Monday, August 30, 2010

If I Had A Hammer ~


I wonder if those guys who have been hammering in this community for the last couple of weeks have thought of using that for a theme song. They sure do hammer from morning to night. They are a very industrious team and I certainly would recommend them. They take a break at noon - all together - and return promptly. It has been unusually hot for this time of year. Walking around up there without shade, and very little breeze - they are amazing.

I got up this a.m., had flipped my calendar to September, and thought it was Labor Day. Saw a neighbor and said I did not expect the roofers to be here on a holiday. She looked at me in wonder and said, "This isn't a holiday. That's next week." I am sure she thinks I have joined the ranks of the disconnected.

Anyway, back to "If I Had A Hammer.": Pete Seeger and Lee Hays wrote the song in 1949. They were members of "THE WEAVERS" a band which did not succeed. It was brought out again in 1962 by Peter, Paul and Mary. And Trini Lopez recorded it a little later. The song was intended as support for the progressive movement on labor rights. It speaks of using the hammer, the work bell and labor songs, encouraging "the people" to use their tools to speak out for themselves for labor equality. It speaks for collective action by laborers. And then - finally - "I've got a hammer, And I've got a bell, And I've got a song to sing - All over this land.
It's the hammer of justice, It's the bell of freedom, It's the song about love between my brothers and my sistrs - All over this land.

(Political note from me: It was the right thing when the progressives advocated collective "speaking out" - but now those who collectively speak out are considered rabble-rousers by those who set the bar. Hmmmmm -)

If I Had A Hammer is several Hal Leonard EZ Play books, and some of the Fake Book both EZ Play and conventional. Even if you don't like the sentiment - personally I do - the song is fun to play on several different rhythms on the Lowrey Organs and probably on the Roland, or any number of key boards. I HAPPEN TO LOVE MY LOWREY!

Pete Seeger was a really great musician. A product of his time and dedicated to his work, his music always seemed to have a purpose other than just to entertain. It was a serious time, those days when war was terribly unpopular and the emotion was taken out on the brave armies doing what they are trained to do. I would celebrate Mr. Seeger and his talent, the times - they were shameful.

"The times, they are a changin' " - so KEEP A SONG IN YOUR HEART and KEEP THE MUSIC PLAYING.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Froggy Evening ~~~~

Did you ever see the cartoon of a corner stone being opened by a man who discovers a small box in which a frog is sleeping. He takes the frog to his office, opens the box and the frog begins to sing and dance "Hello, ma baby! hello, ma honey, hello ma ragtime gal ....? I believe Warner Bros. now owns it and I could not access it on the internet because of copyright claims by them. However, the story goes on - the man puts the frog back in the box and takes it to an agency where, when he gets in to have the frog audition, he carefully puts the frog on the agent's desk. The frog does what all frogs do in strange circumstances: it sits and does nothing. In spite of prodding, the frog does not perform. The disappointed "frogmaster" puts the frog back in the box and takes it away. Once back in the office, he opens the box again and the frog booms out "Hello, my baby --" etc. It really is one of the funnier cartoons, in my opinion, that was ever produced. You never hear the man speak a word, just that darned frog booming out the lyrics and dancing with his top hat and cane, like a vaudeville star.

That song was written around 1899, by a pair of vaudevillians, Joseph Howard and Ida Emerson, and became a huge hit. It was originally about a man who, every day, telephones a girl whom he has never seen and is afraid of losing to someone who lives nearer to her. He eventually learns her name is Bess. "his morning through the hone she said her name was Bess, Here pasted in the lining of my hat.
I am mighty scared 'cause if the wires get crossed,
'Twill separate me from ma baby mine.
Then some other man will win her, and my game is lost.
And so each day I shout along the line :::Hello, ma baby; hello ma honey, hello ma ragtime gal. Send me a kiss by wire,
baby my heart's on fire!
If you refuse me, Honey, you'll lose me, then you'll be left alone. Oh, baby, telephone and tell me I'm your own.
Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello there?

Get out your Hal Leonard catalog and find Hello, Ma Baby and as you play it picture a great green frog with top hat and cane dancing all around your keys. It's bound to make you feel good.

Now, wasn't this a silly topic? No great inspiration to continue your playing, keep your music circle of friends or spread the joy. Just something to help you -------

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing.

Jan Major

Monday, August 16, 2010


MUSIC - Well, what would expect from in a music blog???

The reason I am generalizing is that I have played for three senior groups in the past week and I am convinced MUSIC is MUSIC to them. Thursday I was a the Truslow Adult Day Care in Saco for the Tuesday/Thursday group. I took a pile fake books with me with no particular program in mind. I began with something lively, probably Ain't We Got Fun. Michel, a multiply handicapped, mentally challenged man got up as usual to dance. Michel dances to everything from God Bless America to The Hawaiian Wedding Song. (And all genres in between!) He is a showman at heart. I played a wide variety of music they could sing along with, or just listen to. Some good old hand-clapping, foot-stomping gospel, a polka or two and as usual, ended with a march. Everyone had smiles on their faces and some asked when I would be back. It doesn't really matter whether I tell them next week or next month, they say "Oh, good."

