Rochester so far has had 49.5" of snow so far this year, which is a little above normal and well above last year's unusually paltry snowfall performance. I am not one of those who hopes to make it through winter snow free. No snow just means drought in the summer; and who wants that! But it is cold out there and I am inclined to stay indoors and spend my time reading, playing music and doing family research.
BOOKS: Two of the books I am currently reading are "Language You Refuse To Learn" by Claudia M. Stanek and "Wearing the Letter P: Polish Women as Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945" by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab. Claudia Stanek lives in nearby East Rochester but was originally from Depew/Lancaster New York, not far from where I grew up. In fact I worked in Lancaster four summers when I was in college in the late sixties so I know the area well. Claudia is a serious poet who has held readings of her poetry in Rochester on several occasions. She writes poetry that is worth reading. Sophie Hodorowicz Knab is well known throughout Polonia as an author and is very knowledgeable in all matters of Polish culture. Many are familiar with her beautiful radio specials with Fr. Krysa on WBFO, Buffalo's National Public Radio affiliate.
MUSIC: I am not much of a pianist and only play my keyboard once or twice a year when the spirit moves me. The two videos shown on the right are
my attempts to play music sent to me by Christopher Beck of Chicago. Christopher informed me that he was in possession of some Polish sheet music that he thought I might enjoy having. Of course I am always interested in anything music and anything Polish. You can't go wrong! Thank you, Christopher.
I hope you will notice that the above videos were recorded using a 4K video camera offering improved resolution. The scenes of Kraków, however, were taped in HD with just a pocket camera, which I will continue to use when I don't feel like lugging around a larger camera. Anyway, I hope you enjoy my videos.
FAMILY RESEARCH: I actually have all the information I need to know about my family, but I still would like more photos of my grandparents and great-grandparents, especially Ambrose Johnson (Ambroży Jasiek) of Dunkirk who came to America in 1857. My dad did not have any photos of his grandfather, but there is a chance that the Dunkirk-New-York-Johnsons might have a picture or two. I am using Ancestery.com and Facebook to track them down. So far I have had no luck.
Concertina Maintenance and Repair: My Stagi concertina gets a lot of use so I am not surprised it is starting to show a bit of wear and tear. I recently noticed that the leather bellows are starting to wear on the instrument's underside where the bellows rub up against the lap. (This is bound to happen if you play your concertina every day as I do). Of course I try not to let the bellows rub up against my lap in the first place, but that is easier said than done. To protect the bellows from further wear, I applied strips of electrician's tape over the worn areas. It works and looks great! I also used the opportunity to apply saddle soap to all leather parts (just the same as I have been doing to my baseball glove for over fifty years) to keep the leather from drying out and cracking. I suggest using saddle soap once or twice each year to keep your bellows pliable (and playable).
By the way, if you have a new instrument, it may feel a little stiff for a while. Don't worry, that will change after playing it a bit. I guess like anything else, it will need to be broken in. Saddle soap may also help.
January 21, 2017: Ray Chapeskie/Radio Kaszëbë
Now listening to Ray Chapeskie/Radio Kaszëbë on Ottawa Valley Heritage Radio. CLICK HERE to listed live.
Thank you, Ray Chapeskie for the shoutout on Radio Kaszëbë this morning. I greatly appreciated it. I should also mention I very much enjoyed the musical selection you chose. It’s the first time I ever heard a fiddle version of “Miała baba koguta”, and I appreciated the bilingual introduction to the tune. Wonderful fiddling and singing by Texas fiddler, Brian Marshall. Great show and thanks again for mentioning PoloniaMusic.com on the air.
Ray Chapeskie: Farm boy, roofer, seaman, deck hand, hydrographer, cartographer, quality manager. Ray Chapeskie has been all of these.Since 2008, each Saturday morning from 8 to 10 am, you will hear either Ray Chapeskie or Johnny Kashub talking about the Kashub Culture and people and playing music made by
by Canada’s Kashubian descendants. The Radio Kaszëbë mandate is to play the music of and cover all aspects of the culture including language, food, forklore, etc. as well as to talk about past and present happenings with the Kashub people in their Canadian community and beyond. Interviews are also part of the program, with Canadian Kashubs telling stories from then and now. Ottawa Valley Heritage Radio
I spent most of yesterday recording myself playing "Polly Von", a sad story about a young man who accidentally shoots and kills the young lady he hoped someday would become his bride. I haven't played this tune in many years but thought I should record it to show guitarists how to play the intro. I know some are interested in this very pretty guitar piece made popular by Peter, Paul & Mary back in the sixties.
The song also reminded me of the importance of hunter safety and safe firearms storage and practices. I personally know individuals who were wounded, paralyzed and/or narrowly escaped injury or death as a result of both intentional and unintentional practices. I believe it may be a necessity for certain people to own firearms, especially framers and hunters, but far too many are inadequately schooled in firearm safety. Most would deny it however. Be safe. And good luck out there!
