FWWTW: Pandemic Entertainment

I wasn’t going to participate in Fandango’s Who Won the Week this week, because not much has happened. Then I started thinking about what I enjoyed most this week. The first thing I thought of was the warmer weather (finally!) and the flowers. But then I thought of something that deserves to “win” the week because I have been enjoying it every Sunday afternoon.

Our senior community has two closed-circuit TV stations – one of which is used by the staff for announcements, virtual meetings, exercise classes, etc. The other station is for our entertainment! Videos of virtual choirs are put together and shown every Sunday afternoon.  But that is not the only time that one can hear virtual choirs and other virtual musical groups. Facebook has many postings of virtual choirs and YouTube is another place to see them. A grid of small squares appears on the screen, and in each square is an individual singer performing in his/her own home.  It also takes a lot of coordination and tech savvy to put these performances together. Everyone has to be singing at exactly the right tempo (down to the millisecond), on key, and usually with parts memorized. Many wear headphones, presumably to be able to hear a background track to keep them exactly in the right place at the right time. Whoever puts them together collects a recorded track from each performer and syncs them to sound like a real choir, with the right blend and volume. Many have to be tweeked or re-recorded if a singer is just a tiny bit off. The effect, when finished, is quite spectacular! If you are not looking at the screen, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it isn’t the whole rather than the sum of its parts.
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Virtual choirs uplift my spirit – whether gospel or secular, their enthusiasm is evident, and when I look at their faces, I feel a connection to them. They are putting together these online performances for all of us, who are at home in quarantine, as are they. At that moment, I realize that these individuals could be anywhere in the entire world, because we have the technology to bring everyone together, and that people all over the world are basically doing the same thing we are doing right now – staying at home being entertained by virtual performances. I feel a sort of solidarity with my fellow human beings around the world whose countries are also afflicted by the pandemic. In Spain, England, Brazil, India, Germany, Canada, the U.S. and many others, people are tuning in to their local news outlets which give them the daily statistics of number of cases, number of deaths, and what the “curve” currently looks like in their part of the world. Everyone is going stir crazy, and there are many jokes, cartoons and parodies about the dilemma of being stuck at home while a highly contagious virus makes its way through our communities.

So this week, I honor virtual choirs for their inspiration, dedication and enthusiasm to allow us to forget while being swept into the music, and make life just a little bit easier for us all.

Dear Music Teachers - Please Stop Asking How To Create A Virtual ...

Hunt for Joy and Cheer Someone Up!

Here at our senior community, there are lots of opportunities to cheer people up and to be cheered up! The subject of Cee’s Week 6 of her On the Hunt for Joy challenge is Cheer Someone Else Up.

My brother-in-law is in a barbershop group and every Valentine’s Day he spends the day doing “singing Valentines” with his quartet. Here they are entertaining my sister and others at our table last Valentine’s Day. (Unfortunately, I cropped most of the people at the table out of this photo!)
This is something my brother-in-law (the short bald guy on the left) loves to do. Not only they get paid by the people who order the singing Valentine, but he loves seeing the expressions of surprise and joy on the faces of the recipients! (I don’t think he charged for serenading his wife, however!) The quartet also sings at homeless shelters and in parks on Veterans’ and Memorial Day. Their barbershop chorus gives two concerts a year, which are always well-attended!

A German “oompah” band entertained the residents here for Oktoberfest with a lively concert of German and Austrian folk music. Here, the leader of the group demonstrates how he plays the Alpine horn.
Sometimes we have speakers or actors putting on a “one-man-show” like this tall Lincoln impersonator. Here he poses with my friend, Marcia, who thoroughly enjoyed his performance!
There’s nothing like a New Year’s Party with friends and a glass of bubbly to cheer people up as they look to the New Year with hopes it will be a good one! This party was held at 11:45 AM (not PM because many older residents go to bed early!) and everyone was invited. We could also invite guests, so here is Dale sitting with two friends of mine enjoying the party. The one on the end in purple loves coming here to visit because she lives on a fixed income. These events are very special for her in particular! 20191231_121454
Another event in December was an Irish party with a band playing traditional tunes, and hosted by a couple of residents of Irish descent. It was free for all and a lot of fun!


Month of Squares: Pink Bossa Nova

Becky’s Square Challenge for September is “In the Pink.”

This is a Cuban restaurant in Lincolnwood, IL called 90 Miles Café. We went there one evening with friends to hear Brazilian music by Bossa Tres – and to eat Cuban food, of course! The dance floor was lit with this bright pink hue. Note the portrait of the famous Cuban singer, Celia Cruz, behind the musicians.
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Here’s a sample of their music at a bar in Chicago.

CFFC: Music & Coffee

Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge is 4th in a series of photos, in which we are to find themes.
Here is her photo for this week:
Looking through my archives, I found the themes 2 guys, guitarmusicians, instruments, coffee, coffee house, sofa, messy stack of magazines on a coffee table.


2015-02-13 19.21.30

Dale (my husband) enjoys a cup of coffee on his Valentine’s Day birthday, 2015

Guitar, musicians


90 Miles Cuban Café, Lincolnwood Town Center, IL

2 guys, guitar, musicians


Size of Sadness band members Liam (left – my future son-in-law!) and Brian,  performing at Breaking Records, Chicago

musicians, 2 guys, instruments, guitar

Tom on sax & Alicia's dad on guitar for Amazing Grace

My nephew Tom (on sax) and his father-in-law (on guitar) play at Tom’s sister’s wedding, Jan. 2014


coffee house, musicians, guitar, instruments, sofa, 2 guys


David (my nephew-in-law) and Nicholas (my grand-nephew) jam at Curt’s Café, Evanston, IL, while David’s son Benjamin plays on the sofa.


messy stack of magazines on a coffee table


Our cat, Hazel, sits on a stack of magazines on the coffee table.






