Harmonia Chorus “Choral Echoes” 2023

For my visitors here with an appreciation for choral music, this post is especially for you.

Recently I was able to move back into a true chamber choir experience.  My last two rounds of chamber choir work were somewhat stressed–one by a pandemic pause that became permanent, and the other by a toxic director. It took me a while to identify a group with which I might want to sing. I availed myself of an opportunity to join Seattle’s Harmonia Chorus for their first complete (or nearly complete) a capella (unaccompanied) concert. Though I had sung some of the program’s selections in the past, several were new to me. And every one of them was a delight to sing. I continue to be highly impressed by the work of Harmonia’s multi-talented music director William White.

“Choral Echoes” program notes provide more information. The selection list is below, and I’ve included the video of perhaps the most novel work on the program.


Harmonia Chorus
William White, conductor
Sheila Bristow, conductor and organ
Anjali Chudasama, conductor


Jake Runestad (*1986)
Nyon Nyon

Clara Schumann (1819–1896)
Drei Gemischte Chöre

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
Vier Gesänge, Op. 17

John Tavener (1944–2013)
The Lamb

Benjamin Britten (1913–1976)
Rejoice in the Lamb, Op. 30

— intermission —

Jacobus Gallus (1550–1591)
Ave Maria

Franz Biebl (1906–2001)
Ave Maria

Henry Purcell (1659–1695)
Hear My Prayer O Lord, Z. 15

William White (*1983)
O Clavis David

Stephen Paulus (1949–2014)
Pilgrims’ Hymn

Ken Burton (*1970)
A Prayer

Reena Esmail (*1983)

Dharma Talk — Women Ancestors in Buddhist Mythology

During the pandemic year of 2021, most of my creative energy was poured into the Dog Days Poetry Gallery. I also did a lot of reading of essential texts from world religions. This included a number of Buddhist sutras (scriptures). Some of these captured my interest in a way that made me want to talk about them with others.

Here is a 2023 talk I gave on the theme of women in Buddhist mythology. The talk arose from an invitation to speak to the Blue Heron Zen Community in Seattle. It appears to have been well received by the Blue Heron group listeners.

My sources were two foundational Buddhist texts–the Lotus and Vimalikirti sutras. I focused on two popular narratives while referencing a few others:

“The Dragon Princess and the Pearl.” In this story, the eight-year-old daughter of the Dragon King visits the celestial court of the Buddha. She is received with skepticism by the attendant deities and divine personages. The princess presents a pearl of incomparable value to the Buddha, who accepts it. To the astonishment of the assembly of thousands in the realms of hell, earth, and heaven, she is instantly transformed into a fully enlightened being equal to the Buddha himself. Which leads everyone to ponder “What is sudden enlightenment?”

“The Goddess and Shariputra.” In this story, the historical Buddha’s closest confidante Shariputra engages in “Dharma combat” with a goddess who makes her points about gender parity through a magical game of swapping gender roles and appearances.

These myths continue to resonate in contemporary discussions around sex, gender, and power dynamics in Buddhist communities. I also referenced some of the founding mothers of Buddhism and the earlier lives of the Buddha when he was incarnated female. If you are at all interested in the larger topic, or just curious about mythology, the talk may be worth your time.

Below is a photo from the Beijing/Peking Opera archives. The figure of the Dragon Princess appears in several stories in the genre’s repertory and tradition.


Reading of a Genesis Myth–the Creation of Humans

This may seem a little out of the ordinary here. However, this work came up as part of my work in music ministry. Here is my public reading from the Book of Genesis, chapters 2 and 3.

From the translation by Dr. Wilda Gafney. https://www.wilgafney.com/

The pastor of my church appreciates my interest in poetry and public readings. So she asked me to read this for our first Lenten service of 2023. I had to practice it, as the cadences and words are certainly not the King James version!

The story takes on some fresh mythological resonance in this translation. We all have heard it, in one version or another–the temptation of Eve, the Fall of Man, the knowledge of good and evil. In this rendering of the myth, I do like that trees are more present in the foreground of the story. And I’ve often thought that the serpent’s advice was more misguided than malevolent. Can we really blame Eve (and Adam) for following their God-given curiosity? But myths are certainly not logical, consistent, or ethically coherent.

As for the Garden of Eden, here’s one illustration from the Web for which I have no attribution for the artist.

