Posted tagged ‘Piano’

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.

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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About me

November 22, 2013

There has been a FB meme going around lately where one is given a number and the receiver of said number is instructed to write n things about themselves. No one has bothered to send me a number, but I have decided to write about myself anyhow. I’ll let you know the number that I have given myself when I am done.

  1. I play the piano. It seems that I have always played the piano. I first started when I was about 7 years old. I took lessons until I was about 18. I am certainly no Artur Rubinstein, but I can read music and belt out a tune. One of the first things that we bought when we moved to Cal last year was a Piano. When one of our lodge members found out that I played the piano, he asked me how long I had played. I told him that I had picked up a book at Barnes & Noble titled “Piano playing for dummies”. He believed me. There is no such book. Musical instruments are best learned as children. My two brothers and I all took piano lessons as children. I am the only one who still owns a piano and plays.
  2.  Seeing that today is the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s assassination. I was 15 at the time and I learned of the event while I was in religion class at BC High. I remember seeing the afternoon newspapers on the newsstands on the way home from school. Back in the day there were such things as afternoon newspapers.
  3.  And while we are talking about 50 year anniversaries, next year will be my 50th reunion for BC High (Boston College High School). I have no use for high school reunions and have no intention of attending. I have little or no use for the Roman Catholic church, though I like the new Pope. I’ve told a few of my RC friends that I would return to the RC Church when the Pope ordains women and allows priests to marry. Oh yeah, add LGBT weddings too. I doubt that I will see that in my lifetime.
  4. I am active in Masons. I am a member of LA Harbor Lodge F&AM #332 in San Pedro and Thomas Talbot Lodge AF&AM in Billerica, MA. So I am a bi-coastal Mason.
  5.  My wife and I are members of OES (Order of Eastern Star) which is a fraternal organization for men and women. I play the piano for both Lodge and OES.
  6.  I was born in Brighton, MA at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and spent my early years living in Brighton and West Roxbury (parts of Greater Boston).
  7. I taught math for a couple of years at the Junior and Senior high school level in the early 70’sin Boston. I wasn’t very good at it. I have great respect for good teachers, especially good math & science teachers. I was good at math, just not good at teaching it.
  8. I worked for Digital Equipment Corp (DEC), Compaq, and HP before getting laid off in 2008. To this day, the layoff still bugs me. People were being discarded like used junk. Ken Olsen would never have done that. When people asked me what I did at DEC, I tell them that I fixed stuff. The “stuff” that I fixed were complex computer systems.I also worked as a contractor for IBM for a couple of years, once again fixing stuff. I left in 2012 to retire and moved west.
  9. I live in San Pedro with my wife of 35 years along with my mother-in-law. We moved out here to take care of her mother who is 89. I have found that I can make one woman happy. Making two women happy is an extraordinary challenge. So I try to bite my tongue and STFU. Lodge (for a couple of nights a month) gives me a chance to get out without the ladies in my life. I truly don’t understand how the Mormons (and other polygamous cultures) could possibly live with more than one wife. The same goes for a wife and a mistress.
  10. I attend the Ocean View Baptist Church in San Pedro. I would prefer going to a UCC (Congregational) church, but this is the church that our extended family goes to. So I am okay with that. I have started to push back a little bit on LGBT issues. The pastor is good guy and listens to my point of view.
  11. My wife and I are registered Democrats. My Mother-in-law is a Republican. We rarely discuss politics. Explaining why Obamacare is a good thing to my mother-in-law is like explaining algebra to Boomba (Boomba is a chocolate lab retriever). Also, for the same reason we don’t watch Fox News (or MSNBC or CNN) EVER. I would sooner have root canal surgery without anesthesia.
  12. People often ask my wife and I whether or not we met on the San Pedro or Boston. Here’s the story that has been told and retold. We met in Boston at a MIT folk dance. One of Paula’s roommates was dating one of my roommates. That was November of 1976. We were married in October 1978. We lived in Billerica for the next thirty odd years. Paula can embellish the story a bit. She would be happy to do that.
  13. I keep in touch with all of our east and west coast friends by way of Facebook. The move would have been a lot more painful to me without it.

There, that’s enough. 13 it is. That’s a good number.

Location:San Pedro, California