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The Art Mob Is Not Ignoring You

Our blog has been in hibernation, but we’re all good.

Hello, followers of the Art Mob. How’ve you been? We’re all good. In context, of course: Our lives, like yours, have been upended, but you knew that. What you want to know is, is the Art Mob still in business? And are we, the fans, going to be able to hear them sing again?

Yes, and Yes! Make that Hell, Yes! We keep meeting, virtually, every week. (For you punctuation fans, the placement of those commas makes the sentence mean that we are meeting every week—not virtually every week, but literally every week—but we’re meeting virtually, i.e., on a digital platform.) We enjoy this a lot, but we’re all eager to get back to singing.

Art Mob meets virtually
At our weekly virtual gathering; we’re laughing, not singing.

And we will! Some of us are vaccinated already, and the others will be soon enough. No, we didn’t skip the line by virtue (that word again!) of our fame as Mobsters, though that’s always a temptation. Joe Biden is saying there’ll be enough vaccine for everybody by the end of May, so we think we’re in good shape to start rehearsing again in the fall.

In fact, so cocksure are we that we’ve—you’re gonna love this—BOOKED A PERFORMANCE SPACE for December!!! That’s right! And it’s one of our all-time favorites: Tenri Cultural Institute. We’ve got it reserved for two shows in December 2021; more details to come. We’ll be looking for a venue for a third performance when we get a little closer to the time, and as more spaces decide to open up.

But be assured: If it’s not safe, we won’t do it. That will depend on what the Governor says, how Tenri’s policies evolve between now and then, and also on how we feel, individually and collectively. Our crystal ball tells us that it will be OK, but it has been known to be guilty of wishful prognosticating from time to time, so we’re keeping our eyes open, our ears to the ground, our fingers in the breeze, and our (masked) noses up in the air. We’ll see you in December, fingers crossed, and you’ll be hearing from us along the way.

Stay safe, keep wearing that mask, and get your vaccination as soon as you can. The arts are essential to life, the Art Mob is essential to the arts, and you are essential to the Mob.

P.S. If you haven’t yet ordered your copy of “The Art Mob Tops 40,” the first and only Art Mob book, what’s the matter with you?

Order your copy now!

The Art Mob: Still Together

Art Mob meet-up
Central Park, safely spaced

We’re ecstatic to report that the Art Mob is still together. The group shows every sign of surviving the pandemic, despite being separated by miles, and by the high risk of choral singing in an age in which “aerosols” has become a four-letter word.

Monday night is Mob night.
Actual proof that Bree ate a bug.

We’re together every Monday night, in a virtual meeting. (I’ll call it a Zoom meeting. It’s not actually on Zoom.) Mostly, we chat, catching up on the state of each other’s relationships, health, hair, and knitting/sewing projects. Sometimes we have trivia contests, make up poems, or watch our newest and bravest member, Bree, eat freeze-dried bugs. (She’s a vegan; this was just a fling.) We can’t sing as a unit because of the limitations of the software, but we sometimes sing to each other. Music is, needless to say, a central element in the Mob’s existence, but the personal connections among our members are no less important. So we’ve been using the available technology to keep those in as good a state of repair as anyone could expect.

The biggest thing to happen recently, though, was that we got together in the flesh. Taking advantage of the (at least temporary) return of several singers who’d been hiding out from COVID in various far-flung regions, we met at Sheep Meadow in Central Park on the bright afternoon of October 10. We all wore masks, and we did a reasonable job of staying six feet apart, despite an impulse among many of us to hug the others and never let go.

Mob meet-up 1
A fair representation. More next time!

And we sang! You gotta say, singing with a mask on and standing no closer than six feet from anybody else isn’t exactly the aesthetic ideal, but it was emotionally thrilling. We sang some old favorites and some new favorites from our most recent concert: “Africa” (of course!), “Amazing Grace,” “David’s Lamentation,” “The Old Crossroads,” and “Dark as a Dungeon.” Nobody wanted to stop, so we sang them all two or three times.

Then, alas, we had to part. But it was a gladdening preview of things to come. When they’ll come is still up in the air, along with the infectious droplets, but we’ll be ready. See you then!

P.S. If you haven’t yet ordered your copy of “The Art Mob Tops 40,” the first and only Art Mob book, what’s the matter with you?

