Wednesday, August 31, 2011

That’s Entertainment


I spent another one of my days off in Ann Arbor exploring some of my favorite haunts around State Street, beginning with seeing two movies (The Tree of Life and The Trip) at the gorgeous Michigan Theater on Liberty. 

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In addition to appreciating the fact that they show independent and art films I also LOVE that they still have an operational organ that is played before each movie.  I arrived at one show just in time to catch the last vestiges of one such performance.


Though the news is a couple of weeks old, when I first got back the news broke that Borders Bookstore was being liquidated.  Ann Arbor is the corporate headquarters and home to store #1 so I felt it only fitting to stop by and check out the sale.  It was still in its infancy then (only up to 40% at that point [lame]) but I did make my final Borders purchase in the form of Jane Austen’s Persuasion… because I know you care and all.

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Also in the nearby vicinity is one of my absolute favorite Ann Arbor spots: Encore Records.  I used to go there about once a week and troll through the immense selection of records in hopes of adding to my own.  Luck was with me this time as I found yet another Martin Katz collaboration with Frederica von Stade!!


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All in all I’d say it was quite a perfect day by Ann Arbor entertainment standards!


Artist: Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz / Album: The Bandwagon

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Happy Place


(So I fully realize it’s been just about three weeks since I’ve updated the blog!!  My apologize to the four of you who regularly check… there’s been a lot going on since getting back to Texas and I’m actually currently writing from Bloomington, Indiana [more on that in a later post].  Just a couple of more Blue Lake posts and I should be up to date!)

In between the round of concerts at Hill Auditorium and the Blue Lake homecoming concerts I had about a week off, during which I was able to spend some free time in my former hometown of Ann Arbor.  Any trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without a jaunt to Kerrytown, and I spent the large portion of a day re-visiting this charming neighborhood.

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Kerrytown is home to many of my favorite places in the city, ranging from Kerrytown Concert House to Hollander’s Paper Store—and let’s not forget that divine delicatessen, Zingerman’s!!  Brian, who was my “host family” for a couple of nights, and I ventured to the deli for lunch and I was not surprised in the least to see that lines were still forming around the corner despite some new construction under way.

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*Sigh* … the memories (and dollars) I have spent here


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L: Brian waiting patiently in line.   R: It’s the light at the end of the tunnel!!!  (except in this case it’s not so much a “light” as it is free samples of their mac 'n cheese or smoked meats from around the world)


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My regular order: #73 Tarb’s Tenacious Tenure: “All-natural turkey breast, fresh avocado spread, Wisconsin muenster cheese, tomato & plenty of Zingerman’s Russian dressing on grilled farm bread” (Russian dressing on the side with) add Honeycup mustard, cucumber-y pickle and an iced cold brew coffee.  DE-LECKER!!!


Another favorite spot, and I know my mother would agree, is the Treasure Mart, an antique store just down the cobblestone street from Zingerman’s.

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“Excuse me… can you ship these giant stained glass windows to Crockett, TX?”


Ann Arbor is also a great city for book lovers and Kerrytown is home to several really great independent book stores.

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And finally, while I failed to get a final picture with Brian, I do have this one from one of our nights out in Minden that I haven’t put up yet.  Even though I knew him only peripherally last year on tour I must say I am very happy to count him among my close close friends.  I will miss you!!

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Artist: Katie Melua / Album: The House  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011



Today is National S’mores Day and the perfect day for me to do a bit of retro-blogging.  A while back in March when my friend Lembit came to visit for the Houston premiere of his oratorio And Then I Remembered we tried out a recipe for s’mores milkshakes that I learned from another friend of mine, Zach

Step 1:  Broil marshmellows in oven until toasted

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Step 2: Blend together with your ice cream of choice, preferably vanilla or chocolate (or both) but definitely BLUE BELL, and Nutella

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Step 2.5: Add Speculoos spread if available. 

