOS-620 and that “new” 620 I got hold of in 2012. To illustrate the piece, I started selecting images from my original and “new” EOS-620s – an interesting voyage of re-discovery for me, as it combined shooting from the periods 1988-1990 and 2012-present.

In seeking out some from the latter period, the search led me to the original image from which the impression you see (a portion of) up top was created.

That “new” EOS-620 had come along with me to NYC in 2013 and served me well alongside the D-SLR and another EOS film camera. Indeed, the 620 was in my pack on the delightful first day of summer late afternoon that I discovered the inviting motifs of Duane Street in Tribeca. And while I was doing most of my shooting with the digital camera, I did make sure to use the 620, loaded with Kodak Ektar-100 film, to capture some of those moments in the golden light of a New York afternoon. Some of that shooting was capturing the human activities aspect of Duane Street, richly back-lighted from my point of view looking west along Duane to Greenwich Street.

The shots were fine, but, if you’ve read my blog story or listened to the accompanying “PhotoMoments” podcast about discovering the delights of this short street in Tribeca, you know how magical I found the experience. I could not have discovered this venue at a better time of the day with that special kind of afternoon sunlight that New York provides. And, somehow, the Ektar shots were almost too “literal,” not quite catching, I felt, the special sensual experience of my visit.

And so, my exercise late last night, using one of the original Ektar images, which I think did better capture that special Duane Street ambiance and the warm glow I felt in experiencing it.

This “Duane Street Summer” impression (see it in full scope here) will be available in archival prints on fine art 100% cotton fiber paper in a variety of sizes. If you’d like to own this little golden sunlit slice of Tribeca in summer, please be in touch.

©2017 Steve Ember

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Discovering a plucky bit of contrast amidst the towers of Lower Manhattan

...from a photographer's notebook
Oculus, World Trade Center looking east
There’s something about the constantly changing Manhattan skyline that keeps me so energized when out with the cameras (read: all the time).

Often, it is the old giving way to the new, always the classic and the modern cheek by jowl that inspire. But what really excites is when the old, the classic – literally – holds its ground and can cheekily say to the soaring modern, “I’m here to stay. Get used to it, big shiny neighbor!”

Here’s one example of the latter that really got the juices flowing on my last visit, as the contrast was so striking. Using mild telephoto to compress perspective, I was shooting Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus transportation center at the World Trade Center, looking east toward Broadway and was struck by the contrast between the soaring white ribs and the plucky looking red-roofed tower atop the eight story late nineteenth century building facing Broadway.

Now, you might say Calatrava’s ribbed and soaring design is likely to contrast with any modern neighboring Lower Manhattan architectural statement; but in this case, the contrast between the plucky old and the boldly new, including the colors in the late afternoon sunshine of this first day of summer, really excited me as I composed my shot through the 28-80mm L-Series lens on my new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV D-SLR.

So, what’s your story, plucky little brown and red tower?
As this was my first visit to this side of the WTC, I did not at the time know the significance of said plucky red and brown tower. But I do now. It’s the Corbin Building, whose construction was completed in 1889, and which was pretty down on its heels as New York’s MTA began construction of the neighboring Fulton Center as a means of unifying Lower Manhattan’s jumble of Subway lines and their separate stations.

The Corbin Building was named for banker Austin Corbin, who had earlier acquired the Long Island Railroad, generally acknowledged as the key to Long Island’s growth and development.

Those who ride the LIRR into Manhattan may recall a once-upon-a-time monument to railroading called Penn Station. Well, at least those of a certain age. The original turn of the twentieth century station rose majestically on Seventh Avenue at 33rd Street and made arriving or departing midtown, well, almost as grand an experience as the New York Central’s Grand Central Terminal, further uptown and a few blocks to the east.

Unlike the sad demise of Penn Station's original incarnation, in the case of Mr. Corbin’s building, nestled amidst all the new soaring structures downtown, preservationists have reason to smile (even if in a smaller context). They succeeded in getting the MTA not to demolish the building but, through a painstaking excavation process in building the Fulton Center, to protect its integrity and to then even engage in cleaning and preserving it.

