Honeybees In Lavender

bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee

    We visited a lavender farm a few miles east of town, up the McKenzie River highway between Walterville and Leaburg.  The sweet fragrance of the lavender was everywhere, the many plants laid out in neat rows.

bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee

But alongside the floral aroma was something else - a low, constant humming vibration.  Getting down to lavender flower level, you can see where that sound was coming from: thousands of honeybees, busily doing their mid-summer foraging.

bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee
bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee
bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee

These busy honeybees are usually moving from flower to flower too fast to get a good picture of them, or to get an idea of how many there were.  In the photo below there are at least eight or nine of them in this one small area, as well as a possible bumblebee:

bee, bees, lavender, Oregon, McKenzie River, Walterville, Leaburg, summer, flower, Cascades, Willamette Valley, lavender farm, honeybee

I wonder what lavender honey tastes like?

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All photos taken with a Lumix ZS-25 pocket camera.  Click or tap on any picture above to see larger, higher def images.

Wednesday Bach Blogging: The Swingle Singers, Jazz Sébastien Bach


    The totally astounding Swingle Singers, from their 1963 album Jazz Sébastien Bach (also known as Back To Bach in the US), performing Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major, part of Johann Sebastian Bach's Well Tempered Clavier Book 1, BWV 846.

The member credits listed on online music download sites, as well as on web videos of the Swingle Singers, are often not quite correct.  The actual credits for this recording, along with identification of the members in the photo, are:

[back row; left to right]
Anne Germain (2nd Alto)
Claudine Meunier (1st Alto)
Christiane Legrand (1st Soprano)
Jeanette Baucomont (2nd Soprano)

[front row; left to right]
Jean-Claude Briodin (1st Bass)
Jean Cussac (2nd Bass)
Claude Germain (1st Tenor)
Ward Swingle (2nd Tenor)

[not in the photo]
Pierre Michelot (Double Bass)
Gus Wallez (Drums)
Andre Arpino (Drums)

Until the original group disbanded in 1973, the member lineup changed somewhat.  Some of the other Swingle Singers during that time were:

Alice Herald (Alto)
José Germain (Bass)
Hélène Devos (Alto)
Joseph Noves (Tenor)
Nicole Darde (Soprano)

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Ward Swingle (1927 - 2015) led what might be considered a storybook life: a kid from Mobile, Alabama moves to Paris, gets involved in the musical scene there, creates a whole new way of crafting vocal music, founds a singing group that is still rocking out to this day, and gathers multiple Grammies and numerous other awards along the way.  And with such a great last name - Swingle - it was meant to be.

The Swingle Singers had a lot of devoted listeners during the time the original group was together, and for good reason - their music was, and remains, deep, intelligent, harmonically complex, and it rocks and it swings.  When I was a kid, I was a big fan of The Swingles, and I guess you could say I still am.

Rémi C.'s fun and informative blog Dans l'ombre des studios has interviews with, and articles about, former members of the first, Paris based edition of the Swingle Singers, as well as lots of other cool stuff, such as vintage photos, and even a previously unreleased studio track.  The site is en Français, and as usual, hilarity results when a browser's translate function is used.

Here's one of the photos from that blog:


A picture of the group as they gigged around the world back in the 1960s:


Something else from the original Swingle Singers: the first (Vivace) movement of the Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo in D minor, BWV 1043.  Not only does it swing from beginning to end, but their vocal performance, rather than the usually heard orchestral instrumentation,  really accentuates Bach's complex multi-layered polyphony:


And a live performance from 1969: The Swingles doing Bach's Partita No. 2 Sinfonia.  After a slow, meditative first part, the tempo quickens, and they really get grooving: a great mix of Bach's genius music and the swinging power of Jazz Vocalese à la Swingle.

At Crown Point

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30,

The vistas at Crown Point are amazing.  When the Columbia River Highway, the first road to be paved east of Portland, was built just prior to World War I during the 1910s, it was intentionally routed to be picturesque rather than practical.  During that era, when there were few, if any, paved roads in most parts of the country, goods and passenger traffic went via steam powered railroads and ships, and automobile use outside of cities was mainly for day trips and excursions.  The old highway winds through the hills and bluffs of the Columbia Gorge, with many scenic turnoffs, picnic spots, and places to take in the grandeur of this part of Oregon, including Multnomah Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, and Vista House at Crown Point.

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, Takeo Anderson Clifford, Tayo, sundown, sunset

As we were going up the winding road to the point, we drove through a summer hailstorm; the hail stopped and the sun came out just as we got to Vista House.

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, Takeo Anderson Clifford, Tayo, sunset, sundown

Crown Point is a great place to be at sunset; here's a few more shots taken while we were there:

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, sunset, sundown
Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, sunset, sundown
Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, sunset, sundown
Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30, sunset, sundown

In a couple of the photos above, you can see Interstate Highway 80 far below Crown Point, running next to the railway along the Columbia River.  Built in the 1950s and '60s, this expressway is made for speed rather than beauty, and modern travelers and giant semi-trucks can conveniently propel themselves to their destination without being bothered by the wonders of the natural world.

