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went to oberammergau
That means not just that we went there, but that we saw the Passion Play. In 1633 this village lost 84 people to the bubonic plague; they vowed that if God would spare them, they would portray the story of Christ every ten years, forever. They've kept that promise for nearly 400 years (at some point switching to even decades). The result is a powerful peasant drama, glossy with sophisticated music and production values. Most folks go just for the two-day package tour, but we made it a luxurious two weeks, met the people, drank the local brews, ate streudel and wurst and gallons of ice cream, visited those famous fairy-tale castles (taking note of King Ludwig's architectural tributes to Wagner [who saw the Festspiel in 1871]), and made new friends. With Catherine seven months pregnant, it made a sublime last just-the-two-of-us trek.
My interview with Markus Zwink, the music director whose great-great-etc was in the original 1634 play
bought more jazz
You'd think I would have a big jazz collection. You'd be right. I do — but it was mainly built up years ago. My steady stream of purchases had dwindled. For whatever reason, though, last year I found myself buying new stuff and filling in gaps: hours and hours of jazz by Erroll Garner, Pat Moran, Art Pepper, Lennie Niehaus, Sonny Stitt, Clifford Brown, Count Basie, Max Roach, in the place where entertainment, education, and deep inspiration are one.
gigged at sea world
In all these years, I'd never gigged at any of San Antonio's theme parks. It just didn't seem attractive to me, and I may not have even been on their radar. Then I got a call from impresario Mike Palermo, asking if I'd be interested in being part of a group that included Kyle Keener, Ron Wilkins, Logan Keese, and Pierre Poree. When that's the question, the answer is Yes. We tore it up for weeks out there. What a blast.
rode a roller coaster
As it turns out, I was Sea Worlding on my birthday. So I did something I hadn't done in years: took a joyride on the Great White. I even did the kid thing of circling back around and doing it again. 3 times in a row.
partied in tepotzotlán
The superb crooner and SA treasure Ken Slavin asked me to gig with him at an unusual wedding: a fan was getting married and had always wanted him to sing at the reception. So the family flew the band in, put us up in a mountain hotel, and listened raptly as we played a swinging set (more like a concert than a reception) at a slambang fabulous hacienda. Gorgeous men, gorgeous women, splendidly dressed, drinks on the lawn: it was El Gatsby Grande, sans ennui. Plus, I got to play with Ken and Chuck. When we say it's great to be a musician, this is what we're talking about.
played a jazz shabbat service
with the Jazz Protagonists, at Temple Beth-El. We'd done jazz services before, but never a Shabbat service. We teamed up with the Temple's cantor, Julie Berlin, along with two of the best jazz singers around, Jonathan Raveneau and Katchie Cartwright, and other musicians from the synagogue, to create an exciting, beautiful, jazzy, and quite moving Sabbath service: a great way to get in touch with the traditions of the Jewish faith. Then we did it again in the fall.
The KRTU broadcast - 1 hour
ate grapefruit mentos
Aficionados are reading this and jealously wondering how on earth that's possible. This divine food was discontinued two years ago, and is impossible to find now. But we were cleaning out some old boxes and discovered an unfinished cache. Miracle! We're doling them out to ourselves slowly.
saw some great operas
Ah, the joy of being a Texan. Among its several big cities, we've got one of the most vibrant opera scenes on the globe.
Catherine and I took our nephew Trey to see a hilarious, musically snazzy, and visually spectacular production of Chabrier's L'étoile. And then to Dallas for a world premiere: Jake Heggie's mighty Moby-Dick, with Ben Heppner as Ahab. Powerful music, jaw-dropping stage sets and effects, terrific musicians. Man.
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led a passover seder
Every year, Catherine's church family hosts a Seder; last year I was the leader, preparing the Haggadah and speaking at length. Never having done that before, I leapt at the opportunity. In the 90s and 00s I prepared and spoke to a group roughly fifty times a year; last year I did it once, so muscles and bones were stiff and sore, but it was a joy to stretch out on scriptural passages and their possible meaning before an audience.
marked 20 years of the new yorker
One of the first actual things I did on graduation from college was to subscribe to the New Yorker, vaguely realizing that my education was then only beginning, and that I needed some regular stimulus and connection to news, art, politics, and criticism. Over the years I've marveled that there exists in the world a magazine that seems to be made just for me: lengthy articles on every topic under the sun, nothing off-limits or thought unworthy of consideration, compiled by a team of interested and interesting people.
got a really nice audio interface
I've always been a late and reluctant adopter. Last year, though, it was time: I got a new tool that sends sound through eight enviable preamps. It allows me to get better control of instruments in a live setting, and pipes it all into my computer seamlessly. (On cue, my old studio setup went bye-bye for good. Ach!) Then, because there just wasn't a perfect case for it out there, I built one myself. Every time I look over at it I feel spiffy.
took anna to her first opera
In my family, you get to go to your first opera when you're 9. Catherine and I took our niece to see Hansel and Gretel, in a delightful staging that took place in 19th-century New York, with the kids as immigrants. She enjoyed the show and the glamorous night out on the town, and (I hope) the company of her aunt and uncle, as much as we enjoyed her.
did music for two anglican churches
Grace Anglican Fellowship and Holy Trinity Anglican both split off last year from Christ Episcopal, a church that has meant much to me for decades. I had personal ties to both newly-formed churches, and my musical and spiritual style fit them well, so why not? One met in the morning and one met in the evening, making for a very busy but satisfying Sunday with spirit-filled, friendly, genuine people.
read the secret history
Finally. I bought Donna Tartt's how-done-it right when it came out; there it sat on my bookshelf, judging me all these years for not reading it. I knew it would be really really good. So why didn't I just pick it up? Who knows. Ah, but last year I did, and recalibrated my expectations of books: the precisely registered interactions, the evocations of an era and a class, the genius of revealing a murder mystery on the very first page (thus showing us that the real mystery of murder lay elsewhere all along). Perfect sentence after perfect sentence, it did not disappoint.
became a godfather
Our dear friends Cathryn and Shizhou came to town to visit. After several days of eating and drinking and laughing and reconnecting, they asked us to be godparents to their newborn son. We're honored.
Somewhere along the way, the Jazz Protagonists became religious celebrities. We've done jazz masses, normal services, gospel assemblies, you name it. This year, after a particularly piquant jazz mass at St Thomas Episcopal, their music minister asked if we'd be interested in becoming the Artists in Residence there. So, we took up residence: we play for the occasional service or event, and utilize their rehearsal and performance space: an ancient and very pleasing symbiosis of art and institution.
saw my wife as a mother
Of course, I had pictured her that way often, even before we got married: knowing how she'd be with our children was part of the whole decision. But then it actually happened. A hundred times a day I look over and see her in this new role, and fall in love with her all over again. Yep, in case you haven't quite put it together last year I ...
met my daughter
On July 14th, 2010, Greta Lind Saenger Brake was born. I got to participate in one of the few great sacred rituals of the human race: welcoming a new life. It's been a blast. I can't wait to get to know this person better. Folks, I'm a father.
more - and more
made a gingerbread house
How is it that I've never done this before? Amy and Thomas invited everyone over to make houses: I ended up taking a nice little while doing up a very traditional one. I admired it for days, then I ate it.
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What a year. Dedicated to the glory of God.
so, what did you do?
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