Human Gifts More Important than Violin Gifts
Let me introduce Paul Brody who is on the Violettes by Becky Board helping to spread Violin Gifts. Paul is my brother. He helped come up with the Violettes name meaning little violins. He takes the violin gifts to boutiques in Berlin, Vienna and Paris to sell. He is part of the backbone of the Violettes by Becky Annual Youth Composition and Songwriter Competition. But he is also spreading human gifts helping the refugees that are pouring into Berlin.
Guest Blogger, Paul Brody, from Berlin:
I live in Berlin, Germany where thousands of refugees live within a few miles radius of my apartment.
While talking with my son about the latest ISIS atrocities, we mention that his grandmother, my Mom, was a refugee from 1939 Nazi Vienna. We always said, “If it weren’t for the luck of her family escaping Hitler, we
wouldn’t be here.” The emphasis was always on the threat. But in light of the refugee situation in Berlin, and hearing stories from so many of our friends volunteering to clean living quarters, donate clothes, and teach German, we looked at each other and saw our well trodden thought in a new light. “If it weren’t for those who helped Grandma get on the Kindertransport headed for England, and for those in England who took care of her, we wouldn’t be here.
The next day I walked to the Wilmersdorf City Hall, where over a thousand refugees lived in rooms that weren’t currently occupied by government employees.
It took me fifteen minutes to walk around the building to find the proper entrance. Laundry, milk and produce placed on window sills to keep cool in the Berlin winter, and second hand children’s toys were scattered around three sides the building.
I showed my passport to the guard and signed in. A soccer game was in full swing in the football field sized back court yard of city hall. Jump rope and hop scotch and teens huddling in circles filled the corners. I listened to the symphony of echoing children’s play, took in the mini world of those who had come from a place I thought little about until this year.
Images of news flashes blinked in my head: skies of Syria, bombs falling, beheadings, neighborhoods turned to rubble. And here they are. The unlucky lucky ones. What stories were contained in these young people spending their day like a million other kids in Europe?
Then a girl, about 13 years old zipped by with big curious eyes under her headscarf. She gave me her best, Guten Tag. I nodded shyly. Then I felt tears well up in my eyes. That girl could be the same age as my mother when she was welcomed into a children’s home, then adopted by a Quaker family until the end of the war.
Why should this have to be? This insanity in the world? Why wasn’t that girl in her small town in Syrian enjoying an after school ice cream with her friends? But that’s a useless thought. She’s here, and we’re helping. And that’s all that matters.
During each visit to the city hall "home", those working in the main office quoted higher and higher numbers of refugees in Berlin; and we emptied, cleaned, and set up new rooms in the Wilmerdorf City Hall.
A good part of the fourth floor was cleared out for class rooms for both kids and adults.
The board of education department in former East Berlin donated a forest of DDR school desks that had been in storage since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. We lugged them to the fourth floor, washed them, and scraped the rock solid gum off the bottoms.
I met a great cross section of Berlin volunteering at the city hall. Retired school teachers, lost souls looking for a mission, Marshal Plan workers, a film maker, the president of a well known architecture firm, and countless students. But the one that stays in my mind the most is a young woman who went about performing even the most dreadful chores with ease, even laughing. ======>>>>>>>
We were carrying boxes of winter clothes, shoes, and bedding from the massive basement, where refugees from my mother’s generation were supposed to have hid, to a room upstairs where the Syrian refugees could rummage through.
I asked her if she was a student. She giggled, “No, I send text messages to Angela Merkel.”
“That’s a funny. I should use that too!” I responded.
“It’s not a joke. My job is to keep up with the news and if anything thing seems important, then I distribute the information to Merkel and a few other important politicians via cell phone. I’m in charge of keeping them up to date on an hourly basis.”
“So you really send Angela Merkel text messages?”
“I really do!” she smiled.
“Well, would you please tell her that I’m sorry that we spied on her cell phone, and hello from Paul the American trumpeter living in Berlin.”
“Will do,” she said.
