Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Up, Up and Away!

In spite of all of our worries and cares right now, life goes on, and it’s far too precious to waste. Last night, I hopped into the car and took a long drive. It was quiet and relaxing, the weather beautiful, and the sunset gorgeous. I couldn’t help thinking about some of the happy music that I’ve heard over the decades, and this song, in particular, popped into my head. I remember listening to this song on the radio at breakfast every morning before school. And, guess what! It’s still a happy song!

The 5th Dimension – one of the best groups of the 1960s. I always loved Marilyn McCoo’s luscious voice.

Have a happy weekend! Do what you love to do! Go where you want to go!

Dawn Pisturino

May 13, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

11 Comments »

Guest Blog: Culture of Pub Music/Ariel Pisturino

(Dublin pub musicians. Photo by Jeremy King, Flickr.)
Culture of Pub Music

by Ariel Pisturino

In 2019, I spent a few days in Dublin, Ireland, exploring the city with my partner. Ireland is a magical place, full of history and folklore. One night, we were out and about and it started to drizzle, as it does in that part of the world. Looking around for a place to duck into, we started to hear some raucous music. We stuffed ourselves into this little pub. It was PACKED with wall-to-wall people, and everyone’s attention was on the group of musicians playing traditional Irish music on traditional instruments. It was such fun and a different experience from being in America. It got me wondering about the culture of Irish music.

Traditional Irish music began as an oral tradition, with generations learning by ear and passing it down. It’s a tradition that still exists today. Irish music originated with the Celts about 2,000 years ago. The Celts were influenced by music from the East. It is even thought that the traditional Irish harp originated in Egypt. The harp was the most popular instrument and harpists were employed to compose music for noble people. When invaders came to Ireland in the early 1600’s, that forced people to flee the country. Harpists roamed through Europe, playing music wherever they could.

The most famous composer/harpist was Turlough O’Carolan (b.1670-d.1738). He was a blind harpist, composer, and singer. He traveled all over Ireland for 50 years, playing his music. He is considered Ireland’s national composer.

The main traditional instruments are fiddle, Celtic harp, Irish flute, penny whistle, uilleann pipes and bodhrán. More recently the Irish bouzouki, acoustic guitar, mandolin and tenor banjo have found their way into the playing of traditional music.

Irish pub songs are part of a tradition of storytelling by the fireside. People used to visit their neighbours, friends and relatives in the evenings after work or on a Sunday after mass, sit with them by the fireside, and share stories. In between the stories there would be songs, usually unaccompanied.

There was a big revival of pub music during the 1960’s with popular bands singing traditional Irish music, usually accompanied by guitar. (Think: The Chieftains.) In the 1970’s, local singers started forming singing clubs to focus on the traditional songs. One of the first singing sessions was hosted in Dublin during the 1980’s. These sessions became more regular and popular amongst pubs to host these groups, and that’s how pub music evolved into what we experience today.

Previously published in the unSUNg Concerts Newsletter, March 17, 2022

Ariel Pisturino graduated from the Thornton School of Music at USC with a Masters in Vocal Music. She teaches part-time at three different colleges and universities, privately in her own music studio, and performs with various opera companies and vocal groups in the Los Angeles area. She is the Curator and Artistic Director of the unSUNg Concert Series, which is dedicated to reviving previously-composed, forgotten vocal music and sponsoring new composers and young vocal artists.

Ariel Pisturino as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore:

Ariel also does a lot of church singing and concerts:

unSUNg Concert Series: http://www.unsungconcerts.com

Ariel’s current project: Musical Director for the student production of Working!:

Find Ariel on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and SoundCloud.

Ariel Pisturino: http://www.arielpisturino.com

~

Dawn Pisturino

March 23, 2022

Copyright 2022 Ariel Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

Mariah Carey – Vision of Love

Mariah Carey burst onto the music scene with her hit single, “Vision of Love,” in 1990. Carey is known for her wide vocal range and ability to glide effortlessly around the musical scale. She has won numerous awards and influenced other pop singers with her dramatic style.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dawn Pisturino

February 11, 2022

9 Comments »

The Spencer Collection at the New York Public Library

(Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library. (1649 – 1700). Zwölff geistliche Andachten, dari[n]nen gar schöne trostreiche Gebet begriffen Retrieved from https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/22c7e880-8efc-0137-d9aa-73feabfb4c3a)

~

William Augustus Spencer, Esquire (1855-1912) was my seventh cousin, five times removed, who descended from the Honorable Ambrose Spencer. Ambrose served as the Attorney General of New York from 1802 to 1804 and a House Representative in the Twenty-first Congress from 1829 to 1831. William grew up wealthy, collected rare French books, and was eventually disowned by his family for marrying a poor French singer. There are no photos of him, as the story goes, because they were all destroyed by his family in a fit of rage. He married Marie Eugenie Demougeot in London in 1884. They had no children. The other key person in their life was Marie’s French maid, Eugenie Elise Lurette.

William Spencer rubbed shoulders with the Astor family, and his nephew married the sister-in-law of Colonel John Jacob Astor IV. The interesting part of this story is that both William A. Spencer and John Jacob Astor died on the Titanic when it sank on April 14/15, 1912.

William’s wife, Marie, and her maid, Eugenie, managed to escape on Lifeboat Number 6, which was also occupied by the Unsinkable Molly Brown (Margaret Brown), who had made her fortune in the Colorado gold mines. Brown received much public attention for her efforts to save other passengers.

William’s body was never recovered. A cenotaph was created to memorialize his death.

William left all of his books and a large sum of money to the newly-established New York Public Library in his will. Read all about it below:

~

A Passenger to Remember: Introducing the

Spencer Collection

by Kathie Coblentz, Rare Materials Cataloger,

Spencer Collection, Stephen A. Schwarzman

Building, June 4, 2010

“A collection … of the finest illustrated books that can be procured, of any country and in any language … bound in handsome bindings representing the work of the most noted book-binders of all countries…”

* * *

“Sometime in 1910, according to an often-repeated story that has acquired the status of legend, William Augustus Spencer visited the new central building of the New York Public Library, still under construction at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. He was impressed—so impressed that he vowed there and then that he would bequeath his personal collection of fine illustrated books in fine bindings to the Library. He then returned to Paris, where he made his home. For his next visit to New York, in April 1912, he booked passage from Cherbourg, France, on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic.

“Spencer was not among the passengers who were saved on the terrible night of April 14. But he had made good on his promise, and when details of his estate were made public, it was found that he had left the Library “a library composed chiefly of French books,” whose value was appraised at $40,779. But this represented only a part of his bequest to the Library; there was more in cash. Moreover, one clause in his will would soon augment the value of his gift considerably.

William A. Spencer's obituary,published in the New York Times, May 9, 1912

William A. Spencer’s obituary,
published in the New York Times, May 9, 1912

“The Spencer Collection of the New York Public Library was duly established, and its kernel, Spencer’s own books, went on display in the year following their donor’s demise. Details may be found in an article by Henry W. Kent in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library, v. 18, no. 6 (June 1914); a catalog of the collection follows. Images of many of Spencer’s own bindings are available in the Library’s Digital Gallery.

“But Spencer’s own books, though they impressively document a certain era in taste in bookbinding and book illustration, represent only a small part of his legacy. In Chapter 18 of Harry Miller Lydenberg’s History of the New York Public Library (1923), available online in its pre-publication form in the Library’s Bulletin for July 1921, the details of the bequest clause in his will were given. Here’s an excerpt:

[Spencer’s] plans for the development of the collection were set forth at length in the tenth clause of his will. Here he directed his executors to convey to the Library on the death of his wife one half his residuary estate, to be invested as a separate fund, the income of which was to be used for “the purchase of handsomely illustrated books” which were to be handsomely bound if not purchased in this condition. He went on to say: “In short it is my wish, if the Trustees of The New York Public Library accept this bequest, that they form a collection thereby increasing the bequest made in the eighth clause of this my Last Will and Testament, of the finest illustrated books that can be procured, of any country and in any language, and that these books be bound in handsome binding representing the work of the most noted book-binders of all countries, thus constituting a collection representative of the arts of illustration and bookbinding.

“Mrs. Spencer died on October 13, 1913, and the fund for the development of the Spencer Collection was duly established. The principles set forth in the will of William Augustus Spencer have guided the Collection’s curators ever since in their quest for the crème de la crème of the world’s bibliophiliac treasures, and the result today is a collection of fine illustrated books, fine bindings, and illuminated manuscripts that is perhaps unsurpassed in beauty, breadth, depth and scope in any public institution in the United States, if not the world.

The Spencer Collection, like other special collections of the New York Public Library, is open to the public, but special permission to use it must be requested in advance.

