Sunday, December 27, 2009

Still Auld Lang Syne?

A friend of mine has a band that is playing on New Year's Eve. He's not excited about it. Another of my band-y friends refuses to play this date citing "Amateur Night", both by the drunks and the other bands that perform at every VFW and beer hall across America. But, friend #1 didn't really have a choice. The band manager took the gig, so here he goes.

The big dilemma is what to play at midnight? They really don't want to do the traditional hymn of Auld Lang Syne. It is not very upbeat, old, slow, and not fitting their band's style. The crowd does not know the words. So, has no one written a good new New Year's Eve song in over 100 years? Dan Fogelburg wrote a song that is played during the Christmas season by the same name. But it ends quoting the same melody, played on a saxophone. Can it be that I will need to rectify this situation in the next year?

Old Long Still, (more easily heard as "long long ago", or "Once upon a Time" is a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788. Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo is often credited with popularizing the use of the song at New Year’s celebrations in America, through his annual broadcasts on radio and television, beginning in 1929. The song became his trademark. In addition to his live broadcasts, Lombardo recorded the song more than once.

The new tune will have a hint of melancholy, perhaps, with a general upbeat, "let's start over, let's try that again" lyric. For me, it should be about new beginnings. I don't want to write a rap, kthxbai. It will need to be repetitive and on the simple side for the limited talent groups out there. Should it have a moment for the sounding of the paper horns? What about a moment for the tinging of glasses, or a kiss? Should it rock, or be sentimental? Should it tip its hat to the former lyrics with a reference like "take a cup of kindness", which I really like? Your input into the next millennium's hit would be greatly appreciated.

Here's a translation from Wikipedia for your reading pleasure. Reading these words makes me realize how sad and back-looking the song is. We are ready for a new one, I think. What elements of a New Year's song would you like to hear?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Less Hallmark, more Real, please

You know it didn't snow in the Bethlehem region, right? They didn't really have little glowing halos around their heads. The lovely couple most likely didn't wear the blue of royalty, and "no crying he makes?" Get real.

It wasn't a silent night, either. Tons of people, overcrowded homes all over the town of Bethlehem, the chaos of a young woman giving birth, the rumor of the situation, stinky, dirty shepherds knocking on the door in the wee hours, animals-it was not what we try so hard to make Christmas into. Let's make these people different than us, more holy, if you will. I try to keep Christmas at a distance. I have tried over and over in ways big and small, to wrap up this story, neat and tidy and put it in a lovely gift wrapped box. I don't want to let God out of the box, because I am in control right now and I happen to like it this way. Well, I'm not really, but at least I know, or I think I know what's going on...

Every year, love spills out of the box for me and I succumb. I start to think that my crazy busy times are somewhat like what Mary and Joseph's lives were like. I pack, make food, travel, sleep in different bedrooms than my own, I inconvenience people, deal with relatives, all with little ones in tow. I have traveled pregnant. May I just say-Yuk. I worry about what I bought, what I'll wear, and I argue with the kids to dress up, I said too much, I got fed up with so-and-so. Dang, I hate being human.

And here comes a newborn. More sleepless nights, more poo, another person in a small space. Try to contain a baby-I dare you! You change your lifestyle, and that precious little one slips into every part of your life-every one. Most of all, it slips right into your heart, little by little.

My husband says some like to believe it was perfect. Just like reading a book, or watching a movie, we all like to escape. If you need that, please, go right ahead. I think it's an impossible standard that we have bought into-that somehow if we were just more____________ or less_________________, we'd be loved, appreciated, successful, or_______________. Oh bother.

My merry and most sincere wish for you is that you see yourself, in all the joy, fear, happiness, sadness, stress and wonder of the season that you celebrate, and feel the love. May something overflow out of the box for you too. I can't contain miracles. May this beautiful story, Hallmark or not, burst in, like the shepherds unannounced, and shake me from my "dreamless sleep". Happy miracles to you, and God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Festival of Light

I spent a little time in synagogues in Connecticut. I loved it and learned so much. So many wise teachings for life, wow.

There is a great Hasidic tradition that you should have in your pockets two sayings. One is "from dust I have come, to dust I will return", which is this idea of humility — that we are nothing, absolutely nothing.

In the other pocket is that the world was created on my account — the sense that you not only are something, but you are really something.

You have to live in between the two pockets.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Being a Manger

I thought I would share a few thoughtful items here leading up to Christmas as I prepare lots of music, and have little time to write. Here's one from my inbox this evening.

At our annual Christmas Quiet service last Tuesday-

On How to Be a Manger by Barbara Germiat

Be Empty
Be Sturdy
Be Soft Inside
Be Still
Be Ready

May each of you experience the coming of Christ in simple ways.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Middle School Band Holiday Show

Situated a mere 15 minutes from my studio is the Mall of America. This shopping mecca pulls out the stops for the holiday with larger than life trees, wreaths, and no fewer than 7 stages upon which they hold group after group of musicians and other seasonal acts. The violin and harp in the photos are almost 5 feet each, hanging as ornaments on trees that are 4 stories tall. I have taken my students to this stage, until 9/11. After this date, the mall had many forms, and photo i.d.s and signed underage permission hoops to jump through. It got too hard to get it all together at an already busy time. Many a Christmas letter of my families made mention of a certain youngster performing at the "main stage" at the biggest mall in America. ("That would be the same stage as Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Mariah Carey, and Taylor Swift, to name a few", said one proud parent.)

Today the middle school band went to the Mall and spent the better part of the morning shopping and eating at the food courts. The buses were loaded with their instruments, which were then stored in the bowels of the building until their performance. Students were excited and wore their hats and antlers. Red and green shirts and shoes abounded amid their shining braces-filled smiles. The 7th grade and the 8th grade each played separate shows, approximately 25 minutes each.

To say that playing in that big open space is difficult is an understatement. The sounds reverberate, the people are loud and for the most part, disinterested. They pause for 8 measures of a piece and walk away, talking on their cell phones or to their friends. Children cry. The rides from the theme park located in the middle of the mall echo with screams and the clatter of roller coasters.

