The Boston Pops files: Pops Festival

I got a bunch of Boston Pops records from the 1960s and 1970s. This is one in a series of blog posts about them.

This is it. This is the record (er, 10 record set) that got me started down this slippery slope. Pops Festival is a “Reader’s Digest Pleasure Programming” boxed set of ten LPs containing what appear to be reissues of many Pops records and recordings from the 1960s on up.  It’s a truly massive set that hits huge chunks of the Pops’ repertoire (light European classics and waltzes, American orchestral works, pop favorites), only omitting Christmas music.A gift from my mother-in-law from my late father-in-law’s collection, I had only looked at bits of it until recently when I decided to buckle down and listen to the whole thing (and digitize it for easier review later).

While I haven’t been able to listen to all the records, I believe the set has tracks from at least the following Fiedler/Pops recordings:

And that’s just the first few that I checked. Of course, there’s a lot of room on two sides of 10 LPs.

Which leads to the best and worst things about this monumental set. It’s tremendously rewarding to immerse yourself in this set. It’s also impossible to consume in one sitting. But the just under 100 (!) selections in the set are a fascinating cross section of Pops repertoire, opening with Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris, cheek by jowl with selections from My Fair Lady and Bernstein’s Fancy Free. Ferdé Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite sits on one side of disc 2; a set of Leroy Anderson favorites (“The Typewriter,” “The Syncopated Clock,” “Chicken Reel”) on the other. Victory at Sea tunes are opposite a side of Latin dance music. Other records have family-friendly light classical repertoire, Viennese waltzes, and a side of dance tunes that concludes with the Pops’ arrangement of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”

Though I’m fairly sure that it was Readers’ Digest editors, not Fiedler himself, who selected and sequenced the anthology, the breadth and range of the repertoire makes a strong argument that the distinction between “high” and “low” art — or brow, if you will — is largely imaginary. If it’s good, Fiedler’s performances seem to say, it’s worth playing, regardless of where it comes from. There a spirit of generosity, and even more broadly, of democracy in the collective weight of this set. It’s an argument that would be interesting to revisit in the repertoire of the current Pops.

The Boston Pops files: Liebestraum

As I mentioned yesterday, I found myself recently in possession of a whole pile of Arthur Fiedler/Boston Pops records. Not all of them were the pure pop crossover of the Paul Simon album; many contained material that more neatly met my imagination of what a Pops album from the 1960s could be. But I learned in the process of putting these records to digital just how impoverished my imagination was with regards to the art of the possible. Let’s explore how broad Fiedler’s vision was for the Pops with the 1961 recording Liebestraum, in many respects the most conventional of the albums I got.

The tracklist for Liebestraum falls broadly into two categories: works composed or arranged for orchestra by various 19th and 20th century European composers, and dance and pop tunes arranged for the orchestra by the house arrangers. In the former camp is the title tune, a Liszt piano work that receives a full orchestral arrangement; the “Lullaby” from the Gayne ballet suite by Khatchaturian (from whence also comes the insanely catchy and very different “Sabre Dance”); a remarkably tender performance of Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves,” and the overture to The Bohemian Girl by Balfe.

It’s the latter camp that makes up the bulk of the album, with romantic dance numbers (“Moonglow and the Theme from Picnic” and a remarkably straight faced “Hernando’s Hideaway”) sitting alongside more uptempo dance numbers, including the “Dancing Through the Years” medley (which touches the Charleston, the tango, square dance, and others) and “Jalousie,” a tango that Fiedler famously picked up in sheet music form in a Boston store and turned into a hit record.

The performance is uniformly of a high level and repays careful listening—remember, this Boston Pops’ alter ego was Charles Munch’s Boston Symphony Orchestra. But it also works well as highbrow background music for dinner or dancing—which, judging from my father-in-law’s record collection, was an extremely good match for the record-buying public’s tastes at the time.

Here’s the first few tracks of the record.

The Boston Pops files: Arthur Fielder and the Boston Pops Play the Music of Paul Simon

In my not-so-copious spare time, I’ve been going through and starting to really focus on digging into the vinyl I’ve accumulated over the years. The trigger this time was a double whammy: the cataloguing of a bunch of records from my father-in-law and his brother, and the gift of a bunch of records in dubious condition from our most recent Hackathon. I don’t know if the Great Record Rip will ever be finished, but I’m pretty sure it won’t get done if I don’t start doing it.