“In blog posts to follow, I will present some of my own personal favorites among the Spencer Collection treasures that have passed through my hands, as one of the lucky people whose job description includes toiling as a cataloger of these volumes.”

View all posts by Kathie Coblentz

About the Spencer Collection

“The Spencer Collection surveys the illustrated word and book bindings of all periods and all countries and cultures, from medieval manuscripts, Japanese scrolls, and Indian miniatures to monuments in Renaissance printing, illustration, and binding to contemporary livres d’artistes.

“Readers wishing to consult the The Library’s Renaissance and Medieval Manuscripts are required to request and receive permission in writing before their research visits. Please see this page for more information.

“Although not administratively part of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, the Spencer Collection materials are available through the Prints and Photographs Study Room (308) with 24 hours notice and a card of admission obtained from the Print Collection. Spencer Collection items catalogued after 1972 can be found in the Library’s online catalog. For pre-1972 holdings, consult the Dictionary Catalog and Shelf List of the Spencer Collection of Illustrated Books and Manuscripts and Fine Bindings (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1971), found at the Print Room Desk in Room 308 and in the General Research Division, Room 315 with the call number Pub. Cat. Z1023 .N572 1971.

“For further information or to request material from the Spencer Collection: 212-930-0817; fax: 212-930-0530; email: prints@nypl.org.”

~ The New York Public Library ~

In commemoration of my distant cousin, William Augustus Spencer, and his beautiful legacy to the New York Public Library and the world of books. May he rest in peace.

Dawn Pisturino

January 6, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

12 Comments »

My Sweet Lord – George Harrison

(George Harrison. Photo from Grammy.com.)

George Harrison, guitarist and songwriter for The Beatles, died of cancer in Beverly Hills, California on November 29, 2001. He was only 58 years old.

(George Harrison sings “My Sweet Lord.”)
Tribute to George Harrison: Billy Preston sings “My Sweet Lord” with Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George’s son Dhani, and other Rock-n-Roll notables.
~Rest in Peace~

Dawn Pisturino

November 20, 2021

10 Comments »

Autumn Leaves

Photo by Yue Xing Yidhna Wang

In 1955, pianist Roger Williams recorded the pop hit, “Autumn Leaves,” which became the biggest selling piano recording of all times — even today. The song hit #1 on the Billboard pop music chart and earned a gold record. Williams, born in 1924, was a popular pianist who scored 22 hit singles and 38 hit albums during his lifetime. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2011.

“Autumn Leaves,” performed by Roger Williams. Incredible mastery at the piano!

“Autumn Leaves,” performed by Nat King Cole.
Jazz version sung by Eva Cassidy.

Autumn Leaves

The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Giorgio Canali / Francesco Magnelli / Gianni Maroccolo / Massimo Zamboni / Giovanni Lindo Ferretti

Autumn Leaves lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Dawn Pisturino

November 11, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

9 Comments »

Reprise: Concert for the Dead

Story by Dawn Pisturino.

Illustration by Job van Gelder.

Dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Ariel knelt before the marble niche holding the remains of her dead older brother and placed a bouquet of roses in the stone vase. Six months had passed since the horrible night a drunk driver had taken Jonathan’s life. She would never forget.

“Coach Willis still talks about you, Jonathan,” Ariel said, tracing the carved letters of his name with trembling fingers. “Nobody’s beaten your track record. You were the best. You always will be.”

She pulled some sheet music from her backpack. “The opera club is doing Purcell this year. I got the lead role. I’m so excited!” She began to sing:

“When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;

Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate . . .”*

The haunting elegy echoed through the halls of the Great Mausoleum, bringing tears to Ariel’s eyes. As the last melancholy note faded away, the mausoleum doors slammed shut. The lights flickered and dimmed.

Icy panic clawed at Ariel’s chest. She could hardly breathe. Then a long, agonizing scream tore from her throat.

She ran to the entrance and pushed against the heavy metal doors. Locked.  She searched for an intercom or emergency button. Nothing.

“Let me out!” she cried, pounding on the door. “It’s not closing time!”

Voices whispered all around her.

“No!” she howled, throwing her weight against the unyielding door.

The whispers grew louder. “We’ll let you out when the concert is over.”

“W-what c-concert?” Ariel stammered, searching the empty air.

“The Concert for the Dead.”

And then she saw them, gliding down the dark corridors, the eerie inhabitants of this condominium for the dead.