Of course, the transit folks got bang for their buck, as escalators now  connect Fulton Center to the Dey Street Passageway, leading to the rest of the downtown subway lines, as well as the PATH trains to New Jersey in the WTC’s Oculus…via the basement of the attractively restored Corbin Building, which is now being developed as inviting commercial space.

So, win-win. And a rather nice story to learn about as I edited my shots from that June afternoon in Lower Manhattan. I hope it might enhance your enjoyment of the photo.

Contrasts in Lower Manhattan is available in archival gallery prints in a variety of sizes and media, including metallic.

And, yes, my new acquaintance with the Corbin Building means it moves to top of list on my next Lower Manhattan explorations.

©2017 Steve Ember

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Monday, July 24, 2017

There's all kinds of candy stores...

...from a photographer's notebook

What does it take to turn a New York Subway-loving photographer into a kid in a candy store?

Walking into the Fulton Street Transit Center one June day was all it took for me, as I looked up to see all of the route emblems for the many Subway lines this modern underground rail nexus now integrates. The view here is from a street level entrance, but the distinctive shopping and subway station complex can also be reached via the underground concourse leading from the Oculus at World Trade Center, which also links the Subway lines here to the modern WTC PATH terminal with its trains to points in New Jersey.

Not sure what the symbol at the far right, next to the 5 Train signifies. But that’s all right – It’ll take several trips originating from the various tracks and levels of this “candy store” before that even becomes a concern ;-)

Speaking of candy stores, methinks I hit upon a great idea – M&Ms for Subway Lovers. Yeah, I ran it by them and got a form letter from "[my] friends at Mars" to the effect they don't take product suggestions coming from outside their Marketing Department. That's OK, Mars, I'll still eat your crunchy shelled little chocolates...

And speaking of original ideas, my attention was so focused on the M&M's...err, Subway "bullets," that I didn't notice the "Subway Library Selfie Contest" poster to the left of the escalators while I was shooting. I doubt I would have looked more closely while there, as selfies are not exactly a passion of mine. But in editing my shots, I found myself wondering just what a "Subway Library" could be and why it would spawn such a contest.

Turns out I missed something special. It's over now - the contest, that is - so put away your selfie stick, but imagine this...just one of those wondrous things that NYC manages to do with such panache - and scale. The New York Public Library thinks straphangers should have something good to read while tearing through tunnels or cruising to Coney (to eat baloney on a roll?) and is providing free e-books. The special train will run on the Sixth Avenue Line as an F train or on the Eighth Avenue Line as an E.

And, for its part, the MTA has "wrapped" a special subway train in vivid "Subway Library" colors. OK, we've all seen "wrapped" rapid transit or city buses, but, as I was saying about style - and this is what I must say I was sorry I missed! - the inside of the cars is "wrapped" to resemble the Rose Reading Room of the Public Library - complete with skylight and "shelves" of books. Hope they included a stern librarian "shooshing" the noisy ones yammering into their i-nuisances...

Come to think of it, I think I would take a selfie with her!

Happy reading...and subway riding.

©2017 Steve Ember
P.S. You can ride with me and the cameras on some favorite MTA lines by clicking here (and then "transferring" to other trains by leafing through my NYC images).

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Friday, July 21, 2017

When it’s Christmas Morning on the Night Before Summer...

...from a photographer's notebook
Empire State Building from Madison Avenue

No matter how many years are on the odometer, I am delighted to say that I never run out of “Kid on Christmas Morning” moments when I’m in New York with a camera or three.

And when one of those cameras happens to be my first full-frame D-SLR, the exquisite Canon EOS 5D MkIV – and so glad I waited – purchased especially for this trip and its planned twilight open helicopter flight (let’s call it an early Christmas present I’d no intention of waiting for Christmas Morning to open!)…

I suppose this image, taken on the night before summer, might serve as Exhibit-A. For at the end of my first day exploring new territory in the city, enjoying for the first time Madison Square Park, a few blocks south of my hotel on Madison Avenue, and a nice dinner at a sidewalk café along the north edge of the park, I’m walking back uptown and look up to see the iconic spire of the Empire State Building, lighted in some of my favorite colors against a crystal clear night sky.

Yes, Santa Claus is coming to town – Heck, he’s already landed that sleigh with a great big bundle of megapixels inside.

