Geoff's Notes

Sat, 29 Jan 2005

It's hard to believe that our week in Anchorage is almost over! Charlie re-joined us and despite feeling weak and getting winded, has carried on like a trooper. We have done three shows a day for up to 200 kids per performance Wednesday - Friday. This was made considerably easier than other years by having all the students come to the Heritage Center instead of us running from school to school. Still and all, the days were full and tiring, and most evenings booked with one activity or another. I did manage to set Thursday evening aside for a get together with Mike Campbell, a local singer-songwriter, and a small group of folk music fans at a Barnes and Noble coffeeshop for a bit of a song swap. I met Mike at Mystic Seaport a year and a half ago when he and his wife chanced to come through on my chantey day. He has a marvelous full baritone that made itself evident during my chantey show, and we quickly became friends. Last year he helped me line up a gig at The Organic Oasis here in town, and this year, although there was no opportunity for an official gig anywhere, he located a place for us to gather. This is actually folk week in Anchorage, with lots of performances all over town even on the weeknights, so we were lucky to find anywhere at all. A few of my fans from last year came, and Mike and I had a grand time trading songs for about two and a half hours. By the way, Mike has written as bunch of good songs, and some very funny ones. Look him up on the web and get one or two of his CDs!

Last night we got an extra special treat of being able to attend a collaborative evening of music, dance and storytelling put together by the Anchorage Opera and ANHC. Entitled "A Gathering of Cultures," the evening started with traditional Native American drumming and dance including our own Tobias Vanderhoop (Wampanoag) and Steven Alvarez (Mescalero Apache and Yacqui). The M.C. for the night was our very own Jack Dalton in his character of Raven, and the show included two marvelous native opera singers, Barbara McAlister (Cherokee) and Christina Gagnon (Inupiat), along with members of the Anchorage Opera, the ANHC Yu'pik Comedic Dance Troupe and Steven Alvarez' native fusion band Medicine Dream. Collaborative pieces included a beautifully sung aria, "The Flower Duet" from the opera "Lakmé" by Léo Delibes with three women's voices, interpreted by the ANHC Yu'pik dancers, entirely serious this time, and a gorgeous visual accompaniment to the aria. At another moment, Paul Pike of Medicine Dream played native flute with Tom Getty, pianist, to accompany Barbara McAlister in a medley including "Amazing Grace" in Cherokee. Really incredible!

My favorite part of all was Jack's storytelling, particularly about the "Gathering Song." In his tale, this song has been lost by a village of people who have begun to argue and fight and kill each other. An old man appears and reacquaints them with the song, a song that begins and ends with a drum beat that is in fact the heartbeat of the people, and they are able to shed their anger and live again in love and peace. Jack wove this story through the evening, starting with it as a response to contrapuntal singing of creation stories from Genesis and Native tradition, and ending with an admonition to the audience that the "ending of the story" so fervently sought by us all in fact lay in our hands and would grow out of what we learned that night. Jack managed to draw together the disparate elements of performance through his graceful writing and delightful performance. All in all, a magical night.

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Tue, 25 Jan 2005

This morning at breakfast I was joined by Charlie who complained of not feeling well. He went to the hospital and was diagnosed with Chronic Pulmonary Obstruction Disease, which has frightened all of us. He has some medication, and a second check-up tomorow. Meanwhile, we revised our piece by having Jack, as a native Alaskan, tell his parts second-hand, but it's not the same, and we dearly hope he can join us, though we most want him to take care of himself.

We struggled through morning rehearsals, but managed a respectable dress rehearsal in front of high school students in the afternoon. Now, on to three performances a day for students the rest of the week.

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Mon, 24 Jan 2005

We met at ANHC at 9:00, but really didn't get going with reheasal until around 10:00.

I should acquaint you with the story we are presenting. The premise behind the entire collaboration is the connection that developed through trade between the East Coast, Hawai'i and Alaska. The original name for the project was New Tradewinds, emphasizing how those connections evolved during the age of sail. When the idea occured to create a sinle performance piece, whaling was chosen as the theme, the trade which perehaps most clearly traced those links.

So, two years ago, the conceit for our piece was that a whaling crew, including a Yankee, a Wampanoag native from Martha's Vineyard, and a Hawaiian from Maui, had been frozen in the Arctic near Barrow, AK, and were bing helped to survive through the winter by the natives. With different Alaskan representatives, we used that same idea last year. Now, in this third iteration, we are still in Barrow, but the spring thaw has come, a ship is arriving, and we are about to head to our various homes.

