TrioViolanjo, A Delightful Surprise

Salzburg in summer

Salzburg in summer

Lisa and I recently had the pleasure of visiting our son and daughter-in-law in Germany and seeing our new twin grandsons. That, of course, more than justified the trip and ranks as one of the great experiences of life, but we also made a side trip, a sentimental journey really, to Salzburg, Austria, where I served a portion of my mission fifty years ago, described in my memoir, All Enlisted. It is still the most beautiful city in the world–more of that in a future post!

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The Kurgarten in Bad Reichenhall

A short train or bus ride over the border into the Bavarian alps lies the small, picturesque health resort of Bad Reichenhall. We did not have time to search out the actual place where I used to live, but we did stroll around the garden and spontaneously attend an afternoon concert, not noticing at first that the trio we bought tickets for was an unusual one: violin, cello, and banjo. Banjo?

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Trio Violanjo

To our great enjoyment, the Trio Violanjo consists of three brilliant young musicians whose style and repertoire cannot fail to entertain and inspire. The program that day consisted of pieces by Nash (“I Can See Clearly Now”), McCartney (“Eleanor Rigby”), Bach, Mozart, Joplin, and others, including compositions by the banjo picker himself, Manuel Stocks. Each song was a pleasure to hear, with excellent harmonies, ensemble, and chord progressions. The banjo itself was reminiscent at times of a harpsichord, so the overall impression ranged from solid Classical to Celtic to Bluegrass. For this American in the audience it was a perfect blend of Old and New worlds.

Be sure to watch for these performers: Manuel Stocks, Tanja Kronheim, and Rita Mascaros. Several of their pieces are available on YouTube. They cannot fail to please the ear. Learn more about them on their respective Facebook pages, as well as the group’s website, https://violanjo.wordpress.com/trio-violanjo/

Best Wishes.

 

p.s. I anticipate posting large portions of my mission memoir here and on one of my Facebook pages. Watch for them. Also available at Amazon in softcover or kindle edition: https://www.amazon.com/All-Enlisted-Missionary-Austria-Vietnam/dp/1516911288

p.p.s. Here is a link to a very nice sample of their CD:

Colors of Grass

 

Mama Stortini’s

It had been several years since last we ate at Mama Stortini’s, an Italian restaurant on the border of Puyallup and Sumner, Washington. It is a very good restaurant with a great menu, though we were a little disappointed to find the entree Sampler Platter no longer available (there is a sampler of appetizers); it was a large dish and one suspects it was not cost effective. We also noted the menu includes a number of non-Italian items now, including hamburgers and other sandwiches, no doubt a competitive necessity.

No matter, the individual entrees are delicious. I had one of my favorites, chicken marsala on a bed of risotto and mushrooms. It could have had a little more sauce, but the flavor was just right. Other members of our party enjoyed lasagna (one of Mama’s best items), lobster macaroni and cheese, and seafood fettucini in white sauce. Our appetizer was the cheese bread with housemade tomato feta relish–a great choice which could have made a whole meal. The dessert menu includes cobbler, ice cream sundaes, the obligatory tiramisu, and other  delights. We had spumoni, a chocolate sundae, and an exquisite little individual “Italian Style” cheesecake.

Service was excellent–there was no waiting–and the dining room is comfortable, not over-crowded the way so many restaurants are. Overall, a very satisfactory night out. If you are in the Puyallup/Sumner area, consider Mama’s next time you are in the mood for Italian. Additional locations are in Kent and Northgate (Seattle).

Ocean Shores

Although I have spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, and much of that in Washington state, this past week was my first visit to the little coastal resort called Ocean Shores. It is situated just northwest of Gray’s Harbor, a sharkbite shaped bay along the middle of Washington’s Pacific coast. Besides being known for its clams and crabs, the bay is home of Aberdeen, a rough and tumble timber port called the “Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula”. Ocean Shores is a pleasant town tucked into the coastal woods of one of the peninsulas that define the outer boundary of the bay.

 

 

We stayed at a condo/resort/hotel called The Canterbury Inn. Facilities were clean, tidy, and very pleasant, with open views of the beach about a quarter mile away. Although there were some spectacular blue skies and beautiful clouds, days were mostly overcast, cool, and intermittently breezy, comfortable for us humans who are not very heat tolerant, but brisk for Mitzi, the Havanese puppy we brought with us. She spent much of her time being held and sheltered from the elements.

 

 

Besides the usual assortment of generally good seafood restaurants, Ocean Shores is home to Galway Bay, an Irish restaurant, pub, and gift shop, well worth the visiting. Their fish and chips was outstanding, cooked with a good beer batter rather than the light coatings currently the fad in the Seattle area. Their soda bread is excellent, comfort food at its best, and the perfect accompaniment to their clam chowder. Another dish we tried is called Forfar Bridie, a Scottish dish invented by a Forfar baker in the 1850’s, described in the menu as “beef and lamb slowly braised in white wine, flavored just right with sautéed onions, carrots, potatoes,  garlic and herbs.  Then baked in a puff pastry and covered with our famous Whiskey Cream Sauce.” It reminded me of a sort of partially disassembled shepherd’s pie on a plate, and, aye, it is “flavored just right.”

