Sunday, November 10, 2013

AU Symphonic Band at the Movies

ALFRED: Alfred University’s Symphonic Band is going to the movies and hopes you’ll join them - Friday, Dec 6 at 8 pm.
                Dr. Chris Foster, Director of Bands, said that students have been begging to play movie themes for a while.  This semester, he decided it was time.  
                “I’m a fan of a lot of block buster movies. Sci-fi and fantasy movies have great stories and a lot of good music. When I started looking for a program, the plan was to play one or two movie scores but there was just so much fantastic music out there that we’re doing a total movie based concert.”
                It’s clear that Alfred’s students love movies and the music in movies but fun music isn’t necessarily easy stuff.
                One of Foster’s favorites is The Dark Knight Rises, composed by Hans Zimmer and arranged by Ralph Ford. Foster loves the dark cords, the power and energy that surges through the piece. He urges people to listen for the percussion work in Dark Knight.
                Any discussion of Dark Knight must include recognition of the clarinet section. This piece is merciless for them. They have to dash madly but lightly for measure after measure of finger-twisting sixteenth notes.
                Another Foster favorite is The Complete Harry Potter arranged by Jerry Brubaker but with parts composed by John Williams, Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper and Alexander Desplat. There were 7 Harry Potter books crafted into 8 movies over the years and this piece takes highlights from the many stories and composers and smoothes them into one coherent piece.
                As you might expect, there are constant changes of style, tempo, keys and moods. Movie music is often challenging but with 4 composers, it’s a bit more so.
                Jon Ugalde and Caroline Pikacs (both clarinetists) like the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Composed by Howard Shore, this piece has five movements from the film.
                Jon likes it because it is technically challenging but fun and rewarding to play. Caroline has come to appreciate the Hobbit because she just read the book in an English class. She’d never read anything by Tolkien before and now plans to read the Lord of the Rings series.  She’s had a glimpse of Tolkien’s world and thinks it’s a good place to spend time.
                Caroline’s favorite part of The Hobbit is the final movement – Dreaming of Bag End.
                Melissa MacDonald (trumpet) thinks that Symphonic Suite from Star Trek arranged by Jay Bocook is the best. She proclaims herself to be a “giant Trekkie” and says that the piece reaches into her proud, nerd core.
                Should you have any doubts, Melissa wants you to know that the piece “sounds pretty damn  awesome.”
                Hunter Haddad (saxophone) said that while it’s hard to pick a favorite, he invites you to attend the concert to hear music from the picture Skyfall because it has a great sax part.
                In Skyfall, themes in the upper winds answer those in the lower brass and then others weave their parts between. It’s exciting music.
                Hunter also likes Star Trek. He played an arrangement of Star Trek in high school and it’s always nice to play different versions of a familiar piece.
                The concert, says Hunter, will be awesome and unlike any other. Put it on your calendar for Friday night, December 6 at 8 pm in the Miller Performing Arts Center -MPAC.
                If you aren’t familiar with the Alfred Campus, don’t be shy. You are more than welcome. Just enter Alfred University’s campus at the traffic light. Turn left at the top of the hill. Drive until the road curves right. That building with all the glass, at the curve, is your destination. Turn left to park.
                Please note: there is an informal dance concert in CD Smith Hall (also in MPAC) at 7 pm on that same night. The Symphonic Band program is scheduled for 8 pm to allow people to see both performances. Both programs are free and open to all. For more information contact the Division of Performing Arts at 607.871.2562.

Photo 1: Dr. Chris Foster
Photo 2: Melissa with Trumpet, John and Caroline with clarinets and Hunter with sax

(Elaine Hardman is honored to be a member of the flute section of Alfred University’s Symphonic Band.)

