May 26, 2020

Great Big Story on CNN and as a downloadable app

When all of the negative and scary news starts to get you down, consider visiting the Great Big Story initially launched by CNN.

Short documentaries on various POSITIVE topics might just keep you from slipping over the edge. I especially like to have these clips playing when I exercise, cook or clean.

The link I included will send you to a Great Big Story on Hungarian piano-maker David Klavins who is veering away from Steinway, Fazioli and Bosendorfer in a big way.

https://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/piano-maker/?xrs=CNNHP

The Great Big Story site hosts short films on a myriad of topics that will amaze and uplift you. For kicks, type “Paris,” “London,” “China” or “Italy” in the subject line which will bring up short films for those of us who would prefer to be traveling the world right now.

Politics, illness, floods and bad economic news will become background noise, at least for a few minutes.

You can download Great Big Story from your app store or go to the GBS link:

https://www.greatbigstory.com

Virtual Tours of Notable Places: The Prado in Madrid

People have been posting ideas on how to use one’s “home time.” As much as I love music, I do, on occasion, need to explore other topics.

I was remembering visits to favorite art museums which led to thinking about famous museums that I have not yet visited. Uppermost on my wish list is the Prado in Madrid, Spain. Here is a five minute clip that highlights some of the Prado’s art treasures, including paintings by El Greco, Velazquez, de Goya and my personal favorite, the triptych work by Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

I erroneously assumed that Guernica by Pablo Picasso was also at the Prado. In reality, the famous large canvas is in Madrid, but at the Museo Reina Sofia.

Here’s to seeing Madrid and its art treasures when the world returns to health.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery in previous Crate and Barrel flagship on Michigan Avenue

Did you know that Chicago currently has the largest Starbucks location in the world? The Seattle-based corporation took over the former Michigan Avenue flagship store of locally-owned Crate and Barrel November 2019.

The venue is five floors with 43,000 square feet of space. To ease traffic within the store, one can use stairs, escalators or elevators to shift between areas. And the crowds have indeed shown up. Opening week, people lined up outside in the cold waiting for admittance.

With the copper piping and modern coffee bar decor, this struck me as the Willy Wonka factory of coffee bars. Not only is this a coffee shop and retail outlet, but a cocktail bar with signature drinks devised by local bartenders and an Italian-style sandwich shop. Local art is featured along with very clean-lined modern furniture and decor.

I am not a coffee drinker, but if I were, I would take note that Starbucks touts its Reserve products to be of the rarest and best quality, often from single-origin coffee concerns.

When the hordes die down, you might want to grab a beverage or snack and watch the world go by from one of the many stylish levels at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Window seat preferably.

https://www.starbucksreserve.com/en-us/locations/chicago

Cafe Sabarsky/Neue Galerie in NYC: A Little History

Although I have not yet visited Cafe Sabarsky and the Neue Galerie on New York City’s Upper East Side, I did a little research on this storied venue.

Art dealer and museum organizer Serge Sabarsky and entrepreneur, philanthropist and art collector Ronald S. Lauder discovered a common interest in German and Austrian art and culture of the early 1900s. After Sabarsky’s death, Lauder created Neue Galerie in 2001 to honor his friend.

Located on New York’s Museum Mile, 5th Avenue from 83rd Street to 105th, Neue Galerie is the former William Starr Miller mansion at 86th Street.

The second floor is dedicated to Austrian work of the early 1900s from the Wiener Wekstätte movement and by luminaries such as Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele. Third floor contains work from the same time period by the Bauhaus movement and artists that include Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Lyone Feininger, Otto Dis and George Grosz.

The museum campus includes a bookstore, a design shop and two Viennese restaurants, Cafe Sabarsky and Cafe Fledermaus.

Cafe Sabarsky features light fixtures by Josef Hoffmann, furniture by Adolf Loos and banquettes upholstered with a 1912 Otto Wagner fabric. Periodic cabaret evenings and chamber music concerts benefit from the on-site Bösendorfer grand piano.

