by Carol Masters, Becketwood Member
At the beginning of the month (December 2), former staff favorite and violinist Izzy Carlson and pianist Daniel Eras warmed us with their skilled renderings of classical music. Since then, every week has brought us more fine performers in the Wellington Room. The St. Paul Central High Chamber Singers impressed everyone with their spirited presentation of holiday classics. One of the young performers was the grandson of Members Sy and Maria Antonietta Ali. Several Members mentioned how good it was to see the disciplined performance by young people who so visibly enjoyed their offering.
Later in the week, performers with a world-wide reputation, Butch Thompson and Dean Magraw brought their traditional jazz and ragtime music in improvisational arrangements that wowed and delighted the Becketwood audience.
On the afternoon of December 9, Members had opportunities to exercise our vocal cords, too, notably (pun intended) as they joined the Becketwood Choir in singing Advent Lessons and Carols, led by Jean Geissler.
We weren’t done yet with story and participatory events. Mid-month, vocalists Brian Barnes and his partner sang, played, and offered musical histories behind some of the most well known holiday and other popular music. Did you know: “White Christmas” is the bestselling Christmas song of all time, but composer Irving Berlin didn’t celebrate Christmas; he was a Jewish man who emigrated from Russia as a child. The second-best in popularity is “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” written in 1939 by Robert L. May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward department stores, as a promotional coloring book gift. Did you know: May first considered Rollo or Reginald as a name for the bulbous-nosed reindeer.
Family of Becketwood Member also brought their musical talents to Programming or informal events this December. Barbara White had a family member with a string quartet in the solarium to brighten a later December morning. Jean Geissler’s daughter returned with the lively and brightly costumed Chick Cheer to present a holiday program for dinner and after-dinner guests. On the morning of solstice, from Berea, Kentucky, Ken Masters’s great-grandchildren, Berea College freshman soloist Jessie, violinist David and pianist T.J. shared traditional and Appalachian music.
More improvisation and amazing “mashups” of holiday melodies came through the lyrical and haunting inventions of cellist Olivia Diercks and violinist Karla Colahan. Olivia and Karla compose and perform across the Midwest, “creating unique and unexpected musical experiences for their audiences.” Many thanks to Becketwood’s Program Committee and our families for a more than abundant musical season.