Order your copy now!


Bound and Determined! The Art Mob Gets Published!

Legends of the Art Mob, Part I

One reader cried all the way through it, for all the best reasons. Another laughed out loud, and we hope that she had the right reasons for doing that. A third praised it as “witty and wise,” while yet another said he liked it a lot, and not only because of the nice things it said about him. The author—veteran Mobster Dean Rainey—says that he started writing it simply as an expanded version of the concert program, but it grew into a history, a series of portraits of our singers, and some reflections about the Mob’s place in the world. And there are pictures!

It’s The Art Mob Tops 40, the first book ever about the Art Mob, available now at Blurb.com.

Looks like this on the outside …

The author of The Art Mob Tops 40 is the same guy who writes the program notes for our concerts, and he tells us how he got that enviable job. The notes for our 40th anniversary concert series, in fact, are included in the book and provide its structure. From this base, it wanders down sinuous pathways of Mob lore and expands into chapters like “The Marcia Mystique” (on Marcia Tucker, the group’s founder) and bonus features such as a comprehensive listing of Art Mob singers since 1992.

…rollicking stories on the inside!

There are rollicking old stories, and there are hopeful looks into the future. You’ll get a longtime insider’s view of Mob goings-on, and you might learn things about some of the singers that you would never in a million years have suspected!

While you’re waiting for the end of the pandemic, when we can sing together again, The Art Mob Tops 40 makes for an entertaining and informative read about your favorite a cappella group. What’s more, the Art Mob gets $5 for each copy sold on Blurb, so you’re helping us survive by getting yourself something fun to read. If you’re an Art Mob fan, you want this! Get yours now!!

—Dean Rainey


The Heart of the Matter

Quarantine Cuisine, from Bass Richard H.

I regret to say that I did more experimenting when the lockdown started, and I didn’t photograph anything. I roasted a whole duck. I tried making doro wat, the fiery Ethiopian chicken stew, twice, using two different recipes. (Fortunately, I’d bought berbere spice at Kalyustan’s just before this whole mess started.) I modified a soup recipe I’d found that used broccoli stems as its base. I roasted a whole rabbit for our birthday*.

I did record the latest experiment. While shopping at my local Foodtown, I found whole beef hearts on sale. I had purchased sliced beef heart a couple of weeks previously and used them to make chili (along with regular beef, turkey, and bacon), but a whole heart made such a striking picture that I had to buy it and make something with it. The “something” turned out to be stew: I cut the heart into small pieces and simmered it with onions, garlic, poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, and fava beans (which went in because they were on the edge of going bad, and who wants to waste food?) Some instant beef broth was involved. The result was quite satisfying.

Which dish was my favorite? Hard to say. It’s probably a tie between the duck and the beef heart stew. Broccoli-stem soup is good but kind of lightweight, and rabbit suffers from too many small bones*. The doro wat was also really good; now I have to try segu wat (same basic recipe but with beef).

I’ll keep you posted on new culinary explorations.

—Richard Haas

*Richard and his wife, Christie Robbins, share the same birthday! (No birthday-forgetting in this marriage!)—Ed.


What the Food?

Quarantine Cuisine, from Tenor Frank

If you are like my husband Andrew and me, this quarantine has opened up the possibility of trying to make food you might not otherwise have made. Everything from homemade pasta to bagels, ice cream to biscuits, and of course, dessert! Below is a selection of the food we made during our enforced isolation. I’m willing to trade recipes if you’d like! —Frank Donno