Here is a link for Cafe Sabarsky:

kurtgutenbrunner.com/restaurants/cafe-sabarsky/

For more info on the Neue Galerie:

https://www.neuegalerie.org/

Père Lachaise Cemetery: A stroll through time

Five of us Cabaret Connexion singers had just seen the Van Gogh Art Immersive Exhibit in Paris and noticed Paris’ famous final resting place, Père Lachaise Cemetery nearby. It was a beautiful fall day so we agreed to wander amid the shady trees and ornate crypts and graves in search of a few artistic ghosts.

I had been to Père Lachaise years ago but this was before cell phones and the internet so I wandered fruitlessly, unable to find most of the famous grave sites. As luck would have it, three Cuban ladies in front of us were being led by a small man who seemed most knowledgeable about the environs. We started to tag along, after asking if we could join them.

It turns out that Paul, the man in question, was a volunteer docent who lived in the neighborhood and knew Pere Lachaise like the back of his hand. Off we trotted to see some of the most famous graves.

The cemetery is large so we had to cover a lot of beautiful terrain in between burial spots. I was able to touch the memorial with Chopin’s remains, although his literal heart remains in Poland. I gazed with bemusement at the gift-strewn Jim Morrison grave, and nodded with appreciation at the memorials to Moliere, Honore de Balzac and other literary luminaries. Some of my personal favorites were artist Modigliani, singer-songwriter Gilbert Bécaud, mime Marcel Marceau and beloved author Colette.

Some tombs and crypts are ancient and falling apart, but others are decidedly new. Our guide pointed out more recent head stones with colored photos embedded, most notably victims of the Bataclan and Charlie Hebdo bombings. A promenade through this restful place is a journey through culture and history.

The highlight of our walk was the tomb of Edith Piaf where we serenaded her with La Vie En Rose. Passersby were filming our little Cabaret Connexion group so our homage to the Little Sparrow may be floating in the electronic ether somewhere.

As our time ran short, I thought with regret of the many other grave sites I had wanted to visit, Oscar Wilde, Abelard and Heloise, Sarah Bernhardt and countless others. Having a guide made this a much more gratifying afternoon experience so we gratefully tipped him at the end of our afternoon.

Paris Greeters, link below, has people available to lead you through Pére Lachaise although this may not be the organization of our wonderful and knowledgeable guide, Paul. We never even got his last name.

This famous cemetery is like the Louvre Museum; don’t try to catch all of the highlights in a frenzy. Take your time and really experience the few things that you do see. Bonne chance.

Link to the full roster of people buried at Pere Lachaise: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_burials_at_P%C3%A8re_Lachaise_Cemetery

Paris Greeters: https://greeters.paris/en/

Villa des Roses in Sète, France

Villa des Roses Entrance with Claudia Hommel

I found my dream residence in Sète, a charming town on the Mediterranean in France.

The Cabaret Connexion spent the day at this private property that featured a pool, gardens, terraces and a workshop room with three glass walls overlooking the pool and lush greenery. There were two pianos in this concert/work space including a gigantic Pleyel grand piano. This is literally the studio I have seen in my imagination.

Villa Concert Studio

Kyle Hustedt led an intriguing workshop on risk-taking in cabaret before we broke for lunch. Our unofficial tour chef, Cappy Kidd, foraged a delightful meal of just-caught seafood, cheese, fresh bread, delectable fruit and vegetables served on the sun-drenched terrace. Villa des Roses had tables and chairs scattered throughout the property so one could choose which bucolic nook in which to dine.

Our afternoon session was led by the incredible Angelina Réaux with her emphasis on “A Matter of Style.” Her own prodigious skills as an actress as well as a singer were an inspiration throughout the Cabaret Connexion in France.

We were in Sète so we could participate in a Festival of Song held in this port city. We gave an impromptu concert for guests at the Villa des Roses as we rehearsed for the evening’s concert held in the center of town.

It was with regret that I said goodbye to the owners and their enchanting Villa des Roses. If they ever put the home and property up for sale, perhaps they should give me a call?