Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Extended Groton Community Sings — GCCC 2015

I was late putting out the sandwich boards for this year's Groton Community Christmas Chorus, but as you see here in my selfie when I did put the first one out, that I'm looking pretty pleased with myself. I guess that's because I love having the opportunity to bring this gift to our community every year.

Click on the image to the right to see the full-sized version of this year's GCCC 2015 board — right in front of the Union Congregational Church on Main St in Groton, Ma, where all 3 concerts are performed each year, starting in 1974 by Edie Tompkins. That makes this year the 41st Annual GCCC. Wow! What a legacy!

Either the picture above or the GCCC flyer on the left give the details of when the 3 concerts are sung. For fire safety reasons the Church is only allowed to hold a certain number of people at one time so we sing three concerts in mid December to make sure we can accomodate all who want to come and start of their Christmas season with this concert. See the flyer on the left for details.

See you there !

Maybe after we sing the concert I'll use this space to attach some snapshots or video clips.

Click here for a selection of my blog articles about the Groton Community Christmas Chorus as I have sung in it many times over the years.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Honoring our Dad — “Dutch” Pammett — Chalice Lighting 2015

Coincident with a long weekend visit from my sister Nanci and her husband Art Phelan, Nanci and I wrote and delivered the Veterans’ Day tribute you see below as part of what we call the “Chalice Lighting” ceremony at our First Parish Church (Unitarian Universalist) — a Welcoming Church in Groton, Ma.
Good Morning, I'm Kevin Pammett –
         and I’m Kevin’s sister, Nanci Phelan from Canada.
[kp] It is our privilege to light the chalice this morning in honor of Veterans’ Day and also to honour our father, Harold “Dutch” Percy Pammett who was a veteran in the Canadian Navy during WWII.
[np] For us, Remembrance Day will always have a special meaning because Dad passed away on that day in 1981. He was out golfing on a sunny autumn morning’ having just beaten my mom in a game of gin rummy. I was sitting on the couch with my young children, watching the Remembrance Day service on TV, when I got the phone call. It was a sad shock but over the years we’ve found comfort, healing and a kind of dignity in the coincidence and in the memory.
[kp] For me, it is now more than half of my life ago that Dad died – imagine – a heart attack while he was doing what he loved ! … Among the major life lessons I learned from my Dad – because he died at the young age of 61 – was this: All we really can count on is living every day to the fullest – because “Tomorrow is promised to no one.”

In addition, I hold my Father honorably as a real life example of the many hundreds of thousands of men and women who have given their lives and who continue to give everything of themselves – in the service of their country.
[np] Another Remembrance Day memory occurred in 1999 when I was chosen to lay a wreath on the Cenotaph in Ottawa, for the Canadian Federation of University Women. It was a wonderful and exhilarating service on a crisp, sunny morning under a cloudless blue sky. To my right was a sickly old man on an electronic scooter, outfitted with a Canadian Flag. There were throngs of people and vets in a great array of uniforms. We were in front of the Peace Tower and beside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Canadian Snowbirds, who are famous worldwide for their aeronautics, did a fly past salute. It was an honour to be part of such a poignant and venerable celebration. I was deeply moved by the immensity of what war had wrought. Remembrance Day took on a meaning beyond the personal and a poem took shape.
[kp] This year, since Nanci and her husband were visiting us for the long weekend, we had the opportunity to forge another treasured Veterans’ Day memory by going to the Waterfire event in Providence where they held a special tribute to our Veterans of Foreign Wars. What a privilege it was standing around “the basin” with dozens of blazing fires burning over the water, listening to a marching band and several traditional “American” songs as we watched the ring of men and women – each lighting the torch of the Veteran standing next to them – until the whole circle was ablaze with hundreds of torches proudly held high. Indeed, it brought tears to my eyes as I thought about the sacrifices made by these heroes and it really left me feeling “Proud to Be an American”.

Veterans’ Day, I’m sure, means very different things to each one of us and so Nanci and I light the chalice this morning in honor of Veterans’ Day or Remembrance Day, and in honor of what each person here holds for it in their hearts individually.
  How fortunate I am to live in such a community, and to have had this opportunity to do this with my dear sister.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Family, Meteor Showers, and Community Chorus

Now that the dust has settled after the 40th Annual Groton Community Christmas Chorus, I can't resist writing one more article about it — for a few reasons… For starters, the picture below is one where you can actually see that I sing as a Baritone (back row) in the choir, because it was taken by a man on my team who came to see the "middle" concert — the one on Sunday night.

As strong as ever, about 100 of us from a dozen or more towns around Groton gave our Annual Christmas Gift to the Community — the usual three concerts at the UCC in Groton. And, as always, all 3 performances were to a packed house and the choirs all sang well. The instrumentalists we all fabulous, and as always The Treble Choir stole the show.

