SYW: On Broken Hearts, Cellphones, Typing Books, Snakes and Virtual Choirs

It’s Monday! Time for Melanie’s Share Your World!

QUESTIONS:
What can you break even if you don’t touch it? (yes there is a real answer to this. I’ll reveal it in the next week sometime. Still, answer how you would like – no right or wrong answer)
A heart. All it takes is a “Dear John” letter! Or nowadays, just a text saying it’s over. 

What’s the most useful thing you own?

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My husband, Dale, is very useful.

The first thing that comes into my head is “my husband.” He’s very useful and I don’t know what I would do without him. But I don’t “own” him.

So I guess I will say my cellphone. Cellphones have become indispensable, because they do so many things that we’ve come to depend on. If something happens to me, I can call someone for help. If I remember something I wanted to tell someone, I can just send them a text, so that they can read the message and answer at their leisure. That way I don’t have to write myself a note to remind me of what I need to tell them. If I want to listen to music, I can go onto YouTube on my phone. When I exercise in the fitness center, I have a dance workout playlist on my phone to keep me going. When I am out for a walk, and I see something photograph-worthy, I can use the camera in my phone – not necessarily the best photo, but I can at least have a photo of that thing.  And sometimes the photos are high quality! If it’s a flower or plant I want to identify, I just go on my Plant Snap app on my phone. I also can go on Facebook to find out what people are talking about. There are a lot of legitimate criticisms of Facebook, but personally, I love it! It really helps me stay connected to people, especially now.

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I’ve never felt the need to update my Samsung Galaxy S7.

When I ask Dale something like, “What’s the weather supposed to be tomorrow?” he answers, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a little device we can use to find things out?” He’s telling me, in other words, look it up on your phone!  Sometimes I have a burning desire to find out something, such as how many coronavirus cases there are in Brazil, whether all swan eggs hatch on the same day, or who were the pharaohs in ancient Egypt’s 18th dynasty. You know, important stuff like that even if totally irrelevant to what is happening at the moment! If I’m bored, I have my cellphone I can play games on. I like word games like Wordscapes, Word Stacks, and Words with Friends. I also have jigsaw puzzles, Spider Solitaire and Sudoko. (I could even read my Kindle books on my phone if I wanted to, but I prefer reading on my tablet.) So there’s plenty to keep me occupied – IF my cellphone has enough charge and I can access a charger if necessary!

Finally, my phone has become extra important in this pandemic era. I can attend book groups at the library, church services and coffee hour afterwards, celebrate family members’ birthdays and other get togethers by using Zoom! I don’t feel so isolated when I can at least “see” my family and friends in a long-distance meeting.

(Even so, if all else fails, I always carry a couple of pens and a small pad of paper, just in case I forgot my cellphone or it needs charging. That way I can at least doodle or draw something I see nearby.)

Come to think of it, WHERE did I leave my phone? It probably needs a charge…

What’s The Silliest Reason You’ve Ever Gotten Into A Fight With Someone Over?
I borrowed a typing book (yes, this was in the time when we used typewriters!) from a co-worker. I noticed a lot of scribbling in it, but I thought, who cares. So when I wanted to give the book back, she wasn’t at work, so I left it on her desk. The next time I saw her was in the elevator. She seemed really crabby. I said, “Did you get the typing book back?”
She answered very angrily, “It’s written in.” Written in? Is she talking about the scribbles that were already there?  I said, “That scribbling was already in there.” She said nothing, so I tried to make a joke. “Maybe your little sister or brother got hold of it and scribbled in it.”  She wasn’t amused, but said, “I don’t have a little sister or brother.” Then she exited the elevator very abruptly and walked quickly back to her cubicle. She never talked to me again. Fortunately, she wasn’t more than a friendly acquaintance in the first place, so no loss! Still, it irked me for a long time that she accused me of scribbling in her typing book, when she must have known it was there already.

I’m sure I could come up with a better story than this if I didn’t have such a bad memory. The strange thing is that I even remember this particular incident. It was so unimportant, but somehow it got stamped in my memory!

