Traipsing Round the World in My Traipse Shirt

Traipse Shirt by Ivey Abitz
Traipse Shirt by Ivey Abitz

I love my Traipse shirt and its beautiful fabric of tiny knitted flowers (look closely) in a beautiful, rich black colour. It is so soft and cuddly.

It is the perfect piece to be wearing when one is visiting cuddly bears! More on the Traipse shirt in a moment. But first some background on the cuddly bears.

This May, I once again narrated a children’s show for the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. These concerts are for the youngest members of the NSO audience. (“Is there a concert for me? I’m only three!”)

The concerts are called “Teddy Bear Concerts” and the children are allowed to bring their stuffies with them. There is also an instrument “petting zoo” before the show begins, with musical instruments for the audience to play, touch, and hear. A very nifty idea, I think.

Teddy Bear Concerts come in differing programs but I like to think that our program is special, for it is the only one about bears! Through poetry, music, and visuals, we visit different bears in their native countries. The music illustrates the country. For example, “Waltzing Matilda “ represents Australia and “Reel O’ Tolloch” represents Scotland. We visit 6 countries and I, as the storyteller, use accents from each country for the poetry.

Huge pictures of the bears we are visiting are revealed as we arrive in Scotland, Peru, USA, the Arctic Circle, Bulgaria, Australia, China, and even outer space for a robot-like space bear!

The wonderful thing about this concert is that it appeals on many levels. Adults find it fascinating to learn that all the bears that we see through the program are endangered, and that there is only one bear native to South America – the Spectacled Bear. We know that Koalas are marsupials and not bears, but we don’t let too many facts spoil the image of those lovely creatures as the musicians play “Matilda” and we sing along!

I love doing these shows…so much fun! We worked very hard to make it fun and educational, and the audiences have truly enjoyed it. We did it for the first time last year at the Kennedy Center, took it on tour twice, and then once again this year at the Kennedy Center. There is talk of future performances and all of the concerts have, thus far, sold out!

It is a pleasure to bring music to children. Some even get up and dance. We go with the flow, and the musicians are a delight to work with as are our audiences. Some of the children who have heard this concert when we are on tour have never heard live music before (please see my previous blog entries).

So, where does my Traipse Shirt come in?

The first year at the Kennedy Center, I wore my ever favourite Solomon Jacket in silk weave with a black skirt. [See Lynn-Jane’s bloggings from her 2010 NSO tour.] This year for the tour and the four shows in D.C., I wanted something new from the wonderful IA collection. I had to have a new piece that would travel easily and be easy to move and dance in.

Once again, I asked Cynthia’s advice, and, as usual, her suggestion was perfect. We decided that MY Traipse would be more of a jumper. That is one of the lovely things about IA designs: the flexibility and collaboration of CIA (Cynthia) and the patron. CIA? Isn’t that funny? I call her “Couturier Cynthia Ivey-Abitz.”

At my request, her seamstress made the shirt extra large and loose. I could roll up the sleeves for our “trek,” and I wore it for all four concerts and for a few concerts on tour. It worked beautifully. Cozy, comfortable and beautiful. A lovely black knit that looked perfect on stage!

A couple of the musicians remarked that they had not noticed the pattern on the weave until they saw the shirt closer, and that it was a perfect choice, as most of their wardrobe was in blacks and greys with touches of colour. My Scottish pin of feathers and thistle added the perfect bit of colour to my shirt/ sweater and was an appropriate piece for visiting Scotland.

So, that is how I “traipsed” around the world with CIA. Not undercover, but in the Family Theatre at the Kennedy Center. What a joy!

I leave you with a few lines of the poetry from the show. Adding a bit of a Chinese inflection (little ears cannot hear subtle differences in accents and there are so many in the show, thus I suggest them only). Lots of accent work and listening to tapes as I had to “get it right.” What more could one ask for? Great work, challenging work, neat stuff for children, super audiences, and a lovely new sweater.

Have you ever seen a bear so cute?
He lives in China – a far commute.
You may take a little snooze,
While pandas play in tall bamboo!