This year I felt more a part of the chorus; I think I just put more time and energy into getting to know the people behind the voices. And I was thrilled with how many new — especially younger and new — singers we had. We had a really simple piece for the GCCC men's number, but it was challenging enough because Edie had us sing it in an unusual configuration. The GCCC Women sang "Simple Gifts" and I did capture a video clip of that but only during the dress rehearsal, not the actual performance. Another thing that was different for me was that I got to be part of a quartet of men who joined the Treble choir while they sang "Little Drummer Boy" and we/the men were challenged (believe it or not!) to be the drums using our voices. Likewise, this isn't good video (because of where my camera was) but you get an excellent sense of what the Bell Choir sounded like from where I was.
The Saturday night before the concert we had a most-memorable extended-family bonfire cook-out in our yard. Both of my daughters were home, with their precsious men and several other friends, and we and had a fabulous time. Totally coincidentally, it was one of the peak evenings for shooting stars and we saw the "Geminid Meteor Showers" off and on over a period of about 3 hours. How appropriate it was for us to be watching "sharply bright dashes of light" (spirit!) on this particular evening — going into December 14th — because of the anniversary of a tragic family loss.

For fascinating details about these "Geminid Meteor Showers" you might want to check out this article and video. Likewise, click here for a selection of my blog articles about singing in the Groton Community Christmas Chorus over the years.

Wow — we were truly blessed on Saturday night, and I am truly blessed to be part of this community!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving in Groton; Christmas starts with the GCCC

This year in my GCCC article I also want to include the early morning sunrise picture that I took on Thanksgiving morning. Click on the image to the right to see the full-sized version of this year's early Thanksgiving morning snow on the trees in our yard.

The snow started to fall on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so early on Thanksgiving morning it was so beautiful and fluffy on the naked trees in our yard that I couldn't resist taking a number of pictures. Just the simple natural beauty of it put me immediately into a context of gratitude; it was the perfect way to start my Thanksgiving holidays.

And as I know from other years, once we get to Thanksgiving, the Groton Community Christmas Chorus is right around the corner. And this year Thanksgiving was so late in the month, that we're already just 2 weeks away from the three concerts we do in mid December. See flyer on the left for details.

So that's why I went out today and put out the first of the sandwich boards. But it was too dark out to get a picture, so here is what recent GCCC sandwich boards look like.

Keep in mind - 3 concerts:
  • Sunday, December 14th at 2.00 p.m.

  • Sunday, December 14th at 7.30 p.m.

  • Monday, December 15th at 7.30 p.m.
See you there !

Click here for a selection of my blog articles about GCCC - the Groton Community Christmas Chorus.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Breath of Sunshine on a bleak day in October

Recently when I had a little time to fill in between early-morning choir practice and our usual 10am Sunday morning service, I wandered out into our "UUC Memory Garden" and took the snapshot that you see, here, of "Gaye's Memory Brick". Click here for my blog article about Gaye's brick per se; here I tried more to capture the garden itself within the environment where it rests. You'd never know that this is right in the center of our town, Groton, Ma.

What a peaceful place it is — standing on and reading the 100s of bricks that memorialize loved ones from our congregation, looking out over the magnificent New England Fall, as you see it here, and listening to hear Gaye's voice in the wind, as I've written about before. This voice is not a lamentation; it's about everlasting joy — the joie de vivre that characterized the life she lived, albeit way too short.

Alas, I doubt that this view looks like that now because we've recently had three days of rain so I suspect most of the leaves have now fallen. But that's OK; it's perfectly appropriate. I actually like this view in every season, even on frigid cold days in Winter, or like today, a pretty bleak end-of-October day.

So where's that "Breath of Sunshine" ?

It's easy — just listen to the soundtrack from "The Sound of Music" and imagine living your life like that. Every day's an adventure. Every day the glass is always half full.

It was Gaye's lifetime context of "Climb Every Mountain" — with all of the UPs and DOWNs that entails — that taught me about why that's so important. It's all about embracing life as it is. Fully appreciating today, not waiting for something that might come… because this moment — right now — is all that any of us really has. It's about being truly happy with what is within your reach.

Climb every mountain…
— from "The Sound of Music" soundtrack

Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every byway,
Every path you know.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
'Till you find your dream.

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life,
For as long as you live.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream.

