• We visited Old Town, Alexandria last night for a few hours with the Catholic University Chamber Choir, performing at the Basilica of Saint Mary. Timothy McDonnell, whom I met a few years ago when he was at Ave Maria University, is now the conductor.

    It was my first time to the Basilica of Saint Mary, and an appropriate way to prepare for the start of Lent. The choir performed:

    • Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro in B minor, RV 169 (Antonio Vivaldi)
    • Stabat Mater, Op. 138 (Joseph Gabriel Rheinberger)
    • “Hospodi, vozzvah” from Vespers (Roman Hurko)
    • “Credo” from Berliner Messe (1992) (Arvo Pärt)
    • The Eyes of All (Jean Berger)
    • Peità Signore (Anonymous)
    • Ave Maria (Harold Boatrite)
    • Qui seminant (Herold Boatrite)
    • Die mit Tränen saēn, SWV 378 (Heinrich Schūtz)
    • Miserere in C Minor, ZWV 57 (Jan Dismas Zelenka)
    • Vesperae solennes de confessore, K. 339 (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

    We called the day before Ash Wednesday Fat Tuesday at home when I was growing up, the English for Mardi Gras, a day for indulgence before the self-denial of Lent. I also remember hearing Fastnacht Day at some point. But I think the older Shrove Tuesday speaks more to the point of the day as a time for preparation for the season of Lent to come, rather than as one more opportunity for the sort of indulgence that already characterizes almost any other time on the calendar.

  • I visited Georgetown University Hospital yesterday to observe a meeting of their ethics committee. I did this to inform something I’m writing for my University of Mary bioethics coursework, but I’m glad I did it in its own right.

    Afterwards I caught a Metrobus further into Georgetown, got off near Dumbarton Oaks and walked the rest of the way home.

  • In leaving Arlington yesterday, I took the 38B Metrobus to Farragut Square and then walked north toward Dupont Circle and ultimately toward the Fund for American Studies on New Hampshire Avenue. It still feels very much like winter, but as dusk approached it was a beautiful time for a walk.

    Look at some of those incredible trees. I doubt we’d plant trees today that would grow in that way.

  • Along Wisconsin

    A view from a morning’s walk along Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown:

    I took this on my way to work, headed toward Arlington. I’m grateful for this period of life, where the mornings include scenes as beautiful as this. What lends a neighborhood like this so much of its spirit is its general lack of the derivative and mundane. Even when there’s little activity, the aesthetic of the street is welcoming and lively, hinting at people yet to appear.

  • An afternoon out

    An afternoon out

    I’m spending time with Kevin Horne this weekend, who’s visiting from Pittsburgh/State College. Here are scenes mostly from today:

    The last photo is from earlier this week, and it was a great atmosphere in which to walk home.

  • A few scenes from waking through Georgetown over the past week or so. First, on a snowy Friday morning on February 1st on M Street:

    Later on along O Street, heading west toward Holy Trinity on Sunday morning, February 3rd:

    And lastly along Dumbarton and Wisconsin, on warmer and springlike Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, February 5th and 6th:

    Little scenes from daily life.

  • Large, beautiful snow fell on Washington last week, and I captured a bit of that snowfall mid-afternoon and then in the evening near Court House Metro station:

    Arlington is full of apparent neighborhoods, but has no clear center of gravity and no central downtown. It was once a part of the District of Columbia, and its more recent history is distinctive:

    Arlington County is a jurisdiction of 25.8 square miles located across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.  The County was originally part of the ten-mile square surveyed in 1791 for the Nation’s Capital. From 1801 to 1847, what are now Arlington and a portion of the City of Alexandria were known as Alexandria County, District of Columbia.  In 1847, at the request of the local residents, Congress retroceded Alexandria County to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    In 1870, Alexandria County and the City of Alexandria were formally separated and regular elections were held by a post-Civil War government. Subsequently, in 1920, Alexandria County was renamed Arlington County to eliminate the confusion between these two adjacent jurisdictions. The name “Arlington” was chosen because General Robert E. Lee’s home of that name is located in the County, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

    By law, there are no cities or towns located within the boundaries of the County. In 1922, the Virginia Supreme Court held that Arlington is a continuous, contiguous and homogeneous entity which cannot be subdivided nor can any portion be annexed by neighboring jurisdictions.

    The Arlington County government exercises both city and county functions, one of the few urban unitary forms of government in the United States. Arlington’s form of government, the County Manager plan, was implemented in 1932. Arlington was the first county in the United States to choose this form of government. Arlington had an estimated population of 211,700 as of January 1, 2012.  The County is almost fully developed; there are no farms and little remaining vacant land.

