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It’s been this crazy period of time, lately: learning 127 (!) on the heels of two recitals (featuring tons of slow, melodic cello playing – me?!) with Em; frantically trying to practice everything I need to play this summer; and packing everything up to move (really move) to Boston. It feels hard and scary, leaving my apartment in New York, this place I have loved for so long and where I have cooked and laughed and cried with my closest friends and where I made a real home for myself over these past three years. I can’t quite imagine giving it up and it’s been hard to think of much else.

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And then, in the middle of it all, when I was supposed to go to Boston today to start moving everything out of THAT apartment (have to ditch the little studio so I can keep my tons of beautiful things from Maine and all else)…instead of going to Boston, I got in my car and drove to Greenwood. I decided in advance, yes – I was due to be in Cummington tomorrow for the Board Meeting (um yeah, my being on the Greenwood Board is definitely in my bio, if you were wondering) and the first little bit of the reunion, the latter if I could get away from the stress of moving long enough to enjoy myself at camp for a little bit. But suddenly, in the middle of all this stress, as we were about to leave New York today (Ari in his 10-foot U-Haul and me and Em in my minivan, the standard Cleonice-mobile), I just imagined what it would be like, being at camp by myself for a day, getting there with plenty of sunshine left, sitting on the wall and practicing in the barn.

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And here I am – home, my real home, Greenwood, this place that will always be home no matter what. I could leave a hundred New York apartments and never give this place up; it will always be home, no matter whether I am exalting in the joy of living and making music or whether I am in pain and need healing and help returning to that love (it happened, really: and so I have Greenwood to thank not just for the first time I fell in love with music but for the second, twentieth, hundredth times, and just for the fact and understanding that I will always have this love, even when I can’t see it though tears). Greenwood will always be home because it is where I learned to love not just music, but people, too: it is where I found so many instant friendships – that moment on the porch, meeting Jude and being inseparable forever, or the first time I read Schubert Quintet with Hannah; and Greenwood is where I fell in love for the first time, and (like with music) over and over again, with a billion different boys, sometimes a crazy and passionate love that lasted only a few days and sometimes an unsuspecting, wonderful love that developed over the course of several years. And this is all part of me: meeting people and connecting with them, finding these incredible friendships and loves that change my life, understanding and loving each other just as much through music and smiles and tears as through words – all these values and all these instincts are from Greenwood, this heaven-on-earth, this most special and irreplaceable of all places.

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And that is it: it is irreplaceable. There is no place like this, and there never will be – that is part of what it means to be a home to all of us, I think. There are so many things that make my Greenwood Greenwood: the way I catch my breath making that turn onto Harlow Road, the smell of wood when I walk into the Green Room, the way the light catches the wall and the house, the glimmer of the grass, the way this water tastes so pure and so fresh and so cold. And it is how acutely I remember all these things, who I was with when I noticed them for the first time, where I was and how I felt the first time I heard the slow movement of 132 and then, years later, got to play it (my first late Beethoven!) for the first time – the vividness of these memories, the way they feel immediate and make me cry even today, walking around camp, instinctively barefoot, on my own – that is more than I could ever dream of in most places, and it is what, along with a million other things, people, pieces, places, smells, and flutters of my heart, makes Greenwood home for me, now and forever and ever.

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I love you, Totes

this feels so iconic for me: Totes at the front of the hall, waiting for the next group; I can’t even be sure what summer this is, because it is so iconic! but, it is 2009, I think.

It feels hard to even find a way to start this one. For some reason all I can think of is that line in Shakespeare in Love, right after Christopher Marlowe is killed in a bar fight: “He was the first man among us,” says a stunned actor (sitting alongside an equally stunned Shakespeare). “A great light has gone out.”

I was so breathless and teary-eyed today when suddenly, at the end of our coaching on Mendelssohn D minor, I looked at my phone and saw that Miki, one of my sweet Greenwood campers from these past two summers, had sent me an article entitled A Remarkable Death: Roman Totenberg’s Last Bow

I love how this one is so much the same as the one above (left) but everything around him is moving – somehow it seems even more beautiful to me how still and patient he is, and how clear in his sense of purpose.

I felt like someone had knocked the wind out of me – I thought really there was no way it could be true, after so long of having him seem invincible and forever. But it was true, it is, and we have lost this wonderful, special man who has meant so much to so many people – all around this city of Boston, all over the world, really, and, as far as I can see and feel, especially meaningfully up in Blue Hill, where he has been such an important figure, inspiring and benevolent and totally central for so many years. I feel like all my words are gone – that sentence, “A great light has gone out,” just keeps running over and over in my head.

Totes hanging out at a picnic table with a couple of Kneisel students before he heads to afternoon coachings; Nick (in the middle) is wearing the KH t-shirt from that year, which has a particularly beautiful quote by Victor Hugo: “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”

God, there are so few times when I feel like I can’t say any bit of what I want and need to say in words; but this is one of them. I didn’t get enough time with Mr. Totenberg (or, really, Totes, as many of my friends and I call him, very lovingly) – I somehow kept missing him and never got my own coachings with him, lessons, or any of that; but I got to play in one of his wonderful classes for him, one summer, and it is special to me because, in addition to how much amazing, memorable stuff he threw at us to think about, it was in one of the first pieces I ever played with Ari (the Dvorak piano quintet – Totes grabbed Ar’s fiddle and demonstrated some of the most exquisite violin playing imaginable) that I finally got to play for Totes. But having him in Blue Hill, seeing him give classes every year, talking with him summer after summer (and after a while of my being in college, in Russian, in which his wonderfully growly voice was almost easy to understand) – I cherish all of that, wish there had been more, and miss him acutely now that I know he is not here.

this is one of my most beloved Kneisel pictures – I grabbed Totes after his class that year (2009 I think?) and asked for a picture with him. I sat on the stage and he put his arm around me and whispered in that wonderful voice, “You are my favorite.” I assured him he was MY favorite. I wish I weren’t making such a goofy face but I love this photo a whole lot.

And so I find myself thinking about what I loved about him, and love about him, and reading about him and thinking about him and looking through pictures of my own, listening to recording, and reading articles, including this one that quoted Nina, his daughter, who was often up in Maine visiting during the summers and who often lovingly  chided her Dad for not using the microphone they gave him for his classes.

(When he did use the microphone, it was with a considerable twinkle in his eye and a real sense of irony and humor about it: he would talk in his quiet, gravelly monotone so that only the closest audience members and the students whom he was working with would hear him; he would hold the microphone in his hand, which lay by his side, and work with the groups, basically ignoring the microphone. Every so often, as Emely and I have recalled more than once, he would bring it up to his lips for emphasis, whereupon suddenly his low-pitched growl would be three times as loud but no less wonderfully growly: “and this….could be….LOUDER…..!” And then he would give us all that incredibly charming,  mischievous grin and put the microphone back down, where it really belonged.)

