Category Archives: Music

An Artist’s Date For My Mom

Mom singing and playing the piano with my sister and me.

In the book my writers group is currently reading and discussing The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, the author introduces an important ritual to keep your creativity flowing.  You need  to take yourself on an artist’s date at least once a week.  On an artist’s date you do something totally creative just for yourself.  It is a way to foster and stimulate your creative side. You might go to a concert or take an acting class or try ballet or sit by the seashore and sketch. 

My Mom playing the piano with her granddaughter

It struck me lately that my mother took herself on an artist’s date every Sunday afternoon.  Mom’s life was incredibly hectic, she was raising four children, cooking and cleaning and doing laundry and keeping track of all of our busy schedules, supporting us in our many music and sports  involvements.

My Mom on the piano and her grandson on the guitar

Mom was also busy with a host of volunteer things at church and in the community but on Sunday afternoons after she had cleaned up the dishes (and on Sundays she made a full course hot meal at noon) she would sit down at the piano often for an hour or more and just play. Mom played for school and church choirs and at countless weddings and funerals. She was a sought after accompanist for singers and violinists at music festivals. But ……….on those Sunday afternoons she played for her own enjoyment. She played what she loved- sonatas and etudes, minuets and gavottes, preludes and nocturnes and plenty of popular tunes from the thirties and forties.   Most of the time she played without sheet music- the memorized pieces tumbling from her head to her hands, out into the livingroom and through the house.   It was her weekly artist’s date. 

Mom on the piano with one grandson on clarinet and another on trombone. I have no photos of Mom on her Sunday afternoon artist’s dates at the piano. I wish I did.

When my mother was dying in the hospital we noticed that she was using the coverlet on her bed as a keyboard, first finding a middle C at a certain spot and then playing the pieces she loved, her fingers flying along the threads of the blankets.  

Today on my Mom’s birthday it inspires and comforts me to know that she was still in touch with her creativity till the very last days of her life. 

My Mom playing her old Heintzman piano which I had for many years

Note:  Mom owned two pianos during her married life.  The first a Heintzman upright is now at my sister’s home and has been lovingly restored. In this photo at a Christmas gathering at my sister’s my grandson and my two daughters- in- law are singing at the piano. Her beloved grand piano graces the main room of her granddaughter’s house.  Recently my niece’s partner told me it is played almost every day.  My Mom would love that!

Other posts…….

A Chicken Soup Story For Mother’s Day

Thirties Prairie Portraits

My Mom’s Birthday

 

 

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Centre Stage in Oklahoma

oklahoma clipA feature about the composers Rodgers and Hammerstein on the CBS show Sunday Morning had me remembering my performance in the musical Oklahoma when I was in grade twelve.  I played the female lead Laurey.  Check me out center stage  in an old newspaper clipping from the local paper The Carillon . When I look at it I think ……………

  • Tickets to the musical were only $1.00.  My how times have changed since 1971. 
  • Highschool musicals in Steinbach were big deals.  The newspaper reports that weekend performances were sold out!
  • How lucky I was to have an amazing mother who sewed that dress for me.  I kept it long after the musical was over I loved it so much. 
  • How lucky I was to have hard working teachers willing to go the extra mile to stage musicals with their students.  I believe Mr. Elbert Toews our Glee Club conductor directed this one.
  • How I can still remember the words to some of the songs from that musical like O What A Beautiful Morning.
  •  How forward thinking some of the lyrics to those songs were. In this photo I am singing Many a New Day and when I bring the lyrics to mind I think they were pretty liberating for a woman to be singing in 1942 when the musical was written. 
    Why should a woman who is healthy and strong
    Blubber like a baby if her man goes away
    A weeping and a wailing how he’s done her wrong?
    That’s one thing you’ll never hear me say
    Never gonna think that the man I lose
    Is the only man among men
    I’ll snap my fingers to show I don’t care
    I’ll buy me a brand new dress to wear
    I’ll scrub my neck and I’ll brush my hair
    And start all over again.
  • My leading man in the musical who played the role of Curly was a guy named Eddie Unger.  I wonder where he is now? 

Other posts…………

Sleeping Under the Eaves

The Song My Paddle Sings

Lessons From Leonard

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Music Will Be My Light

Earth Song by Frank Ticheli

Sing, Be, Live, See
This dark stormy hour
The wind, it stirs
The scorched Earth cries out in vain

Oh war and power, you blind and blur
The torn heart cries out in pain

But music and singing have been my refuge
And music and singing shall be my light

A light of song, shining strong
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Through darkness and pain and strife
I’ll sing, I’ll be, live, see

Peace

I attended the Garden City Collegiate choir concert on Wednesday night.  My talented daughter-in-law is a music teacher at Garden City and I always enjoy watching her inspire and conduct so many different groups of student singers. The concert was great.  Hearing all that marvelous music made by young people who were so obviously loving what they were doing, gave me such a sense of hope and optimism for the future of our world.  