  • Clever Georgetown mural

    I’ve written about the value of murals as both public art and as “creative responses to failure.” That is, the physical space for so many murals is a result of a failure of architecture in terms of the existence of “dead” spaces between buildings, or disappeared adjacent buildings, or whatever. Great murals serve not only as forms of public art, but they also stitch some of the aesthetic fabric of our public spaces back together. A great example of this stitching-back-together can be found in Georgetown at N and Wisconsin:

    There’s this low-slung little one story vanilla-yellow building, an unoccupied former restaurant where nothing’s been happening since at least September. And there’s this incredible exposed brick wall that towers above the little corner place. Its owners are approaching ownership in the classical sense, recognizing that their property doesn’t justify itself solely by fulfilling bureaucratic minima like filing taxes papers or occupancy certificates, but rather that one has a responsibly to enliven one’s place and, as much as possible, contribute to a sense of harmony in daily life.

    Simply, but powerfully, it succeeds. It turns that large blank wall not into a place either for an advertisement or for a loud and bombastic mural that draws a purposeless attention to itself. Rather, with its simple painted windows it acknowledges that such spaces should rightly have such windows. And not just glass orifices in a utilitarian sense, but true windows as places for looking out, with sills where living plants might root themselves. And most importantly, an interested woman and her dog peer out at passersby, as the New Yorkers of Jane Jacobs’s day did in contributing to the life and character and safety of a neighborhood in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and in some way that painted woman reminds one of the sort of neighborhood life we can have again, if we choose to—a life where we know and care about the place we live enough to make it beautiful, and nurture it as a place worth living.

  • Visiting Matthew the Apostle

    Visited the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle for the first time on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for mass. It’s near the Mayflower Hotel and between Dupont Circle and Farragut Square, and it’s incredible:

    One of the most European-style places of worship I’ve experienced in America.

  • Enjoyed my first experience of the American Youth Philharmonic on Sunday at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts Center in Alexandria:

    American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras (AYPO) is a youth orchestra program that strives to provide excellent instruction to the next generation of music leaders and educators in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Students receive training from esteemed coaches and conductors during our Monday night rehearsals, perform in small ensembles for master classes in our Chamber Ensemble Program, and give back to the music community by participating in the Music Buddies Mentorship Program. … Consisting of five separate ensembles — the Debut Orchestra, String Ensemble, Concert Orchestra, Symphonic Orchestra, and Philharmonic — AYPO provides talented young people an opportunity to perform in one of the nation’s premier youth orchestra programs.

    Tim Dixon conducted the program, with Peter Sirotin and Oleg Rylatko as guest artists on violin:

    Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36
    The Russian Easter Overture—Svetlyi prazdnik, or Bright Holiday in Russian—is a vivid first-hand account of Easter morning service—”not in a domestic chapel, but in a cathedral thronged with people from every walk of life, and with several priests conducting the cathedral service.” This is the first major work by a Russian composer to be based entirely on themes from the obikhod, a collection of canticles of the Orthodox Church—a controversial choice that so offended Tsar Alexander III that he forbid having the overture played in his presence. Rismky-Korsakov uses three original chants, two in the contemplative opening section (“Let God arise!” and “An angel wailed”), and a third (“Christ has risen from the dead”) appears “amid the trumpet blasts and the bell tolling, constituting also a triumphant coda,” as the composer put it.

    J.S. Bach: Concerto for Two Violins in D major, BWV 1043
    The origins of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins are shrouded in mystery. One of today’s leading Bach scholars, Christoph Wolff, believes that this work dates from Bach’s years in Leipzig, where he lived from 1723 until the end of his life. His is a minority opinion, however, and most musicologists support the idea that it is a product of Bach’s time in Cöthen, where he was employed immediately prior to his move to Leipzig. He was there from December 1717 through May 1723 as Kapellmeister (music director) at the court of the music-loving Prince Leopold of Anhalt. Because Prince Leopold adhered to the Reformed faith, his church services didn’t require elaborate music; that freed up his music director to spend most of his time writing secular instrumental pieces such as sonatas, concertos, and orchestral suites.

    Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 10
    Many composers fumble with numerous first attempts before finding their voice. But some artists succeed in planting their flag early on with astonishing confidence… Written between 1924 and 1925, while [Dmitri Shostakovich] was a student at the Leningrad Conservatory, the [First Symphony] had to wait until the following year before its premiere—but even by that point, the composer was still a teenager. … In the First Symphony we encounter a young artist proudly, exuberantly, even cockily giving free rein to his imagination’s wild but purposeful impulses. Despite the obvious digestion of external influences—Tchaikovsky, early Prokofiev, Stravinsky (Petrushka in particular), even Mahler—a striking sense of a new voice already begins to emerge.