January 22, 2017: Polly Von
January 25, 2017
I just finished reading Sophie Hodorowicz Knab's book,"Wearing the Letter P". What struck me most about the book is how well it was researched. The book is based not only on readings and materials published by leading Polish historians, but also on numerous testimonies of women who survived the hardships of forced laborer during WWll -- including Sophie's mother. Although she had heard many of her mother's stories of being a forced laborer in Germany during the war, many questions remained unanswered. This book answers those questions and is without doubt the definitive resource on the subject. So many oral histories of those women who were forced to wear THE LETTER P provide a very clear picture of what they endured.
February 17, 2017
I am disappointed that temperatures this weekend are predicted to be in the 50's (above 10 degrees Celsius). That means any snow currently on the ground south of Buffalo will surely disappear before the kulig this Sunday at Chestnut Ridge Park. Fortunately, horse-drawn wagon rides are planned in lieu of sleigh rides, so the kids will not be diappointed. I'm sure it will still be a lot of fun, especially because Tadziu Zdybał and the Biały Orzeł Góralska Kapela will once again be performing. I am a huge fan! Listening to them play is a real treat.
February 22 Kulig UPDATE No snow, but everyone enjoyed the mild weather and the music. Here's the video and a few photos:
TRUE STORY: When I was a freshman in college, I spent a great deal of my spare time playing guitar and getting together with friends who also were interested in folk music. Back then we were not permitted to play in our dorm rooms, so we would get together at various common areas: the union, dorm lounges, and outdoors on the side entrance to my dorm when we needed more privacy. When it got too cold outdoors we retreated to the stairwell near my room, which technically was still against the rules; but we were such rebels! That was in 1966 right at the height of the so-called “Great American Folk Scare”. Folk was really popular back then.
When I returned to school as a sophomore, I was surprised to hear that our student government had
made arrangements for the folkies to have their own coffee house on campus. So one day someone asked me if I would play sometime soon. Reluctantly I agreed. I mentioned I had a friend who liked to sing and maybe I’d invite him to join me. Then she said she needed the name of our duo so she could hang up some posters around campus. I had no clue what to say, so I told her to just call us “Sam & I”. On my way to classes a day or two later, I noticed an artist drew a fish eye next to our name on one or more of the posters, which gave me a pretty good chuckle. And that, boys and girls, is how Sam Schreiner and Bob Johnson became known as “Salmon Eye”.
February 13, 2017 - Tłusty czwartek
Just returned from Polish Happy Hour at Protocol Restaurant in Williamsville, New York. It was great to see John Gora who was DJ-ing the event. I got to thinking I hadn't seen John since the Milwaukee Polish Fest last June. So nice to see so many old friends from Buffalo. Thank you United Cultural Society for sponsoring Polish Happy Hour each month.
Thank you Mr. John Gora for plugging PoloniaMusic.com.Your support is GREATLY appreciated!
Dancing at the Tavern - from Reymont's "The Peasants" (Chłopi)
And the violins were all the time playing, as in the enchanted dream, a tune as genial as the harvest breeze, a tune that turned the blood into fire, and made the heart to throb with mighty gladness as the harvest breeze, a tune that turned the blood into fire, and made the heart to throb with mighty gladness; and the bass-viols rumbled with a quick jerky cadence, forcing the feet of the dancers to accompany their lilt: while the flute warbled as entrancingly as a blackbird in the springtime, and opening the heart so, and filling it with such rapture, that you quivered all over, your brain swarm, you breathed no more, you longed to weep, to laugh, cry out, hug, kiss—and fly away somewhere, out, out into the vast world!
So on they danced, till the tavern shook, and the barrels on which the musicians had their stand shook too.
Vol.2 WINTER, p 146; Translated from the original Polish by Michael H. Dzierwicki, Reader of English Literature at the University of Cracow
March 9, 2017 Wow, it really got windy yesterday! Western New York was pummeled by very high winds and there was quite a bit of damage in the area. Rochester was hit by a gust registered at 81 mph, the second highest recorded wind gust ever in our city! Most schools are closed today and certain areas are under travel restrictions. Lots of property damage is being reported and 145K were without electricity overnight. I went for short a walk today to look around my neighborhood. Many branches are down and so are a few trees. Here are two but I am sure there are others:
March 14, 2017 - So pleased to have just received a FIVE STAR review for the Teton STA205CENT:
Love at first play...
…and I might just be falling deeper in love every day! lol
I immediately set the action lower to my preference (it was pretty close, straight out of the box), put a new set of my favorite strings on it (I prefer a lighter gauge) and tuned it up. I haven’t put it down yet! The tone and overall sound is everything you indicated it would be in the videos (and more – it is absolutely stunning!) and the craftsmanship is superb. I was wondering if I would feel “penny wise and pound foolish” for not buying the more expensive “name” brands, but the opposite is the case. I feel like I just stole a great instrument, from an unsuspecting seller! haha -Thanks for the great deal. I look forward to many, many hours of wonderful guitar playing. P.S. I finally plugged it in to my amp and it sounds as good electronically as any of the "professional" guitars I have heard - clear, clean and true to its acoustic-ness. I couldn't be more pleased!
…and I might just be falling deeper in love every day! lol