Saturday, December 13, 2014

Haul Out The Holly

It's that time of year.

For a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here is Angela Lansbury and friends singing "We Need a Little Christmas" as it was first heard in the 1966 musical "Mame."


Hat-tip: Rev. Gerardo Ramirez, who made mention of this tune yesterday on Facebook.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Guadalupe's Day

Many months ago, I spied this Instagram photo (snapped by our friend James) showing a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Thought I'd share it for today's feast day:

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Uncle Joe's Centennial

My great-great uncle, Joseph Berger, was born 100 years ago today on December 10, 1914, in McDonald, Pennsylvania.

Uncle Joe was the youngest sibling of my maternal great-grandmother, Mary Berger Vincenti (1911 - 1999).  He died in 2012 at the age of 97, making him the longest-lived member of my family.

At the time of Uncle Joe's 95th birthday in 2009, I penned a post on his life.  Among other details, it notes he was the son of immigrants from Belgium.

It was through Uncle Joe and Grandma Vincenti and their sister, Ann Berger Barrick, that my generation received a sliver of connection to that immigrant history (including a delicious recipe for thick Belgian galettes).

Here's to keeping their memory alive for many years to come.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sweet, Sweet Spirit

On Friday night, Eric and I saw an excellent performance of the play "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" presented by Manhattan Theater Works at the 14th Street Y.  Written by Carol Carpenter, it's the story of a Texas family grappling with violence, faith, sexuality, money and more.

The play briefly incorporates the hymn of the same name.  As you might expect, the tune has been in my head ever since (notably memories of the bass part that I once sang in a choral performance).

So, for some Monday morning inspiration, here is a dynamic rendition of "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" by the a cappella quartet For You:

Hat-tip: Our friend, Ann Marie Yali, who is chair of Manhattan Theater Works' board.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Smooth as Silk

One hundred years ago today, the great singer and bandleader Billy Eckstine was born in Pittsburgh.

In a segment marking the centennial, National Public Radio called him "a crooner who crossed barriers."

"Billy Eckstine was smooth as silk. He was tall and handsome, sported a pencil-thin mustache and sang in a distinctive baritone," remarked NPR's Tom Vitale.

In honor of the day, here is Eckstine with Nat King Cole performing "Rosetta":

Hat-tip: 100 Years Ago Today at Twitter (curated by yours truly)

Monday, April 21, 2014


A sunny Easter Monday calls for joyful music.  Here, compliments of Voices of Music, is the lively Bulgarian folk tune "Bučimiš"("бучиниш"):

Hat-tip: 500 Years Ago Today (new Twitter account curated by yours truly)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Good Story

I love this commercial from Thailand.  It contains a wonderful, life-affirming message:

"No one saves oneself. The community is essential." - Pope Francis

Hat-tip: Heather K.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quis dabit oculis

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is Costanzo Festa's beautiful and contemplative motet "Quis dabit oculis" (written in early 1514).  I think it lends itself well to the home stretch of Lent.


Hat-tip: 500 Years Ago Today (a new Twitter account curated by yours truly)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

It Goes Without Saying

I recently have begun to explore the music of Nico Muhly.  His Wikipedia profile describes him as a contemporary classical music composer and arranger.  Two loaded words there: "contemporary" and "classical."  I aspire to one day have the time and talent to properly unpack them.  But, before then, let's listen to one of Muhly's works in this space.

Below is the instrumental composition "It Goes Without Saying" for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."  It's a clarinet piece featuring "metallic noises" (including that of a kitchen whisk) and "warm, woody sounds."  It's a stretch to call this tune "peaceful" but it's a fun ride.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Million Miles Away

I love the pacing and peacefulness of "The Moon Song" from the movie "Her."  It speaks well of the quiet and tender moments of love that can be shared by two people.

