Our Upcoming Holiday Concert - Winterscape
We’re returning to Merkin Hall (129 West 67th Street), Tuesday, December 19th, 8:00-9:30pm with a fine musical party right afterwards for everyone in affectionate celebration of Michele Mestman. (Free party: pay bar). Our repertoire will include many new songs, but there will be a few we have sung before such as the ethereal Tundra, the whacky Jing-a-Ling, Jing-a-Ling and South Sami People (you can hear us sing this haunting chant song if you go to our website, www.SoHarmoniums.com, click Repertoire and scroll down). We’ll be finishing with the never-fail, all-time heart-wrencher Auld Lang Syne.
Our Michele, au revoir
Our Founding Accompanist, Michele Mestman, who was featured in our November, 2016, SoHo Notes, is, hmmmm, does one hang up one’s keyboard?, well — retiring after making musical magic with the SoHarmoniums for eleven years... which included performances at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, The Church of the Holy Trinity and our present home, Merkin Hall. However, her home and rich musical life in Lenox, Massachusetts are beckoning. Love and luck to her and Steve. To say our friend will be sorely missed is a complete and total understatement.
Diane was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma in 1942 and later, after her father left the Army Air Corps, the family moved to Hays, Kansas. Her mother, who taught 6th grade, early on instilled in her daughter a deep love of words. An important book (as for so many of us) was Little Women. “When my dad, who was away working during the week, came home on Friday nights, it was magical, like Santa Claus appearing. It was really my intrepid mother who raised the three of us.” The family lived in Manhattan, Kansas during Diane’s teenage years, where she played the French horn in high school band and orchestra and of course sang in the choir. She graduated from Kansas State University.
While living in Washington, D.C., where, along with earning an M.A. in history from Georgetown University, she was editor of publications for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and an editor for the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress before moving to New York (the other Manhattan) in 1980, when she met her lifelong partner, Joan Goldsmith, a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, whom she married in Toronto in 2005. With Joan’s encouragement, she wrote an impassioned letter to NYU’s President John Brademas spelling out what kind of challenging job she absolutely needed to have. He listened, and smart man, hired her. She ultimately became director of writing and research at New York University, working in the Office of University Relations and Public Affairs, and during her 25-year career was speechwriter for three NYU presidents. She also taught freshman (“they were so vulnerable”) courses in writing and earned two more degrees — an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature. Although retired, she continues to work on NYU’s commencement ceremony (portions of the script and the honorary degree citations) that takes place at Yankee Stadium for some 30,000 graduates and guests. Diane and Joan live in Greenwich Village.
How would you describe your growing up years?
Sheltered, innocent, fun, adventurous. We lived in a university town. I was at the swimming pool all summer.
What is your life like now?
Deliciously free from want with more than my fair share of bliss. I take long walks around Greenwich Village, visit stationery and book stores, go to movies, theatre and restaurants and have begun to renew my participation in my church.
What would you like your life to become?
Fuller in spirit with a body and mind that last as long
What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Language, patience, courage, comfort.
What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
My own impatience, cowardice, failure to comfort. Others’ hate, narcissism and willful ignorance.
What is your most favorite sound or noise?
Small children squealing in a playground. Church bells.
What is your least favorite sound or noise?
A cat that’s been stepped on.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A cartoonist. Because it’s our most succinct form of commentary combined with drawing.
What profession other than your own would you not like to attempt?
What achievement are you most proud of?
Earning three advanced degrees while working full time and having full-blown Attention Deficit Disorder.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Diane, you can sing in our choir.
(As always, with thanks to Bernard Pivot and James Lipton for their classic questions)
Musical homes of the SoHarmoniums
We gave our early concerts at The Church of the Holy Trinity, an 1899 golden brick and terra-cotta French Gothic wonder on the Upper East Side. From its founding, this was known as “a settlement church”, warmly welcoming a diverse community, which ultimately included us. Guarded by its 15 vigilant gargoyles, lifted by soaring stained-glass windows, we sang under its glorious open-vaulted oak ceiling for eight years.
In 2014 we moved to the 449-seat Merkin Concert Hall, partly because we had just sung at Alice Tully Hall and experienced what it was like to perform in a world-class acoustical space. And, more importantly, it was time: we were ready. Merkin is part of the Kaufman Music Center established by Tzipora Jochsberger who died at age 96 early this November.
Tzipora is worth a detour. A musically-gifted only child, she left Nazi Germany in the late 1930s to study music in Palestine which was still under British rule. This saved her life (her parents perished). Like most of us who adore music, she believed heart and soul, that the arts and music can renew and restore the spirit. In the 1950s she moved from Jerusalem where she had taught music at The Teachers’ Seminary for Arab Girls, to New York City because “I felt that New Yorkers were estranged from their Jewishness.” So she began The Hebrew Arts Center in two rooms, eventually relocating to the Abraham Goodman House where we are now. In 1985 when she retired after 33 years as Founding Director, the school had an enrollment of 400 students. Today it totals 2,800, a rainbow community of faiths and cultures. Well Done!
Avian Accompaniment - who knew?
There are two iron birdies in our loft, each perched and swaying on a 5’0” high post, which are located right behind the Soprano 2 section. One singer kept hearing reverberations each time her section sang a G above high C. Damned if those birds weren’t humming that exact pitch
Where are they now?
A born-and-raised New Yorker, Dena recently relocated to Washington, DC to work at The Cultural Landscape Foundation, where she researches and writes about urban public spaces across the nation. Dena lived in northern England for two years, completing graduate studies in cultural heritage management (while also visiting as many European cities as possible!). Her love of place, travel, and music are intertwined, and all stem from the years she spent singing and touring with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, which she still volunteers for whenever she can.
Amy is now living in Cedar Falls, Iowa, teaching at the University of Northern Iowa. Her official title is “Assistant Professor of Choral Ensembles and Music Education,” and in English that means she conducts the UNI Singers, Women’s Chorus which is celebrating their 130th anniversary in 2018!! She also teaches choral methods, and works with student teachers. She also conducts the Metropolitan Chorale, a community chorus, which just performed the Mozart Requiem last weekend - a dream of hers to conduct! She is singing in the Vocal Artists of Iowa, a group that performs 4-5 concerts a year in Iowa City. Amy’s picked up triathlons after moving to Iowa, and has gotten into mountain biking and cyclocross racing, and even started a women’s bike ride called Spokes Women that’s in its second year. She really likes the community she’s in, and if she has to be someplace random, it’s a pretty great place to be. However, she misses NYC, and dearly misses all the amazing ladies from the SoHarmoniums! If anyone is ever in Iowa, please let her know!
Did You Know????
- Elvis didn’t write any of his songs.
Mood and Music are closely related. Even if there is nothing there, we can still perceive a happy face when we’re listening to happy music and of course, sad to sad. However, this still doesn’t explain the ridiculous presence of icky, sticky elevator music...
Rock stars tend to die as much as 25 years earlier than the average person (back to point two for some of us, but, with faint apologies, I show my bent...) as well as having higher rates of accident and homicide.
And to end on a much happier note, sex, eating and music are all related to the release of dopamine, our “pleasure chemical.” (a.k.a., Wine, Women and Song. Enough Said!).
Happy Holidays Everyone!