Archive for the ‘music performance’ Category

Drumming with the choir

18 December, 2014

So…a while ago… maybe August of 2013… I was approached by our choir director at church, she said “I hear you are a percussionist”, and invited me to join the choir’s performance of “Our God Gives Us a Future with Hope”. And, as a good teacher does, Kathy nodded and listened as I explained how completely unqualified I was. She then handed me the music and said, “we meet on Thursday nights”. At the first rehearsal I told her, “don’t be afraid to fire me at any time…or tell me it would sound better if I was in the parking lot.” She told me not to worry.

I like our choir director/music director. The impression that I got from her is if you want to help the worship team, or if you have music you want to perform for the church, you can, just do your best. When I mentioned this to her in a book club, she said, “we all have to start somewhere.” I got to know her more in book club…and she got to know me more, because I sent many a crazy / tangent emails at 2AM to the book club. (The book was about Christian worship.)

Working with her is great. I really enjoyed it. At rehearsals I would say stuff like, “All I know is that God gave me two eyes, one to look at the music, and one to look at the conductor.” I tried my best to take the gig seriously. But, you know me, get nervous, make a joke. I got myself psyched up for it by posting different videos of drummers each day on TheFacebook for “40 days of drumming” . (No, I didn’t get 40 posts) yeah…I should have been practicing…but…youtube!

I did actually practice. I wrote out drum parts for the three parts of the song. I played along with audio, with metronome… I studied the music. I think I was almost ready.

We had two gigs for that song. First, on a Sunday morning, it went well. Second, at an ecumenical choir concert fundraiser …I looked out, there were at least three hundred in the audience. Of course right before we were to sing, I looked out, a negative thought tried to pop into my dead…but I just took a deep breath, looked at Kathy, we smiled. And we began. If I messed up, I did not let it bother me. I was living in the now.

Later…having lots of fun and a bit of success with the choir performance, I said “yes” when I was invited to play djembe with song-leading team. Especially since they were playing one of my favorite songs: “10,000 Reasons”. I did horrible. I didn’t study enough, there was a bar of 2/4 tossed in THAT I NEVER NOTICED until after when I was looking at the music!!!

…in case you were wondering who I included in 40-days-of-drumming…

· Larry Wright on buckets

· Alex Van Halen

· Ringo Starr

· Taiko drum group

· Stewart Copeland …I love his high hat work, tiny cymbals, quick sharp fills, very subtle

· Elvis Costello’s “Watching the Detectives” …nothing subtle aboot these drums, doesn’t sound like the rest of the album…I suspect the drummer snuck into the mix booth when the rest of the band went home.

· RedHotChiliPeppers “Breaking the Girl” …6/8 time rocks… how do you make your mark as a drummer when Flea is the bassist? By banging on a trash can!

· Aron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”

· Max Roach…just playing a Hi-Hat. I saw Mr. Roach once…he started off with a slow song. Well, he’s old, can’t move like he used to… still great… next song…BOOM! Crashing cymbols, drum roll, rat-a-tat-tat!!!! a fast bebop number. The lesson I learned. “Fast” isn’t an absolute beats-per-minute it’s a change of tempo.

· A bit where Bill Cosby talks aboot playing drums.

· Foo Fighters “Everlong”

· Beastie Boys “Bodhisattva Vow” …love the sampled in Tibetan chant with the big drums, chaotic cymbals and bells…

· Faith No More…”Smaller & Smaller” …they sampled in some Navajo chant…it rocked…I have a CD of Navajo chanting, it has like 30 tracks. They all sound the same to me. ( much like Metallica and Guns & Roses sound the same to one of my co-workers ) But here’s the thing. I was told in ethno-music class, ( 25 yrs ago, so my memory is a bit hazy ), that often in Navaho chant the drums in the vocals are slightly different BPM, consistently throughout the performance. ( try it sometime…listen to two songs, at the beat to one whilst singing the other! )

· Beatles “Love You To” … has tabla …this song is probably why I took ethnomusicology in college.

We Three Kings

14 December, 2014

Today was the Kids’ Christmas pageant at Church. This past week I actually practiced guitar, and we would listen to different versions of “We Three Kings” during breakfast. Yes, I was invited to play guitar with the kids singing “We Three Kings”!