The ESB was captured here through my trusty quarter-century-young 28-80mm f/2.8-4 L-Series lens at its 80mm setting on the new 5D. The photograph (see it larger here) is available in archival gallery-quality prints in several sizes, and can be ordered on several stocks including metallic media. Please be in touch for specifics.

It was actually a fine afternoon and evening for viewing and shooting iconic spires in Manhattan, notably also the gold-domed roofs of both the New York Life Building and Met Life Tower along the east side of Madison Square Park, both against afternoon- and twilight-blue skies on this photo-perfect day... Let me share these with you soon.

©2017 Steve Ember

P.S: That 28-80L lens, incidentally, was purchased back when my EOS-1 film camera and its “junior partner,” the lovely little RT were new and has since meshed its shiny little gold electrical contacts with those on my EOS-3 and 1N RS (big brother to the RT). It was nice (but not surprising) to see it got along splendidly in NYC with the full-frame digital EOS.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rachmaninoff at the Meyerhoff

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Conductor Marin Alsop salutes her orchestra after a stunning performance of the Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 last night at the Meyerhoff

I journeyed up the road Baltimore last night (well, crawled might be a better word, as it was a Friday on the Capital Beltway and I-95 - better planning in order next time - but well worth the 2-1/2 hour slog!) to hear Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform one of my favorite works of Rachmaninoff, the Symphony No.2, which also happens to be one of my favorite symphonies, period.

When one loves a work as much as I do this symphony, it is difficult indeed to have just one favorite performance, conductor, orchestra, or recording. I’ve always thought Andre Previn and Eugene Ormandy have both made this expansive romantic symphony their own in definitive recordings, but there are so many others in my collection of CDs and vinyl, which I have enjoyed over the years. Oddly, for a work I so love, live performances have not numbered all that many, but I’d like to add Ms. Alsop to a list of conductors who I feel have made the symphony their own.

If this happens to be one of your favorite symphonies too, let me suggest – no, urge – that you go online at and reserve a seat at Strathmore this evening at 8 or at the Meyerhoff tomorrow afternoon at 3. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Especially when it's superbly played Rachmaninoff #2!
Rachmaninoff No. 2 is a long symphony, running close to an hour. Mere minutes into the first movement, as Ms. Alsop led her orchestra, I suspected we were in for one hell of a ride. As the movement transitioned from brooding to Allegro moderato, I knew I’d been right. And especially as the Allegro molto second movement began, well this Rachmaninoff lover must have been grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

As Cary Grant says in “North by Northwest” (if in an entirely different context!), “What a performance!”

As the last movement built to its magnificent and affirmative climax, I didn’t want it to end.

Brava Maestra Alsop! Bravo BSO!

This is a concert I’ll remember with unalloyed joy and appreciation.

I was not aware of this until reading the program notes of the concert I attended earlier this month, but Ms. Alsop is a protégé of Leonard Bernstein. It made perfect sense as I listened to her talk about Rimsky Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” last time at the “Off the Cuff” concert, as well as the way she engages her audience in discussing a piece of music.

Like Bernstein, she is a kinetic and emotive conductor. And while I love many of Bernstein’s recordings, thankfully, unlike Bernstein, her facial expressions do not suggest excessive Sturm und Drang (or the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition!). Her love of – and respect for – the music she conducts is nothing less than genuine. Beyond that, a good descriptor would be “unassumingly eloquent.”

From my perch above the stage in a cozy three chair terrace box, I could really appreciate how Ms. Alsop communicates with her musicians in each section of the orchestra. It is nothing less than a warm and sincere love affair, both with her orchestra and the music she conducts.

Finding my sweet spot at the Meyerhoff…

I mentioned in a previous post that I planned to sample the acoustics and views from other locations in the invitingly modern concert hall of the Meyerhoff. Assuming good acoustics, I’ve always enjoyed a high and close-in view of the orchestra. It allows me to visually connect the sounds with the musicians in each section of the ensemble. This time, I think I struck gold – a front terrace box on the left side, way up front.

Experiencing the Rachmaninoff No.2 as conducted by Marin Alsop from this high and cozy spot in the Meyerhoff, and watching her interact with the musicians, was nothing less than sublime.

