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#896 – Dick Bernard: Magnifique!* An evening with Mozart’s last three symphonies

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

For subscribers (and all): here’s the May 3 “For Pete’s Sake” concert in honor of Pete Seeger. The originating post is here.

My sister Mary Ann’s continuing posts from Vanuatu can be seen here. Scroll to the June 7, 2014 addition at the very end of the post.


While by no means an expert, I like orchestral music, and a favorite composer is Mozart. So when we dug out our tickets for last night, and they said “Mozart: The Three Final Symphonies”, I was pleased. It would be a great evening at Orchestra Hall.

And it was.

The program: Symphonies 39, 40 and 41, all composed in 1788, when Mozart was 32 years old; all first performed in 1791, the year he died at age 35, less than half my age.

What a life he lived. And what a legacy he left behind. Larger than life in many ways. A prodigy.

I can’t sit still with his music in my ears.

(* – Mozart was Austrian, and thus German language. But the French “Magnifique” as a descriptor works just fine for moi!)

It happened, last night, that a young man took the seat next to me, and was very friendly, striking up a conversation before the concert began. He’d been the Orchestra “years before” he said at the invitation of a teacher at the college he was attended. This concert was “pretty pricey” he said. We chatted, briefly, about this and that.

No question, that he was engaged and enthusiastic about the performance he was witnessing.

I got to thinking about a recent Facebook post I’d received from my daughter, about Grandson Ted, who was 14 yesterday, and whose birthday we’ll celebrate in an hour or two.

The Facebook post included grandson Teddy Flatley’s arrangement of Spanish Flea, June 3, 2014, South St. Paul MN. His Mom, my daughter, Lauri: “Ok… so I have to admit it. I’m pretty proud of this kid. Not that I have ever NOT been proud of him. Today was just a flat out reminder of how extraordinary he is to me. Way to go T Flat. I can hardly wait to see where the road takes you next!”

Happy Birthday, Ted!

Shortly before that, daughter Joni had e-mailed files with music programs of her kids, Spencer and Parker, 14 and 12. I’d attach those audio files too, but don’t have the expertise….

Ted is mathematical, a good aptitude for a musician, and he seems to have settled in with music as a specialty. Spencer and Parker like band, but Trap Shooting and Baseball respectively seem to be their activities of choice.

For all of us, our own way in our own time….

Looking through the program I noticed an upcoming program: Pixar, June 26-28, 2014: Pixar001

This afternoon I’ll ask the three kids if they want to go to this concert.

It will be interesting to see their response.

Great music from the proverbial “old dead musicians” isn’t all there is, but it surely is very important to all of us, especially the young, and I hope the boys stay interested.

There are variations that reach across generations. As previously noted in the blog about the Bugs Bunny at the Symphony concert, fine music and ‘toons go hand in hand.

Could be much worse….

Fine music has to be accessible to and encouraged for young people. This includes pricing and accessibility. Fine music isn’t for only those who can “afford” it.

#894 – Dick Bernard: Remembering Pete Seeger

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

UPDATE JUNE 8, 2014: Here’s the May 3 “For Pete’s Sake” program.

Today, June 5, and Friday, June 6, a very special event, the radio replay May 3, 2014, concert in tribute to Pete Seeger.

As announced by the show producer, Larry Long, “We are happy to announce that For Pete’s Sake: Celebrating Pete Seeger’s 95th Birthday will be aired in its entirety through Heartland Radio (Minnesota Public Radio/The Current) on June 5th, Thursday, noon – 2 pm Central Time, and June 6, Friday, 7 pm – 9 pm Central Time.

Radio Heartland is a 24-hour folk, roots and Americana music stream over 89.3 The Current (www.radioheartland.org and on HD radio at KNOW 91.1 FM HD2 in Minneapolis/St. Paul).”

We had a conflict on May 3rd, so we weren’t able to attend the actual concert. A friend, David, who was there, shared the program booklet with me. It can be read here: Pete Seeger w Larry Long001

More about the concert at Larry Long’s website.

In an e-mail to his list subscribers yesterday, Larry Long also said this: “We are presently looking into the possibility of making both the audio and video documentation of For Pete’s Sake: Celebrating Pete Seeger’s 95th Birthday available to the general public through a KICKSTARTER campaign.”

Stay tuned.

Here’s a memory article about Pete shared by another friend, Kathy: Pete Seeger Remembered001

#890 – Dick Bernard: Dad’s Flower

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Originally published as #889 on May 28.

A couple of days ago, daughter Lauri stopped by and noticed:

(click to enlarge)

May 25, 2014

May 25, 2014

Of course, it’s spring in Minnesota, and the State Flower this time of year is the Dandelion, and the Barbary Bush that is aggressively protecting it is very prickly. So, what to do?

Besides, as she pointed out, and we both know, the Dandelion was my Dad, and her Grandpas, flower of choice for special occasions.

When he was out and about in the spring, and dropped in on the Brashers, or somebody he knew at Our Lady of the Snows or elsewhere in Belleville IL, and Dandelions were in season, Dad’s “calling card” was not infrequently a bouquet of Dandelions, with a certain amount of je ne sais quoi (a pleasant quality that is hard to describe).

He was that kind of guy, Dad was.

I’ve done home-made holiday greetings since 1977, and each year something “speaks” to me and becomes the topic of the annual greeting.

In 1996, the year before Dad died, it was the Dandelions turn, and the resulting simple card is here: Bernard H Dandelion 96001

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “a weed is simply a flower misplaced”. I just google’d “weed flower misplaced quotation” and here’s your daily reading.

Dandelions haven’t received the memo….

Dad, lifelong teacher that he was, would be delighted to know his little and delightful eccentricity (not the only eccentricity!) is being publicized.

Have a great spring.

POSTNOTE: Sad to say, that proud Dandelion pictured at the beginning of this post is no longer visible, at least for this year. I put on some heavy gloves and removed the greenery and the flowers.

But that doesn’t mean its end.

It is entwined with the root system of its host plant, so it will be back, and back, and back.

#887 – Dick Bernard: “What’s up, Doc?” Warner Brothers Presents Bugs Bunny at the Symphony

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

NOTE: The “Filing Cabinet” for items regarding the Minnesota Orchestra Lockout, including far more than past posts, can be found here. Supplements to the below post can be found at May 25, 2014, at the end of the Filing Cabinet.

Feb 14, 2014, very shortly after the lock-out ended, I wrote a brief e-mail to ticketing at the Minnesota Orchestra: “We are ticketed for Saturday evening Feb 15, but cannot attend due to a family funeral in ND on the same day.” A most gracious ticketing representative wrote back: “I am sorry for your loss. This concert was a non-exchangeable purchase, but I made an exception due to the circumstances. I have placed the value ($120) of the tickets onto an exchange voucher for you to use for a future performance.”

We looked at the options, and decided that “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II” sounded like fun.

Thus, last night found us at a packed Orchestra Hall with the real maestro, ever self-assured Bugs Bunny, assisted by on-stage stand-in Maestro George Daugherty.

I cannot imagine a more enjoyable evening. The entire program is here: Bugs Bunny MN Orchestra001 (The usual prohibition on photography, etc., was not recited, thus the couple of photos (sans flash) which appear below.)

If Bugs Bunny comes to your town, see him!

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May 24, 2014, Orchestra Hall, Bugs at the Podium.

May 24, 2014, Orchestra Hall, Bugs at the Podium.

It’s a fools errand to try to summarize Bugs Bunny and ensemble, including a magnificent Minnesota Orchestra filling in for the Hollywood Studio Orchestras so common in the olden days in which Bugs Bunny and his many colleagues came to be well known. Competitors like the Roadrunner, Elmer Fudd and many others shared the screen at one time or another in the evening.

It brought me back to the now old days. In my childhood we very rarely saw a movie, but when we did, the 7 or so minute cartoon was always part of the preliminaries. Over 50 years ago, in college, I spent a year and a half as doorman and assistant manager at the Omwick Theatre in Valley City ND, so saw at least bits and pieces of many cartoons from that era.

The Orchestra music was snuck in on unsuspecting younguns back then, and what a delightful fallout it had. Who in my age range doesn’t remember The Lone Ranger theme from the William Tell Overture?

Creator/Conductor George Daugherty gave extended comments at two points in the concert. Our mostly adult audience was heavily laced with kids, and we were all having fun, but he said we were no match for a packed house of elementary school kids on Friday afternoon.

We’re still very early in the healing time from the 488 day lockout of the Orchestra, just ended Feb. 1, 2014, so that was on my mind too. Back in January, we were faced with the possibility of a permanent parallel season funded by the members of the Orchestra itself. A full line-up of stellar concerts were planned. Last nights program booklet was a clue that Bugs Bunny had been scheduled as an alternative concert before the lockout ended. It is not the usual Showcase edition we now receive; rather the more simple booklet we received during the lockout concerts.

Maestro Daugherty was effusive in his praise of the musicians on stage with him, and presented to them a print by Chuck Jones, the animator and director who built the Bugs, etc. empire.

In his bio (linked above), Jones recalled the power of children imagination: “Jones often recalled a small child who, when told that Jones drew Bugs Bunny, replied: “He doesn’t draw Bugs Bunny. He draws pictures of Bugs Bunny.” His point was that the child thought of the character as being alive and believable, which was, in Jones’ belief, the key to true character animation.”

Later in his life, Jones created paintings of his characters which are now in the Smithsonian Institution. One of them became a limited edition print, and at his appearance in Minneapolis, a print was presented to the members of the Orchestra for hanging in their break room.

It was a neat touch.

I’ve been an activist in the Orchestra situation since it began so long ago, and I recall an early on comment by a retired band and orchestra director in a Twin Cities public school, lamenting the diminished attention to the Arts. She said this June 21, 2013: “As a retired … music teacher, I am aware of the cuts to grades K-12 vocal and instrumental music, that started about 1980. As public schools eliminated music classes, so disappeared the process necessary to build an audience base-development for the MN Orch. If instrumental music is reinstated in grades K-12, today, it will still take 20 years to rebuild the arts tourism community that will purchases season tickets to the MN Orch.”

In so many ways, kids are the future.

Presentation of the Chuck Jones art work to the Minnesota Orchestra musicians May 24, 2014

Presentation of the Chuck Jones art work to the Minnesota Orchestra musicians May 24, 2014

POSTNOTE: Todays Minneapolis Star Tribune carries an interesting perspective by Bonnie Blodgett: Diminuendo: the dying sound of stewardship among the ruling class.

Earlier this week I was at the ancestral farm in North Dakota, a place now going to seed because its occupants have all passed on, save my Uncle, who is now in a Nursing Home and will no longer make his frequent trips to the home place. I brought back a couple of boxes of photo albums, just for inventory and safety purposes, and in the same closet found in a ramshackle weather-beaten case the Clarinet my Uncle once learned how to play as a youngster. In the same collection was a newspaper column sent from my Uncle’s older sister, Mary, dated June 17, 2002: Cousin, Violin maker001 Carl, the subject of the article, played Grandpa’s fiddle with much feeling and expertise at a family reunion over 20 years ago.

My family, like most, is not one of substantial means; like only some, however, it has a very strong musical tradition.

The wealthy, who seem to run things (including into the ground), and are more dominant than ever, need to pay close attention to their real “base”, which is people like us.

from Shirley L, May 25:
A delightful report about a wonderful experience! We all need a little Disney in our lives now and then. Thanks!

#886 – Dick Bernard: Ten Plots

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

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St. John's Cemetery, Berlin ND, May 21, 2014.  Verena's headstone is to the right of the Busch family headstone.

St. John’s Cemetery, Berlin ND, May 21, 2014. Verena’s headstone is to the right of the Busch family headstone.

Tuesday morning we laid Aunt Edith to rest in the St. John’s Cemetery in tiny Berlin ND. Seven family members were there, including Edith’s brother, our Uncle Vince, whose entire 89 years had been spent with his sister, who was 93 when she died February 12, 2014.

The next morning I was talking with a guy I hardly know, my general age, and the topic of death came up. “Do you ever think about dying?” he said, then going on to remember his Mother who died days after a terminal cancer diagnosis; and his Dad, dying just minutes after having coffee with his son, and declining to ride along up to “Jimtown”.

Death is the one constant for every living thing. All we don’t know with precision is exactly when and how.

I’m guessing the vast majority of us hope that when the time comes, at least one other person will care enough to care that we passed on, and will acknowledge that we made at least a little positive difference sometime in the time we were passing time on earth.

I’m also guessing that someone’s death is more a time for the living to reflect on their own lives, already lived and to come. The deceased has no reason whatever to worry about what hymn was sung, or so forth. The ritual varies culture to culture, place to place, but there is a constancy.

Graveside May 21, 2014.  Edith's grave next to that her mother, Rosa, and father Ferdinand Busch.  Fr. Jerome Okafor presiding.  Brother Vincent nearest the car.

Graveside May 21, 2014. Edith’s grave next to that her mother, Rosa, and father Ferdinand Busch. Fr. Jerome Okafor presiding. Brother Vincent nearest the car.

Which brings me to the title of this post “Ten Plots”.

Back a few months, when the possibility of death of one or the other sibling seemed ever more likely, I inquired about burial plots at St. John’s just outside of Berlin ND. The sexton looked at the map and said the Busch’s had ten plots reserved in the cemetery, which surprised me a great deal.

No family narrative exists laying out the reasoning for this purchase; which gives me free rein to speculate.

Ferd and Rosa Busch married Feb 28, 1905, and immediately thereafter moved to their new patch of ground about five miles northeast of Berlin. Nine children were born to them.

In early May, 1927, when the third child, Verena, was 15, she died of peritonitis. Hers was the first family death. It was a devastating event for the family.

Vincent, then two, recalled looking for his sister.

Edith, then nearing seven, was very well aware of the death of her 15 year old sibling.

It was a terrible time for Mom and Dad.

My speculation – and it is only speculation – is that when they purchased the burial plot for Verena in the then-rarely used cemeteries, they purchased lots for their entire family.

Of course, time went on. The youngest child, Arthur, born in Oct 1927, may not have been counted in May, 1927. Except for Vincent and Edith, who stayed on the farm, all the other “kids” moved on. They are listed at the end of this post.

Of the ten plots, only five will likely be used.

But they stand as silent testimonies to life, and to death.

We’re all “on deck”. Make the best of the time you have left!

Certificate of marriage of Rosa Berning and Ferdinand Busch at St. Josephs Church Sinsinawa Mound WI February 28, 1905.  The feather from Rosa's post- wedding hat adorns the frame.

Certificate of marriage of Rosa Berning and Ferdinand Busch at St. Josephs Church Sinsinawa Mound WI February 28, 1905. The feather from Rosa’s post- wedding hat adorns the frame.

The Busch Family: (information is as best known. Amendments are welcome.)
Lucina (Jan 3, 1907 – July 6, 1996) married Duane Pinkney, buried Morris MN
Esther (Jul 27, 1909 – Aug 20, 1981) married Henry Bernard, donated body to University of Houston; memorials at assorted places at Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville IL
Verena (Mar 21, 1912 – May 2, 1927) buried St. Johns Cemetery, Berlin ND
Mary (Sep 26, 1913 – May 2, 2003) married Allen Brehmer, buried Wales, ND
George (Jan 11, 1916 – Jun 23, 1979) married Jean Tannahill, buried Grand Forks ND
Florence (Nov 3, 1918 – May 24, 1996) married Bernard Wieland, buried St. Mary’s, rural Dazey ND
Edith (Jul 20, 1920 – Feb, 12, 2014) buried St. John’s Cemetery, Berlin ND
Vincent (Jan 6, 1925 – )
Arthur (Oct 16, 1927 – Feb 23, 2011) buried Chicago Archdiocese Catholic Cemetery Westchester IL

The “Double Cousins” who lived next farm over, August Berning, Grandma’s brother, married Christina Busch, Grandpa’s sister)
Irwin (no birth date known, died at 6 months)
Irene (Dec 7, 1908 – Jul 15, 1994) married Carl Langkamp. buried Calvary Cemetery, Rockford IL
Lillian (Feb 8, 2010 – Dec 20, 1999) married Walter McFadden
Cecilia (Nov 24, 2012 – Mar 11, 1998) Married Donald Thimmesch. Buried Glendale Cemetery Des Moines IA
Rose (Nov 2, 1914 – Jan 6, 1998) (married George Molitor KIA over Italy Apr 4, 1945; married Ben Van Hoorn
August (Nov 12, 1916 – Jul 3, 1965) married Betty Cisinski
Hyacinth (Nov 16, 1918 – Dec 7, 2002) married Robert Sweeney
Ruby & Ruth (Sep 25, 1920; Ruby married Miles Fitzgerald and is still living; Ruth died in infancy)
Rufine (Feb 21, 1922 – ?) (married Don Anciaux)
Agnes (Sr. Mary Catherine) (Jan 18, 1924 – Mar 23, 1981)
Anita (Oct 20, 1925 – Jan 25, 2013) married Dale Cranfield
Melvin (Apr 13, 1928 – ) married Leola Peters

#884 – Dick Bernard: New Cement: Memories of Grandpa Bernard

Monday, May 12th, 2014
Scene of the action: Caribou Coffee at City Centre, Woodbury MN May 12, 2014.

Scene of the action: Caribou Coffee at City Centre, Woodbury MN May 12, 2014.

My coffee mate Steve and I usually quietly occupy our respective corners by the front window at Woodbury Caribou Coffee. Today he suddenly whipped around to watch the action on the sidewalk the other side of the window.

As action goes, what we saw outside wasn’t much. A guy was by with one of those saws to break the bond between blocks of sidewalk concrete.

The task for the next crew, sometime very soon, will be to take out the old concrete and replace it with new.

Of course, Steve had to quip: “they have to fix the sidewalk so that some old guy [presumably me] won’t trip coming in here.”

Fair enough, but a bit much to take from a young whippersnapper, scarcely five years retired.

Young pup. Who does he think he is?!

Talk got around to sidewalk superintending, and I remembered a YouTube piece I saw a year or two ago, with a cameo of my grandfather, Henry Bernard, watching them pave Main Street in Grafton ND. Turns out the piece was filmed in 1949. You can watch it here. Grandpa appears at 4:15 of the 5 minute video. He has three seconds of fame, maybe, and he’s one of only two old birds who gets his own name affixed to the video.

“Old bird”? In 1949, Grandpa would have been 77, not much older than I am now.

In the fashion of the day, he was dressed up, even to do this sidewalk duty. White shirt, tie and straw hat. He’s pointing out something or other to one of the other nearby folks. He had a first grade education in Quebec, and a first class engineers mind: he had been chief engineer in the local flour mill ‘back in the day’, and he loved to see how things worked. He’s recorded as the guy who drove the first motorized fire truck to Grafton from somewhere or other; fire chief and all around first class guy (and tough in bar fights too, I heard). At his funeral in 1957 all the VIPs of Grafton attended.

Back home I went out for my walk and coming east on Lake Road I approached an older guy standing motionless, looking at something off to the side.

He just kept standing there.

Finally I reached him, and saw the reason: he was watching some guy put new siding on a house.

Just continuing the fine tradition of sidewalk superintending. Doubtless remembering something from sometime.

We chatted a bit, and I walked on.

Thanks, Steve, for the memories.

Re the job specialty: “Sidewalk Superintendent”, the pays lousy, but the hours are good, and sometimes the work can be quite interesting!

From my front row seat, 9 a.m. May 12. 2014

From my front row seat, 9 a.m. May 12. 2014

May 12: As I left,I asked the guy who seemed to be supervisor, “how do you keep idiots like me from walking in the wet cement?” He just smiled. Another kibbitzer remembered working on these crews as a summer job long ago; and wondered if there’ll be someone carving initials before it dries….

POSTNOTE: Like most ordinary people, Grandpa seldom made the news, which for most of us is a good thing.

Some years ago, cousin Loria Kelly in E. Grand Forks happened across a powerful account of Grandpa and Grandma in Los Angeles in the winter of 1942. You can read it here: Bernard Los Angeles 2-42001

#883 – Dick Bernard: Fishing Opener/Mother’s Day (or is it the other way around?)

Sunday, May 11th, 2014
Mom's Day weekend at Heritage House, Woodbury MN, May 10, 2013

Mom’s Day weekend at Heritage House, Woodbury MN, May 10, 2013

Happy Mothers Day, all you Moms out there, whatever your role or gender. You know who you are.


Friday night the local CBS affiliate had its co-anchor and weatherman up in Nisswa MN for the soon-to-begin Fishing Opener in Minnesota.

In the early segment, Governor Dayton was showing, with his hands, the length of his catch last year. Then, he predicted, on camera, the length of this year catch: longer, of course. No one asked for proof. Such is the case for “fish stories”. For a Governor to miss the Opener would be political death, whispered and shouted and topics of billboards and TV ads: “HE DIDN’T GO FISHING ON THE OPENER!”

I dramatize, but only a little. Those guys in the driveway I saw earlier in the week, earnestly talking about The Boat in the driveway, can explain. The Opener is serious business…for those who like to fish. Hopefully there were no stowaways on that boat, critters like zebra mussels about to be introduced in a new lake “up north”.

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Postcard from 1908 sent to Ferd and Rosa Busch, Berlin North Dakota

Postcard from 1908 sent to Ferd and Rosa Busch, Berlin North Dakota

Mothers Day and Fishing Opener have been twins for many years in Minnesota. It is as it is. Doubtless there are negotiations at many homes. The guys getting the boat prepared had other preparations too!

So, also on Friday, we went to our favorite Mother’s Day Flower Market, the Ramsey County Correctional Facility, which annually produces and sells flowers around Mothers Day weekend (the last weekend is next weekend.) As word gets around, this is an ever busier place, and with good reason. Inmates learn horticulture, and as I heard one inmate, a worker, say to a customer about the product he was working with: “they’re beautiful”. One-fourth of the proceeds go to help with program at the facility.

Yes, of course, inmates are also some mother’s son, or daughter…. It’s easy to forget that; as it is easy to forget that there are soft spots even in the seeming hardest of hearts.

There is something about flowers that soften the hard edge of normal existence, even for ones who’ve made mistakes on life’s road.

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Checking some plants, May 10, 2014

Checking some plants, May 10, 2014

Product on display May 10, 2014 at the Ramsey County Correctional Facility Flower Sale

Product on display May 10, 2014 at the Ramsey County Correctional Facility Flower Sale

Give some thought, today, to the Mom’s, and their kids (including well into adult years), for whom this day is less than pleasant for any number of reasons that you can enumerate.

Life is not always a dance to fine music; it can be messy and very, very complicated.

On a display wall at the flower shop was a display of four letters, from an inmate, from a college, and from two others. They’re pictured here. Most likely, you can read them, enlarged. If not, they speak powerfully to what the facility is all about.

Letters on display, May 10, 2014

Letters on display, May 10, 2014

Happy Mothers Day, all.

au Printemps at Heritage House May 10, 2014

au Printemps at Heritage House May 10, 2014

Fresh Rhubarb at Heritage House (think Mom's Rhubarb Pie!) May 10, 2014

Fresh Rhubarb at Heritage House (think Mom’s Rhubarb Pie!) May 10, 2014

#880 – Dick Bernard: A Magic Afternoon with Minnesota Orchestra at Northrop Auditorium

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Today, May 4, is my birthday. We attended a long anticipated performance of the Minnesota Orchestra at the newly renovated Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota.

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If you were actually at the concerts on Friday or Sunday, I’d be delighted to add your comments.
The Minnesota Orchestra “filing cabinet” is here.

Northrop Auditorium University of MN May 4, 2014

Northrop Auditorium University of MN May 4, 2014

The Program was identical to the program of the inaugural concert October 22, 1929. For 40 years thereafter, Northrop was home to what was then called the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. so in a real sense this was a homecoming. Here is the program, very interesting in itself: MN Orch Northrop My 4 14001 A bit more about the program, etc., here, here. Take a moment to read the wikipedia entries there.

We thought the presentation was superb; I’ve looked for evidence that this might be archived, but nothing so far. This was one of the “lock-out” concerts, sold out many months ago. Probably those of us lucky enough to attend will have to be custodians of the memory of what actually happened within the hall: the cannon sounds shaking the seats; the combined choirs of the University of Minnesota; the UofM Marching Band; the encore which brought tears to my eyes, even though I’m not a UofM alumna. Of course, the Minnesota Orchestro, maestro Vanska, and pianist William Wolfram too.

It was a memorable afternoon

The renovation of Northrop was well done; the acoustics very good. We were in the second balcony, sightlines excellent. The essence of the massive structure – its character – was retained; the many deficits of over 80 years corrected.After the final number I took this picture from my seat:

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Mn Orch, May 4, 2014, Northrop Auditorium

Mn Orch, May 4, 2014, Northrop Auditorium

There are times when an event is much, much more than the sum of its parts.

It was a nice sunny cool day in Minneapolis, perhaps about 60 degrees at show time, so we could take our time walking to the hall, and sit enjoying the sun on the plaza.

We passed a bunch of college kids playing some weird kind of team game, sort of like football, using some balls sort of like basketballs, running back and forth with what seemed like plastic pipe between their legs. At each end were what appeared to be three hoops on sticks – like goals.

What in the world…?

John, the library guy, the youngest of the four of us, said quite matter of factly: that’s Quidditch, ever seen a Harry Potter movie? Indeed, Quidditch….

So, we went from the world of imagination revered by kids of all ages – Harry Potter – to the pieces-de-resistance of classical music remembering significant pieces of the 1800s in America and Russia inside a revered Northrop Auditorium.

What an afternoon!

Quidditch, outside Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota, May 4, 2014

Quidditch, outside Northrop Auditorium, University of Minnesota, May 4, 2014

What a day….

from Shirley L, May 5: Hurrah!

from Dick May 5: Tschaikovsky’s signature 1812 Overture, the highlight of the concert, is about the Russian defeat of the French in the year 1812: a victory in war. So it was ironic to see the main headline in today’s paper: “Mayhem wracks Ukraine Seaport” and, for me, to read about the “spread of the violence to Odessa”.

On Saturday I got a birthday card from our friend, Sandy, whose ancestors, Jews, came with other Germans from Odessa to North Dakota in the early 1900s settling in the long-disappeared southwest North Dakota town of Odessa (between New Leipzig and Mott). I believe her given name was Odessa.

We came to know Sandy and others when 40 of we Christians and Jews traveled together to visit sites of the Holocaust, and on my 60th birthday on May 4, 2000, I was honored, along with the youngest member of our group, Sandy’s grandson, Ben, to light a candle in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, near the ruins of the ovens at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

That time at Birkenau on a pleasant Spring day was one of the most powerful moments of my life.

In her note, Sandy “realized [on that trip that] my generation in Germany and the other countries was completely decimated.”

Her note added considerably to my listening to the 1812 Overture.