Lake Country, Scenic Drive, Allegany County

Allegany County: What weather! Our garden is summer warm. I planted snow peas, radishes and lettuce yesterday after seeing crocuses poking out all over the lawn. The cross country skis never left their cubby in the garage and we’re back on our bikes already. With a summer attitude, we took off the Lake Tour scenic drive – our 5th in the series of 6 offered by Allegany County.  
                This time we clocked it with the Bike Brain app on a smart phone. It kept track of our average speed, total distance, our altitude, the air temperature and mapped the trip.
                We started in Wellsville and headed out CR 31 from Scio to Friendship to get into the loop. Scenery included grazing horses and goats and we noticed people have piles of firewood left over after our soft winter. Windfall Farms has a shiny new red, metal roof on the barn and the Serenity Hill Golf Course is emerald green.
                My favorite part of Friendship is the side by side elegance of the Town Hall and Ambulance Squad buildings. They are ready for the calendar to turn to 1900 on the outside.  Couldn’t be more charming. 
                We took North 275 to CR 17 to start our drive going against the recommended direction.  We stopped to photograph a rusty truck. Bits of rust are chewing through the paint on my car this very moment, an assault to be sanded off and banished but this roadside truck was to be admired. It was all rust – paper thin metal ready to melt into the earth. This rust brought the truck into some level of art if not beauty, like the rusty vehicles in Sarah Phillips’ wonderful calendars.
                Rick though it was a 1940s specimen, perhaps a Ford. It was a heavy duty workhorse once upon a time with still-solid springs and hubs on the rear end. Might it have carried anything as heavy as the huge granite blocks in front of the house? Maybe not but it was a solid vehicle 60 years ago.
                We passed a parade of Amish signs and an Amish home and sawmill complete with a little girl swinging in a tree with her bonnet strings waving.
                We saw White Creek Honey’s sign painted on a barn door on the left and a creative house fashioned from another barn on the right. There was a small, old cabin whose driveway was reclaimed by weeds. The house’s sway-backed roof is slowing sinking the rest of it into history.
                The fields on this road bristled with last year’s corn crop and the side yards were ready for kids with their swings, trampolines, bikes and play houses.
                In the town of Belfast we veered off the trail into the state forest areas. The Rusford Conservation Camp is operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation as a residential summer camp for children ages 11 to 13 or 14 to 17. Campers pay $350 for a full week of activities such as canoeing and bow hunting. Weekly activities vary so search the DEC website for applications and information.
                We went further into the unknown to find Hanging Bog. The smart phone leaves its navigational ability at some distant cell tower so if you venture in have a compass or a map. Also, please note that the roads are made of something between mud and peanut butter.
                 We went there with a Goldilocks sort of car. Not heavy enough to sink and not light enough to skitter though it was close. The road was so rough and bumpy that I can’t read my notes but I remember the jolts and still have the mud.
                There’s a monument on the edge of the bog, a pond dug by the Civil Conservation Corps in the 1930s when the land was federally owned. What appears to be an island is a floating mass of vegetation – the source of Hanging Bog’s name. The monument is dedicated to the memory of Gardner L Whipple who visited the 4500 acres for 50 years.
                After those dirt roads, we celebrated the paved surface of Rush Creek Road and stopped for a photo of beaver lodges. Stepping out of the car caused an eruption of frightened, jumping frogs and sent small fish headed for the reeds like lightening.
                Rush Creek Road brought us back onto the driving tour route where we passed Granny Gerts on Route 243. Have you been to that place? It’s a pizza/sub shop where the sub rolls are made fresh daily with their recipe. They have gas and a large restaurant but in the acres behind that there is an outdoor concert site where the music and camping makes summer fun.   
                We turned left onto Buffalo Street which becomes Lower Street and then CR 7B. Rushford’s historical society has a Black Smith and Wood Working Museum near Main Street (occasionally part of a tour) as well as a Museum on Main Street. Rushford’s Library is near as is the fire hall and their gazebo where the Rushford Town Band plays on Saturday evenings in the summer.  
                Along CR7B we found the Allegany Hills Country Club and lots of farm land. A brilliant, yellow smart car – part roller skate/part vehicle – sparkled in a driveway on Route 46 – the bit of the trail that leaks into Cattaraugus County.
                Marsh Acres, the county’s largest dairy farm has row upon row of small shelters in the calf field on one side and the largest plastic covered mound I’ve ever seen on the other. Hundreds of tires anchor the plastic cover behind huge barns and all kinds of farm equipment.  
                This entire road is lined with barns – little, big and way beyond big from sturdy and stout to near compost. One of them was painted black and looked dressed for society next to an old cabin, also black. Some of the fields were ready to plant.
                We parked on the edge of Cuba Lake – still low with the state having sand harvested from the lake bed - and rode our bikes the 7 miles around the lake. My favorite cottages are the small ones with porches and maybe a stone wall or chimney. The fences always give cabins a cozy look too. People were out walking, jogging and being pulled by their dogs. A fine “June” day.
                In Cuba we stopped at Mak’s Meats & Cheese and bought some local foods and future dinners and made our first ever visit to the Cuba Cheese Store. Cuba’s Cheese Museum is only open in the summer but this summer it will move from Water Street to reopen in the old Palmer Opera House on Main Street. While looking for the Cheese Museum we noticed an interesting Antique Shop on Water Street but it, like Bob and Carol Riggs’ cute little purple store, Cakes and Curios, was closed. It was after 5 by the time we made it to Cuba.
                Cuba is the site of a gigantic flag pole and some new mural work depicting the Cuba of past years. Main Street has shops, restaurants and another one of Allegany County’s fabulous Libraries.
                We took CR 20 back to Friendship and then over the hill again to Scio and home to Wellsville finishing 99.98 miles in the car. Bike Brain calculated that the journey would have saved 24kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere if totally done by bike. It’s all fun and games until someone calculates the carbon.