I love love love this one of Totes and my Dad – this is at an afternoon Young Artist Concert at the end of summer 2009. the look on their faces is so similar: both of them are so full of light and excitement to hear all these wonderful kids they’ve spent the summer working with and giving so much to and believing in day after day.

The thing I love, anyway, in that article, is the paraphrase of Nina’s feelings about her Dad: “But Nina said her father rarely brought up the hardships of his past. For Roman, music was what made life worth living, and he made a lot of it over the course of his fruitful career.” That little bit – for Roman, music was what made life worth living – makes me tear up, and feels reaffirming and comforting, somehow. Of course this is how he felt – it was so clear that so much of that smile and that wonderful attitude toward life came from a deep love and appreciation and gratefulness for what we get do every day as musicians. I think music is what makes life worth living, and one of the other things that makes it worth living is connections with other people who feel that way, want to share that feeling with the world, and take the kind of care and joy that Totes has for so long in communicating all this love and excitement and hope and wonderment we feel about music to everyone.

Tomorrow, for me, aside from some time humbly trying to make music come out of my cello and getting to spend some time with my wonderful trio continuing through the Mendelssohn D minor, is sitting down with my Henle score and listening to this amazing Beethoven Concerto, by Totes, the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra, and Stanislav Wislocki. I listened, so far, to some of the great orchestral tutti and about 30 seconds of the violin entrance. The violin playing, the music-making, is exquisite: elegant and virtuosic and heartfelt and selflessly artistic (I told you I feel like I can’t come up with the right words: all of this is filler for saying I loved it, it broke my heart instantly, and made me remember all over why that is the most magical piece in the whole world). I had to turn it off, because it is past 3 o’clock and I have a lesson at 11. (I just can’t bear the thought of going into my lesson in the morning, the day after we have lost our beloved Mr. Totenberg, and playing less than well in the Sinfonia Concertante of Prokofiev.) But tomorrow (and perhaps the day after that, and the day after that, too), with a pot of tea and my score, I know this Beethoven will bring me considerable joy.

Totes, I love you and I miss you, now and forever; and all I can think to honor you, day after day, is to keep working the way I am working, to love music with my trio the way we love it, with intensity and bliss and laughter and total devotion, and to love, joyfully and fiercely and with all my heart, life and the people and music that make it so worth living and so meaningful all the time.

Totes greeting the crowds at his lobster picnic (a perennial highlight of my early years) for all of Kneisel Hall, summer 2006

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Seymour’s 25th: 109, the two Schuberts, and all those magical years at Kneisel

the trio, with Seymour, tonight at the New York Yacht Club, at a party celebrating his 25th year as Artistic Director of Kneisel Hall! a little dark but hopefully you can see that we're all grinning like crazy :)

It’s hard to sit down and write about this man whom I love more than almost anyone in the world, and to try to give words to some of what he’s meant to me. I have tried, actually, on more than one occasion to do it, but found no way to express what I needed to express; “Seymour Blog Post” has been the first item on my iPhone’s “Reminders” application for about six months (really! ever since we started rehearsing Schubert B-flat again in the fall), but like I said: to try to sit down and write in any kind of coherent way what it is that Seymour Lipkin, that incredible artist and human being, has meant to me over the last decade – it is daunting, and I know it is impossible.

Dad and Seymour laughing like crazy after dinner tonight (Enemy loses it in the background)!

But, as Laurie said in her speech tonight, on the occasion of Seymour’s 25th anniversary as Artistic Director of Kneisel Hall – this place that started it all for me, which I still consider home, and which I have to thank for almost everything wonderful in my life – on that occasion it is worth saying a little more than the obvious (which, for her, is “I would rather be playing with him than talking about him”; for me, it is “I would rather be listening to his recording of Op. 109 or discussing War and Peace with him than talking about him”). But I will warn you with what I said at the beginning: it is hard to give words to how much I feel about Seymour, and, by association, Kneisel Hall; so this, my dear friends, will be a long one.

I have so many great photos of my Dad and Seymour laughing like mad, but this is another favorite - backstage after what I believe was a performance they gave, with Laurie, of Schubert E-flat at Kneisel, possibly summer 2009 (I'm not so hot with numbers)

I have so many memories of Seymour that it is hard to know where to begin – but one of the first really meaningful ones came back to me vividly this week when I heard Emely play Beethoven Op. 109 in a recital at NEC this week (beautiful, Em! I was proud). I fell in love with 109 at what I still think might have been the most vulnerable moment of my life – I had just left Greenwood after my last summer as a camper, and I was so utterly heartbroken I could not breathe; I spent every day crying and thinking about all these people whom I would never see and be with in the same way again; I was totally beside myself. I spent my days with my family in our house on the Vineyard, swimming a little, hanging out with my dogs, trying to cook something to make my appetite come back. But there was this profound void I was feeling, something I felt I could never fill, never getting to be at Greenwood again. And I looked in my CD case in those days, trying to find something to soothe my aches and tears. It would perhaps have killed me to listen to late Beethoven quartets – those were too immediately relatable (it was, after all, a few weeks earlier that I had played my first late Beethoven! The Heiliger Dankgesang, at that). So there I saw it: Seymour’s recording of late Beethoven piano sonatas. I didn’t know them at all, yet. But something in me knew this was where to begin getting over that loss of Greenwood, right then. I put in the last CD in the bunch, which began with Opus 109, the E major sonata. And I think I didn’t do anything for the next few days but listen to 109 over and over again. As soon as I heard those first notes – the ambling, sweet motion in E major, that key which is somehow heightened and yet youthful, gentle and still so extraordinarily expressive and often potentially chromatic – those first incredible moments of that recording by Seymour let me weep from joy, finally, in discovering this incredible new piece to love. The way he plays 109 is so human, so right, so totally natural and simple, and yet profound, full of complexity and huge emotional depth. It was the first Beethoven sonata I fell in love with, thanks to Seymour, and to hearing it at that moment in my life, and it will always be the one I love most of all (sorry, Op. 110. I do love you, too).

(An aside: a paragraph ago I put on this recording of 109, the one I am describing to you, and it makes me weep, just the way it did the first time, and every other time in between. The gentle, sweet inevitability of the first movement, the terrifying storm scene of the second movement, and the whole last movement, but especially that heartbreaking first variation – something about this piece, in Seymour’s reverent, completely understanding, self-effacing and totally masterful hands – it just breaks me down no matter where I am in my life, whether I am in the mood for it or not, and especially no matter how many times I hear it.)

an impromptu meeting with Seymour at the Fishnet - if I'm remembering correctly, he likes the vanilla soft-serve cones, but I prefer a twist. (yum.)