One of the primary directives in this project is to reveal aspects of the several cultures represented in the collaboration. For the last two years the emphasis has been upon contrasts in those cultures' relationship to whales as a source of wealth or sustenance or spiritual inspiration. Clearly, "we" Yankees hunted whales for profit. Hawaiians did not hunt the whale at all, but would receive the gift of one washed up on shore as a boon, and used the teeth of Sperm whales for significant symbols associated with the power of tribal chiefs. Meanwhile, coastal Alaskans, particularly the Iñupiac of the far north, have hunted whales for subsitence for as long as can be remembered.

This year, our theme is "going home" and celebration. I did some research and found no reportage about any fuss when Yankee whalers came home, so I figured I'd present the foil to the Wampanoag, Hawaiian and Alaskan native cultures that have seemed so prone to celebration in my two years of exposure, but I may have miscalculated. The contrast is not nealy as dramatic as I had thought. The Wampanoag and Hawaiian stories are more muted than I expected, but I still believe it is important to suggest how those cultures do create celebration more readily than my own.

One result of today's work is that I've realized a different song would work well for one particular moment in the play, so I've called my good friend and mentor Tom Buckner who will e-mail me the lyrics. Ah, the wonders of modern technology.

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Sun, 23 Jan 2005

The first meeting of our troupe is scheduled for 4:00 at the Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC). We discover that Charlie Hugo, representing the Iñupiac Native Heritage Center in Barrow, will be arriving later in the evening, so the rest of us begin the process of offering the stories and songs we have in mind, so Steven Alvarez, our Director, can work with us to fit the pieces together. The troupe consists of myself, Tobias Vanderhoop of the Wampanoag tribe on Matha's Vinyard, Jack Dalton, a Yupik storyteller from here, and two Hawaiians, Hi'ilani Shibata and Kealoha Kelekolio, along with our missing Charlie. The collaborating institutions are the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, The New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, the ANHC and the Iñupiac Center mentioned above.

In about four hours of work, with a dinner break on-site, we manage to lay out all the pieces we want to include, and put them in a possible order. This has meant for several of us the tearing apart of what we had in mind into smaller segments in order to create more interaction. In fact, the process is feeling more like deconstruction than putting something together. This project started five years ago as a three part presentation of stories and song from New England, Hawai'i and Alaska. Two years ago, when I first was involved, there was a desire to create a single performance piece, which we accomplished largely through my using songs as segues between storytelling segments from Martha's Vineyard, Hawai'i and Alaska. Last year, with the inclusion of another Yankee (Mark Lovewell from Martha's Vineyard) and stories from two areas of Alaska, we developed a more interactive program that was quite a success. Steven, who was our director last year as well, clearly likes that evolution, and is pushing us to shape this year's production with that in mind.

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Sat, 22 Jan 2005

Well, this adventure has started with a twist! I thought I was getting out of town just in time befoe the big snow storm, but...the storm is currently over Detroit, where tthey also managed to have some chemical spill in the tower, so there is now no air traffic control. We were the last plane allowed to toch down before all others were diverted. We're now waiting for a gate, as planes due to depart cannot push back with the tower in operation. It's now 3:17, four minutes after my flight to Minneapolis was due to depart. The first question now is whether that plane is still at the gate. Then, will it stay until I get into the terminal? And how long will the tower be closed? Can only sit and wait.

Arrival was scheduled for 2:20. At 3:35 we're told we have a gate, and at 3:45 we're there.
4:00 - in the terminal, and wonder of wonders, flight 745 has been held so I am going aaboard.
4:10 - preparing for departure - just an hour behind time. Most of the folks on here have been sitting here for an hour and a half. Several asked if I could break out the guitar if there was any more delay!
4:17 - pushing back
4:31 - waiting on line to get to the de-icing "pen" behind five other planes. Thank goodness for this apple Penny suggested I bring along! Who knows when I'll get a chance to eat.
5:10 - we're finally moving, heading for de-icing
5:17 - in the de-icing "pen" - I'd like to know what lovely orange and green chemicals they're using.
5:35 - de-icing done - waiting for the runway
5:42 - up, up and away - exactly two and a half hours late. We'll see what Minneapolis holds for later flights to Anchorage.
6:05 - In the terminal at Minneapolis, I saw that the 5:20 flight to Anchorage was still on the board, so I got one of those carts to run me to my gate, and I was the last person to get on board (they'd held the flight for a captain, also delayed by the weather). For some unknown reason, we sit again, but finally take off at 7:00, landing in Anchorage at 10:05, just an hour and three quarters late. Not bad,, considering.
10:55 - Settled in at the Hotel Captain Cook, ready for a good night's sleep!