12 Days of Photos — Christmas 2022

Each February I publish a gallery of my favorite personal photos from the prior year. The photos are ones I’ve gone back to look at several times over the year. Most were shot when I was moving solo, so not many people are in evidence…

So here’s 2022’s 12 Days of Photos (previously shared on Facebook over Christmas).

(Please do comment if you particularly like one or more of these. It helps me know someone is looking at them.)

Day 1–Santa’s Village, Jefferson, New Hampshire


Day 2–Turquoise Highway south of Santa Fe, New Mexico


Day 3 — a Great Blue Heron at Seward Park, Seattle


Day 4–the Veterans’ Chapel at the Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico


Day 5–the historic covered bridge, Lancaster, New Hampshire


Day 6–Seattle’s Space Needle during Pride Week


Day 7–the roof of the Santa Fe Opera theater, New Mexico


Day 8–the Fall “blood moon” over China Lake, Maine


Day 9–Great Clips Aurora Avenue barbershop, Seattle


Day 10–14th century petroglyph, Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico


Day 11–sunset on Bailey Island, Maine


Day 12–view of Mount Rainier from Bainbridge Island, WA

New Year’s Eve 2022–Gerald reads Tennyson’s “Ring out, wild bells”


Gerald reads  “Ring out, wild bells”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand,
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Christmas 2022 — year end reflections

Christmas Day has come and gone, and I feel compelled to leave a few digital artifacts here before turning the corner into the New Year.

Increasingly my energy and focus are directed to work for Parks and Recreation. Yet other projects are always simmering and occasionally bubbling up. As I reflect on the past few months, I feel satisfied with what I have been able to do. My creative work now seems to be slowly transitioning to a hobby and away from a half-time job (though some gigs are still paid). There is a constant pull to want to do more, to go bigger, and to be better. That’s my professional conditioning, of course, which can either motivate me or make me feel unfulfilled. Artists of all stripes often find themselves in this sort of bind. We tie ourselves up in knots, and then spend hours meditating or working to untie them.

A big step forward this season was to rejoin the ranks of those who sing Handel’s MESSIAH as an annual ritual. I jumped into this as a volunteer to investigate a question–how does extended singing in a concert setting feel? It’s been a long road back from summer Covid. My energy flagged a bit in hour 3–MESSIAH is a long song!  Yet I was pleased to discover that much of it remains in muscle memory. Admittedly, the more vocally challenging chorus numbers were not always effortless. But overall it felt fine, and occasionally even joyful. The Harmonia Orchestra and Chorus is a fine ensemble full of high-caliber singers and players.

I’m the leftmost singer in this photo.

Church music work remains a small but steady source of income. The hours I spend now in churches (and a Buddhist temple) have me living in mental landscapes of agnosticism and openness to surprise. Most of my work hours are spent with a progressive, undogmatic Baptist congregation that allows everyone to simply be present and open to possibility. My other haunts are two Episcopal churches that occasionally request my voice and skills when a regular staff member is unavailable.

A few samples from Advent and Christmas services.

Reading Isaiah 7:2-9





The center of my work for Parks and Recreation has been Tai Chi/Qigong teaching with a focus on wellness. Many folks that come to my classes keep coming back. Clearly, we all are reaping benefits from a developing practice. And I now have a range of administrative responsibilities that add professional weight to my role as a Recreation Leader. (In the photo below, I am modeling a shirt with the new logo for Long White Cloud Qigong.)

(In 2022, I also acknowledge friends and teachers who aren’t featured or mentioned on this page. Grateful for them!)

And there is this when all else feels like too much or too little. (Green Lake). On January 1, 2022, I walked here for several miles. Barring terrible weather, I will do so again on January 1, 2023. And count every step as a piece of good luck.

LO ZAMPOGNARO (The Bagpipers) — A poem for Christmas

LO ZAMPOGNARO (The Bagpipers)
(Free English translation by G. Seminatore)

Gianni Francesco Rodari (Italia 1920-80)

An Italian writer and journalist who wrote popular works of children’s literature. He received the biennial international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1970.

Gerald reads “Lo Zampognaro”

(The link will open in a new window so you can follow along with the translation here if you wish.)

Se comandasse lo zampognaro che scende per il viale,
Sai che cosa direbbe il giorno di Natale?