So one of the subthemes I ran across in all three sets was records by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. There are a lot of these that were released over the years—many more than I realized when I started the project. And the one that really made me sit up and take notice is this one: Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Play the Music of Paul SimonIt happened like this:

My good friend and colleague Mark Kriegsman is talking to me about two months ago about Hackathon and is clearly excited about something. He invites me into the Hack Lab (a large storage space containing Hackathon preparation and relics) and points me to a record player and about 14 egg crates full of LPs. I start flipping through, and there’s the Pops/Paul Simon record.

I am a huge Paul Simon fan. But I’ve heard my share of poor Paul Simon covers, so I just had to drop the needle on Side 2. “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).” And it’s brilliant. Great orchestration by Richard Hayman, sprightly and not above being a little ridiculous—the pizzicato strings transition into vocal melody carried by the woodwinds, and I think there’s an electric piano in the mix. The brass take the second verse, and the third verse has everybody and a tambourine. I had to have the record.

The rest of the record veers between the playful and serious. “Cecilia” is awesome as well, with hand percussion opening and the orchestra settling into a hoedown rhythm led by the lower brass. Bongos make an appearance in the final coda. “Homeward Bound” feels like it could have been one of the Pops’ crossover country numbers with Chet Atkins (about which more later). Some of the numbers are a little more solemn, and in fact the closing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is a little lugubrious. But overall the record brings a smile, and what more could you ask?

As to why the Pops was devoting a whole album to the music of Paul Simon? That’s a whole different story.

Here’s the Pops arrangement of the “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).”

Cocktail Friday: Remember the Maine

While traveling in Las Vegas last week, I had an opportunity to revisit my favorite advice about Las Vegas: whenever possible, get off the Strip. In this case, we led a pilgrimage to Herbs & Rye, likely my second favorite cocktail bar in town and one of my top 10 anywhere. It was near the end of a long week so I didn’t play my usual game of “stump the bartender” and try to find something off the menu. And I didn’t need to, because smack in the middle of the first page was this classic.

The Remember the Maine, in addition to recalling one of the earliest and most notorious episodes of yellow journalism, is a delightful cocktail. What on paper appears to be a minor variation on the rye Manhattan tastes like an entirely new drink thanks to the combination of the sweetness of the cherry liqueur (Herbs & Rye and I both use Cherry Heering) and the bracing absinthe (I used Herbsaint).

And the drink has a wonderful backstory. Coming from Charles H. Baker’s 1939 book A Gentleman’s Companion is this description of the drink:

REMEMBER the MAINE, a Hazy Memory of a Night in Havana during the Unpleasantnesses of 1933, when Each Swallow Was Punctuated with Bombs Going off on the Prado, or the Sound of 3″ Shells Being Fired at the Hotel NACIONAL, then Haven for Certain Anti-Revolutionary Officers.

As always, if you want to try the recipe, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!

Veterans Day 2017: remembering Uncle Reeves

Uncle Reeves and Aunt Jewell, early 1970s

My family has about the average number of veterans and career military personnel. I’ll write another day about the long career of my mom’s brother John Brackbill and his service in the Army and Navy. But on this particular day-before-Veterans Day, I’m thinking about my Uncle Reeves.

Reeves Dennis Church enlisted in August 1941, leaving his life as a merchant in Hot Springs, North Carolina. He trained in Boston; near the end of his life he told us highly abbreviated and edited stories of the infamous Scollay Square. In June 1942 he sailed to New York on the USS Siren as a seaman first class. By September he was sailing from Key West to Cuba, still on the Siren, having been promoted to yeoman third class. He was still serving on the Siren in March 1944, but had been promoted to Yeoman First Class. By May of that year he headed back to New York, when the Siren was decommissioned, and he was discharged in 1945.

USS Siren was a patrol yacht, originally assigned to coastal defense in New England, then redeployed to convoy duty along the southeastern US coast and in the Caribbean. As part of the crew, Reeves traveled to Trinidad, Jamaica, Key West, Cuba, and even to Brazil, and helped to rescue survivors of a U-Boat sunk by a Navy patrol plane.

That was the most excitement my uncle had. After the war, he returned home and married my Aunt Jewell, and settled into a quiet life, working for the NC state highway department. After retiring he would frequently give Appalachian Trail hikers seeking a zero a lift from the trail into Hot Springs. By the time I got to know him, thirty years after his discharge, you’d never have known that he spent the war keeping our country safe.