The program also includes two choral works in which the excellent University of Maryland Chorus, directed by Edward Maclary, joined the BSO. It opened with Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s “Credo,” receiving its BSO premiere. It is described as a “merging of the worlds of love and hate to offer healing.” I’m not at all sure that, on first hearing, it did either for me. Like the 2-1/2 hour Interstate slog, though, it was to be endured, knowing the affirmative joys of Rach #2 lay ahead. Oh, yes, it is relatively … short.

More to my liking, the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms, which gave the orchestra and this fine chorus the chance to shine together. I especially enjoyed Ms. Alsop’s conducting and the orchestra's taught ensemble playing in a particularly angular and athletic orchestral portion.

The BSO programs also have a way of offering patrons some nice after concert bonuses in the so-called BSO Late Night programs. Last night, it was an (additional) performance by the chorus, a capella, on a Meyerhoff stairway. Many of us audience members stayed around to enjoy their virtuosity. Just a note, this bonus performance was for Friday night’s concert only.

©2017 Steve Ember

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Monday, April 3, 2017

A thousand and one nights at the Meyerhoff...

Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

Baltimore really loves its symphony orchestra. I mean, really-really! It was such an enjoyable experience catching up with the Baltimore Symphony Saturday night. It was my first time attending a concert conducted by BSO Music Director Marin Alsop, as well as my first concert at Baltimore’s Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Wow, did this Baltimore-bred music lover actually type that? Where is his loyalty, one might ask. Not even a trip across the Beltway to hear the BSO at Strathmore Performing Arts Center? (Well, I can at least say that I played a fair number of BSO recordings in my past life as classical music broadcaster.)

All of that changes after Saturday’s engaging evening of music (and more).

But I must blushingly admit that the last time I had previously attended a BSO concert was at the old Lyric Theater. I wish I could even say that the last time at the Lyric was shortly before the Meyerhoff opened in 1982…but, alas, it wasn’t.

Nope, last time I actually attended a BSO program was sometime in the distant ‘60s. Someone had the radical idea of busing a bunch of us rowdy high school hoodlums to a BSO concert. And to make it “worse,” a concert that was being recorded for broadcast.

I referred not long ago to the hyper-developed trivia lobe that sits somewhere behind my eyes and between my ears, so here is a bit of trivia guaranteed to register at least with Baltimore radio listeners of a certain age … or audio buffs (also of a certain age).

We rowdy hoodlums (OK, I wasn’t one of them – I happened to like classical music) were soundly and deservedly bawled out before the concert by Baltimore broadcaster Gil Kriegel of station WITH for “our” (Not Me, I reiterate!) lack of decorum. 

When AM carried the fiddles and FM the celli (or was it the other way around?)

Another bit of musical, broadcast, and audio trivia, again for those “seasoned” enough to appreciate it – Once upon a time, and for a mercifully short period until FM Multiplex Stereo broadcasting arrived, there were experimental stereo broadcasts of the BSO by WITH, which at the time, had both AM and FM stations. The programming was different, but on Sunday afternoons, they came together to thrill music lovers with concerts by the BSO. I believe the conductor at the time might have been Massimo Freccia.

Stereo was new and novel enough at the time that the (often) rather obvious difference in sound quality between the two channels did not seem to dim the experience, and the Symphonie Fantastique did indeed sound pretty fantastic…as did the Tchaikowsky, Brahms, Mendelssohn, what have you.

A typical set-up might have been that the FM channel would blossom forth from, perhaps, a large mahogany “HiFi” console (in our case, it was a huge DuMont 19 inch TV that also incorporated an FM tuner of quite decent quality and a big coaxial speaker), and the poor-relation AM side squawked forth from a table radio (ours was a modest Emerson).

As this was something of an event for music lovers, one made sure that the AM table radio was carefully tuned to avoid any spurious “whistles.” Also, that any fluorescent lights or  vacuum cleaners were turned off to avoid any futzing with the fiddles or flutes.