Friday I returned to Truslow for the Monday/Wednesday/Friday clients. I began with Anazing Grace, went to some sing-alongs and mixed in a little country, a few big band numbers, a polka, and eventually ended with a march. Michel is a full-week client, so again he danced to every number. I could hear some voices behind me catching a few lyrics here and there, and when I left some came to the organ and said they enjoyed the music, and some marvelled a the organ and said it is beautiful. The organ is a Lowrey Century, which when I owned one I believed it to be the beall endall of organs, but is now outdated and less than joyous to play. But the joy is in the response to the music, however limited my ability or the organ's.

Sunday, after a lovely family reunion, I played at the Maine Veterans' HOme in Scarborough.
I go in and set up and begin to play, and as the sounds of the music reach the rooms and he staff makes the rounds to remind clients I am there, the room begins to fill. Usually eight or ten people come in regularly, but others come and go. They are restless. It is referred to as the "residential wing." I think of it as assisted living. I started out with a quiet Swing - I think it was I Left My Heart In SanFrancisco, but moved on into sing-alongs like Mary's A Grand Old Name, Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree - you get the idea. Several of the people there do sing along, especially if I play the song twice. I played Anchors Aweigh for Celia who is a Navy Veteran, and kept the music going until supper time.

Now this sounds like a lot of "I trouble" as I scan through it. I (there I go again) didn't mean it to be about me. This is about the music - any music - all music - which when playing for a group has to appeal to everyone in some way. Toe-tapping, hand-clapping, memory jogging, mirthful, religious, moving emotionally or physically - music is good. I asked John, "Do you like country?" and he replied in his deep solemn voice, "Not especially." But I played Make the World Go Away and he sang most of it. When I left as something mouthwatering was being brought in from the kitchen, every person there said "Thank you. Come back soon."

But if someone else goes in my place one of these days, they will be greeted with the same welcome, and when leaving they will be thanked and urged, "Come back soon."

Music - there is something out there for everyone. Explore, enjoy, and

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Come to the Church in the Wildwood

"CHURCH MUSIC" - hymns, psalms, gospel, - a rich and plentiful source of music in America, doesn't get a lot of attention from me. But recently two "church" events have drawn my attention.

In Medway Maine, a small community north of South Woodville, and south of East Millinocket. IF you check you map you will see that this is very far north, and very rural. The census reports there are around 600 households with a total population of less than 1500. This past Sunday Medway celebrated the restoration and reopening of a beautifully classic New England church. The whole community turned out to join in the celebration.

In Standish Village, Maine, another interesting old church opened in 1808 after the demolition of the First Standish Church. In 1848 a second floor was added which became Standish Academy, which closed after a trustee made off with Academy funds. The Old Red Church now is open for tours, baptisms, weddings, at the annual Christmas Fair.

The St. Ann's Episcopal Church in Kennebunkport is right next to the George H.W. Bush summer home. It is a beautiful stone building, open during the summer for Sunday services, and is the scene of many summer weddings and baptisms. And not far from that church, in a small village called Turbot's Creek is a tiny little church in the woods.

I'm certain every old New England community has an old church, which like old schools, are only open in the summer for services. These churches probably had, if they were well supported, an old pump organ or pipe organ with bellows behind the pipes. No doubt their parishes raised their voices in prayerful and hopeful song.

Some of the older hymns which many are familiar with:

A Mighty Fortress is Our God (Martin Luther in the late 1500's)
Abide With Me Old Time Religion
Amazing Grace Onward Christian Soldiers
Blessed Assurance Rock of Ages
Come Thou Almighty King Sweet Hour of Prayer
He Leadeth Me In The Sweet By and By
I Love To Tell The Story In The Garden
Nearer My God To Thee To God Be The Glory
Shall We Gather At The River When We All Get To Heaven

Many of these hymns listed were written/composed in the 1800's and have stood the test of time in today's church services. Of course, as in all things, some newer music is being written, only time will tell if it will endure.

You can probably think of many more. My father used to sing The Old Rugged Cross when we went on our long Sunday mystery rides. And Come To The Church in the Wildwood, which is why I chose that hymn for title today.

If you are interested in some music Hal Leonard puts out Fake Books on both Gospel and Hymn music. ALso, if you Google "Classic Christian Hymns you will find more titles and the availability at Apple Sauce Kids. I did not attempt to download anything, but I believe there are free downloads at that site.

You must have heard the joke about the preacher who, preaching on demon rum, exhorted his parishoners to "dump your liquor into the river - and then announced the next hymn to be "SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER?"

PLEASE - keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing. It's good for you.


Sunday, August 1, 2010


August 1st is Naitonal Frindship Day, and also National Raspberry Cream Pie Day. I don't think there any songs written about Raspberry Cream Pie (get out your copy books and see what you can do) but there are songs about friendship:


Friendship is one of the most important parts of our lives. It is really an emotion, I think. You cannot be a friend with out feeling some emotion. Friendship can lead to love, it can provide stability in our lives and make us feel "part of" something.

I am blessed with friends; some from childhood, some from jobs I have held; some recent friends in my music hobby. I hope I am a "good friend" to all of them. I made a "new friend" at the therapy pool last month, and she is coming this afternoon with several of her friends to hear me play some music. I believe one can never have too many friends, and probably should have at least one very close "confidante".

SO, "friendship, friendship, we've a perfect friendship. When other friendships are all forgot - ours will still be hot."

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing.