Thursday, September 25, 2014

And The Winner Is..

Reverend Ray Welles shows me a rock wall in the Pilgrim Congregational Church. Parishioners gathered the rocks themselves to help with the construction.

And the winner is. . . us!

A few days ago the adorable and spunky Sue Lang rushed through my office door, excitedly waving a piece of paper. "We won! We won!"

Sue was there to tell me that we had won the Governor's Historic Preservation Award for 2014 for The Wright Time, a documentary film we had collaborated on about the building of the Pilgrim Congregational Church, one of the last buildings designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright before his death.

The Wright Time was a joint Jefferson Public Radio/Shasta Historical Society effort. It was the brainchild of Sue Lang, who serves on the board of the Shasta Historical Society, who recruited videographer and co-board member Charley Williams and then asked me if I'd perform the interviews and narration for the project.

I jumped at the chance, because I've always had a fondness for local history, and I'd been in the Pilgrim Congregational Church a few times, and have been mesmerized by the rock walls and the angles of pretty much everything in the building.

 Over the course of several months, Charley, Sue and I met with about ten people who had been involved in the building of the church, including former church pastor Ray Welles, several parishioners now in their 80's and 90's, and a number of youngsters in their late 50's, who really were just youngsters back in 1960 when ground was broken on the last holy place Wright designed, but never had the opportunity to visit.

 We ended up with about 12 hours of footage. Poor Charley, who had to slog through all those interviews, trying to figure out what to include and what stayed on the cutting room floor, and how to put it all together in a way to artfully tell the story of the little congregation that could, and how the they built a world class design with their own bare hands because they couldn't afford to hire someone else to build it for them.

 We found out that families would go out on the weekends and bring back loads of boulders, which were later used to create the walls of the church. We learned how the triangle designs in the floors and in the windows represent the holy trinity. We also heard from pretty much every single interviewee that when it rains, the roof leaks. In fact I could see a stream of water running down one of the rock walls while I interviewed Ray Welles during a stormy November morning.

 I learned a lot, and we ended up with an amazing film.

The Wright Time. We held the premiere at the Cascade Theatre last Spring with an audience of at least 800. A few months later Whiskeytown Park archeologist Danica Wright nominated the project for the Governor's Historic Preservation Award. The honor recognizes individuals and organizations whose contributions demonstrate significant achievements in preserving the heritage of California. It's the only award given by the state for historic preservation, and we didn't think we had a chance.

 It's rarely bestowed upon a film, although a few years ago it was presented to a group of producers who created a documentary about San Diego. In my research, I only noticed one other award going to far northern California, and that was for a cultural gathering in Humboldt County related to the history of the Karuk Tribe. So yeah, chances were slim.

 But we won!

 We'll travel down to the state capitol in mid-November to receive our award. If you're interested in seeing the film, it's available for purchase (and mayhaps for viewing) at the Shasta Historical Society, and there's a good chance it might be shown on local television in the near future. You can read more about the honor, check out a photo slideshow and even listen to a Morning Edition piece that incorporates some of the interviews from the film that was produced when the film premiered on the JPR website.

 In the meantime, I'm basking in the glory of hard work paying off in amazing rewards, and I leave you with a playlist of songs that pay tribute to winning, great architecture, and there's even one song paying tribute to the late great Frank Lloyd Wright. Enjoy by clicking on the play arrow below, or going clicking through to the Grooveshark website!
Winning by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. We Are The Champions - Queen 
  2. You Win Again - Jerry Lee Lewis 
  3. So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright - Simon & Garfunkel 
  4. An Architect's Dream - Kate Bush 
  5. You Win - Cats on Trees 
  6. Win With Me, Baby - Roomful of Blues
  7. Win Your Love For Me - Sam Cooke
  8. Win Some, Lose Some - You Me At Six
  9. To Win The World - Puggy
  10. Like A Champion - Selena Gomez
  11. Champion - Buju Banton
  12. Lyric Architect - Westbound Train
  13. All I Do Is Win - DJ Khaled
  14. Win - David Bowie
  15. Win, Lose or Draw - The Allman Brothers
  16. First Place Winner - Lil Wayne
  17. We've Won - The Who
  18. Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect - The Decemberists
  19. The Architect - Monty Python
  20. Award Tour - A Tribe Called Quest

Thursday, September 11, 2014

And The Beat Goes On

It's no secret that Pink Martini is pretty much my favorite band in the world. My crush first developed the first time I heard the French lyrics to "Sympathique," while vacationing in Greece, and I fell head over heels when I was introduced to a live bootleg of "Hey Eugene."

I've seen them in concert five times, and cried salty tears over the performances I had to miss, like the time I was stuck in Redding while the rest of my family was in the front row at their New Year's Eve show in Portland that was broadcast live on National Public Radio.