Here's a couple more pictures, that we didn't take; the first is a scan of an old postcard, and the second is something from the 'net showing a long shot of Vista House and its location:

Columbia River Gorge, Vista House, Portland, Historic Columbia River Highway, US 30,

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Most of the photos were taken with a Lumix TZ-3 (Travel Zoom) pocket camera.  Click or tap on any picture above to see larger, higher def images.

Canoe Day Out - Messing About In A Boat

canoeing, Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling,





Kenneth Grahame's classic, and so very British, The Wind In The Willows is one of those books that can be read every couple of years, without ever tiring of itAnd every time I do, I suddenly want to get out on a river.  And like Ratty and Mole, go messing about, in a boat:

Messing About In A Boat

"This has been a wonderful day!" said [the Mole], as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. "Do you know, I've never been in a boat before in all my life."

"What?" cried the Rat, open-mouthed: "Never been in a—you never—well I—what have you been doing, then?"

"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing..." he went on dreamily: "messing—about—in—boats; messing-------"

"Look ahead, Rat!" cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

Packing A Picnic Hamper

Along Ratty's upper reaches of the Thames or the River Pang or wherever it is he happens to live, being out on the river is a peaceful experience.  Many centuries of landscape domestication, since the time of the Roman occupation, had tamed the flow, and whole series of weirs, locks, and diversions into canals resulted in calm, slow moving streams, perfect for a relaxed, dreamy day out in a boat.

On The River

Unfortunately, we don't live in England; here in the western U.S., the rivers tend to run fast and relatively wild.  Boaters out west take their fun seriously, often in deadly earnest: zooming up and down the Rogue or Klamath or Snake Rivers in supercharged jet boats; running whitewater rapids in tiny solo kayaks or giant 20-man inflatable rafts full of screaming tourists; or pulling skiers at top speed around reservoirs in 500 horsepower water hot rods with dodgy mufflers.  Not much chance of a quiet, peaceful day out, sculling around a slow moving river in a pram or a skiff - and, it's difficult finding a small row boat out here, since no one does that sort of thing.

A few months ago, at an acoustic instrument jam party, I happened to mention, after a couple of beers, that I was looking for a boat.  Friend Randy (a genius mandolin, fiddle and guitar player) said "Well, how about a canoe?  I have one I don't use any more."  A canoe... wow... I hadn't thought about a canoe.  So, okay, done thinking, how much?  "Does $100 sound good to you?  I'll throw in a couple oars, too."  Sold, on the spot, sight unseen, let's shake on it, and have another beer.

It turned out to be a really nice, high quality canoe: a Northwoods brand, made in Spokane, Washington.  About 15 feet, not too heavy, and unsinkable, which is some kind of relief, less to worry about.  Fits nicely atop the roof rack on the Oasis:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, Isuzu Oasis, canoe launch

Okay, we have a canoe, now where can we have a relaxed, Wind In The Willows type of day on the water?  We don't live right on the riverbank like Water Rat does, yet it would be nice to have some aquatic fun fairly close to home.  The Willamette River runs through town, but it's not exactly peaceful and calm - the current is strong enough that all boating is a one way trip downstream, with numerous shoals and rock hazards: fun in a different way.

There are some stretches of the Willamette that back up behind shallow dams, bars, and locks, with water calm enough for leisurely paddling, but those are some distance north, closer to Portland, and not here.  A few lakes and reservoirs are also within a 100 mile radius, but that's also not here.

Check out this spy satellite image:


That's about smack dab in the middle of the greater Eugene-Springfield mini-megalopolis.  South of the river you can see the university (Duck U.); north of it is the big football stadium (Duck U. Field), and the beginnings of inner outer suburbia.  The big, fairly empty, fairly green area in between is a city park, formerly a giant sawmill, and now a sort of green-belt semi-natural open area.  With bike and running paths, three pedestrian bridges over the river, a soccer field, an outdoor events area, musical amphitheater, kid's science center, and lots more, it's a cool place for sure.

In the center of the shot above, there's an oblong-ish pond, with a waterway coming into it from the east, and flowing out towards the west.  That stream was originally a mill race for the old sawmill, and the pool was a log holding pond for that mill.

Not so long ago, the Cascade Range east of here was swarming with loggers, busily leveling the old growth forests, and sending giant logs down the river to the big sawmills along the Willamette in Eugene and Springfield, all of which are now shut down.  Except for a few books, such as Ken Kesey's monumental Sometimes A Great Notion, it's a part of Oregon history that has mostly gone down the digital memory hole.  And in our town, now populated by hipsters, college students, retirees, californians, and transient derelicts, most people are completely unaware of this area's recent past, at the very tail end of the Industrial Age.


A web search brings up no mention of the name of the old mill north of the university, and the city's website would have you think this was always a park.  In any case, after that sawmill closed down, someone came up with a plan to turn its mill race into a couple miles of boating waterway - a great idea.

Over the border to the east, the city of Springfield has allowed the upstream portion of the waterway to get choked up with fallen trees and other debris - it's still marked as a "canoe path" on their park maps, but you can't actually canoe it.  Maybe someone should go talk to Mayor Quimby:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, Springfield, clogged, choked, waterway, fallen trees

Possibly due to a more efficient parks department in our town, the canoe way in Eugene is open, and beautiful.