Months later, when visiting my sister Becky in Knoxville I found out that when she wasn’t busy working on her company, Violettes By Becky, she’s volunteering to help refugees as well.
“Refugees in East Tennessee?” I asked.
“Of course” she responded. “85,000 refugees are authorized to be resettled in the US in 2016 (up from 70,000 for the past 4 years). This means we find them a place to live, a job, and help them assimilate. We give each and every one of them community. But for now, there are no Syrians getting thru the vetting process. It takes many years to be approved. Only 1/2 of 1% of all refugees are 'resettled'. ”
Another Area Music Treasure
Many Knoxvillians don't know about the Oak Ridge Civic Music Association (ORCMA) concert series. I just attended a wonderful concert by the the Oak Ridge (Symphony) String Quartet. They couldn't have chosen harder music, me thinks. I am proud to say that two of the players are Violettes Violin Purse owners! The really special kind, the handmade ones that make extra special Violin Gifts! That said, the music was spectacular. It was all from the Romantic Period from composers Schubert, Mendelssohn and Grieg. I think of romantic music as slow and "drippy". This music was swift to put it mildly. And the program notes for the concert were dripping with the author's personality.
The quartet concert was just one from the Chamber Music Series. The series is fun with such variety. I attended the Classical Guitar Concert earlier in the season, and hope to attend the next on Saturday May 7 with the Aspen String Trio and Eugenia Moliner on Flute. Please google the Oak Ridge Symphony and Chorus concert schedules.
Also sponsored by ORCMA, is a spectacular free concert series called Coffee Concerts. Google the ORCMA web site to find the schedule of all the concerts. Next up with them is Donald Daugherty on Piano and Organ on Sunday, 6 March 2016 - 7:30pm. The series are usually held at: Oak Ridge First Presbyterian Church, 1051 Oak Ridge Turnpike. Some of Knoxville's hidden music treasures have performed there FOR FREE! (Of course ORCMA and the musicians, would love and deserve donations, but don't push this at the concerts). The Trillium Trio has performed in these series along with the Soiree Winds. When I first heard each of these 2 groups, I couldn't believe I have missed hearing them for so long!
Another awesome concert venue that is often sadly very empty is at the UTK Concert Hall, the Sandra G. Powell Recital Hall. There is so much going on there, and again, so much for free. Check the UTK Music Department web site for concert schedules. There are faculty concerts, student concerts and guest concerts in addition to the "Ready for the World Music Series" (founded and directed by UTK Violin Professor, Dr. Miroslav Hristov). The "World " concerts feature artists from around the world! They even have a display about the culture and a full food reception all for free (but could use donations).
The next UTK guest artist recital Is Pro Arte Quartet on Monday, February 29 at 8:00 p.m
The next "World" concert is: Sunday April 3 with music from Scandinavia.
Ticketed Events include the Young Pianist Series and an annual concert from International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, South Quarterfinal Tournament. I have attended both, and both are extremely wonderful. We once heard the phenomenal Doric String Quartet there for free, although we gave a donation check. They by the way own Violettes Violin Gifts in the form of handmade violin and cello bags to keep spare strings and things. I am told the 2 violinists travel with their violin bags.
Another Knoxville Music Treasure, is the Guitar Society. Regular concerts are held at Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan. We Interviewed the society founder, Larry Long in a Previous blog (also a proud owner of a Violettes Guitar Bag). The next concert is on Saturday March 7 at 7PM with the Duende. Duende is an exciting duo based in Cleveland, Ohio, which combines the sounds of the classical guitar and the saxophone.
So if that isn't enough to get you out, contact me below, and I'll give you more!
For a Lively Twist, Get Your Xmas Music
from The O'Connor Family Band
When I sat down at the concert last night, I wasn't sure if I was ready for Xmas music. But this is no ordinary Xmas music - with jazzy arrangements Mark O'Connor is connecting the past with the present. He says "Appalachia is the original melting pot of our country featuring more diverse styles of American music than just about anywhere." Appalachia is where many musical styles started, and they started with fiddlers. Both fiddles and songs were passed on for generations, but this heritage has largely been forgotten. Mark is bringing it back to our culture with his new Method Books. "The “New American School of String Playing”, of which the O’Connor Method is a part, promotes a future in which young musicians around the world socialize in more creative, self-guided, and impromptu ways: jamming, listening together, forming bands, sharing ideas, improvising, composing, playing multiple instruments, and so forth." He has been traveling around the world giving workshops to young students. His summer camps sound like a fun way to learn and connect.
That said, if you live in Nashville, (Marion) Illinois, (Lexington) Kentucky, (Pasadena, Costa Mesa, or San Francisco) California, (Seattle) Washington or (Portland) Oregon, you can see the group live on their Mark O'Connor's "An Appalachian Christmas" tour. Or buy albums on-line as stocking stuffers. (One would fit nicely in the back pocket of our Violettes Violin Purse.)
In addition to the famous Mark O'Connor, the traveling band includes highly accomplished musicians, Fiddler Maggie O'Connor, Fiddler/Singer Kate Lee, Banjo Player/Singer Cia Cherryholmes, Guitar Player Joe Smart, winner of 2005 National Flatpick Guitar Championship and his son Forrest O'Connor on mandolin and winner of 2014 Tennessee State Mandolin Championship in Clarksville, TN.
Fiddler Maggie O'Connor, Mark's wife, sells sweet necklaces she makes with tuning pegs and recycled beads for funds to go towards Mark O'Connor Camp Scholarships. They can be purchased at concerts and on-line on her web site.
Maggie loves and wears her Violettes Handmade Violin Purse to any dressy occasion. The handmade Violin Purses are found on our Violin Gifts page.
Barbara Bertoldi - Cello Music with Whimsy
Cello Music is Ms. Barbara Bertoldi's life. With a love for everything strings, she purchased a handmade violin purse, sold on our Violin Gifts pages. She sent U.S. cash from Italy. The violin purse never arrived. I was heartsick. She said to donate her cash to an Animal Shelter. So when my brother visited from Berlin, I had him carry another hand made purse back with him to ship from Berlin. She waited a long time to get a purse that she didn't choose. I never photographed the original. According to US Mail records, it never left the US. I think that sending overseas orders thru ebay is the safest and cheapest. But my brother usually travels this way twice a year, and we have used him a couple of times as a courier.
Cellist Barbara Bertoldi founded a classical music ensemble in Italy called the Quartetto degli Afetti. The group is extremely active in Europe. They enjoy playing on period instruments so the audience can gain a better understanding of how the composers heard the music when originally composed. Find out more on Ms. Bertoldi's web site.
Barbara has put together some of her own songs along with her cello music to create a
children’s CD called Bestiario per Violoncello. On this CD Barbara has created songs about a frog, her neighbors, the change of seasons, her uncle and much more. A VERY personal CD about her life, friends, family and her surroundings in Trento Italy. In the frog song, the frog is on a lake where people like to swim. The people who swim in the lake enjoy great music. But the frog, is just a frog. He cannot enjoy the wonderful music the swimmers play as they enjoy the cool waters of the lake. The CD was released in November 2013.
The CD was presented in concert form in Trento, Mestre, Lawn, Monza and in the form of theatrical performance entitled "Cello tried hard!" Listen to one of her songs on the you tube at the end of this blog.
1. Violettes: What instruments do you play? What music groups do you play with? CD's? Your favorite music?Barbara Bertoldi: One of baroque music with original instrument "Ensemble degli Affetti", I play an original instrument cello piccolo with 5 strings. I also perform as a solo with modern cello. I perform and sing funny songs written by me! I have several CD's, 3 of my old ensemble, one from my funny songs for children. The music I enjoy most is
Bach, etc. classical and jazz..........mine too :O)))
2. Violettes: I know you love animals. Tell us about them.
Barbara Bertoldi: I had a dog for 16 years., LUCY....she died 2 years ago...lovely dog! Now I have a cat. She is a nice big very beautiful siberian cat: EVA!