Music All Over the World

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo A Week Challenge this week is to show “live music.” Music is a very important part of my life. I love all types of music and am especially fascinated by “world” music – music from different countries and cultures.

Our favorite orchestra in the Chicago area is Chicago Sinfonietta. Every concert they play is unique and inclusive. They specialize in diversity, in honor of the founder of the orchestra, Paul Freedman, an African-American conductor and classical musician. They focus on a theme for each concert which includes performers from different genres and cultural groups. In this photo of their May 2018 concert, they invited a well-known professional gospel choir to perform with them.20180512_195835
Last November, they had a Day of the Dead themed concert, which included such works as Mozart’s Requiem, including a choir from Roosevelt University that wore skeleton costumes and masks during the performance. During the intermission, there were cultural dances and music from Mexico.
Music evokes such emotion and nostalgia in me. When we took a cruise to the Panama Canal in March-April 2017, we stopped at a small port in Chiapas, Mexico, where some of us took an excursion to Tuxtla Chico (I have blogged about this), a charming small town where music and dances were performed for us. Within a short time, I didn’t want to leave – all my emotions associated with past trips to Mexico were brought to the surface by the cultural atmosphere and the typical music. Here some women dressed in beautiful flowered dresses danced to music played by a marimba band.

Back on the cruise ship, some Mexican performers came aboard for a couple of days and performed for us by the Lido pool. This included a male singer and a couple of dancers, who performed dances from different regions of Mexico.


Steel pan music was also a feature of that cruise when we passed through the Caribbean, and Chicago Sinfonietta later that year featured steel pan music in one of their concerts. Here my husband Dale samples playing a steel pan, supervised by a professional steel pan player, leader of a steel pan band from Northern Illinois University, before the concert. NIU is possibly the only university in the country where music majors can specialize in steel pan music.20170916_185949.jpgI could continue with more examples of the music in my life, but this would become a very long post! So I’ll end with some “batucada” (percussion) from Flamengo Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (recorded in November 2016).









CFFC: Diagonal Rocks

At the end of this post:  U2 Live at Red Rocks Amphitheater!

June 2, 2018 (my birthday)

After spending three nights in Denver during the first part of our road trip, we left the city on the morning of my birthday. On our way out of town, we stopped at Red Rocks Park, which had been recommended by our Airbnb hosts as well as a friend of mine. SONY DSCThe park is accessed via a winding, but scenic, two lane road…20180602_105618…including two tunnels carved out of the rock!20180602_105632Red Rocks Park is a mountain park, whose borders encompass a series of red sandstone rocks, that jut out of the ground often at an angle. They were formed when a pushing of two tectonic plates caused the land above to fold.  SONY DSC

In 1949, the city of Denver commissioned an amphitheater to be built at the site. It is flanked by two gigantic red rocks which, if looked at from the front, each resemble the bow of a large ship.SONY DSC

SONY DSCI am including this post for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, whose theme this week is diagonal lines!
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This place is really amazing. When you enter the wide patio inside the entrance to the amphitheater, unless you are actually attending a concert, you go inside the building and take the elevator to the museum and Red Rocks Hall of Fame. Just about anyone famous in the last 70 years has performed here, from the Beatles, Kenny Rogers and Joan Baez, to Guns n’ Roses (who I believe was performing that evening), to famous opera singers and symphony orchestras.


In 1964, during their first U.S. concert tour, the Beatles played at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Although over 7,000 tickets were sold, it was one of only a few concerts that was not sold out.

There are plaques with the scheduled acts for each year, going back to its opening in 1949. You can also watch a video, mostly a montage of various concerts, or stroll through the mounted photos of musical acts through the decades. 20180602_112433



Before the amphitheater was built, concert audiences just sat on rocks scattered around the site, sometimes having picnics.

After reading and looking at all that, we were ready to see the amphitheater itself. We had not been there more than 20 minutes when everyone was asked to leave. It was noon and they were setting up for a concert that evening. By that time, I’d taken plenty of photos and did not have any desire to descend all the stairs to the front rows!SONY DSC


If you have a fear of heights, best buy a ticket for one of the first few rows!


I took this shot of a guy doing pushups at the upper end of the amphitheater, probably at an elevation of about 7,000 ft.!

The amphitheater is not covered (that would ruin it completely), so if you have concert tickets and rain is predicted, be sure to bring your rain gear!  But don’t worry – Denver is actually quite dry, boasting 300 sunny days average per year! A lot of its moisture is from snow melt in the mountains. Anyway, the concerts are mostly in the summer, extending into the fall, until it gets too cold to hold events at an outdoor venue.


Before we left, we were invited to sign this large banner.

Besides the amphitheater, Red Rocks Park has a number of hiking trails that can be explored, but in spite of my desire to do a bit of hiking, Dale was anxious to be on the road. We planned to get to Grand Junction, at the far western side of the state of Colorado, by late afternoon, and there was considerable mountain driving to be taken into account.


Scenic view of Denver from the parking lot


Hiking trail


Another boulder at Red Rocks, on our way out

U2 Live at Red Rocks in 1983 (a rare rainy night!)