My time as a young artist at Kneisel began the next year, right after my four summers at Greenwood, and I had no inkling at the time I started there of everything that place – this little piece of heaven up in Blue Hill – would give to me. For it has given me so much: the closest friends I can imagine, almost four years now with my beloved trio, inspiration from hearing so many magical performances by my colleagues and by the faculty there. And, in the midst of all these gifts, one specific thing that I cherish more than almost all else is that I have gotten to study both Schubert trios with Seymour. I worked on the E-flat with Brig and Solon, whom I adore beyond words (adoring beyond words seems to be a theme in this blog post), and whom I played with for an incredibly joyful summer and a half in Blue Hill. We had heard Seymour, Lucy, and my Dad play the Schubert E-flat the summer before (2005!) and hoped upon hope that they would let us play it together the next summer. When they did, and when Seymour coached us, we were astonished at the patience he encouraged in us, inspired by the amazing, all-encompassing understanding of this piece and of the time he took to talk about it and try to help us find it; and we were touched, day after day, by the total belief he had in us to find something beautiful in this music. We started affectionately calling him “Gentle Seymour” because of how loving and totally encouraging he was with us in coaching after coaching.

One of my most vivid memories of Seymour is from that Schubert E-flat experience with Brig and Solon (self-titled the “tree-o,” hence Brig’s three-pronged peace sign below). As often happens with the Young Artist Concerts at Kneisel, it suddenly became a little difficult to get groups to volunteer to play in the first set of concerts. All the groups, apparently, requested to play in the Saturday afternoon and evening concerts, but there was nobody asking for the dreaded Thursday ones (play Schoenberg fourth quartet a little early, anyone? How about Op. 131? No? Why not?). Seymour, having to put together all the concert programs, was in a pinch, and decided to throw our trio on the Thursday concerts even though we’d been counting on playing a few days later. When we found out the order, we flipped. I was terrified! Brig and Solon were terrified! I went into Ellen’s office (Ellen runs the administrative show, where Seymour conceives of all the artistic genius that is Kneisel Hall) and, in what was probably not a demonstration of my most composed and logical-thinking self, told her we would probably ruin the entire summer festival if we played on Thursday. She said she would relay the message to Seymour, but she wasn’t hopeful that he would switch us; indeed, she was right, and they told us to go ahead and get ready to play on Thursday. It must have been Tuesday: YIKES. Seymour apologized, but told us, his group that he had been coaching for a couple weeks, that he knew we would be ready. Gulp. He had to go to a Kneisel fundraising dinner with Ellen Wednesday night, he said, before we had to play the next afternoon, but would we like it if he stopped by campus afterwards, and he could listen to us a little bit before we all went to sleep that night? We said yes.

me, Brig, and Solon (tree-o!) after playing Schubert E-flat for the first time

We started rehearsing in the Fishbowl (a huge glass studio in the center of a mostly-wood campus) after we ate dinner. We were in a little bit of a panic and managed to rehearse for a few hours before we started thinking maybe Seymour’s dinner was running too late and he wouldn’t be able to make it. But sure enough, at 9:30 or so, Seymour came ambling up the hill and let himself in through the sliding glass doors. He apologized profusely – the dinner had gone late! He knew how much we wanted to spend a little time together! Would we still like to play a little for him? (Of course we wanted to!) So we started back at the beginning of the first movement, and began to play, telling him to stop us if he heard something and wanted to comment (we were sure it was still full of not-yet-wonderful-enough stuff! We wanted it to be the most beautiful thing in the whole world). But we played and played, and it was pretty beautiful, I remember. We kept looking up to see what his reaction was, and there he sat, eight or ten feet away, eyes closed, head tilted up to the sky, smiling; even the way he looks when he listens to music is the essence of reverence and love for what it is we do.

When we finally finished the movement, he just smiled and said it was very beautiful – “That was just nice!” (This is the most wonderful compliment to get from Seymour.) He talked for a little bit about certain very special elements of the piece, and then said, “You know, I have been playing Schubert for sixty years now. And I am not a religious man, but the more I play this music, the more I know that Schubert…he was talking to God, every day.” I will never forget that moment, the utter joy of playing the Schubert E-flat with these two people I loved for Seymour, whom we all loved, and then listening to him talk in such inspired terms about this piece we adored with all our hearts and which we so wanted to share with the audience the next day in a meaningful and memorable way. And, I think it was quite beautiful, in the end: a special and joyful and ultimately quite understanding first Schubert E-flat; I will always cherish that that was my first time with that piece. (Here it is, that first movement! I was delighted to find it on my computer – sounds like I remember. 01 Schubert Eb Trio I – Tree-O!)

Trio Cleonice, right after playing Schubert B-flat for the first time! Exhausted and pretty overwhelmed.

Three years later, I was back at Kneisel with another group I adored, which (as you know: you’re on our blog after all!) is still together as I write. When Trio Cleonice went back to Kneisel all together – before this, we had all had summers there as individuals and played together in various pairs – we knew that one thing we wanted above all else was to work on the Schubert B-flat trio with Seymour. I had told Ari and Em about my magical experience with him in the E-flat, and, of course, we had each loved the Schubert B-flat for as long as we had loved music. So, that July, when we began to work on it and began to coach it with Seymour, there was this incredible sense of meaning and reverence, once more, for the music, and for getting to learn it in this context with this amazingly inspiring mentor of ours. We struggled with the piece mightily (and still did this year, when we carried it again for most of the fall and through the winter), but sharing our trials and explorations, our valiant attempts and, sometimes, successes with Seymour, was so memorable and so special for all of us. When we rehearse the Schubert B-flat now, we still talk about what we talked about with Seymour, we still talk about listening to him play Schubert – that incredible feeling of both flexibility and inevitability in his playing, the almost-impossible soft sounds, the earth-shattering loud ones – we laugh and cry, remembering these things, and we just feel lucky, each time we return to this beloved friend Schubert B-flat (not always entirely a close friend; the slow movement still makes me cry from fear some days), to have had that time in Blue Hill studying that piece with him. (Here is our latest recorded attempt at the slow movement, still imperfect and far from what we will someday be able to do! But still, full of everything we are hoping for and dreaming about… Schubert B-flat, II – Trio Cleonice!)

right after our first Schubert B-flat, with Seymour. blurry and possibly not the best picture of us ever! but still, lovely to capture this moment with him. (we felt totally uncomfortable in that performance and were worried we had been walking on eggshells the whole time. he said that, on the contrary, it was just soft enough in all the pianissimo dynamics...!)

Each experience – both of the Schubert trios that I was so lucky to learn with Seymour – was full of all that he has emphasized in his own playing and his own exploration of music; he encouraged both groups that I played with, day after day, to search deep and find in ourselves meaning, humanity, and total devotion to this music. Working on these trios with him was so incredible – each coaching was so full of joy and humility, of reverence for the music and yet a willingness to laugh and smile. The patience that he had with us, and the constant encouragement he gave us, the belief that we would find meaning on this first of many journeys and the understanding that yes, this was the first of many, many journeys – it meant a lot, and means a lot even now.