3. Violettes: Is Trento Italy a big city or countryside?
Barbara Bertoldi: Trento is is a middle size town. It's nice - full of nature. The quality of life is very good.
4. Violettes: Is there a lot of music and culture there, or do you do a lot of traveling to perform?
Barbara Bertoldi: There is quality of music in town. We have contributed to the town culture with our organization of the circle of music. In it's tenth year, the "Lucilla May".
Note that Barbara is the current director of this organization. Her humorous children songs were recently presented at this festival. Her children's cello songs have won numerous awards.
5. Violettes: Do you have other hobbies or interests?
Barbara Bertoldi: I like cinema, books, the mountains, and lake. Most everything is nearby. But I love arts, especially plays. If I need to, I travel to see them.
Cello Music with whimsical songs by Barbara Bertoldi.
More About Jazz Violin Player, Nora Germain
Nora Germain is an emerging Jazz Violin Player based in Los Angeles, California.
See Part 1 of this Interview, "How Nora Germain Got her Jazz Violin Education", HERE.
1. Violettes by Becky: You are lucky to be perfectly located and well connected to do what you love to do. You graduated from the University of Southern California in spring 2014, but your resume is long with professional playing, recording and stand in parts in movies.
Nora: I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. Although there are many arts organizations there and the general public is very hungry for art and respects art, I knew I wanted to expand.
So, it took a few moves for me to realize that I wanted to live in LA, but I finally was able to choose it and I love it. Who knows, I may move to Paris one day! Ha!
One more thing -- with technology these days, it matters much less where you live, since you can be seen and heard all over the world from your bedroom. And a lot of musicians can give skype lessons and even do recordings via email, so you don’t have to live in a big city, but I certainly enjoy its variety!
As far as connections go, that’s kind of up to each individual person. Sometimes it’s hard to connect with certain people and that’s ok. Maybe someday you meet, maybe not. But making connections is each person’s responsibility. I don’t like to leave things up to fate, so if I want to meet someone and I have the opportunity to, they’ll know it! I’ll show up to that person’s concert or whatever it may be and shake their hand. Then go from there.
2. Violettes: I listened to a number of your You Tubes, but did not run across one with your singing. Are you also able to do jazz singing? (Isn’t that called scat?) If so, what age did you start learning to do that? Can you point us to one of your singing you tubes? Do you ever sing at the same time as you play?
Nora: I love to sing, and only started to recently, so I don’t have much out yet. But, I do have “How About You” from my album “Little Dipper” available on YouTube, as well as on the album of course. And, I sang “Salty Dogs” on that album also. I’ve been singing more and more live, which is great fun, but a bit of a challenge when it comes to the lyrics!
I love to scat, and a lot of jazz musicians that are not singers actually know how to scat also. Sometimes when we (musicians) are trying to explain a melody or recall a solo to one another, we scat it! So it kind of comes with the territory. I’ve only started singing less than a year ago, so I’m not sure if scatting or singing while I play at the same time will become part of my repertoire, but you never know! For now I’m sticking to singing the melodies and trying to develop a nice clean tone with my voice. Oh, and remembering lyrics!
I started singing when I was a young girl, usually nursery rhymes and folk songs but also some classical music when I was in elementary school. I always loved singing but never added it to my performances until 2014. Now I’m having so much fun singing!
3. Violettes: You must have been playing at a professional level from a very young age to have such a resume age 23? Can you tell us about some of your professional work when you first started?
Nora: Absolutely! My mom and a few of her colleagues started Suzuki Strings of Madison, a Suzuki classical violin school in Madison, Wisconsin, around the time that I was born. So my mom and her friends were teaching all these little kids the violin, one of them being me. When we got old enough to stand up straight and hold a violin, she got us all performing in Madison, in small theaters, outside, for the holidays, in opera houses, in barns, all over town! Some years we got to play some amazing venues like the Milwaukee Art Museum. We would play folk and fiddle tunes in unison or two or three part harmonies. We also played easy to moderate classical repertoire as well as some show tunes like “Hungarian Dance” or other things like that.
