Saturday, February 27, 2010


What ARE you doing the rest of your life?

I do hope you are making time for music ~ listening, learning, singing, playing ~ whatever pleases you. With today's technology we can have music anytime anywhere. I frequently see my neighbors walking with headphones on, smiles on their faces. Of course, I don't really know what they are listening to. Maybe it a series of jokes, or maybe a book on tape. But I like to think they are keeping cadence to a favorite selection of music.

Michel Legrand who wrote the song "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your LIfe" was born in France in the early 1900's. He was enrolled in Paris Conservatory at the age of ten ( I think. I am doing this from memory of a bio I read recently so my data may be flawed.) He was given a ticket to a Dizzy Gillespie concert at and claimed that from that moment on he was hooked on jazz.

His music is frequently strangely minor and haunting, but then he wrote "Gingerbread Man" which is upbeat and clever. His "Windmill of Your Mind" reminds me of a Chopin etude, an exercise in paying attention and keeping the music moving. LeGrand's music is available in Hal Leonard books both E-Z Play* and regular piano/vocal/guitar. LeGrand worked with lyricists, frequently Alan and Marilyn Bergman. "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life" is a beautiful love song. I end this commentary with the last words "All I ever will recall of my life is all of my life with you." and dedicate it to all of my friends who love music.

Tomorrow is the 28th of February, the 45th birthday of my youngest son. He was born on a Sunday so this is a significant birthday in that sense - 45 exact years. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TOM!

Trivia Quiz This Week is on Broadway:
What musical had a character called Jubilation T. Cornpone?
a) Oklahoma b) L'il Abner c) Carousel

What ALWebber musical was Norma Desmond as the name of a lead character? a) Evita b)Phantom of the Opera c)Sunset Blvd.

From which musical is "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair?
a( Chicago b) So. Pacific c) Applause

What was the only B'way musical in which Katherine Hepburn appeared?
a) Applause b) 42nd Street c) Coco

What musical took place in Scotland?
a) Finian's Rainbow b) Evita c) Brigadoon

What musical starred the unlikely duo of Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin?
a) Oklahoma b) Dirty Dozen c) Paint Your Wagon

What musical is about inmates of "murderer's row"?
a) Avenue Q b) Chicago c) Rent

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music." Angela Monet.

Now who was Angela Monet? I don't know. All I could find out she was not the artist's second wife, who was Alice. But I like the thought anyway.

Answers (why is there a "w" in that word?) to trivia:
(b) (c) (b) (c) (c) (c) (b)

*E-Z Play Book #176

As I end this blog I am hearing the latest news of the devastating earth quake which rattled Chile this morning. All Pacific Islands and coastal areas are preparing for the tsunamis which are expected to follow. Please join me in prayer for the people who are being affected by this tragic event.

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


Monday, February 22, 2010


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE. What music did George listen to? Well ~ I didn't find any reference to his personal preference but I did find a LOT of information about music in early America. Early settlers brought their hymns and traditional music to the new world keeping the music in their heads and hearts as they established their communities and churches. The Ainsworth Psalter, which dated back to 1612 was "imprinted" in Amsterdam. The Bay Psalter, the first book published in Colonial America, was adopted in 1667. Benjamin Franklin wrote and published a book of Ballads. The Trinity Psalter is a book of Psalm hymns. The familiar hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" is an example of an early hymn. A comic opera, The Disappointment, had a version of Yankee Doodle in it. (The opera was about searching for Blackbeard's treasure- 1762).

Wikipedia says: YANKEE DOODLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE 1770's. That would seem to indicate that the 1762 version was not published. Many different versions have been written one of which was by Doctor Richard Shuckburgh, a British Army surgeon. The word "doodle" comes from the German word"dudel" which means "simpleton". "Macaroni" was a fashionable wig which became slang for "foppishness". Obviously, the British thought the Colonials were foolish fops trying to look smartly fashionable.
The British had another version, mocking a man who was tarred and feathered for attempting to buy a musket in Boston: "Yankee Doodle came to town,
For to buy a firelock.
We will tar and feather him,
And so we will John Hancock."

On February 6, 1778, Massachusetts ratified the Constitution by a vote of 186 to 168. to booming cannons, ringing bells, and delegates trooping out of Brattle Street Church. This version is 13 verses, but I am only printing the last two, which I think
pay a nice tribute to Yankee independence:
The 'vention did in Boston meet,
The State House could not hold 'em
So then they went to Fed'ral Street,
And there the truth was told 'em ...
And ev'ry morning went to prayer,
And then began disputing,
Til oppositions silenced were,
By arguments refuting.

No politicians of all kinds,
Who are not yet decided,
May see how Yankees speak their minds,
And yet are not divided.
So here I end my fed'ral song,
Composed of thirteen verses;
May agriculture flourish long
And commerce fill our purses!