I would be remiss if I left out a picture of what is now Seymour's famed wiffle ball pitch... almost impossible to hit, except sometimes for my Dad, who is Kneisel's star batter

So here I am after nearly 2,500 words, and I feel I haven’t made a dent in talking about what it is that makes Seymour so important in my life – what has made him a hero to me as an artist, a teacher, a person. But I do know that I am lucky to have loved Seymour not only from afar, listening to CDs, but as a listener at actual concerts, hearing both of those Schubert trios (and the Archduke, the Ghost, 70 no. 2, and all else) from ten feet away. I am lucky I have loved him as a young artist at Kneisel Hall, coaching with him and learning from him – from his dissatisfaction with anything but the deepest involvement in these pieces, and from listening to him talk about music in that reverent, humble way; and I am lucky that I continue to love him after my time at Kneisel, in the coachings my trio has had with him from time to time, in the concerts I keep hearing him play (including a heartbreakingly wonderful 70-2 and Tchaikovsky with my Dad and Laurie in February), and in the all-too-infrequent times I run into him at the Zabar’s bread counter (or, better of course, the Fishnet, when we are both in Blue Hill!), where we talk about books, rye bread, and, yes, Beethoven. I still don’t know where to begin or continue, but perhaps, for tonight, this is enough. Seymour, for all this and for much more, I love you, and I am grateful you have been a part of my life and will always be.

here it is: my very favorite picture ever from Kneisel. this is in between pieces at an afternoon young artists concert! (aside: Seymour is the one person in the world who ever has, and probably ever will, affectionately called me "Gwenchik," perhaps from our mutual love for War and Peace and lots of other Russian novels...!)

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scenes from Boston, or the reemergence of Brahms as my beloved

a suitably non-posed photo of us admiring our Brahms B major scores. we are so in love with this piece, aaaaaaaaa.

I remember an instant message conversation while I was in high school between my wonderful friend Hannah and me. It was about Brahms. Something like this:

Me: aaaaaaaaaaaaaa BRAHMS IS GOD
Hannah: yes. obviously.
Me: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa I LOVE BRAHMS.
Hannah: um…obviously.

Gwen now or Gwen then? I guess the only giveaways are my Boston apartment in the background and my beautiful Indonesian apron from my friend Brittany! check out my Dad's wonderful drawing in the background!!

Okay, not the absolute most eloquent, but I think I was on to something. That high school Gwen (who is so similar to Gwen now: desperately in love with music and everyone around her, experimenting every day with cooking delicious things, experiencing no small degree of dissatisfaction with her playing), who was no more religious than I am now, felt that there was something in this music that was so beyond human comprehension. I remember feeling that something in Brahms filled my heart so full, every moment, that I could hardly bear it.

Those of you who know me well know that this sentiment dropped off somewhere in the last five or six years – I kept trying (with varying degrees of effort, I admit) to fall back in love, but somehow Brahms wasn’t doing it for me. That Tchaikovsky quote I heard from my Dad – that Brahms’s music “smells of the workplace” – kept occurring to me: all the standard ultra-slow tempi and the high G-string fiddle playing just made the massive Brahms forms, with all the tempo changes and overmarked espressivo playing…well, made it smell of the workplace. I couldn’t get over how labored the music felt, how totally unorganic and unsimple, how much I hated playing it and hated even more to listen to it!

Vivian and Em work on some Brahms - these two-hour chunks each week are some of the real highlights for me and all of us. Vivian totally gets us and just encourages us to grow and search and enjoy our work - she is a total inspiration and wonderful mentor.

But god, it pains me to even write that now! – because at some point my soul just yearned for Brahms again, and with the help of my wonderful trio, I am pretty madly in love once more. For the past couple months we have been deeply in the middle of Brahms B major trio, that glorious, joyful piece that everyone adores, one of those first pieces of Brahms to fall in love with. And here we are, probably a decade after each of us fell in love with it, and we are beside ourselves with awe, excitement, humility (not to be confused with umbleness), and total joy working on this piece together.

this is how i'm feelin' lately, about Brahms, Boston, life (also Beethoven. please do NOT GET THE IMPRESSION THAT I'M OVER BEETHOVEN). things are wonderful and so full of everything beautiful and joyful.

God, it is hard, and there is so much to think about, to work on, and to strive for. But there is so much to be grateful for in it, too – it is that piece, right now, that makes me pick up my cello every day and smile, and want to work harder and search deeper.

What else? I know it’s been forever since we I wrote (that was my first use of the cross-out method. What do you think? Cheesy blogging technique, only to be matched by cheesy self-referential parentheticals. BUT I have to make my point, you know). It’s been crazily busy, with tons of rehearsing and practicing (we’ve all got solo recitals coming up in the next month, in addition to our Jordan Hall Concert on April 29th!!! NEC put together the cute page in the link there and even lifted a picture of Ari at Cleonice from the blog). It’s been hard catching up on sleep and yoga, getting any time to read (…or write), or even cook enough! But some considerable time lately, I will admit, has been devoted to ice cream and other frozen delights.

enjoying amazing ice cream at Toscanini's! Ari got White Russian and Salted Saffron; I got Salted Saffron and Goat Cheese Brownie (as though I was going to turn down ice cream with goat cheese in it. YEAH RIGHT.)

As you can see at left, we’ve been really branching out and exploring the (fairly awesome! Yes!) Boston food scene. This was a 10:30pm trip across the Charles to Toscanini’s (a recommendation from my amazing friend Shaheen!), which has some of the most delicious ice cream I think I’ve ever had. Wonderful, crazy flavors and too-big scoops and the loveliest college-town-ice-cream-shop vibe.

(Aside from this week’s discovery of Toscanini’s, I have a semi-psychotic addiction to BerryLine, which Ruth, the wonderful mother of my wonderful best-friend-since-the-first-day-of-Greenwood-in-2001! Jude, made me try. It is so so so so so so SO good. But totally undocumented, because it’s always gone instantly when I go get some frozen yogurt…)

okay I admit: ice cream (and Boston) is more fun when you have a totally adorable percussionist to share it with... :)

And (did you know this was gonna come back to Brahms eventually? I’m just a little disorganized) of course the reemergence of Brahms as that irreplaceable, heartbreaking composer I adore doesn’t totally exist in the trio-rehearsal vacuum. Ari and I went to the BSO this afternoon and heard the Brahms Requiem – with all my chops at rattling off the opus numbers of all the chamber music, I had never heard this piece before, and it nearly killed me – I was sobbing within a couple of pages and intermittently kept going for the whole matinee. NEC is so ridiculously awesome (more on that later; I feel like I can’t even talk about this in one blog post, because it will take like seven. I LOVE NEC) that we can see free concerts by the Boston Symphony, so I keep going and hearing all this stuff I don’t know: La Mer, various Beethoven symphonies and piano concerti (this is semi-outrageous to me but I’m trying to fix the problem), etc.

