Notes from the podcast: (#141) New York Beer History

Year-Round Brews: This calendar from 1895 celebrates the Harlem breweries of James Everard. An older Everard brewery building on W. 28th Street was converted into a Turkish bathhouse in 1888. It became the location of a variety of notorious activities during the 20th century. Everard's breweries became the plaintiff in a Prohibition-era Supreme Court case regarding the use of alcoholic beverages for medicinal purposes. (Pic courtesy the Library of Congress)

Piels:  We completely skipped one major New York brewer, one that still maintains a presence in New York, if in name only. Three German brothers opened the Piels Brewery in East New York, on the same day as the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge-- May 24, 1883. They too had their own beer garden to enjoy the brews manufactured inside. Called the Summer Garden, this festive place adorned with electric lights and a shaded seating area was known for its determined wait staff.

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: "The waiters in the summer garden competed to see who could carry the most seidels of Piels Beer from the bar to their customers tables. In 1904 one waiter carried 16 seidels (eight in each hand)." [source]

Piels is still manufactured in Milwaukee by the Pabst Brewing Company.

Five-Borough Beer: In its heyday, you could find breweries in all five boroughs. Brewers were particularly attracted to Staten Island thanks to its spring water. In Stapleton, near the ferry piers, sat two of the largest -- George Bechtel's brewery (which opened in 1853) and Rubsam & Hormann's Atlantic Brewing Co.

And then, of course, there's a place we all want to stay -- Monroe Echstein's Brewery Hotel and adjoining brewery on Manor Road in Castleton Corners. (Pics courtesy NYPL)

College Point in Queens County attracted a large German population, thanks in part to rubber industrialist Conrad Poppenhausen, who set up his factories here in the 1850s. His workers and daytrippers to the region enjoyed a line of small breweries and beer gardens here. A couple decades later, Henry Steinway would set up his own factory town to the west and with it an assortment of beer gardens and even an outdoor amusement park called North Beach.

Today's Bohemian Hall in Astoria is not far from Steinway's factory. Read about the history of one of Queens' oldest drinking establishments here.

For More Information: The New-York Historical Society exhibit 'Beer Here: Brewing New York's History' is on display until September 2, 2012. I was particularly interested in the Society's collection of ice carving equipment used by early brewers and the very cheeky collection of mid-20th century advertising and media.

For a general history on American beer, I recommend Maureen Ogle's 'Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer' and also Gregg Smith's 'Beer In America: The Early Years'. And there is no shortage of History-Channel style documentaries on the subject. Also, for some general information on Bushwick, I highly recommend exploring the Bushwiki, with lots of history about the neighborhood.

There's now a New York Beer and Brewery Tour with stops at brewers in three different boroughs. And it takes you down 'Brewer's Row' after having a couple rounds of beer elsewhere. You can catch a tour of the Brooklyn Brewery of course; visit their website for more information.

Thanks again to Scott Nyerges for helping me out with this one! Please visit his website for more information on his upcoming gallery show in Bushwick. And also my thanks to the Bodega Bar in Bushwick where I was going to pull together the Bowery Boys' very first real 'on location' recording at a bar. Unfortunately I was not able to work that out, but I thank them for opening their door to the show anyway.

Mi casa es mi casa

A home is a shelter, a safe place for the soul to rest and reload. It is a getaway, a place where You can be You and where no one in the world can tell you that that You is wrong. Thats one of the reasons why we are so into interior designing. These pictures are some pictures of how we define or homes to be like; modern but at the same time cozy and rich in details. Not to naked and not to cluttered. Does it make sense? Well, to us it certainly do. 

 After all, your home is the place on earth that you will spend most of your days in so you better spend some time to make it perfect. By perfect we mean Your perfect. The word Perfect has an open definition and is deeply personal. Thats how a home should be; deeply personal.  

A dream about pink lace

The sight of Olivia Palermo in a pink dream from Valentino's spring collection 2012 makes us go nuts! The pink lace looks amazing on her and we can't think of anyone else that could pull this look of better than she. She looks GORGEOUS!

NIKOLAI KAPUSTIN Chamber Works / Thomas Ang and Friends / Review

Thomas Ang and Friends
The Chamber @ The Arts House
Sunday (29 July 2012

This review as published in The Straits Times on 31 July 2012 with the title "Friends explore new chamber repertoire".

Ukrainian composer Nikolai Kapustin (born 1937) is no longer a stranger in concert programmes these days, following ardent championing over the years by pianists like Nikolai Petrov, Marc-André Hamelin and Steven Osborne. Even in Singapore, Albert Lin and Nicholas Loh have performed his jazz-infused virtuosic piano pieces to much acclaim.

His chamber music, however, still represents terra incognito. So credit is due to young pianist Thomas Ang, recipient of the Hamish Dyer Musical Scholarship, for unearthing more than two hours of positive rarities for concert performance. All five works on the programme received Singapore premieres, and despite the highly approachable idiom, it was not always easy listening.

Kapustin’s music is more sophisticated and complex than that of Gershwin or Friedrich Gulda, just to name two pianist-composers who successfully “crossed-over” the classical and jazz divide. His themes are substantial, often subject to dense polyphony and counterpoint. The works are always rigorously schooled and scored note-for-note.  

This invigorating concert opened with a four-hand-arrangement of the 4-movement Sinfonietta (1986) performed by Ang and Stephanie Lew. Like Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, it was Haydn updated but in its piano guise, sounded like a Rachmaninov suite jazzed up in big band colours. The duo clearly enjoyed their whole-hearted dig despite the avalanche of notes.       

Less successful was the balance in the Violin Sonata (1992), where Ang’s violin part struggled to be heard above Lew’s busy figurations. The pizzicatos in the slow movement however piqued memories of the Blues movement from Ravel’s Violin Sonata, except that this entire work was the blues itself. The Flute Sonata (2004) had a far better airing, in part because Ang is more confident as a pianist, his crisp playing and acute sense of rhythm scoring plusses on the keyboard.

Flautist Daniel Bonaventure Lim, equally nimble and agile, projected very well throughout. Joined by cellist Chan Si Han, the Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano (1998) received the evening’s best performance. Like a genuine combo, the music leapt out from its black and white pages, headily emanating from the most hardcore and smoky of jazz nightclubs. The leisurely slow movement just launched itself attaca (without pause) into the most unbuttoned of finales.

The final work was the First String Quartet(1998), where Ang returned to lead on first violin. Deprived of the piano, the music was less frenetic but no less vibrant. Here the folksy sound of Slavic quartets met headlong with bluegrass and country traditions. The quartet overcame intonation issues and rhythmic hazards in the central movements before erupting in a frantic fugal finale.  

Despite every note being unfamiliar, the attendance and applause for this concert was more than encouraging. Ang, who commences musical studies in London this year, and his partners are urged to carry on exploring new repertoire.

All the performers (from L): Stephanie Lew (piano), Lum Jian Yang (viola), Margaret Teng (violin), Chan Si Han (cello), Thomas Ang (piano and violin) and Daniel Bonaventure Lim (flute).

Dear God, could you please?

Dear God, we Stylish Outlaws have always been so nice to you and mother earth.. Could you be kind kind enough to bring each of us a pair of these animal printed, calf haired Givenchy heels? We would really appreciate it. You can get them at Thank you, God! Amen. 

A world of couture

 Alexander McQueen 2007
  Alexander McQueen 2007
 Alexander McQueen 2005
 Christian Dior 2004
 Christian Dior 2007
Christian Dior 2010
 Elie Saab 2008
Givenchy 2009
John Galliano 2009
 John Galliano 2009

Ohmy, what would the world be without couture? It is a wonderful art that makes the world a little bit lighter. All the rich and thoughtful details placed on a garment creates magic. Gold, embroidery, lace, chiffon, feathers, tulle, sequins, volume, layers, jewelry.. We can go on forever. The Stylish Outlaws have such a royale moment each time we look at couture. 


Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Saturday (28 July 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 30 July 2012 with the title "Young virtuosos playing to win".

How do you bring together the best young piano talent in Southeast Asia under one roof in celebration of the world’s most recognisable piano brand? Steinway Piano and sponsor Bank Julius Baer’s solution was to get each of the countries to organise a nation-wide competition and then invite the winners to compete in Singapore, with the overall champion getting the chance to perform in the grand Steinway Festival in Hamburg.

Like football World Cup qualifiers, it was not going to be the fairest of fights. After all, how could tiny states like Brunei or Singapore compete with the populous might of Indonesia or Vietnam? With Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos not involved, the geopolitics was also skewed to include Taiwan and South Korea, both nations with highly established Western classical musical traditions. China and Japan already have their winners booked to Germany and were thus excluded here.

The competition proper and adjudication had taken place in the day, and the Gala Concert just showcased nine finalists playing a representative piece each. Thankfully not everything on display was virtuoso fodder, but it gave fair indication who the winner was going to be.

Liszt was played by three pianists. Lorenzo Medel (16 years) of Philippines gave a loose and light interpretation of the Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody, barely taxed by the fearsome right hand octaves that closed the work. Thailand’s Gun Chaikittiwatana (15) also relished in a flurry of notes, fluid and scintillating within the watery realm of Au bord d’une source.

However it was Hsieh Wei Ting (16, Taiwan) whose self-assurance and seemingly effortless note-perfection in La Campanella which truly stood out. Hers was the one reading that could stand tall in any international concoursaround the globe.

Chopin also fared well. South Korea’s Ha Gyu Tae (15) lent gravity and solemnity to the C Minor Nocturne (Op.48 No.1), even if the climax lacked certain tension. This made the reading of the B Major Nocturne (Op.62 No.1) by the diminutive Jennifer Chrysantha (10, Indonesia) all the more astonishing. Her luscious tonal colour and instinctive grasp of legatoand rubato were uncanny for one this young.  

Vietnam’s Nguyen Le Binh Anh (15) played a soulful Rachmaninov, whose Elegie(Op.3 No.1) was shaded with great sympathy and Romantic ardour. As a matter of contrast, the prestidigitation of Khachaturian’s Toccata was nailed with accuracy and proficiency by Singaporean See Ning Hui (16). Malaysian Audrey Siew (16) coaxed a silky sonority from Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau, never mind the missed notes. In this company, the choice of Chiam Shian Li (13, Brunei) to play Jon Schmidt’s All Of Me seemed less appropriate, but she got the jazzy feeling just right.  

The judging was based on a full 15-20 minute programme, and so the deserving First Prize Winner Hsieh was obliged to perform an encore immediately after she was metaphorically crowned. Her stylishly lilting performance of Granados’s Los Requiebros (Flatteries), full of Spanish flourishes, was arguably even better than the Liszt. Unlike most football referees, the three-person jury from USA, China and Hong Kong got its decision spot on.

Some Photos from the 1st Southeast Asian Steinway Piano Competition Finals

Large poster of the Competition finals.

A Miss Universe moment when Hsieh Wei Ting (Taiwan) is named winner of the Southeast Asian Steinway Youth Piano Competition. (Photo: Wayne Loh)

The nine finalists (from L): Ha Gyu Tae, Gun Chaikittiwatana, Lorenzo Medel, Nguyen  Le Binh Anh, Jennifer Chrysanta, Audrey Siew, Hsieh Wei Ting (seated), See Ning Hui and Chiam Shian Li. (Photo: Wayne Loh)

Jennifer Chrysantha and her friends.

NAFA piano pedagogue Fang Yuan, Professor Eleanor Wong (Competition judge from Hong Kong) and Professor Cham Tao Soon (Pianophile).

Professor Thomas Hecht (Yong Siew Toh Conservatory) with his former student Abigail Sin, Young Steinway Artist.
Li Chu Ren, Prof and Mrs Albert Tiu, Benjamin Loh, Julie Tan and Chia Sin Teck (from L to R).

Boris Kraljevic with Kseniia Vokhmianina and Mrs Vokhmianina.