See or call 1-800-836-1869 or 585-268-5500 for events, restaurants, brochures and local tourism information. Find brochures in Libraries, restaurants and banks. Brochure choices are Scenic Drives, Spring Summer Fall, Artisans & Galleries, Historic Trails, Hunting & Fishing, Fall Winter Spring and Festivals & Events. This driving tour is listed in Scenic Drives.

Elaine Hardman is a member of the Allegany County Office of Tourism Advisory Board. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Real Food Growing at Sunset Farms

WELLSVILLE  If there is a place in Wellsville where science and nature hold hands and move brightly toward the future, it is at Sunset Farms on South Hill. The bioshelter/henhouse/experiment is, just for now, an unproven construction of rock, compost and calculations but over the next few months it will become a producing farm. The farm – one that will produce vegetables year round - is being created by Andrew Harris.      
        You might know Andrew Harris as the owner of Better Days Pub and Eatery. He owned and managed the business from the kitchen with a menu featuring as much local food as possible.
        After selling the business, Harris looked for a new career, one that would teach him more, help him spread knowledge, include the gentle use of his land and promote both local foods and a plant based diet.
        That led him to Sunset Farm, his own venture into growing food year round on a solar powered farm with help from
        Approaching the farm, the first view is of a clean, modern, deceptively simple building. Nothing about the building (called the Mothership after a Led Zeppelin album) is simple. The majority of space is given to 7 parallel raised beds.
        Under the beds are trenches that form a subterranean heating and cooling system 4 feet below the building. The trenches are insulated and hold a system of perforated plastic pipes. The pipes are sized for optimal air flow and heavy enough to support hundreds of pounds of crushed rock and soil.
        In the summer, cool air from the ground will flow into the growing area to lower the temperature and in the winter fans will move warm air from the peak into the system to warm the rocks and the soil and keep food growing year round.
        The plants sprout from a mix of peat moss,perlite/vermiculite and clean food-quality compost using the increasingly popular “square foot method” in which beds are fertilized with compost between growth cycles.
        Every surface inside the building is light-reflecting white. Light pours in through the glazing on the southern roof. The 16mm Lexan polycarbonate sheeting is designed and engineered to diffuse and filter light. Blue and ultraviolet rays pass through and promote plant growth but reds are reflected.
        The material, with a 10 year warranty, has a R value of 7 and is hail proof. The roof is pitched to both capture sunlight and shed snow. The other sides are insulated, solid walls.
        Separated from the raised beds but within the structure is the hen and goat housing leading to a ¼ acre pasture with plans for a 1 acre pond. Nesting boxes will invite 40 chickens to lay during the day and roost at night. The number isn’t random. 1 hen will produce manure for 10 square feet and these beds measure 400 square feet.
        Next to the nests is a paddock for 2 troublesome goats. The goats present a challenge since they will trample anything, eat everything and jump over what others might see as barriers.
        There is an electric ribbon fence around the chicken/goat pasture but goats aren’t bothered by anything less than 8-12 joules of electricity. Unfortunately that’s enough to kill a chicken so the bottom ribbons need to be higher than a chicken’s inquisitive beak and the solar panels will have to hum along to produce enough power for the fence and fans.
        A door at the end of the henhouse serves as a compost passage for the transference of manure to an interior composting bed. Compost isn’t as simple as pile it up and let it rot. Strict rules govern time and temperature for the composting process. After the process starts inside the building it must move outside to a windrow. The strict process will provide a natural control of bacteria.
        Everything is designed to work within natural cycles. Nitrogen will cycle from chicken and goat manure to be broken down by bacteria into compost which will fertilize the growing beds and then emerge in plants to, in part, nourish the animals and the farmers.
        Natural insect control will be the job of pecking chickens and occasional introduction of predator insects.
        There’s a cycle of energy as heat and cold will flow in this controlled loop to keep the temperature of the soil above 65 degrees. There’s a cycle of carbon dioxide. Given off by the animals at night, it will be pumped through a filter into the growing area to give the plants a higher density of carbon dioxide, optimizing photosynthesis.
        There is a test garden already producing seed and the growing area has space for a vertical garden later when the first production levels are established. 

