Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Yesterday was Christmas Eve. Mathias and I went in a twelve foot long Penske rental truck to deliver and hang the enormous Manning Williams' painting to my client's house on Kiawah Island. Afterwards, we all went to the Caggiano's Christmas Eve drop in. It was wonderful catching up with Katie, hearing about her new house, job, and life in general. Then, we stayed up until midnight in order to celebrate.

This morning Steve had to drive Mathias back to the Charlotte airport. He's flying back to England where Birmingham Royal Ballet will rehearse before heading to a month long tour of Japan.

Our time together was wonderful. Mathias taught two ballet classes for Columbia City Jazz. Alex got new keys made for the moped...having lost both sets.

We went to Charlotte to see Seia Rassenti, Mathias' classmate, in North Carolina Dance Theater's The Nutcracker. While there, we met and had dinner with Seia's friend Anna Gerberich, another dancer with the company, and her new boyfriend Patrick who is unfortunately sidelined with an injury.

Also in Charlotte, we went to Discovery Place to see the amazing exhibition "Body Works" and many of the things in the permanent collection...including these two rather disgusting moray eels. One of the best things to happen, however, was learning that Alex's girlfriend Erica did get her requested time off from her job...so, we'll be headed to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania for a New Year's celebration....except for Mathias.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Nutcracker and more from Birmingham

I have to include a few more images of stained glass. Until going to England to visit Mathias, I wasn't quite so blown away by this medium. Perhaps English stained glass is just more vivid. Perhaps there are just more examples to admire. Whatever the reason, I really love the colors, the light effects, and the painstaking detail. These are works on display in Birmingham's wonderful art museum.

So, how was The Nutcracker? It was enchanting. I've seen more than my share of different productions and Birmingham Royal Ballet's is undoubtedly the finest. I'd say this even if Mathias weren't dancing for the company. The day I arrived I saw an evening show. Later, after Steve arrived, we saw a totally different cast for a matinée. Steve and I had purchased the tickets on-line weeks ago. We didn't sit together because the six remaining seats available were scattered throughout the large auditorium. It is little wonder that these events are generally sold out.

The costumes are the most elaborate and finely crafted ever. The Victorian ball gowns look like dozens of Godey's Fashion magazine engraving from the era. The sets are gigantic and help make smooth transition from scene to scene by rotating and changing right in front of an amazed audience. Clara arrives in the Land of Snow from the top of the curtains, flying on a swan to the other side of the stage. The wings slowly flap. Afterwards, a blanket of snow behind an invisibly sheer curtain (obviously some sort of heavy material) drops as if off a roof....all the full length of the stage. It was breath-taking.

Mathias had many parts, depending on the casting. He was rightfully proud of his Jack-in-the-Box role, a performing doll at the opening party scene. This doll reappears before the battle....but this part is played by another dancer in the same costume. Sometimes, Mathias was one and sometimes the other. To the audience, of course, they look identical. Mathias also danced in Spanish and sometimes in Russian. He was often one of the cadets in the party scene...when he wasn't the Jack-in-the-Box. Frequently, he was also a rat.

Nutcracker was performed in Birmingham something like nine or ten times a week for three weeks. That's a lot of dancing! Mathias was told to get his hair cut...so, I took a picture of him there....must "look" like a cadet...the only role that didn't have a headpiece or hat!

Here are some more photos of the German Holiday market.

I bought a pair of felt slippers....of course, the ones with the little, smiling faces and crown-like tops! Mine are black and gray...sort of like a combination mouse/cat! I'm now wearing them constantly, even to the studio. There are too cute for words.

This was one of the most ingenious food stands...a garlic bulb selling....garlic!

Ludlow Castle

Steve, ever the excellently prepared traveler, checked out an up to date tour book on England from the public library. He selected Ludlow as our destination because of its castle. The book included all the information on times, days, prices, etc. Yet, the castle administration recently decided to change this. The castle is closed on weekdays during December and January now. From the gate, we could see into the courtyard. We will have to return someday.

