Highlights of 2004:

Saratoga Faire began recording their first CD with John Kribs.

The Spirites Consort were invited to play at the Killington Renaissance Festival in Killington, Vermont. Lise’s photos and essay of the experience can be found here.

Saratoga Faire was invited to play a concert featuring the hammered dulcimer for Wiawaka Holiday House in Lake George. They also performed at The Golding Park Café and Inlet Fall festival and were approached about doing a European tour for 2006.

Lise finished and released “The Goldenrod” CD in October. The CD release concert was held at the Saratoga Springs Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Lise’s solo multi-media exhibit, “Angel Inklings” (at the Small Gallery in Cambridge, NY) started at the beginning of November and ran concurrently with group Christmas art shows at Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council in Glens Falls, NY, Beekman Street Artisans in Saratoga Springs, NY, and Valley Artisans Market in Cambridge, NY.

2004 was rounded out with concerts at the Victorian Streetwalk and Caffé Lena, both in Saratoga Springs, NY.

 Lise’s web-diary for the year follows:


January 7, 2004

 A new year! A new year in which to have new dreams…

 And new dreams are taking shape. It’s an election year which means that new things are bound to happen on a national level (sometimes in the wrong direction, depending on your perspective!) and also the year of the monkey (Chinese astrology) in which swiftness and daring are of the essence, or so I have been told.

 We, the Spirites Consort, performed at the Saratoga Arts Center recently. We mixed it up a bit for New Year’s with classical pieces, Renaissance pieces, old folk songs, one or two originals and “Auld Lanzyne”. I think we were the only music group who came close to performing classical for First Night, so the audience, noticeably classical music fans, applauded most enthusiastically when we played in that genre. We aim to please and filled our remaining sets with more classical music than we had prepared for.

 We also sent those strolling, looking for more good music, to Leslie Ritter and Scott Petito who were playing at the Temple Sinai. We are not only appreciative fans of Leslie and Scott, but we also record at their studio.

 Besides new recording projects underway, Jeff and I recently joined a new band called “Saratoga Faire”. Although there is a slight overlap with what we do with the Spirites, Saratoga Faire is primarily about Jeff’s and my original songs shared more or less equally with Jim Lestrange’s and Frank Orsini’s instrumentals. Frank is pursuing a dream of playing numbers he has always wanted to play (but hitherto did not have the appropriate group to perform them with) and Jim is composing some unusual pieces on hammered dulcimer.

 During days when music is not on the agenda, I have been preparing for my November art show and getting ready to come out with a new line of greeting cards. New art images will be posted on the web soon.

March 12, 2004

      This winter construction crews lived outside our house. They jack-hammered at all hours of the night and day (difficult to sleep!). It was sub-zero and the ground was very solid, so they had their work cut out for them. When I’d look out at them from my window, guitar or art supplies in hand, I was happy about my line of work even though it can be so unpredictable and always at the whim of the public’s interest.

      We, the Spirites Consort, found out that we had one of the largest audiences at First Night Saratoga (from the Schenectady Gazette). Listen up, interested venues!

      In contrast, on a Sunday morning in February we played a low-key concert at Caffe Lena for the Dance Flurry. Attendance was low at all of the Flurry events at that hour, possibly because the attendees were sleeping in after dancing until 2 AM or at church. But the audience that we did have was more wild, punchy and fun than we were, joking and jibing us and attempting to placate the coffee-makers in the back who had made an absurdly large quantity of the brew expecting that a lot of listless dancers might wander in needing a pick-me-up for the big dance farewell parties in the afternoon.

      One of our most appreciative audience members was Rick’s wonderful new girlfriend who came up from North Carolina . She went to the Flurry with so many layers of clothes and wool, expecting, somehow, that northerners really didn’t heat their buildings only to find that tank tops abounded. She was also impressed with how we handle snow, i.e. without much fanfare. She particularly noted how we park our cars as an accepted custom of northeast living, in old encrusted snow banks on the sides of the street.

      On that subject, the road I live on may as well be a dirt one for all of the uneven-ness, pot holes, sand, rock salt, patched up asphalt and half plowed ice and snow that has accumulated over the past two months. In fact, it’s more like a safari ride and all of the big beasts are the peeling houses.

      But never mind that.

      My doctor informed me last December that, based on some medical tests, I could have something scary, so I avoided booking any performances this Spring just in case. As it turned out, I didn’t have anything to worry about. Even so, I played it safe: trying to perform (or reschedule or dally with obligation) when you’re sick can be horrible. In fact, I can’t think of anything worse because stage work takes so much concentration. I played 2 gigs last year when I was sick. Am I looking a little piqued at the All Girl Revue (from the photo gallery)? Possibly didn’t sound so great either. So now you know why…

      One thing this respite from performing has given me is time to do some visual art. Check out the cards and prints gallery for new designs.

May 8, 2004

This winter and spring have been very productive in terms of getting a lot accomplished.

  Our band, Saratoga Faire, recorded their first 4 songs and we are proud of the outcome. We hope to do 8 more soon, but this is a great start. We have asked John Kribs to do most of the producing as it is often confusing and counterproductive to have all of us producing it at once. He produced a two-song demo of hammered dulcimer tunes for Jim and me a year ago and we were so impressed with how he made the dulcimer sound that we went back.

  One instrumental that puts the Saratoga Faire audience to tears is “LaRue’s Lament”. It is the first one we recorded, as many of you will be pleased to know, since many of you have asked for a CD of it to take home with you when we have played it at our live concerts.

  Those of you who have attended our concerts know that “LaRue’s Lament” was written for Jim Lestrange’s best friend, Larry LaRue, a friend from his childhood who died unexpectedly last year. It is a song written for Larry’s family which laments his passing. Jim and I will be playing it live for the LaRue family at the one year memorial service.

  Anyway, keep asking for this piece at the concerts to motivate us to get back into the studio again.

  As for the Spirites Consort, the other group I play in, we have been hired for the Killington Renaissance Festival in Killington , Vermont this year. It has been awhile since we played a Renaissance Festival since The Medieval Faire at the Cathedral of All Saints (in Albany , NY ) closed its doors last year. But we kept busy, trying to bring this music to other types of venues, to people who might not be so inclined to go to a Ren-faire. We actually played this music at a coffeehouse/bar (an unlikely venue) which specialized in acoustic pop and got a very good response. We also sold CDs to people who wanted to learn more about the genre.

  We always get comments like: “This is really unusual music.” Well, it is if you haven’t heard much of it.

  My solo CD project, “The Goldenrod”, is finally in the mixing stage. As with the “Wing’d With Hopes” album, it is largely being produced by Scott Petito who I trust to handle a large ensemble and a very full production. You can get advanced autographed copies of this CD by signing the guest book and stating that you would like to be notified as soon as it arrives.

  I have also spent a great deal of time this spring preparing for my November art show (please check back for exact dates including the opening reception). I have been at this night and day, so at times I feel like a virtual art factory. I am trying to get as much done now before July when concerts, rehearsals and a recording studio schedule take over. I am happy that what little music we are rehearsing and recording now breaks up the routine a bit for me this Spring for the different kind of work it entails and the social benefits. Often when I get into visual art projects too heavily I don’t see people for days or weeks, becoming increasingly withdrawn and indrawn, so concentrated on what I am doing that it fills up so much of my head space that I am not easily distracted, even by conversation! However, I know I am blessed to be making art, particularly since many musicians fall back on temporary restaurant work or house painting during dry spells.

  Often the most enchanting part about playing music, aside from the creative process, is practicing with my band mates, building camaraderie, ideas, various approaches and an “unusual sound”, a sound which is about truth and beauty first (as much as musicians can strive for that) and becomes atypical only by happenstance and personality. 

 July 4, 2004

    Sometimes I have a hard time staying indoors when the Northeast finally warms up. The season is so short here and the impetus to walk in the woods or in an open field or park is just too much. However, this means that I am not keeping to the grindstone as much as I perhaps should be.

    As I shift my daily energies from visual art-making to music-making (including daily rehearsals, setting lyrics to music, mixing in the recording studio), I also have to shift how I think and behave since music requires a different mind-set and approach, requiring a more extroverted personality than I have been used to in the last several months.

    I am in the final stages of finishing “The Goldenrod”, my next album. 

    I also joined the Beekman Street Artisans in Saratoga Springs in May of this year. The street is fast turning into a vital community of artists and shops, including galleries, studios, a restaurant and other assorted businesses. The street will also feature an events calendar.

    A lot of the direction that Beekman Street has taken can be attributed to clay artist Amejo Amyot who came up with the idea of starting an artist’s co-operative in one of the buildings on the street. She got other artists interested in buying buildings and it has drastically boomed in just a year and a half. I hope that it continues, not only because it gives a place and alternative for local talent in a way that our downtown has done little to foster, but because it starts to include so many from the local community and in the process, creates commerce which is interdependent. This is necessary if we are to stay economically viable as a city and as a nation in future years when shipping goods from half way around the world ceases to make much sense (as gas and shipping prices rise and sources for oil dwindle).

    In fact, we are one of the few small cities in New York State which have not succumbed to being ruined because of suburban big box stores and McRestaurants. This is due, in large part, to the fact that we have a large tourist population in the summer which keeps us in the green. However, even the tourists will dwindle when the oil crisis hits (as it will, I believe), and we will need our local talent and resources to fill in the gap of decreased manufactured goods.

    So, I am very happy to be part of this community (and movement) at the ground level.

    Those of you who know me well, know that I am a big fan of a local writer, James Howard Kunstler, whose slant on the American landscape got my attention last year. I believe that his book “The Geography of Nowhere” (available in Border’s from coast to coast) is a must-read for every American.

    I also avidly follow his acid, but very credible, on-going commentaries about specific issues related to civic design, architecture, the looming oil crisis and national events located on his website.

   I came upon the work of Kunstler by the act of traveling. I looked around and became dismayed and vocalized that dismay rather emphatically. My music partner, Jim, heard me and bought me a copy of “The Geography of Nowhere.”

   I can tell you my thoughts at that time. I wondered why we were choosing (or letting happen) our claustrophobic lifestyle of parking lots and traffic jams and all of the accoutrements associated with it:  a preference for asphalt, cheaply made buildings and street lights over just about any other construction for civic life. This, of course, includes making our countryside into a wasteland of boxy, aluminum sided architecture so prevalent in suburban-type houses and stores, the newer prison-like schools, courthouses, libraries, stations and other public spaces, the shack-like road side stands, the strips and signs that are taking over every corner of our country and which are all part of erecting, what Kunstler aptly calls, a “national automobile slum”. Besides the sheer ugliness of it, the direction of this way of life has to be severely misguided in light of the looming oil crisis.

   Perhaps I am particularly sensitive to architectural issues since, during my childhood, I watched my father, an architect and activist, fight to keep our small city from conducting its “urban removal” programs, a severe and virtually unproductive demolition of older, ornate, stately buildings for new inhuman cheaply made modern architectural “boxes.”

   Our city, ultimately, turned out to look like a city under siege, between the approved systematic destruction of many downtown buildings and the arson fires of the rest of them. A downtown marble building of five stories with huge white pillars, perfectly sound outside and functional inside (with existing businesses and offices), was replaced with a glass and steel mall with adjacent parking garage which eventually failed. The city block where I resided during college years contained many Victorian houses and 1920s era small brick apartment buildings. They all went up in arson fires building by building during the two years I lived there until our house and the one next door were the only ones left standing. Our house reached its demise too after I had moved out.      

   Now that our upstate downtowns have been ruined, we are trashing our countryside as well with ugly buildings, lots and poor planning.   

   The Victorians built to complement natural surroundings, choosing shapes, materials and colors that would go with the surrounding plant life. Today we are hell-bent on erecting structures that wipe it out, complementing our garish hard-edged road signs or the trailer or truck. At best, our modern architecture tries to soften up these eyesores by a few landscaping islands (rarely works).

   And why are we trashing our countryside? Predominantly to make way for big box stores like Walmarts. The large tracts of land are needed to provide space for the steady and diverse stream of low-cost goods made in China by workers who earn, on average, 19 cents an hour (China, the Communist country which had no compunction about marching into Tibet to destroy a culture and kill off its peace-loving citizens). Never mind that you have to have a $10,000 car to go out of town to buy these cheap goods from China, never mind that you also have to add on the cost of your own fuel to the price of your cheap goods, never mind that you have to pay more in taxes to pay for the unemployment of US citizens who used to manufacture these goods, never mind that you too are losing your job because it is being outsourced to another country, never mind that these businesses are wiping out nearby farmland we may need some day when we will no longer be able to ship in food from far away lands, never mind that it obsoletes manufacturing plants (and the knowledge required to make goods). And while we’re at it, let’s not forget that these mega-stores require lots of shipping and trucking, which is not only wasteful of the finite amount of oil our world possesses, but will add more and more cost to goods as gas prices ascend to ever higher levels and as China becomes more and more industrialized and has to compete with us for the dwindling oil supply. It becomes very expensive to buy cheap goods after all.

   This is the ultimate premise of his writings: the mismanagement of funds into business ventures and structures that are ruining the USA. I say he is a “must read” for all Americans because his treatise is pertinent to every town, city and small business across the country. Here is a voice warning us of what future most of us are unconsciously building and if we don’t heed some of his advice, we won’t have much of a future to look forward to.

   Not only does he warn of where we are going with our zest for building without any thought towards future consequences, our local economies, ecology, aesthetics or community, but he gives us a history of what cities and small towns were like before the big boom in large buildings, suburban infrastructures and highways took place at the beginning of the 20th century.

September 3, 2004

My CD is now in production and should be arriving in 14 days from now, give or take! Please join me for the CD release party on Saturday, October 23rd at 7:30 pm with both of the bands I play with (The Spirites Consort and Saratoga Faire).

Some of the illustrations featured in the CD (I really went overboard with providing a mini art show inside the CD sleeves) will be featured with other works at the Small Gallery, 25 East Main Street, Cambridge, NY (the site of Hubbard Hall) from November 6 through November 19. Please join me for the art opening, to be announced soon.

As for our summer:

We were concert-goers in July and one of the acts we saw was Sara Milonovich, of our area, and Greg Anderson at a sold out concert at the Fish House Community Concert Series. Our group, Saratoga Faire, played it last year. It was a phenomenal performance of Cape Breton, Irish, Eastern European, New England, Appalachian and original fiddle tunes. Sara has jaws dropping amongst our area's other fine fiddlers. I had heard about her for years through other musicians, and once I saw her, I had the distinct feeling that she is going to go somewhere in the music business and will be in hot demand in the coming years. I am glad that we were able to see her at the beginning of her burgeoning career.      

At the end of the month, Jim, Rick and I played a concert featuring the hammered dulcimer at Lake George's Wiawaka Holiday Resort. Jim, our hammered dulcimer player for both Saratoga Faire and lately for The Spirites Consort, sold a lot of CDs at that concert, attesting to the fact that hammered dulcimer is a popular instrument.  

I still don’t know how Jim plays that thing (I have tried it). I conclude that I don’t have a knack for it because it isn’t tactile enough, as much as guitar and cello are. I have found that the relationship between a finger board and hammers is similar to that of pottery-making versus glass-blowing: one is tactile, one is not, one I prefer to spend my time doing, one I don’t (and find frustrating!).  

The next two weekends, we (The Sprites Consort) played at the Killington Renaissance Festival. You can see photos and essay of our experience at the festival here.

We (Saratoga Faire) rounded out August with a performance in Cobleskill at the Golding Park Café (moved from the park because of rain). Check the schedule for more upcoming performances.

A few days ago I was looking at the Saratoga Springs telephone directory and admired the painting on the cover of it. I looked inside to find out who the painting was by (it was painted by Harry Orlyk) and read the blurb about the cover. I was struck by the following words: “He is as intent to make his work a language or a process, communicating feelings for the land, as he is the maker of products depicting it. Mr. Orlyk lives and works locally in Washington County, New York where agriculture, in all its variants, has so far crowded out sprawl and ‘The Geography of Nowhere.’” Since I have expressed a similar view-point in this website, I found it particularly notable.