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Wed, 07 Apr 2004

It's Wednesday the 7th, 9:30 p.m., and I've been back in the nest since about 11:00 this morning. I left Barrow at 10:00 a.m. yesterday on a 16 hour journey via Anchorage, Seattle and Washington, DC. I actually got on line agai at the Anchorage airport, only to lose a long entry when I couldn't figure out the fine points of manipulating the touch pad mouse. So I'm way behind in what I want to report, particularly about our time in Barrow, but what i need right now is a decent night's sleep. Tomorrow, it's back into the traces at the Seaport with the spring demo schedule, and performing tomorrow evening at the Seamen's Inne, so it will probably be Friday before I can get to the task. Suffice it to say that there are tales to tell, and much to ponder

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Mon, 05 Apr 2004

It's now 3:20 p.m., and we've got some time off before dinner and our evening performance at the Inupiac Heritage Center here in Barrow, so let me backtrack to the rest of my time in Alaska.
I flew in from Honolulu on Tuesday, arriving at midnight in Anchorage after a twelve hour journey via San Francisco and Seattle. It was nearly 2:00 a.m. before I was settled in at the Hotel Captain Cook. I slept late on Wednesday and then got in some rehearsal before being picked up by Mike Campbell, an Anchorage singer-songwriter who had come through Mystic Seaport in September. We grabbefd a bite of Mexican (Mike grew up in New Mexico) and then headed for the Organic Oasis restaurant where I was to sing from 7:00 - 10:00. The O O is a lovely and comfortably appointed place that serves a fine vegetarian cuisine, along with some fine organic beers and wines. A small but enthusiastic crowd showed up, mostly Mike's friends, many of them very involved with the folk scene in Anchorage. All in all, a good start for developing an audience, and great people!
Next day, Thursday, the ECHO gang gathered at 8:00 a.m. for breakfast and a full day of school performances followed by an evening rhearsal with three singers from the Anchorage Opera to incorporate them into our piece. Now, I had some doubts as to how well that might work, but I was amazed at the result. Their Director had located a recently composed opera from Wales which tells of a British sailor surviving the ordeal of having his ship frozen into the arctic through the aid of an Inuit woman. The two are found by another ship in the spring, and taken back to England where she is put on display as a curiosity. She escapes her demeaning bondage, only to be caught and put on trial for stealing sheep to feed starving children in the mountains. She is executed, and her sailor love has returned to the artic to die of exposure in order to rejoin her spirit. We were able to integrate this tale into our stories by making the man one of our sailors, telling us his tale, and then walking off onto the ice to die. In fact, the collaboration worked so well it gave me chills. We got to perform the piece with the opera twice, once on Friday night as a benefit for the Opera and the Native Alaskan Heritage Center, and then again on Saturday as part of a day long festival.
I also got to do a solo set at the Saturday festival, and it was quite a feeling to sing for a largely native audience. The most amazing part of the day, however, came at the end when a native dance troupe of Tlingit/Haida (a culture from the southeastern part of the state) invited us to join them in a longhouse that has been built on the Center's grounds. They showed us the proper way to enter the rather small carved entry, by backing in to show that you come in peace, and then proceeded with ceremonial introductions. Each tribal member named their family lineage on both sides, some in their own language. The truly exciting part was to hear a nine year old and twelve year old introduce themselves in their own tongue. We then introduced ourselves, saying where we were from. At that point, they sang an honor song for us, and then asked us to sing for them. Charlie Hugo sang an Inupiac song, Tobias sang a Wampanoag song, and I sang "The Parting Song," with everone joining in. Mark Lovewell sang part of "Rolling Home" and Tom and Kealoha sang the Doxology in Hawaiian. After we had offered our songs, our hosts explained that they wanted to sing for us a healing song which they do not perform in public. I know that the gift of that song is one of the highest honors we could have been given, and it is a memory I wll hold close. Moments like this are what make this experience so remarkable, and I only hope I can do justice to the honor by bringing these stories home and letting my audiences know what a wealth of tradition exists out here.