Some of you may remember my birthday post from this year as well as a bit of a security snafu when flying back into the country how much I love the Speculoos cookie spread.  WELL, folks… I’m giving you a bit of an exclusive here because you Texans can buy the stuff at Central Market!!!!!!!  Now, to be fair it is delicious in the same way that American Nutella is delicious.  And by that I mean the European versions are made with slightly different ingredients and tend to be more buh-mazing, but the stateside versions are still very very good.  Point of order… they also sell just the plane cookies as well but do not have the “cruncy” version :(


(Instead of Speculoos spread make sure and look for Biscoff spread)


3. Pour and enjoy!!!!



Artist: Kelis/ Album: Tasty

Back of a Truck


We’re gonna take a brief pause from catching up on the last couple of posts from the Blue Lake homecoming tour because I wanted to post something that I saw last night while driving to have dinner with my friends Will and Aaron, who were visiting nearby Dodge, TX for the week.

The drive on I-45 N at 5:30pm isn’t exactly the quickest of drives and stops occur frequently due to general congestion and the occasional accident.  So it wasn’t much of a surprise to have to stop for a while.  That is, until three fire trucks and about eight police cars meandered their way through the traffic.  Oh yeah and the two news helicopters I could see floating a couple of exits down.  It wasn’t until I detoured on the feeder road that I discovered this was causing all the fuss:



Needless to say it made the news this morning (and even showed up on Gawker!)

PS— For anyone interested I actually took my picture while stopped at the stoplight on the feeder… just sayin’


Artist: Regina Spektor/ Album: Eleven Eleven

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Sort of Homecoming


One of the parts of the whole tour I was looking forward to the most was the return to Ann Arbor for a series of concerts appropriately entitled “Experience Blue Lake.”  An overwhelming swath of campers for the program comes from a 100 mile radius of Ann Arbor and one of the feathers in the tour’s cap are the performances at gorgeous Hill Auditorium. This was my first time being back in my home for four years since I moved last August and it was a treat to be back.

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Just like last year (LINK), the Brahm’s Requiem was broadcast live on Blue Lake’s very own public radio station (LINK) for the entire WORLD to hear. 

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The back of Hill with the satellite and equipment trucks parked in full view (with a bit of bell tower in the background thrown in for good measure)


Joining us once again to conduct the Requiem was Carole Dr. MaestrA Ott.  She had the thankless task of preparing the choir and orchestra for the European tour without the benefit of actually getting to conduct us while overseas.  Needless to say it was an immense pleasure to get to work under her baton again, not only because her musicality and expression were unrivaled by any of the guest conductors in Europe but because I consider her a dear friend as well.  Even though she conducts and teaches in North Carolina I am dependent upon the very small musical world that we live in to bring us back together collaboratively in the future. 

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Three very content divas


Sabrina and I were also joined by a very special guest in the audience in the form of John Nevergall, who long time blog readers will remember was the tenor soloist in last years Elijah (broken glass during his aria, anyone?!).  Though he lives in Ohio he drove up for the concert and I am so grateful to have gotten to see him, if only for a short time after the performance.

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“Bist du’s Elias?!?!?!”


I also must give a special shout out to my host “moms” for this portion of the tour.  Mom of course being in quotation marks because they were actually my friends Kristin (who, though a mom in her own right, is absolutely nowhere near near near old enough to claim that title over me) and then later Cynthian. 

Like John before, some of you may remember Kristin from our sharing the stage in Le nozze di Figaro, Armide, and Albert Herring as well as, you know, being kind of a kick ass friend.  Unnnnnfortunately I was stupid and failed to get a picture with her and her darling Alyssa before getting away so I leave you with a picture I pilfered off of her facebook profile. 



Cynthian and I have also had the pleasure of performing together in Albert Herring and Eugene Onegin and is also a member of that wundermusical family the Brundages—as in, Julia of the Singing Seargeant’s fame and Mary Anne and David of my utterly fabulous vacation weekend to Washington D.C. this past February.  Cynthian actually commented that I had basically seen everyone in her family more recently than I had seen her, so I’m glad we could rectify that situation!

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Enjoying sangria at Ann Arbor’s popular summer drinking destination, Dominick’s


Artist: U2/ Album: The Unforgettable Fire

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tea Pot


Even though the European leg of the tour was over Sabrina and I still had a mini-tour of sorts around parts of Michigan with both the choir and the orchestra, so the day after my granddad’s birthday party I flew back up to Chicago and then over to Detroit.  The first leg, however, was just the Puccini and My Fair Lady numbers with the orchestra in two separate towns: Midland and Saginaw.

Some of the orchestra staff, along with Sabrina and I, were lucky enough to have the H Hotel in Midland as our “host stay,” which turned out to be a very nice respite from the craziness of what seemed like a solid three days of travel.  And by respite I of course mean… I had a king size bed and room to myself.

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The Lobby of the H Hotel


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Sabrina and I adding a bit of lobby foliage to our attire.  (Eric better stop photo bombing or our host mom from Minden is going to hunt him down again!)


Unfortunately, due to vocal exhaustion I was unable to sing the first performance in Midland.  If you know me then you know it must be serious if I am on complete vocal rest for three days straight.  Sabrina became my interpreter and we became known as the Blue Lake equivalent of Jay and Silent Bob.  One of the hotel staff found out and delivered this buh-mazing tray of teas and lemon and honey!

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Luckily, I was able to perform on the second concert in Saginaw at the Temple Theater… and thank goodness because what a beautiful space it was!

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Though we didn’t have a home in the literal sense of the word, the chairwoman for the two communities was the one who took care of all our accomidations and food and was our de-facto host mom… and what a fabulous one she was!

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Thank you, Lois!!!!!


Artist: Operator Please/ Album: On the Prowl

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Family Man


After our 12 hour bus ride from Germany to Paris and the 9 hour plane ride to Chicago I still had one more flight to catch until I was truly back in the homeland—Texas, that is.  My brother, Matt, picked me up at the airport in Dallas and I spent the night at his house.


BENJAMIN!!!! (Making his blog debut)

The next morning all of us headed off to Kilgore for my granddaddy Dan’s 85th birthday partay!! My mom and aunt Brynda had been spending mucho tiempo getting all of the guest list, food, decorations etc. together and with over 150 guests it was no small task!  Bonus: It was held at Bodacious Bar-B-Q and I was able to get my first bbq fix for quite a while!

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One of the most amazing things about the party was that there were soooo many pictures of the birthday boy and his family and friends scattered about. Additionally, many of the tables had facts about the different decades in which Dan has lived.

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Ah the ‘70’s… I remember them well!


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A view of about 1/3 of the room.  (Also, I’m pretty sure the collective age of the group as a whole would overwhelm even the most advanced of computer processors!)


But what’s a birthday party without a cake, am I right?  Nancy and Brynda didn’t disappoint either with this three-tiered hunk of chocolate deliciousness.

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Can we also notice how well the candy flowers on top match the ones on the tables.  Classy touch, Ballenger gals!


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Mom and Brynda doin’ some cake cuttin’! (Two days back in Texas and I’m already abbreviatin’ my endings)


In addition to our two national flags—Texas and U.S.—there were also oil derricks (Kilgore was a huge oil town back in the day) and all of the colleges that Dan helped support over the years.  Naturally I cherry picked the Baylor and University of Michigan ones.  You know what that makes me?… … …

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A BUM!!  An educated bum, but a bum nonetheless.


I’m not quite sure how he got a hold of it but Luke decided to change his allegiance from Texas A & M to the old maize and blue. 

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One certain pair of pictures was displayed prominently on the “family” board:  The top one was taken at an airport when we were all younger and then the bottom was an attempt to re-create the first when we all went to London/Paris to celebrate Joyce and Dan’s 50th wedding anniversary!

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The next morning at brunch we couldn’t help but take another group shot seeing as it has been well over 10 years since the last one! (With Joanie and the great grandkids thrown in for good measure!)



Before leaving the party everyone was asked to sign one of two pictures of Dan as a child… here they are!

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Artist: James Taylor  /Album: In the Pocket

PS: While we’re celebrating numerical milestones… this week I passed 20,000 views.  THANKS EVERYONE!!