Thank you, and I miss you, dear sweet sister Gaye. Thank you for the life you lived, and for what you continue to give to me by still being present in my life every day.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Community Holy Water and George Downey's Chalice Story

As per our annual UUC Groton tradition at the beginning of the Fall season… this week we had our "Gathering of Community Water" ritual during our first "big church" service of the Fall. As always, there was a huge turnout as everyone proudly told their story — I loved it. Moreover, this year that was especially great for me because it rained on The Day I took my US Citizenship Oath and I had gathered that rain water specifically for this ritual. So I proudly said “Dual Citizen” as my "word" that goes with the water and that was very meaningful for me.
On the right you see a picture of the huge "card" that everyone got to sign for George Downey's 90th birthday along with a recent picture of him. Below is the text from his story about his most generous gift to the UUC community sometime after the year 2000.
The Chalice Story ” — by George Downey
     Several years ago Jean and I arrived, joining with others in the congregation for Sunday worship at First Parish Church of Groton. Our Chalice then was a pewter vessel showing some dents, with a somewhat distorted rim, and sitting slightly askew on its base.
     Some place in Elea's sermon that morning my mind strayed to imagining a new Chalice vessel: what shape, how big, how wide, how high, what wood, what artistic presence? Well, my mind got back to Elea's sermon, but I took all of those fleeting thoughts home with me.
     First, it was to the drafting board: rough sketches, finally a satisfying idea, scale drawings, full-scale drawings, templates cut to the shape of the finished design. The wood should be mahogany, like the molding trim around the top of the box pews.
     It was time to go to my woodworking shop. I had a supply of leftover mahogany pieces. The pedestal is a stack of disks of diminishing diameters. These are glued and clamped. While the glue hardened for seven days it allowed time for me to re-sharpen all the lathe chisels to razor-sharp edges.
     The lathe will turn the pieces slowly at first. The pedestal and the bowl are shaped separately on the lathe. The speed is increased as the pieces are rounded, and increased more for shaping. The pieces are sanded on the rotating lathe. The pedestal and bowl must fit together precisely for the final assembly and gluing. The last step is a finish applied to bring out the beauty of the mahogany wood. To this point this is just a created object in my workshop.
     When the wooden vessel made its way from my workbench to our sanctuary and was placed on its stand, with a flaming candle, it was infused with new meaning as Our Chalice, truly a metamorphosis in wood!
     The flaming Chalice is the symbol of Unitarian Universalism, and it is a centering symbol of our gathered community.
     Our Chalice flame embraces all who come! - Sept 2014

George tells me the "he's not on-line", so I guess he won't likely see this. But I wanted to post it nevertheless because I very much value our heritage and believe firmly in doing whatever I can to help preserve it. As you can read in my blog articles about my UUC participation, I've been going to this Church for many years yet I had no idea of the story behind our beloved mahogany wooden chalice. Thank you so much, George !

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Proud to be an American — Citizen Pammett

At long last it finally happened — I made my way through all of the tedious steps and have just taken the final step — the pledge of allegiance to the USA. Yup. Citizen Pammett and I am Proud to be an American!

Never having seen such a naturalization ceremony, I didn't know much about what to expect, so it was pretty interesting. First lesson learned: When they say "it starts at 10:30", what that means is that some people will arrive by then, but they don't actually start the ceremony until after everyone who is going to arrive has had their paperwork checked, and they're all sitting in their seats. So in my case that meant that we actually got going just after 12:30.

Then the interesting part started. First up, they said that we were 643 applicants, from 95 different countries. Then they called out all of the countries in alphabetical order, encouraging everyone to stand up and cheer when their country was called. Not unlike the Olympics… it was an amazingly long time until they got to Canada at which point I did cheer loudly to make my presence known — as if it wasn't already obvious enough due to my Uncle Sam top hat and celebratory garb. Much to my surprise, it was the only such hat that I saw all day. The festive garb was the brainchild and birthday gift from my baby girl, shown with me on the left when we went out for lunch afterwards with my longtime friend, Austin.

The ceremony was actually more interesting than I expected, featuring a very inspirational "keynote" from the Judge — herself an immigrant — who presided over the ceremony. Her quote, which totally enrolled me, was [that I was] “Pledging myself to an enterprise in human freedom”. Yeah !   I totally get it. After the Oath, tears came to my eyes as I sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” for my first time as an American Citizen. I was also touched by the symbolism of it being such a rainy day (new life). When I got home I put out a container to catch rain drops and I will use that water as my "Citizenship" contribution this Fall when we do our UUC tradition of combining community water to make ritual water for the coming year.

For comparisson — on the right you see what I looked like when I got my green card in 1982, which was already 5 years after I'd come to the USA. Yea... things change. How many times have I had to explain that at border crossings?
Which brings me to answering the question everyone asks: Why did I do it ?
Basically, to me it was a mater of Integrity. Technically, I'll always be a Canadian. But I have lived and worked my entire life outside of Canada — years in France but mostly in the USA. And at this point in my life I want to "go home" when I retire — home to my country. And though I have lived elsewhere for almost half my life, deep down I feel like this is my home and always will be. So I just wanted to make the commitment officially and take my rightful place doing my part in “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”.

So that's my story and I'm stickin' to it  !