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I tried to make an entry from the airport in Anchorage yesterday, but didn't get it posted before my time ran out. I'll try to get back to that later, but for now, I arrived with the rest of the ECHO crew here at the norther nmost town in Alaska at around 5:30 yesterday. We walked the thirty yards from the airport to the King Eider Inn through a balmy tempurature (for here) of ten degrees above zero. A bit later, we headed out for dinner at the home of Jana H archaeck who had been with us in Hawai'i. En route we could see a number of car ibou skins hanging on porch railings, and the occaisional skin boat, or umiak, t hat is used here for hunting whales. For dinner, Jana served salmon chowder, ca ribou stew and Bowhead whale steaks with onions. All were delicious, though qui te a new culinary experience. After dinner, at 9:00 p.m., still with full dayli ght, we drove around town a bit, and watched the sun go down at 9:58! Then to b ed, and now ready for a full day of activities. I'll try to get back on later today!

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Sat, 27 Mar 2004

I left off with my flight to Maui, where I spent three lovely days, although it was cooler and wetter than it had been at this time of year for the better part of a decade. After many years of drought, this winter has supplied much needed water to recharge depleted aquifers, and still one of the major issues on Maui is water rights. The island is in many ways governed by and for the sugar interests that came in during the nineteenth century and have never let go their grip on local affairs. The main sugar company owns thousands of acres that were created as cane fields on the sandy ground between the two high parts of the island, land which is taxed at a rate of $10 an acre. I could go on for some time relating the comments I heard, but suffice it to say, this corporate welfare creates considerable tension on the island.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, March 17, I did a concert at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kihei. A small crowd came (partly because two Hawaiian girls, one from Maui were on American Idol! Oh well.) but they were very appreciative, and I had a great time. The next day I made an obligatory pilgrimage to Lahaina. I stopped at an overlook en route that I learned was one of the prime whale spotting places on the island, and indeed I saw perhaps half a dozen whales in fifteen minutes. I then continued on into Lahaina, the town I have spoken of in so many programs of whaling songs, and looked for the history. What a terrible disappointment! The museum that Don Sineti has spoken of is gone, and even the second floor two roon cultural museum in the old Court House was closed. In fact, I could find hardly an remnants of the whaling days. The town is totally given over to the most garish of tourism, and within an hour I was driving back out of town, knowing I had no reason to return. It happened that I drove back out of town behind a white ragtop Mustang, and I had to wonder what the middle aged couple in their aloha shirts were thinking - certainly not thoughts of the significant history that had been played out in that town.
On Friday I flew back to Oahu around noon, in time to relax and prepare for a concert at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu. The show was at 7:30 p.m., with a corned beef and cabbage dinner beforehand. About fifty folks showed up, and I did one of my best performances ever. One of the nice things about being on the road is the chance for undistracted rehearsal, which has been paying good dividends on this trip. This particular night was made all the more pleasant by the warm reception of fellow UU's. I was quickly invited to go on Sunday, and asked to sing this coming Sunday (tomorrow). It was very special to find a community here where I can feel so welcomed and at home.
On Saturday, my hostess drove me on a tour of Honolulu that took us to the Punchbowl, an ancient crater taken over by the military to become the Arlington of the Pacific. I must say it is an impressive place, and probably warrents another visit. From there we took back roads up through the hills and east to get to Diamond Head. That, too, was quite a sight, although with rain coming down we did not hike up to the crest. That's on my agenda for Monday. Meanwhile I settled into the Prince Kuhio Radisson Hotel, and spent the afternoon in the park nearby and going through the Honolulu Zoo. Of course, I loved seeing all the birds, very exotic, including a small aviary one can enter.
The next morning, Sunday, I finally met all the storytellers for the ECHO program. We gathered here at the Bishop Museum, and in about three hours had stitched together a fifty minute piece from the stories of five cultures and their relationship with whales. The premise, as it was last year, is that we are a crew of a whaleship frozen in near Barrow, AK. We include Tom Cummings, a Hawaiian from Maui, Tobias Vanderhoop, Wampanoag from Martha's Vinyard, Mark Lovewell, Yankee from the Vinyard, and me. I start the show with wondering where everyone has gone off to, and then warm my spirits by singing "Coast of Peru." Just as I finish, Mark and Tobias come in with a sea chest, and I inquire where our Kanaka companion might be. Mark suggests we sing "John Kanaka" to conjure him up, and it works as Tom comes in complaining loudly about our mispronounciation of "kanaka." He then sits down to play his nose flute, which conjures a real spirit in the person of Kealoha Kelekolio playing the part of Omumu, the whalerider. Their scene extablishes Tom's homesickness, which opens the door for me to sing three verses of "Rolling Down to Old Maui" in honor of his homeland. Mark then tells of his own homesickness for Martha's Vinyard and he and Tobias trade tales of whaling from the point of view of their own cultures. I follow that with "Talcahauno Girls" in honor of Gay Head, and we're all felling pretty jolly until Jack Dalton, Yupik from southern Alaska, comes in looking for his father, a white whaleman who came to his village seventeen years ago. Jack speaks of the destruction of the caribou herds, and seals and walrus, by the whalers, which leads into similar comments from Jana Harcharek of Barrow, accompanied by Charles Hugo on drum and Greta Stuermer dancing. They end with an honor dance for the gift of the whale, inviting us all to join in.
Putting all those pieces together was quite a trick, but it did fall into place quite nicely, and we've done the performance eight times now, the last being today as a part of a day long storytelling festival here at the Bishop. I'm now going to sing off and prepare for my 4:00 p.m. solo set. Then it's two days off before heading for Anchorage!