If You Were A Snake, How Long Would You Want To Be? No, size does not matter.
I’ve always wanted to know what it would be like to slither. So I’d like to be long enough to really experience slithering…through grass, across sand, maybe even in water, or onto a big rock to sun myself.snake
By the way, I would be a harmless grass snake, like the one pictured here. I would want people to like me!

Gratitude and/or uplifting? Please share. We can all use some of those.

The other day, I wrote a post for Fandango’s Who Won the Week challenge about virtual choirs and how I find them uplifting. Their singing makes me grateful for the basic goodness of people.

 

Note: Photos of Samsung Galaxy S7 and snake are courtesy of Google Images.

FWWTW: Pandemic Entertainment

I wasn’t going to participate in Fandango’s Who Won the Week this week, because not much has happened. Then I started thinking about what I enjoyed most this week. The first thing I thought of was the warmer weather (finally!) and the flowers. But then I thought of something that deserves to “win” the week because I have been enjoying it every Sunday afternoon.

Our senior community has two closed-circuit TV stations – one of which is used by the staff for announcements, virtual meetings, exercise classes, etc. The other station is for our entertainment! Videos of virtual choirs are put together and shown every Sunday afternoon.  But that is not the only time that one can hear virtual choirs and other virtual musical groups. Facebook has many postings of virtual choirs and YouTube is another place to see them. A grid of small squares appears on the screen, and in each square is an individual singer performing in his/her own home.  It also takes a lot of coordination and tech savvy to put these performances together. Everyone has to be singing at exactly the right tempo (down to the millisecond), on key, and usually with parts memorized. Many wear headphones, presumably to be able to hear a background track to keep them exactly in the right place at the right time. Whoever puts them together collects a recorded track from each performer and syncs them to sound like a real choir, with the right blend and volume. Many have to be tweeked or re-recorded if a singer is just a tiny bit off. The effect, when finished, is quite spectacular! If you are not looking at the screen, you wouldn’t be able to tell that it isn’t the whole rather than the sum of its parts.
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Virtual choirs uplift my spirit – whether gospel or secular, their enthusiasm is evident, and when I look at their faces, I feel a connection to them. They are putting together these online performances for all of us, who are at home in quarantine, as are they. At that moment, I realize that these individuals could be anywhere in the entire world, because we have the technology to bring everyone together, and that people all over the world are basically doing the same thing we are doing right now – staying at home being entertained by virtual performances. I feel a sort of solidarity with my fellow human beings around the world whose countries are also afflicted by the pandemic. In Spain, England, Brazil, India, Germany, Canada, the U.S. and many others, people are tuning in to their local news outlets which give them the daily statistics of number of cases, number of deaths, and what the “curve” currently looks like in their part of the world. Everyone is going stir crazy, and there are many jokes, cartoons and parodies about the dilemma of being stuck at home while a highly contagious virus makes its way through our communities.

So this week, I honor virtual choirs for their inspiration, dedication and enthusiasm to allow us to forget while being swept into the music, and make life just a little bit easier for us all.

Dear Music Teachers - Please Stop Asking How To Create A Virtual ...

Song Lyric Sunday: The Promise of Living

Jim’s Song Lyric Sunday this week has the theme Promise/Vow/Oath.

This is a song from The Tender Land by Aaron Copland, “The Promise of Living.” Our church choir sang it a couple of years ago for the funeral of the grandfather of one of our members. The fact that I have this personal connection to the piece is the reason I chose it. This recording is by one of my favorite choirs, Angel City Chorale, with full orchestration, although it is often performed with piano accompaniment, which is what our choir had.

Lyrics:

The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving
Is born of our loving our friends and our labor.

The promise of growing with faith and with knowing
Is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.

The promise of loving, the promise of growing
Is born of our singing in joy and thanksgiving.

For many a year we’ve know these fields
And know all the work that makes them yield.
We’re ready to work, we’re ready to lend a hand.
By working together we’ll bring in the blessings of harvest.

We plant each row with seeds of grain,
And Providence sends us the sun and the rain.
By lending a hand, by lending an arm
Bring out the blessings of harvest.