Oh, my, I have just reminded myself of how Hannibal Lecter, another lover of fine music, rid the BSO of a faulty flautist who made the mistake of playing his flute miserably out of tune during the Mendelssohn Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that opens “Red Dragon.” Ah, but that was a “deliciously” appropriate (if purely cinematic) matter of maintaining high standards of orchestral playing, and I hasten to add the flutes Saturday night sounded just fine. So no off-tune livers being dined upon with fava beans and a nice chianti…or served as an amuse-bouche to music supporting dilettantes in Bolton Hill.

But back to those noble early AM-FM attempts at stereophonic symphony broadcasts…They didn’t necessarily have to sound as cheesily off-balanced as I described above. The true audio hobbyist (in which I had by then only attained “sprout” status) might instead have listened on a full-fledged audio system with identical speakers left and right, with the broadcast entering via perhaps a McIntosh AM-FM tuner (with two tuning knobs) which allowed simultaneous tuning of both an AM and an FM station, sending them as separate left and right channels to the amplifying stages of one’s system. In such cases, the AM channel could at least be subjectively closer in sound to the FM channel…given no thunderstorms, fluorescent lights, or errant Hoovers.

Pillow talk...and staying alive (with oriental color)...

Ah, but I did I not begin this errant ramble with references to the treats enjoyed by your scribe Saturday night at the Meyerhoff, as Maestra Marin Alsop conducted Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s colorful orchestral showpiece “Scheherazade” with  Concertmaster Jonathan Carney playing the featured violin parts by which the fair Scheherazade convinced the bloodthirsty Sultan it was better (and much more entertaining) to keep her around as the spinner of exotic tales.

It had been too long since I’d heard this favorite piece in a live performance. Also, some recent photography around the old B&O Mount Royal Station, close by the Meyerhoff, reminded me that it might be fun to rediscover the BSO, experience the Meyerhoff, and enjoy more of Baltimore’s dining and other attractions nearby. And, as a visit to the BSO web site revealed some upcoming concerts featuring "Scheherazade," all fell into place nicely.

While the exterior of the Meyerhoff might be an acquired taste, the inside is pleasantly modern and airy. Even before one enters the auditorium, it is clear the public spaces have been designed with an eye to user-friendliness. Spread out on each level are alcoves with seats and tables for enjoying a pre-concert drink or snack from the multiple bars and food service kiosks or just socializing. And most of these areas have nice outside views, including to one of my favorite sights, beloved from childhood, the clock tower of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s proud Mount Royal Station, now productively occupied by the art school of the Maryland Institute. 
South end of Mount Royal Station faces the Meyerhoff

The auditorium is visually pleasing as well, as one looks up at boxes and other tiered seating areas with graciously curved forms, which were, in fact,  part of the acoustic design. While my computer-selected seat was quite close to the stage and rather far to the left, I do look forward to experiencing the sound balances and views of the orchestra from other parts, and levels, of the concert hall on future visits.

Off the Cuff...

This particular performance of “Scheherazade” was one of the so-called “Off the Cuff” series programs, where Marin Alsop talks to the audience about the work and conducts snippets to illustrate, before conducting the full work.

It is so satisfying to watch people who genuinely love what they do, and who so engagingly share that passion with their public. The big surprise, for me as a first time attendee of one of these programs, was that – after the performance (which was, I should add, most enthusiastically received by the large Meyerhoff audience) – Ms. Alsop returned to the stage with Mr. Carney to conduct an informal question and answer session with the audience, most of whom, I noticed, stayed on to enjoy or participate. There is one overwhelmingly accurate description of how she presides – gracious. The questions were posed by youngsters, seniors, and all ranges in between. And both Ms. Alsop and Mr. Carney were patient, enthusiastic, and engaging. In the case of many of the participants, Ms. Alsop asked them questions in return.

I think the session may have lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and never did I get the feeling that a questioner was rushed or given less than thoughtful replies from the stage. And when it came time to wrap up, it was done graciously.

Oh yes, there was another surprise. After the Q-and-A we were invited to adjourn to the lobby where tasty Afghan dishes were being provided at modest cost by one of midtown Baltimore’s finest restaurants, The Helmand. And, to wash it down, Stella Artois at four bucks a bottle. Oh, yes, and an ensemble providing music.

Can other orchestras learn from the BSO’s example of both gemütlich and user-friendly accessibility? Another “Oh, YES.”

A loyal fan was made that night at the Meyerhoff. Wish it had happened sooner.

Oh, one more thing to note…this one about…manners. How can I put this gently? I have attended concerts over many years at our alabaster cultural palace on the banks of the Potomac. Many a fine performance, whether by the National Symphony Orchestra or visiting world class orchestras. I have never learned to be less offended when, barely have the notes of the last piece faded away, one sees all too many “concertgoers” heading for the exits to be the first ones to depart the parking garage. Not all, but too damned many. I know the orchestra members are paid well, but to see this happening after they’ve played their you-know-whats off…I have to wonder how they feel seeing from the stage this consummate rudeness. And not just when the next day is a work day.

Did I see this at the Meyerhoff? No. Indeed, it looked as though most of the audience did in fact stay put for the Q-and-A.

If Saturday night is any kind of example, Baltimore really loves its symphony orchestra and it really-really shows.

I couldn’t resist a movie reference earlier.  Heah's anudduh. “I’ll be back.”

©2017 Steve Ember

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

American Airlines greets you with Mewer Till Dawn

Mewer tonight at the hospital. See him larger with narrative here.
If you'll pardon the possibly obscure reference, I'll try to explain it. Or you may just chalk it up to a significant lightening of spirit upon seeing how well my handsome little trooper was getting along tonight at SouthPaws ;-)

You'll notice - no more ga ga eyeballs, as he's requiring less happy juice after his surgery.

Anyhow, if you know me you're probably aware of the sometimes bizarrely arcane synapses that can start firing off when photos and music are brought within sparking distance.

Like fr'instance...
I'd planned to go to the Kennedy Center tonight to hear the NSO play my favorite Brahms Symphony (No. 2).

Of course that was before it became obvious from Mewer's last potassium emergency that surgery needed to happen sooner, not later.

So, after a happy visit with my little guy, I figured a good stout shot of Brahms No. 2 on the audio system while I edited my photos of Mewer, Dr. Keil, and Nurse Maka would be the next best thing.

And as Maestro Bruno Walter and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra launched into the Academic Festival Overture (it precedes the Symphony on this favorite CD, such that I always think of it as THE prelude to the magnificence of good ol' Number Two), I flash back to American Airlines once-upon-a-time overnight program of classical music and light classics/lush orchestral selections. "Music Till Dawn" was hosted by a select group of the finest broadcasters to grace a microphone and it covered the country via CBS Radio owned-and-operated stations. It was on AM radio, but I suppose that added to the night-time mystique...who could mind the occasional fade when considering such magnificent music was covering boundless distances under starry skies...kind of like those silver 707 Flagships or the remarkable Electra-IIs, their powerful Allison 501 turboprop engines making their own unique music.

Back then, car makers actually cared about the quality of their AM radios, and I still vividly remember driving at night in my '63 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible and being able to tune in WBBM in Chicago, sounding almost local if the atmospherics were good, to hear Jay Andres hosting Music Till Dawn. He became my favorite of the high class stable of American Airlines hosts. Rich baritone with easy-going style (unlike some unnamed tyros who poison classical music with precious and effete affectations on certain other forms of radio).

I'd make sure that juicy sounding AM radio in the Galaxie was tuned to WBBM at 12:30 AM (11:30 PM Chicago time) and enjoy that splendid arrangement of "That's All," the program's signature,which would swell and fade under Jay's rich baritone...

"American Airlines greets you with Music Till Dawn." 

Whether Jay Andres was introducing the Academic Festival Overture or suggesting how your local travel agent could arrange for a jet powered magic carpet to whisk you off to delightful destinations...well, he just had you in a very special space while cruising past the lighted monuments along the Potomac with the Galaxie's top open to the stars.

I don't know if Jay was a cat person, but as I looked at this photo of Mewer...and Bruno Walter conducted Brahms No. 2...I had to think if he were to come back as a cat...he'd be Mewer. Maybe that has to do with Mewer's rich baritone purr-r-r-r.

No, I've not been imbibing...though I shall raise a glass shortly and maybe hit "repeat" on the CD player for another sublime shot of Brahms.

Oh, Mewer? If you haven't already guessed, my little boy's doing fine. Thank you, SouthPaws.

©2017 Steve Ember

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