But the real tears - real, actual tears - came a few weeks ago when I got the news that Derek Rieth, one of the founding members of Pink Martini had died. I was prepared to hear that he'd been in a horrible bike accident, or died from a sudden, undiagnosed brain aneurysm. But when I heard it was suicide, I was in shock all over again. I wasn't prepared for that.

I still don't really know how to adequately express how I feel about Derek Rieth's passing. But I'll do my best.  I know I'm going to sound like every single other person on the planet who mourned Robin Williams' suicide ( which was just days before Derek's), but I am having such a difficult time understanding how someone so talented, so creative, and so universally loved, would take his own life.

And this might sound a little bit selfish and totally self-centered, but I'm devastated that someone who made me so happy by giving me one of the greatest gifts I've ever received could selfishly take himself away from the rest of the world.

You might have been there, actually, when Derek gave me that gift.

It was almost five years ago. October 5th, 2009. Pink Martini's first appearance in concert at the Cascade Theatre. I could barely contain my excitement, knowing that not only did I have front row seats for the entire family (I pulled strings, I called in favors, I resorted to guilt tripping), but I was also going to introduce my favorite band in the world.

If you were there, you might remember that I joked from the stage that night that I'd pushed China Forbes down the Green Room stairs and she'd broken her ankle. I said I'd be replacing her that evening as lead vocalist (not true), but everything was cool because I knew all the words to all their songs (totally true).

I finished the introduction, and then skedaddled off stage, but hung out side stage for a moment until all ten members of the band entered and started to play, led by pianist Thomas Lauderdale, with his adorable spiky platinum hair and thick black rimmed glasses.

Derek, the percussionist, was still standing backstage. We chatted for a moment, and he complimented my beautiful green necklace, which was actually silver, but was glowing green as it reflected the exit light by the stage door. And then he said, "Hey, do you want to come back up on stage during the encore and perform with us?"

Have you ever had one of those "I'm so happy I could die right now" moments? That was mine. Derek had just given me the best. gift. ever. I mean, seriously. Would I like to perform - really, actually perform - with Pink Martini? Hell yes!

Could it get better? Hell yes! Later, he pulled me aside during intermission and told me that he'd seen the kids with me in the front row (my daughter Sophia and my godson Garrett), and he told me I should bring them along too.
My friend Edie captured the moment. China Forbes is singing Brazil at the Cascade Theatre. That's Derek, behind the red congas.  Sophia is in the blue t-shirt, Garrett is the short guy between us, and then me.
If I could compare that evening to any other time in my life, I'd have to say it was like my wedding last year. Glorious, wonderful, but my memory's a little hazy. Just like my wedding day, I think I was just so excited that I'm not sure I ever stopped to breathe and take in the moment. I recall writing that I was grinning like a fool, and felt like the luckiest woman on the planet at that moment. Derek let us choose between a smattering of instruments (I think I had maracas or some Brazilian clacking sticks that my Dad would know the correct name for), and we joined the percussion team for their last song, Brazil. Derek was at my right, playing madly on the congas, while China Forbes sang her heart out, and I did the same, only without a microphone.

Playing with Pink Martini was truly a dream come true, and I have Derek Rieth to thank for it.

I thanked him then, profusely I'm sure, and I probably thanked him all over again when I introduced them again last year when they returned to the Cascade. But I won't get that opportunity again, because he's gone. Took himself out of the game.

And I'm so disappointed, because that guy was loved. By a lot of people. He wasn't just the percussionist and one of the founding fathers of my favorite band. He had an insatiable appetite for music, and traveled around the world to understand the rhythm behind the music of other cultures, and brought it back home. He was revered as the guy who made Samba popular in Portland, and co-founded the popular and provocative percussion & dance ensemble Lions of Batucada. He surrounded himself with bongos and congas, and he even made the triangle cool.

He also had a deep, tender, sensitive heart, and struggled with depression.

He left a note that said he wished he could love himself as much as others loved him.

I wish that for you too.

So it's with a pretty heavy heart that I share today's playlist. Music from my favorite band, featuring my favorite percussionist, a guy who helped give me the best day ever. Every single one of these songs is from the Pink Martini songbook, even the very last one, which is so fitting for today's playlist, even though it features the unmistakeable voice of the late Phyllis Diller, and Derek sat that particular one out.
RIP Derek Rieth by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Sympathique - The one that got my attention
  2. Hey Eugene - The one that made me fall in love forever
  3. Brazil - Their signature encore, the one where I got to stand next to Derek on stage
  4. Hang On Little Tomato
  5. Bolero - The one I can actually play on my radio show
  6. Amado Mio
  7. Donde Estas, Yolanda
  8. Sway
  9. Syracuse
  10. Tuca Tuca
  11. And Then You're Gone
  12. But Now I'm Back - The one where another public radio guy, Ari Shapiro, sings with the band
  13. Una Notte A Napoli
  14. Mas Que Nada
  15. Everywhere
  16. Quizas, Quizas, Quizas
  17. Smile (featuring Phyllis Diller)