One of the pieces the chamber choir sang was Earth Song by Frank Techeli.  The words which I have included above are powerful. Yes there are lots of things wrong with our world but we can sing in spite of it, live in spite of it, and envision a peaceful future full of light and strength and song.  It makes me so happy to know that our future generation is being motivated by hope- filled ideas like that. 

Other posts……….

Music to Soothe the Soul

Musicians Photographed World Wide

A Musical Mural

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What’s The Buzz?

 

On Sunday night when our family was watching  the NBC broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar I told my son and daughter-in-law that as a teenager I knew all the words to every song.  I used to sing the Superstar numbers on my cold walks home from university to make the time go by faster.

A woman tweeted during the Sunday night show,  “I’m so old I can never remember where I put my car keys, but I can remember every word of the songs in Jesus Christ Superstar.”  

On his blog my friend Rudy said when he was 16 he had memorized all the songs in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.  He had a summer factory job and would sing through the musical score as he worked sawing wood. 

On Monday I was having lunch with my brother and mentioned one of the songs from the musical.  My brother immediately quoted all the lyrics to that song perfectly. 

So what made Jesus Christ Superstar so appealing to my generation?  Here’s what I think .

  1. It was about one of the world’s most well-known and influential figures. 
  2. It asked questions that very few people dared ask about the life of Jesus in 1970. 
  3. It presented stock characters like Mary Magdalene and Judas in a new and much more sympathetic light.  
  4. Jesus was portrayed as a very ordinary human man .
  5. The fact that some clergy found Jesus Christ Superstar blasphemous when it first debuted made it all the more appealing to many young people and fostered its popularity. 
  6. The rock opera genre had just been established by the success of Tommy in 1969 and so the idea of a rock opera was still new and appealing when Jesus Christ Superstar opened. 
  7. The music is catchy, easy to learn and repetitive. 

Why do you think Jesus Christ Superstar was so successful and nearly fifty years after it debuted still remains so popular? 

Other posts………

What a Great Concert

Jersey Boys

They’d Never Heard of Woodstock

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Proud of the New Words to Canada’s National Anthem

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir  (Photo by Vincent Ethier/COC)

Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue are household names to Canadians who watched coverage of the Olympic games in South Korea. The figure skating duo jointly carried Canada’s flag as our athletes marched into the Pyeongchang Stadium for the opening ceremonies.

They also won their second gold medal in the ice dance competition eight years after claiming their first gold at the Vancouver Olympics. The pair set a record for the highest score ever for their sport and became the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history. Canadians can be rightly proud of these two outstanding Olympians for their athletic achievements. But I’m proud of them for another reason as well.

 In a Toronto Star interview Tessa and Scott talked about how happy they were to sing the new lyrics to O Canada when the anthem was played after their gold medal win. Scott said, “It was important for us to set a tone by belting out the new lyrics after our victory. We are so proud of Canada for making this change. It’s 2018. It’s about time.” Scott thought the fact a man and a woman jointly carried our flag at the opening ceremonies, illustrated the recent change to one line of Canada’s anthem from “in all thy sons’ command” to “in all of us command”.

 I have long advocated for this change and have now published four newspaper columns on the topic.  I first wrote about it in 2002 when I was inspired by the vision of a Steinbach woman Sybil Shaw Hamm. She was collecting signatures for a petition to send to Ottawa in support of Senator Vivian Poy who had introduced a Senate motion to change the word ‘sons’ in O Canada.

“Thousands of little girls are being told they are not important every time they stand to sing the anthem” said Sybil in a media interview. Ultimately Senator Poy’s motion to change the wording was defeated.

O Canada the former version in English, French and Inuktutuk

I wrote about the topic again in 2016 after the House of Commons passed a bill sponsored by the late member of Parliament Mauril Belanger to change the sexist line of the anthem to its present gender- neutral alternative. This time I was responding to my fellow newspaper columnist Michael Zwaagstra who advocated for a national referendum on the change. I pointed out the words of the anthem had been changed many times in the past without a referendum. In fact, the currently contentious line had only had the word ‘sons’ added in 1914, as a way to counteract the influence of a vocal group of suffragettes lobbying for women’s right to vote.

