Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
This is Doug Johnson. On our program today we:
Play some jazz violin music ...
Answer a question about the Washington Monument ...
And learn about something called “wood turning.”
Wood Turning Show
The Renwick Gallery in Washington, D-C, has a show called “Wood Turning Since Nineteen-Thirty.” It contains one-hundred-thirty examples of the best turned wood pieces made in the past seventy years. Mary Tillotson tells us more about wood turning.
Wood turning first became popular in the United States about seventy years ago. At that time, turned wood containers, candlesticks and other useful objects were made by students in school and by factory workers. Through the years, wood turning became a complex art form. Turned wood objects are now collected by museums and individuals.
Wood turners use sharp tools to cut a piece of wood as it turns quickly on a special machine called a lathe. The piece of wood is held firmly and evenly in place on the lathe. The wood turner holds a sharp tool against the turning wood. In traditional pieces, the inner part of the wood is removed, leaving thin outside walls.
Because the lathe is turning the wood around, the shape of the finished piece usually is round. The natural outer bark of the tree usually is removed so the outside of the piece is as smooth as the inside.
Objects of many different shapes are in the Renwick show. Even things with similar shapes such as bowls that could be used for serving food look very different because of the color and grain of the kind of wood used.
For example, a bowl Bob Stocksdale created out of Macassar ebony wood is simple and very dark. A bowl Ron Kent produced of Norfolk Pine has sides that are so thin and light you can see through them.
David Ellsworth produced containers out of the large growths on trees called burls. He created a smooth inner space and left the natural, uneven shape on the outside. Merryll Saylan used paints and chemicals to color the surfaces of some of the turned pieces she produced.
Many of the objects in the Wood Turning show are not containers with empty inner spaces. Some are pieces of useful furniture such as chairs and desks that combine wood pieces that have been shaped on the lathe. Other turned wood pieces in the Renwick Gallery show are complex sculptural pieces that are meant just to be enjoyed as art.
Our VOA listener question this week comes from Cameroon. Pius Ngoeh asks about the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
The Washington Monument is the tallest structure in the city. It stands almost one-hundred-seventy meters tall. It is named for the first President of the United States, George Washington. Millions of people from around the world visit the white stone structure every year.
The monument is a structure called an obelisk. Its four sides end in a point at the top. Fifty American flags surround it. They represent the fifty states. Lights shine on the Washington Monument at night. It can be seen from far away. Fireworks are launched from near the monument on American Independence Day – July fourth -- and at other special celebrations.
It took many years to build the Washington Monument. One group started raising money for a memorial in Eighteen-Thirty-Three. Officials placed the first stone of the monument on July fourth, Eighteen-Forty-Eight.
Roman Catholic Church leader Pope Pius the Ninth gave a piece of marble from Rome for the monument. But the stone was stolen in Eighteen-Fifty-Four. After that, the public almost stopped giving money for the structure. Many people believed it would never be finished.
A group called the Know Nothings was suspected of trying to stop the monument from being built. Finally, in Eighteen-Seventy-Six, Congress voted to pay for building the Washington Monument. It was finished in Eighteen-Eighty-Four and opened to the public in Eighteen-Eighty-Eight.
The Washington Monument recently re-opened after being closed for more than a year. Officials used that time to make improvements. New security measures also were added. And a new elevator now carries visitors to the observation area on top of the monument. From there, visitors can look out over the capital city.
To learn more about visiting the Washington Monument, listen to the Special English program THIS IS AMERICA on Monday, April twenty-ninth.
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D-C, is celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month. Jazz Appreciation Month is a national and international celebration that honors the history and music of jazz. Steve Ember tells us about jazz violin player Regina Carter.
For eighteen years, Regina Carter has entertained people with her unusual command of the violin. Her strong music makes it sound as if she is playing with a full orchestra.
Regina Carter says the violin is a perfect instrument for the demands of modern jazz. She says the violin is designed to play energetic jazz rhythms in the same way it is used to play classical music. Here is Regina Carter playing a song called, “Oh, Lady, Be Good.”
(“OH, LADY, BE GOOD!”)
Regina Carter began playing the violin when she was four years old. Her earlier goal was to play with a major orchestra. Jazz was not a big part of her life until she heard the music of jazz violinists Stephane Grapelli and Jean-Luc Ponty. She said there was a freedom and a possibility in the violin she had not understood before. Here, Regina Carter plays a song with a Latin sound, called “Mojito.”
Regina Carter is one of a very few jazz violinists. At first, she faced opposition to her jazz violin method. People told her there was no future for a jazz violinist. Mizz Carter says she still has to prove herself in the jazz world because so many of the musicians are men.
Regina Carter recently became the first jazz musician and the first African American ever to play the two-hundred-fifty-year-old violin once owned by Niccolo Paganini. He is considered to be one of the greatest violinists of all time. Regina Carter said she never dreamed she would be given that chance. We leave you now with Regina Carter playing “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
(“CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO”)
This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Cynthia Kirk, Marilyn Christiano and Nancy Steinbach. And our producer was Paul Thompson.