Which is one of the unique privileges we have had in America: to be kept safe by those ordinary people who volunteered to do extraordinary things.

Dave Brubeck and me

Back cover of the Telarc recording of To Hope! I’m in the mass of choristers in white on the steps in the back.

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post and have previously alluded, there’s a musical story that I haven’t told about my life. It’s tied up with Reilly Lewis and the Cathedral Choral Society, and marks my first brush with a celebrity musician (at least, outside the classical world; the first was with the great Robert Shaw, with whom I sang Hindemith’s When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom’d the previous season).

We were performing Brubeck’s To Hope! A Celebration, a most unusual work that combined jazz with traditional mass structure—if not traditional mass texts. It’s still the only work of which I’m aware that incorporates both a fugue and a gospel stride piano number. The music didn’t make a lot of sense with just rehearsal piano, but everything was about to change.

It was spring at the National Cathedral, which meant rehearsal space conflicts. So we were across the street in the gymnasium of the National Cathedral School running through the music again. At one point, while Reilly Lewis was addressing the chorus, the door opened in the corner and I saw out of the corner of my eye two men enter: Russell Gloyd, who would conduct the chorus and orchestra, and a tall, white-haired man with a wide grin: Dave Brubeck.

After everyone applauded, Reilly said, “You know, I’ve always wanted to do this,” and sprinted to the piano where he played the first three bars of “Blue Rondo à la Turk.” Everybody cracked up, and Brubeck said, “Keep going!” That moment set the tone for the collaboration.

When it came to the day of the performance, it was odd to see large numbers of microphones and a large sound console halfway down the nave. It was then that the magnitude of what we were doing hit me: this was the recording team from Telarc, Brubeck’s label, who were going to record us. We got through the performance, about which I remember very little except for Brubeck’s introduction of his band—Bobby Millitello on sax, Rodney Richards on drums, and Jack Six (“S-I-X!”) on bass—and then got out of our performance clothes and got comfortable.

We had been told that we would record “patches” to cover over places where outside noise or glitches in the performance marred the live take. “Patches” ended up taking hours. At one point we needed to do a couple takes of one particularly tricky moment for the chorus that had been garbled in the performance, and the band (except for Brubeck) took a break. We nailed the take, and then the producer called for the band again. Apparently they had stepped outside for a cigarette; someone had to be sent to fetch them through the outside door located in the far end of the nave from our recording location in the transept.

When they came back in, doing the long march up a side aisle along the nave, Brubeck dryly broke into “When The Saints Go Marching In.” And the chorus sang along. It’s the only time that I ever improvised with a jazz legend.

The live recording was issued as To Hope! A Celebration by Telarc and remains the only jazz album on which I’ve performed.

Dipping into the Brubeck discography

I’ve been a fan of Dave Brubeck’s jazz since I first listened to my parents’ copy of Dave Brubeck’s Greatest Hits, which is how I discovered “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo A La Turk.” Since then I picked up many of the great man’s recordings (including A Dave Brubeck Christmas, which I reviewed for Blogcritics back in the day), and even got a chance to sing with him. Which, apparently, is a story I haven’t told in much detail (though some parts are here and here).

But I hadn’t dug systematically into his discography, at least not in the same way that I had Coltrane or Miles. So when, during this fall’s Veracode Hackathon, a small truckload of vinyl showed up, I was thrilled to find some Brubeck records I hadn’t yet listened to. And then to pick them up for a dollar apiece at the end-of-Hackathon fire sale/fundraiser.

The three records are all different and all interesting. Gone With the Wind is a Georgia-themed recording, and Dave and the quartet dip into a bunch of different Deep South themed material, including works by Stephen Foster (“Swanee River,” aka “Old Folks at Home,””Camptown Races”) and works by non-Southerners that have grown deeply associated with the region (“Ol’ Man River,” “Shortnin’ Bread”). There’s no way in hell you’d get this record made today, given the echoes of slavery, minstrelsy, and other signs of our original national sin. But Brubeck and Paul Desmond turn in a convincing reading of the material.

