Program Tonight

JBH breezy pointThis evening, I’m speaking and performing at the Scotchtown Presbyterian Church. The Greek Revival building, dating to the early 1800s,  stands on a commanding high point in Orange County. The view is magnificent.

The organ was installed in 1890. I will have some things to say about it, and then demonstrate it.

The organ is very small–the smallest one I have ever programed for. It consists of one manual and pedal. It is also in excellent condition and is very musical indeed.

I hope that this two-century-old congregation will appreciate their heritage still more after I’m finished.

There is a spaghetti dinner first. Tickets are required, but are free and should be available if you contact the church. Their website is online.

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Other Jon Halls

Just a quick reminder–this is my only blog, and I do not post anywhere else unless I mention it here. Since shutting down my Facebook page, this is the only place I post.

There is at least one other “Jon Hall” online, and I am not he (or they).

My topics include music, literature, writing, speaking, genealogy, astronomy, the pleasures and occasional travails of rural life, the pleasures and occasional travails of urban life, cooking, and a few other things.

Rarely, I will post commentary about something I like or dislike in the ephemeral culture. An example is the previous post to this one, wherein I argue that calling your readers “stupid” is a rude, self-discrediting, and, well, stupid thing to do. I don’t much care who said it; I flashed on it, and there we are.

Any questions, see first paragraph above.

Thank you!


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On Being Less Stupid

Ta-Nehisi Coates has an article in the current Atlantic, titled “Five Books to Make You Less Stupid About the Civil War.”

What an excellent bad example of a title.

Coates just called you, me, and everybody else who reads English “stupid” on the topic of the American (I assume) Civil War.

First off, he’s wrong. Gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

But calling your readership “stupid,” even by implication, let alone directly, is an unforgiveable professional (and personal) sin. No writer who does that deserves to be read, regardless of whatever good might lurk in his pen. For such a writer, truth is an inkblot: a mistake, a rare burp, from an instrument accustomed to the swift inditing of falsehood.

Secondly: don’t shame your readers. If you do, shame on you.

That entire stupid article hammers us with the words “stupid,” “stupidity,” and even the stupid neologism “unstupid.” All that remains is George’s Orwell’s bête noire: “not unstupid.” I’ll use it for the sake of completeness: the article is not unstupid. There.

I’m not even interested in commenting on the books recommended, or on the reasons why the author chose to recommend them.

This reminds me of that stupid “New Beginnings” program inflicted upon a former congregation of mine. The words “insane” and “insanity” were used about a dozen times in the space of two paragraphs, to no clear purpose except to disempower those who read it.

It was a final straw in my return to the Church, actually. I may be crazy, but I ain’t stupid.

Actually, I’m neither.

I have choices when I want to read something. The next time I have some leisure, I’ll get back to the memoirs of Hector Berlioz and Counterpoint by Heinrich Schenker. I’ll give our national stupidologists a wide pass from now on.

Posted in Famous Bastards, The Agonies of Art, The Journey, The Lapping Shore of Psycholand, Writing | Comments Off

Happy Halloween

I love Halloween. If you’ve read my book on Calvin Hampton you know how well I remember those parties at Calvary Church many years ago.

Happy Halloween. Be safe and have fun.


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Iridium Flare?

I was just (4:30 AM) outside admiring the stars, which are crystal clear (till you get to the light pollution southwards). I distinctly saw a brilliant flash high up, and as my eye caught it, it quickly faded, briefly revealing a satellite.

I’ve searched “Heavens Above” for information, but no Iridium satellite was overhead. Will keep looking and write further if I learn what it was.

Time to get ready for the day.

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I had a wonderful time at Vassar College today. There was an afternoon celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which was kicked off by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517.

There was a panel discussion, then a wonderful choral concert. Yours truly opened the second half, after intermission, with three settings of EIN FESTE BURG, the Lutheran choral par excellance.

I had to share with the audience that Mrs. Kromer, my dear piano teacher, had studied with Kate S. Chittenden, AGO, at the Metropolitan College of Music in New York City and later at Vassar.

The name of Kate Chittenden casts a long shadow over Vassar to this day. Mrs. Kromer often talked of “Miss Chittenden,” and she gave me her copies of the Synthetic Method, which Chittenden had developed with her teacher and colleague, Albert Ross Parsons.

She was also a Founder of the American Guild of Organists. There were 145 at the outset, 141 of them men. Chittenden was clearly recognized as a major figure in the organ world as well as in the world of piano pedagogy and performance.

Following my short tribute, I played my program. It was received with very generous applause.

I saw people I knew at Indiana and at Chicago. It was a very nice confluence indeed. Some wonderful people introduced themselves afterwards; I hope to build on this encounter with friends old and new.




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Dad and Me

JBH breezy pointThis picture was taken about a week ago. A very nice couple–good friends and former neighbors in New Jersey–drove up to celebrate his birthday. We had a memorable lunch at a local waterfront place that emphasizes German food and culture. It was fun eating to the strains of an accordion, and to sing here and there: du, du, liegst mir im Herzen alle Menschen trinken, und Studenten trinken Schnapps

Of course, phones came out and pictures were taken to remember the day. I like this one. I look very much like my late father. The sad–and hopeful–thing is that my father never got to look this old. Sad, because he could plausibly still be alive. Hopeful, because I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. I hope, one day, to post pictures of an extremely old and decrepit me, still in a blazer and tie, still enjoying food, friends, and music.

Every day I’m happier to be my father’s son.

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Last Night’s Concert

JBH breezy pointI can’t stay for a full program, thanks to a crazy bus schedule. If I miss my bus, I will have to contemplate the Port Authority till the early light of dawn. As much as I love New York, I don’t love it in quite that much detail.

So I had to leave the NYUO1 concert at intermission. Drat it. What I heard was really wonderful. I was very proud to be part of such a community.

The opening piece, March of the Little Goblins, was a delight. The orchestra entered over an ostinato riff, most of them in costume. The violins and violas held their instruments like mandolins and did a kind of strumming pizzicato. Last of all came the maestro (and composer), Adam Glaser, done up as Darth Vader.

Maestro Vader’s opening comments were quite amusing–after he reached the podium and conducted the balance of his March with a light saber.

The evening balanced very high musical achievement with a great, leveling sense of humor. I think it was Joe Machlis who praised Purcell for “wearing his learning lightly.” That might well describe the scene in the packed Frederick Loewe Theatre last night. One felt grace, lightness, humility, and community spirit.

The room was indeed full, and people were waiting in the vestibule for a chance to come in. When I left, someone was immediately conducted to my seat.

I was able to hear the de Falla “Danza ritual de fuego” from El amor brujo, and Dvořák’s The Noon Witch, op. 108. These were played with great force and energy, as well as fine interpretation, and were highly evocative. For the Falla, the maestro wore, not a Darth Vader mask, but a fireman’s hat.

I keenly regretted that my hours-long trek home had to begin before the second half. I have no doubt it was superb.


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Pre-Concert Talk Tonight

JBH breezy pointTonight at about 7:30 (maybe 7:34) I will give a pre-concert talk for the NYUO1 orchestral concert. The program itself starts at 8 PM. Costumes warmly welcome. Free!

We’ll be in the Frederick Loewe Theatre, 35 W. 4th Street in Manhattan.

It’s a Halloween program–my beloved holiday from my childhood in Gramercy Park, when we’d go to Calvary Episcopal Church and get the dickens scared out of us by a very convincing monster (who was really the organist Calvin Hampton).


The works–not necessarily in concert order–are:

Glaser, March of the Little Goblins
Dukas, L’apprenti sorcier
Humperdinck, Hexenritt (from Hänsel und Gretel)
Dvořák, The Noon Witch
Moussorgsky, arr. Rimsky-Korsakov, Night on Bald Mountain
de Falla, Danza ritual de fuego (from El amor brujo)
Saint-Saëns, Danse macabre

I think that’s it. The Glaser piece is by our own maestro Adam Glaser. It’s a hoot and a half. Don’t miss it.

The Dukas and Moussorgsky, by the way, are featured unforgettably in Fantasia. I would say “try not to think of Mickey Mouse,” but what the hell. Think of Mickey all you like.

Posted in Music, Music Criticism, Seasons of the Year, Speaking and Writing | Comments Off

The Stars This Morning

VenusI was up quite early, and while coffee was brewing and a cozy fire getting underway, I went out onto the patio to look at the stars.

My patio looks directly to the path of the ecliptic, so the constellations of the zodiac and the planets are always easy to spot and track.  Alas, when a dying tree or two comes down soon, I will have a better view than I do now.

This morning the stars were brilliantly clear. For some time now it has seemed as if the light pollution had doubled almost overnight. I could see nothing at all below an altitude of about 42 degrees. For example, Sirius was always very clear, but the rest of Canis Major was virtually invisible. Not this morning.

This morning, all of Canis Major was clear and detailed. Gemini was similar. Cancer, a dim constellation, was easily discernible. All of the little stars in Ursa Major (of which the Big Dipper is just one part) were visible. I could even see Lynx, the “shy cat” of the sky near Ursa Major. Perseus was ablaze.

It was a gorgeous pre-dawn. Light pollution was markedly less. I think road construction might have been involved, with enormous floodlights. I saw a few of these in my travels recently.  Anyway, my hope is renewed that the stars aren’t quite ready to vanish here.

The sun is touching the mountain out my window, painting the world in the yellows and oranges of many maple trees.  That is also starlight.


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