Morgan Library & Museum -New York

Confession time: Don’t let this blonde hair fool you, I am a geek at heart. I love to learn, am fascinated by history and can usually be found with my nose in a book. All of this may contribute to my thorough captivation with museums. When I was younger and travelling with my family, my dad and I would always prefer visiting museums over my sisters’ choice of the closest shopping malls. And if we got our way, we would then have to be dragged out of said museums after hours of poring over each exhibit and their placards.  I have visited museums all over the States and Europe, from the big and famous like the Getty, Smithsonian, Uffizi and Rijksmuseum, to the lesser known and smaller ones like The Titanic museum in Branson (a personal favorite by the way).

Although, I appreciate the plethora and diversity available at the larger museums, I have found I almost prefer the smaller, more focused ones because often times the experience feels more personal than viewing art and artifacts in the more massive spaces of the larger collections.

It’s been over a year since I visited the Morgan Library & Museum with my sister and yet the memory has stayed with me. It is housed in what was once J.P. Morgan’s private library and study, which was separate from his home.

Obviously, any museum which centers around books is going to attract me and as I perused original manuscripts and leather-bound first edition books by every famous author you can imagine in Morgan’s personal study I was in awe. Oh, and completely envious of such an irreplaceable collection. But, as we moved from the study to the library my delight grew.

This collection is not just relegated to books, but extends to art, prints, original drawings, music scores as well as artifacts, like jewels, pottery and more from as early as the B.C years. We saw a Gutenberg Bible, some rare illuminated manuscripts, artwork by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Durer (whose home in Germany I was once privileged to visit), Rubens, Picasso and others. Original scores, some unfinished by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and more. Robert Burns original poems were there as well as Percy Bysshe Shelly’s notebook. I couldn’t help but view these items in reverence realizing that I was looking at pieces which these famous figures had handled, created and agonized over. This type of personal experience is one that makes history come alive.

One particularly moving moment was when I stumbled across an original letter from John Adams to George Washington written during an important battle of the Revolution. I will admit I got teary standing there realizing the significance of these two men and their contribution and that this original letter could have played a part in securing the freedom of the country I love so well. Does that make me a dork or patriot? I’ll let you decide.

Beyond the collections assembled, the interior space itself is a work of art and feels rich and alive, enhancing and adding gravitas to the items displayed.

The museum also offers temporary exhibits which change occasionally. We were privileged to see well curated showcases on both Ernest Hemingway and the book Alice in Wonderland. We both enjoyed getting a deeper and detailed look behind the well-known author as well as the well-loved story. Each display included personal letters, pictures and drawings which added depth to the knowledge and familiarity of both.

I would be remiss not to mention, that this one of a kind experience began before we even entered the museum. We visited on a Friday night and were delighted to find a very contemporary well lit space with a small cafe which offers delicious and well-prepared light meals. The ambiance was enhanced by a small string quartet which played as we ate.

All in all, the Morgan Library and Museum is a rare little gem and one of my favorite recent experiences. If you happen to find yourself in Manhattan and want to avoid the crowds while exposing yourself to some culture found off the beaten path, then I highly recommend the Morgan.

(Please excuse my lack of photography skills.)

The Morgan Cafe produces some beautiful and appetizing food.
The Library is stunning!
A letter from John Adams
Just a little uncompleted piece by Beethoven.

Christmas at the Tulsa Symphony

I recently spent a weekend with a good friend of mine in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her sister-in-law who plays violin with the Symphony gifted us with free tickets.

I have to tell you, we already had plans for another Christmas concert the next evening with two of our favorite artists, so although I thought the symphony would be a nice experience I wasn’t as excited about the evening as I could have been. Plus, although I love live performances of all kinds, I was under the mistaken impression that the performance might become a little dull after an hour or so just listening to musicians playing their instruments.

Boy, was I wrong. This was one of my favorite experiences this year. The show was kept lively by the variety of the performances. At various times, the symphony was joined by The Tulsa Chorus as well as children from both local choirs and students of stringed instruments. You could almost imagine seeing these child singers and musicians as part of the professional symphony itself once they become adults.

