Month: April 2020

27 Apr 2020

Pulling out all the stops

Pulling out all the stops

Time and time again we’ve seen it. A group of students gather around the instrument that is before them. They may even be talking to their neighbor, unsure of what is about to happen. But the instant the organ begins to play, eyes shoot forward and everyone falls silent. All you see are the mesmerized faces of students and teachers alike, listening to the mighty sound of the organ. As a musician herself, Mrs. Nippert would have loved those faces of wonderment. The grandeur of the organ is truly magnificent, and the Greenacres Aeolian Pipe Organ is no exception.

Organs produce sound by pressurized wind flowing through pipes, making it a wind instrument. Built in 1926, this organ has 1,531 pipes ranging in size from as tall as 16 feet to as short as just a few inches.

Each set of pipes, known as a rank, represents a different instrumental sound. Some of the many different sounds it can produce are trumpet, flute, and string. It is similar to an electric keyboard, where you can select the sound you want and the instrument plays in that particular style. Except with an organ, you select a specific sound by pulling out a stop. You can use as many different stops at the same time as you would like- one, or two… or all the stops! This is actually where the phrase ‘pulling out all the stops’ comes from.

It wasn’t until the 1500s that organs began taking the form we know today. But this instrument’s earlier forms actually date back to around 200 BC! Ctesibius, a Greek engineer, invented the hydraulis, which used water pressure to change the pressurized wind that made sound as it traveled through pipes. The hydraulis, or water organ, was well received for hundreds of years until people began replacing water pressure with large bursts of wind formed by bellows, which became popular in the 6th century. Since then, the organ has been re-engineered to become more and more intricate. This technology really took off in the 1800s when roll playing organs made their debut.

With all of its different bells and whistles, the Greenacres’ organ is capable of playing an endless amount of musical literature. By using the Duo-Art roll player, our organ can essentially play songs on its own, like an old fashioned YouTube! When you want to play a song online: you search for the song, select it, let the computer translate the information, and enjoy the song! When using a roll player: you look for a scroll, select one by placing it in the proper chamber of the organ, turn it on, the tracker bar translates the holes in the scroll into organ commands, and again the outcome is beautiful music!

We have a large collection of scrolls, giving us the ability to play many wonderful compositions at our fingertips. It is exciting for all who witness it and is an amazing tool as we teach students about different composers from the past.

In addition to our organ, we have a 1925 Steinway Grand Piano that is also equipped with a roll player. By using our state of the art digital playback system, we can actually have the organ and piano play together at the press of a button! One song we can play this way is ‘Louise’ by Richard Whiting, one of Mrs. Nippert’s favorites, you can hear some of it in our video below. When the Nipperts bought what is now the Arts Center back in 1998, they saw the value in the organ, and decided to repair the incredible instrument. Before it was restored, the last time it was played was probably in the 1940s. But now, thanks to the Nipperts, we are able to share it with so many students and maybe one day, with you!

In the meantime, please enjoy our brief video featuring the Greenacres Aeolian Pipe Organ in all of its glory. Follow along with the handout and fill in the blanks as you learn about the different parts of the organ. Enjoy!

22 Apr 2020

Mandala Art

Mandala Art

Out walking my dog on a lovely spring day, everywhere I look, every blossoming tree, dandelion, every pine cone and sweet gum seed- I see a small mandala. They have radial symmetry! Their design starts in the center and radiates out like the spokes of a bicycle wheel around the central hub. Amazing how all of these living things imitate art! Or should I say, art imitates life?

Download this coloring sheet to follow along with the video or get step-by-step instructions on how to draw your own.

The mandala is an ancient art form. The word mandala is from Sanskrit and literally means circle. Mandalas are circular designs filled with geometric or organic patterns with a radial symmetry. They can be simple or complex. They are used in architecture as exemplified in several features found at the Greenacres Arts Center. For example, the decorative wrought iron window grille works added in the 1930’s. The ironworks radiate from the central design which are children’s nursery rhyme characters. More symmetry can be found at the central entry courtyard’s garden. Original plans from A.D. Taylor shows beds of annuals in a modified plaid fabric design, which includes a grouping of 4-block patterns with walking paths in between thereby creating horizontal and vertical pattern of a plaid (see an example below).

The first mandala carved into stone dates back to the 1st century BCE. Mandalas are found in many cultures and religions around the world. One of the most recent archaeological finds happened in 2013 when someone reported seeing a giant mandala while using Google Earth! How exciting to discover that this ancient eight petal flower shape (Bihu Loukon), discovered in Manipur, northeastern India was one of the world’s largest mandalas made entirely of mud in a paddy field. The ancient star shaped structure could only be visible via Google Earth satellite imagery because of its huge size. The walls of the triangular arms of the star are approximately 15 feet thick and 5 feet high, with length of about 156 feet. Wow! Now that’s what I call a successful mandala hunt!

Just going outside for a walk is a way to relax, but incorporating that with a purpose: to search for radial designs in nature, made my walk so much more fun. You can even extend your search of radial symmetry to architecture that you pass. My dog may not have appreciated the slowed pace as much as I did, but now I see them everywhere I look! The mandala has been used for centuries as a way to meditate, relax and relieve stress. If you’d like to learn more about mandalas, see some examples from around the Arts Center here at Greenacres, or even learn how to draw your own, watch this video.

–Sandy Harsch

15 Apr 2020

Take a Breath or Three


Take a Breath or Three

The following has been adapted from the The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan.

How to do it- the Cliff Notes version:

Long Deep Breathing uses the full capacity of the lungs by utilizing the three chambers of the lungs: abdominal or lower, chest or middle, clavicular or upper.

Breathing- inhalation and exhalation- happen through the nose.

Begin the inhale with an Abdominal Breath. Then add the Chest Breath and finish with a Clavicular Breath. All three are done in a smooth motion. 

Start the inhalation by filling the abdomen, then expanding the chest, and finally lifting the upper ribs and clavicle. The exhale is the reverse: first the upper clavicular deflates, then the middle chest, and finally the lower abdomen pulls in and up. As the Navel Point pulls back toward the spine this forces any air left in the lungs up and out.

For Beginners- breaking it down in detail:  

To learn LDB, practice by separating the three parts of the breath. Sit straight on the floor, in a chair, or lie on the back. (It is helpful for beginners to start out on the back.) Initially have the left hand on the belly, right hand on the chest to feel the movement of the breath.

Abdominal Breath:

Let the breath relax to a normal pace and depth. Bring your attention to the Navel Point area. Take a slow deep breath by letting the belly relax and expand. As you exhale, gently pull the navel in and upward toward the spine. Keep the chest relaxed. Focus on breathing entirely with the lower abdomen.

The diaphragm muscle separates the chest and thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity and intestines. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that is normally in a dome shape. As you relax the diaphragm and extend the belly, the dome flattens and extra space is created to expand the lungs above it. When you exhale, the dome is re-created and the air from the lower lungs is pushed up and out. This pushing allows a portion of the lower lungs to be used efficiently. Place one hand on the Navel Point and one on the center of the chest. On the inhale, work to raise the hand on the navel toward the ceiling. On the exhale lower it steadily. With your hand, monitor the chest to stay still and relaxed. Very soon you will notice all the muscles involved in this motion.

Chest Breath:

Sit straight and keep the diaphragm still. Do not let the abdomen extend. Inhale slowly using the chest muscles. The chest expands by using the intercostal muscles between the ribs. Do this slowly and focus on the sensation of chest expansion. Exhale completely but do not use the abdomen. 

Compare the depth and volume of this breath with the isolated abdominal breath. If you place your hands on the top and bottom parts of the ribs you can feel how the bottom ribs move more than the top ones. They are the floating ribs and are not as fixed as the upper ones, which are attached to the sternum. Much of the contribution of the ribs and intercostal muscles comes from an expansion out to the sides by the lower ribs.

Clavicular Breath:

Sit straight. Contract the navel in and keep the abdomen tight. Lift the chest without inhaling. Now inhale slowly by expanding the shoulders and the collarbone. Exhale as you keep the chest lifted.

Feel for the rise of the shoulders and an expansion of the upper chest. On the whole, most of our daily breathing never gets to this section of our lungs. By breathing into the clavicular space, we can reduce both neck and shoulder tension or stress that is held here.

Putting the parts together:

Each part of the breath expansion and exhalation are distinct. When all three are combined, this becomes the complete Long Deep Breath.

Begin the inhale with an Abdominal Breath. Then add the Chest Breath and finish with a Clavicular Breath. All three are done in a smooth, fluid motion.

Start the exhale by relaxing the clavicle, then slowly emptying the chest. Finally, pulling in the abdomen to force out any remaining air.

Continue long deep breathing for 26 breaths, or 3 – 31 minutes.

Not everyone feels that they have or can take time to sit and breathe for 3 minutes let alone 31. That is okay. Everyone can benefit from this breathing technique by starting with just three breaths. Three long, deep breaths is just enough to calm the mind, slow the body and start the body’s reset/healing processes.  Research has shown that just 30 seconds of long deep breathing begins to lower the heart rate, lowers the blood pressure and releases relaxing endorphins to the brain. With practice- and the satisfying results that follow- three breaths will soon evolve to three minutes and maybe even beyond. As with any exercise or fitness routine, please check with a physician if you have any questions or concerns about this practice and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort. Thank you for your time! 

12 Apr 2020

Legendary Genetics

Legendary Genetics

At Greenacres we are committed to building the best grass-based genetics in our registered Angus herd. We approach this by utilizing our natural breeding practices to retain the best calves to join our breeding program. We also collaborate with others across the country to integrate the excellence of proven premier cows and bulls from the Wye genetics line. Utilizing the latest in genetic technology, we are able to revive the exceptional genetics of bulls from the 1950s that laid the foundation for the most efficient grass-fed meat producing herds.

Last fall we added a few elite cows to our herd with links back to the most notorious Wye Angus sire – Prince of Malpas – who was born in Scotland in 1956. A few weeks ago we were excited to witness the birth of a heifer calf who is the grand-daughter of this great foundation bull.

Prince of Malpas Granddaughter

We also welcomed a new bull calf (pictured in header) who is the son of another legendary bull – Banjo of Wye – who was born in 1989 and played a critical role in adding exceptional maternal efficiency traits- often called maternal goodness- to the genetic strength of the Wye lines.

Both of these calves will play key roles in our future breeding program at Greenacres.

Why is Greenacres committed to this work of genetic improvement and excellence in our herds? Exceptional genetics are tied directly to development of the best products – whether for our customers who trust us in purchasing the highest quality and most nutritional meat products or for our fellow farmers that may wish to add these genetics to their breeding programs. Our genetics will ensure we continue improving key traits in our herds including :

• Meat producing efficiency on grass-based systems
• Maternal efficiency and structure (calving ease, weight gain, milk production)
• Docility and steady temperaments for safety and reduction of stress
• Longevity and health