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We will certainly return to Ocean Shores, about two hours west of Olympia, and definitely return to Galway Bay. They will be hosting, incidentally, their 15th Annual Celtic Music Festival October 16-21, 2018. We can hardly wait.

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Utah Shakespeare Festival 2018

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Another great season of theater in southern Utah is approaching. Offerings this year include perennial favorites The Merchant of Venice and The Merry Wives of Windsor as well as Henry VI Part One and Othello. No doubt the latter will be great; I, alas, cannot go to it. Othello for me is too tragic, Iago too evil, the pathos too deep. It is, as it were, a tear too far for me. The others, though, “Bravo!” in advance, especially The Merry Wives, a downright rollicking play.

Other offerings include Roger Miller’s Big River, a musical depiction of Huckleberry FinnThe Foreigner, about a visitor who pretends to not speak English and so overhears what he shouldn’t (reminiscent of What The Deaf Man Heard); The Liar, about a master who cannot tell the truth and a servant who cannot lie (oh, the possibilities!); An Iliad, about, well that’s obvious; and Pearl’s In The House, a musical about the great Pearl Bailey.

The award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival is reliably excellent, so start making plans now for a week, or long weekend, of great theater starting June 28 and lasting through September 8, with an abbreviated Fall schedule from September 11 through October 13. Please visit the following site for more details and to reserve your tickets:

https://www.bard.org/

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Best Wishes!

Cirque du Soleil’s “O”

Cirque du Soleil’s “O”

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We had occasion recently to see Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. They have several shows at different venues; we went to “O” at the Bellagio. I had expected to see acrobats and dancers, not realizing that this show is water-based. Not only were the performers excellent acrobats and dancers, contortionists and mimes, gymnasts and actors,  they were world class divers, swimmers, and water-dancers as well. What a show!

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No doubt there was a greater feeling of mystery for those seated below us; we were in the balcony, but in the front so there was nothing but a large amount of air between us and the performance. When an acrobat descended from the ceiling on a chandelier at the beginning of the show, she was right in front of us. Wow!

The minor disadvantage of being high enough for spotlights to sometimes shine in our eyes was balanced by the ability to look down into the pool and see scuba divers directing traffic and supplying oxygen beneath the surface.

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Which brings me to another topic–engineering. This is a remarkable stage which one minute is deep enough to accommodate very high divers and the next is a solid surface for dancers and gymnasts to glide, twirl, or roll across. It is one thing to have a mobile stage which goes up and down, with portions that move this way and that, but quite another to move thousands of gallons of water at the same time. Bravo to the engineers, builders, and stage managers.

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Ticket prices were expensive for a little farm boy like me, though very much in line with other Vegas shows. Our balcony tickets were over $100 apiece. Nevertheless, it was well worth it to see this incredible show, a once in a lifetime experience. “O” is supposed to have a plot, by the way, all about the cycle of life and human history or something like that. Feel free to try to figure it out–the souvenir program may help. The story is very continental European, that is to say, French, hence subtle. It doesn’t really matter. The show is fantastic whatever the plot may be.

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How is that even possible? Really?

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Spanaway Fantasy Lights

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Among the many events and activities in the south Puget Sound area which are conducive to building the Christmas spirit is a wonderful drive-through light display at Spanaway Park. Now in its 24th year, this beautiful exhibit includes over 300 displays and thousands of lights.

We have lived in this area many years and had heard of a light display, but only last night actually went to the park to see it; it was delightful, well worth the $14 per car entrance fee (we accidentally arrived on the last night of half price admission).

For more information, call 253-798-3330 or visit www.piercecountywa.org/parks. Hours are 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm and will continue through January 1st.

 

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fantasy lights

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Utah Shakespeare

The summer season of the wonderful Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City is well underway, but there is plenty of time to add it to your vacation itinerary. This year’s selection includes Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, all perennial favorites. You may also enjoy Shakespeare in Love, an adaptation of the movie and a regional premier. Other regional premiers are Treasure Island and William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged).

On the musical side of the house is the great Guys and Dolls, subtitled A Musical Fable of Broadway. Finally, there are two world premieres, The Tavern, a comedy by George M. Cohan adapted and directed by Joseph Hanreddy, and How to Fight Loneliness by Neil LaBute, characterized as “for mature audiences”. Two of our favorites return as directors, Brian Vaughn with Shakespeare in Love and David Ivers with How to Fight Loneliness.

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The Utah festival produces consistently excellent theater. You cannot go wrong in this beautiful mountain setting, about a 50 minute drive from St. George or three and half hours from Salt Lake City. The summer season goes through September 9th, with a shorter fall season running from September 13th through October 21st.

For schedule details and to reserve tickets, go to:

https://www.bard.org/

 

Also an enticing peek at next year:

2018 will see performances of The Merry Wives of Windsor and Othello, as well as Big River, a musical adaptation of Huckleberry Finn with music by Roger Miller, bound to be a delight.

 

Best Wishes.