4. Violettes: Have you done some acting training. Or what is the extent of your involvement in theatre, if any?
Nora: I don’t have much acting or theater experience at all, but in 6th grade I was in a local high school production of Les Miserables, playing Little Cosette. That was about the only time I had to really act in a serious setting. In high school, I sung and danced in the high school Glee club of sorts, and that was always a blast. Sometimes I played violin in the backline band too! Other than that, since moving to LA, I have had the opportunity to do a lot of background acting in TV movies, some of which I also play part of the score for! And, now and again, I get to play violin on screen too; once I did an episode of Glee and I also played in a Hallmark TV movie called “Strawberry Summer.”
Enjoy another video of Ms. Germain:
Visit her web site at: www.noragermain.com
Handmade Violin Purse Testimonial from Maggie O'Connor!
Violettes by Becky is a company to purchase a Handmade Violin Purse from. We are so pleased that Maggie O'Connor is traveling the country on the Mark O'Connor "An Appalachian Christmas" tour with her handmade Violin Purse by Violettes!
We had the pleasure of interviewing the very talented Maggie. See Violettes Interview of Maggie Dixon, Violin Player. She has Violin Gifts to share with us! (Please also see our Interview with Maggie discussing the making of the O'Connor Duo Music Videos that goes with their new CD "DUO".) All of their videos are such a pleasure to watch and listen too!
Maggie sent the comment, "Becky, I absolutely love my (Violettes handmade violin) purse, and I get compliments on it every time I wear it! It is so well made and I love the beading/embroidery details and the use of fabrics. It is a very high quality product. It also has lots of compartments, and I was surprised how much I can fit in that little purse!"
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Maggie O'Connor and her handmade Violettes Violin Purse in Vermont. She has so much to share in addition to her violin gifts. She is artsy and generous in addition to being extremely hard working and talented.
AND... Most recently in December 2014.... Maggie O'Connor in Newport News Virginia on the Mark O'Connor, "An Appalachian Christmas" Tour-------
Next, they went on to --
Thanks to Maggie O'Connor for making the Violettes by Becky Handmade Violin Purse like a traveling "Flat Stanley".
Other Handmade Violin Purses by Violettes
In addition to hand made Violin purses, we have larger fabric and leather Violettes Violins including amazing leather violin purses hand painted by Tennessee artists! They are also great as gig bags to hold rosin, spare strings, metronome...
Strings Magazine presents Violin Bags by Becky in the February 2014 issue. Find us in the New Products Section, across from violinist Rachel Barton's "Capricho Latino" new Disc Review. I recommend both Rachel Barton's new CD and a Violettes by Becky Violin Bag as Violin Gifts!
Strings Magazine states that:
"Whether you're using it as a purse or a bag to carry your music-playing essentials, like extra strings and rosin, Violettes Violin Bags by Knoxville, TN, artisan Becky Chaffee let everyone know you're a strings fan."
There are hand made versions of the violin bags that come in fun and whimsical fabrics, inside and out. Special requests are accepted thru "contact us". We hope you enjoy our practicality and our whimsy. The Violin Bags make unique unexpected gifts for musicians and music fans of all ages.
Please enjoy our Grand Piano Tote in addition to the ukulele bags and guitar shaped bags. Both the ukulele shaped bags and the guitar shaped bags are hand painted by TN artists with over 40 designs to choose from.
We now have a cool crafts section that allows you to paint your own guitar bags or ukulele bags with instructions. We are working on getting similar violin bags for painting.
In addition, we are building a "Recital Recipe" tab to recommend Violettes tested recipes. We are aiming for outstanding taste (like our bags), but will also be looking for quick and easy. Currently posted is our favorite moist Carrot Cake recipe. Carrot Recipes are the healthiest!