Archive for the ‘Music’ category

The Piano Guys

March 24, 2018

Piano GuyPaula and I had a date night last night. We got tickets to see the “The Piano Guys” perform at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown LA. We had only decided to try to go to the concert about a week ago.  So I tried looking for tickets on Monday. Nothing but pricey tickets available. $100 a seat and up.

I decided to wait a couple of days and see if the prices would drop. So indeed the prices did drop and on Wednesday I got two tickets for $36 a ticket. Add the “convenience fee” and the total ran to $100.

First, let me talk about the concert. These guys are great. They cleverly mix classical and popular music. The Piano Guys were born in YouTube where they have grown a huge following. Here’s a link to their youtube site.

2018-03-23 18.29.38Well we got to the auditorium in plenty of time. We thought the show started at 7pm because the tickets said “DRS 7pm”. Eventually we figured out that “DRS” meant that the doors opened at 7pm, Show start at 8pm.

You pay for everything. Parking $20. Refreshments (Tequila Sunrise for Paula, water for me) $16. Bought a CD for $20, earrings for Paula $15.) We passed on getting a T shirt or poster. Marketing machine in full swing.

Our seats were in row 40 of the orchestra section. Seats are all crowded together. We were on an aisle, so I could at least get one leg out. My knees were right up against the seat in front.

As you can see from the picture that I took outside, they have metal detectors deployed. I suppose that’s a good thing. Sad that in this day and age we have to do that. Though, the detection was not as thorough as the TSA at any airport. My artificial knee didn’t set it off. It always sets it off at LAX.

The concert ran a little under 3 hours including a 20 minute intermission. We were home by 11:15 in time to pay our sitter. So when we add it all up, tix, drinks, parking, CD and sitter, it probably runs just under $300. Next date will likely be a movie for a lot less cash.

Overall, it was a fun night. Good to get out without Mary in tow.

TTFN

What a Friend We Have…

September 4, 2017

This week’s hymn for our senior Bible study meeting this week will be “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” written by Joseph M Scriven as a poem in 1855. He wrote it as part of a letter to his mother who was ill at home in Ireland. It was later put to music by Charles Crozat Converse in 1866.

“What a Friend” continues to be an extremely popular hymn. Indeed, I have played it at our Bible study meeting at least  half a dozen times over the past few years. It has been translated into many different languages, including French, Spanish, Japanese, and many more.

So the money quote for “What a Friend” can be found at John 15:13-15.

John 15:13-15 ESV

[13] Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. [14] You are my friends if you do what I command you. [15] No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Here are the lyrics,

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer

 

There have been many recordings done by recording artists across a wide range of musical styles. Here are a few samples:

Rhythm and Blues/Gospel – Aretha Franklin

Gospel/Choir – Mississippi Mass Choir

Country – Alan Jackson

Country – Alabama

Welsh Morriston Choir

 

My Piano

July 24, 2017

One of my hobbies is playing the piano. I learned to play the piano as a young lad. First lessons from the good Sister Olivia, CSJ at Mount St Joseph’s Academy in Brighton, MA. When I was in high school, my mom and dad found a new teacher in West Roxbury who taught me how to play chords and how to improvise from a fake book. That’s a skill that I use today when I play for our OES chapter.

So when we lived back east, I owned a piano. It was a Wurlitzer console piano that I acquired back in the late 70’s. At the time, Wurlitzer was trying move into the Malls to sell pianos and organs. The move ended up badly for Wurlitzer. We felt that it was not worth paying to ship it across the country, so I donated it to our church. Giving away a piano is not so easy. Our music director wanted to see if it was worth taking.  He ended up taking it.

So fast forward to 2012. We arrived here in August 2012 and one of our first tasks was to buy a piano. My daughter in law had received an invitation to a Steinway sale at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown LA. We needed a reservation for a particular time slot. They didn’t want too many people in the hall at the same time banging on a Piano. After we had agreed to terms on the particular piano for about $6000, I asked the salesman if I could bang out a tune or two  on the concert grand Steinway going for about $150K. He said go ahead have a ball.

So we ended up buying an Essex Console model. Essex is the budget line of Steinway pianos. They are designed by Steinway and manufactured in Japan. Think of it like Honda and Acura or Cadillac and Chevy. Don’t have room for that Steinway concert grand anyhow.

So back in early 2014, Pastor Jacques had come by to visit Mary while she was recuperating from her fall that left her with a broken shoulder. So Jacques asks Mary, “Do you play the piano?”. To which Mary answers, “No, that would be Joe’s piano” So Jacques and I figured that I would play a hymn at the beginning of our Senior Bible study on Wednesday mornings.

I pick a hymn and email it to Jacques on Monday or Tuesday. Jacques prints out about 25 copies for the group. I tend to pick hymn “oldies” and sometimes gospel tunes. Usually, I find material in my “Hymn Fake Book”. But today I found a piece on Musicnotes.com done by Hank Williams called “Jesus Died for Me”. That’s just the ticket. Sometimes, I receive requests.

