L-APC: The Alphabet

The Alphabet starts with “A” and that is the subject of Lens-Artists’ photo challenge this week, starting appropriately with the amazing letter A!

I have a file of letter-shaped things. I got the idea for it when I saw this cute little ladder in our neighborhood and immediately thought of the letter A!

abelia grandiflora
Austria
Austrians

My brother-in-law sings in a barbershop chorus called The Arlingtones. It is based in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Arlingtones holiday show 2019

In Cairo we visited the Museum of Islamic Art. Arabic writing is an art form in itself!

Arabic writing from the Ottoman Empire

In the spring, swans mate and lay their eggs. In early April, the female has laid 2 eggs and by the end of April, she has laid all her eggs!

Art (painting by Monet)
Arches National Park, Utah
ancient architecture (Karnak, Luxor, Egypt)

Song Lyrics Sunday: Spices

Jim Adams’ topic for this week’s Song Lyrics Sunday is spices/seasonings.

Thanks you, Jim! I get to report about one of my favorite songs as well as many of my favorite spices which are in the song!

I grew up with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Doors, and Simon and Garfunkel. While I love many of the latter’s songs, my favorite is Scarborough Fair/Canticle. It conjures up memories, emotions, places – it gives me goosebumps! I like the juxtaposition of the two songs and how they work so well together.

Lyrics:

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt (On the side of a hill in the deep forest green).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground).
Without no seams nor needlework (Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain).
Then she’ll be a true love of mine (Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).

Tell her to find me an acre of land (On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Washes the ground with so many tears).
Between the salt water and the sea strand (A soldier cleans and polishes a gun).
Then she’ll be a true love of mine. (Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).

Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather (War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Generals order their soldiers to kill).
And to gather it all in a bunch of heather (And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten).
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.

Known by its refrain of spices “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,” Scarborough Fair is actually a traditional English ballad dating from the 18th century. Its based on an old Scottish folk song The Elfin King. It was performed or recorded by a number of musicians, including British folk song collector and singer A.L. Lloyd in 1955 on his album The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Paul Simon learned it from Martin Carthy, an English folksinger, in 1965. Carthy had learned the melody from a songbook by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and included it in his 1965 album Martin Carthy. Also, Bob Dylan borrowed some of the melody and lyrics from Carthy’s version for his song Girl From the North Country, which appeared on four of his albums.

Canticle is a reworking of the lyrics of an anti-war song called The Side of a Hill, written by Simon, and set to a new melody by his partner, Art Garfunkel. They then brilliantly weave the two songs together.

Scarborough Fair/Canticle was the lead track on Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and was released as a single after appearing on the soundtrack to the movie The Graduate. The copyright for the song was listed on the album only as Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, which was resented by Carthy, who thought the “traditional” source should have been credited. The rift remained until 2000, when Simon invited Carthy to perform a duet with him at a concert in London. Simon performed the song with the Muppets when he was guest star on The Muppets Show.

For more details about the history of Scarborough Fair, see the Wikipedia article of the same name.
For a discussion of the musical structure of Scarborough Fair/Canticle and its place in popular music of the 1960s, see William Hume’s 2018 article.

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.
virtual choir1

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.

 

 

Song Lyrics Sunday: Send In the Clowns

Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday this week asks for songs with one (or more) of these prompt words:
Give/Get/Take/Receive/Send

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This doesn’t fit in exactly with the “cash and flowers” idea that Jim talks about, but Send in the Clowns is such a beautiful song, although sad. My favorite version is sung by Barbra Streisand, a singer whose voice I’ve always loved. (When my son was a baby, he heard a Barbra Streisand song and was captivated!)