Our generation must deal with our inhumanity towards others. The practice of War is at the point where we will destroy our future.

from David T, May 5: It’s great that the University and the state decided to rehab Northrup. Back in the late sixties, when I was a U of M student I worked part time as a school bus driver. Getting charter gigs was always great in that it brought in extra cash and often took me to interesting venues. One of the easiest trips to get was “concert patrons.” We’d pick up Minneapolis Symphony (as it was then called) concert goers (or “oldies” as the college-age drivers referred to them) at various restaurants and clubs around the metro and drive them over to Northrup. They had a spot to park the buses and the drivers (still on the clock) were free to do whatever. Usually, once the concert started I could slink into the hall and find an empty seat in the upper reaches of Northrup. Getting paid to listen to a great orchestra was pretty cool. I really thought Northrup was a terrific place. In fact, it’s where I established my claim to have slept with thousands of women as a college student. Psych. 1 was held in Northrup, on TV, at 8:00 am. Many times after a bit too much partying, er, studying, I’d doze off during one of the lectures surrounded by thousands of coeds. Hence, my claim was established.

from Michelle W, May 5: Hi Dick! Happy Belated Birthday! I was waving away at you at the concert, but you didn’t see me :-) I was on the same mezzanine level with you, with my mom, but house left.

Indeed, the concert was superb! I graduated in Northrup in 1987, and our commencement speaker was US Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder – remember her?? I also saw the B-52s there, back in the day :-)

I also sang in the UM Symphonic Chorus during college, and my daughter Libby plays in the UM Marching Band. So…many emotions and memories. I could hardly breathe during the 1812 Overture – the wall of sound was unbelievable and completely intense. Reminded me of how I often felt when singing with the MN Orchestra back in college – immersed in wonderful music!

Add to the music a spectacular sunny day and wow – it was a winner!

I thought the Northrup remodel was very well done. Glad they kept the original entry foyer and love all the new lounges for sitting about before and at intermission. Excellent idea. The only misstep in the redesign, I would have to admit, are the mezzanine sight lines. We were first balcony, house left, and really the entire lefts and rights in the balconies have obstructed views, which is too bad for a concert like last night. So I would advise people to sit orchestra or mezzanine center for full stage views. Wonderful afternoon – birthday hugs Dick! (you can post this wherever!)

from Madeline S: a pre-concert op ed she saw in the Mpls Star Tribune.

#873 – Dick Bernard: Easter, a Beautiful, Reflective, Complicated, Controversial Time

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

It is expected to be a beautiful Spring day in the Twin Cities today. Perfect Easter weather. Of course, not all Easter Sundays have been perfect. We dodged a lot of snow just a few days ago….

(click to enlarge)

Postcard saved by my grandparents at their North Dakota farm dated April 4, 1915.

Postcard saved by my grandparents at their North Dakota farm dated April 4, 1915.

(explanation at end of post)
Basilica hand 4-18-14001

Best I know, the Catholic Church does more with Easter week than most any other Christian denomination. My sister, Mary, near the end of a U.S. Peace Corps assignment down in the South Seas in the island country of Vanuatu, described Easter there yesterday, in an Easter e-mail from New Zealand. You can find her description here, at the very end of this now very long post, dated April 19, 2014.

Good Friday I volunteered to usher at the at noon service at my church, Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis. We ran out of leaflets – they had printed 450. There were perhaps 500 in attendance, more than anticipated.

The Stations of the Cross are always a reflective time. The phrase that stuck most with me on Friday was this, from the Second Station, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus:

“They shared one another’s life for some three years.
They talked together, ate together, traveled together.
That night, he came to Jesus and kissed him one last time…
no kiss of love,
rather, a kiss of rejection and betrayal.

To feel rejected or to feel betrayed is a painful experience.
To be rejected or betrayed by a friend hurts even more.

Who among us has never felt rejected or betrayed?
Or who among us has never rejected or betrayed someone?

Betrayal is an ugly thing.
Rejection tears at the very fabric of our self-esteem….”

You can read that reflection, and all the rest, here: Basilica of St. Mary 2014 Stations of the Cross Presider Book

As years accumulate, stuff happens…for us all. Hurt, and all the rest, is not only one way. Messes are part of everyone’s life.

After the Stations, I walked across Loring Park to have a cup of coffee with a good friend of mine. She’s Catholic, too. Earlier in the morning she’d had breakfast with a couple of Catholic friends, folks I know, who are disgusted with the Church, one because of the continuing unresolved scandal of sex abuse by some Priests (his was a painful personal experience some 50 years ago); the other because, apparently, there’s nothing in the church for her daughter, who’s becoming Episcopalian.

Earlier that morning I’d written a note to a friend who’s being baptized Catholic Saturday night but had almost dropped out due to the latest scandal news last Fall. We had long conversation at her time of crisis last Fall, and after that and many other conversations with other people, she chose to carry on with her desire to become Catholic.

My general advice to her, as I recall: do as you will; we’re a huge church, and the church is all of the people in it, not just some leader or bad apple.

Before I wrote to her, I’d written to the Priest who’s again in the headlines out here. I had and have great respect for Fr. Kevin – he was my pastor in the 1990s, and Diocese Vicar General as well – the point person on the then-abuse cases. A wonderful man.

Earlier this week he’d spent an entire day in depositions because of alleged mishandling of complaints somewhere back when.

I used to have a job similar to his, representing people in trouble, and answering to a boss, so I understand the dilemmas he must have faced when the scandals erupted years ago.

So it goes.

I have no problem admitting I’m life-long and still active Catholic. “Catholic” is, as already described, a very complex term. As usher, I see all sorts of “Catholics” entering the doors, and I will again at the 9:30 Easter Mass this morning.

It is the people who are the Church, and Catholics are a diverse lot, defying a standard description, from least to most exalted…. The U.S. is a diverse lot, too. Even families, as most of us know from personal experience.


A short while ago, on March 27, was when Pope Francis met President Obama in Rome. I was in LaMoure ND on that day, when the new Bishop of Fargo, John Fulda, came by. He was there for a meeting with area Priests, and the afternoon Mass was crowded.

Here’s two photos from March 27:

March 28, 2014 Minneapolis Star Tribune

March 28, 2014 Minneapolis Star Tribune

Bishop John Folda at LaMoure ND Holy rosary Church March 27, 2014

Bishop John Folda at LaMoure ND Holy rosary Church March 27, 2014

If any two people know about differences of opinion and how they need to be respected, it is Pope Francis and President Obama. They represent immense constituencies where differences of opinion abound. I highly respect them both, and I think their common thread is their efforts to set a higher bar for a more positive tone of dialogue and understanding between and among people.

At their level, disagreement is assumed. Their job is to try to set the tone, and they both work on a positive tone.

Our society, of course, seems to place the emphasis on disagreement, “dissent”. When in doubt, go to war, with each other, or against some other. The fact of the matter is that these two international leaders, one representing people generally, and one representing a religious belief, understand another way of communicating: the importance of dialogue, of relationship.

I suspect the same has to be true of Bishop Folda, a youthful, new Catholic Bishop living in a world as he does where not even all Catholics agree with him, much less the rest of the population.


Which leads back to the hand leading this post: I was cleaning up after Stations and found the scrap of paper on the floor.

It was by a little kid, probably, doing some drawing of his or her family, including an apparently recently deceased pet, Buttercup. Somebody wrote in the names.

I like that illustration; no trash can for it! There seem to be seven people and one deceased animal in it, and behind the words are the real lives of these seven people, and all that surround them. Maybe, today, there’s an Easter Egg hunt at their house, or neighborhood. Perhaps candy. Hopefully something with family, a pleasant day (as we know, such days are not always pleasant for everyone.) Tomorrow is the future, and whatever it holds for all of them.

Happy Easter.

Another old Easter card from the ND farm, undated.

Another old Easter card from the ND farm, undated.

POSTNOTE: 9:30 Mass at Basilica was crammed with more people than I’ve ever seen there over the last 18 years of membership. The sanctuary was filled to overflowing by 9 a.m., and the supplementary overflow facility was also filled to standing room only. A far larger than normal crowd is always expected at Christmas and Easter. This crowd was considerably larger than usual.

Lee Piche, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese, was guest homilist (sermon) and had an excellent message which I interpreted as advice to better care for not only each other but for our earth. I was impressed.

Everyone, of course, has their own story about why they attended today.

To me, the only story is that a lot of people showed up….

#869 – Dick Bernard: The Robin

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Today, I happened across a Robin, busily scouting out a lawn along my walking route. Doubtless there have been other Robins around, though not many.

A robin, though, is a sure sign of spring for me. And this was the first one of 2014.

For some reason, this Robin brought to mind the first Robin I remember seeing. It was certainly in the 1940s, as I vividly remember it on the lawn of what we called the North House in tiny Sykeston ND.

Given the setting, I was probably about seven or eight years old.

There was the Robin on our lawn, busily disturbing an earthworm, pulling it out of its underground shelter.

I got as close as I could, and watched for what seemed like a long time, then, but probably only a few seconds.

But the memory stuck, and todays Robin brought it back, vivid as the day it happened many years ago.

It is odd how certain memories stick with a person. This memory begets others: the salamander invasion in Anoka circa 1977 comes to mind.

But rather than reciting my own, I invite you to remember some of your fond memories: those pleasant happenings that just seem to stick around for moments like I experienced a few hours ago.

Good day to reconnect with the old standard about living today, positively, “The Station”. Ann Landers printed in 1997 and 1999, and I kept it.

Have a great day.