Archive for the ‘Music’ category

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.

Thanksgiving

November 27, 2015

Well another Thanksgiving Day is in the record books. We had a delightful day. Our current tradition is to visit Theresa’s cousin Eric up in Rancho Palos Verdes. it has become a fairly large family gathering. We have children ranging in age from 14 down to 1 years old.

We do it at Eric’s house because he has the largest house available for the occasion. We end up with three tables. One for the seniors (minimum age of 60), one for the little kids, and one for the young adults.

Our contribution to the festivities was wine. I was instructed to bring 4-5 bottles of wine. So I brought two bottles of Beuajolais Nouveau, one of Chardonnay, a Reisling and a Gewurstraminer. I went home with an empty bag.

There are pluses and minuses to going to other people’s homes for Thanksgiving. On the plus side, we don’t have to cook. We just come and bring what we are told to bring. On the minus side, there are no left overs and I have less control over the menu. Like no mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie. But the food was all good. It was a mixture of American and Chinese cuisines.

Mary did pretty good. The terrain is a bit tough for her. Eric’s home has a steep, long driveway. We had to be extra careful. No falls or trips to the ER, thank you very much. We didn’t have any white zin for her so she had to make do with the riesling.

It was fun to watch the little ones play. Jonathan was keeping pretty good. Sarah is improving her toddling skills.

Sarah, keeping up with the big boys.

 

Jonathan’s Yellow Wheels

So the family room had football playing on the big screen. Guests were shooed out of the kitchen. Everyone got some piano playing time. I know enough to bring my iPad so that I have my music. Eric has a beautiful Steinway baby grand. Everyone in the family takes piano lessons.
We were home by 8pm.

1125alice01No dishes to do. Mary was all worn out. She headed off to her bedroom and went to bed. Paula and I sat down to watch Arlo Guthrie perform “Alice’s Restaurant” on PBS. I had recorded it on the DVR so I could skip through the pledge breaks.  Here’s a link to a live recording of Alice’s Restauarant done in 2005. That ditty sure has staying power. The pledge-persons on the LA PBS station seemed to be more annoying than usual, but I could skip over the breaks. Young man in suit and tie, woman of similar age. You couldn’t pick two people more unlike Arlo Guthrie than these two. It was a good concert if you ignore the pledge breaks.

The Grapevine

August 13, 2015

If you live in Southern California, you know about a stretch of road called the “Grapevine”. This post is more for my east coast friends who have never been west of the Mississippi. The section of road runs through the Angeles National Forest from the urban sprawl of Los Angeles to the acres of farmland in the California Central Valley. The road can be particularly nasty during winter months with ice and snow (but not so much of recent years). 

Often times we will stop at the town of Castaic for lunch. Castaic is the southern terminus of the Grapevine. Castaic is the last bit of civilization before we hit the Grapevine.

So we will be heading up through the Grapevine on our way to San Francisco for an OES reception on Saturday.

Here’s the map.

  
And while we’re on the subject here is in a blast from the past, Marvin Gaye singing “I Heard it though the Grapevine”

Listen and enjoy.

Church Music continued…

April 7, 2015

pianoSo we were watching the TV show “CBS Sunday Morning” this past Sunday. That was unusual in and of itself. We hardly ever get around to watching the program until much later in the week. Thank the lord for the DVR! We certainly don’t watch the show in the morning.

They did an interview with a hymn song writing team of Keith and Krystyn Getty that I found interesting. Here’s the pointer to the CBS piece. First, I find it amazing that people are still writing hymns. If one were look at the typical Protestant hymnal, you would be hard pressed to find a hymn that written less than a hundred years ago.

Second amazing thing is that one can make a living writing hymns. Keith talks about his start in hymn writing. Their mega-hit was “In Christ Alone”, written in 2001.

Getty co-wrote “In Christ Alone” in 2001, and as church songs go, it’s become something of a hit. Chances are, if you’ve actually been to church in the past decade, you’ve heard it, or sung it yourself.

In fact, in a 2013 survey of the best-loved hymns in the U.K., “In Christ Alone” was the second most-popular hymn of all time, just behind “How Great Thou Art.”

Actually, i hadn’t heard it. I found it on Musicnotes.com and will be playing it in the next week or so for our Bible Study group.

And finally, here’s a rendition by Keith and Krystn on Youtube.

My favorite quote from the CBS article is aimed at all of the preachers out there. Something to think about for our friends Pastor Jacques and Pastor Katherine.

“My joke with all my preacher friends is that if they finish a good sermon, the people go out singing the last hymn. And if they do a really bad sermon, people go out singing the last hymn. So it really doesn’t matter what they say!”

Enjoy.

Fake Music

April 4, 2015

pianoOnce upon a time, a friend was visiting me and we were talking about music. You see I play the piano and once in a while I play an organ. About a dozen years or so ago, I became our Lodge musician in my Masonic Lodge in Massachusetts. Now I am the musician for LA Harbor Lodge and San Pedro Chapter OES.

How does one become the organist or pianist for such an organization. First, you have to be able to play the piano. You don’t have to be an Rubenstein or Van Cliburn. You just have to like to play the piano or organ and competent enough to play some simple and straight forward tunes. Typically, I need to be able to play the “Star Spangled Banner” and other patriotic tunes, some bit of sacred music for opening and closing of the Bible and a variety of march music when the members are perambulating around the lodge room.

Second, the lodge or OES chapter has to have a need for a musician. I got the job because the guy who did it before me died. Sometimes the previous appointee had moved or lost interest in doing the job.

