Saturday, December 19, 2015

Down to the Oyster River

A crisp December afternoon with light snowflakes falling in a New Hampshire town provided the storybook setting for a stateside memorial service held for our friend Martin Brewer, taken from us far too early, this past October.
Some of the E Streeters travelled across the pond in October for Martin's funeral service, but Saturday was an opportunity for his extended family from Oyster River High School in Durham, N.H. to gather to pay tribute to their English teacher, their colleague, and their friend.
More than 200 people packed into the Durham Evangelical Church for a ceremony that featured so many of Martin's students and spotlighted the impact he had on their lives.
Virtually all of the teachers that he worked with turned out, and not surprisingly, they all had warm, loving stories of our friend, and were more than happy to share them with everyone.
Martin's brother, Paul, and his wife Lindsey made the trek back over from England to watch as New Englanders honored their loved one.
And of course, the Wolverhampton Wanderers ties made their return in homage to their biggest, and most loyal fan of all time.
I wasn't able to capture pics of all the speakers and performers, but tried my best.  Apologies to those I missed.

Special props to fellow E Streeter Rich Sorensen who recorded a gorgeous sunrise at Rye's Wallis Sands shoreline, set it to Springsteen's Terry's Song, and accompanied it with a collage of dozens of pics of Martin from throughout his life.
You can check out the video here:

Now your death is upon us and we'll return your ashes to the earth
And I know you'll take comfort in knowing you've been roundly blessed and cursed
But love is a power greater than death, just like the songs and stories told
And when she built you, brother, she broke the mold

Cammie Waterhouse delivered a powerful version of Roy Clark's Yesterday, When I was Young

Yesterday when I was young,
The taste of life was sweet as rain upon my tongue,
I teased at life as if it were a foolish game,
The way the evening breeze may tease a candle flame;
The thousand dreams I dreamed,
The splendid things I planned
I always built, alas,
on weak and shifting sand;
I lived by night and shunned the naked light of day
And only now I see how the years ran away.

Yesterday, when I was young,
So many happy songs were waiting to be sung,
So many wayward pleasures lay in store for me
And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see,

The students, as well as the music , stole the day.  Seriously, the numbers performed by the students were stunning, and quite impressive from a high school group.  Juilliard has nothing on ORHS.
Kudos to Marc LaForce for his musical Tour De LaForce 
The ORHS jazz combo rocked through Miles Davis's So What 
And the packed house at the Durham Evangelical Church ate it all up 
Clarence Clemons would be proud 
Martin's former colleague Trevor Garman delivered a hilarious tribute filled with the most unique story of Martin tackling a seven-foot phallic snow figure, the likes of which have never been heard before, and likely never will again.  And since this is a family blog, we won't delve into the sordid details here.
You could hear a pin drop during an acapella version of The Beatles' John Lennon and Paul McCartney's In My Life

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all

Rose Mroczka and Annie Hanley-Miller performed George Harrison's All Things Must Pass

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It's not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
All things must pass away

Former student Jake Baver told the crowd how Martin had been his teacher, his mentor and his friend, and how the parallels in their life provided him with inspiration and the courage to wage his own battle with cancer 
The ORHS string ensemble's version of Jay Unger's haunting Ashokan Farewell was quite simply, breathtaking
And finally, a full ORHS Studio Orchestra wrap-up of Ray Charles' A Song for You, with vocals from Skylar Bagdon was a tidy coda for the afternoon's ceremony.

We were alone and I was singin' my song for you
I love you in a place where there's no space or time
I've loved you for my life, yes, you're a friend of mine
And when my life is over, remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singin' my song for you, yes
We were alone and I was singin' this song for you, baby
We were alone and I was singin' my song,

There was very likely more Wolverhampton Wanderers gear in one place in America than ever before, with our ties, coupled with Jake's hoodie.
The lovely ladies of the day
Andrew reunited with his Arundel posse after the event

The Oyster River Alumni Association is raising money for a memorial fund to bring Shakespeare & Company plays to ORHS in memory of Martin.  To contribute, make checks payable to ORAA with Martin Brewer Fund on the subject line.  Checks can be mailed to Oyster River Alumni Association, P.O. Box 320 Durham, N.H., 03824, or credit card payments can be made to the Martin Brewer Memorial Fund at

To wrap it up, we'll use the words of Martin himself, from a 2004 essay he wrote about Springsteen's album the River, and which Don Maynard shared in part with the group on Saturday afternoon:

"It is no exaggeration to say that my first visit to America in 1981, at the tender age of 18, was completely inspired by the influence of Bruce Springsteen. I travelled from New York to Los Angeles by way of New Orleans and Las Vegas and felt a kinship with the land that felt so natural. This was not a foreign country to me because Springsteen had composed my unique triptych. I was home. At the age of 28 I moved to the USA permanently and the songs of New Jersey’s finest poet have never lost their luster for me. I eagerly await every release as if I were that teenager still. The ever increasing maturity of his songs have helped document my own journey into and through adulthood. This is not some vicarious cheap thrill but a shared experience of life’s joys and frustrations. I am in my forties with many miles in my rear-view mirror but I’ll never forget the excitement of first discovering The River. Does anybody forget their first love? I am the architect of my own destiny in life but when the waters become muddied the music of Bruce Springsteen is like a river that guides me to a place where I will always feel at home."

One final note to put the cherry on top:
Later in the night, Springsteen was the featured musical guest on Saturday Night Live, promoting what else, of course?  His new River tour.
But the final piece of Martin lore of the day came via the surprise guest who walked out to perform with the Boss:  Sir Paul McCartney, another of Martin's fave performers.
Martin and Paul Askew were in attendance at the legendary Hyde Park show when London pulled the plug on this pair performing before because of a curfew, a travesty that Martin remained apoplectic over for years.
They were allowed to play through on Santa Claus is Coming to Town last night.  I'd like to think it was the tip of a Santa cap to Martin Brewer.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Rachel's Rain Run

Back to the trails behind Notre Dame Academy to support a great cause created in memory of a fellow runner - Rachel's Run!
As I wrote about last year, Rachel Anne Morrison, formerly of Chelmsford, was an avid runner who was planning to run the 2014 Boston Marathon with her father John when she hit and killed by a drunken driver in California just months before the Boston Marathon.
Rachel used to organize a post-Thanksgiving run on the cross-country trails behind NDA in Tyngsboro, so now her family continues the tradition, renaming the race for Rachel.
The E Streeters are more than happy to turn out to support the cause.  And who knows, maybe take home some hardware for their efforts?
Read on......
We had snowfall to contend with last year, this year it was rainy conditions that added a bite to the air.
Pre-race smiles - and no, your eyes aren't deceiving you - Erin, herself an NDA alum, was out there notching the miles to help support the great cause.
Barry has many pre-race rituals, not all of which are suitable for discussion on a family blog.  In one of them, he congratulates all of the runners he knows are going to beat him handily in the race.  As you can see, some, like Kara Haas, don't quite know what to make of it.
One of these two runners is going home with top honors.  I'll leave it to your imagination to figure out which one.
We found Scott out at the start, finishing up a 10 mile warm-up.
And making his annual return to the racing ranks, John Piekos!
Elsewhere, Barry is still at it.  Sorry, Lisa.
Barry talks a mean game in the nanoseconds before that starting gun goes off.  Scott is not intimidated.  Clearly.  Neither are total strangers.
And they're off on a group run.  That is, if you're running at Carlos' pace.
Not many shots out on the course to share this year, but we've got some award-winning finish line pics to keep you enthralled.  Steve Vachon doesn't seem impressed by his cheering section.
The cacophony begins to rise among the E Streeters.  Clearly, someone is approaching who needs that finish line adrenaline assist.
Indeed.  It's John-Always-Know-Where-The-Camera-Is-Piekos
Inside the warm gymnasium it's soup for the E Streeters.  It couldn't hold a candle to Karen's New Year's Day offerings, but at that particular moment, it fit the bill.
Barry with more of the extended family clan, also regulars at Rachel's Run
The race standings show some impressive finishes by the E Streeters.  They also show that at least one member of the group has an identity crisis when it comes to his hometown.  Carlos' omission would place him out of the running for any of the medals, sadly. 
Andrew was not the only member of the Cook family who would be claiming a medal at this awards ceremony.
The other one would cockily strut to the table to claim his prize.
Damn, victory tastes sweet. 
At least for one of us.  Andrew hadn't eaten breakfast that morning and was hoping for some sustenance to hold him over.  The first place age group medal wasn't nutritious enough for him.
That's it for this year's outing!  I suspect we'll see everyone back behind NDA next year!  We've conquered the course in snow and rain, so next year should bring some hail!
In the meantime, if you want to donate to the cause, you can still make a donation to the Rachel Morrison Scholarship Fund at the Academy of Notre Dame, Tyngsboro, MA, 01879.