The symphony was lead by an enthusiastic and animated conductor who exerted tremendous physical energy in leading this group of musicians. He also added to the show by sharing a personal story as well as brief summaries of the pieces and composers of the music being performed. During the intermission, the teenage girl sitting next to me shared that the conductor was her stepfather which made me extremely glad that I had only made positive yet sincere comments about him while watching the show.  It also kind of personalized the performance sitting next to the conductor’s stepdaughter as well as watching my friend’s sister-in-law play.

There were also appearances by Santa Claus, a local newscaster, and a baritone from the opera. The newscaster was the narrator for The Night Before Christmas and was accompanied by the symphony. The opera singer joined the local high school choir in a performance.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opening medley and the sing along at the end. Also enjoyed were contrasting performances of music from The Nutcracker Suite, both traditional and also a Duke Ellington version, which had a jazz spin. It amazes me the amount of creativity that goes into totally reinventing a well known classic song. A nice surprise was the Hanukkah medley as well as music from the movies It’s a Wonderful Life and the Polar Express.

A few asides of things that struck my fancy:

The piano player was named Lynden Meyer. Now isn’t that a great name for a pianist?!

I told my friend that if James Earl Jones could sing, he would sound just like the operatic baritone we heard. And he looked like him too!

The second half of the performance, the musicians wore their best Christmas gear. One of the violinists on the front row had a sweater with actual lights on it. It was fantastic!

All in all in it was a memorable experience.

Jordan Smith -Tis the Season

I recently saw two of my favorite Christmas music artists in concert. I don’t think anyone is more prolific in putting out Christmas albums than Amy Grant and Michael W Smith. I have seen them both individually and together in concert many times. But this time, I was in for a surprise. And that surprise was Jordan Smith.

I watch very little reality television. So, I wasn’t familiar with Jordan Smith (of The Voice fame) when he came out to share the stage with Michael and Amy. All I can say is…wow! This guy can sing! And not only can he sing, but he is an entertainer who more than held his own on stage with these seasoned performers. He had great stage presence and rapport with both the audience and his fellow singers and even tweaked Michael a little bit which made the audience laugh.

Needless to say, after hearing him perform several songs that evening I knew I had to check out his Christmas album.

Now, I am somewhat of a Christmas music aficionado who has lost count of how many holiday albums I own. This is arguably the largest genre of my music collection. So, when I say that Jordan’s album is a must buy, just trust me.

The album is a collection of both classic and more modern holiday songs. The clean, somewhat stripped down style of music allows the focus to remain on his clear, yet powerful voice without any other distractions.

One of my favorite songs on the album is the jazzed up, humorous Mr. Grinch which I have never enjoyed before. But Jordan’s version is so much fun I can’t help myself. This is the song he performed at the concert which prodded me into checking out this album in the first place.

The other standout to me is It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. This is a song which doesn’t seem to be covered as often as others, and I relished it. But there isn’t a mediocre song in this collection.

This is a great album if you are looking for simple, unencumbered Christmas music and also a great one to have playing in the background. I highly recommend it.

You can currently purchase this album at itunes for $7.99.

Welcome

Well hello there! Welcome to my site. I’m so happy you are here. Let me introduce myself. My name is Brittaney and as indicated on my About page, I’m a thirty something blonde from Texas who loves stories.

I have been blogging somewhat, okay very inconsistently, over the last decade. I’ve always loved to write but have had trouble finding something I was passionate about, something that inspired me, to write. There are several things I am passionate about in my non-internet life, among those being reading voraciously, watching classic (and sometimes not so classic) films, travel and a few other things. I have toyed with writing about each one of these topics as a singular focus, but just couldn’t get excited about it. And then one night as I lay in bed thinking about everything I love a spark was lit within me.

I realized that the common thread behind the things that interest me, the things I can’t seem to live without, is that they all transport me to a world outside of myself, a world that moves me, that makes me think, causes me to grow (sometimes by living in another’s shoes) and always leaves me wanting more. In essence, the common thread is that they tell, create or envision a story.

So now, I had my theme. But, I wanted to write about stories, not as a professional or a critic. I wanted to make it clear that I write from the basis of being a fan, not an expert. I want to write about the things I feel, that are stirred up in me by a good story. I want to write uplifting, positive entries that find the best in the stories that find me. And so, the Story Enthusiast was born.

My plan is to post at least twice a week about books and movies with hopes to post occasionally about travel, music, memories, musings, and/or anything else that resonates with me.

So, please join me here where we can celebrate good stories in every form. I thank you in advance for your support.