My thanks to Paula for the lovely poetry and my colleagues, Lewis, Elizabeth, Paula, and Joe for the wonderful music.

 

Lynn-Jane Foreman
AEA SAG AFTRA
Actor/ voicework

In Shock that I Went to a MALL

by Lynn-Jane of Washington, D.C., an actor on tour with the National Symphony Orchestra wearing Ivey Abitz.
Writing 3 of 3

Arrived in Charleston at 2 PM. Charleston is the capital of W.Va., and the city is quite beautiful…again, on a river. We are in the “downtown area” across the street from a MALL! SO funny, I never go to malls, but there I was, along with at least half of the NSO.

The orchestra arrived on the buses at 2:30PM. Rooms were not ready. For us civilians it’s not usually a problem, but for tired musicians who have a concert tonight at 8PM, it is a catastrophe! Lewis and I arrived at the hotel before the rest of the crew because we had the car.

Tonight’s concert was another “run-out,” meaning the NSO boards yet another bus to go out to Huntington. So, the buses left at 6PM in order to get to the hall for “half hour call.” Thus, everyone was at the mall, looking for something to eat until the rooms were ready for changing, napping or unpacking concert clothing.

Never knew a MALL could be such fun, and the Borders had British magazines! I cannot find UK magazines near me… it was actually a nice MALL (as far as MALLS go). Please forgive the capital letters of MALL — I am still in shock that I went to a MALL. It’s online ordering for me!

While at the MALL, we noticed that most people were wearing black ribbons in memory of the Big Branch Mine disaster. The mine is about 20 minutes from here. All talk today was about the mine.

People here are SO friendly, and when they find out that we are with the NSO, the hospitality is extraordinary. The concert last night was sold out, and the sponsor of the concert (a glass factory owner) gave each musician a glass paperweight and each Maestro a piece of art glass. The staff received a gift as well.

The concerts in Wheeling were sparsly attended as the tickets were $25. The musicans thought that the concerts should be PWYC or free, but the concert presenters did not agree. Last night and tonight were SOLD OUT with standing room only.

Yet, there was no reception for our cell phones in Morgantown. According to the TV reports, when the Red Cross came in to help with the mine explosion, they were flummoxed to find that there were no cell phones and only “dial up service” (whatever that means). Not many extremes here. HA!

Tomorrow is a concert matinee in Princeton and 3 outreach programs including a chamber concert and a small group at an assisted living facility.

On Monday, there is a children’s concert at 10. My husband, Lewis, has a “sectional coaching session” in CLAY county and then we have another “Teddy Bear” concert at 2! There are 9 outreach programs on Monday, including string coaching, in-school ensembles, conducting coaching etc.

The NSO provides everyone with a book for each tour, telling us where we are to be every minute of the day — what time the luggage needs to be in the lobby, what time the buses leave, dress for day and evening concerts, what hotel facilities are available, how long it takes to get to each place, etc., etc. CANNOT do without “the book”….I have forgotten where we are at times…think how the musicians feel?

When we finally got to our room here in Charleston (our last hotel) I was sick to learn of my leaving my Scottish feather pin (on my sweater/ costume for the concert on Monday and my slip) at the last hotel…remember what I said about unpacking? I unpacked these things and put them aside to keep my “wardrobe” together for the concert. Well, I left them, and we did not have the time to drive back to Morgantown. The pin was from Scotland (we go to Scotland in the concert). Needless to say, there was not another at the MALL. Oh well. I guess I am officially initiated into the NSO tour lore!

The audiences have been visably moved when the NSO plays Bach’s “Air on the G String” in memory of the miners…the concert hall is so quiet, no coughing or shuffling… just a collective sigh and a great appreciation of the NSO remembering this tragedy; it happened on the first day of the tour. Some of the musicians wanted to go to Big Branch to play but it could not be arranged. I was astonished to hear that the miner families brought food to the rescue workers, the press, and the Red Cross. Miners are close-knit — families that have been miners for years. The sad truth is that there are few union mines, and mining is the only work available. As a friend of mine said, “Don’t want to go to the mines? Then don’t, but do not expect to find other work in the area that will support a family.” SO very sad and a real wake up call for me.