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing,

Over time, the banks of the old mill race have gotten nicely grown over with grasses and shrubs, reeds, lilies and other aquatic plants, as well as the willows, alders, and other trees along the stream.  Also, what's really great is that hardly anyone knows this boating way exists, and whenever we're paddling around here, there's no one else out on the water, and you rarely see another human.  Besides the faint background sounds of the city, it's easy to imagine that we're way out in the middle of somewhere.

We took along a picnic hamper, just as Ratty and Mole would do, and had a calm and leisurely paddle.  And saw a lot of birds.

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, heron, blue heron, waterway

This big heron landed in the water near the south bank, its huge wings spread out as it floated silently down, until it touched the surface of the stream with barely a ripple.  I should have had the camera out for that, but all I could do was watch amazed.

Most of the birds pretty much ignore you when you're boating, but if you're walking along the bank, they'll fly or paddle swiftly away.  On the waterway, you're just another aquatic animal.  Here's a family of ducks:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, ducks, duck family
Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, ducks, duck family
Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, ducks, duck family

The pictures are not the best - the old beater Elph pocket shooter was the bee's knees back in 2006, and it still takes shots as good as it did when new, but technology marches on, and now it's our disposable sports camera, and if it drops into the water, no big loss.

We saw a kingfisher, who would wait until we got almost close enough to take a picture, then fly a couple hundred feet downstream, laughing all the way.  A few geese, but I forgot to get the camera out of the vest pocket, since we were having fun paddling along right in the middle of their gaggle.  There were hawks circling high overhead; little chickadees calling from their perches on streamside willows; a cormorant dived straight down at speed, beak first into the water a long way upstream; and swallows darted quickly over the water in pursuit of their bug lunch, almost too fast to see.  Didn't get a picture of a swallow, but under one of the bridges were some of their nests, built of mud, and precariously attached underneath:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, swallows, swallow nests, under bridge

It was perfect weather for a British style float on the water - mid 70s (23-25º C), mostly overcast, very light breeze.  At one point we thought we were in for a soaking; the clouds got darker and disturbed looking, and you could watch sheets of rain floating earthward, but only a few drops hit the surface of the stream:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, waterway, sky, clouds, rain

Weather like this always makes me sleepy, especially after lunch, and I'm not alone.  It is said to just let sleeping ducks lie:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, waterway, sleeping duck

Along the banks there's a good variety of water loving plants; here's one of them, an unknown kind with nice yellow flowers:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, waterway, yellow flower

Coming back down current, after turning around at the weir upstream, there was another heron on the north bank; possibly it was the same one we had seen earlier.  Just so you know, the old camera has very little zoom - we were actually this close to the big bird:

Eugene, Oregon, Alton Baker Park, canoe way, canoeway, boating, summer, water, stream, paddling, canoeing, waterway, heron, blue heron

It was another perfect day on the canoe way, peaceful slow paddling, enjoying the time and the place, and just messing about.  In a boat.

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Click or tap on any picture above to see larger, higher def images.  Most photos taken with an ancient Canon Elph SD550.  Excerpt from The Wind In The Willows, by Kenneth Grahame (1908); illustrations by Earnest H. Shepard (1933).  Sawmill photo courtesy Old Mill District, Bend (not Eugene), OR.

Wednesday Bach Blogging: Angela Hewitt, Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971


    Angela Hewitt in a 2007 performance of the first movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's Italian Concerto, BWV 971, in F Major.  This work, titled in Deutsch as Concerto nach Italienischem Gusto or "Concerto According To The Italian Taste", was published in 1735 as part of Bach's second folio of keyboard exercises (Clavier-Übung).

During Bach's time, the Italianate Concerto form, a style of musical composition having three distinct movements (an up-tempo opening movement, followed by a slower movement, with another up-tempo concluding movement), was becoming popular throughout Europe.  Concerto of course means "concert", and many of J. S. Bach's most well known works are performance pieces in the Italian concerto style, most often written for solo instrument with orchestral, or chamber ensemble accompaniment.  When Bach was putting together a collection of exercises for student keyboardists, in particular those who were working to master the harpsichord, he included in his second Clavier-Übung, pieces written in two of the popular musical forms of the day: a French style Ouverture, and a solo Italianate concerto.

This composition was never meant to be a anything other than a young student's skill building exercise, in a style familiar to most budding keyboardists of the mid 18th century.  But it's a testament to Bach's musical genius that almost three hundred years later, a harmonically intricate, and in the right hands, musically captivating work of art, originally published as a learning activity written in a Concerto form, has become a solo keyboard concert piece in its own right, which we can all enjoy listening to whether performed by a young student, or an accomplished master of the keyboard.

One of the great interpreters of our own time of the keyboard works of J. S. Bach, pianist Angela Hewitt's masterful performance of the Italian Concerto is certainly nothing short of musically captivating.  The first movement above; the second, Andante, movement and the third, Presto, below: