July 2nd, 2007

Architecture and Automobiles

The weekend of June 16-17 was a go places and look at stuff weekend. Saturday morning, we took the Historic Concordia Neighborhood home tour, something we've wanted to do for a couple of years. Unlike the Historic Milwaukee Tours we frequently take, the Concordia Neigborhood Association puts together its own tour every year, covering the same area but with different houses. The Concordia neighborhood lies west of "downtown" and north of Wisconsin Avenue. Wisconsin Avenue, back when it was "Grand" Avenue, was at one time THE posh area in Milwaukee, where the Beer Barons and other captains of industry had their homes. The adjacent area became home to a lot of smaller entrepeneurs, engineers, and managers, which resulted in construction of a lot of fine homes although not on palatial scales. As wealth moved to Lake Drive and the northern suburbs, many of the Grand Avenue homes were torn down and the area wnet into a decline, from which it has now been salvaged, although unfortunately quite a few of the once-gracious houses were long-ago replaced by utilitarian apartment blocks.

The tour headquarters was the Tripoli Shrine Temple on Wisconsin Avenue, someplace we've always wanted to see inside. The exterior would be a creditable imiation of a Mid-eastern mosque complete with minarets, were it not for the inappropriate statues of saddled camels out front. (The Tripoli Shrine, if I recall correctly, used to be known for its Camel Corps parade unit--.) The public rooms inside are spectacular, done entirely in colorful geometric tile patterns, and very well preserved.

We saw many very nicely preserved and restored houses, with some needing work. One of the showpieces of the tour was the Manderly Bed and Breakfast, which has been well restored and richly decorated with the owners' stained glass art which nicely compliments the antique furniture. Another was the former home of Milwaukee Daniel Hoan, a siginificant local historical figure of the early 20th Century. Also very nicely restored, we were interested to see that the house was for sale for a mere $250,000.00. (I have since learned that the sellers have an offer--.) Actually reasonable, given that we saw a larger house needing work was being offered at $350K, which shows how far the gentrification of the area has come.

Saturday evening, we went to the home of Chuck Tritt and Julie Ann Hunter, which coincidentally is a beautiful 19th Century farm house in Mequon, for the monthly Bardic dinner, the theme of which was "Route 66". We dined on foods associated with cities along the route, and skald Bob Seidl read from works about the historic highway while we enjoyed the home's rural ambiance.

An automotive theme continued when we drove to the village of Sussex for the 26th Annual British Car Field Day, which had on display more than 200 examples of British marques, including MG, Triumph, Austin Healy, Mini-Cooper, Jaguar, Lotus, Sunbeam and rarer types. It was particularly interesting to see the many variations of the British two-seater, the orginal 'sports car', in its incarnations of various models and manufacturers, from the small and fragile looking MG's to the large and powerful seeming Morgan 12's. Jaguar, my favorite, was represented by a number of XKE and later types, with a smattering of luxury Bentley and Rolls-Royces. Probably the car that inspired the most comment was a new Rolls-Royce sedan that had been put through the "pimp my ride" process as a promotion stunt for a "pot noodle" company. (Noodle cups must be big business in Britain). So, imagine if you will, a black Rolls painted with a lurid red and yellow "flame job," "rims" and a truly dangerous looking high-tech "boom car" sound system. The result was croggling.

That said, I spent much more time faunching over the pristine Aston-Martin DB-5 (black, rather than the "Goldfinger" silver) and a Ford Angila that had been given a very nice and subdued "hot rod" treatment. The Angila looks like a 1950's PT Cruiser, and was coincidentally one of the first cars my father owned, so there was a sentimental connection there.

We kind of hustled through the show since the weather looked threatening, but had a good time while we were there.

Cream City Chorus, "In Our Own Words"

The Cream City Chorus continues to put together innovative themed shows. The final presentation of their 20th Anniversary season was 'composed' entirely of songs written and arranged by the chorus members themselves, which showed us a broad spectrum of creative talent. Since we've known many of the Chorus members almost twenty years ourselves, it was great fun for us to see many of our friends' songs get the full production treatment. The chorus worked with a very tight rehersal schedule,which made the accomplishment all the more remarkable, since not only did they do a fine job of delivering new music, but did some fairly intricate staging, and took the bold step of wearing masks which, even though they were small domino type, can still restrict vision, etc. a bit, and just make you feel funny--. The whole performance was very enjoyable, including the rather rackety framing storyline. We particulary enjoyed "History" and "The Calling", chants by Megan Schaefer set to music by Peter Ringo and arranged by Kristen L. Weber; "Ayudita," a lively song by Chuck Ellingson; "Bright Magic," "Graveyard in the Sky," and "Crystal Blue Waters" by Carol Ferraro; "Illusion of the Heart," by Barisha Letterman; and "Jericho" and "Gloria to a Thousand Names" (tune by Mozart) by Emory Churness.

This concert was performed at the Off-Broadway Theatre, which was a new venue for the group. The acoustics were not ideal, but the group managed to fill the smallish space with sound, and sightlines were very good.