I gave up performing there for a wide variety of reasons, but sounding bad was definitely among them. But the pleasure of playing in this space is not lost on the young. It gave them another way to listen to each other and follow the director at all costs. It was quite the show.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Keebler Elf

Driving to the party yesterday, there was a Keebler cookie truck ahead of me. At the stoplight, I noticed his little gnome-y face peeking right between the bumper and the truck perfectly. I'm sure that the truck driver is worried that the car behind him whipped out a camera and took a picture of his license plate and driver information that is posted on the back. But I was giggling that "The Elf Himself" was on the mud flaps.
Here's the Saturday picture for you. I'm going to wrap the first batch of homemade caramels and have friends over for dinner and cards today. I've practiced my accompaniment for tomorrow's violinist arrangement of "Away in the Manger". I'm hoping she'll jump in and play along on some of our other Christmas hymns. We'll see!

NOTE-No cookies were harmed in the making of this post. (yet)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Music Teacher Christmas Brunch

What do music lovers do when they get together at the holidays? They play for each other! Here are some glimpses into our gathering this morning for brunch at the lovely D.D.'s house. Many brought their instruments and D.D. has two, yes two (!) grand pianos. It was a great few hours spent with good food, conversation and so many lovely pieces and people.
The Apple Valley Music Teachers Association is a group of over 60 music teachers in this area. Although the group started in Apple Valley, there are teachers from all over that attend. One even drives almost an hour because of the group's welcoming nature, although there is a local group in her area. Some local associations are only piano teachers, the St. Paul Piano Teachers Association is a great example. I used to below to three local groups because they were so very different in personality and what they offered me as a teacher. The dues and my heart changed. I didn't use many of the programs in the other groups, and often skipped the meetings.
Now, I belong to this group alone. It represents performers and teachers across instruments and neighborhoods. Flutes, guitar, strings, woodwinds, voice, orchestra, and piano meet once per month to listen to speakers, discuss studio policies, have music festivals, and play at nursing homes and malls in the metro area. This is a well organized, conscientious, warm group which is open to any who teach music privately. Some groups prefer to set a standard of teaching or performing excellence. I think that I can't stop anyone from putting out a sign and teaching music. Therefore, I like the open invitation-all come, and grow as both teachers and musicians. There was a short business meeting because in January, February and March we are having student festivals, with over 800 entrants. A few items needed to be decided.
The music today was from a wide range of ability and across all genres, not simply holiday music. We heard a lovely jazz guitar arrangement, accompanied violins, a piano solo piece by Chaminade, a piano duet, a trio of voice, flute and piano, and got a short lecture recital on a bassoon! I had no idea the range of that instrument!
Some of us chose not to play today. I have played at this many times and didn't feel I had anything ready to perform this year. It's not all holiday music; some are getting ready for other performances; I play every Sunday, and it is so much fun for me to hear my colleagues. We made rather merry.

Last night at a lesson, a student had played through his whole Christmas book and come across a tune he didn't know. We had a great discussion on the following piece-it is one of my favorites to play on piano. Maybe someday I'll actually figure out how to do YouTube!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Theme Thursday - SNOW

The timing of Theme Thursday could not have been better as my midwest area got pounded by snow over Tuesday and Wednesday. School was even canceled here yesterday. I do not teach if the schools are closed, so I got a snow day too, and used it to plan Christmas Eve worship. It will be a lovely event with lots of layers. There will be a nativity for the children to ask questions, lots of carols and some special music. We hope to have a sign language component and puppets. We meet in an elementary school gym, so it is already a non-traditional setting for this holiday. It should be meaningful.
Here is one of my favorite carols, done by an outstanding Norwegian voice, with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It came to my mind immediately because of the line, "snow on snow". Listen more than watch, the video cuts in and out. Enjoy your weather, whatever it is.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

First Fire of the Winter Season

The snow of Minne-snow-ta is on its way. It is a very good reason for lighting the fireplace in the studio. I await and announce this day every year. I speak loudly to the sprites in the chimney that I'm going to light a fire! It doesn't matter whether there are other humans in the house or not, I announce it. I gather the wood from outside, the kindling and the newspaper. I use real wood matches because I like to hold it in my hand a moment. I like the sulfur smell just a little. Perhaps I'm a wee bit of a pyro? I poke it with a stick and keep it roasty toasty.

I love to see and smell the fire and hear the music, and taste a steaming cup of java, tea, or hot cocoa. I guess it's sensory overload, but wow, it's good.

Some days when I've lit it every day for many days, and tendered its coals overnight, I begin to feel the presence of my ancestors, who kept their houses warm with their fires. It is cool in my studio without it, since I teach in my lower level. I get a little tired of hauling the wood, and then I laugh at myself. The women chopped it and stacked it, and I do it for the atmosphere. HA!

My studio parents love it too. They come in and visibly relax into the sofa. Aaaah, they remark on its warmth. But I think it's more than that. So many of them rush rush rush from one place to the next. Sometimes there is such a peace in the fireplace room that they fall asleep, worn and warm. It is a rich moment when the student and I notice their grownup asleep and we agree to serenade them in their dreams. We talk softly and play our music with extra depth.

Oh yes, I lit the fire today. It is officially the first day of winter.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

About this Christmas Music Station

I am all for following the traditions of the seasons, I really am. But I'm already aurally exhausted by the "Sounds of Christmas" stations that greet me everywhere. I usually get farther through the month before this happens. My family is hooked on the station that is playing the Rudolph variety music 24 hours a day! I'm now looking at ways to slip in a few other choices-the CDs we have are wonderful, but I don't have a way to play them in the kitchen and upstairs. Hmmmm, it may be time to invest in an inexpensive CD player for the dining room!