What’s fascinating is that the record, which was released in 1959, was recorded after Brubeck had recorded Time Out. Columbia was apparently nervous about the odd time signatures the group was researching for the latter record and demanded something more conventional as insurance. Of course, Time Out turned out to be one of the great jazz classics of all time, while Gone With the Wind has been largely forgotten. It’s also fascinating to realize that this pleasant but largely inconsequential record was produced by Teo Macero, who was Miles Davis’s producer at Columbia—and that Teo recorded sessions with both Miles and Brubeck on the same day, April 22, 1959, for these very different albums.

The other two albums are less substantial still. Southern Scene features quartet, trio and solo performances of more Southern-adjacent standards, while Jazz: Red Hot and Cool marks a pleasant but ordinary set of live recordings of the quartet prior to the arrival of Joe Morello on drums and Eugene Wright on bass.

But the delightful thing is that all three albums were well maintained, despite their bargain sale price, and sounded fantastic on the turntable. I think this vinyl hunting could get to be a habit …

Catching up

A List Apart: Web Typography: Designing Tables to be Read, Not Looked At. One of my pet peeves is tables that can’t be scanned easily. There are some great tips here, including some CSS features I didn’t know about (like td { text-align: “.” center; to align a column of numbers at a decimal point!).

Talking Points Memo: Compromise and the Civil War. Short essay by Josh Marshall outlining the insanity behind John Kelly’s remarks on how the failure to “compromise” led to the Civil War. In fact, it was the South’s refusal to accept any compromise on slavery that led directly to the conflict.

Amadeus Pro: Elimination of a continuous background noise. I’m digitizing a lot more vinyl these days and need to check into this feature to “denoise” a track based on a sample of, for instance, needle hiss.

Archive.org: 78rpm Records Digitized by George Blood, L.P. Definitely going to dig into this. There’s a Twitter feed too.

Numero Group records. The makers of the “Eccentric Soul” series, which blew the top of my head off the first time I heard it (“You Can’t Blame Me,” anyone?).

“Yankee Doodle” and the Liberty Tree

Old “Yankee Doodle” song sheet, courtesy Library of Congress

I was able to go see the Boston Camerata’s performance of “Liberty Tree” yesterday. The music and performances were stunning, evocative of an extraordinarily fertile time in the nation’s creative genius. The program mixed marches and political songs, Shaker songs, spirituals, shape note music and early American compositions from the likes of Billings and Jeremiah Ingalls, to great effect.

I especially liked the reminder, in this time when even taking a different gesture of respect for the National Anthem is met with howls of outrage (when the protesters are black), that our national symbols were not always so staid. Here’s the text of the, um, atypical but historical “Yankee Doodle” verses that opened (and closed!) the show:

Sheep’s head and vinegar,
Buttermilk and tansy,
Boston is a Yankee town––
Sing Hey Doodle Dandy.

Heigh ho for our Cape Cod,
Heigh ho Nantasket,
Do not let the Boston wags
Feed your oyster basket.

Two and two may go to bed,
Two and two together;
And if there is not room enough,
Lie one atop the other.

Exfiltration Radio

We just finished another Veracode Hackathon, and this one was rock and roll themed. One of our brilliant hackers put together an Internet radio station where you could sign up for a one-hour time slot and post a playlist. Naturally, this was catnip. I spent a few hours putting together two playlists, which I’ve embedded below—one all genres and one focusing on (mostly) 21st century jazz.

Production notes: I did some processing of individual audio files through Amadeus Pro and assembled everything in GarageBand. I’m very much still learning how to crawl with the latter tool, so I hope it doesn’t stink too much.

The playlists are below. Enjoy!

  1. Orbits (Live) – Wayne Shorter (Without a Net (Live))
  2. Tangled – Idris Rahman, Leon Brichard, Emre Ramazanoglu, Yahael Camara-Onono (Ill Considered)
  3. Love What Is Mortal – Donny McCaslin (Fast Future)
  4. Be There – Leon Gardner (Spiritual Jazz)
  5. Everybody Wants to Rule the World – The Bad Plus (Prog)
  6. El Swing – Hudson (Hudson (feat. Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski & John Scofield))
  7. I Came to See You / You Were Not There – Ahmad Jamal (Marseille)
  8. From One Island to Another – Branford Marsalis Quartet & Kurt Elling (Upward Spiral)
  9. Lathe of Heaven – Mark Turner Quartet (Lathe of Heaven)
  10. Look at Me – Cécile McLorin Salvant (For One to Love)
  11. For Amiri Baraka – Vijay Iyer Sextet (Far from Over)
  1. Sivad – Miles Davis (The Columbia Years 1955-1985)
  2. Uncloudy Day – Mavis Staples & The Staple Singers (Gospel Brunch)
  3. Where the Sun Never Goes Down – David Byrne (Music From the Knee Plays)
  4. Rotating Head (raga version) – English Beat
  5. It’s All Too Much – The Beatles (Yellow Submarine [2009 Stereo Remaster])
  6. Damaged Goods – Gang Of Four (Entertainment!)
  7. Winter ’68 – The Black Angels (The Black Angels)
  8. Ascension Day – Talk Talk (Laughing Stock)
  9. Rebecca Sylvester – Gastr Del Sol (Upgrade & Afterlife)
  10. Hey Vegas – Bows (Cassidy)
  11. Circle – Miles Davis Quintet (Miles Smiles)
  12. &&& . . . && . &&& . . – The User (Symphony #2 For Dot Matrix Printers)
  13. Farnham – Daniel Bachman (River)
  14. Life On Mars? (2003 Ken Scott Mix) – David Bowie (Nothing Has Changed (Deluxe Edition))

iOS 11: high-bitrate audio is finally here

I updated my iPhone to iOS 11 over the weekend, having first replaced or exported data from two old apps that haven’t been updated for 64 bit (I’ll miss you, Cocktails app!). And then I synced music from my Mac and noticed that I didn’t get the customary message about tracks that couldn’t be synced.

I checked and found that a whole bunch of Boston Symphony tracks purchased from their store, which I converted from FLAC to Apple Lossless but were apparently still at a too-high bitrate for iOS to handle, appear finally to be supported and were synced to my phone for the first time ever. This appears to be a feature, and may be related to the ability to play back FLAC through some apps (like iCloud Drive).

Looking forward to finally carrying all my music with me!

Raised on radio

I’ve found myself doing more radio listening lately. Partly because it’s starting to be challenging to spend time digitizing LPs or even doing digital digging on Bandcamp (though I’m still doing both). But most of my listening has not been FM. Here’s what I’ve been turning to:

Sirius/XM Radio. Though the poor quality audio throws me off—I can’t stand listening to the classical channels for more than a few minutes—it’s great being able to turn on the First Wave channel and hear “Mad World” pretty much any day you want to. And a bunch of other tracks as well.

Iron Leg/Testify/Funky16Corners. I’m a long time listener of Larry Grogan’s expanding family of podcasts. Though I found myself fast forwarding a few of this summer’s F16C guest podcasts, I am really enjoying Larry’s posts of his WFMU radio show, “Testify.” Sample episodes: tribute to Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, heavy epics from Joni Mitchell to Nick Drake to the Temptations, and more on the show page (he also cross-posts the full sets to the Iron Leg podcast). The show graphics are great too (see above).

In the Groove. Another radio-originated podcast, Ken Laster’s WWUH radio show is jazz focused and has a special slant covering independent jazz artists. I’ve had a few discoveries from this show, including Cecile McLorin Savant (featured in Ken’s Newport Preview episode). The Wayne Shorter episode is pretty good too.

The Broadcasting System. My friend Tyler DJs this show on Monday afternoons under the nom de radio of “Tyler Broadcasting System.” WTJU doesn’t podcast but they do stream live and archive a few weeks worth of shows. I highly recommend the show from September 18 while it’s still available, which veers from Meredith Monk and Moondog to Pram and ELO and Pharoah Sanders.

EMP revisited

David Bowie by Mick Rock, in the Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle

I couldn’t let my visit to Seattle end without revisiting a few familiar haunts, and I’m glad I did. While the name of the Museum of Pop Culture is new to me, the facility isn’t—it’s the new name of the Experience Music Project, now incorporating the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame as well.

And the exhibits were spectacular. Who knew I needed to hear slightly abstract mixes of early 1970s Bowie while looking at Mick Rock’s spectacular photos of him (above) and watching video loops of him on rebuilt vintage televisions? Or to see early production sketches for the Muppets alongside the actual puppets themselves?

Or, better yet, the starring Gelflings and urRu (one hesitates to call them Muppets) from The Dark Crystal?

Then there was the Star Trek and science fiction stuff, which could take a post of its own. It was a spectacular visit.