We leave W.Va. on Tuesday, after the final concert in Clay. It has been a remarkable experience.

I know I have said it over and over, but I have been so taken about by the people of W.Va. that I have met. Absolutely kind. Many have told me that the “hick” status is hurtful and that they are aware of the poorness of the western regions of the state. They may be desperate, but from what I have seen, they are proud and kind.

If only we spent our tax dollars on places like W.Va. and New Orleans and not on wasteful things…. I would rather my tax dollars go for domestic social programs than wars etc. Oh well, not my world…. the coal and petroleum lobbies control. In Europe, there are no lobbbyists, so in Norway (where they drill their own oil) fuel could cost 25 cents per liter, but the people voted to let petrol cost 7$ per gallon, to pay for social programs! They voted in a referendum…. can you imagine this in W.Va. or America? I can only hope that Mr. Obama goes after the mine lobbyists and the oil lobbists…. never happen? I can only hope. We still have the lowest prices on fuel in the world. I have learned a lot in W.Va., and I am so grateful to have been a part of this tour.

This BLOG will be the last as the next 2 days do not provide me with any free time…. so, thanks for listening, and if you ever get the chance to come to the western parts of W.Va., do.  AND I do not mean the Greenbrier….

We got another message from the teachers in Phillipi, thanking us and asking us to return….I hope that we can.

XXX
Lynn-Jane
Editor’s note: For more about the tour, see the tour blog of Emil de Cou,  Associate Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra

How about a dance from West VA

by Lynn-Jane Foreman, an actor on tour with the National Symphony Orchestra wearing Ivey Abitz.
Writing Two

The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) is playing tonight in Glenville. Then, we are all up in the a.m. to travel to Charleston, about 2 hours away. Then, tomorrow night a concert in Roanoke, W.Va. Children’s concerts on Sunday and Monday. Thank goodness, not at 9:30 a.m.

One or two nights in each hotel does not really allow unpacking or relaxing or siteseeing or “having fun.” There are receptions for us, but now I understand why most of the musicians and staff come home and go directly to bed. I am exhausted, and I am not playing each night.

I remember when my husband and I first got married. I thought touring (as do many others) was glamourous, especially overseas. But the first time I went to Europe with the NSO, we did 37 cities in 41 days, two days off at the beginning of the tour, and two days off the entire time we were away. People were tense: reviews, food, taking care of instruments, sickness, etc. Although I was thrilled to be there, it was frustrating to not be able to enjoy all of it. And we thought those ballet tours were hard! When we go to just one country, it is not so hard.

“American Residencies”…it is estimated that 400,000 people have heard music through the NSO residencies, and there has been a residency each year since 1992.

If I was queen and this was my world, I would make sure that children got music, art, and health care and not wars and politics. Not just children, but all people.

The NSO offered to do a benefit concert for the miners, but people here have little money to spare, so they are playing a special piece at each concert in remembrance of the miners that recently died. Charleston (tomorrow) is about 10 miles from the mine that exploded.

The cultural committee of W.Va. is holding a supper for us tonight with an Appalachain buffet and with traditional mountain music. Did you know they award a music degree from U. of W.Va. with a major in bluegrass? AND how similar (of course, look who settled W.Va. – Scots Irish) to the jigs and tunes we have in our show. In fact, we changed a line in the show from “how about a dance from the USA” to “how about a dance from West V-A” The audience loved it – and I did too!

XXX from the freezing West Virginia mountains…..

LJF

NSO tour as a “guest artist”

Bringing Music to the Masses

Lynn-Jane Foreman is an English-American actress working in film, television, and on stage. As a patron and wearer of Ivey Abitz designs, she is generously sharing her thoughts for Ivey Abitz Voices about art during hard times, particularly whilst traveling on tour this spring as a guest artist and narrator with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Kennedy Center
Lynn-Jane Foreman wore an Ivey Abitz Solomon Jacket on stage at the Kennedy Center.

Lynn-Jane’s tour began at the Kennedy Center, and her favourite Ivey Abitz design, the Solomon Jacket, was featured onstage at this very special event. Other Ivey Abitz designs toured along with her as the group of artists traveled their way through West Virginia mountains, taking art to communities and schools that don’t have access to cultural events.

She reveals the less-than-glamourous events of life as a touring artist. She shares her thoughts about the importance of art in everyday life and what it means to share art with depressed areas of the country.

Since many of our readers are artists, Lynn-Jane’s words have extra special meaning; she is an artist writing to artists about art. We at Ivey Abitz thank her deeply for sharing with us.

– Cynthia Ivey Abitz

By Lynn-Jane Foreman, Washington, D.C.

Writing One:

Solomon Jacket by Ivey Abitz
This is the Solomon Jacket, similar to the one worn by Lynn-Jane Foreman at her Kennedy Center performance.

I was the guest artist for the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) at the Kennedy Center, and Ivey Abitz should be proud to know that they were represented at the evening show, featuring the Solomon Jacket.

After the Kennedy Center performance, I began traveling with the NSO as a guest artist. It has been clear to me for many years how difficult these tours are and how much work goes into planning them. I am playing a small part in these concerts, so I have an “insider” view of touring – and this is only a domestic tour! No wonder so many of the musicians find touring so hard. Arrive at 12 a.m. after a concert to a new hotel, cannot find your keys, room, or suitcase, and then someone always misses one of the 3 buses or gets sick. AND cell phones do not seem to work up here in the mountains! This is a very typical day… there are always glitches with rooms, noise, instruments, suitcases, etc. BUT since my husband and I drove (along with others), it was a bit easier on us.

Yesterday, we drove from Morgantown to Roanoke, West Virginia. A long windy ride (yea, Dramamine). We are at a beautiful resort on yet another river. Deer and wildlife all over…. but not anything is nearby, which makes many of the musicians antsy (not that they have a lot of free time) as they came on the buses from the Kennedy Center… about 15 or so musicians drove, as W.Va. is so close.

This hotel is centrally located so that the music outreach programs to the schools are fairly accessible. This morning at 7:30 AM, we drove to Philiipi where we had the first concert, which began at 9:30. It took us an hour to get there (again, beautiful, but hard for someone who gets carsick.) The Dramamine made me so sleepy, I wondered if I would remember what I was to do…

There were 400 children there, K-1st grade. Bussed in from all over. Absolute quiet and well-behaved. Over 90% of the children had never heard live music before. Some of the band members at the local high school acted as our stage crew, as the NSO crew cannot go on all of the outreach programs. For example, there were 12 programs today alone.

The thoughts that occurred to me were many. These children are so eager for art and yet so isolated. They looked at the instruments on the internet beforehand so that the teachers could explain what a violin or bassoon was, or classical music, or the “places” we visited in the story of the program. There were 2 deaf children in the audience, and we let them sit on the stage so they could feel the music vibrations. They also had an interpreter.

This is a very depressed area without resources, and they treated us like “heroes.” They gave us box lunches for the journey back to the hotel. They had water, coffee, and tea backstage for us. They thanked us thousands of times and asked us to please come back. The children were enchanted. We ended up staying a bit longer to talk to them and to show them the instruments. Some of them had traveled 2 hours to hear us.

We performed in the high school auditorium; little lighting, only 3 mics, yet it was PERFECT. My husband and I drove home through very depressed country….lots of substandard housing, etc. I kept wondering who lived in those trailers and what their lives were like. (Actors are like that, trying to get into someone else’s skin.) My husband was also astounded at some of what we saw, and we are not “unseeing people.” How do they make money? Where do they get food? Medical care? Unemployment? How can we deny our citizens social programs? I know, I know, a social monarchist.

Being fairly informed about social issues, I wondered so much about what I saw… perhaps I really have been protected. I was quite moved by the children and seeing this part of the USA.

to be continued…