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It has taken me this long to learn that there are many different kinds of friends. Although I have more than three friends, each person listed here represents a distinctly different type.

The Rewards of Teamwork…

Life is full of learning experiences. One of the best is to be part of a team. The skills that you acquire – to listen, to collaborate, to empathize, to follow, to lead, to check your ego – are invaluable. Whether at work or play, if you ever have the chance to join in with others, take it.

The Lake of the Woods Madrigal Singers

In my senior year of high school, a group of my friends and I formed a quartet called “The Madrigal Singers”. Our group had great adventures and loads of fun as we performed all over Northwestern Ontario. And we remain long-distance friends. Two of the group, Lenard Whiting and Melody Jacobson Krever, have made music a career. That’s us on the right when we were about 18 years of age.

The Madrigal Singers at McLeod Park in the City of Kenora. From left to right: Leonard Whiting, Beverly Wager, Heather LaBelle (accompanist), Melody Jacobson Krever and Mark Winkler.

University of Michigan Madrigal Quartet

This group was formed in my senior year at the University of Michigan. And, just like my high school group, two of the members stayed in music. Thomas A. Gregg is a professor of voice at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. And Carol Sahakian McAndrew is a choral director in Michigan. A recording has recently surfaced of our singing a concert in Ann Arbor Michigan. You can listen to some samples of that recital below.

Tenor, Peter Riberi at the tender age of 20.

A Duet from the Past

This duet performance from 1981 is very special to me. I was 21 and was singing with tenor Peter Riberi who, at only 20, already sounded like Mario Lanza. Peter became a successful operatic tenor who sang numerous times at the Metropolitan Opera and was also featured on many Met broadcasts in the 90’s. It was pure joy to sing with him.

This baritone and tenor duet is from the operetta “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”  As you may know, in opera the general rule is that the tenor is the one who always shines in front. And the baritone supports whatever the tenor is doing. This short recording confirms that theory.

To give you an example of why I love opera, you need to look no further than the 0:52 mark of this duet. I get chills down my spine during moments like this.

The Rewards of Teamwork…2019-02-13T22:14:56-05:00

Supporting Dorothea, the Only Way I Knew How…

Song: Hue Fantasie

Composed By: Georges Hue

Performed By: Dorothea Belanger

Accompanied By: Mark Winkler

Date Recorded: 1982

Accompanying A Friend

Dorothea Belanger the most fabulous friend one could ever hope for. She has been with me during some tough times, and no matter how long we are apart, when we do meet up again it’s like we never were separated. Her husband is also named Mark and the running gag throughout the years is that he is Mark 1.0 and I am Mark 1.1 (I used to be Mark 1.5, but she recently upgraded me to 1.1).

I recently discovered this old cassette and transferred it digitally. It is a recording made in 1982 of Dorothea playing the flute for Kenora’s Centennial.

She played brilliantly! And I supported her the only way I knew how. I accompanied her on the piano. We worked really hard rehearsing this and, believe me, Dorothea was a taskmaster. Mediocrity had no place in her life. Which is one of the reasons why I learned to respect and love her from an early age.

Be warned: this is a 7-minute classical piece, not Bon Jovi.

Fast Forward

Thirty-three years later Dorothea and I tried our hands at it one more time. We weren’t as polished as in 1982, but much more content and at peace with ourselves … a trade-off that I am fine with.

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Supporting Dorothea, the Only Way I Knew How…2019-02-13T22:18:39-05:00

Post Cancer Homecoming on the M.S. Kenora

A Warm August Night – 2011

Post Cancer Homecoming

This is one of those unforgettable moments! A glimpse of a night on Lake of the Woods aboard the M.S. Kenora. It was the celebration of my Post Cancer Homecoming with all my old friends.  Here is a link to an article in the local newspaper that summarizes the event. Newspaper Article

From top left going around the clock: 1. Me with Nikki Dubenski 2. With the Litmans, 3. With Suzanne Gilbert 4. Sookie Katz and Marlene Lundin 5. With Dell Ambs 6. With Jerry Litman 7. With Dorothea Belanger and Blaine Goodridge, 8. With Ruth Bowiec.

Post Cancer Homecoming on the M.S. Kenora2019-02-16T09:03:28-05:00

Lake of the Woods…with Friends

It All Began…

in June of 2013 when I decided to rent a cottage on Lake of the Woods, in Kenora, Ontario, Canada. I invited Bob Cortez, my ex-boss, and his wife, Linda with whom I have become good friends over the past few years. This cottage was just a mile or so from another good friend, Dorothea Belanger (remember the flute player in the “Supporting Dorothea” section?). Her husband Mark is an excellent fisherman and a great guide to this enormous lake of over 14,000 islands. Mark is a man of many talents. In addition to knowing all there is to know about the lake, he also built his own brick pizza oven near his dock so they could bake pizzas right on the water. What you see below is a combination of beautiful nature mixed with beautiful people … a great little moment in my life.

My Best Bud and his Wife

These are two very important people in my life, Bob and Linda. I Invited them up to Lake of the Woods because they love to fish. I teamed them with Dorothea’s ace fisherman husband, Mark. And the story can be told by this picture. Two very satisfied tourists.

Beautiful Lake of the Woods

While out on the lake, heading to a restaurant on an island called Wiley’s Point, we came across this rock formation with thousands of cormorants nesting gracefully on the cliff. We turned down the motor and just soaked in the beauty while they sang to each other. It was glorious.

The Kenora Gang

And here is the mighty group at Dorothea and Mark’s home on Storm Bay Road. This was taken at the Name-Your-Own-Pizza Party at the dock. From left to right: Wayne Kelso, Michelle Lundy, Mark Belanger, myself, Dorothea Belanger, Bob and Linda Cortez. Take a look at the video below for more info.

Hand-Built Pizza Oven

Here is Mark Belanger’s hand-built pizza oven in action. The “pizzaiolos” are Bob and Linda. They actually did a great job. Filmed In the style of Julia Child. For a step-by-step look at how Mark built this oven, click here: Building a Wood Burning Pizza Oven.

Linda’s 29″ Pike

Update

Linda and Bob came back up to Kenora in June 2015. Leave it to Linda to catch a 29″ walleye. Our guide Mark Belanger said he has only caught a few like the one in the 50 years he’s been fishing on Lake of the Woods. Unbelievable! P.S. The walleye was released back into the waters immediately. As Linda stated, “if this fish lasted this long in the lake, it’s not going to be me that takes it out!”

Lake of the Woods…with Friends2019-02-13T22:34:17-05:00

Hallelujah… Dreams Really Do Come True

A while ago, I received an email from an old acquaintance. In it, he described a strange dream he had and asked me for an unusual favor. Because of his request, I was moved to revisit a part of my life that I thought was gone forever. Below is the un-edited email conversation that tells the story:

The Video I Sent Him…

Dreams become a reality

This was an unforgettable little moment in my life. I had not sung anything – not a single note –  for at least 30 years. Plus, I was not feeling very well. But, as sick as I was, I wanted to sing this song for him. I may never truly know the reason why, but it felt like the right thing to do. A very moving moment in my life that gave me a lot to think about….

Hallelujah… Dreams Really Do Come True2019-02-15T14:15:33-05:00

A Dog’s Love

The Adoption

In February of 2013, I rescued Lilly. She had been wasting away in a kill shelter with no human contact for six months.. Lilly (named after my mother) is a complete and total joy, returning my unconditional love with her own. She still has some anxieties from her previous inhumane confinement but we’ve been working on these small issues, and she has shown constant and remarkable improvement.

Lilly in Full Bloom

In May of 2013, I was finally able to see the dog that Lilly was meant to be. I took her on a small trip to beautiful Cape Cod where she was finally able to drop the last of her defenses. My loving and faithful companion finally learned what enjoying life is all about. This is certainly a very special “little moment” in my life as I was also there with close friends who mean a lot to me. Please enjoy this short video above celebrating my dog and my friends.

Above is a video of Lilly playing at home.

Photogenic? You Bet!

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that she is the most photogenic dog on this planet. Here’s the proof: look below!

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A Dog’s Love2019-03-06T00:12:28-05:00