Apollo with Lyre

The small New England town of West Brookfield MA is blessed with a well-preserved and beautiful public common. The land for the common was made possible by the generosity of David Hitchcock and Dwight Foster. In 1791, they both agreed to set aside this space for the benefit of the town and its inhabitants. J. Henry Stickney, in 1874, provided a fund toward the beautification of the space that included planting trees and creating walkways. In 1884, George Rice provided the funding for the construction of a reservoir for fountains installed on the common. Today, the two fountains are in excellent condition. Every day during the warm weather months, the woman with the jar pours out water into the basins. The two thinkers below her ponder the day. And, a little cherub above a public water fountain stands by the road waiting to quench the thirst of anyone walking by.  This is an imaginative story of what the spirits in the statues may have to say about their experiences living among us.

Apollo with Lyre

“My Song, My Song,” finally, it’s in the air. Dear Iris gifted me this lyre on my last birthday. After praying for an age, a way to let out my itch to sing is in my hands. “My Song, My Song!” My fingers sting as I pluck the strings. The tone does sound like the air. The card that came with the present said it all, “better than dry words, better than lonely wind swirls, the lyre will free your spirit to become merry in song. Play your best,” Goddess Iris

My sister Artemis is jealous; all she got was a quiver of arrows and a long bow. The last time I saw her, she was crossing the bridge into Siracusa. She likes to walk under a starry sky with moon shadows all around. “My Song, My Song!” Oh, bliss!

Yesterday was grand. The wind was kind and blew the fountain spray my way. I felt it tickle my wings. I can just about see them over my left shoulder. The naiad, Delfina, and her two friends Tilda and Pastora from Cyprus. I pray the zephyr takes my splendid voice to her tender ears. “My Song, My Song!” Pastora has the garland of marguerites around her neck.

Years ago, I was closer to the women and shared the same water reservoir. When town water lines were dug in, I was moved to give passersby a fresh drink of clean water. I like watching the street and seeing all the humans strolling along. The little kids cool their thirst at the water fountain below. The guy with the beagle always stops and gives his pooch a drink. The bikers fill their bottles. The birds love to fly through the water spray at the women’s fountain. They land on my shoulder and preen a bit.

Temple of Apollo Photo taken at Ortigia May 2015

People call me a chubby angel but that’s not my name. I am the young Apollo with Lyre by Vernetto. My twin sister Artemis and I were born on the islet of Ortigia near the ancient town of Siracusa on the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. The remains of my temple are still standing near the gateway to Ortigia. The proper name for it is The Apollonion, built in the 6th century B.C. during the Age of the Greeks.  My temple survived the Byzantine Age, Arab Age, and Norman Age and made it to the Spanish conquest of the island in the 1800s. The blocks and columns were taken apart and used to construct other buildings and churches. What stands today is the foundation and a few of the mighty walls to show how grand a place it was.

Artemis has a fantastic fountain built in her honor a few feet away in Archimedes Square. It is a glorious, large tribute to the transformation of the nymph Arethuse into spring water. The mermen ride the sea creatures in the basin pool showing passersby the days of glory when the Greek gods and goddesses ruled the day.

Some of this glory is carved into the base holding me up. Everybody admires the swans and cattails on the plate. You know that is Poseidon’s trident. He gave it to me as a going away present, he said if I am ever homesick and want to visit Mom, just strike the tongs, dive into the sea and it would carry me back to Ortigia. It is studded with pearls and bronze, the tips were made in the furnace at Aetna. It is so special, no one else has one, I am sure.

The little peeps around the foot of the pedestal are my echoes. When I sing, “My Song, My Song” they chime in giving it a little dash of cherub sweetness. I am Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto. Seekers come to me for healing, truth and prophecy. I am the sun. I am the light. I will help form community. I will protect flocks of animals. I am the god of song and music.

The fountain with the naiad pouring out the water into the basins below is beautiful. The two women sitting underneath are called Meditation. I’ll share a little secret, that pensive air they create with the chin in their hands is really a put on. They just act all serious and calm. Delfina who stands above it all, is watching and they never break their silence with her there. You see, they cannot find the book. They put it down and it “walked away.” It was “stuck” in my hands when I arrived and is now under my left hip. It is my book now. It has the answer to the riddle Delfina asked them. They cannot answer her and are stuck on what to do next. When they answer it right, the jug will finally be empty of water. “My Song, My Song” Oh I love to sing “My Song, My Song”. My joy will never end!

The Fountain of a Naiad with two figures in meditation

Oh my stars! That imp is doing it again! All these years and he has only one tune one simple tune. Why can’t he move it along now? What a bimbotto? (A fat baby.)

My story is ancient. I hear the townspeople talking below and some have said I remind them of Rebekah at the well in the Old Testament. I am a naiad; a water spirit. The spray around the fountain creates water music. I wear a laurel wreath to signify my affinity with Apollo. The Greeks called me a Crinaeae; the spirit of a fountain. My destiny is to pour water from this jar to make the way easy for fertility and wealth. Every morning, Apollo pulls his chariot across the sky and brings us the light. At night, I bathe in sacred moonlight cast by Selene, Artemis and Hecate, the goddesses of the Moon. The stars align and tell me a story. Many creatures come to the fountain in the night. The play of the water lulls us into a transcendental state of being.

The two figures below are indeed from Cyprus. This fountain represents the element of air, water and earth. The water tinkles in the air while the women below ground us. They were very fond of practical jokes and mischief before I gave them something to do. I would not be surprised to discover where Tilda’s missing garland ended up. Our work here is to be beneficial as well as beautiful. The human visitor can look upon us and wonder what are they thinking?

The riddle is: What is always on its way but never arrives?

So, what is the answer?

Every day, we are here. I am as hypnotized as anyone watching and listening to the waters flow. This place gives us something important to do. We were made to be pleasing and so we do. We love sharing our waters with the dogs as they pass by. We love to cool the senses on a hot day. We love to be here and be admired.

I am the naiad of this water fountain. Apollo calls me Delfina. Oh stella! I hope my water jar is never empty. My joy will never end!

by Frances Ann Wychorski


Some of the facts for this story were provided by an article in the Quaboag Historical Society Newsletter, Bringing the Ladies Home: A Brief History of the fountains on the West Brookfield Common by William Jenkins. The full text can be reached by clicking on the link.

Some of the facts for this story were provided by Ortigia: The heart of Syracuse Tourist Guide,  OGB Officina Grafica Bolognese June 2013

The photograph of the Temple of Apollo was taken by the writer on the Island of Ortigia in May 2015. Here is a photo of the magnificent statue of Artemis in Archimedes Square. Sicily is a great vacation destination for those curious about Greek mythology. The ruins and sites are well preserved and numerous on the island. Go for the sun, food and history.

Artemis Photo taken in Ortigia May 2015

Watchman of the Day

The owl is the watchman of the day,
prelude of a new dawn,
ally of the sun,
keeps an eye on our fears,
on dreams and visions in the night,
flying around our houses wrapped in darkness

Il gufo é il guardiano del giorno,
preludio di nuova alba,
alleato del sole
vigila sulle nostre paure,
sui fantasmi della notte,
volando attorno alle nostre case
avvolte nelle tenebre.

 

Excerpt from Io gufo e tu?
@Edizioni del Baldo April 2016

 

The Labels are Pretty but Where Do I Start?

Today is the day, something special is happening and finally, it’s time to stop driving by the store and go on in to help yourself to a bottle of wine. The neighborhood shop displays rows of neatly racked bottles sorted by country. There are six-pack individual serving size-bottled wines too. Hmm, what do I want? The artwork on the labels entices the customer’s eyes. French? Chilean? Australian? Californian? The prices start at $10 and go as high as $100. The clerks are ringing up sales at the counter and there’s no one to ask. Which country? What brand? What’s good? It’s a little intimidating when the moment comes to buy that first bottle of wine.

There are four (4) categories of wine: sparkling, white, red and blush. Wines have a taste range from dry, medium dry, semi-sweet to very sweet. Wine is made from a variety of fruits, grapes and honey. There are old world and new world wines. Small wonder that making a selection can cause hesitation.

The flavor and quality of wine is predicated on multiple factors. Wine ages in a variety of containers including wood and stainless steel. The climate, soil and environment will affect the fruits. The production will affect the quality. The technique and science behind winemaking is extensive and complex. The taste will be different on every tongue and change when paired with different foods. Wine should complement the food and enhance the taste in the mouth.

At Dinner

Depending upon the level of service at the restaurant, ask the waiter to recommend a glass of wine with the meal order. If there is a wine steward or sommelier, take advantage of the opportunity and say you are a novice with wine selection. Ask them why they served a particular variety. The wine with the meal may be more expensive per glass, but, it allows for a variety of samplings without committing to an entire bottle. When in doubt, ask for the House Red or White. In general, red meats and Italian dishes have a dry red wine. White meats and cheeses generally serve a dry white wine.

At Wine Shop

Check in your area for a store that specializes in selling wines. They may have special tastings or events for the public. Before sampling any wines, listen to the presentation if there is one. An informal public event with wine and crackers may not be helpful. The cracker may help clear the palate, as will water, but as the wine is without the meal, it will not taste the same when you serve it with the dinner. Also, if you are not used to drinking wine, and there is no food consumed, you might run the risk of driving inebriated. Wine can be strong if you are not used to it.

