Saturday, April 30, 2011

San Francisco Lyric Chorus: Voices of Immigration, Jamie sings a solo and her own immigration story

My great-grandparents, Dorothea and Georg Boss in Italy around 1941 (I love how tan he is from the Italian sun)

Next Saturday and Sunday (May 7th and 8th), my choir the San Francisco Lyric Chorus has its Spring concerts. After almost a year of being a member, I can finally be part of a performance (for the first I was in a wedding and the second I was in Africa).

The pieces were chosen with the personal immigration stories of chorus members in mind. For instance, there is one tenor whose family is Cajun via French Canada, so we are singing a couple French Canadian tunes. There are songs specifically about leaving the Old Country and arriving to the New World. We'll also be performing the beautiful Shape Note tune, "How Can I Keep From Singing."

I have a solo in one of the Yiddish tunes. It's short, but very beautiful.

The mother/baby image is my grandmother and great-grandmother in Danzig, Germany around 1918

I submitted my family's story of immigration and it, along with a photo or two, will be featured in the program.

My grandmother was born in Danzig, Germany (now called Gdansk and part of Poland). She and her three younger brothers were able to get out of Germany before 1940. I now have family scattered across the globe from Brazil to Australia and Israel to England.

Peter, Georg, Walter, Lori (my grandma) and Hans in Danzig Germany, 1928

The Boss Family: (front) Georg, great-great-grandpa Louis, Peter & Dorothea. (back) Hans, Lori and Walter; 1939 Danzig, Germany.

When my great-grandparents could stay no longer, they left my great-great-grandpa Louis and got on a boat set for Palestine. Due to the British blockade, the boat was rerouted to Libya. Then a Jewish-Italian organization brought them to Southern Italy and shuttled them from refugee camp to refugee camp (including possibly a prison) until they settled in the small hill town of Cancellara near Naples. They lived there in relative hiding for three years, living among poor Italians.

In 1944 they were able to get on the ONLY U.S. Government sponsored refugee boat (it's so sad there weren't more). They were two passengers of one thousand Christian and Jewish refugees. Three thousand applied to be on this boat. There is a book about it called The Haven by Ruth Gruber. The boat docked in New York and my great-grandparents lived in Oswego, until their citizenship went through. Then they moved to Los Angeles to be near my grandmother and one of my great-uncles.

One of the most amazing things about this story (there are many) is that my grandmother did not know where her parents were or even if they were still alive. It's also amazing that poor Italians welcomed my great-grandparents into their community for several years. I'm thinking of going to Italy to collect aural histories if at all possible.

I have a box full of photos, they are such a trip. I also have some letters and military papers I'd like to get translated. Anyone know German well?

Anyway, if you're in town, come see me sing next weekend!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Blaze's Mix Tape: a 2003 hip-hop mix made by an 11-year-old

Anything made by a kid is awesome. Anything this cool made by a kid is priceless.

From 2003-2004, I interned for Smithsonian Folkways in Washington D.C. Folkways is the Smithsonian's record label and one of the few places an ethnomusicologist can find a job outside academia. The label publishes new and archival recordings of everything from American folk music to "world" music. Lucinda Williams started off on Folkways and they usually win some sort of Grammy every year since so few labels do what they do.

I worked with some really knowledgeable people, both interns and staff members alike. One day I had a conversation with one of them about hip-hop, and I confessed that I didn't know much about it (I still don't). My colleague said that his 11-year-old son loved hip-hop and would probably make me a mix if I wanted him to. And guess what, he did. And it's time to share.

Why I love this:
  1. The AWESOME kid handwriting
  2. The fact that this kid's name is Blaze, and he names the mix after himself.
  3. He calls this CD a mix TAPE (Must have hip parents).
  4. The CD packaging was a piece of white paper, taped together.
  5. Blaze is totally into Kanye, Snoop Dogg, Nelly and Ludacris, so watch out!
I pieced this mix together from I couldn't find everything and replaced a couple things, but I hope you enjoy it.