SO - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE - no foolish fop were ye!

Colonial America - the 17th Century - produced such songs as "The Girl I Left Behind Me", "When First I Came To This Land" and "Soldier, Soldier Will You Marry Me"

As the country grew and people arrived from far and wide, and millions of West Africans were brought in to replace the white indentured servants, African drums joined Irish fiddle tune, and Scots Highland bagpipes, and other instruments and sounds. Both the Americans and the British created new patriotic songs; i.e.: "The British Grenadiers"; "The Battle of the Kegs"; "Free America"; "Hail Columbia". And then from the War of 1812, "The Eighth of January"; "The Noble Lads of Canada"; "The Hunters of Kentucky". You can hear some of these by going to, or Colonial and Revolution Songs.

Music endures, as proven by the number of songs which we are familiar with from these early compositions. One of my favorite pastimes is browsing through my stash of old music. I wish I could share all of it with you, but there is just too much of it. I will pick away at in future blogs.

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


Saturday, February 13, 2010


CHANCES ARE - I will be writing my blogs more or less when the mood moves me rather than every Friday. This has been a difficult week in many ways. I got news of a friend from my former neighborhood being in Gosnell Hospice House on Thursday, so Friday a.m. I went to see her, but she had already died. I was sad and rueful that I did not see her, but the really sad thing is, I have not kept in close touch with her for the last couple of years. And that is true of many of my friends. SO the lesson to be learned from this week is that I should let my friends know I still care about them as we are all reaching an age when life is on the short end of the string.

The situation at the music studio changes once again. We were told Thursday that beginning next week we will be free to use the studio for Performance as usual at no cost, but that we will have to pay $50 for the "coaching" by John Nickerson and the critiquing by Carol, which will be treated like a co-teaching class. John for 1/2 hour before Carol's "class." There are those who plan to leave after John is done, and some don't even know yet that that is the new plan. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is. I have to stay through the critiquing, at least for a few weeks. I think I would feel strange to get up and leave. I think John's coaching is and the friendship of the group is worth the money so I will pay the fee for the privilege of keeping the music playing. I paid my Starbird L.I.F.E. Players fee today.

SO - CHANCES ARE - things will continue pretty much the same.

We are having a beautiful February in Maine, unless that is, you are trying to sell snow machines or are in the plow and shovel business. The ski resorts have the capability of making snow, and there is already a good cover on the hills, so the "fun" businesses are doing o.k. But, unless there is snow in the low lands, the skiers tend to have less incentive, I am told. So what is good for us "old folks" and the town budget committees, does have a negative impact on others. But CHANCES ARE AWFULLY GOOD we will get a lot more snow before the winter is over.

JOHNNY MATHIS made CHANCES ARE* popular. He was born in Texas in 1935 but was raised in SanFrancisco. He was one of seven children. His father considered him to be the most talented and taught him routines and songs which he performed for guests. Johnny's father Clement was a vaudeville performer. He was professionally coached by a woman who agreed to take him on as a student in exchange for household chores. He was a high school track star, and continued in college to excel in high jump and hurdles. He was in a jam session in a night club when the owner heard him, was impressed, and took over management of his career. Through her influenced he was offered a recording opportunity with Columbia Records. At the same time, he received an offer to try out for the 1956 Olympic team. After discussing it with his father, he chose the recording session.

Johnny's first album - "Johnny Mathis: A New Sound in Popular Song" was not a hit.
Mitch Miller took over his recording career and changed the emphases from jazz to romantic ballad style. While he recorded "Wunderful Wunderful" and "It's Not For Me To Say" his first #1 hit was " Chances Are". An appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show boosted his career and in the 1960's he became a top vocal performer. In 1958 Mr. Mathis moved to Los Angeles where he continues to reside. Columbia released
a "Greatest Hits" collection (the first time a collection had been so titled), which set a new industry record by remaining on the charts for 490 weeks. In 1978 he did a duet with R&B singer Deniece Williams, and has done other duets with Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole and Glasys Knight. He has sponsored charity golf tournaments, and still hosts the annual "Johnny Mathis Invitational track & Field Meet at San Francisco State University since 1982. He made his homosexualty public in 1982, which apparently had only minimal impact on his popularity, so personally, I don't know why he felt compelled to do so. Perhaps he was getting "hit on" by willing women.

*EZ-Play book #350 and More of the 50's Easy Play (Beige cover)

"There's no such thing as chance;
And what to us seems merest accident
Springs from the deepest source of destiny" The Death of Wallenstein, II, ii


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


Monday, February 8, 2010

Saturday Performance at 2 Stoeny Creek

Performance for Friends is held every other Saturday somewhere, and usually it is at 2 Stoney Creek, Scarborough. It is easy to get to, and there are chairs and room enough for twelve or fifteen people if we are all friends!
Sometimes there are twelve, and sometimes like last Saturday there are only five counting ME. As the name implies, we play music for each other and learn more about the organ as we go along. Performance for Friends is actually part of the Lowrey program, but as we have limited access to the dealer studio, we move it around. We do have an hour on Thursdays for people who would rather be there. Everyone is welcome at both "performance" sessions.