CarPlay

I’m traveling in Seattle this week for the first time in a while (like, over ten years). Also for the first time in a while, I have a rental car rather than relying on ridesharing to get around. So when I stepped into the rental Chevy that Avis provided, I was expecting another ho-hum vehicular experience.

The car is, indeed, ho-hum, from the perspective of moving me from one place to another—though pushbutton start is something I didn’t expect to find in an American midsize car. What was seriously surprising was what happened when I found the USB jack and plugged my phone in to charge. My phone prompted me to install an app from the App Store, which is behavior I’ve seen before; I declined. And then it started CarPlay.

Apple’s CarPlay is, as promised, a simplified OS for your car’s entertainment display that rapidly did the following for me as I got ready to drive:

  1. Brought up my Apple Maps destination on the big screen, saving me the problem of driving while consulting a non-mounted phone. Safer and more convenient.
  2. Offered to read me (not show me) my text messages when new ones came in. Safer.
  3. Let the radio (which I had tuned to KEXP) play, but also offered touchscreen access to my iTunes library and to Overcast, the app I use for podcast listening. Cool, especially when the afternoon KEXP DJ threw on a set I didn’t want to listen to.

Because I didn’t install the car’s app, a few things were slightly jarring, like switching audio between FM radio and my phone’s audio. But everything else just worked. And I didn’t even play with in-car Siri yet.

Looks like CarPlay is currently supported on almost every model of car that I’d consider for my next purchase. Looking forward to it. I didn’t realize how poor the in-dash experience of my 2012 VW GTI was until I tried this.

Removing the Confederate plaques on the Rotunda

Rotunda memorial plaques, courtesy Richard Dizon, Cavalier Daily

On Friday, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia voted to remove a pair of bronze memorial plaques listing the UVA students who were killed fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Early Saturday morning, workers removed the plaques. Per the BOV resolution, the plaques will be “moved to a location at the University where they can be viewed as artifacts.”

The tablets in question were installed on the Rotunda in the early 1900s—the CD says “1903” but Philip Alexander Bruce says they were installed and dedicated by UVa’s first president, Edwin Alderman, in 1906, as a gift of the Confederate Memorial Association and the Albemarle Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. (Note that the Glee Club raised funds for the Confederate Memorial Association in 1890.)

The actions over the weekend are a direct outcome from the events that happened in Charlottesville over August 11–13, in which torch bearing neo-Nazis marched through Grounds shouting anti-Semitic slogans. Passing up into Grounds from the Bookstore and presumably passing the student center at Newcomb Hall on their way up the Lawn, they came around the Rotunda, which bore these plaques on its south side, and surrounded a group of 25 counter-protesting students at Moses Ezekiel’s statue of Thomas Jefferson. They jeered and chanted at the students, and then they threw kerosene and lit torches at them.

Tyler Magill, who was in the Glee Club with me in the early 1990s and who I count as a friend, had joined the students by this time. He was struck by a torch on the side of his neck, which eventually led, a few days later, to his suffering a stroke.

More horrors happened over the weekend, including 20 year old James Alex Fields driving his car through a crowd of protesters, deliberately murdering Heather Heyer and injuring many others.

I have been trying to write my feelings about what happened that horrific weekend for over a month, and have not been able to. Among other reasons, it feels as though once I started I wouldn’t be able to stop.

But part of it is that today’s liberal Charlottesville sits atop a veritable Indian burial ground of undercurrents of racism and secession. This is, after all, the school where the Jefferson Society debated, on January 14th, 1860, whether a state had the right to secede from the Union (the conclusion was affirmative), and where the Washington Society decided in a November 1860 debate that the Southern States should secede; where students flew the flag of the Confederacy atop the Rotunda in February 1861. And it was also the school that was built with slave labor and that ran on the efforts of enslaved workers, and that was founded by a United States President who wrote “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” but who held both a peculiar definition of “all” and over 100 slaves.

So it is that Charlottesville seems a seat of that original sin of our country, and that our past is now coming home to roost.

The University’s actions to remove the names of those who fought to uphold slavery from its most central, symbolic building are a good start. I think the decision to display the memorials elsewhere is a good way to resolve the tension I have felt about removing public Confederate symbols. I don’t want us to forget our historic complicity in injustice and violence, but I also don’t want those reminders to continue their mission of oppression.