I think it may have something to do with the fact that I have heard them many years, they played a very limited selection on the radio, my students are all working on holiday music, and I play it at church. Any suggestions for my sanity would be greatly appreciated. Off to work on Christmas cards for the studio. I'm going to put a picture of their child in each card. They look so good! I've seen some of these pictures at the grand end up on senior posterboards. Sometimes a parent has exclaimed that they never thought to take a picture of their prodigy at the piano.
Who doesn't like to see their kiddo smiling at a keyboard? Ho ho ho.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I took a six year old student this fall that had been training at the Yamaha Music school. She's all the six year old you could ever want: toothless smile, boundless energy, not much piano experience. Together we are exploring the magic of music.
Before Thanksgiving, I gave her a very easy Faber level 1 Christmas book to help with her reading. This book keeps her little hands close to around 5 notes in each hand and has all the six year old favorites.
She came back from her Thanksgiving break eager to play her Christmas book for me. Hopping on the bench, she turned to the page, and belted out, "Let's all sing together now!" I jumped right in, expecting lyrics "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", but quickly realized I was the only one singing those words!
She was singing "Do re do la fa re do...!" I have not sung or taught Solfege since my college days. Boy was I rusty! I didn't learn the "do re mi" of music in piano, but rather in choir in middle and high school, and in my major at college. It was slowly coming back when we moved on to the rest of her lesson.
Do any music teachers out there teach young ones solfege in private lessons?
The world has come to know it by the Sound of Music. I think it IS a very good place to start. Have a great weekend. I'm going to begin the holiday preparations for the studio.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Registering and Planning Ahead

Every job comes with an aspect that is, at best, dissatisfying. And between the lovely music of my life comes and joy of working with brilliant students, comes the paperwork. The tasks of a piano teacher also include filling out forms, an overabundance of forms, a plethora of paperwork, and a big deadline is tomorrow, December 1st. I love my job, really I do, but the tedium of filling out paperwork every year for the same event for the same student is a drag.

Sometimes I remember to fill in some of the standard information BEFORE I photocopy the forms. This saves repeated name, address and phone number writing. But this year I forgot. I'm not sure where my brain is some days, but it was absent in front of the copier. Last time I forgot, I used my home address labels, but I still had to fill in the phone and email address on each one.

These forms require more than triplicate. They are repeated because they will go to different people who do different volunteer aspects of the job. There is an office person who will take the forms and the money. There is a scheduler who will place the student on the requested day and time. There is a data entry person who then sends out the exact information to the teacher, who then passes it on to the student. If you are willing to do this, there is now an online registration process, which I haven't tried yet. But you still have to fill out some forms, because the student will bring an "official" form to the registration desk at the competition.

Two of the questions that might be among the more frustrating for me this year are "Age of student on September 1st" and "Theory level passed as of December 1st, include year passed". These are not items I know off the top of my head for each child. I dig through a file folder for one of the data points, and look it up on the computer for the other. I have tried other options, including asking the student. They sometimes get how old they were in September wrong, no kidding. And although they know they passed theory level 2, for example, they don't remember what year.

In my dreams, I envision a master database of this information so that it might save me the trouble. But the truth is that it would be a nightmare to keep those sort of records on a revolving basis. Maybe someday, someone, not me, will be able to coordinate a wonderful tool for this purpose. But we're talking about 10,000 students. Sigh.

Another issue through the process is that I live in a metropolitan area of the state where there are two possible sites, on Saturday or Sunday. The parents may also choose morning or afternoon. Getting their day and time of choice from them today for an event that takes place on the last days of January is nearly impossible, and once they have chosen, it can not be changed. Once you've chosen Saturday, you are competing on Saturday.

Until the advent of students registering themselves, I'm scrambling to ask the right questions, fill out the right forms, and get good answers.

And next week the Festival paperwork begins. Yay.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Whistling is an Amazing Gift

A post by my fellow blogger, A Cuban in London, prompted this memory. Although my children know this story, and smile at each other with the "here it comes again look", I will share it with you today.

My Grandpa was quite a whistler. As a child, I was quite smitten with him anyway, as an only granddaughter adores the princes in her life, but when he whistled, wow. I would hold my breath so I wouldn't miss a note. He said he couldn't sing, but he truly sang.

Many times he said he didn't know what song he was whistling; I think he made up melodies. He did many old fashioned German melodies, Oh Danny Boy, and hymns. I remember distinctly How Great Thou Art. This hymn has been at so many funerals in my family that I can't hear it anymore. But I still must perform it occasionally.

The last time I played it, I am sure I heard Grandpa whistling along. It was as clear as if he were sitting in the back of the room, with a lean-against-the-wall, style. It was crystal clear, and took my breath away. I wanted to stop and listen to him, but I was performing in public, and no one else seemed to hear anything out of the ordinary. The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck raised.

It was almost as if we were doing a duet, and it made me cry. Right in the middle of the performance. Tears were rolling down my face and I couldn't stop. I'm sure people thought I was nuts. But there I sat, playin' and cryin'.

It was heavenly to hear that sound again, even if it was in my own head. Grandpa died in 1976, at that time, Roger Whittaker was also known for his whistling. Here is a sample of some of his beautiful whistling.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Theme Thursday - TELEPHONE

Technology is a good thing. This must be stated up front and I want to be perfectly clear that I own digital keyboards, a digital camera, a laptop and a cell phone. But I also find myself tormented by all sorts of technology in regard to teaching classical piano.

Long ago, I took the TELEPHONE and the computer out of my office. I was limiting the noises so that we could really listen. Any call that came in was not as important as the student with me. Computers have a fan noise that is annoying to me. (My latest annoyance has to do with a halogen hum by trying to go more environmentally friendly, but that's another post.)

But now students are bringing distractions into the lesson with them. Blackberries, iPhones, cell phones-the list is long. Cell phones ring during lessons, recitals, or competitions. I have made a relatively new change that they leave them on the coffee table in the fireplace room. If I remind them, it's working.

I am starting to believe preliminary data pointing to reduced attention spans from not only television but video games. But again, this is another post idea.

Perhaps as soon as I mention a "simpler" time, of land lines, and acoustic concerts, I am labeling and distancing myself from my students, or you. But as you listen to Jim Croce, and see that he doesn't have a backup band, psychedelic uTube presentation, or hype, it gives you a chance to really listen. I think really listening is such a gift.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

The small town feeling washed over me today as I drove into Rosemount, Minnesota. On every lamp was a flag waving wildly. How did your town celebrate? Some have parades, some have vigils.

A student sent me this video clip. I hadn't seen it yet; maybe you haven't either.

Music Theory is not for Wimps

A piano student went to visit her sisters at college. She returned this week with stars in her eyes and stories to share. Because the sisters are both considering music degrees, they are in college music classes. So, my 15 year old sat in classes with them and even took the music theory quiz.
They were studying dominant seventh chords and their inversions. A majority of class time was analyzing which inversion of the chord was in use, and how to write that inversion correctly on paper.
Bonzai! My kiddo got 100% on the quiz! Some of the students received 2 or 3/10. The teacher pulled her aside after class.
"You're 15", he said. "How did you know this information or learn it so quickly?"
"Well, I already have had it in my piano lessons!"
"Where do you live?"
"In Minnesota."
"Oh, well, that's why. They have a great music program up there. Can you and your sister stay after class and tutor the singers who only understand one note at a time?"

Way to go, Minnesota! For more information on our great programs, visit

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm sick, sick, sick

I have missed so many Monday lessons with my own family issues and students' illnesses. Now, it's my turn to have an influenza like illness. 102, deep cough, and I have slept for 36 hours straight. I hate to cancel lessons, but I must. I feel horrible. And I don't feel right now like making the lessons up. But we're getting behind on all our preparations for our winter events. Sigh, I'm going to take more Advil, make some phone calls to the Monday parents and go back to bed.

But on a good note, it's a sunny day! Maybe I'll nap in the sunshine chair in the living room. Aah nice and warm when I'm so cold...cup of tea, drifting off...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finding Adjudicators

I'm working with a committee, assigning judges for our Minnesota Music teachers annual contest. There are many attributes of a great judge, but as we assign people to positions, there are a lot of other not-so-obvious qualities that we met recently to discuss. These are the intangibles that make or break a great year for those of us running it. These should be a given, but for some reason, it never is.

Do they work well with the younger children? Do they smile? Ever? Do they appear warm and welcoming? Do some of the people with Doctorates have attitudes that prohibit them from the lower levels? Are we diminishing their degree by having them write critiques for a 12 year old? Can we read the handwriting? Do they stay on time? Do they arrive on time? Are they just plain high maintenance?

Now the latest trait we are examining is whether they have email. Due to budget constraints, we are only using the internet this year to communicate with our adjudicators. I have mixed feelings about this attempt to save money. Some of my favorites judges in years past do not have email accounts. Some colleagues never check them but have one. But what do we do about an esteemed pianist who does not have contact with what is now a very time-tested approved method of communication?

As we prepare to send out a LOT of emails in the next few days, and deal with returned/undeliverables, and some speedy replies, I will probably form a better opinion of our new policy. Of course, we are training our membership at this point too, to expect communication from us in a new way. Welcome to the new way, same as the old way, just like yesterday?

Wow, can Pete ever play, but would he be a good adjudicator?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Theme Thursday - HALLOWEEN

At the studio, the students are making statements this week about when they will be practicing. They are going to fill out a POGO Stick Practice minutes Post-it note, which I attached to a full size candy bar. This is an up-front motivational tool to see if the schedule they stated to me is going to work. The form is not a judgment. It is to see whether the times that they stated to me are going to work as they thought it would this week.

Stalker-creepy, yet deliciously wonderful, here is the "Music of the Night", from Phantom of the Opera, for your Halloween pleasure. Take time to watch and listen how truly mesmerizing is the spell he casts. Oooh, I could fall into a trance like that....

When to Practice

I am asking each student to proclaim their practice times to me. When will you be sitting down to study this wonderful instrument? I am writing it out and posting it for the world to see on my french doors and eventually, even you perhaps will be informed of their schedules. This has been a revelation to some of them.
1. You care about when I'm at the bench?
2. I should schedule a specific time? It might be different every day. (That's ok, let's write it down anyway!)
3. You're going to keep me honest and check in with me?
4. Practice requires regular meetings at the piano?

It's going to be a great week. With the November statement, I'll let each family know what we discussed. Later in November, I call all the families at their allotted practice time and ask how it's going. I also have a fair number of students' cell phone numbers and I text them. "Have you practiced today?" Giggle, sneaky sneaky.

Why are these pumpkins still in the field with moments to go before Halloween? Did they not make the cut? Were they not perfect or big enough? There are fields upon fields of these in my area. Do you have your pumpkin purchased? When will you carve them?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Demoninational Differences

I was surprised by the line in this clip that I had not heard before. It's Halloween week at the studio and the talk is all about what they are going to "be" for the big event. I keep asking them if any of them is going to "be" a great pianist or wait for the Great Pumpkin. Some of them don't know the Charlie Brown show! Oh Good Grief!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Oct. 23 and Snowing Again

It's time to start my serious fall chores and today's weather is begging for a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. Here is the view from the deck door: embers of autumn tasting tumbling white tears. Merry Fallinter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Theme Thursday - TRAFFIC

Because of my home-based piano studio, and my Wednesday evening musician rehearsals, the traffic I generate on my cul-de-sac would be considered significant to some. I have asked my neighbors to please let me know if anything ever bothers them, and to date only one "incident" has occurred.

I teach many young drivers piano. One slippery winter day, a two-week novice behind the wheel put her vehicle into reverse and slid down my driveway, BUH-BANG! into my neighbors' double mailboxes. The posts broke off right at the frozen ground level. The student was mortified! Her car was smashed and she was so embarrassed.

The mailboxes had been centrally located between the two houses, directly at the bottom of my driveway. But because the posts were now mobile, my neighbors could put them anywhere. This generous, friendly, understanding neighbor got out two five-gallon pails, filled them with sand, (which Minnesotans happen to have on hand in the winter), and put one long pole and box near each driveway. The postman never said anything and continued to deliver the mail. That spring, each neighbor dug his own post hole, and TA-DAH, their boxes have been moved permanently.

Some residential areas have now made covenants against businesses like mine to curtail traffic down their streets. I've been "grandfathered" in, I guess.

Here's an '80's song called "Drive", by, you guessed it - The Cars.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beautiful Red Wing Pottery

The view out the skyroof! Do you see a face, an elephant, or a pig? It was a gorgeous day for a ride in the country.
Red Wing, Minnesota, is known for its pottery. This is the original pottery factory along the water.
Many of you have seen crocks like these. They were made by hand here until 1967. There were many sizes and styles of vessels, which held everything from butter to booze.
Red Wing Pottery currently makes two glaze styles of pottery. The first is salt glazed stoneware, which refers to the process by which salt is thrown into the kiln when the temperature reaches 2400 degrees (Fahrenheit). The sodium from the salt combines with the silica in the clay to form the characteristic "orange peel" glaze on the pot. Red Wing's first potters produced only salt glaze pots from the 1960s to the 1890s.
Our second style of pottery is oxidized stoneware, reminiscent of the Red Wing Pottery's twentieth century ware. These pots are fired in an electric kiln, which allows them to produce ware marked with the world famous Red Wing.

This paddleboat still gives tours around Lake Pepin, Minnesota. It was a very cold afternoon so they had canceled the excursion.
We had a fantastic romantic getaway Saturday night into Sunday. Here are a few pictures of things we saw in Red Wing, Minnesota.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Contest Literature-Beethoven Sonata in C Major, Op. 2 No. 3, 3rd mvt.

Who is the composer and where is he from? Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. He was a crucial figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western classical music, and remains one of the most acclaimed and influential composers of all time.

Born in Bonn, of the Electorate of Cologne and a part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in present-day Germany, he moved to Vienna in his early twenties and settled there, studying with Joseph Haydn and quickly gaining a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. His hearing began to deteriorate in the late 1790s, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, even after becoming completely deaf. Much has been written and debated about Beethoven.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? One of the early pieces students learn is the theme to the 9th Symphony, commonly titled "Ode to Joy" in their books. He was a teacher and wrote wonderful teaching pieces, sonatinas, bagatelles, and other short works that are accessible to students.
What is the title? What does it mean? A sonata literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata (Latin and Italian cantare, "to sing"), a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era. The term took on increasing importance in the Classical period, and by the early 19th century the word came to represent a principle of composing large scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded alongside the fugue as one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music. Though the sound of sonatas has changed since the Classical Era, 20th century sonatas still maintain the same structure and build. This is the 3rd movement of a sonata.
What time period is it from? This will be considered Classical.
What about this piece do you like? None of my students are interested in playing this piece-they made no comments here.
What sounds challenging? Students, remember that it's the 3rd movement only for the competition.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Contest Literature-Mozart Sonata in c minor, K57, 1st movement

Who is the composer and where is he from? There is a great website that you may want to direct students to:, for this and other composers that is full of "kid friendly" information.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (German: [ˈvɔlfɡaŋ amaˈdeus ˈmoːtsart], full baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. (Did you notice that Amadeus is not in his baptismal name?) He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers. And he and I share a birthday, hence my blog picture!

Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood in Salzburg. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty; at 17 he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. Visiting Vienna in 1781 he was dismissed from his Salzburg position and chose to stay in the capital, where over the rest of his life he achieved fame but little financial security. His final years in Vienna yielded many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and the Requiem. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons. Mozart always learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? Students seem to know Mozart style, they love Rondo Alla Turca, and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
What time period is it from? Classical
What about this piece do you like? The running broken chord octaves and the crossing over of the right hand look fun.
What sounds challenging? Horowitz is rumored to have said that he didn't play Mozart when he was young because it was too easy, and now he doesn't play Mozart as an old man, because he realized it was so difficult.

Contest Literature-Scarlatti Sonata K491 (L164) in D Major

Who is the composer and where is he from? Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (October 26, 1685 – July 23, 1757) was an Italian composer who spent much of his life in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families. He is classified as a Baroque composer chronologically, although his music was influential in the development of the Classical style. His influential 555 sonatas were almost all written for the harpsichord with a few exceptions for chamber ensemble or organ. The harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick produced an edition of the sonatas in 1953, and the numbering from this edition is now nearly always used (the K. number). Previously, the numbering commonly used was from the 1906 edition compiled by the Neapolitan pianist Alessandro Longo (L. numbers). Kirkpatrick's numbering is chronological, while Longo's ordering is a result of his grouping the sonatas into "suites". What a way to spend your life, right? Numbering the Scarlatti sonatas? Wow.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? other sonatas perhaps?
What is the title? What does it mean? Baroque sonatas are single movements, mostly in binary form (A possible repeat of A, B, possible repeat of B), and are almost all intended for the harpsichord (there are four for organ, and a few where Scarlatti suggests a small instrumental group)
What time period is it from? We will call it Baroque.
What about this piece do you like? Some of my students just don't care for the two equal hands of Baroque style and say it is difficult to compete and win with a Baroque piece. I say if you play it well, it doesn't matter what time period it's from.
What sounds challenging? The runs of thirds.

Here are videos both on a piano and on a harpsichord, just for fun. The pianist treats this piece much more lyrically and romantically, don't you think?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Contest Literature-Haydn Sonata in g minor, Hob. XVI:44

Hello blogging friends and colleagues-you are joining us in the middle of a gathering of Minnesota Music Teachers Association contest literature. Students have the opportunity to perform one of these pieces for an adjudicator, receive a critique, and the ultimate prize is a performance at Northrup auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus. At this Senior A level, there are twelve pieces from which to choose. Music is from across time periods, and hopefully, from across the globe, to provide new pieces and styles to students and teachers alike. So, after hearing the 12, make sure to stop back and tell me which pieces you would choose to learn in depth this year.

My regular blogging will be sporadic as I gather this information for my students and you. But I'm still here!

Who is the composer and where is he from? (Franz) Joseph Haydn (March 31, 1732 – May 31, 1809) was an Austrian composer. He was one of the most important, prolific and prominent composers of the classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these genres. He was also instrumental in the development of the piano trio and in the evolution of sonata form.

A life-long resident of Austria, Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Hungarian aristocratic Esterházy family on their remote estate. Isolated from other composers and trends in music until the later part of his long life, he was, as he put it, "forced to become original". At the time of his death, he was one of the most celebrated composers in Europe.

What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? Student may have played other sonatas or sonatinas, short minuets or German dances.
What time period is it from? Classical
What about this piece do you like? The arpeggiated figures running down the keyboard sound fun to play.
What sounds challenging? One student complains that the classical style takes too much listening for the differences. "It all sounds similar if you're not paying attention." This is also one of the longer selections.

Contest Literature-J. S. Bach Prelude and Fugue #15 in G Major

Who is the composer and where is he from? Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March 1685 – 28 July 1750) (often referred to simply as Bach) was a German composer and organist whose works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity. Bach's works are revered for their intellectual depth, technical command and artistic beauty. Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now regarded as the greatest composer of the Baroque, and as one of the greatest of all time.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? Bach wrote new pieces for his church every week. It is an extensive collection of keyboard repertoire.
What time period is it from? Baroque
What about this piece do you like? "I think Baroque music is an acquired taste", she said. "I didn't used to like it at all and now I find it to be so brainy and interesting."
What sounds challenging? Fugues, what else do you need to say. Equal difficulties of fugue subjects in each hand, the LH is usually the downfall of a fugue. I do not know these pianists, but this gives an indication of the many tempi that can be considered.

Contest Literature-Schumann Forest Scenes

Who is the composer and where is he from? Robert Schumann 8 June 1810 – 29 July 1856 was a German composer and influential music critic. He is one of the most famous and important Romantic composers of the 19th century. He had hoped to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist, having been assured by his teacher Friedrich Wieck that he could become the finest pianist in Europe after only a few years of study with him. However, a self-inflicted hand injury (NOTE this students!) prevented those hopes from being realized, and he decided to focus his musical energies on composition. Schumann's published compositions were all for the piano until 1840. In 1840, after a long and acrimonious legal battle with his piano instructor (Wieck), Schumann married Wieck's daughter, pianist Clara Wieck, who also composed music and had a considerable concert career, including premieres of many of her husband's works. Robert Schumann died in middle age; for the last two years of his life, after an attempted suicide, he was confined to a mental institution at his own request.

What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? My students could not answer this one. One thought maybe he had heard the piano concerto. I guess I have overlooked teaching this composer. There is also Papillons (Butterflies), Carnaval, and Scenes from Childhood repertoire that they may have studied.

What time period is it from? romantic
What about this piece do you like? "It is shorter than some on the list and I probably could memorize it".
What sounds challenging? It's not what sounds challenging per se, but it is advanced in depth of character and the tiny details. It will take a finicky pianist, who is ready to dig into the details.

This recording is all movements, but the competition will use only Entrance AND Hunter in Ambush.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Contest Literature-Toccata, Aram Khachaturian

Who is the composer and where is he from? Aram Khachaturian(June 6, 1903 – May 1, 1978) (born in Tiflis, Russian Empire) was a Soviet-Armenian composer whose works were often influenced by Armenian folk music. Khachaturian showed such great talent as a young man, that he was admitted to the Gnessin Institute where he studied cello In 1925 Mikhail Gnessin started a composition class at the Gnessin Institute which Khachaturian joined.

In 1929, he transferred to the Moscow Conservatory where he studied under Nikolai Myaskovsky (composition) and Sergei Vasilenko (orchestration), graduating in 1934. In the 1930s, he married the composer Nina Makarova, a fellow student from Myaskovsky’s class. In 1951, he became professor at the Gnessin State Musical and Pedagogical Institute (Moscow) and the Moscow Conservatory.
Aram Khachaturian was enthusiastic about communism. In 1920, when Armenia was declared a Soviet republic, Khachaturian joined a propaganda train touring Armenia, populated by Georgian-Armenian artists. The composer joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1943. His communist ideals are apparent in his works, especially Gayane (which takes place on a collective farm) and the Second Symphony. It was the Symphonic Poem, later titled the Third Symphony, that earned Khachaturian the wrath of the Party. Ironically, Khachaturian wrote the work as a tribute to communism: “I wanted to write the kind of composition in which the public would feel my unwritten program without an announcement. I wanted this work to express the Soviet people’s joy and pride in their great and mighty country.”
He also held important posts at the Composers' Union, which would later severely denounce some of his works as being “formalist” music, along with those of Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich. These three composers became the so called "titans" of Soviet music, enjoying worldwide reputation as some of the leading composers of the 20th century.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? the "Sabre Dance" and an intermediate piano work Ivan Sings, is in many collections.
What is the title? What does it mean? Toccata (from Italian toccare, "to touch") is a virtuoso piece of music typically for a keyboard or plucked string instrument featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer's fingers.
What time period is it from? contemporary
What about this piece do you like? TBD
What sounds challenging? TBD

YIKES! I have studied the wrong Toccata! I will post the music as soon as I clear this up!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Contest Literature-Chopin Mazurka

Who is the composer and where is he from? Frédéric François Chopin (Polish: Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, sometimes Szopen; 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He was one of the great masters of Romantic music.

Chopin was born in the village of Żelazowa Wola, in the Duchy of Warsaw, to a French-expatriate father and Polish mother and was regarded as a child-prodigy pianist.In Paris, Chopin made a comfortable living as a composer and piano teacher, while giving few public performances. Though an ardent Polish patriot,in France he used the French versions of his names and eventually, to avoid having to rely on Imperial Russian documents, became a French citizen. After some ill-fated romantic involvements with Polish women, from 1837 to 1847 he had a turbulent relationship with the French authoress George Sand, (her pen name). Always in frail health, he died in Paris in 1849, aged thirty-nine, of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Chopin's compositions were written primarily for the piano as solo instrument. Though they are technically demanding, the emphasis in his style is on nuance and expressive depth. Chopin invented musical forms such as the instrumental ballade and was responsible for major innovations in the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, étude, impromptu and prélude.

What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? Some of Chopin's smaller preludes and waltzes may be in a student's repertoire. I suggest playing a more traditional mazurka or two before using this slow one as a competition piece.
What is the title? What does it mean?The mazurka (in Polish, mazurek) is a stylized Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo that has a heavy accent on the third or second beat. This is "one of Chopin's most evocative and melancholy themes, known mostly to pianists. It is almost a secret to other musicians or the public", according to Michael Glenn Williams.
What time period is it from? romantic
What about this piece do you like? Chopin's works are usually very weighty, meaningful, deep. And most that I've heard have elements of melancholy.
What sounds challenging? I see many small notes not lining up with the Left Hand.

The first video is the famous pianist, Vladimir Horowitz and the music follows along below the clip! The next video is a musical response to Vladimir's playing. Both are interesting musically and watch their differences in technique! Look at wrists, fingers, and fingering! Which one do you prefer?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Manor Ball-the Event!

I adore the idea of daydreaming. A ball, a dress, an escort, a moment to be in a beautiful room of amazing people. An invitation to believe in possibilities can also be daunting. What if I don't fit in? Will I know what to say, how to dance? These same feelings sometimes come to the performer as he waits to take the stage. Will I be heard as I want to be heard, will I do and speak and become the music that is so amazing?

Shine, dance, and be-all the world is a stage. My gown is Versace, my jewelry is from Tiffany's. My escorts are Antonio Banderras and Denzel Washington, Pierce Brosnan and Tom Selleck. They are all 6'2" tall today. To be fair, I asked all their wives if it was acceptable to have them accompany me. And the music is eclectic: Mozart, Haydn, Spanish tangos, rock and roll. It's rather like A Knight's Tale, where old meets new and somehow, it works. Aaah, the music takes me there. Can you hear it?

I arrived in a bright red Ferrari Enzo, it was a wonderful day for a drive. Willow is such a gracious hostess, I brought her a little something as a token of thanks for the lovely party. October's birthstone is the opal, and there is none quite so lovely as the black opals from Australia.

Anthony Bourdain prepared a few appetizers, then decided to join the party in person, and flew ahead of me to the manor to get started in the kitchen. I heard him mumble something about the freshest ingredients and getting something imported quickly.

I can't wait to see who else is coming! Click here to transport yourself to the ball!

Contest Literature-Graceful Ghost Rag

Who is the composer and where is he from? Named 2007 Composer of the Year by Musical America, and honored with multiple Grammy Awards for his ground-breaking setting of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, William Bolcom is a composer of cabaret songs, concertos, sonatas, operas, symphonies, and much more. He was awarded the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Twelve New Etudes for piano. He is originally from Seattle. In 2007 Bolcom was feted in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, with a two and a half-week festival of his music, including master classes, recitals, and concerts of his organ and chamber music. Bolcom taught composition at the University of Michigan from 1973-2008. Named a full professor in 1983, he was Chairman of the Composition Department from 1998 to 2003 and was named the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition in the fall of 1994. He retired from teaching in 2008.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? Did you go to the festival?
What is the title? What does it mean? It was written in 1970. It is lovely, wistful and elegant piano "rag" in the exotic key of B-flat minor called "Graceful Ghost," - one of a set of three "Ghost Rags." Few ragtime pieces outside Scott Joplin's oeuvre can boast such a beautiful melody, and some of Bolcom's adventurous progressions are at once astonishing and perfectly natural.
What time period is it from? contemporary
What about this piece do you like? (These are student answers, remember) There is a graceful quality, but I was expecting something, well, more spooky.
What sounds challenging? The ragtime genre is a challenge who want to play too fast, or do not have hand capacity to reach the octaves (in both hands in this piece).
The following are two examples of ways to play this piece. There are more variations out there, a lot of tempi choices, including an arrangement by George Winston. The first is with repeats played very differently from the prime section. The second is with a swing rhythm that is not usually associated with ragtime. We will have great discussions about this if you choose this selection.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Contest Literature-Pas De Deux

Who is the composer and where is he from? Samuel Osborne Barber II (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? His Adagio for Strings is among his most popular compositions and widely considered a masterpiece of modern classical music. Since they didn't know it, we will listen to this too.
What is the title? What does it mean?pas de deux (French, step/dance for two) is a duet in which ballet steps are performed together. This piece was also written for one piano, four hands, a duo!
What time period is it from? contemporary
What about this piece do you like? It's so sad and poetic, she said.
What sounds challenging pianistically? Not to get bored, to find the climax points.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Contest Literature - Arabesque

Who is the composer and where is he from? Achille-Claude Debussy (French pronunciation: [aʃil klod dəbysi]) (August 22, 1862 – March 25, 1918) was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of Impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions. Debussy is not only among the most important of all French composers; he was also a central figure in European music at the turn of the twentieth century.

His music is noted for its sensory component and how it is not often formed around one key or pitch. Often Debussy's work reflected the activities or turbulence in his own life. His music virtually defines the transition from late-Romantic music to twentieth century modernist music. In French literary circles, the style of this period was known as Symbolism, a movement that directly inspired Debussy both as a composer and as an active cultural participant.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard? She answered the first Arabesque, Golliwog's Cakewalk, and Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn.
What is the title? What does it mean? The arabesques are two of Debussy's earliest works, composed between the years 1888 and 1891. Debussy was still in his twenties. Although quite an early work, the arabesques contain hints of Debussy's developing musical style. Debussy seems to wander through modes and keys, and achieves evocative scenes through music.
What time period is it from? We sometimes classify Debussy as late-romantic, Impressionist, or early Modern. He seems to span across time periods.
What about this piece do you like? It feels good under the hand. It's light and fluid.
What sounds challenging pianistically? Keeping those RH motifs clean?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Contest Literature-Cordoba

I'm gone this weekend, but I hope you enjoy the following music selections that I'm hearing at the studio. My students are choosing contest repertoire, and prior to this decision we gather information, and listen to lots of recordings. From the Senior A (17-18 year old) list, here is Albeniz, "Cordoba".
We keep this list in a spiral notebook, and after they've heard 4-5, they choose their favorite from the list. Sometimes, we do this as early as summer, if the piece will be challenging for them. I tell my students that iPods are our friends, listen to lots of recordings of the same piece, different pianists, other pieces by the composer and other pieces in this style to really understand what's happening in their music.
The questions I ask are similar but not limited to:
Who is the composer and where is he from? Isaac Albéniz was a child prodigy who first performed at the age of four. At age seven he passed the entrance examination for piano at the Paris Conservatoire, but he was refused admission because he was believed to be too young. By the time he had reached 12, he had made many attempts to run away from home. At the age of 12 he stowed away in a ship bound for Buenos Aires. He then made his way via Cuba to the United States, giving concerts in New York and San Francisco and then traveled to Liverpool, London and Leipzig. By age 15, he had already given concerts worldwide. Cordoba celebrates one of Albéniz’s favorite cities. In the heart of Andalusia, the city of Cordoba is home to Spain’s famous “great Mosque”. The city is rich in history, but Christian and Moorish, and Albéniz captures the mood and feel of both in Cordoba. Clark states that the name of the piece may have been inspired by Albéniz’s namesake, St. Isaac of Cordoba, who died defending his faith in this southern Andalusian city.