Perhaps ask the clerk for advice on the first bottle. The owner, depending on the size of the shop, may be the clerk and could be happy to talk to you about this. This also may or not be helpful, depending on their level of salesmanship. I went into a shop looking for a specific name brand and when it was not available, the owner did not make an alternative suggestion. At this moment, ask what their best seller is and consider that as a guide to purchase.

At Wine Tasting – Public Event

A larger spirit, beer and wine seller may offer special opportunities for public tastings. This type of event can be crowded, noisy and confusing. The servers at the table may be sales rep for the distributor and not have much information to share. This type of event might be best for an experienced buyer.

However, asking a customer in the same aisle what they are buying can be a best bet. Most people are happy to talk for a few minutes about what they like. Hopefully, they will take you right to the bottle and show the recommendation. This may be the best opportunity to try something new.

Private Tasting

Some establishments may have the estate owners sell their wines at private events. This is a fine opportunity to learn about the production, family history, and the intangible quality of suggestion by association. If they seem like nice folks, the wine will follow suit. Perhaps this sounds whimsical, but it is how I narrowed down two selections of estate wines from Italy. The seller/owner said you would know it’s a good wine by how fast the bottle is empty. If it does not empty, it was not so good.

At Vineyard

Check in your area for a vineyard that produces and sells wines. They will typically have an afternoon set aside just for tasting and sales. This can be an exciting day out including a small tour with the owners. They can talk extensively about the fruits that make up the wine and how it is made. The occasion will have other shoppers in the store and offer a chance for a quiet conversation about their choice. Remember to ask what they didn’t like and learn from their experiences.

Tour Guide

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts publishes a Wine & Cheese Trails Guide. The booklet lists Wine and Cheese Makers as well as Direct Market Dairy Farms. Each establishment is listed by name, website, complete address, and hours of operation with tasting times, description and grapes grown. The most interesting inclusion was:

Wine & Cheese Trails

Green River Ambrosia, Greenfield MA

Founded in 2007, is a small artisanal meadery making the finest honey wines with local honey. Containing fresh water, raw honey, yeast and the occasional local and/or organic herb or fruit.  Green River Ambrosia meads provide the taste of a season of hard work by their bees.

So check with your local or state agricultural office, county extension service, or a CSA for more information on local wineries.

Italian Wine Suggestions

I tried all of the above when I began my quest for my first bottle of wine. The selections I make now are directly related to the wine tasting events held by the estate owners. The sincerity of the sellers and the reaction of the other tasters helped me decide what was best for me. The majority of the people at this event knew or seemed to know what they were drinking and what to say. I listened and learned.

Italian wines are regulated in country. Bottles with the DOC or better the DOCG label will be of superior quality.

I have two favorite vintners: Pieropan from the Veneto region of Italy and Tenuta delle Terre Nerre from Sicily.

If you are relying on this article for a selection, I would suggest Pieropan Viticoltori in Soave. This is a light-bodied dry white wine paired well with fish and chicken. I have this with macaroni and cheese and found it quite nice.

Another superb dry white wine is Montenidoli Carato, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Of all the wine, purchased thus far, this had the higher cost. However, everything about the wine is superior even to the use of natural cork to cap the bottle.

The Tenuta delle Terre Nerre, Aetna Rosso 2012, a full-bodied dry red wine is another suggestion. This is a stronger wine and best with pasta, spiced dishes, game and dark meats. This wine goes well with hot chili.

Another top quality dry red wine is La Botte dell’Abate Riserva Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

At some point in your sampling, you will find the grape of preference. I like Nero d’Avola. A grape native to Sicily. The fragrance of this wine is as delicious as the liquid. The flavor is strong, spicy, smooth and thick.  I find the brands Colosi Rosso and Cusumano are a modest price and consistently good.

All the wines mentioned have a sale price between $15 – $35.

I hope this has been helpful. I am still exploring wines and have started cooking with them. I often pour a small amount of the red wine into my home-made marinara or pizza sauce. That along with a dash of fennel does wonderful things to a tomato-based sauce. The wine truly does make the meal. Each enhances the flavors and textures of the other. Wine and food are grounding and uplifting at the same time. They taste good and make a body feel good inside and out.

Salute!

 

14 Reasons to be a Frog

You’re allowed to sleep all winter
You can breathe through your skin
You get gorgeous bulgy eyes
Your skin is attractively moist
You have the coolest tongue to catch bugs
No mortgage
Your hands and feet are slender and supple
You don’t have to worry about what to wear
No wristwatch
(Don’t remind me about snakes) (Or cats)
When you’re scared you can dive deep and hide
You don’t have to be brave
You got to be a tadpole back then, very cute
Life is short but you don’t know it

Author unknown

IL Volo at Foxwoods ~ Concert Review

IL Volo brought their Notte Magica Tour 2017 to Foxwoods Resort Casino at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Reservation in Connecticut on March 11, 2017. Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto, and Gianluca Ginoble sang in the “bel canto” style raising spirits and hearts under an icy full March moon. Maestro Joseph Modica conducted a 45-piece orchestra in a two-hour musical Italian extravaganza! The sumptuous cardinal red curtains rose to a full house of admirers in the Grand Theater. The audience looked at them at first with attention and then affection in a terrific performance.

The show opened with the overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” setting the tone for a classical, operatic performance in homage to The Three Tenors. IL Volo received the blessings from the original tenors to continue their goal of bringing beautiful music to everyday people. The magical night was infectious. A patron in the next seat from Saratoga NY had never seen or heard the trio. She came with a friend to get out of town for the weekend. The enchantment of IL Volo swept her up on her feet for every ovation from the crowd.

The play list for this performance is on the CD “IL Volo with Placido Domingo, A Tribute to the Three Tenors”, published September 2016 by Sony Classical Records. The concert with Placido Domingo was recorded live in Florence. Unfortunately, a CD can never capture the charisma of the artists. In person, the trio have a relaxed and confident presentation. Even their walk is light and casually elegant. The song and the music flow together flawlessly. Maestro Modica notably held back the orchestra to allow the singer to give it all to the moment. The ensemble music of IL Volo has the power to heal old hurts, raise joyful energy and excite the libido. These guys are young, handsome men, gorgeously decked out in the finest Italian suits.

A highlight of the show is “Grande Amore”. They won the prestigious Sanremo Music Festival in 2015 with this song. IL Volo bring their energy up and sing with great pride. This is their song, they love it and the intensity is breathtaking. Other crowd favorites are the Italian lament, “Caruso”, the sweet Spanish song, “Cielito Lindo” and, the finale, from La Traviata, “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici.

A tip of the hat to Ginoble for his solo of Rossini’s “La Danza”. He deftly kept pace with the rhythmic lively song based on the traditional southern Italian tarantella. Ginoble is known for his suave, smoky crooning baritone. This tempo is a challenge and this night, he was splendid.

The best way to appreciate Boschetto’s solo performances are to close the eyes and let his voice surround the body. He sings the aria, “Una Furtiva Lagrima”, from Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore”. Boschetto captures the sensual awakening of Nemorino to the wonders of affection returned. His tenor is expressive and emotional. He sings with crisp diction and round, tall vowels. Boschetto’s voice finds it’s way into the tender places inside the listener. However, he goes from serious to flamboyant easily. In a jocular voice, a patron said, “that guy, the tall guy, my nonna woulda called him diavoletto. I mean you could see the little horns coming out from under his hair. Cheeky flirt.” Boschetto has a strong presence on stage and as the show rolls on, builds more and more power into his voice.

In Chinese Astrology, this is the Year of the Rooster. Barone was born into this sign and on stage displays the confident fire of this bird. Gone are his trademark red glasses and crucifix. While exiting the venue, a patron with a lilt in his voice said, “impressive, impressive, he’s just standing there all easy and it comes out like that. It doesn’t look like he’s trying but the voice just wraps around me. I got chills. You know he works hard at that, but I don’t see the effort!” Barone is most appreciated in a live performance. He’s developed his sumptuous tenor filling it with warmth and with every note says, I-Love-to-Sing-to-You. His Twitter profile conveys an acknowledgement of his gifts and what comes with that. “Music is made of all the passions of the world, the good singer chooses one of those and lives it again like nobody else.” Barone’s voice can touch the ear with the lightness of a feather and swiftly create a sensation of being lifted off the feet by the near brilliance of his tenor.

Orchestra Musicians Kevin Cruder Cello and Dana Ianculovici Violin

IL Volo are on tour in North America until early April. A full schedule is on their website, IL Volo Music. In late April, the European leg of Notte Magica begins. They have a busy year ahead with announced plans to travel to Japan and Australia in November. Barone said they have a hope soon to perform their “Ave Maria, Mater Misericordiae” for Pope Francis.

Written by Frances Ann Wychorski, March 13, 2017

Update: March 16, 2017

Viewers may read this article in Italian by clicking on this link. Many thanks to the IL Volo Italian Fan Club for providing the translation. Vi ringrazio molto!