They crowded into the main hall, hundreds of them, the ghastly and the beautiful.

Men dressed in military uniforms soaked with blood, arms ripped away, legs shredded at the knees, and heads split open, eyeballs dangling from their sockets.

Women gowned in rustling silk, faded and torn, ringlets framing faces eaten away by worms. Pale young mothers with tragic eyes, carrying shriveled up babies in their arms.

Dead children glared at Ariel with menacing faces, their transparent fingers clutching moth-eaten ragdolls and time-worn teddy bears.

An orchestra appeared. Skeletons with shreds of rotting flesh hanging from their bones. The conductor raised his baton, and the slow, plaintive strains of a violin filled the air. He turned and looked at Ariel with one putrid eye, motioning her to begin.

I know this song. I can do it. Shaking with fear, she dug her fingernails into her palms and began to sing:

“None but the lonely heart can know my sadness

Alone and parted far from joy and gladness . . .”**

She sang until the sun disappeared and the stained glass windows lost their color. She sang until the moon ran its course and the stars began to fade. Finally, her throat too parched and raw to continue, she pleaded:

“The concert’s over. Please let me go.”

Hushed whispers rippled through the audience. Then a lone figure broke through the crowd.

“Jonathan!” Ariel cried, grateful to see a familiar face.

Smiling, he extended his arms to her. “We don’t want you to leave,” Jonathan said, drawing her close. “We want you to sing for us forever and ever and ever . . .”

Cold waxy fingers tightened around her throat. In the background, the orchestra played a quiet requiem.

* * *

When the groundskeeper found Ariel’s body the next morning, he noticed two peculiar things. Her throat was purple with finger marks, and her hair had turned completely white.

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino, Job van Gelder, and Asheka Troberg. All Rights Reserved.

This story is dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Published in the November 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree. Read it here.

Published on Brooklyn Voice, February 2012.

Artwork by Asheka Troberg.

*“Dido’s Lament,” from Dido & Aeneas by Henry Purcell

**“None but the Lonely Heart,” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and J.W. Goethe

Artwork by Jason Smith. I commissioned this Concert for the Dead artwork for my daughter, Ariel Pisturino, as a gift.

Copyright 2011-2021 Jason Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Happy Halloween! Make it scary!

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

11 Comments »

Puttin’ on the Ritz

I’ve read that performer Michael Jackson was a big fan of Fred Astaire and studied his dance techniques. This became obvious in the style of some of his costumes, and in his own dance routines.

One of my favorite dance numbers by Fred Astaire is “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” The song was written by Irving Berlin in 1927 and published in 1929. In 1930, it became the central theme of the musical, Puttin’ on the Ritz. (See video below.)

The phrase “puttin’ on the Ritz” meant dressing fashionably in the slang of that day. The “Ritz” referred to the Ritz Hotel in London, England.

Fred Astaire performed his famous dance routine in the film, Blue Skies (1946). (See video below.)

Mel Brooks included a dance scene using Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in 1974, in the movie Young Frankenstein.

The song and the dance were revived by the Dutch singer, Taco, in 1982 and became an international hit – MTV even aired the music video.

The music is still catchy, and makes you want to get up and dance!

Fred Astaire version (1946), courtesy of Drive-In Movie History on You Tube (includes a short clip from Young Frankenstein):

Taco version, courtesy of Taco on YouTube:

Harry Richman version (1930), courtesy of Addehiovy on YouTube:

Ritz Hotel, London, England

Dawn Pisturino

September 29, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

7 Comments »

unSUNg “Perceptual Mishmash” video benefit concert

My daughter, Ariel Pisturino, is the Artistic Director, as well as a performer, in the new unSUNg video benefit concert series. Click on the link to listen to this amazing group of musical artists, performing new and forgotten musical masterpieces.

(The link has expired.)

All donations benefit Water Warriors United, a group of dedicated Navajos who transport water supplies to the disabled and elderly on the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Visit their website at:

http://www.collectivemedicine.net

Enjoy!

Dawn Pisturino

Leave a comment »

A Special Christmas Gift from My Daughter

For Christmas, my daughter took my poem, “Butterfly, Butterfly,” and had it set to music by composer and film maker Barry Gremillion. Then they recorded it for me. I cannot tell you how touched I was by this loving gesture. Thanks, Ariel and Barry!

CD cover: click photo to enlarge

Butterfly CD cover

2 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: