This weekend is a big turning point for Juneau.
The winter solstice is upon us, marking the shortest days and longest nights of the year. Night is almost 18 hours long; today the sun came up about 8:40 and set at 3:10. But from here on out the days get longer and longer.
Some folks celebrate the solstice with a bonfire. After the Labor Day debacle when police had firefighters extinguish a North Douglas bonfire, I called around to find out what went wrong.
Basically, bonfires need to be on the beach. In that particular incident, the fire was across the road from False Outer Point, on the forest side. The fire was enormous, minors were drinking and people were speeding on North Douglas Highway - all factors that attracted the attention of police and escalated the problems. Keeping those things in mind should help folks avoid any problems. High tide tonight is about 5 and it's a pretty low high tide.
The Portland rock band Gravity and Henry performs an all-ages show tonight at ANB Hall, featuring new, original material from its CD "Pisces." The band is guitarist Matt Sheehy and drummer Jarhid Brown, both originally from Juneau. Sheehy, the lead singer, expands his range and role as a guitarist with effects to create a tight, full band sound with Brown's drumming.
"Pisces" is dynamic, melodic pop with evocative, often vague lyrics. I'm interested in seeing the band live. Digital looping, the effect Sheehy uses to layer sound, can really fill out a small ensemble's sound in a creative way.
Harpist Rudi Oppermann used this effect in September at his performance. Used well, as he did, it maintains the live and spontaneous quality to the performance - unlike tape accompaniment, which inevitably reduces even a talented player to a karaoke show.
Kurt Dahlke from the online zine "Scuttle" offered a concise three-sentence summary of a recent Gravity and Henry show in Portland. "Through rhythmic and electronic trickery they make more noise than two instruments together should be allowed. Acoustic art-rock thrashings with shifting time signatures and psychedelic freak-outs are the order. Gravity and Henry accomplish the dreaded make-you-groove-and-think-at-the-same-time axiom with stealth and style."
The show starts about 8:30 tonight with the Juneau rock band Motivational Review, a high school-age group. Gravity and Henry will follow. Admission is $7 at the door.
Here's a tip for dancers. Choreographer and dancer Anthony Manuel, with the Seattle-based Fusion Dance Company, will be in Juneau to teach hip hop and jazz dance. Students speak highly of his talents and this is a great opportunity for intermediate level dancers. He arrives Wednesday. Call the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council at 586-2787 for more information.
Singers of all levels have a great chance in coming weeks to get some fine coaching and make noticeable improvements. Juneau Lyric Opera is bringing Byron McGilvray to Juneau for the 14th year to lead the Mid-Winter Vocal Festival. The festival provides opportunities for beginning, intermediate and advanced singers to work on their voices. I've found McGilvray to be an excellent teacher for beginners, and his group class is a great way to get out of the closet (or shower) and learn a little about your voice.
All sessions will be at Chapel by the Lake. Check out the JLO Web site at www.juneau.com/opera, or call 789-4604 for information.
For family activities this weekend there are several options. Salty Hanes is facilitating an ongoing weekly gathering for family crafting at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Folks have been meeting from 4 to 5:30 p.m. every Saturday. Beadwork is Hanes' specialty, but she said people have been bringing a variety of crafts. Call Hanes at 463-3220 or the museum at 586-3572 for more information.
The Juneau-Douglas City Museum is hosting a caroling party Saturday afternoon, providing music, hot drinks and snacks. Singing and socializing will run until about 5:30. Interested folks should meet at 4 p.m. at the city museum.
Outdoor activities are a great way to keep from going stir crazy in these dark days of mid-winter. If the recent clear, cold weather holds, skating should be great. Skating in Juneau is always a seize-the-day activity, as there's no telling when it will warm up and pour.
Ski trails were set recently from the Mendenhall Lake campground area to Dredge Lake, and folks have been delighted with the conditions at Eaglecrest.