Music Monday: I am not throwing away my shot!

Happy Monday, Friends! I started writing about music on Mondays, as music is so important to our lives. Join me as I reminisce on music and music-making.

Hamilton the Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda is returning to San Francisco. I’m in a virtual queue to buy tickets for the family as I write. There’s likely 100,000 persons in line waiting for a chance to buy up to 4 tickets. 30 weeks of 8 performances of hundreds of seats each. I’ve been in the queue for 90 minutes and there’s still 40.8 thousand people ahead of me. Wish me luck!

I was so lucky to catch the show last summer. Turns out, it was Pride Week in San Francisco. And you know what, it was the best time to see Hamilton. The cast is so diverse and inclusive. They brought out a rainbow Pride flag at final bows. I was moved to tears.

I hope to bring the family this time. Such a moving experience. My kids already know a lot of the music.

I hope that in the future, a filmed version will be shown in the theaters, as Allegiance has been shown on exclusive one night engagements.

But for now, I Wait for It!

For more on the Hamilton phenomenon,check out Who Tells Your Story? and The English Teacher’s Guide to the Hamilton Musical by Valerie Estelle Franklin.

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Monday Music: Open Mic

Welcome Back, Friends!

I have been away from the blog for some time, and I am sorry about that.  I took some time to work on my career, and that has proven fruitful.  I am still planning creatively, writing intermittently, and micro-blogging on Facebook & Instagram. Life continues, presenting us with one opportunity after another. Can you see it?

This morning on my commute, I switched radio channels and happened upon some lovely acoustic guitar picking. On the 80s channel, this can only mean “Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi.  Isn’t it funny how just a few notes from a song can take you back in time?  I was instantly back in a dark, windowless downstairs pub, sitting in the corner with my big 80s hair, surrounded by a bunch of rowdy collegians, facing my first “open mic. ”

(I bet I have a pic in an album at home- check back again- dear reader!) (I WONDER- might I even have a recording of “Love Song” ?  A few years ago, I had some tapes converted to dvd. HMMM.)

Please enjoy this excerpt from my book Dee’s Dishes.

Way Back Wednesday

During my freshman year, two friends and I entered in the Open Mic Contest at The Pub, which was then downstairs from the Brickpile (grille) at St. Mary’s College. We were underage, but that didn’t seem to matter at the time, they let the three of us in. I was not prepared for how rowdy it would be. Did I mention that we were all in the Chapel Choir? I recall vividly how I wore my pink turtleneck sweater and my big hair somewhere between Deanna Troi and Elaine from Seinfeld, complete with a big pink scrunchie atop. [It was still the 80’s.]
The emcee was stirring, the first act a nasty comedian. The 2nd act: 2 dudes with guitars singing Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive. The 3rd act: 2 dudes lip-synching air guitar to Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive. The crowd booed them off the stage. We three lowly and somewhat naïve freshmen were completely distinct from the scene. I asked my friends several times if they wanted to bail. They said no. It was soon our turn to perform my original work, simply titled, “Love Song.” Amazingly, the crowd quieted respectfully, as I began playing the introduction on the old, out- of- tune upright piano in the corner of this dark and dusty pub. As the composer,  I had the unique advantage of substituting notes on the fly, as not all of the piano keys worked! I subbed an A in the bass line- that’s okay, I remember thinking,  A minor is close enough to C major… My two confident friends aced the duet, singing sweetly and dramatically. The crowd cheered respectfully.
And soon after, we left. We didn’t even stay to see if we had won. It so wasn’t our scene.
So now whenever I hear Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi, I recall that night of uncertainty, with a smile.

Monday Music: Psalms & Olives

Happy Monday, Friends!   I started writing about music on Mondays, to get me blogging regularly again.  Music is such an important part of our lives.  And I always have something to say about music. Don’t you? 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to cantor, that is- songlead, at church. The Psalm setting of the day was one I had learnt last minute at my sister’s wedding, eighteen years ago.  Her friend and cantor had come down with the flu suddenly, and although I was also the Maid of Honor, I was called upon to sing for the entire wedding Mass.  I had heard the song one time only, during the wedding rehearsal.  But as it was also my profession as a church musician, I knew I could step up and sing.  It was like my entire life had prepared me for that moment.

I hadn’t heard it since.

As I sang the refrain from the ambo, I remembered singing at my sister’s wedding.  I had liked the psalm so much, I chose it for my own wedding which was only twelve weeks after.  As I sang the second verse, I looked out at the congregation and saw my two beautiful children sitting in the third pew.  And I realized, as I sang the blessing “Your children flourish like olive plants” that indeed, here are my children and how we’ve all flourished!  I saw my mother, and realized that as her child, we are all part of her olive branch.

I was so overwhelmed by this sensation that indeed, we have all been blessed.  I may have inadvertently changed the words at this point, I mean, who says “Olive plants” ?  Olives come from trees, with branches.  Right?  And then, I raised my arms to invite the congregation to sing along with me, and I sang “Happy those…” instead of “Blessed are those…” I guess I was happy.

That’s one thing I like about music ministry. The lyrics are prayers. The congregation is so forgiving. How can I keep from singing?

Happy Anniversary to my sister and brother-in-law! Olive you!

 

olive you

olive you

Monday Music: More Triangle

My family just loves this fun GEICO commercial depicting a classical triangle soloist gone wild.  Have you seen it?  Click here: Triangle Soloist Geico Commercial

I have a playlist entitled More Cowbell.  Sometimes I do wonder, though, if the guy playing triangle in Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” was paid by the ding.  Or maybe they were trying to make up for an underutilized percussion instrument in popular music.  I love castanets and cowbells in pop music, don’t get me wrong! But, every single measure seems a bit much. What do you think?

more triangle

more triangle

Last year I wrote a Monday Music post about the triangle solo in a Billy Joel song.  Check it out here. (Video link at the end of my post.)

