Posted tagged ‘Music’

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

 

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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.

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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