Blaze (if that is your real name): Thank you, wherever you are... probably in college by now.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Musical Moments: laughing gas and the Crash Test Dummies

The 90s were awesome, weren't they?

Since I just spent 4 hours at the dentist this morning, I feel the urge to share.

You know how certain songs can remind you of a specific moment in your life? Well the Crash Test Dummies' "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" reminds me of getting high on laughing gas during oral surgery in high school.

Sparing you the gory details, I had a canine in an odd place and it needed to be attached to a chain and slowly pulled to its current position.

My oral surgeon Dr. Hertz (I'm not making that up) suggested bringing in some music to listen to while he performed surgery on my pie hole. I selected a mix I had made for the car (I loved my cassette mixes).

By the time the laughing gas set in, I was on the third song, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by the Crash Test Dummies, a song about freak children with embarrassing secrets.

Being that this was definitely the first time I had ever been "high," I remember specifically some of the bizarre things that passed through my mind, like thinking that I was inside a duck head: my feet at the bill and my eyes peering through the duck eyes. I also remember giving a little shout (in my head) when my short, hairy, bad-breathed orthodontist Dr. Collins walked through the door to contribute to the surgery. I had forgotten that he was stopping by and his presence startled me.

So now and forever more, whenever I hear that weirdo Canadian song from the 90s "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" and that deep, low voice, I will think of being totally off-my-nut high in the oral surgeon's chair.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why Britney Spears' and Rihanna's "S&M" is the worst guilty pleasure ever

Beyond the obvious, the new collaboration from Britney Spears and Rihanna is a catchy tune. Now that I'm driving 6 hours in the car for work per week, I'm more liberal about what radio stations catch my attention, and I heard the new "S&M" on a top 40 station yesterday.

I am no prude when it comes to enjoying a good pop tune, but I just keep thinking, "I feel so badly for parents!" How does a parent deal with this?

People have been singing about sex for decades, from "rock with me all night long" to Britney's "I'm a Slave 4 U." But at least in those songs, you could easily tell a child that they were referring to dancing or something. I think what puts me on edge about this song is how specific it is.

Whips and chains? Geez, it's not sugar coated at all, is it? It's not poetic at all. I think that's what's missing, artistry.

Parents, how would you/how are you handling this type of thing? It's not like you can keep these tracks away from children when it's all over the place?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Family Crest plays "Note & Words," a fundraiser for The Oakland Children's Hospital with a 100 person secret choir

Matt, Ravenna, John, Owen, Liam & Lucas
Photos by Matt Washburn (to see more click here )

Last Friday night I had the pleasure to help organize and be part of a 100 person SECRET CHOIR for the Family Crest at Notes & Words, a fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland in the beautiful Fox Theater in downtown Oakland. It was a little bit of a bummer because they put us way up in the top of the balcony where no one else really knew we were there, but it was really fun event, and it was awesome to get some my friends out to sing with and experience my new favorite band.

Other performers were musicians HYIM and Megan Slankard ("Notes"). Authors Michael Lewis, Kelly Corrigan and Beth Lisick ("Words") told hysterical stories about being children and their own children. Michael Lewis' story (author of The Blind Side) definitely including peeing in the pool...

Sarah, Owen, Lucas, Liam, Ravenna & Laura

This is also the first time The Family Crest has gotten to play in a large space like the Fox Theater, and they totally filled it up, sonically and visually. Even from the third row from the back, I could tell how much fun they were having up there. And even though I'm not a huge fan of the sound at the Fox, they sounded pretty darn good to me.

We sang on a couple songs, but most notably, a new song called “As We Move Forward." Check out some of these dynamic photos by Matthew Washburn and video. You can actually hear our singing at the end a little bit. There were about 90 of us up there in the balcony and I think there were more folks scattered around singing as well.

In the video below the other entertainers of the evening join the Family Crest on stage.

Thanks to everyone that came out! Hope you had fun.

Lucas and Matt. Lucas is wearing his cello harness, so cool.

Photos by Matt Washburn (to see more click here )

Liam and Owen