Asparagus quiche—so delicious for brunch, or lunch the next day with a fresh salad. 
Flatbread pizza—Made with left over naan dough, this flatbread was crispy and delicious! 
Chicken Parmigiana (or “Chicky Chicky Parm Parm” for those Parks and Recreations fans)—Even though I am Italian, this is not something I have made before. It was therapeutic to tenderize the chicken with a rubber mallet first. 
Taralli (or biscotti scaldati) —My nonna and mom used to make these by the kilo! With all their imperfections, these were a close approximation of a southern Italian treat from my childhood. My sister wants more!!
Broccoli soufflé —Mistakenly, I ordered more broccoli than we would normally eat in a month. After a little research, I stumbled on the recipe for this soufflé. Wow!! What a great meal —and the leftovers were great the next day for breakfast!
Mexican fiesta —Pretty regularly, my husband Andrew makes a Mexican feast but this one surpasses anything he had made before. With chicken molè and all the trimmings—a taco Tuesday celebration for Cinco de Mayo! 
Olive loaf bread—Some friends mentioned that they love olive loaf bread and I happened to have some olive tapenade in the fridge … voila! Crunchy and salty and just a joy with some olive oil for dipping.
Carrot cake—My sweet tooth demanded satisfaction and we had an abundance of carrots in the fridge, so why not make a carrot cake. The cream cheese frosting was light and fluffy and utterly delicious.
Bagels—As a New Yorker, it felt like blasphemy to even consider making bagels at home. But my craving got the better of me so I thought I’d give them a try. I’ll definitely be making these treasures again. 
Apple cake with a cinnamon glaze—What can I say … it’s apple cake!! Yummy!! 
Dutch oven bread —I couldn’t get enough of this delicious loaf! Butter and strawberry preserves —YUM! 
Blueberry scones—I thought these would be difficult to make. They are not. And I’ll be making loads more of them in the future. 

I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of our culinary adventures. Please share your creations, and be warned—I will ask for a recipe!!


Jazzy Is Shear Joy!

There’s no pause on a farm.Not when the guinea fowl, the pea fowl, and the llamas demand attention. So Assistant Director, sous-chef, and first soprano deluxe Constance Beckley has her hands full every day

One springtime task that cannot be paused is Jazzy the llama’s annual haircut. To say that Jazzy is unwilling is an understatement: Jazzy jumps, Jazzy spits. Connie, through long experience, comes armed with sewing scissors and her least favorite shirt. Afterwards, she takes a big shower. Here’s Jazzy’s new style—the Barrel Cut. Here’s Connie’s old shirt, the Spit-Spot.


What the Heck?

Summer came in. Covid did not go out, but life goes on.

At Art Mob Central, we still meet, virtually, once a week on rehearsal night to have fun, check in and chat. But we don’t sing as a group. And that is tough on us. So, what the heck ARE we doing? In a quarantine food experiment, Dean (bass) and Leslie (goddess) cultivate their garden! Here’s what Dean says:

Leslie and I are not just doing a lot of cooking during quarantine. (Well, to be fair, it’s Leslie who’s doing all the cooking. One hundred percent.) We’re growing herbs and vegetables to eat as well.

Dean and Leslie's garden
Here’s our little garden, consisting of three raised 3’ x 6’ planting beds and a few plant pots. This year we get to watch it grow.

We’ve had a garden every summer since we bought the place in 2013. Each of the three raised beds was our building project over a separate winter. We’ve accrued the pots from a variety of sources, including our own NYC apartment, whence we salvaged them when the indoor plants in them died during our total absence of over two months, from mid-March to the end of May. (Luckily, a few plants survived.)

What’s different this year is that, thanks to the coronavirus, we’re here. Every other summer, we’ve been traveling while the plants we had put out were struggling to survive on their own. Now we’re constantly out there weeding and watering, and it turns out to make a huge difference! Who knew?

We’ve already harvested oregano, chives, and four kinds of mint, all of which wintered over from last year. We planted the other things mostly from seedlings that we bought at Northern Dutchess Botanical Gardens, a very nice outdoor plant nursery a few miles from here. Spring comes very late here, and we lack a greenhouse, so we have not had a lot of luck growing from seeds. This is the first time we’ve planted tomatoes, but not the first time we’ve had the plants: A multitude of volunteer tomatoes has sprouted every year from the compost soil that fills the beds.

This spring we’ve gotten volunteer oak tree seedlings. The tree that overhangs the beds dropped an uncountable number of acorns last fall, and this spring they’ve been sprouting up like mad. They especially like the rich soil in the beds, but they’re also growing on the lawn and everywhere else. Every morning we rid the garden of dozens of would-be oaks. 

We’ll be spending more time in the city now that the reopening has begun, but this, at last, is the year we will not abandon our garden to the ravages of nature. Wish us luck with, besides those plants already mentioned, our basil, zucchini, winter squash, tarragon, thyme, marjoram, lavender, arugula, sorrel, parsley, leeks, sage, bell peppers, shishitos, snow peas, pole beans, cilantro, cucumbers, radishes, radicchio, and whatever else comes up out of the ground, is edible, and is not devoured by the deer. Cheers!