Here it is below for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Here are the tune's lyrics from the pens of Karen O and Spike Jonze:

"I'm lying on the moon
My dear, I'll be there soon
It's a quiet starry place
Time's we're swallowed up
In space we're here a million miles away

"There's things I wish I knew
There's no thing I'd keep from you
It's a dark and shiny place
But with you my dear
I'm safe and we're a million miles away

"We're lying on the moon
It's a perfect afternoon
Your shadow follows me all day
Making sure that I'm okay and
We're a million miles away"

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ever By Your Side

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

From the great John Rutter, a rather Irish-sounding blessing for the day:

Flashback: St. Paddy's 2010

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Emma Claire

Earlier today, my friends John and Allison Welch welcomed their third daughter into the world.  Emma Claire (pictured at right) weighed in at six pounds, 10 ounces.

She is a new sister for Molly and Nora.

Welcome to the party, little Emma!  I know the Holy Spirit will be your guide.

Emma is the second of four babies to be born to friends this year.  I have been remiss in noting the January 22 birth of Catherine Bridget Woods Dionisio ("Bridie"), the daughter of our church pals Nik and Katie.  In the late spring, my college buddy Alicia and her husband Mario are expecting their firstborn. My old friend Kelvin and his wife Courtney are expecting their second child this year, too.

Thanks heavens for this bumper crop!  Cue Maurice Chevalier:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Requiem for Two

On Monday afternoon, I attended the funeral Mass of Bill Penna.  Bill died February 12 at the age of 54 following a battle with cancer.  He was a member of a political organization in which I am active.  The Mass was beautifully celebrated at St. Catherine of Siena Church on New York City's Upper East Side by Fr. Jordon Kelly, O.P. (who I know from my old gig).

Bill's funeral began with a talented schola singing the Introit and Kyrie from the Requiem Mass composed by Maurice Duruflé.  Circa 1994 - 1995, I sang this powerful piece as a member of the NYU Choral Arts Society.  It's one you never forget.  I later asked Fr. Jordan if there is an ensemble of singers at every funeral at St. Catherine's.  "No," he replied, the schola and classical selections had been requested by Bill prior to his death.

On Tuesday morning, at St. Columbkille Church in the village of Imperial in Western Pennsylvania, a funeral Mass was celebrated for Helen Kramer.  Helen, who died February 13 at the age of 86, was the mother of my Aunt Kay and grandmother of my cousins Amy, Luke, Sara, Mary Ellen and Ben.  I was sorry I was not able to be present to help celebrate the long life of this wonderful woman who was so dedicated to her family and community.

In memory of Bill and Helen, below is the Duruflé Reqieum for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."  We pray that they are now in God's loving embrace.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Obliteration of a Time-Stream

A good point from Ta-Nehisi Coates:

" ... I think of dying at 17, in my loudness, in my vanity, which is to say in my human youth, and I tremble. I was barely anything. I understood barely anything. When Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, he obliterated a time-stream, devastated an open range of changes. And somewhere on that American jury, someone thought this was justice, someone believed in the voodoo of shotguns and teleportation. Michael Dunn killed a boy, and too robbed a man of his chance to be. ... "
The photo above is from here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Napolean of the Stump

Americans today observe "Washington's Birthday" or, colloquially, "Presidents Day."  It's a day to honor the men who have served as our nation's chief executive.

To my mind, a good tune to mark this holiday is one by the band They Might Be Giants about our efficient 11th president, James K. Polk.  Check it out:

Hat-tip: Waldie, who put this on a mixed-tape for me way back when.

Friday, February 14, 2014

804 Kilometers

For this week's St. Valentine's Day edition of the "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," I thought I would return to the smooth sound of that young Irish trio of Glenn Murphy, Ronan Scolard and Óisín O'Callaghan. Here they are with a beautifully slow take on The Proclaimers' tune "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)."


To my husband on our first married St. Valentine's Day:

" ...  And if I grow old, well, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's growing old with you ... "

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Humorous and spot-on, this column by Frank Bruni is one of the best commentaries that I've read on Michael Sam's news.

A great line: 

" ... When did the locker room become such a delicate ecosystem? Is it inhabited by athletes or orchids? ... "

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Animal Crackers

Shirley Temple, one of the greatest child stars in the history of American cinema, died yesterday at the age of 85.  Her precocious portrayals brought joy to moviegoers during the Great Depression and the World War II years.  Later in life, she became involved in politics and served as a U.S. diplomat.