Send in the Clowns lyrics:
Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air,
Where are the clowns?
Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move,
Where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns?
Just when I’d stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours
Making my entrance again with my usual flair
Sure of my lines
No one is there
Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want
Sorry, my dear!
But where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here
Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late in my career
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns
Well, maybe next year

The song was written by Stephen Sondheim for the musical A Little Night Music (1973), which was an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night. The song is sung by the character Desirée, who is reflecting on the disappointments and ironies of her life. Many years before, during a period where her passions were theater and men, she flitted from man to man. She met Fredrik, who fell deeply in love with her, but she rejected his marriage proposal. Years later, when they meet again, she introduces him to her adolescent daughter, “Fredrika” (he doesn’t know yet that Fredrika is his daughter). By this time, she has become more mature and has realized she is in love with him, but this time Fredrik rejects her. He has married a much younger woman, and although their marriage is unconsummated, when Desirée suggests marriage to get him out of the situation, he rejects her due to his loyalty to his young bride. Desirée sings Send In the Clowns in reaction to his rejection. Later the young bride runs off with Fredrik’s son and he is finally free to accept Desirée’s offer, and the song is reprised.

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Holly Twyford as Desiree in the Signature Theatre production of A Little Night Music.

Sondheim wrote this song especially for Glynis Johns, who played the role of Desirée on Broadway. Johns had a nice voice but was not good at long, sustaining notes, so Sondheim wrote the song with short phrases in the form of questions. It became his most popular song after it was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1973 and Judy Collins’ version made the charts in 1975 and 1977. It was covered by many other artists after that, including Barbra Streisand on her LP The Broadway Album.

The clowns in the title do not refer to circus clowns. It is a theater term – Desirée is an actress – which means “if the show’s not going well, let’s send in the clowns,” i.e. “let’s tell some jokes.” Clowns, then, takes the meaning “fools.”  In a 2008 interview, Sondheim clarified: “As I think of it now, the song could have been called ‘Send in the Fools’. I knew I was writing a song in which Desirée is saying, ‘aren’t we foolish’ or ‘aren’t we fools?’ Well, a synonym for fools is clowns, but ‘Send in the Fools’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

Judi Dench, who played the role in London (and YouTube has a concert recording of Dench singing the song) commented in an interview that A Little Night Music is “a dark play about people who, at the beginning, are with wrong partners and in the end it is hopefully going to become right, and she (Desirée) mistimes her life in a way and realizes when she re-meets the man she had an affair with and had a child by (though he does not know that), that she loves him and he is the man she wants.”

Information about Send In the Clowns obtained from Wikpedia.

 

Hunt for Joy and Cheer Someone Up!

Here at our senior community, there are lots of opportunities to cheer people up and to be cheered up! The subject of Cee’s Week 6 of her On the Hunt for Joy challenge is Cheer Someone Else Up.

My brother-in-law is in a barbershop group and every Valentine’s Day he spends the day doing “singing Valentines” with his quartet. Here they are entertaining my sister and others at our table last Valentine’s Day. (Unfortunately, I cropped most of the people at the table out of this photo!)
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This is something my brother-in-law (the short bald guy on the left) loves to do. Not only they get paid by the people who order the singing Valentine, but he loves seeing the expressions of surprise and joy on the faces of the recipients! (I don’t think he charged for serenading his wife, however!) The quartet also sings at homeless shelters and in parks on Veterans’ and Memorial Day. Their barbershop chorus gives two concerts a year, which are always well-attended!

A German “oompah” band entertained the residents here for Oktoberfest with a lively concert of German and Austrian folk music. Here, the leader of the group demonstrates how he plays the Alpine horn.
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Sometimes we have speakers or actors putting on a “one-man-show” like this tall Lincoln impersonator. Here he poses with my friend, Marcia, who thoroughly enjoyed his performance!
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There’s nothing like a New Year’s Party with friends and a glass of bubbly to cheer people up as they look to the New Year with hopes it will be a good one! This party was held at 11:45 AM (not PM because many older residents go to bed early!) and everyone was invited. We could also invite guests, so here is Dale sitting with two friends of mine enjoying the party. The one on the end in purple loves coming here to visit because she lives on a fixed income. These events are very special for her in particular! 20191231_121454
Another event in December was an Irish party with a band playing traditional tunes, and hosted by a couple of residents of Irish descent. It was free for all and a lot of fun!
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