MrG did not want to participate, but sang along sitting next to me, and when I went on stage to play, he was right behind me singing.

MsS was up there with her BFF, and they were both lambs.

MrCuddles and MyBetterHalf lit the Advent candle to start Church.

it was a lot of fun. I think I was useful at rehearsals, there were a few lulls, and I would ask the kids if we could run through the song a few times, “because I need the practice”. (It’s true, I did. )

right before church, Leena pulled the kids together, and told them she was proud of them, that they were leading the worship, and after asking if anyone was nervous, told them that lots of people get nervous. And we had a little prayer and went into worship.

 

Gospel night

30 November, 2014

Tonight was gospel music theme night at church. For some reason they still invite me to play djembe along with the band.

Creativity rants

11 October, 2014

…so, when I was growing up…which, true was a long time ago… “They” said one should study music, dance, theatre because helps creativity. They never mentioned the creativity of sports. (Remember, my egotistical and narrow, definition of sports, two teams, actively trying to stop each other, from doing something with a ball.)

I played a lot of concerts, 4th grade through 12th grade. There was not much chance to express myself on the viola. First thing, I had to play the notes, (varying amounts of success) and do what conductor wanted (less success). You can’t do your own thing in an orchestra. There’s not much room for creativity in orchestra.

As I watch my childrens play soccer, they have a goal in mind, very simple one, but people are trying to stop them*. They need to on the fly, figure out a way to get past an opponent, to see the ever changing field and quickly decide what to do.

I’ll end with the argumentative “Athletes are more creative than musicians in the orchestra.”

(Currently the childrens are banging on drums and piano upstairs.)

*regarding “actively trying to stop you”…please cue up The Blues Brothers “Stand By Your Man“, where the band plays while having beer bottles thrown at them.

Jochebed

24 August, 2014

Two weeks ago…kids night at our church. They were talking aboot Goliath, I was drafted to act out the part while our interns told the story. I hammed it up, stomping, knocking over a chair, making faces, scowling… Evidently our Pastor was so impressed by my acting that she mentioned it Sunday in church. My childrens gave me proud smiles when they heard my name.

Last  week the children heard the story of Baby Moses.

tonight, once again I was lucky enough to play with the praise band. Srsly don’t know why they invite me to play my djembey, they are good, I am not. But, I try to be quiet, pay attention, and maybe learn something.  I got a bit too excited during “Blessed be Your Name” and “Everlasting God” and bruised my hand!

The sermon was on Jochebed. How the childrens version of the story leaves out the death squads sent to kill Hebrew boys, how difficult it is to keep a baby from crying, how a mother was weeping sending her baby down the crocodile infested Nile. And today, parents in Central America are sending their children away, on a very dangerous journey, hoping they will have a better life. The children clutching a paper with name and address of relative in America that might be able to help. (I can’t trust my kids to carry clean socks to their room amend put them away!)

after, I thanked our pastor…she was inspired and disturbed about modern Jochebeds by someone that constantly challenges her. I said I haven’t thought much of the news story because it’s depressing. She agreed. But everyday, parents are telling their children “you must leave me. For if you stay it is certain death.”

 

Frozen

31 May, 2014

Last night was the talent show at the childrens’ school.

MsSqueaky and a bunch of other kids did a Frozen medley of “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” and “Let It Go”.

It was awesome. I joyfully cried.

caroling

11 December, 2011

Tonight, the childrens and I went caroling with the McCombs. We did a few of their neighbors, and then AkiJamesEdgarDave and then we went to Jenn&Finn.

The childrens were too shy to sing.
MrCuddles fell down some steps, and got a bloody nose. Don’t worry, he was acting normal, and still wide awake at 10pm.

Hunt Orchestra

12 January, 2011

Once I was there, I loved it. The bass players were cool kids, or jerks if you were the teacher. They would eat snacks during class, and drop the wrappers and Popsicle sticks into the body of the bass. So by the end of the year, the garbage would rustle anytime the bass moved. The cello players would every now and then break out in song, in unison, such as the “Barney Miller Theme” or the theme to the “Odd Couple”. Those guys were having fun, and I liked being there.

