Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine

Today is New Year’s Eve. Doddering old 2013 is on its last legs and will soon be replaced by a brand new year, 2014. Accordingly, we have just the thing for your listening and viewing pleasure while you attempt to navigate this always-treacherous transitional period. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to:

A Festival Of Auld Lang Syne Performances

Our first number will be on the musical saw with accordion accompaniment, plus there is a bit of the human voice. From 2006, here is someone named Nicki Jaine on both the saw and the vocal, accompanied by Roy Ashley on accordion, with Auld Lang Syne #1 (2:43).

Next, we travel through both time and space to Detroit, Michigan, in the year 1987 to hear the young Aretha Franklin and Billy Preston sing a Motown version of our festival theme, Auld Lang Syne #2 (2:07). For some unknown reason there is a brief appearance by comedian David Brenner at the end of the performance.

As we continue to mellow and chill and let the old year slip away, here with Auld Lang Syne #3 (4:52) is saxophonist Kenny G -- you may skip this video only if you majored in jazz saxophone in college and feel that Kenny G sold out for commercial success.

To close our Festival we reach all the way back to 1953 and the old master himself. Here are Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians with what must surely be the schmaltziest version ever recorded -- Auld Lang Syne #4 (2:10), complete with chromatic runs.

Our Festival is now at an end. If we have done our work properly, your transition from 2013 to 2014 will be a smooth one. You may now return to your normal life, where you are free to choose any kind of music that helps you get through your day.

Now go forth and multiply get one for the Gipper hold your head up high.

Lord, for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time.

Monday, December 30, 2013

When you come to the end of a perfect year

...let me know, will ya? Because it will definitely be a first.

This year was definitely less than perfect from my own personal perspective, dealing as I did with (among other things) a seven-month-long bout with shingles; its evil twin, post-herpetic neuralgia; the death of a dog; a week-long hospital stay that included an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, two blood transfusions, and the medical team of Thelma and Louise; and finally, in December, an out-patient procedure that involved my swallowing a camera and walking around all day wearing a monitor that continuously blinked yellow, green, and blue, which prevented me from entering a grocery store or a schoolyard or a commercial establishment of any kind for fear that I would be mistaken for someone with a bomb and tackled to the ground. As Jack Paar used to say, I kid you not.

Other than that, Ma, 2013 was a year like all other years, except (as Walter Cronkite said on many occasions) “YOU ARE THERE.”

But the world is bigger than my own personal interaction with it. Our own national treasure, humorist Dave Barry, has captured the year 2013, at least from an American perspective, in his own inimitable style in this column, which I heartily recommend to you. It is impossible in some places to discern Mr. Barry’s words from events that actually occurred.

I am facing yet another medical procedure on January 10th, after the completion of which it would be just fine with me if I never had to visit a gastroenterologist ever again.

Interesting fact #17,643: MoviPrep has absolutely nothing to do with attending the cinema, unless you are a gastroenterologist, and then in only the most tangential way.

You are now ready for 2014.

Interesting fact #17,644: If you lived in the American South, you would need to have ham hocks, hog jowl, blackeyed peas, and some form of greens (turnip or collard preferred) at the ready for your New Year’s Day dining pleasure. Don’t ask why. Some things are just self-evident.




Monday, December 23, 2013

Golden gifts all around, barkeep

I know I already gave you a poem for Christmas, but I wanted to give you something else as well.

I thought about letting you listen to National Public Radio’s Daniel Pinkwater reading his Christmas tale, “Wolf Christmas” (6:10), but I already did that on Boxing Day in 2010.

I thought about digging up yet another unpublished poem of mine to show you, but that would be overkill, and besides, I don’t have another unpublished poem of mine to show you except “Pu-tu-no-gu-tu-da-ron-lilla Bay” which besides being unpublished is unfinished. In fact, it may never see the light of day.

What to do?

“Oh, woe is me,” I thought. “Alas, and also alack!”

If you really think I thought that, I have some swamp land in Florida that you might be interested in buying, or perhaps a nice bridge in Brooklyn.

Then, as is more often the case than many of us care to admit, something serendipitous occurred. Fortuitous, even. I happened to read the blog of Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe and encountered an excerpt from Laurie Lee’s “Cider With Rosie” for the first time in my life (I know, my education must have been sorely lacking) and was enchanted. So, rather than doing all the hard work necessary to repeat it here, I’m giving you as an extra-special second Christmas gift:

This link to Elizabeth’s post.

You’re very welcome.

In other news, we received 4.25 inches of rain yesterday and the temperature has fallen from a balmy 71° Fahrenheit to a chilly 25° (also Fahrenheit) expected tomorrow morning.

I guess you can’t have everything.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What to give my blogger friends for Christmas?

Almost exactly thirty-eight years ago -- I was 34 at the time -- a poem formed in my mind and I wrote it down. If memory serves, I was thinking that day about how much I had enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses when I was a boy -- “The Land of Counterpane” and “Oh, How I Love To Go Up In A Swing” and so on. I couldn’t think of a title for my poem, so I stuck it in a folder and promptly forgot all about it. A couple of months ago I found it, and I thought it might make a nice Christmas present this year from me to all of my cyberfriends out there in the blogosphere.


Just give me a fire, and a frosty night,
.....A book, and a big stuffed chair;
And let me read to my heart’s delight
.....In the glow of the firelight there.

For whatever it be, whether ships at sea,
.....Or Arabian jewels rare;
A planet in space, or an auto race,
.....Or a girl with golden hair;

Or African jungles, or frozen North,
.....Or snarls from a lion’s lair;
One by one, gems sparkle forth
.....Like candles on the stair.

Be it circus clown, or a Wild West town,
.....Or a dancing Russian bear;
Like a flag unfurled, ’tis a wider world
.....To be found in the pages there.

Inventors and heroes; explorers and kings;
.....And saints who knelt in prayer;
And hundreds of other exciting things
....That are fiendish and fine and fair.

So if you would let your soul take flight,
.....Oh, there’s nothing that can compare
With a cozy fire on a frosty night,
.....A book, and a big stuffed chair!

...............................................--Robert H. Brague
..................................................19 December 1975

Friday, December 13, 2013

How to go from the sublime to the ridiculous in one post

The last post -- a cello-piano duet of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” -- was sublime.

This one is ridiculous.

In keeping with the season, sort of, here is “Cluck of the Bells” (1:21) by a choir that is pure poultry in motion.

I also want to send a shout out to two real chickens named Arietta and Mary in Tauranga, New Zealand, as well as my heartfelt apologies to Ukrainians everywhere.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Five minutes, thirty-four seconds of gorgeous

There’s a group called The Piano Guys that normally consists of four guys who play the piano. Sometimes, though, the make-up of the group apparently changes.

For your listening pleasure and edification, here is one of the guys on piano and one of the guys on cello -- I don’t know where the other two guys are -- playing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (5:34).

This one you may definitely want to listen to more than once. It’s that good.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Let’s have a Ding! Dong!

Today is St. Nicholas’s Day and tomorrow is Pearl Harbor Day and the day after that is probably something else. It never ends. There is always something to commemorate.

To tell the truth, though, I’m beginning to grow weary of posting.

This li’l ol’ blog of mine is nearing 1,300 posts and I can feel myself slowing down.

I can feel myself beginning not to care any more.

I can feel myself getting ready to toss in the towel.

Maybe I am just coming down with a case of the mid-December blahs.

Fortunately, I know the cure.

As Eric Idle once said to John Cleese, “Let’s have a Ding! Dong!”

Here’s “"Ding! Dong! Merrily on High!” by the choristers of Kings College, Cambridge (2:39).

Listen to it as many times as it takes to brighten your mood and put a smile on your face.

One year I had to listen to it 142 times.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

From the archives: Quelle est cette odeur agréable? (December 20, 2010)

Here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City performing “Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing?” (4:47)

That archaic, somewhat stilted-sounding English title is a translation of the words of the traditional 17th-century French carol “Quelle est cette odeur agréable?” (rhymeswithplague handy pronunciation guide: Kell eh set oh-dur ah-gray-ah-bluh?) that John Gay incorporated into his Beggar’s Opera in 1728.

Some might think that banks of violins and cellos are the very definition of schmaltz -- can anyone say Mantovani? -- but I think this is one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I have ever heard. Mrs. RWP, though, says it is not her cup of tea.

Here are the English lyrics as translated by A. B. Ramsay:

1. Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away?
Never the like did come a-blowing,
Shepherds, in flow’ry fields of May!
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away?

2. What is that light so brilliant, breaking
Here in the night across our eyes?
Never so bright, the day-star waking,
Started to climb the morning skies!
What is that light so brilliant, breaking,
Here in the night across our eyes?

3. Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away,
Run ye with eager footsteps vying!
Worship the Saviour born today.
Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away.

If you simply must have the original French lyrics, click here. You may note that several English translations are available; the one I have shared with you is the one sung by the choir in the video clip.

As usual, I am one of the last to get the word. One list I saw shows that this song is available on more than 50 classical recordings. But even though it has been around for several centuries, I had never heard it until last Thursday evening when Dawna T. sang it accompanied at the piano by her sister, Lisa K., during their Family Christmas Concert at a church in Marietta. (I was part of the concert too. I accompanied Dawna on “The Perfect Rose,” her son Michael on a cello solo of “What Child Is This?” and Lisa on “O Holy Night.” Lisa wore an emerald velvet gown; Dawna wore a purple one. I was resplendent in a black tuxedo.)

The lyrics, of course, refer to the infant Christ, the baby Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. What struck me as ironic (nay, downright humorous!) is that the odeur agréable that so mystified the songwriter was a barnyard stable filled with cows, sheep, donkeys, and (let’s face it) manure. So the actual odeur must have been anything but agréable at the time. Comparing Christ’s presence to the fragrance of a rose has been quite common through the centuries, though, and has resulted in such songs as “The Perfect Rose,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” and, of course, from now on in my own mind, “Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing?”

I think I will go back and listen to it again.

No Rosicrucians were harmed in the creation of this blogpost.

Monday, December 2, 2013

’Tis the season at our house

Christmas at the keyboard :


The Hanging of the Greens at the church :


Hanukkah menorah atop our piano :