Take me to Church*

The City may be celebrating the most wonderful time of the year but December usually finds me exhausted, ready for hibernation, in absence of which a fair amount of introspection will have to do. One more year has just been added into my bag of experiences and, amazing it has been, I feel the weight. It was perhaps a cosmic coincidence or I was just subconsciously seeking to get into the ”Christmas Spirit” rather than sinking deeper into my ”Christmas Blues” that brought me to church not once, but three times this month. As an atheist, church is not part of my usual routine, but a sequence of seemingly unrelated events managed to get me there – thrice.  Emphasis added on ”seemingly”, because all three events had something in common: music & song. Ethereal, transcendent, lyrical, divine song.

First, it was Ambient Church:

Group Immersions into modern contemplative and devotional music through site-specific audio and visual performance // is their Facebook statement and I couldn’t describe it better.

In celebration of 25 years of American ambient label Kranky, this nomadic audiovisual experience traveled to four cities – Portland, Los Angeles and Chicago, before coming to St. Ann & the Holy Trinity  (est.1847) in Brooklyn Heights, on December 15th. The headliner was progressive power trio of Brooklyn Forma but my personal luminary of the night was Christina Vantzou, a Kansas City, Missouri born composer and filmmaker of Greek descent based (of all places) in Brussels, Belgium.

You can listen to Christina’s dreamy, abstract music on her website and her latest work, album No. 4 here.

Then, on December 22nd, came Paul Winter’s 39th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration, a multi-media event featuring musicians, vocalists and the 25 dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre. This annual phantasmagoria, which I’ve only just discovered, aims to offer a contemporary take on ancient solstice rituals, when people gathered together on the longest night of the year to welcome the return of the sun and the birth of the new year. The mere fact that it takes place in the largest cathedral in the world, makes it an unforgettable experience, albeit a bit overwhelming, in my view. Except for the howling – that was awesome. Click on the video below, to listen.

Finally, on Christmas eve, there was caroling in Gramercy Park. Where, once a year for a single hour, the exclusive park normally open to a small circle of key holders only, welcomes everyone with open doors and Christmas Carols sang by the choir of Calvary-St. George’s Church, a choir so melodic we had to follow them to their next round at the Christmas Eve Service, inside the church. I thought we would stay for a couple of songs, then leave quietly. Instead, we stayed for the whole service in what became one of the most uplifting experiences we could possibly hope for, this Christmas. Which goes to demonstrate that when religion is inclusive rather than imposing, and the church keeps up to date and young, it can only gain – if not devotees, at least a couple of new friends. 

*Title borrowed from Hozier’s homonym song.

Christmas Eve 2018

Christmas windows in the City

Holiday window displays in Manhattan are integrally connected with Christmas in the collective consciousness of New Yorkers – and in that of the regular, or even occasional visitors too. They’ve become part of the tradition, glitz and glamour and beauty of the holiday season and there just can’t be Christmas in the City without them.

Here, for instance, are some takes from Bergdorf Goodman’s breathtaking displays, inspired by some of the city’s most iconic institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History,  Museum of the Moving Image, The New York Botanical Garden, New York Philharmonic and New-York Historical Society (there are also windows for Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)  and UrbanGlass but I have no captures of them).

Entitled ”To New York with Love”, a celebration of the city’s ongoing love affair with arts, history and music, they are simply spectacular.

New York Philharmonic

The New York Botanical Garden

Museum of the Moving Image

American Museum of Natural History (and an avid admirer)

New-York Historical Society

And back to business with the commercial part and evening gowns – entrance in grand style guaranteed.

A ball in the Four Seasons, maybe? 

At which point I have to move on because I feel I’m turning green; head over heels (image from Elie Tahari)

Midtown Manhattan
December 17th, 2017

Christmas in the City

Enjoying an extended and-of-year break in New York City!

  • Extra days off from work – check.
  • Elbowing way through to Fifth Avenue Christmas windows – check.
  • Putting newfound navigating skills on ultra-packed streets to test – check.
  • Baking Greek Christmas cookies – check.
  • Go see the Rockettes – uh, maybe not this year. This type of variety show still has to grow on me.

A Radio City Stage Door Tour for an insider’s look at the Art Deco details, a walk into the – otherwise off-limits – Roxy Suite, a photo with a Rockette, cheesy as this may sound – check, check!

Starting point, a view over the Grand Foyer. Art Deco elements are omnipresent, floor to ceiling: the carpet we are walking on was designed by Ruth Reeves in 1932 to form a tile collage, each tile an abstract depiction of a musical instrument. Reeves had studied with French painter Fernand Léger in Paris in the early 1920s. Léger’s influence is evident in Reeves’ innovative design – so innovative that it looks every bit as modern today as at the time it was conceived, 85 years ago.Radio City’s interior designers Edward Durell Stone and Donald Deskey spared no expense nor effort to make the place as grand and stylish as possible. That is evident everywhere and restrooms are no exception. Here we are at the Ladies’ lounge, adjacent to the restroom on the third level, with a ”Panther” Mural of 1932, by Jenry Billings at its centre. Stylistically leaning towards Surrealism, still very much in place in an Art Deco environment. A ”Wild West” Mural, by Edward Buk Ulreich graces the Gentlemen’s lounge.The period leading to Christmas and New Year is the high season for the Rockettes who regularly go through their grueling routine of high kicks and tapping up to seven times a day and still do it with precision, impeccable style and – most difficult of all – a radiant smile (albeit a teary one at the end of the day). Here, we steal glimpses of one of their routines from the balcony.

Marveling at the vast, 6000-seat auditorium, where there are no pillars to obstruct the view, our guide informs us that, actually, it is what goes on under the stage that’s most impressive – the stage elevator system. This feat of engineering allows Radio City’s massive stage to be moved as necessary, in three parts, at the push of a button. Now, if that didn’t impress you just consider that, when assessed during the building’s massive renovation of 1999, the inspectors established that it was in such excellent condition, the elevator system was more or less the only feature that could be left untouched. It was built in 1932!

Interestingly, it attracted the Navy’s interest and the same principle was used in their aircraft carrier systems during World War II. It was thus that the stage elevator system of the Radio City Hall, became a national secret and even had its own government security agent guarding it throughout the War.
That staircase leads to Roxy’s Suite, where impresario Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, the man who opened the venue and commissioned most of the features we enjoy today in Radio City Music Hall, used to receive his glamorous guests. Today, it is available to hire as a reception space. 

The Spirit of Dance, Aluminium Sculpture, 1932 – by William Zorach. This was one of three statues removed from the Music Hall just before its opening, because they were considered risqué. They were later reinstalled after several months, following strong criticism.The Phantasmagoria of the Theater by Louis Bouche, at the main lounge of Radio City Music Hall.

The crystal Christmas Tree stealing the limelight from the chandeliers and Ezra A. Winter’s epic mural that overlooks the grand foyer. ”The Fountain of Youth”, 1932, is one of the first commissions for the Music Hall and depicts a legend from the Oregon Indians about the beginning of time.

From the Radio City Music Hall, Happy Holidays to one and all!

Tour on November 26th, 2017


It must have been the coldest evening yet and it made me wish I was wearing boots and a warm hat. The 40° sign behind the giant Christmas lights is my witness.wp120161208_201528

Avenue of the Americas

December 8th, 2016