Ari and I have evidently gotten past the Requiem part and are just in Brahms heaven (no: we didn't ask someone to take this WHILE they were playing)

Last week I decided that with the dollaz* I’m saving on those tickets I could buy some scores to bring to the concerts that seemed like they would be way more incredible with a score. The Brahms Requiem, with the translation right there and sharing the score with Ari, was just miraculous. We kept pointing at all the wonderful things – inner-voice oboe writing, syncopations in the violins, gorgeous textural rhythms in the violas, and of course bass lines to make you (me, Ari) weep.

 Aside from all this glorious Brahms worship (and really, there has been a lot of it lately), I’ve just been wildly happy lately to be able to spend so much time with people I love, from my trio to all my new beloved people at NEC to close friends (speaking of Jude) that I am so lucky to get to see even a fraction as often as I’d like. Ari organized a surprise party for my birthday (I turned 26 a couple weeks ago? I’m old/ineligible for my parents’ health insurance?), but it was a surprise party of the kind I had to love: I walked out of a rehearsal of a Boulez cello ensemble piece (yes, cello ensemble.) and in the hallway were Ari, Jude, and RUSSELL, who drove in from Northampton! We went to the most wonderful Italian restaurant, where Enemy met us and then Dave (that’s the cute percussionist up there, grinning with me in that sweet ice cream picture) joined us too! And we had the most delicious food, which I couldn’t even document properly because I was so absorbed in how much I loved it.

me and Jude!

Finally, I have to mention the recitals coming up! Most lovely and important, we’re so damn excited about the Jordan Hall concert, I can’t even tell you. It’s on April 29th at 8pm – a Sunday night, free to the public, in what is possibly the most heavenly space where we’ve ever played. It’s the Brahms B major, that heartbreaking piece that has me waxing poetic for – well, the word count is currently at 1401, and apparently I am not yet done. The first half is two other pieces we adore: before intermission, the 1980 piano trio by the wonderful Bostonian composer Arthur Berger – it is full of lyrical, sweet melodies, charming wit, contagious rhythms, and totally beautiful writing for these instruments. The opener, too, is a new piece for us these past few months, and one I have been dying to play for years (Ari and Em claim they have been dying to play it too, but I KNOW I HAVE BEEN WAITING LONGEST. I LOVE this piece): Beethoven Op. 1, no. 2, the G major piano trio. It is just the BEST! These bass lines are my home and my total delight and there is just so much fun and joy and wonderfulness in this piece. So much that my writing devolves even trying to pinpoint the tiniest bit of why I love it (these are starting to read like my program notes). Anyway, suffice to say that we love this program, we love these pieces, and we cannot wait to share them with you and with the whole world.

Ari, Em, and I are all playing recitals of our own, and NEC has set us up (have I mentioned I adore NEC?) with some nice concerts leading up to the Jordan Hall recital, too, so if you can’t make Jordan, check out something below! We can’t wait to see you :)

one of our gorgeous new press photos! Thanks to Susan Wilson, photographer

Cleonice upcoming calendar!
-April 10th, 8pm: Gwen in the NEC Contemporary Ensemble (Jordan Hall, 290 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA), playing a work of Boulez
-April 12th, 7:30pm: Emely’s recital (St. Botolph Room 113, 241 St. Botolph Street, Boston, MA), with works of John Cage, Bach, and Beethoven
-April 19th, 12:15pm: Concert at Café Emanuel, a weekly LGBT/ally luncheon event (15 Newbury Street, Boston MA; suggested donation $5 or $1.75 for seniors), with works of Beethoven and Brahms
-April 20th, 3pm: Concert at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (280 Fenway, Boston, MA), with works of Beethoven and Brahms
-April 21st, 12pm: Masterclass at NEC Prep (location TBA)
-April 29th,  8pm: Trio Cleonice’s Jordan Hall Debut! (Jordan Hall, 290 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA), with works of Beethoven, Berger, and Brahms! YAY!
-May 4th, 8pm: Gwen’s recital, with Yannick Rafalimanana (St. Botolph Room 113, 241 St. Botolph Street, Boston, MA), with works of Bach, Debussy, and others TBA
-May 7th, 8pm: Ari’s recital (St. Botolph Room 113, 241 St. Botolph Street, Boston, MA), with works of Bach, Debussy, and others TBA

Lots of amazing stuff – can’t wait to share it with you.

*Not to be confused with Ari’s cat, Dolla. Ask him about her/it…maybe he’d like to write a blog post on the tooopic?

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never-before-seen blog format, featuring a ten-course meal at cleonice

the beautiful moment of anticipation: Ari stands outside and we wonder what's on the menu tonight!

Depending on how long you’ve been devotedly following your/my beloved Trio Cleonice, you may remember my mentioning in our newsletter (I know, I know. We owe you another newsletter) that we weren’t sure whether grilled octopus and the Archduke here was going to be more travel blog or more food blog, and we thought it might tip vastly in one direction or other.

Em gets ready to enjoy our half-carafe of sangria (the best in the world!)

Somewhere in the past several months, it clearly went way off the [food blog] deep end and there’s no turning back. So I share with you now what can only be the proper culmination of all this culinary obsession: a full photo documentation of last night’s meal at our delightful namesake, the most wonderful restaurant in the world, Cleonice. (Incidentally, we drove straight from Hastings-on-Hudson, New York to a parking spot right in front of Cleonice, on Main Street in Ellsworth!)

I’ll let this go ahead and be a picture-heavy post: at the end of the day, this food just speaks for itself. Although I wish you could have been there to enjoy it with us (ordering your own dishes, I mean. We pretty much got what we wanted to eat and probably would not have been happy sharing it with everyone. Sorry). The best part of Cleonice – despite how gorgeous the food looks and smells, alongside the amazingly wonderful waitstaff and lovely cooks and everyone who works there, and even taking into account what a beautiful place it is just to hang out in – the best part is how all this food tastes.

(This had to happen at some point, right?)

empanadas stuffed with venison picadillo with olives, raisins, and spices!

an oldie but a goodie (amazing-ie): pollo pil pil - spicy garlic chicken wings!

maine caviar – flounder bottarga on fennel spoons and sea urchin sauce in potato cups (!?!! AMAZING!)

spinach salad with anne bossi's chevre, smokey bacon, hazelnuts, and onions

delirious with foodie joy! happy happy happy.

vitello tonnato - classic italian banquet dish of chilled veal tenderloin with a house-cured albacore tuna and caper mayonnaise

time for dessert already? enjoying some amazing strawberry trifle, yum!

gorgeous cleonice dessert spread! clockwise from top: strawberry trifle (house-made genoise, wonderful whipped cream); sambuca flan (!!!); chocolate-chai truffles (mmmmm); and the famous and miraculous cleonice chocolate sorbet, which is the essence and beautiful pure wonderfulness of chocolate.

these truffles: so wonderful and beautiful and amazing.

I made off with the other chocolate truffle (we couldn’t finish it!?) and it’s sitting on my desk here in this gorgeous house in Blue Hill. It’s taking some willpower not to eat it, especially since Ari and Em are asleep…it may be gone in the morning, guys. (Sorry.)

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schubert in maine (swoon)!

The happiest Cleonice moment of ANY day is when we realize (as I just did now) that we’re gonna be in Maine in less than 24 hours!! Of course I’m not packed yet (my bed IS covered in all my favorite clothes, though). But we have an 8:30 reservation in Ellsworth tomorrow night (do I really need to tell you where?), dinner plans with our amazing friends Fred and Prudy on Friday (yes, I’ve only mentioned meals so far), a concert at Parker Ridge at 3pm on Saturday, and a concert at the Blue Hill Congregational Church at 3pm on Sunday! Phew! Then of course back to Cleonice on Monday for lunch before we head out at a leisurely pace…on Tuesday. :)

just hanging out on the dock before a hurricane (no big deal. aren’t we cute?)

Do you love this picture as much as I do? (And I don’t just mean because I have a great tan.) We’re hanging out pre-Hurricane-Irene, off a dock in Blue Hill, where we were staying with Greg, our incredible friend who is, as I told a friend recently, like Kneisel Hall’s guardian angel. He is the warmest, loveliest person, always generous and full of witty jokes (and ready to serve up delicious homemade desserts!).  And his annual picnics for the Kneisel folks are the stuff of legend: incredible grilled meats, ice cream sundae heaven, and annual wiffle ball tournaments in which the faculty inevitably school the campers (seriously: my Dad and Seymour have some of the most vicious pitches in the western world, as far as I can tell). We are so lucky and excited to be staying with Greg again for the next several days, and especially happy that he’ll be there while we’re in town.

Anyway – if you are in Maine, we hope we see you soon (check out our calendar for more extensive info!), and if not, we send our love from Downeast (our favorite place on earth, maybe). Pictures to follow of our lovely drive up, a wintry Kneisel Hall (!), and of course the complete Cleonice tapas offerings. For now, I better finish packing and get to bed – it’s not like the good old days when Em and Ari did all the driving. Now that I’m 25 and have my driver’s license I need to pull my weight, too. (Remind me to tell you about the trials and tribulations in my acquisition of this license.) I will leave you with a great bonus photo, which probably more accurately depicts what we do when we’re in Maine (…or anywhere):

THIS…IS…MAINE!

All kidding aside (as though I’m really kidding when I say that we’re going to Cleonice multiple times. NOT a joke. And neither is the fact that we make those faces all the time) – heading up to Maine is one of the things I love most in life, and I can’t quite believe it’s time again. I’m particularly excited to bring on this trip the Schubert B-flat trio, which we first learned with Seymour, one of my heroes and lifelong inspirations, at Kneisel Hall back in 2009. (This is gonna be the topic of a separate post, sometime soon!) We have been reveling in re-exploring this piece this past week – even though we’ve been carrying it for a couple of months so far this year, it feels like we have been discovering new things and finding more in it that we love every day. And just being in Blue Hill, this pristine and beautiful and inspiring place where we first learned this heavenly piece, will mean a lot to me as we embark on presenting this Schubert we adore once again. Makes me feel lucky.

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Crackers and gravy

Ah, the holiday season.  A time to celebrate and give thanks, a time to visit with family and friends,  and, of course, a time to feast.  For most people this time of year probably conjures up memories of favorite family dishes – Grandma Sue’s pumpkin pie, Uncle Steve’s turkey, Dad’s mashed potatoes.  In my family, the dish that appears without fail at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner is crackers and gravy.

Crackers and gravy.

I imagine this revelation leaves you, dear reader, feeling somewhat bewildered.  Perhaps you are now re-reading the opening paragraph, thinking that you missed something.  Maybe you are running a simple google search (go ahead, try it), only to discover that not a single recipe bearing this title is to be found.  What is this dish, a dish that to my childhood self was so synonymous with the holiday banquets, I assumed it was traditional for everyone?  Is “crackers and gravy” a code name, disguising a secret family recipe which cannot be disclosed in this humble blog?

No.  Crackers and gravy is simply crackers, and gravy.  Saltine crackers, broken by hand and covered with gravy.

Crackers and gravy - secretly photographed from the Thanksgiving buffet line.

Like Uriah Heep, this “umble” dish has somehow ingratiated its way into my life.  I don’t know the origin of crackers and gravy (a busy mom giving her children something to eat while preparing dinner? some sort of confusion about biscuits and gravy? an unexpected way to use up leftovers?) but I do think it explains why I used to hate Thankgiving.  Well, maybe that and the fact that I didn’t eat turkey for most of my life (I still don’t get what the big fuss is about).

This year, for the first time in several years, I made it home to Maryland for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  (Meanwhile, I’m writing to you from New York where I spent New Year’s Eve making my NYC choral debut singing the Bach Magnificat with the New York Festival Singers! – but I digress.)  This meant that I encountered crackers and gravy not once, but twice – but it also meant that I got to spend some extra time in the kitchen with mom trying to master her incredible cinnamon buns.

Potato dough covered in cinnamon, sugar, and butter - waiting to be cut into cinnamon buns

My mom recently managed to locate the bread dough recipe that my grandmother used.  Made with mashed potatoes, it doesn’t need to be proofed, but rather rises overnight in the refrigerator!  The recipe only included a list of ingredients, not an exact method, so it took some trial and error to get things just right, but the result was cinnamon buns with a greater depth of flavor and richness of texture than ever before.

My favorite part of making bread - kneading

 

At Christmas, we used this dough not just for cinnamon buns, but also for some glorious cloverleaf rolls.  My technique still needs a lot of work – the dough was unexpectedly sticky and my attempts at shaping the dough into balls were rather sad – but they were baked to perfection and arrived at the dinner table warm, fluffy,  and as light as a pastry.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and crackers-and-gravy-free 2012.

 

 

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new friends, old bach, lots of sleep, beautiful boston!