What do you like to hear? Do you like a lot of orchestration; a lot of "scat" vocal; a lot of solo instruments? Music is a personal thing somewhat influenced by what the individual hears. As we age our ranges of hearing change. I am sensitive to very high pitched tones, but I also hear the base and like it more mellow than most. I like a subtle drum beat, usually, unless I am playing a march. I am partial to solo instruments with unobtrusive orchestral background. The organ is a wonderful place to find all of the best sounds and the modern organs can be adjusted to suit any taste. The Prestige and Stardust organs have more buttons for adjustments on the mixer board making very interesting changes.

Another "ten week" session at Starbird is coming to an end this coming Thursday. We have not been having lessons, but "critiques" for music we choose and perform. There is no open dialog about our arrangements or choices, and no open criticisms as to our effort. A change needs to be made to keep people interested, but I am not sure what that change can be. A small group of students including me, have discussed it at length, and frankly, our main problem seems to be formulating and presenting a plan to the Starbird group. So, next week will be interesting. Who will stay and who will leave? Do they (Starbird Music) care if we leave? I think they do, but I don't think they have good communication skills. Well, time will tell what comes next.

MEANWHILE - Let's take a look at BRIGADOON that wonderfully fantastic musical about two New Yorkers visiting Scotland on a huntning trip who stumble into a remote, misty glen on the very day when BRIGADOON makes a brief centennial appearance. BRIGADOON was written by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music). It opened on Broadway in 1947 and ran for more than 500 performances. We may remember a movie by the same name which starred Gene Kelley. Some of the show tunes continue to be played on the radio: "Almost Like Being in Love" "Heather on the Hill" "I'll Go Home With Bonnie Jean" many others. Interestingly enough, the Lerner story was based on a story by a German who wrote the tale about a mythical German village which had fallen under an evil, magic curse, as opposed to Lerner's version in which the village became enchanted.
Also, rather interesting is the people of Brigadoon became fluent in English for at least the one day. BRIGADOON is a really "cute" story romance and enchantment.

Frederick Loewe Was born in Berlin in 1901. His father, Edmond Loewe was a world renowned musician. Frederick, called Fritz, went to military
cadet school from the age of five until thirteen. HIs parents left him there while they travelled, and he hated it. At eight he learned to play piano by ear, therefore, his father encouraged his music. (His mother did not, saying "They all do that!") Fritz did eventually attend conservatory in Berlin, and gave performances asd a concert pianist while still in Germany.

In 1925 he travelled to New York with his father, and decided to stay saying he was going to "crash Broadway.
" He was on the verge of starvation several times, slept on benches in Central Park in winter. Fritz ended up playing piano in German clubs and movie theaters, accompanied silent pictures and discovered he had a real talent for improvisation. One problem he had was a theater which began every performance with the "Star Spangled Banner", and Fritz did not know how it went. SO, he improvised a new national anthem on the spot.
He was promptly advised to learn the real one or hit the road. Through club jobs he met Alan Lerner and they began collaborating. Their first real hit, although not their first work, was BRIGADOON.

Alan Jay Lerner was born in New York to parents who owned a chain of dress shops. He was educated at Bedales School in England, The Choate School, and Harvard. At both Choate and Harvard he was a classmate of John F. Kennedy. Lerner was younger by 17 years than his collaborator Loewe. While attending Harvard Alan lost an eye in a boxing accident. He studied at Juliard during the summers, and collarborated with Leonard Bernstein on a pardody of the school song.

During WWII, he could not serve do to his injury, he wrote scripts for radio programs, including "YOUR HIT PARADE." In 1942 he joined with Loewe. The two of them wrote LIFE OF THE PARTY, WHAT'S UP and THE DAY BEFORE SPRING. These were minimally successful. And then came BRIGADOON.

Other productions: Paint Your Wagon, Royal Wedding, An American in Paris, Gigi, My Fair Lady, Camelot.

Loewe retired to Palm Springs, Calif. after suffering heart problems. Lerner continued to work with other composers and coaxed Loewe to come out of retirement in 1973 for GIGI. Lerner was married eight times and had three daughters and one son. He said of himself, "...if I had no flair for marriage, I also had no flair for bachelorhood." He died of lung cancer at the age of 67.

Strangely enough I did not find personal information on Frederich Loewe.
There is no mention of marriage in his autobiography.

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing - it's good for the soul. Janice