If the bagpipers piping down the avenue ruled,
What would they say on Christmas Day?

Voglio che in ogni casa spunti dal pavimento
un albero fiorito di stelle d’oro e d’argento.

I want, in every house, growing from the floor,
flowering tree of gold and silver stars.

Se comandasse il passero che sulla neve zampetta,
Sai che cosa direbbe con la voce che cinguetta?

If the sparrow pawing on the snow commanded it,
What it would say with its chirping voice?

Voglio che i bimbi trovino, quando il lume sarà acceso,
Tutti i doni sognati, più uno, per buon peso.

I want the children to find, when daylight appears,
All the gifts they dreamed of, plus one more for good measure.

Se comandasse il pastore dal presepe di cartone,
Sai che legge farebbe firmandola col lungo bastone?

If the shepherd in the cardboard nativity scene were a king,
What law he would make and sign with his staff?

Voglio che oggi non pianga nel mondo un solo bambino,
Che abbiano lo stesso sorriso il bianco, il moro, il giallino.

I command that not a single child in all the world will cry,
For they all have the same smile —white, dark brown, yellow.

Sapete che cosa vi dico io che non comando niente?
Tutte queste belle cose accadranno facilmente;

You know what I tell you?
All these beautiful things will happen easily, though I do not command anything.

Se ci diamo la mano i miracoli si fanno
E il giorno di Natale durerà tutto l’anno.

If we only shake hands, miracles are performed,
And Christmas day lasts all year.

Fall 2022–Days are growing shorter and longer

As we move through the fall, work is settling into a variable but somewhat comfortable rhythm. There are no big projects or looming concerns needing to be unpacked.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are experiencing weeks of what was called “Indian Summer” during my New England boyhood. Bright blue skies and moderate temperatures make it easy to be out and about. In the past few weeks, the air quality has often been poor, and the smell of smoke is ever more present. This serves as a reminder that fortune is fickle and perfection is fleeting.

Work with Parks and Recreation continues in a variety of capacities. Perhaps most satisfying is the retention of participants in my Taiji/Qigong classes, and the prospect of new classes on the horizon. Regular practice will be essential for my mood as winter darkness creeps into the late afternoon hours. The dojo is back in full swing for group training, and there I can be a student confronted with how much I don’t yet know how to do.

Recreation day trip group at Cedar River Watershed, North Bend, WA

The church continues to ask for my (paid) presence and voice as choir membership gradually returns to its pre-pandemic numbers. I say gradually because they may never get everyone back. My only regret is that I now have had some singing opportunities that I had to pass on due to scheduling conflicts. Among other events, a Fauré Requiem with chamber choir will be the highlight of October.

As the days grow shorter, the hours of work grow longer. That is both wished for and disorienting. All good.

September sunset, Beal’s Cove, Harpswell, ME



New Horizons Summer 2022

We have been waiting for the pandemic to end. Yet it stubbornly continues to sabotage our plans and goals in large and small ways. But continue on we must!

I have now successfully translated my volunteer work as a Qigong instructor into regular, paid community classes. And my teaching experience is now informing new responsibilities as a professional recreation leader. In this capacity, I am supporting a number of outdoor, indoor, and online programs targeting 55-plus adults.

Freelance singing work continues, though it feels constrained by Covid protocols. Yet we persevere, and wait for the day when masks can be set aside. (Indeed, many venues and groups had already done so. But with the BA5 variant, singing groups are again battening down the hatches.)

There are some grant applications and further job opportunities hinging on decisions by others this Fall. My motto–file the applications and then forget them, at least until the decision cycles have reached their end.

With everything happening in the world, one might easily feel discouraged. For now, good health, productive and useful work, and aspirations for future (funded) creative projects are all in balance. Let’s see what comes next.



World Tai Chi and Qigong Day 2022

Each year, groups around the world observe international Tai Chi and Qigong Day on the first Sunday of April. This is a way of signaling support to others around the globe that individual and group practices resonate beyond local and national boundaries.

It was a rainy morning in Seattle, but folks from the Embrace the Moon Studio gathered in Volunteer Park for group practice. I participated, and also took photographs until raindrops began to land on the camera lens. Here are a few photos of Luohan 18 Hand Qigong, one of the more athletic Qigong styles.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, you can check out an earlier post on this topic, A Brief Overview of Tai Chi and Qigong.