In the days following our “soft debut” at NEC almost two weeks ago (oops: parenthetical in the very first clause of the entry. Let me invite you to our REALLY exciting Jordan Hall debut, on April 29th!), I totally crashed – I got back to New York and, after all this talk of “not really being in school,” I felt like I had completed the absolute most exhausting semester of my life. Even with all-nighters trying to make up for skipping music theory classes (ask my trio, and they will tell you that, in every fugue we play, they have to re-explain episodic development to me. And no, I did not bother to read that link just now.), reading Gogol stories in the original(!), recitals featuring solo Bach and other equally daunting things – I can’t remember a time when a semester at my beloved, amazing, beautiful Oberlin wiped me out like this. Maybe I’ve been out of school too long. But really, I actually got back to New York and slept eighteen hours a day for two days, and have since “recovered” and am down to twelve for the past week. Yikes.

hanging out at NEC before a rehearsal :)

I fell really in love with NEC over these past couple of months – as it happens, this beautiful little school in this beautiful little city sort of reminds me, for reasons I can’t quite articulate, of Oberlin. (Incidentally, they share their school colors. Weird?! I have lots of maroon/mustard now that I have added an NEC sweatshirt to my collection of 400 pieces of Oberlin apparel.) The community is so lovely and supportive, the people I meet are just wonderful and fun to be with, and the kind of exploration that my trio has been doing has been so inspiring, day after day.

another reason to love Boston? lots of Debbie time! hanging out here with martinis at Brasserie Jo in the Back Bay :)

The work I have been doing with my amazing teacher Natasha has been challenging and scary and just what I had hoped: it is renewing my desire to push myself and become better at the cello, a day at a time, for my trio and for everything in my musical life and, at the end of the day, for me. My trio is loving all our time with Vivian and with Don – these are people who are somehow really invested in us, even after so short a time, and whose opinions we value tremendously; it is really special sharing with them week after week what we’re thinking about and knowing they care about us so much and are putting so much emotion and excitement into helping us grow.

Ari helps with a first attempt at htipiti in November, in my place in New York

Somewhere in the middle of all the intense rehearsing and practicing we were all doing, I was like, “Let’s have the reception at my apartment.” I hadn’t had a housewarming yet, and I love having people over, and we ALL love cooking. So…in the invitation I sent out to everybody I mentioned that we would also be making our culinary debut that evening and that people should join us post-concert for some Cleonice-inspired, Cleonice-catered treats. (Just want to take a moment to thank Alma and Bob Berson for their generous support of the reception! Thank you both so much!!) Vivian mentioned to us in a coaching that, while Don couldn’t make it to the reception, she would BE there, because, as she said, “I want to try your food!” We got totally nervous and got down to some more serious menu-planning (haha – I’m not kidding, though).

bird's eye view (from my loft!) of the party: a veritable who's who of Boston awesomeness

It turned out to be crazily stressful – practicing Schubert B-flat AND cooking!? Maybe just cooking would be fine with me – but we turned out pretty yummy array: htipiti (spicy whipped feta! You should really just look at the Cleonice menu, which makes me swoon every time); caponata; two kinds of cookies; a tuna mousse; pita crisps and baguettes; a couple kinds of olives; plus some wintry, fizzy cranberry-peach bellinis. The playing felt kind of hard earlier that night – it’s scary playing in a new place for the first time, we had to switch halls at the last minute (broken piano string!), I was beginning to get pretty sick, and we were all cold and exhausted – but it was a pretty wonderful rush to get back to my place and suddenly switch into catering mode!

my BFF russell (i mean it, i don't just call EVERYONE my bff!) enjoys the par-tay with a bellini and some awesome Greenwood campers in the background!

We have some experience with prepping, cooking, and serving mass quantities of food, but suddenly, after a big program of trios, with Ari still in his suit with the sleeves rolled up, it was a pretty funny thing to be pureeing peaches and cranberries, putting feta in serving dishes, and dredging pita in olive oil and sea salt to toast in the oven. Whatever stresses and failures I had endured earlier in the night (in my ear or in reality, or both), it brought me some real delight to share with people this other thing we love, and just to have so many wonderful people with whom to share it in the first place.

things get (almost too) cute after the reception clears out :)

And I keep thinking, since I’ve been back in New York, about whether that concert – with all my discomfort, the weirdness of the space in which we played, and the scariness of sharing it with all these people whom I have come to care about intensely – was really as bad as I thought it was. I haven’t listened to a recording yet, and I don’t know. I think maybe not. All of the work I’ve been doing with Natasha all semester, and all the work with Vivian and Don, has been so incredible to me, and so new and difficult at times and so overwhelming. And, as happens sometimes in periods of intense change, I have been feeling insecure and scared and a little bit unsure of my footing. Not that I have any question that this is all the right work I want to be doing and that I want all of us to be doing! Just that there are major changes happening in my own playing and in our playing, and – well, maybe this is why I suddenly had to get back to New York and pass out for a couple days from exhaustion.

When I start thinking about this kind of stuff – maybe the closest I ever come to an existential crisis…maybe – I end up skimming through old recordings from a year ago, or a couple years ago. Just out of curiosity, and to know whether the stuff I thought was good then was really okay, and (the biggest fear of all) whether it sounds better than I do now (usually not; sometimes, though). I came across a Bach fourth suite from my junior year at Oberlin – I can’t believe it was five years ago already. And I can’t quite believe it’s me, though I hear and recognize fundamentally the same person that I am even now. Some of the things I do in this Bach are so surprising and beautiful to me, and I can’t remember (not surprisingly) where they came from. Which is sort of a nice thing, and bodes well for the future, somehow.

We haven’t started sharing recordings and stuff on grilled octopus and the Archduke yet, but I figure this is a good time to start. This is from my junior recital in December 2006 at Oberlin, during which time I looked something like this:

young Gwen, brain apparently fried from too much Bach?

…and all I wanted in my life was to spend each and every day playing chamber music with people I loved. If I don’t play great and I feel disappointed at the end of a concert (or even two?), it is sort of incredible to think back a few years and realize that, in some major and incredibly special way, things have turned out right. There is a long way to go (and a lot more good intonation to be had), but I am lucky to be where I am, doing what I do, with people like Ari and Em.

(Without further ado…old Bach! Dedicated to my amazing Russian teacher and friend Amanda, who somewhere in this exact time frame fell obsessively in love with the Bach cello suites, and has not fallen out of love since, to the very best my knowledge.)

Bach IV – Prelude
Bach IV – Allemande
Bach IV – Courante
Bach IV – Sarabande
Bach IV – Bouree
Bach IV – Gigue

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Reason #11

(to love New York)

I know I’m seriously lacking good photographic evidence here. But oh my god, the pumpkin scones from Alice’s Tea Cup. This is old news, I realize – evvvverybody loves these. But apparently when you show up there at 9am on a Sunday morning, they’re hot and crusty and soft and dripping with that amazing caramel and it’s just the most wonderful thing with a cup of super-dark black tea. I’ll write a long love letter to Alice’s here at some point, but for now, I’m feeling pretty happy that I woke up, inexplicably, at 5am.