I got assigned to the back of the second violins, it was the beginning of the school year, and we all had to audition for our spots by playing a selection of music in front of the whole class. This could be embarrassing. I got used to the embarrassment. This also let you know, right away, how good you were in comparison to the others in class. And, on Fridays, if we wanted, we could challenge the person a seat ahead of us, and if we played better than them, then we could get their seat. Vicious. I think we had to give a week’s warning. I think this was to get us to practice.

However, what it did do, was have all the bad playing kids sitting in the back, where they would hear the other bad kids. Later in life, I got to sit up near the front, and wow, what a difference being able to hear the good players makes. Also later in life, I sat in front of a trumpet section, which was horrible when they first got the music, because it was loud and out of tune. I had a viola coach tell me, “yeah, that’s why the professional will wear an earplug in the trumpet turned ear”!   My theory now, if any music teachers are listening, is that during the normal course of the quarter, pair up good players with not-so good players when rehearsing as a group. And sure, for the concert, have Billy-tone-deaf sit in the back, that cool. But during class, maybe he might get a bit better if he was exposed to one of his peers who could play.

There was just one class, and huge levels of practice and skill and experience were in it. How do you craft a lesson plan for that, keep every one interested, challenge the good kids, but not overwhelm the bad musicians?  One way, was the solo-ensemble contest, which would bring together the local orchestra kids on a Saturday to compete in small group sessions. Small groups were formed, trying to keep them close together in skill level.

I think I challenged someone once, and lost. And she got tired of sitting next to me, and she started challenging her way up the ranks of the second violins, and then I was sitting with Debbie.

Eighth grade…we needed viola players. Debbie and I volunteered. And in South Tacoma education fashion, the teacher gave me & Debbie a couple of books, a couple of violas, and put us in a room to teach each other viola. And thus, we entered the fraternity of violists. I always consider viola players a bit quirky, the viola is the bastard step child of the orchestra, the modern viola has the wrong body design/size for the notes it is required to play and thus has its unique tonal color. In the beginning classical repertoire, Teleman, Hayden, Handel, Corelli, the viola parts are a bunch of eight notes, and the challenge is not to fall asleep while the first violins get the main melody. I’ve heard, in Vienna during Mozart’s time, “even the cooks could play viola” which I suspect is not a complement to cooks or violists. So, the few that take up die Bratsche are a bit weird for wanting a weird instrument, and stick together because we get no respect. At a music camp, during viola sectionals, the teacher pointed out that everybody in the general public know Yo-yo Ma, or Isaac Perlman, or James Galway… but there are no famous violists.  I wonder if oboe players feel the same way?

We had orchestra at lunch time, which was nice, because sometimes some of us would be on first lunch, while others were with the teacher, or second lunch. In effect, the teacher was squeezing another 30 minutes of teaching into his work day! Which might be why I have so few memories of eating in the lunch room. Most of the time, a bunch of us would eat in the hall way, where one of the cool ‘cello players, nick-named, “the Black Salmon” would hold court and entertain us. Or we would talk about TV shows, such as “V” or “the Day After”.  We weren’t supposed to be there, and the choir teacher, or the band teacher would kick us out if we had food, but, one of the benefits of a South Tacoma education is learning to hid from authorities. Where we really wanted to be, was in the orchestra room. And in there, some of us would actually be playing music and/or practicing our parts. But, you know how liability goes, you never wanna leave a bunch of kids unsupervised. So, a few people would get there early, and prop open a door and we would go in when the band teacher left. One of my favorites, I snuck up to the stage door, jammed a piece of bread in the latch for the door, so the door would be closed, but not locked, and thus we were able to sneak in through that way for a week until they finally figured out how we did it. I desperately wanted to inherit the title of “the Black Salmon” when I finally reached 9th grade. I knew I couldn’t just call myself that (Side note: what did Bono & Sting’s friends first say when notified of the name change?) In 8th grade I sucked up to the current Black Salmon, tried to be a loyal Lieutenant, tried to cultivate an interest in the history amongst the 7th graders, … and failed. I tried to be the cool kid in 9th grade, but I didn’t know how, and over-played the shocking, by swearing, telling classless jokes, being a clown.

Probably that should have been my clue not to go into school politics….