Tag Archives: music

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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The Brommtopp and Cross Dressing Mennonites

I’d never heard of a Brommtopp till I visited the historic Mennonite village of Neubergthal Manitoba. Our tour guide showed us a Brommtopp and demonstrated how you rubbed its horsehair tail to create a sound by causing the calfskin stretched across the barrel to vibrate. The Brummtopp was played on New Years’ Eve when costumed young men went from house to house in Manitoba Mennonite villages singing Low German songs and receiving Portzeltje (New Year’s fritters) and alcohol shots for their performances.   bromtopp I found a scholarly paper by Marcie Fehr and Pauline Greenhill that looked at the Brommtopp ritual in Manitoba Mennonite communities.  Men sometimes dressed up as women for the event and their performances could be rather crude, and irreverent providing young Mennonite men with an opportunity to behave in ways that would have been inappropriate at any other time during the year.  

salvationFehr and Greenhill refer to the fact that Armin Wiebe writes about the Brommtopp in his humorous 1984 novel The Salvation of Yasch Siemens in a way that implies men dressing up as women for the Brommtopp performances may have made some community members slightly anxious. Fehr and Greenhill suggest the Brommtopp tradition might have provided an opportunity for males to participate in cross-dressing in a way that was acceptable to the community.

Photo by Peter G. Hamm 1920s from the book Mennonite Village Photography

Interestingly in the 2020 book, Mennonite Village Photography which features photos taken in Mennonite villages in Manitoba at the turn of the century, there is a photo in which women are dressed as men.  I am not sure if the photo was connected to a Brommtopp event but it is interesting to note participation by both genders in cross-dressing in Manitoba Mennonite communities.  

Other posts……

Works of Art or Historical Documents

Introducing Visitors From India and Hong Kong to Mennonites

The Station of Tears


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A Musical Weekend

carmina burana ticketThis weekend it was all about the music! Friday night we went to hear Carmina Burana performed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra with the Mennonite Festival Chorus, the Canadian Mennonite University Chorus and the Winnipeg Boys Choir. 

I was introduced to composer Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in a music class at university.   Coincidentally my professor for that course Henry Engbrecht was directing the choir I heard sing on Sunday morning.  faith and life choirMy husband Dave is in the Faith and Life Male Choir and they were performing in a church in Altona. Henry Engbrecht conducts the choir.  My father and I went along to Altona to hear the choir sing. 

Then Sunday night Dave and I were at Home Street Mennonite Church to rehearse with a choir that will be performing on Good Friday morning.  Our daughter-in-law is the director. We’ve never had the opportunity to sing under her talented direction before and it’s a treat. 

singers idolOur daughter-in-law was also the drawing card for the musical event we attended Saturday night. It was a fund-raiser for the Winnipeg Singers.  Our daughter-in-law  was participating in their Singers Idol competition. Members of the choir formed groups and performed all kinds of entertaining numbers that delighted the audience. By buying tickets we could vote for the winning group.  Naturally all our votes went to our daughter-in-law’s group The Sirens. 

Via Facebook we were also be able to keep up with our son’s musical performances in Austin Texas where his band was part of the South by Southwest music festival. 

Yes. It was a musical weekend and a good one.

Other posts…….

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Music?  

Exploring Austin During the South by Southwest Music Festival

All That Jazz in Kansas City

I’m So Tired of You America

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Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Christmas Music?

The last two weeks I’ve heard a whole lot of Christmas music.high school christmas choir It all started with a delightful holiday concert by the students of the high school where my daughter-in-law is a choral director. forks violins christmasThe next day I was off to the Forks where my son and his wife supported a group of budding fiddlers playing Christmas favorites. christmas faith and life male choirThen on Saturday I was at First Mennonite Church where my husband Dave was performing in a holiday choral concert called Hosanna with the Faith and Life Male Choir. winnipeg singers christmasSunday night found me at the Fort Rouge United Church listening to my talented daughter-in-law perform with the Winnipeg Singers in their concert The Trumpet Shall Sound with special guests The Northern Brass. winnipeg symphony steinbachTuesday we drove out to listen to the Holiday Tour concert put on by the Winnipeg Symphony at Steinbach Mennonite Church.  We were at the concert along with four other couples who’ve been our friends for decades and after the concert we enjoyed a great time of visiting at one of their Steinbach homes. boys choir christmasNorthern Lights was a concert by the Pembina Trails Children’s Choirs. My daughter-in-law conducts the angelic voices of their boys choir. winnipeg philharmonic choirSunday afternoon my dear group of friends the T-4s who I meet with every month, had been gifted tickets to hear the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir at Westminster United Church perform Christmas with the Phil. 

men of songSunday night I was at Bethel Church where another choir my husband Dave sings in called Men of Song performed their concert Song of the Angels. Dave was the hit of the evening with his harmonica accompaniment on the piece O Beautiful Star. 