I remember watching Shirley Temple's movies with my maternal grandmother when they were shown on weekend morning television in the 1980s.  (I have grandma to thank for my knowledge of old movies.)

One of Shirley Temple's most memorable movies was 1935's "Curly Top."  Here from that classic is her performance of  "Animal Crackers in My Soup":

" ... In every bowl of soup I see
lions and tigers watching me
I make 'em jump right through a hoop
those animal crackers in my soup ... "

Monday, February 10, 2014


These last words from Isaiah 58 in yesterday's first reading at Mass stood out for me:

" ... if you bestow your bread on the hungry
 and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday."

Giving can be a gloom-buster.  Something to remember.

Saturday, February 08, 2014


February is my least favorite month -- for reasons obvious to any inhabitant of the American northeast.

But, I love the voice of Dar Williams.  And she has a lovely tune named after this godforsaken month.  Here it is below for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Hat-tip: Anthony

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Lives Within My Heart

As someone who still has "newlywed glow" in ample supply, I hesitate to post a melancholy tune about lost love.  But, I'm eager to share another offering from the young Irish trio of Glenn Murphy, Oisin O'Callaghan and Ronan Scolard.  Their slow style is enchanting.

So, for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here are Murphy, O'Callaghan and Scolard with Randy Newman's "When Somebody Loved Me" that was first heard in the movie "Toy Story 2."


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In Memoriam: Charlotte McCreanor, 1945 - 2013

Since early 2007, when I moved back to New York City, I have found it difficult to stay connected with all of the friends I made during my years working in Western Pennsylvania politics.  This is especially true for those who do not participate in social media.  In fact, in a few recent Christmas cards, I felt compelled to write, "I'm sorry for being so lousy at keeping in touch."

Charlotte McCreanor was an exception to this.  One of the great volunteers of my State House races, Charlotte vigorously promoted my candidacy to her neighbors in Cross Creek Township near the village of Avella.  Charlotte spoke on my behalf outside her polling place each Election Day, attended events, donated funds and volunteered at my campaign booths at the county fair and community festivals.  In one instance, Charlotte made it possible for me to join her for lunch at the local senior center (where I danced the polka with some of the ladies).

After I moved back to New York, Charlotte called me every few weeks to check on me and provide updates on happenings back home.  I would tell Charlotte about my job and travels.  She would tell me her volunteer work at Washington Hospital and about changes in the lives of our common friends.

Charlotte's most recent calls in the summer and autumn of 2013 brought the bad news that she had been diagnosed with cancer.  According to her obituary, Charlotte died November 21.  I only learned of her death in the past fortnight.

I will miss Charlotte.  She was a good woman and a true friend.

May she rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

You Must Wander

Some excellent advice from Ta-Nehisi Coates:

" ... Never trust anyone posing as a tour guide. Learning things is hard. Do the work.

"Never trust that part of you that wants a tour guide. All of us are tempted by the Cliff-Notes. Decline them. Sometimes you must wander through The Louvre. ...

"Never try to look cool and learn something at the same time. You must have an awkward phase. All of us would like to skip that awkward phase. That is not how it works. Here is how it works: Get your ass in the water. ... "

The whole post is worth a read.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

God's Megaphone

"God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains:
it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
- C.S. Lewis

Friday, January 17, 2014

You're Broke

This has been one of the most challenging weeks in my 15 years of professional life.  It's been filled with deep sadness, rays of hope and growing community.  Crisis usually brings forth all of these things, I guess.

But, as the God Googler reminded us yesterday (quoting the Franciscan friar Richard Rohr):

"Life is hard.  Get over it."

This has been my first instance of great professional difficulty since the steady and I got married in June.  It's been such a help.  Whatever happens, I know someone else is sharing my life and we will get through any challenge together.  That knowledge brings great comfort.

Which brings me to the clip below.

For a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here are Glenn Murphy, Oisin O'Callaghan and Ronan Scolard with a beautifully slow take on The Rembrandt's "I'll Be There For You" (best known as the theme song of "Friends," of course).