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Thu, 25 Mar 2004

Well, I'm a bit behind getting started due to problems getting to my blog site, but here we go. I flew from Providence at 6 a.m. on Saturday the 13th to arrive at LAX in time to reach Ojai for a 3 p.m. Sweet Chariot West show. Many of the folks who have been gathering in Maine on Swan's Island each August for years are now heading to Ojai for a late winter booster shot. Organized by Doug Day, who started the Swan's festival almost twenty years ago, this event on either coast is the best modern day vaudeville you'll find anywhere, bringing together an amazing spectrum of talent ranging from great songwriters to fall out of your chair comedy. My part is to supply some energetic chanties for march-in opener. All in all a great show for the public and an unforgetable party for the performers. We did another show on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and then hung out 'til late that night and most of Sunday singing.
I then flew from LAX to Honolulu on Monday morning. I was picked up and hosted by Tom Cummings from the Bishop Museum who is one of the cast for the ECHO Storytelling Festival. Monday evening, at Tom's suggestion, I went to the "Horizons" show at the Polynesian Cultural Center at Brigham Young University. Although the show is highly coreographed and dramatized, the dancing I was assured is traditional, and it was impressive. The show presents dance from the six cultures of Hawai'i, Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, Figi and New Zealand, performed by students at BYU who must study three of those cultures as part of their curriculum. I will say that they certainly do learn how to dance!
On Tuesday morning, Tom drove me back across the island to Hanaha'uoli School. I went there last year to do an assembly in honor of the fact that my mother's first job as a music teacher was here at Hanaha'uoli in 1936. Last year, one of her student came to that assembly, and I can tell you that was a powerful moment for me. This year, as I walked into the open air assembly hall, the whole school (200 students, K-6) were singing "John Kanaka" which they learned from me last year. Wow! I then had a great time singing for and with them for forty minutes or so. I then did four sessions with different classes in the music room through the rest of the day. That included another astounding moment for me, when the sixth grade performed "Last Leviathan" for me, which they had taken from a CD I left with them last year. When Chris Mullen, the music teacher, first told me about it, I was taken aback that these kids would choose such a sad and powerful song, but their arrangement showed how deeply they had understood the piece. It brought me to tears.
Tuesday evening I flew to Maui, and I think I'll pick up there with my next entry. Aloha for now.

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Mon, 07 Jul 2003

Ive been having a great time over at Perks and Corks in Westerly, RI. (Ill be there on Friday, July 11 and Friday August 8!!) The proprietors, Erik and Christina King, are great hosts, they have great coffees along with a selection of over one hundred vintages of wine, and the comfortable yet intimate atmosphere just works. I like it because I can stay acoustic - those who really want to hear the words, and sing along, can gather down in the back while theres room enough for others to talk at the bar and on the couches up front. Theyve got other music in on a regular basis, and the place just deserves a visit sometime.
And speak of neat places to play! On May 31st I did my first, and certainly hope not my last, night at the Centre Coffee Bar in Windsor, CT. (In fact, Ive talked them into having me back on Saturday July 26!!) This place has been open for about four months, serves a scrumptious menu of special panini, soups and salads, along with some desserts to die for. But Im in love with the brick - exposed brick walls that give just enough acoustic support to make singing there a dream. Of course, I had a quiet attentive crowd, and a gem of a server behind the counter who actually waited for me to end a song before cranking up the expresso machine, so it was ideal. This place is great - stop by if youre anywhere in the vicinity.