And here’s that playlist- because I know you want it.

 *some songs featuring vibraslap may have snuck in  

more cowbell playlist

more cowbell playlist

B Street Mix is Back!

music

BOOM. BACK IN BLACK! BA-DA BOOM. I HIT THE SACK! BA-DA BOOM.

A HUMMA HUMMA HUMMA GLAD TO BE BACK!  

Did you really know all the words to your favorite songs on the radio back in the 80s?  Bonus points if you can tell me where this misheard lyric gem comes from: “Don’t switch the blade on the guy whose name is Ramon.”

Growing up in the 80s and going to school in the next town, B Street was the route my mom would take.  Later I drove myself to high school along the same route. I have such fond memories of listening to KFRC 610 AM radio in the family Pinto station wagon, and then popping in my cassettes for Wham! UK, Journey, and Saga in the “Plum” (read- Brown) Toyota Camry Sedan. And don’t get me started on my mix tapes.

Years later, as an adult, I found myself living in the same town and driving along the same street, after I dropped off my baby in my parents’ loving care. For twelve more years, B Street was my commute. And I popped in my 80s cassettes (or CDs) in my Honda CR-V.

Well, now I am back helping out at my old work location, and back on the B Street commute. I admit I wasn’t too thrilled with this change, at first. But my bestie reminded me that I could do the B Street Mix again, and that made me smile. I used to post on social media  the three 80s songs that made my playlist for that morning commute.  And my friends from all over would chime in about their happy  memories of the songs.

We are so lucky in the Bay Area to have an exclusively 80s music radio station, helmed by none other than MTV VJ Martha Quinn. And if you have Sirius XM satellite radio, there’s an 80s channel, as well as Classic Rewind, HairNation, and 1st Wave.  I also listen to Pandora.

Last Wednesday was my first day back on B Street. As I blasted Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, I thought to myself, why don’t I  listen to this song every morning?

Today’s selections were “She’s Got the Look” by Roxette, “Wind Him Up” by Saga,  “Separate Ways” by Journey, and “More than a Feeling” by Boston.

What’s on your playlist?

#BStreetMix

Monday Music: Billy Joel and the Triangle

Sirius XM Satellite Radio launched the Billy Joel Channel a couple weeks ago and I have been in musical heaven.  His music has been such a strong part of my life since the 70’s, really.  I remember the family vacations and road trips in the 80’s when we finally figured out that everybody likes Billy Joel, and no one needs to suffer through the other generation’s music choices. (I enjoy many styles of music, but when my father’s favorite Willie Nelson and my mother’s favorite Julio Iglesias sang a duet- that was too much for my teenage sister and I to handle.)  His classical affinity shines through his melodic rock, and his lyrics are so poignant.  (More about Billy Joel’s music here.)

 When I was a teen, we would watch the videotape “Billy Joel Live from Long Island” on VHS over and over.  To be honest, we probably rented it from the video store next to 31 Flavors, and likely copied it onto Beta.  This is still one of my all-time favorite concerts to watch: such entertainment and skill, a great collection of songs, a fantastic band.  A percussionist who actually played a lead pipe with a hammer.  This video hasn’t been properly converted to DVD, but I just picked up a used VHS on amazon.com , so I could show my kids. (Yes, I still have two working VCR‘s – I run my upstairs DirecTV through my VCR so I can tape more shows.)

 My son is now playing percussion in high school band, as I did.  He plays glockenspiel, snare drum and tympani, and accessory percussion, which is so much fun!  (I still have a box of fun percussion instruments from when I used to be a travelling piano teacher.  But somehow I seem to have lost my vibraslap.  I wonder if my last church choir job still has it.  Although I can’t see how they would use it in their liturgy.)  He’s playing a lot of Triangle right now. I told him about the time I sight read a triangle part in a Christmas medley, stressing out about counting the rhythm correctly, before I had figured out that it was “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (really a random medley, that wasn’t even one of the official carols in the medley, they just snuck it in the triangle part.)  3, 1, 2-and 3-and, 1, 2, 3-and, Roll, (2, 3,) 1. (mute)

 I told him about how at one of the Billy Joel concerts I attended in the 90’s, there was this fabulous auxiliary percussionist.  She was so awesome, I wanted to be her when I grew up.  She played all the percussion, saxophones, and she even sang vocals, belting out the high notes.  And I told my son she had the most epic triangle solo, ever.

Billy Joel has always been great about using the lighting for effect in his concerts.  There are a couple of songs just screaming for this, and it works brilliantly.   In “You May Be Right,” there is the lyric “turn off the lights…” and for a split second the entire stadium is pitch black.  It’s wonderful.  There are also songs in which he stops in the middle, before continuing again.  “All for Leyna” contains such a stop, in it, all the instruments drop out as Billy sings/shouts “STOP!” – very effective!  “River of Dreams”  has a natural break in the middle, which Billy is prone to elongate, heck, even sing another song in the middle of this break.

So in “An Innocent Man,” the quiet calypso has a sweet, constant triangle: Ding, Di-Ding…  On the Billy Joel Channel I have heard a live version with the fabulous Crystal Taliefero singing the “I AM….” triumphantly, as I remember seeing it in concert.  (The video I found on YouTube has Billy singing the entire chorus.) After the bridge, the stadium is again drenched in darkness, all except for a single spotlight shining on Ms. Taliefero as she plays her Triangle in all its glory.

Di-Ding.   

Check out this video for the best triangle solo ever at 4:28!