20111127-110313.jpg

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a billion reasons to love new york

This year is wonderful. I just can’t get enough of it: we’re working on all this music I love, playing concerts all over the place and getting to know a new city that – well, that I’ve actually grown to love quite a lot. (As Ari described my falling for Boston, “It happened… it happened!” I knew it would, as I suspect he did, but somehow, still, I was surprised. I do love it.) As much as I’ve complained about traveling, the Cleonice-mobile has rendered all these long drives surprisingly enjoyable, and we’ve certainly become pretty apt at finding a burrito on I-95

We’ve been here in New York just a few days at a time, a week here or there; and so even though I’ve filled in the time away with a lot of fun – concerts, meeting new people, spending time in my studio in the Back Bay! – I’ve missed home, this beautiful little apartment of mine in New York. But the intensity of my love for this city, the emotionality of it, the depth of it, the joy of it, have only grown in these little wonderful spurts of time I’ve gotten to spend here.

I kept taking pictures of all the things I loved here, and originally thought I’d write a post called “All the reasons I love New York.” I looked in my iPhoto and found event after event with titles like “oh i love new york” and “i love new york: october 2011 edition.” There are so many things here that make life beautiful. But who the hell am I kidding? If I started listing now, it would take me the rest of my life to even make a dent in all the things I love here. So here’s a little fraction of them – not exactly in order, with pictorial evidence included. I’m not going to promise this isn’t just installment #1 of thousands…

delightful sunny breakfast

1. The sunlight in my living room!
Okay yeah, this is not exactly universally relatable, but every time I walk into my apartment my heart melts, actually. This place is so special to me – just being here brings me some peace and quiet and happiness. Just look at my lovely breakfast in the morning Hudson Heights sunshine. (Also admire, if you will, my lovely moose pillow, which is of course from The Meadow of Blue Hill!)

glorious lunch at the Hampton Chutney Co.

2. Every five-block radius has one of my favorite restaurants. Actually.
I get hungry in New York and I’m just like, “Oh gosh, well I’m right near _______! YAY.” (Yes, I say that, exactly.) Gray’s Papaya. Sarabeth’s! La Bonne SoupeMenkui Tei!! The food in this city. Aaaaaa! I forgot to eat before a lunchtime yoga class the other day (reason 2a: my yoga studio. I looooove it) and ended up with this amazing uttapam at Hampton Chutney Co. (N.B. I might normally hesitate before spilling the deets on such a tiny little joint as this, since I don’t want you all to run over there at once and thus deny me my lovely chai. But this place is actually usually teeming with tiny children, so, please. Have at.)

mmm.

3. The Hudson River (swoon)
I don’t know what to say  – just makes me smile every time.

4. Amazing coffee! I don’t need coffee (I do need caffeine, but that comes from tea most of the time!). But I guess I will admit that I do need Joe 

yum! thank you columbus ave. joe

4a. Friends who make amazing coffee and are also amazing cooks. Well, maybe one in particular. See chicken below.

Jono carves some perfectly-roasted spice-rubbed chicken. Mmm.


mmm

5. My practice nook! The view is that Hudson River one above – aaa! Not that this is the least distracting practice situation I’ve had. Probably far from it. But man do I love opening up my case and sitting down to tune and seeing that. [Incidentally, necessary practice nook accountrements, as you can see, include a samovar (check), a map of Blue Hill (check), cute trio pics (check), metronome (check), doggie photos (check), multiple places to rest teacups (check), and a whole bunch of great music to work on (triple check)].

exhibit A: glorious fairway meats

6. amazing food shopping! I’m not even gonna get into the Greenmarket situation, which makes me almost faint every time I’m lucky enough to swing a visit. But just Fairway and Zabar’s alone are enough to make me content for life. Like, more than content. Here are a couple of photos that do not nearly do these magical markets justice.

exhibit B: um, are you seeing this entire section on the left that is ALL GOAT CHEESE?

If you need anecdotal evidence, let me just say that on my most recent Fairway

expedition,  I explained to the butcher that I needed some extra lamb fat in which to cook the lamb I was buying. He weighed out my meat, then went over to a giant rack of New Zealand lamb, cut off about a pound of fat, and added it to my bundle o’lamb…it was free. Just a bit of extra lamb fat, nbd.

this lady has seen it all. she is TOTALLY OVER THE MARIACHIS (I am not; I love them, actually).

7. New Yorkers…not the magazines.

I was telling my friend Sam today that he didn’t seem like a New Yorker because he wasn’t people-watching while we were at the Met (strangely, he was examining the art rather closely). He was perplexed. And I realized that my habit of looking around me and laughing at all the craziness I see doesn’t make me a New Yorker, per se; it just makes me enjoy my life here even more. The subway, needless to say, is a good place for finding happiness in this particular way.

PLEASE MAKE SUBWAY NOT TO STINK

This to the right is one of my all-time favorite MTA sightings. I feel like a total moron taking pictures of stuff like this while other people stare at me, but then again there are the morons (geniuses?) who write things like this. My feeling is that this may not be the best forum for providing feedback. Or the best grammar for providing feedback.

did i mention the sushi cost less than ten bucks? amaaazing.

8. Reading Murakami at the Tenzan sushi bar.

I know. This could sort of go under the category of “oh I love all the restaurants in New York so much” (see #2).  But this is entirely its own thing. I think I’ve read hundreds of pages of Murakami sitting there eating the most delicious sushi in Manhattan. Tenzan saw me through my Nakata-inspired eel craze, and I’m about halfway through After Dark now. If Murakami’s recent prolificacy is any indication, Tenzan may be about to sell quite a bit more sushi to me over the next bit of time.

sweet Lully on her favorite couch

out for a walk!

9. My sweet Tallulah dog

From my parking spot on 190th Street (I am an expert in New York City parking, which by the way is another reason to love this city), it takes me about 20 minutes to be holding this sweetheart in my arms. I love her.

10. People I adore –
Somehow, something about this place just makes people want to come visit, and visit again, and spend time together here, smiling in the glow of all this New York-ness. What is it? I have no idea, really, but I keep being grateful every day for the time I spend with all these people I love here. Dinners and beer tastings and quiet evenings laughing together and playing games, coffee and shopping trips, lunch out and about. I spend so much time here with so many people I love – it is just so wonderful.

Farhad tells stories of Oberlin adventures

Aeolus/Cleonice lovefest, part I: Greg, Al, and Rache :)

on the other side of the room, Nick, Ari, and Enemy are also apparently losing it!

no matter how many different versions of this Bruman-and-Gwen lovey-dovey photo exist (and over how many years), it just doesn't get old <3

So maybe this is really just a Thanksgiving post. I didn’t realize it until now, actually. I’m just so grateful for this city and this life I have here. I’m taking so much joy in leaving to study up in Boston, to make new friendships and discover new things, to play concerts with my trio that I adore. But this is my home, this is where my heart belongs. I love New York – I love it.

chittenden avenue at sunset

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