Curtain Up! Light the Lights!

We got nothing to hit but the … yeah, we got nothing.

We’re cancelled. It’s Concert Weekend, and we’re locked down. Shut in. But wait! Who says we haven’t been busy, creative, mentally agile? Yes, we have! Even in lock-down, the Art Mob has been meeting every Monday evening, our regular rehearsal night. We’ve been safe, we’ve been virtual, we’ve been virtuous. We have not been singing! It’s almost impossible to be in sync on Google Meet or the like. Heck, it IS impossible.

We’ve continued with our mission to entertain ourselves and others—ourselves, first—with recitations, show and tell, games, and, most successfully, poetry (of a sort). They’re linked below. Let us entertain you!

Like a timely limerick? We’ve got some doozies! Challenged to write from a sharp-edged list of prompts, our imaginations took flight.

PLUS, a multi-stanza ‘stravaganza; a video QVC-esque limerick from Bree!

Are Clerihews news to youse? Meet an oddball, light-verse form from the oddball past—exactly right for the Art Mob, you’ll agree.

So, we do have something, after all. Enjoy, and have faith that the Art Mob will celebrate Year 41 in December—somewhere, somehow, some way safe.


Art Mob Spring 2020 Season Cancelled. Duh.

We can’t sing. It’s not allowed.

We had a great theme this time: “Slings and Eros.” Maybe we’ll use it for next fall’s season instead. We were scheduled to sing on May 15, 16, and 17. Now we won’t even be able to get our hair cut by then, or, in a few isolated cases, discreetly colored. And we’ve forgotten what it’s like to wear actual clothing, certainly from the waist down, since pants at a Zoom meeting are as superfluous as a surgical mask in the bathtub.

But there is some good news! Ruby Truong, née McNeil, former Art Mob soprano and the daughter of Art Mob founder Marcia Tucker and her husband Dean McNeil, has given birth to the next generation of the Mob: Margot Star Truong. Mother, baby, and father Huy Truong are healthy and happy. What a blessing. Margot’s maternal grandparents would have been beyond ecstatic.

The Mob will be back, so don’t forget us! We’ll be singing on December 18, 19, and 20; we’ve already (before all the craziness began) booked Tenri Cultural Institute for the Friday and Saturday shows, and we’re looking for a Sunday venue. Who knows, maybe we’ll have to stand six feet apart. We probably won’t be wearing masks, since it’s hard to sing in those things, but we’ll try to avoid using too many explosive consonants.

We send you our heartfelt wishes for your health and safety in these dangerous and disorienting times. Thank you so much for your support. See you later!


From the Desk of the Treasurer

I’ll be direct: We need money. If you can give us some, it would really help us out. It’s tax deductible.

See my postscript.

I could have stopped there, but I feel the need to explain things. The Mob for its first thirty years or so operated on nothing, or as close to it as you can get. Now, our spending is still low relative to larger arts non-profits, but more than we can fund internally. The reason is very simple: Space. Our rehearsal spaces used to be free; now we have to pay. Performing spaces haven’t been free for a while, but they haven’t gotten any cheaper; quite the contrary. Our other expenses—printing and mailing postcards, printing programs, and very little else—are minor.

The music director needs to get paid as well, but I didn’t list that expense because we singers take responsibility for covering it ourselves. Which means we can’t afford also to pay for space rental and the rest.

Please donate right now, before you forget or chicken out.

The math is simple, too: What we take in at the box office is several hundred dollars short of what we must spend each season. That’s why we ask you, the Best Friends Forever of the Art Mob, to consider a tax-deductible donation to our very worthy little group.

We have remained true to the independent, intensely curious, non-conformist spirit in which Marcia Tucker founded us back in 1979, and we can keep doing that with your support. Even a small amount is helpful, a larger one that much more so.

Please donate right now, before you forget or chicken out, and use our Paypal link to send your donation to us. We will not waste it. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your generosity in the past and the future!!!

p.s. A confession: This is from me, the Treasurer, myself; my desk can’t write. It has legs, but no arms or hands, and it frankly has very little to say in any case.