Category Archives: Music

Weekly Photo Challenge: KISS

By Johna Till Johnson

471627_10150716407605951_747648912_oThis week’s Photo Challenge is Kiss.

What with Couples, and Love, and Valentine’s Day, we’ve had entirely too much romantic stuff lately. So, for something completely different—

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A few months back, a friend and client invited me to a corporate event.

Not your typical corporate event: It was a “Battle of the Bands”, in which employee-musicians competed in front of a crowd of  hundreds of other employees and business partners.

Knowing my friend is a huge fan of the rock group KISS, I volunteered to come dressed in full KISS attire.

Okay, actually I didn’t volunteer. My business partner volunteered me, as in, “I’m sure Johna would love to dress up!”

Hmm… I’d love to, but… As the president and CEO of an up-and-coming technology research firm, did I really want to show up in front of clients and other professionals dressed like a rock star? Isn’t there something about, you know, having an image to uphold?

Upon further consideration, it took me about a nanosecond to agree with the idea. (After all, if I were diehard about maintaining a professional image, I wouldn’t be sporting a Billy Idol ‘do.)

Much longer, though, were the preparations.

First: Which member should I emulate? I was only dimly aware of the individual band members. My friend the KISS connoisseur advised that although Gene Simmons is better known, Ace Frehley’ Paul Stanley’s makeup is easier to do. (Note: As alert readers have noted, it was actually Paul Stanley’s makeup we emulated. I was confused by listening to “New York Groove” while writing this….)

Paul it was!

Then there were the logistics. Prior to the Battle of the Bands, there was an actual formal(ish) event during which we technology folks were to get briefed on the company’s products and services. The CEO would be attending. Did I want to show up at this event in KISS makeup?

In the end, I decided against that plan of action. Instead, after the event, my friend and I swiftly changed into KISS gear and did our makeup, rocking out to the sound of  “New York Groove”.

The results? I think we were a rocking pair of Pauls! And my friend accessorized with a blow-up guitar…

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By sheer coincidence, some time before Vlad had taken a photo of a Gene Simmons lookalike at the Hallowe’en festivities on the Upper East Side.  He didn’t recognize the costume, though: I had to provide some additional context.

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After all, by then I was an expert in KISS!

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Great minds think alike!: To Mother Earth, with Love

Performing for a Cast of Thousands

By Johna Till Johnson

I’ve got great genes. No, make that fantastic genes.

Multiple grandparents and their siblings have lived well into their 90s (and a few into their 100s). And they continued having interesting adventures throughout their lives.

True to that tradition, my (then) 83-year-old mother, Mary Louise Till, and I went on a trip to the Arctic last summer. Thanks to good timing and the skill of our ship’s captain, we were able to crunch through the Arctic ice to north of 86 degrees latitude. (No, I’m not exaggerating—we were roughly 500 miles from the North Pole. And yes, I really will write up this adventure!)

More recently, my mother had an adventure closer to home: Performing  this past Monday for approximately 10,000 people in Corpus Christi, Texas, for the Diocese Centennial Mass.

Here’s a short news video about the performance—it’s pretty exciting! (There’s about 5 seconds of advertising preceding it.)

My mother is a second alto in the Corpus Christi Cathedral  Choir, a surprisingly excellent adult choir directed by Lee Gwozdz, Corpus Christi Cathedral’s world-class choir director. (It’s a musical family: Lee’s brother, Eugene Gwozdz, has directed  the musical “Annie” on Broadway and appears currently on Broadway as musical director/accompanist for “At This Performance”.)

Here’s an earlier video of the choir performing. My mother appears in the upper right at 0:29, wearing glasses and bobbing her head enthusiastically. You can see her through 0:50.

The Diocese Centennial Mass was a celebration of Corpus Christi’s 100th year as a Catholic Diocese. Held in the Corpus Christi Cathedral, the mass featured 40 bishops,  3 archbishops, 300 priests, and a keynote by New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.  (My mother says Cardinal Dolan’s speech was rather pedestrian. Compared to the musical accompaniment, I’m sure it was!)

Not too many of us ever perform for a cast of thousands—much less in our 80s.  Congratulations, mums!