I wrote about the topic again in 2017 when local senator Don Plett introduced an amendment to the bill as a way to try to stymie its passage in the Senate. He didn’t want to change the words because they were “an important reminder of the past.” I said the word ‘sons’ did reflect a past when women weren’t persons in Canada. They were their husbands’ and fathers’ property. They couldn’t vote and their contributions went largely unrecognized. Thankfully times had changed and so should the words of our anthem.

Of course I am overjoyed that despite Mr. Plett’s efforts the bill did pass the Senate. The changes to the anthem became law on February 7 just in time for the new version to be used at the Winter Olympics.

Language is a very powerful thing. I am proud that on the international stage our now inclusive national anthem reflected the fact that our Olympic athletes come from a country where both the contributions of men and women are recognized and respected.

Thing 2–  One of the eight things I do each day here in Portugal is work on a piece of writing I know will be published or I would like to have published.  This newspaper column was one of them.  It was published yesterday in the Carillon.   Other publishing projects I’ve worked on besides writing my regular columns include spending time rewriting some meditations that will be published this summer and doing publicity forms for another Chicken Soup story of mine that will be published in a book in spring.  I am also working on edits to the first draft of a manuscript for a middle grade novel I want to submit to an editor when I get home, and I am writing more submission letters for a picture book I have finished and am hoping to get published. In addition I am working on another picture book manuscript and adding more short stories to a collection I’m writing about growing up in the 50s and 60s.  

Other posts……..

The Famous Five

Are You This Determined to Vote?

From Pale and Weak to Platoon Commander

 

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What is Fado?

Our second night in Lisbon a waitress in a fur coat standing at the door of her establishment lured my husband inside.  We had been walking in a giant circle for quite some time, with Dave trying to pick the perfect restaurant and so he was feeling pressure to make a choice.  I think he might have been a little relieved that the decision was out of his hands when the woman almost pushed us through the front door, and seated us at a table.   A singer and two instrumentalists were performing.  “This is fado,” our waitress whispered.  I wasn’t sure what fado was, but the singer looked like he was almost in pain, his eyes closed.  Although we didn’t understand the Portuguese lyrics it was obvious whatever he was singing about was of a dramatic and sad nature. 

The prices on the menu were a little dramatic too, so we opted for bread and cheese, and a bowl of vegetable soup and another of spaghetti, which we shared.  The food was excellent however and while we ate a young woman came up and did some more fado singing. Her performance was just as dramatic as her male counterpart’s.  

As we left the restaurant the waitress in the fur coat stopped to talk to us.  She told us fado is a kind of music unique to Lisbon and directly translated means ‘fate.’  The songs are always melancholy in nature and singers are accompanied by different kinds of guitars .  The origins of fado are difficult to trace with possible sources being Brazilian slaves, Portuguese sailors or the Moors. 

The waitress said she hoped we’d come back. I’m not sure we will. I was glad to have been introduced to fado but I’m thinking it won’t become a new music interest for me. 

Other posts……..

A Little Pizza With Your Organ Music?

A Fun Evening in Toronto

Six Cool Things About Lisbon

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Feeding My Mother

jann arden feeding my motherMy friend Marilyn gave me Jann Arden’s book Feeding My Mother.  On the one hand it was easy to read because there isn’t a great deal of text and the layout of the book is so colourful and eye-catching and contains so many excellent photos Jann has taken of her mother and the scenery around their Alberta home.

The text is interspersed with recipes.  Jann has a house just a few steps away from her childhood home where her Mom still lives.  Before her father died Jann routinely had her parents over for dinner and she still does that with her Mom.  Jann shares the simple recipes she uses when cooking for her Mom, hence the title of the book Feeding My Mother. The chatty tone, the hearty recipes and visual impact of the book make it easy to read. 

On the other hand the book was also very hard to read because it records Jann’s efforts to care for her mother who is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s.  Jann is fortunate because she has the financial means to provide in-home caregivers for her mother. But Jann’s pain in losing the mother she once knew and her struggles to maintain a patient attitude with her mother and a positive attitude about her mother’ situation, will resonate with anyone who has dealt with a seriously ill parent.  

The most poignant line in the book for me was when Jann realized her mother was rapidly losing her memory and asked her, “Do you think you will ever forget me Mom?”  Her mother replied,  “Well my brain might, but my heart won’t.”

Feeding My Mother helped me learn some new things about Jann Arden one of Canada’s most beloved musical artists and it helped me learn some new things about how Alzheimer’s impacts families and relationships. 

Other posts……..

Mothering

Sons and Mothers

My Mother’s Childhood Christmases

 

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