Give thanks there was sunshine, give thanks there was rain,
Give thanks we have hands to deliver the grain.

O let us be joyful, O let us be grateful to the Lord for his blessing.

The promise of living, the promise of growing
The promise of ending is labor and sharing and loving.

Copland’s 1954 opera, The Tender Land, evokes the dignity and meaningfulness of labor. The librettist was Horace Everett, a pseudonym for Erik Johns. Farming – cultivating the soil of America’s heartland and reaping the benefits of its harvest for a balanced and fulfilling life are central to the opera’s theme. It tells the story of a farm family in the Midwest in the 1930s during the spring harvest and the protagonist’s graduation from high school. Copland was inspired to write the opera after seeing Walker Evans’ photographs of the Depression era and reading James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Unfortunately, the opera was not a success. It was written for NBC’s Television Opera Workshop and rejected by network producers, perhaps because of the weakness of its characters and plot. It premiered at New York City Opera on April 1, 1954, but the work was intended for the intimacy of television and didn’t translate well to the stage.

In spite of its lack of success, it’s kind of amazing that television networks at one time commissioned composers to write operas for TV. At the time, both CBS and NBC had their own in-house orchestras. It was the time when an operetta written for the Christmas season, Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti, enjoyed tremendous success and was shown every Christmas season throughout the 1950s and early 1960s to the great enjoyment of the TV viewing public. (I remember watching Amahl every year on TV – it was a tradition in our house – and my siblings and I can still sing much of it by heart!) NBC Television Opera produced several other operas for TV in the period between 1949 and 1964.

Copland and Johns made revisions to the opera, including expanding Act II. The composer agreed to let Murry Sidlin rescore the work for fewer instruments for a production in New Haven in 1987, a staging that ran for 50 performances. Two of Copland’s Old American Songs were added to the central party scene.  A 1965 concert version of the work (i.e. unstaged) was released by Sony on CD.

In 1958, Copland turned the opera’s music into an orchestral suite. Here is the link to the orchestral version of The Promise of Living: https://youtu.be/uyDljV1-BSc.

The music starts softly, like the awakening of early morning with the birds singing, and unfolds into a majestic hymn of thanksgiving. The final chord encompasses the full range of the orchestra, just as the final chord in the vocal version ends dramatically with the entire choir singing fortissimo.

 

The information above was obtained from The Promise of Living: Copland for Labor Day by Timothy Judd and Wikipedia, The Tender Land.

 

 

SYW Holiday Edition: On Beating the Holiday Blues, Jolly Jolt, Jesus’ Birth, and Christmas Music

Melanie’s weekly Share Your World this week is about celebration of the winter holidays.

Questions:
What’s your remedy for the Holiday blues?
Sing carols or if singing is not your thing, listen to cheerful holiday music. Go to a light show at your local botanic garden or zoo or wherever there is a holiday light show. Stay inside, curl up near the fireplace (or some other warm spot in your home) with a hot beverage and read a good book.
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Your favorite beverage (if it differs) during the holiday season? If it doesn’t differ, just answer the ‘what’s your favorite beverage” part.
In our family, the tradition is to serve “jolly jolt” on Christmas – this is hot apple cider with cinnamon and cloves, and possibly spiked with a bit of liquor – this is added to taste (rum, vodka, brandy, wine), so the children can enjoy jolly jolt without the liquor!
This one has been asked before, but what’s your take on pumpkin spice?
I like pumpkin spice, as in cake or cookies.
Is there is a person or god connected with your holiday?
Yes, the “son of God” or Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I was raised that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and while I do believe that and I love to celebrate and put up a creche or nativity scene in my house, I don’t actually believe literally in the story of Jesus’ birth. It just doesn’t make sense to me that three wise men followed a star or comet that led them to his birthplace or that angels appeared to shepherds and told them to go to Bethlehem to worship him.
jesus-birth.jpgI’m not even sure that he was born in Bethlehem, although I did go to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem last January and was just as excited as anyone to see the place where he was supposedly born. In my opinion, Jesus was just a baby, born like any other baby and probably “worshipped” only by his parents and other family members. But it doesn’t matter – the Christmas story is symbolic and it is the spirit of the holiday that counts. As well as all the traditions having nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, such as Christmas trees, decorations, snow, etc. I enjoy giving gifts and also receiving them and I enjoy singing carols and spreading the love of the season to others. Love, family, friends – that is what Christmas is all about.
• Who are they and do you believe in them?
I do believe in Jesus Christ but not as literally the “son of God.” He had an earthly father and mother and was conceived like any other baby. Call me blasphemous, but that’s what I believe. He was a man of peace, a very pious Jew who nevertheless challenged the Jewish establishment; he was the Messiah, as it were. But to me he isn’t technically a god.
• If you do not believe in these people or gods, does the celebration/honoring of that being, bother you in any way (e.g., ignored, dismissed, angry, etc.)?
I believe in freedom of religion and respect everyone’s faith or lack thereof. My husband is Jewish and every year is bothered by the onslaught of commercialism and Christmas-in-your-face from October through December. I sympathize with his feelings in spite of thoroughly enjoying the season myself.

