Tag Archives: music

The Art of Hearing

Every time that I feel like I had a rough pipe organ Sunday, without fail, a very sweet elderly lady comes up after the church service and tells me how much she appreciated my playing. Different lady each time, but it happens without fail. Every time. This odd bit of trivia got me to thinking today – We all hear music differently.

My brother-in-law loves to quote lyrics as Facebook responses. Pretty universally, stuff I don’t know. Whatever he’s quoting is not part of my Internal Song Book. Let’s just say that our musical tastes differ wildly. I still kind of like that he leaves the quotes though. I figure music’s music, and I’m all for the thrill it brings people, no matter what the lyrics are. (Besides, I love a good rhyme.)

Whoops – almost passed it. There’s my point.

My Internal Song Book is made up of the poetry of Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Fields, Frank Loesser, Cole Porter. Our great American tune poets of the 20th Century. Same deal, I figure. Much as I don’t live in the musical world that Brother-in-Law does, he’d need a map to navigate my musical landscape. I don’t reply in kind with my own lyrics, but it’s fun to think about the confusion I could create if I left a response in Porter-ese –

Brother-in-Law – Went to church today. I never sing the hymns.
Me – “I hate paradin’ my seranadin’ as I’ll probably miss a bar …”


Brother-in-Law – Poker game tonight with the boys.
Me – “I don’t like crap games with barons and earls …”

True, he’d probably ask what the hell I’m talking about. But he’d get it. That is, he wouldn’t know exactly why I love that music, but he’d know exactly how I love it.

Perhaps then, music is, if not the universal language, a universal understanding. It’s one of the few things we all get. It’s one of the few things that for all our differences in taste and experience, we understand the love of it.



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The Bells

Hear the sledges with the bells
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

-Edgar Allan Poe, The Bells

I never miss an opportunity to throw in a Poe quote, do I? Go on with your creepy self, Edgar. Beautiful words. At any rate, I’m thinking a lot about bells this week, and Poe’s masterpiece came to mind.

We’re headed for Fall and I’m thinking about handbells. I love handbells. I really do. Ha! Let the Handbell Dork jokes fly! I have a sense of humor about it. I figure everybody is somebody else’s weirdo.

Our church has a magnificent set of handbells (truly), and I’m hard at work sorting far-flung boxes and boxes (and boxes and boxes) of music, finding the bell tables and stands, choosing music, putting books/folders together, and even writing and arranging music for the Handbell Ensemble at St. Luke’s.

Rather than doing a wall-of-people-at-tables-out-front performance sort of thing, my preferred approach to the handbells is a bit different. I see those crystalline tones as an organic part of a whole. Perhaps the bells chime the hour or play a prelude from the organ loft. Perhaps they support a hymn along with the pipe organ. Perhaps a simple, quiet solo or duet serves as special music. Small. Simple. Organic. I’m aiming for a quartet, or an octet at most.

Is it too weird to be dreaming of Christmas music in August? Ding dong.

You have a great day too!


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You’ve Been Orchestrated

Funny story.

Bartók_Béla_1927On Sunday, it was Bartok Day at church. (As in Bela Bartok, crack American composer, and sometime Summer resident of Saranac Lake.) Most Sundays, I sit down at Bela Bartok’s piano (!)  and play the service all by my lonesome. (Actually, it was his wife’s piano, but let’s not split hairs. Surely his hands touched those keys.) This past Sunday, we had lots of awesome musicians playing Bartok pieces in honor of The Master. 

BE086560Anyhow. On to the story. I asked a musician friend if there was a community band or orchestra. I thought maybe I might like to pick up my seriously rusty high school clarinet skills again. She said that yes, there indeed was a community orchestra. She wrote down the leader’s name, and I thought I’d hunt her up next week or something. Maybe. Got the info, I’ll be thinking about it, end of story. Not so fast! Totally unbeknownst to me, somebody talks to somebody else, wheels turn, the second someone evidently knows who I am, the leader goes by my partner’s office the next day, and sends the clarinet score and a rehearsal schedule home to me. I had to smile at the small-town-telegraph element of the whole thing. And wow … Talk about a recruitment policy!  

Interesting side note – When we were leaving the city, I looked at my clarient, and thought, “Eh, I hardly ever touch the thing. I guess I might as well keep it. Maybe there’ll be a community band or something.” And here I am! Meanwhile, said clarinet is in the storage unit 40 miles away in Plattsburgh … and there’s a rehearsal Thursday. Ah, well. In the time being, I can at least listen to the CD and pick out my part. Sort of. I’ve been listening to a London Symphony recording of the thing all night.

One thing I can say for it – there’s lots of notes, and they go by very quickly!  


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