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Thu, 03 Jul 2003

UUGA Closing Ceremony
I've been quiet for a while, and perhaps it was a preoccupation with this performance that caused the silence. In any case, Wow! What an event! The wrap-up to five days of the Unitariarian Universalist annual General Assembly, bringing together thousands of UUs from across the country, held this year at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. I was only there for a chunk of Saturday and most of Monday, but events from 7:00 a.m. worship to late night coffeehouses and dances went on every day. My role was to lead three songs in the Closing Celebration from 8:30 - 10:00 p.m. on Monday. The size of the crowd, and the choruses participating (180 in the adult chorus and around another 100 in the childrens), required the use of two separate halls with big video screens keeping people together. I was a bit skeptical, but it worked! The tech folks at Hynes were wizards.
So in between some moving readings, great choral presentations (including a marvelous Nick Page arrangement of an English Quaker womens round entitled Building Bridges) and a powerful homily by The Reverend Victoria Safford, I led out three songs. My choices were Bill Staines Crossing the Water, Lorre Wyatts Somos El Barco and Bob Killians Therell Come a Day. Ive sung these songs with some wonderful audiences before, but hearing five thousand voices on those choruses was something else again. I hope they were as moved as I was.
The upshot of the whole experience was a sense of needing to recommit to all the hard work that needs doing to hopefully see this world through the very trying times that seem to persist. If music can help people learn how to live together rather than apart, with tolerance and respect and understanding becoming the watchwords of a new era, I hope my music can play a part.

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Mon, 05 May 2003

I'm in a bit of a rush getting ready to fly out for Boston this evening, so I'll just give some highlights here that I may talk more about later. On Friday we performed for 900 students at Nanaikapono Elementary School in Waianae. That afternoon we visited Ka'ala Farms, a working restoration of very old agricultural ways here. There is much to say about that visit, so stay tuned.
Saturday we were part of a festival at the Maritime Center here in Honolulu. The four-masted square rigger Falls of Clyde, which I'd longed to see, lies there is a sorry state, though they've got some money to work on her rigging now. More about that and the day later.
Sunday took us to Kaneohe Bay for a sail on the replica voyaging canoe Hokule'a. We didn't have much wind, but I stayed on the tiller for the two hour trip. There's a great story to tell about this vessel, her creation and the dreams she has fullfilled.
My final adventure was to give a concert this morning at Hanahaouli School where my mother was the music teacher from 1936-41. What an experience, to give back my music to these children. All I can say is that I plan to be back. I've got to run, but will comment more on some of the above later.

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Fri, 02 May 2003

Aloha all,and that's saying more than you think when you begin to understand the nuances of the Hawaiian language. It is not just lovely to listen to but rife with meaning. Got here with no hitches in thirteen hours from Logan on Monday, and checked into the Radisson Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel. A fine joint, I assure you, and just two blocks from the beach! Next morning we gathered at the Bishop Museum (the Hawaiian Collaborator on this project) to rehearse after our two week hiatus. Before we did anything else, Noelani Tachera led us to a small garden for a ceremony wherein she sang a request that we visitors be welcomed. Within this ritual "protocal" visitors may offer a gift (which I was unprepared to do, though I wish I'd brought some Ocean Beach sand). Tobias Vanderhoop placed some tobacco on the sacred stone and sang a Wampanoag honoring chant. Then we all joined in a thank you song as best we could. Despite my dis-ease at not knowing the language or the ritual, I can tell you that the moment was powerful, and presaged others in the last two days. The revival of native language, dance, song and ritual is a moving force in the lives of the people I am meeting here, and though still a fairly small voice within the context of a very commercialized O'ahu culture,it is heard. Yesterday and today our performances were specifically for students in total Hawaiian immersion programs. Yesterday we sang for about one hundred kids (1/3 of the school) at Pu'ohala Elementary. Today, it was for the entire K-12 at Anuenue School (about 200 students in all). In each case, Noelani sang a request for us to enter, and ALL the kids sang the response. I assure you the power of this oral tradition gives me chills.
Outside our performances, which have gone very well, we spent yesterday afternoon at a Swap Meet outside Aloha Stadium, a massive flea market literally surrounding the stadium, and today, while others played in the surf, I went into the hill to find some bird. Tonight we head for an ava bar, but I'll tell you about that next time!