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My husband has this bumper sticker on his car; I used to also, on my old car, but have not bought a new one for my new car.

Gratitude:
Share a song that you enjoy during this Winter season (whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, The Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa and so forth.
It’s hard to choose just one. I enjoy Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs, and many secular songs of the season. I guess my favorites are Angels We Have Heard on High and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, as well as the Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah. As a classical music lover, I enjoy Handel’s Messiah and other oratorios of the season, as well as madrigal groups singing medieval and Renaissance carols. I also enjoy singing a Christmas cantata every year in my church choir as well as the traditional carols and secular songs.

 

Here is a nice French carol sung sweetly by a children’s choir: He Is Born, the Divine Christ Child.

This song, Lead Me Back to Bethlehem, is from the cantata our church choir sang last year,  (but this is a different choir – we don’t sound this good!!) – I loved singing this cantata, called Lead Me Back to Bethlehem by Pepper Choplin.
https://youtu.be/vwWt-e1–xs

 

 

 

Music All Over the World

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo A Week Challenge this week is to show “live music.” Music is a very important part of my life. I love all types of music and am especially fascinated by “world” music – music from different countries and cultures.

Our favorite orchestra in the Chicago area is Chicago Sinfonietta. Every concert they play is unique and inclusive. They specialize in diversity, in honor of the founder of the orchestra, Paul Freedman, an African-American conductor and classical musician. They focus on a theme for each concert which includes performers from different genres and cultural groups. In this photo of their May 2018 concert, they invited a well-known professional gospel choir to perform with them.20180512_195835
Last November, they had a Day of the Dead themed concert, which included such works as Mozart’s Requiem, including a choir from Roosevelt University that wore skeleton costumes and masks during the performance. During the intermission, there were cultural dances and music from Mexico.
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Music evokes such emotion and nostalgia in me. When we took a cruise to the Panama Canal in March-April 2017, we stopped at a small port in Chiapas, Mexico, where some of us took an excursion to Tuxtla Chico (I have blogged about this), a charming small town where music and dances were performed for us. Within a short time, I didn’t want to leave – all my emotions associated with past trips to Mexico were brought to the surface by the cultural atmosphere and the typical music. Here some women dressed in beautiful flowered dresses danced to music played by a marimba band.
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Back on the cruise ship, some Mexican performers came aboard for a couple of days and performed for us by the Lido pool. This included a male singer and a couple of dancers, who performed dances from different regions of Mexico.

 

Steel pan music was also a feature of that cruise when we passed through the Caribbean, and Chicago Sinfonietta later that year featured steel pan music in one of their concerts. Here my husband Dale samples playing a steel pan, supervised by a professional steel pan player, leader of a steel pan band from Northern Illinois University, before the concert. NIU is possibly the only university in the country where music majors can specialize in steel pan music.20170916_185949.jpgI could continue with more examples of the music in my life, but this would become a very long post! So I’ll end with some “batucada” (percussion) from Flamengo Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (recorded in November 2016).