Thursday, February 23, 2017

Kendal's Piano Lady

When dinnertime arrives at Kendal and residents and guests begin arriving in small groups for their evening meals, music from the grand piano in the lobby may be floating through the air. When their dinners are over and they begin to drift out from the dining rooms toward their residences, piano music may be accompanying their departures. Frequently the happy diners pause in the lobby – perhaps standing quietly, perhaps seated in couches and chairs, sometimes approaching the piano and even singing along with the tunes. This happy Kendal custom owes its existence to one gifted and generous resident, Teddy Westlake, Kendal's Piano Lady.

Teddy is a longtime resident of Granville. In 2005 she and her husband Jim, a World War II veteran, were among the founding residents of Kendal at Granville. For many years Teddy taught piano to generations of children, and she later became founder and director of Vintage Voices, Granville's community choir for seniors. After moving to Kendal and seeing the need for creating a singing opportunity for Kendal residents, she founded the Kendaliers, a small group that performs several times a year for the residents. She is a woman for whom music is the breath of life, and she understands that music is a gift to be shared.

Her dinnertime concerts are never bombastic and feature a variety of music. Sometimes she performs light piano classics. But she is likelier to be heard playing show tunes, or popular songs, or religious melodies. The pieces are usually the old songs – music associated with the early twentieth century, with the two world wars, with the 1930s and 1950s. They are the tunes that Kendal residents have known for decades, often from their childhoods. With their focus on the simple themes of love and separation, joy and grief, children and memories, faith and redemption, they constitute the collective background score that has accompanied the lives of most of Kendal's residents.

Teddy seeks no praise for her contribution to life at Kendal. She knows she gives enjoyment, but pretty clearly she is playing, almost dreamily, for her own satisfaction too. I have no idea whether she will even see this blog entry. But it is meant as my tribute to the Kendal's Piano Lady and my note of appreciation to her for acting on her lifetime project of sharing her love of music.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Music in the Air

Newark High School's outstanding Concert Choir visits Kendal at Granville at least once a year. The community has learned to embrace these concerts, for under the able direction of Kim Wigglesworth the Concert Choir has toured in both this country and beyond, and has won recognition as one of central Ohio's finest high school choral ensembles.

On Monday evening, January 23, they appeared in a just-about-packed Amelia Room to delight the residents with a concert of music familiar and unfamiliar. The singers strode onto the risers while singing a South African march that celebrated Freedom. And Freedom – along with Love, Faith, and (yes) Water – was one of the recurring themes of the lyrics of the evening of music. The Choir completed its concert with an exuberant rendition of "Praise His Holy Name." In between the march and the song of celebration they delighted the audience with a variety of pieces drawn from the early Baroque period to the age of Michael Jackson. Spirituals, twentieth-century music, and pop renderings spiced up the program. And always there was the visible enthusiasm of the performers, as the high schoolers made very clear that they were having loads of fun.

A smaller group of fourteen, the Swing Choir, clad in tuxedos (the boys) and spangles (the girls), sang and danced their way through a medley of numbers made famous by Frankie Valle, Billy Joel, and the Village Boys. They brought the house down with their lively presentation of the "Y.M.C.A.," a piece which has acquired iconic status in the minds of many in the generation of the '90s.

There was one solo, a rich and memorable rendering of "Come Ready and See Me" sung by Casey Armstrong, a splendid young soprano with a lovely and controlled voice.

When not performing a cappella, the singers were accompanied and directed by Ms. Wigglesworth from the piano – she was a last-minute sub for the regular accompanist, we learned after he concert! – with assistance on a variety of rhythm instruments being provided by her husband Mike Wigglesworth.

Part-way through the concert Ms. Wigglesworth paused to say a few words about this Concert Choir she is clearly very proud of. When she asked the singers to raise their hands if they held 20-hours-a-week-or-more jobs in addition to dealing with their academic responsibilities, almost every hand went up. This demonstration of dedication and determination elicited an audible and appreciative gasp from some in the audience. 

When the concert was over, there was a short opportunity for residents and choristers to mingle before the singers returned to their homes. We all had a good time. I suspect that many Kendal residents are already happily anticipating their next musical visit.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Holidays at Kendal at Granville

The holidays are over, and yesterday (Wednesday), as if to observe the return of the regular rhythms of life, the residents of Kendal at Granville took down the large and lovely Christmas tree that had been standing in the lobby. With that action, performed annually, Kendal brought to its semi-formal end a holiday season that, begun back in mid-December,had been packed with sparkling lights, dancing decorations, savory foods, and memorable music.

As usual, the lights were the most eye-catching aspect of the holidays. Anyone driving onto the campus from dusk on noticed the Christmas lights shining through many of the the residents’ windows. Residents who gazed out upon the campus at night saw many of our lovely trees twinkling with reds and greens and blues and whites. Residents and guests who walked the campus admired the exuberant displays of holiday imagery and greenery that stood by apartment doorways and adorned the porches of cottages and villas.

It is important to note that Christmas is not the only seasonal holiday that Kendal celebrates. Each evening during Hanukkah residents gathered in the lobby to light the menorah candles and to hear readings from scripture. On a nearby lobby table sat a Kwanzaa candelabra, with its seven candles reminding observers of Kwanzaa’s seven principles.

At various times during the holidays musical performance groups took the stage in the Amelia Room to bring the enchantment of music to the residents. From “Switchback: An American Christmas” to the Vintage Voices, from Doug Moran’s Trombones to our very own chorus, the Kendaliers, happy tones rang out across many evenings during the holidays.

And our food, as usual, was wonderful. To the delight of residents and their guests alike, the imaginative Chef Robert prepared an exciting set of dining options for Christmas Day and New Years Eve. The Christmas dinner menu offered salmon lox (my choice), prime rib, grilled lamb chops, and eggs benedict for entrees; a variety of vegetables and fruits; and dessert choices that included coffee cake and a totally scrumptious bourbon maple bread pudding. The New Years Eve menu rivaled the Christmas choices with offerings of tender filets (my choice), seared scallop pasta, and oysters Rockefeller. One of the startlingly successful innovations of Chef Robert is his management of vegetables, and the holidays allowed him to offer such treats as sauteed green beans with madeira wine, and roasted winter squash with vanilla butter.

On the subject of New Years Eve, I should note that Kendal residents know how to celebrate this event too. It’s true that this year the Fiesta Bowl game between Ohio State and Clemson – a match about which nothing more will be said – competed with the annual party, but the opportunity for a cold buffet, warm conversation, and music by our favorite New Years Eve entertainers, Doc and the Perfessor, proved irresistible to many residents and their guests. In recognition that we aren’t as young as we once were – spry perhaps but not really agile – the party ended before midnight in New York. But as the saying goes, on New Years Eve it’s always midnight somewhere, and so residents were not without company elsewhere on the globe when heralding in the arrival of 2017.

There’s a final symbolic note that needs stressing – an act of continuity and hope and welcoming. For even as the old year goes out, the new one comes in, and this it was timely that at the very end of December the resident-directed Art Gallery opened a new exhibit, featuring splendid art works that come from around the country and the world and that are owned by residents and loaned for the occasion. Art is an expression of the new, of creativity, of liveliness of spirit. There could have been no finer way to attend the end of one year and the beginning of a new one than to celebrate the human spirit itself.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Celebrations of Community

Kendal at Granville is a genuine community. We enjoy each other's company, we rejoice and play and grieve together, we arrive at our decisions by emulating the Quaker discipline of consensus-building, and we party together. A coincidental juxtaposition of events this past week – each a celebration of this spirit of community – has triggered these happy thoughts and underscored some of the reasons we are pleased to call Kendal at Granville our home.

The first event occurred at dinnertime on Tuesday evening. We call it "Harvest Festival." The fall weather was glorious, and the fare provided by our culinary crew – hotdogs, brats, chicken, corn on the cob, salads, candies, a variety of light and heavy sweets, and lots of other items – gave the celebration the air of a festive party. Everyone was invited: residents, their families, employees, their families and children (of all ages). A horse-drawn hayride was available to anyone bold enough to climb in. (Many did.) And the proximity of Halloween meant of course that costumes were in order. Kids wandered about during the dinner hours – shepherded by adults and dressed as superheroes, TV characters, denizens of the Star Wars universe, and princesses. At one point the costumed kids marched in order through the dining halls to receive candy that had been thoughtfully arrayed on all the occupied tables. As you might guess, given the national decision in recent years that kids shouldn't have sole claim to the fun of Halloween, many grown-ups donned unusual gear too. The wait staff all wore identical baseball-themed tee-shirts, and witches, farmers, a few bearded folk, a married couple straight out of "Mad Men," and characters from the world of Harry Potter could be found dining and chatting with one another or strolling through the halls, perhaps holding hands with a young tiger. Community, indeed!

The second event, very different in tone but equally emblematic, occurred the very next evening. It was a wine-and-hors-d'oeuvres reception for both the residents and the members of Kendal's board of trustees, organized with the explicit purpose of giving these two groups an opportunity to get to know each other more fully. Kendal's board consists of fifteen men and women. They come from a diverse set of professional backgrounds, and all of them are active in leadership roles throughout the Granville and Licking County communities. It is hard to find a time when they can all get together. But this event was important for board members, and despite the press of their busy lives every member of the board attended. Residents came out in large numbers too, and so for half an hour the Amelia Room rang with the sounds of friendly and sometimes animated conversation. Doug Helman, the Executive Director, initiated the more formal portion of the occasion by inviting the crowd to answer a series of trivial-pursuits type questions about the board by-laws, and several residents showed themselves startlingly well versed in the governance rules of Kendal. Doug then invited the board members to introduce themselves to the gathering and to briefly and in turn tell everyone a bit about themselves. The tone of the introductions was sometimes light and sometimes earnest, some illuminating anecdotes emerged from the remarks, and ultimately everyone had reason to come away from the event feeling confident in the vitality and wisdom that undergird the Kendal project.

It was a quirk of scheduling that positioned these complementary celebrations back-to-back. But such calendrical serendipity invites a pretty obvious conclusion: that the Kendal community is real, thriving, inventive, and happy. That's a nice thought to go forward with as we enter the month that ends with the holiday we call Thanksgiving. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Kendal at Granville's 11th Anniversary Party

Although Kendal's 11th Anniversary celebration was more low-key than the tremendous bash we had last year, it was noteworthy nevertheless. The event was held in the late afternoon of June 22 in the Amelia Gathering Room. Besides residents and staff, many of the prospective residents on the Priority List were invited and came. Extra chairs even had to be brought in as more people came than expected.

Tom Carroll, a local jazz musician and Denisonian, came and provided background music, much to everyone's delight. And it was truly background music – not so loud that we couldn't converse. And converse we did! I personally had a wonderful conversation with a Priority List member who is getting closer and closer to making that magic decision! And my spouse spent quite a bit of time talking to another member who is also contemplating joining Kendal in the not-too-distant future.

The food consisted of delicious hot and cold appetizers that went quickly, fresh fruit, and a mouth-watering red velvet cake. Red and white wine as well as beer and fruit-flavored water were also available. I have heard that more wine was consumed at the party than even at last year's gala!

Executive Director Doug Helman spoke to the crowd and noted that even though it was intended to be a low key celebration, the fine turnout spoke volumes for how significant the anniversary was. He also introduced three new staff members who have recently joined the Kendal at Granville family.

It was a fine afternoon and a great way to celebrate 11 fabulous years!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An Evening of the Blues

Each summer the town of Granville sponsors a set of Concerts on the Green, the "green" in this case being an area on the Denison campus adjacent to the music building, the art museum, and a smaller performance hall. Last Sunday evening twelve Kendal residents took the Kendal bus up to nearby Denison to be entertained by Teeny Turner and her blues band. Because it was a warm evening, we chose to set our folding chairs up in the shade of a stand of large trees. The boxed suppers that Kendal supplied were light and delicious – cubed ham, sliced pineapples, bean salad, a cookie, and cold water. The amplified music was a treat. And why not? Evening is a great time of day for listening to doleful love songs, as performed by a seasoned singer and a fine band. They were lively reminders of the great American blues tradition.

But the evening offered other pleasures too. Across the broad expanse of sun-splashed green separating the audience from the performers we could watch children play. Apparently oblivious to the music, they kicked soccer balls about, kept large plastic balls aloft, tossed frisbees at various targets, ran races, tussled on the grass, all the while laughing and shouting and doing what kids do.  Nor were adults shy about participating. To one side a father helped a son learn how to throw and field a baseball. Off to the other side three young women swayed from side to side as they waved their arms to the hypnotic rhythm and patterned harmony of the music. Across the sprawling middle of the green a mother tugged kids about in an old-fashioned red wagon.

As you know, many of our visions of past days that were supposedly quieter are just concoctions of an unwarranted nostalgia for what we would regard as more communal times. And I will make no great claims for the deeper significance of our Concert on the Green. But for a few happy minutes it was possible to envision oneself in the world of Norman Rockwell. That's not a bad take-home result from an evening of music.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Roman Rudnytsky

Concert pianist Roman Rudnytsky brought his extraordinary keyboard prowess to Kendal at Granville last evening to gift us with a memorable concert. The program consisted of eight works, from a variety of periods, each of which Mr. Rudnytsky introduced with a few words designed to set historical contexts. The result was that we were at once educated and delighted. At the end of the evening a packed Amelia Room showed its appreciation with a standing ovation. 

To point up the differences between the Classic era and the Romantic era, Mr. Rudnytsky opened the recital by offering Brahms's lovely nineteenth-century "Intermezzo in A" before Haydn's fiery eighteenth-century "Sonata in D." Programs ordinarily present works from these two eras in chronological order, allowing the listener's mind to move from the orderliness of the Viennese music to the shifting shapes of the Romantic era. By turning this convention on its head, Mr. Rudnytsky succeeded in foregrounding both the lyricism of music from the later period and the clarity of music from the earlier period. 

Debussy's beautiful "Clair de Lune" was Mr. Rudnytsky's example of the Romantic era's shift into one of its offshoots, Impressionism. This famous piece stood out from among all the others on the evening's program because its effect rested solely on its wispy and poignant simplicity.

Three examples of nationalism in music followed. The first was a composition that was unfamiliar to me, "Hutzul Dance," by Antin Rudnytsky, the performer's father. It was a delight, built upon folk tunes and rhythms from the composer's Ukrainian homeland. Percy Grainger's "Molly on the Shore" drew on an Irish folk tune, and Fryderyk Chopin's "Ballade No. 3 in A Flat" showcased the great composer's musical vision in his younger days, when his Polish homeland bore most heavily upon his musical imagination.

The final two pieces were virtuoso compositions by Franz Liszt – the "Grand Galop Chromatique" and the "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2," the latter being familiar to the many Kendal listeners who recall television ads from the 1950s. Only pianists with a full command of keyboard technique and the confidence to go public with it offer these challenging works. Mr. Rudnytsky's performances were dazzling. This is called closing a concert with a bang.

Our printed program informed us that Mr. Rudnytsky, a Juilliard graduate, had recently retired after a long career as piano instructor at the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University. It added that he has traveled the globe to present concerts and recitals. Reflecting on these biographical points, we at Kendal can only surmise that over that career Mr. Rudnytsky has brought great happiness to a great many people. For that's sure what he did for us.