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Mon, 14 Apr 2003

Waqa (hello) all,
The system here was having trouble two days ago, so I'll have to cover four days here. Friday evening's and Saturday's proceedings at the Alaska Native Heritage Center was pretty amazing. The larger event was a Hawaian Natural Healing Conference put on by Hawaians now living in Alaska. Friday evening included ceremonies of welcome and honoring from both Alakan and Hawaian native cultures. The real treat was seeing native dancing from each culture. This was my first exposure to real hula dancing, and was augmented by sitting next to Teresa Cummings, a native speaker (actually from Tahiti). I was astounded - what a gorgeous interpretive form of dance! Teresa translated each song as it was danced (not always literally, for it becomes apparent that some of the images and language become very suggestive) and I was captivated. Some dances are done just by women, some just by men, some by both. The women's movements are very sensuous, while the men's are graceful but strong. Hands tell much of the story, amplified by by the movement of hips, tilting of head and gestures toward the chest which clearly speak of the heart and love. Then came the Alaskan dance, strangely similar but so different. Again it is accompanied by "song" or vocalization, but not necessarily a text, and again the women's movements are quite seductive, but there the similarity ends, at least in the examples I saw. The men, even in the slow parts of the dance, utter gutteral cries, and their motions are angular and intense. Then when the speed picks up, the men become percussive, feet beating the floor while hands and arms pound the air. It is very impressive, and clearly a workout for the dancers, who in this case are high school kids learning the dances at the ANHC. They are good! Our job was to present our performance one on Friday night and twice Saturday afternoon. Yesterday we had the day off to go on a Grey Whale Tour from Seward, down on the lower Kenai Peninsula. The weather was grey but the only whales we saw were two Humpbacks. We also saw a couple of sea otters and one pod of Dall Porpoises. Despite not seeing more cetaceans, it was for me a great day of being out on the water in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Back in Anchorage today we did three more preformances for elementary school kids, who I must say are the best behaved I've ever seen. Now it's almost time for our farewell dinner, and home on the morrow.

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Fri, 11 Apr 2003

So tne adventure has begun. I met Tobias Vanderhoop, Wampanoag dancer and storyteller from Martha's Vinyard, at Logan on Tuesday and we spent eleven hours in transit, arriving in Anchorage at 8:30 P. Next day at breakfast I met Tom Cummings with his wife Teresa and Nohea Torres from Hawaii. We then headed for the Alaska Native Heritage Center to meet Cindy Pennington, a Sugpiak native from Kodiak Island. We spent the day Wednesday putting together a 45 minute program stitching together stories related to whaling from Tobias, Tom(with Nohea as spirit/conscience from home) and Cindy, with me adding a musical Yankee perspective. As it turned out the music serves to introduce and close the show, as well as to provide a segue from Tobias' telling of Wampanoag traditions to Tom's playing the part of John Kanaka from Lahaina, Maui. I use "Talcahuano Girls" to open, mentioning Gay Head on M.V. to set up Tobias, "Rolling Down to Old Maui" for the segue to Hawaii, and a slightly modified version of "Rolling Home" to close after Cindy's story of traditional Sugpiak whaling. The conceit of the show is that we've all found ourselves together in the ice near Barrow. All in all, it seems to flow quite nicely. So far we've performed the piece for Montessori pre-schoolers, High School native Alaskans, and troubled teen-age native youth. This last was earlier today, and a very gratifying experience with the the audience being very polite and engaged, aking good questions and being very sociable over lunch after our presentaion. Tonight we return to the ANHC for a Formal Cultural Exchange, which is the first part of a festival that continues tommorw. We'll do our show three times by the end of tomorrow. That's enough for now, except to say that all the people I've met and worked with here have been wonderful, and it's enlightening to be a minority. More later!

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Wed, 02 Apr 2003

While in Alaska, I will be adding to the blog periodoically. Please come back frequently!

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