My Funeral Music

April 23, 2017

2000px-GClef.svgSo, my post the other day about funerals got me thinking. Joe, what about your funeral. Mind you, I’m not planning on checking out any time soon, but you never know. So I had a chat with Paula about what music I would like played at my funeral. A while back, I had created a playlist on my iPhone titled “My Funeral Music”. So here’s my list. You might not be able to play it all inside of 60 minutes. If you are reading this (and have some time), hook up your ear buds and spend some time listening to the pieces.

  1. The intermezzo from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. This is the music that is heard between the two acts of the opera. One of the most beautiful, relaxing piece of music I have ever heard.”
  2. Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. I first heard this piece at a music appreciation class when I was in college. The professor was talking about 5/4 time signature which is a tad unusual. 5/4 time is five beats to the measure and 1/4 note gets one beat. He was comparing “Tchaikovsky – Sixth Symphony – Second Movement” to “Take Five” (both in 5/4 time)
  3.  A Hymn to New England by John Williams. This version is played by the Boston Pops with pictures of New England Scenery.
  4. The Entertainer by Scott Joplin. This rag time piece was made famous in recent years by reason of its use in the film “The Sting” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. There was a time when I could play this but I don’t have the hand strength to play the octaves anymore.
  5. Heigh Ho from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. This is probably one the most recognized (and loved) Disney tunes. When I first started playing the organ for my lodge back in Mass.I would play this tune at the beginning of every meeting. I don’t play it as much anymore. Maybe, I will push it up the stack for our next meeting.  Here’s another version done by Dave Brubeck in the album “Dave Digs Disney” done in 1957. Dave Brubeck is one of my all time favorite Jazz artists. Paula and I saw him in concert about a dozen years ago. Still touring into his 80’s. Amazing. And it that’s not enough heigh ho’ing for you, here is Louis Armstrong doing Heigh Ho.
  6. Next up would be the second movement from Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto. This piece was made popular by the movie “Elvira Madigan” back in 1967.
  7. Now let’s get into some actual hymns. First on my list would be How Great Thou Art, followed closely by Amazing Grace.  And one more for my friend at OVBC, Daryl “What a Friend We Have in Jesus“.

Leonard Cohen, RIP

November 11, 2016

11cohen_leonard_web1-master768I was saddened to hear today that Leonard Cohen had died. Mr Cohen had such a great body of work, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are the lyrics to the opening stanza to “Hallelujah”

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Here’s a video of a performance of “Hallelujah”:

Leonard Cohen’s most recent album was released in October 2016. Here’s the link on Amazon. Also, get the “Essential Leonard Cohen“. As if there isn’t any non-essential Leonard Cohen.

One more song and then I’m done. This is the song “Suzanne”. I think the first version I ever heard was the one done by Judy Collins, long, long ago. One of the first loves of my life was named Suzanne. Long, Long time ago.

Rach 3

October 20, 2016

Today, I am continuing on the music theme. Today’s subject is “Rach 3” or “Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto in E minor. Okay, I play the piano, but there is no way in hell, that I could ever play the Rach 3. The only version I could play is the version in my “Classical Fake Book”. Not exactly a Symphony Hall version. This is another one of those pieces that I listen to when I am alone in my Jeep and can turn up the volume without my wife or mother-in-law complaining.

This is the version that I can play.

I found an article in the Guardian about the Rach 3 by Alex Wade. Here’s how he describes it:

The Rach 3 is the K2 of the piano repertory: a savage, relentless exposure to everything the keyboard can throw at anyone who dares to take it on. Just as K2, despite its death rate of one in three, will always attract the elite in mountaineering circles, so too is Rach 3 the work that every pianist of genuine ability will want to master.

So I started searching youtube for suitable performances of the Rach 3. The performers that I found should be in the hall of fame class of classical piano artists. We’re talking about Van Cliburn or Vladimir Horovitz. There is plenty of film but most of the versions are grainy, black and white videos.

Listening to Rach 3 brought back memories of a movie done about 20 years ago called “Shine”. It was the biography of David Helfgott played by Geoffrey Rush (Rush won Best Actor Oscar in 1997). Here’s the Wiki entry about the film.

If you have less time to listen, try this excerpt from the soundtrack of “Shine” (about 4 minutes).

Finally, here is a full length performance (runs about 45 minutes) of the Rach 3 by Anna Federova and the Avrotros Symphony Orchestra. Also, there is a good technical discussion about the Rach 3 in Wikipedia.

Saint-Saens Organ Symphony

October 19, 2016

As many of my readers know, I am a big fan of classical music. When I lived back east, I played the organ for several Masonic organizations. I love listening to big organs, especially big pipe organs. You just want to turn up the volume.

So one of my favorite, classical organ pieces is Saint-Saens Organ Symphony No 3, movement 4. I was listening to this on a CD I had in my Jeep the other day and thought to myself. I should do a blog post on this. This is a version done by the Radio France Philharmonic, directed by Myung-Whun Chung.

So without further ado, go ahead and turn up your volume.