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Photo: Graeme Richardson / Ice Music

And speaking of ice hotels, you might want to try an ice concert one of these days. That is, if you get yourself as far north as Swedish Lapland (also known as “the world’s best place for experiencing the Northern Lights“).

Tod Perry writes at Good that ice instruments have an ephemeral quality that is reminiscent of Buddhist mandelas.

“Tibetan Buddhists have a tradition of making elaborate artwork out of colored sand and, upon its completion, blowing it all into a river. The ritual is to show their belief in the transitory nature of life.

“On the other side of the world, a man [from Colorado who is working] in Sweden has created another form of temporary art by making music out of ice. Twenty years ago, Tim Linhart made his first ‘ICEstrument’ on a snowy mountaintop and his obsession led him to create an entire frozen orchestra and chamber hall.

“In Lulea, Sweden, [the ice sculptor] has made his own igloo concert hall where musicians perform with string and percussion instruments made of ice.

“One of the major problems with conducting an ice orchestra is that the instruments eventually fall out of tune due to body heat from the performers and audience. This has led Linhart to create a unique venting system in his ice theater that filters the body heat out of the igloo.

“Linhart’s ice instruments have a beautiful sound that play on our deep connection to water.

” ‘The ice instrument is made of frozen water, we’re made of melted water. And that physical connection opens the door for a spiritual connection,’ he says.”

Read more at Good, here.

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Recently, I read an article explaining why beautiful music is often heard flowing from a particular soup kitchen in New York City.

Michael Wilson wrote at the New York Times, “The church’s soup kitchen program fills quickly, bringing a din of chitchat and the scraping of chairs on floor tiles and the thud of trays being knocked against the inside of a trash can. But above it all, each and every weekday, hovers another sound, wholly unexpected: the clear, clean notes of a concert grand piano, there in a far corner. …

“The man at the piano, 61 years old, with a head of cropped gray hair bobbing in time over the keys, plays on, for two hours straight, as anonymous an entertainer as one is likely to find in this town.

“His name is Scott Croly. His most recent job was driving a truck, and that was a while ago. He is just on the roof-over-head side of homelessness, staying at a girlfriend’s house while he looks for work. Suffice it to say that when he first started visiting the soup kitchen some 13 years ago, it was not because they had a piano.”

The piano program, writes Wilson, “started with a former naval cryptographer on the Upper West Side, George Van Pelt, 90, who served in World War II and Korea and, along the way, taught himself to play the piano. He was visiting a friend who helped run a soup kitchen in San Francisco, and pitched in himself, chopping vegetables while a woman banged away at a piano. But the people there enjoyed it. She moved away, and he thought he could do better, and did, and after performing there many times, came back to New York with that old familiar bug bite. Mr. Van Pelt figured, rightly, that soup kitchens weren’t turning away pianists, and he heard about the Church of the Holy Apostles. ‘I gave them a hundred bucks to bribe them to let me play,’ he said. …

“Barry Weiss, a member of the Peace of Heart Choir and a pianist out of the American Songbook, plays on Fridays. A classically trained Armenian pianist, Jeannette Chirikdjian, plays on Mondays after several years of serving food at the lunches.

“ ‘It makes them happy,’ she said matter-of-factly before launching into Chopin’s ‘Grande Valse Brillante.’ ”

Read more at the Times. And watch the  Stephen Farrell video interview with one of the piano players here.

Photo: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times.
The Holy Apostles soup kitchen in New York has a grand piano.

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After a delightful morning with my granddaughter and my older grandson, I went to Providence to hang out with my younger grandson and Suzanne and a good friend.

I caught up with them at the park, where the farmers market was winding down and a free summer concert was revving up: the annual Summit Music Festival. (Check it out here.)

The four of us liked a blues group called the Selwyn Birchwood Band (pictured) and another band called Smith and Weeden. The ice cream eater below had reservations about a third performance. Everyone’s a critic.

We spent a chunk of time going “higher, higher” on the swing in the playground and watching a multi-ethnic group of small boys kick a soccer ball. (How brave it is to go up to boys you don’t know and ask to play!) We skipped the face painting, which was gorgeous but, to a 2-year-old, kind of pointless. We watched kids and grownups painting a mural wall.

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Longtime concert pianist Byron Janis recently wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal about programs using music to help veterans with PTSD and other traumas to heal.

“Can music heal?” he asks. “There’s been a great deal of study by neuroscientists on the different ways music acts upon the brain, affecting our behavior, memory and the like. …

“I recently witnessed the healing effects of music first hand. As part of their ‘National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military,’ I was invited by Americans for the Arts to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and participate in ‘Stages of Healing.’ This program, created by Dr. Micah Sickel, helps patients learn how to play a musical instrument and facilitates live performances whose aim, according to the hospital, is to ‘enhance the healing process’ …

I knew what I wanted to play for them—two Chopin waltzes and ‘A Hero’s Passing By’ … I then played two songs from a musical I had written about the Hunchback of Notre Dame. One was a love song and the other is titled ‘Like Any Man,’ which I felt very much suited the occasion. The Hunchback sings that although he is so disabled, he is just like any man.” Read more.

Photo of Byron Janis in 1962: Wikimedia Commons

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A high-minded concert may be a drop in the bucket when it comes to fighting global poverty, but as you know, I’m a believer in the power of “One and one and 50 make a million.”

In May, James C.McKinley Jr. wrote for the NY Times, “When the Global Poverty Project staged a benefit concert with Neil Young, the Black Keys and Foo Fighters in Central Park last fall, skeptics wondered if that nonprofit’s attempt to generate pressure on world leaders to help the poor would fade as soon as the amplifiers and guitars were put away.

“But this week the charity proved it had won converts, at least within the music industry. More than 70 artists, among them Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Bruno Mars, have pledged to give the project two tickets from each of their concerts over the next year, creating a pool of more than 20,000 tickets.

“The tickets will be used as prizes to encourage people to become involved in causes like fighting poverty in the third world, eradicating polio, building schools and ending famine. To win the tickets, fans are asked to earn points by taking action through a related Web site, globalcitizen.org. They can sign petitions, pledge to volunteer their time as aid workers, write elected leaders or donate money to aid organizations.

“‘It provides us with an opportunity to get really powerful activism worldwide,’ said Hugh Evans, the chief executive of the Global Poverty Project.” More.

Do check out a related post from 2011 on a countertenor who runs Artists for a Cause, a collaboration that provides talent for fundraising events — here.

Photo: Julie Glassberg for The New York Times
Neil Young with Crazy Horse performing in Central Park in September 2012 in a benefit concert for the Global Poverty Project.

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Summer concerts on the lawn in front of the library mean lawn chairs and group participation. Toddlers in pajamas gradually get up their courage to dance. Young gymnastic girls do sudden cartwheels and back flips, then walk away casually, pretending not to check if anyone was impressed.

Last Wednesday, the featured band, PanNeubean Steel, consisted of steel drum, electric guitar, drums, and saxophone.

The band played some New Orleans jazz. “The Saints Go Marching In” brought back memories of my brother Will playing his sax every New Year’s Day to family acclaim.

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For several years now, there has been a concert series right in the middle of all the comings and goings at Boston’s busiest Amtrak Station. Sometimes chamber music is played, sometimes it’s movie music, sometimes it’s cabaret. The concerts go from 11:30 to 12:30, and people just wander in and wander out. It’s great to see the look of surprise on travelers’ faces and the cellphone cameras being whipped out. Chairs are set up for those who want to sit to listen, or to eat their lunch. This year’s schedule is here.

Today we heard jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant, who has a website with a great URL, www.hipharp.com. She plays a small, 11-pound, blue electric harp from France and dances and sings while playing blues and jazz and songs she wrote. She has been called the Jimi Hendrix of harp and had us all singing along.

See the demo. It starts out with an original song that she also performed in South Station today.

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