The piece begins with the sound of tolling church bells. The sound of a g dorian hymn plays in a faux bourdon style, rhythmically ambiguous so as to resemble liturgical singing. The A section ends in contrasting character, reminiscent of a guzla playing a serenade in a more Moorish sound. The B section sounds of flamenco dancers and Spanish folk song rhythms as it mounts to a moving climax. There is a repeat of the A section and a brief Coda before the end.
What else have they written that we may already know or have heard?
What is the title? What does it mean? See above.
What time period is it from? Late Romantic
What about this piece do you like? The ability to move the tempo and be very expressive was this student's answer.
What sounds challenging pianistically? To him, it was fast sections with octave work.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Theme Thursday - COLLECTION

Behind my sofa in the studio is a wall full of autographs. They are addressed to the students by "famous" teachers, performers, artists, rock-n-rollers and other people that might encourage them. I call it the "Wall of Inspiration". It is ongoing "atta boys" to follow their dreams, work hard, keep striving.
Sometimes learning music is hard. It is lonely and difficult to practice every day. It can be misunderstood to put your whole self into this art. It is certainly on the lower end of the financial gain ladder. But, when the student answers honestly that this is the only thing he can see himself doing for the rest of his life, you know he is a musician. I believe it is then my job to bolster him with any collegial support I can find.
Sometimes the artists are surprised that I've waited in a line to get an autograph when they hear to whom it's addressed. I've had some pianists go to extraordinary lengths to ponder their autographs and become quite poetic. I've also seen some scoff and simply sign their name.
Here's a pianist that I would love an autograph from someday-my students still love to play Billy Joel, and I adored playing the last two minutes of this clip in 1978.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wedding Pictures

The wedding was beautiful and the couple is now happily honeymooning in a non-disclosed location-a cabin in northern Wisconsin-for a few days. They will also take a second honeymoon for two weeks to Hawaii in February where they have use of a condo.
The music went well, but I'm still mentally exhausted. Performing both on Saturday for the wedding, and Sunday for worship is a lot of music. I dare say I feel my age on Monday. Even into Tuesday!
There were many details of this wedding that set it apart; the bride is a perfectionist graphic designer and her fingerprints were all over the three day event. Here are some great ideas if you are planning a wedding.
In St. Paul, home of Charles Schultz, there are six foot statues of his characters all over the city. Here, Lucy has donned a bridal gown and stood near the entrance to the chapel.
The reception was in the top of the Crowne Plaza, St. Paul. We had the blessing of seeing the city, the river, the paddleboats, and the sunset while we feasted.
Every piece of carrot cake, their wedding cake, had a bride and groom figurine atop a mound of fresh whipped cream. It was heavenly.
Unfortunately, life's celebrations and death's reality have collided in my life.
This weekend I will be part of a funeral for our brother in law. His heart stopped on Friday. The ambulance was finally able to get it started again, but his brain had been without oxygen an hour. He was merely 55. We will go to support his wife and five children with our arms, our smiles, and our tears. We last saw him over Memorial weekend when we mini-golfed together. I'm glad for the pictures I took of that trip.
The bride wanted traditional hymns played pre-service and during the service to make the convention space of the hotel seem more holy. The singer did a lovely arrangement of "How Great Thou Art", big and full of grace. This song will appear before me again at the funeral, combining and intertwining the two events in a bittersweet melody. It has been a part of all of my grandparents funerals. I'm so glad I got to hear it in a happy way at the wedding before I play it again for Bob and family.
Do you remember your wedding music or have you planned any "must haves" for your funeral? I find that people are very interested in having certain pieces for their loved ones at both events.
"How Great Thou Art", "Beautiful Savior", "Day by Day", "In the Garden", and "Softly and Tenderly" in the traditional section, "I Can Only Imagine", "Eagle's Wings" and "Borning Cry" are more contemporary. These are the Often Requested at the Lutheran funerals I've played recently. I've also played "What A Friend We have in Jesus", "Sissy's Song" by Alan Jackson, "My Redeemer Lives", and "The Wind Beneath My Wings" this year.

I think maybe I'm not cut out to be a funeral musician. But I do it in love. Sometimes music says what words can not.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Transcendental Music Moments

I am playing at a wedding today, so this post's credit goes to a friend in Australia. Martin wrote a wonderful note to me after reading about the Elizabeth Gilbert presentation on my blog, August 18th. So, while I'm playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, How Great Thou Art, and Beethoven's Joyful Joyful, please enjoy an indescribable moment of the Beatles, courtesy of Martin.

Martin wrote: I finally got time to watch the whole clip you posted - it is awesome! Personally, I love the part about performances that "transcend" starting at 15:35. I'm lucky enough to have seen lots of these moments during performances. Occasionally, I've also been part of such performances. The worst thing you can do is notice that it has happened and try to apply logic to it to try and keep it going, because then it is over!

I think that when a performance transcends you usually have to be in the audience to appreciate it. However, here's an example ( where you can see it happen in a fairly low quality video of a performance. During the 3rd chorus, around the time when Eddi Reader improvs, something just happens, fantastic!

Chris here again: To me, moments like this share a glimpse, a foretaste of the day when all the world vibrates in harmony again. Our voices, our innermost beings resonate with each other ever so briefly. Sharing the same air, that same stopped bit of time eternal, we can do nothing but love each other, because we realize we are all one, all part of the whole.

For some background information on the artists:
Eddi Reader started performing as a busker in Glasgow when she was ten. She sang backing vocals for UK punk legends, The Gang of Four, which led to session work with the Eurythmics and Alison Moyet. In the late 80s she formed Fairground Attraction and their first single, Perfect, was a number one hit in the UK. Eddi released a tribute album to her lyrical hero Robert Burns in 2003 and her eighth solo album, Peacetime, in 2006.

Liam O’Maonlai started out as a teenage busker with a school friend, Fiachna Ó Braonáin. The pair were joined by Peter O’Toole and they formed the band Hothouse Flowers in 1985. Rolling Stone declared them "the best unsigned band in Europe," and within a year Hothouse Flowers were supporting U2. Their first album, People, was the most successful debut album in Irish music history and it delivered a string of hit singles.

Who's been to Visit?