        There has already been an offer from a local restaurant to purchase the chemical free, healthy produce but Harris also hopes to work with subscribers wanting to take home lettuce, herbs, eggs and vegetables every week. He hopes to also encourage others to join in local, year-round food production.
        Your chance to see Sunset Farms is at 2 pm on October 5. Signs will help lead you to the farm on South Hill Road. The open house will offer tours at 3 and 5 pm and a lettuce/spinach taste testing. Senator Cathy Young will visit the facility at 3 pm. Join Sunset Farms on Facebook for emerging details.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Alfred University Senior Thesis Shows 2013

ALFRED:  Once again the Senior Thesis Shows were a thousand experiences in a hundred rooms. One never knows what one will see, hear, feel, notice, remember or, if early and lucky, taste. The snacks go quickly but the ideas seep in slowly and last. For me, the lasting ideas will be those of Ben Hoagland.

            Ben made his way to Alfred University from Southern Tennessee.  Ceramics drew him to Alfred but the foundations program nudged him into glass. Apparently not one to stay in a comfort zone, Ben set aside clay and glass both to create a show with found objects – tiny thing, bits of trash that he elevated to art. He had people pointing, laughing, whispering, twittering, talking, photographing and grabbing strangers to say, “Look at this one.”

            Ben hoped that his work would be seen as slightly humorous. That it was.

            He created an array of items, each vignette on a small block of wood, most with a caption. One was a group of 4 burned out fuses - little black, wire legs stretched out useless beyond charred glass bodies. One new fuse was positioned running from them on its wire-feet saying, “I am NOT going in there.”

            Another showed 3 push pin tacks. One had wire arms bent upward muscle-man style while 2 others stood to look at it. The caption: “I’ think I’m going to start working out.”

            Ben collected the objects for about a year and spent months working out the captions. He focused on the nature of the objects and how they are used. He tried, and many thought succeeded, in forcing an aspect of humanity on the objects. 

            Many of the objects are used for specific tasks by workers. The world of work is a topic of conversation among many students at this point in their lives so it seemed a natural area to explore. (see more images below)

            Donald Van Winkle also focused on work but on workers and not the objects around them and not the humor that might be found. He spent a year in school and then took time off to work for UPS where he was more or less an intelligent machine used to move packages from place to place.

            Donald’s show was about railroad workers. He grew up in Arkport where the sound and sight of trains was common. The figures in his show had large hands and large feet but no mouths. They were muscle without voice. A larger overseer did have a mouth and a voice but no hands or feet.

            Donald’s vision of work was about the physical aspect of work that dominates many lives. He said that he portrayed the workers as lower beings because working at UPS he felt that he lacked a voice but he said that his piece doesn’t take a stand on that. He’s not saying that workers should have a voice in their workplace or that it’s right for them to be voiceless. Simply, he says, that is how it is.

            Ashley Goodwyn’s show was about self awareness and stress. “Self Help” was a sculpture of 2 figures holding hands. The clay of the bodies represented the connection between life and the earth while cast glass hands represented a moment of hope. She was trying to show how people work to pull themselves out of stressful situations.

            Ashley had created a 5 foot tall sculpture for her show but it broke, as clay so easily does. In thinking about this small personal disaster, she considered desire and the human ability to stretch and reach for a new goal. From that came these two smaller figures and their clasped hands.

            Krystal Crabb presented ceramic tableware for her show. She made pieces with hollow rims or feet to increase the sense of volume.

            She said that she wanted her tableware to call to people, to ask people to pick them up and feel them. Krystal had some older pieces of dinnerware that were not included in her show and several people who touched them decided that they had to take them home.

            Krystal will leave Alfred to design ceramic lamps and make the molds for her designs as well as to develop glazes for the lamps.

            If you missed the Senior Thesis Shows this year, make a note to see them next year. It’s a campus-wide party and it’s always fun, free and open to the public.