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Gwin Mitchell Paden Crane Festival approaches — as does a celebration of dance

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Gwin Paden

Posted: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:37 am, Wed Nov 2, 2011.

Fall has finally arrived, much to the confusion of spring bulbs, which have already been showing their green tops. Lots of leaves drifting around. Cooler nights, bringing the cats in earlier than usual. They're in more during the day, too.

I'd rather be out in the crisp air; it smells so good, especially toward evening when there's a touch of wood smoke added (on burn days, of course). I'm sorry to see the use of open fireplaces so restricted; they add something special to a home.

We've a special weekend ahead — the Crane Festival. Can't believe it's 15, but I think it's actually older. I was in on the first two when Diana Slawson started them; there may have been a hiatus before they actually became a fixed event. Now we have the nonprofit Lodi Sandhill Crane Association, a good idea. At any rate, this is a chance to see some really great birds dancing in their native habitat. If you want to join the tours, call 800-581-6150 for reservations.

***

Speaking of dancing, you can do that, too. The International Ballet Theater Institute will hold a dance workshop at 10 a.m. on Saturday for those who would like to try their hands — and feet! — at it. At 11:30, they can join with trained dancers to present several dances formed around birds: a Japanese dance, part of Tchaikowsky's "Swan Lake," a dance based on cranes' movements, and a contemporary dance, among others.

The dances have all been choreographed by Alexei Badrak, one of the owners, together with Ronna Roberts, of IBTI.

Ronna is a Lodi girl, with many friends here, who came back home to help take care of her parents after she and and Alexei traveled internationally and nationally in ballet. They have been in Lodi since 2000, and I can't believe I was not really aware of IBTI until a chance encounter which led to a delightful afternoon's chat.

I've been to a rehearsal and a performance and fully intend to be there on Saturday. I will not be trying any dancing, though!

In addition to dance, other arts and crafts will be well-represented at the festival. This year's poster is a particularly lovely one by Brigitte Clough.

***

I was so glad to read that my old friend, June Spencer, has been recognized with the STAR Award by the Stockton Arts Commission. Although most of her musicianship has been with Stockton groups as teacher, singer and actress, she was also the choir director here at First United Methodist Church for some years. She is just a great person

***

Time to look ahead a bit. Next Sunday, Nov. 6, standard time takes over again and we get an extra hour of sleep — unless we have pets who can't read a clock! Also, Thursday is "11/11," and at 11 a.m., Veterans Day ceremonies will take place at the American Legion hall. Please try to be there; we should all remember and be grateful for all armed forces members from all times who have kept this country protected in many ways and places.

Wouldn't it be great if everyone hung an American flag out in front of his/her house? I always like to see some blocks where there are several flags every day. I think we need to be reminded about the real history and essence of this country. So much is lost to political games and selfish plotting and undercutting.

***

I couldn't help but think when listening to the Stockton Chorale perform Faure's magnificent "Requiem," wouldn't it be wonderful if such music could sweep over all the centers of violence and contention in this country and the world, and swirl away all the evil and anger in a feeling of hope and trust?

The Chorale's entire concert at St. John's here in Lodi was magnificent. I had not yet heard them sing under the direction of Dr. Magen Solomon, but all the things I was hearing about her excellence are certainly true. There was such strength and brilliance about the music, and the building handled all that choral power without the least distortion.

The Youth Chorale, under the direction of Joan Calonico, was also superb.

I first became aware of the Chorale when it was about 10 years old and I was writing for the Stockton Record, and had even more to do with it when I was doing PR for Delta College in the late '60s. That's when I really got to know and enjoy Dr. Arthur Holton Jr., founder and director. Later, I served on the board.

I remember the early Christmas concerts at Delta, when images of Christmas and winter scenes were shown on a screen above the singers, and Art Holton III and his sister, Kathy, were in the college orchestra. Their mother, Thelma, ran the projector, so it was truly a family affair.

Gwin Paden is a writer, retired teacher, and long-time Lodi resident.

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