So my friend had seen some of my music books that I had at the time. One such tome was a book titles “Hymn Fake Book“. He asked me what a “Fake” Hymn was. I said no, not a fake hymn but hymn fake book. A fake book is a music book with the sheet music with only the music for your right hand. You have to improvise the accompaniment. So in addition to the hymn fake book there are fake books for Broadway, Show tunes, folk music, etc.

Lucky for me that I had learned this skill as a young lad from a music teacher that I worked with while I was in high school. He taught me how to play chords and to improvise an accompaniment. At the time, I didn’t think this skill would be particularly useful. Or that one day I would become a lodge organist.

So i have at least a dozen or so fake books covering a wide range of genres. They were a getting a bit heavy to carry to lodge for the evening’s meeting. I would eventually Xerox the particular music and add to my loose leaf notebooks. Even that began to get unwieldy.

Enter Apple. in 2010, Apple announced the iPad. I said to myself, I have to have one of these. So i drove up to the local Apple store in Nashua, NH and got an iPad 1. So I began the process of scanning my music pages and loading them on my Dropbox account in the Cloud. At first, it was a bit crude. I had files organized into folders according to genre, eg. hymns, patriotic, broadway, pop, etc.

People would look at the iPad and ask can you read music on that thing? In fact, I can and do. Although there is rumblings that Apple is working on a new iPad with a 12.5″ screen (current iPad has a 9″ screen, measured diagonally). I would buy one in a heartbeat if Apple came out with such a device.

As it stands right now, I am working on my third iPad. I had the iPad 1, then an iPad 3 and now an iPad Air.

My system of filing my music on Dropbox was getting cumbersome. So I got an app called “Forscore” that is designed for organizing sheet music. This app is absolutely worth the $9.99 I paid for it. I now have close to a 1000 different scores on my iPad. The music is organized by genre and keywords. New music is imported as PDF files from my Dropbox account.

I also buy music from Musicnotes.com which is a web site that sells sheet music. They have an extensive library of tunes from classical to pop to country. They also have a wide range of arrangements. I typically prefer to buy “Lead sheets” (which is the content of a fake book) because they are shorter and I don’t usually have to turn pages. Some of the arrangements come in multiple keys which is handy when you are working with a soloist.

When purchasing from Musicnotes, you download the music for printing. You get one chance to print it. But I have a printer driver that “Prints” to a PDF file that then can be uploaded onto my iPad. Musicnotes also has a free iPad app, but it is not nearly as capable as Forscore.
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It Is Well with My Soul

March 22, 2015

Every week on Wednesday, Paula, Mary (sometimes) and I attend a senior Bible study group at Ocean View Baptist Church. The group is lead by our senior pastor Jacques. Pastor Jacques usually struggles to get through his lesson plan because we managed to go down many ratholes in search of understanding.

Usually, the group starts with prayers. This is also a time for folks to share those who might be in the hospital and/or sick. After the prayers, we sing a hymn. I get to choose the hymn. I usually like to choose old standards. I don’t care for the new-agey hymns that are sung during our Sunday services. The seniors seem to be all right with that.

A little over a year ago, Jacques came to our home to visit with Mary who had just gotten home from the hospital after shoulder surgery. So, Pastor Jacques sees our piano. He asks Mary if she played the piano. So she said no, that would be Joe’s piano. So Jacques discovers that I play the piano. He asks if I would be willing to play a hymn for the Bible study group every week. I said certainly.

So I pass around a piece of paper requesting what everyone’s favorite hymns were. I then started working through the list.

I usually pick a hymn on Monday or Tuesday and email the music to Jacques. Jacques prints out about 20 copies for the group. So I play the hymn and sometimes “Happy Birthday” for whoever is celebrating a birthday.

A few weeks ago I played a hymn and right after I finished i segued into a few bars of “Alley Cat”. That always amuses everyone. I get to play what I like. Darrell (a retired pastor) humorously said that we shouldn’t be playing boogie-woogie on a Baptist piano.

So now let me get to the title of this post. I read a blog (one of many) called “The Inspired Funeral” by Amy Cunningham. She writes:

“It is Well With My Soul” is one Christian hymn that expresses faith in God and peace with loss. It’s a predictably terrific number for the funerals or memorial services of people who were ready to die.

She also posted a pointer to Youtube video of Marion Williams singing “It is Well with My Soul”. I was so moved by her performance, I decided that we just had to do it on Wednesday.

Here’s the video for your enjoyment:

Here are lyrics from the first verse:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Modern Major General

February 8, 2015

So yesterday, we were driving to the movie theater to see “The Theory of Everything”. This post isn’t about that, I’ll write that later. This is about a song that was playing on my Sirius Symphony channel. They were playing the “Modern Major General” song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance”.

It is so amusing to listen to it. I am in awe that a singer can master the whole set of lyrics. Here they are:

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical,
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted too with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news---
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.

I'm very good at integral and differential calculus,
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous;
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

I know our mythic history, King Arthur's and Sir Caradoc's,
I answer hard acrostics, I've a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parablous.
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from the Frogs of Aristophanes,
Then I can hum a fugue of which I've heard the music's din afore,
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.

Then I can write a washing bill in Balylonic cuneiform,
And tell you every detail of Caractacus's uniform;
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin",
When I can tell at sight a chassepôt rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I'm more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by "commissariat",
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery:
In short, when I've a smattering of elemental strategy,
You'll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee---

For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
Here is a video filmed live in New York’s Central Park in 2007. It’s a little bit grainy, but worth a look.