Above and below is the view of Ludlow and its castle from the top of the church's tower.

Fortunately, the weather was perfect for a nice walk around the castle.

Ludlow: The Town and Church

On Monday of last week (December 10) Mathias had a day off. We boarded a train to Shrewsbury and continued on to the quaint little town of Ludlow. It's near the Welsh boarder and the countryside was absolutely beautiful on this cool, crisp but otherwise ideal day.

One of the places we visited was the church. It was full of wonderful ornamentation from various centuries...right down to a modern quilt in a plexi-glass enclosure which was spectacular. I, of course, fell immediately in love with the stained glass windows. The organ was being tuned. Christmas decorations were in place. The man greeting visitors was charming and suggested climbing the tower's narrow, spiral staircase. From here, we could see for miles.

This is one of the many bas reliefs on the ancient floor.

This is a view to the high vaulted ceiling in the tower.

Here's some stained glass. I particularly liked the small patrons at the bottom.

The ceilings above the choir and altar area were meticulously carved and painted.

From the top of the tower we could see the historic home that we also went to. It's the one on the corner, shaped like an "L", with the Tutor walls above the second floor and the bay windows.

Those bay windows included some gorgeous, German stained glass. Of course, the "guide" really wasn't helpful. He took our money and gave us the run of the place. There were carpets everywhere on sale. How these were suppose to sell to anyone remained a mystery...there were no exterior signs advertising them and one had to pay to enter the building.

Above is one of the nice, wooden paneled hallways.

One room had this decorative plaster ceiling.

The staircase was shaped like a giant "Y" on every level, with other century-old additional steps leading off the main section.

More stained glass....beautiful!

In the town, we walked past several shops like this one...

or this one!


Steve and I took a train to Coventry on one of the days that Mathias had both a matinée and evening performance of The Nutcracker. We really enjoyed the Cathedral area despite the rain and wind. One of the best features of St. Mary's Cathedral, the oldest of the three...pre-Henry VIII's dissolution of Catholic monasteries, was the incorporation of new, outdoor artwork set in the remains. Above is one such example.

We loved walking through the bombed out ruins of "The Old Cathedral". Someone, the weather seemed perfect for the sad loss of this once glorious structure.

The Early 14th Century South Porch and the spire are still intact.

The most outstanding feature is the architectural bridge between old and new. The transition blends the physical areas and the spirit of both places. All these images can be "clicked" upon for closer inspection. In the picture above, there is a modern sculpture that was donated by survivors from the bombings in Japan. Other modern works were also tastefully displayed.

Above is one of the contemporary plagues that were situated in the side chapels that had once been maintained by the town's guilds.

I took several photos of locks while in England, including this one in Coventry. My current artistic work using keys and rusted nails made them so interesting. I'll likely start incorporating locks too!

There were many wonderful parts to the new cathedral, St. Micheal's, including a fantastic mosaic floor....

fabulous new stained glass....

excellent examples of 15th century stained glass that had been removed from the old cathedral before the war...

elegant etched glass angels...

and modern masterpieces like this wrought iron, Crown of Thorns, gate and a wall of wooden "mosaic" that included glass, intrigue carving, and great illumination.

Behind the altar, however, was one of the largest tapestries I've ever seen. It was created in the 1960s. The figure seen between the feet is LIFE SIZE...six feet tall!

There was another area of the church was newly embroidered panels depicting Jonah and the Whale and other ideas. I couldn't really concentrate on the topic because the work was so wonderful! There were digital prints on fabric and what looked like embellished felt. The hand stitching was obvious and tied the collaged elements together. Unfortunately, there was no sign...only two empty plastic containers that looked like information should have been available. There was also no one to ask. Even the nice ladies in the nearby Cathedral book and gift shop didn't know anything more about the embroideries...pity, they were great!