That’s eight Christmas concerts and I’m thinking it just might be enough for this Christmas season.  My favourite? The short video my son sent us from Saskatoon of my grandson performing a song and dance at the concert at his school.  Wish I could have been there to see that one in person.

Other posts……..

And So This is Christmas

They Never Made It to the Manger

I’m Getting Crafty for Christmas


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A City of Music

My sister just visited Prague and it reminded me of our time in the city. 

Prague is a city of music. On our visit, Europe was experiencing an unexpected cold spell and everything was covered in snow. dave in the frankfurt snowTemperatures fell well below zero every day. Not exactly the kind of weather that is friendly for street musicians yet on nearly every corner in Prague one could find performers. violinist-in-pragueA violinist serenaded pedestrians with Dvorak as they walked over the Charles Bridge. musicians-in-pragueIn front of a statue of King Wenceslas, one of the Czech Republic’s most venerated saints, a New Orleans style jazz group of six decked out in toques and gloves entertained passers by. organ grinder in pragueAt another spot an organ grinder was asking for donations. He had replaced his real monkey with a stuffed one. It was a wise decision. The weather was too cold for tropical animals. At a subway station entrance a shivering string quartet played Bach.

Not only does Prague have street musicians. There are dozens of concerts in the city’s churches and halls every night. We went to a string quintet performance in the famous Rudolfinum, a huge palace-like venue built in 1885 that is the home of the Czech Symphony Orchestra.

rudolfinium in prague

Rudolfinum in Prague

We attended a concert performed by the Parnas String Quintette. They played Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart, a familiar air by Bach, a suite from Bizet’s Carmen, excerpts from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Pachelbel’s Canon and a fair number of Dvorak pieces. The acoustics were great, the musicians talented and the setting perfect.  

culture show prague musiciansOne night in Prague we went to a cultural dinner where musicians entertained us with traditional Czech folk music. They played a wind instrument called the foovarah, Czech bagpipes, and the hammer dulcimer. Their music was so engaging it even got my husband Dave up on the floor to dance. dave-dancing-with-woman-from-latviaPeople were asked what country they were from and then men and women from different parts of the world were paired for dancing. I was surprised that my husband, who has never liked dancing, was enticed up to the front to do a folk dance with a woman from Latvia.

church in pragueBecause we were in Prague at Christmas time many of the churches were having choir performances of carols during our visit, accompanied by huge pipe organs. We walked into one such church where many audience members were joining in on the familiar Christmas songs.

Prague is a city of music and it makes you want to listen, sing, dance, applaud and go back to here more. 

Other posts…….

Musicians Around the World

Handel Meat Pie

Baseball Sing Along

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My Grandmother Was A Guitarist

grandma playing guitarThis is one of my favourite photos of my grandmother. She played the guitar and at Christmas when our family was singing carols she would often accompany us.

In an interview recorded by my Aunt Mary, Grandma said that when she was growing up in her family’s house in the village of Gnadenthal in Ukraine they had a guitar, a banjo and a balalaika. She and her sisters Mary and Helen could all play all three.  “It didn’t matter which one we picked up.”  

According to Grandma, her father had a beautiful bass voice and her mother played accordion. Her mother was often asked to play her accordion at village dances or at village celebrations, like when a new house was built. 

So you can imagine what great music they had in their house. Grandma says about their family’s music-making, “we played unbelievably much.”  She remembers especially Sunday evenings when they had lots of company and eventually the music got the dancing started. 

My cousin Bernie recalls that my grandmother had a very unorthodox way of tuning her guitar.

My cousin Al found my grandmother’s guitar tucked away in my aunt’s basement and had it restored and refinished. He says it still has a really nice sound and will be a treasured heirloom. Al notes that Grandma’s guitar still plays the chords to “Welchen Jubel, Welche Freude” which was Grandma’s favourite German Christmas carol. 

Other posts about my grandparents…..

Whenever I Hear A Chiming Clock I Think of Grandma

My Grandparents’ Honeymoon

Tempting Choices

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In the Bulb There is a Flower

This was one of the two hymns the congregation sang at my mother’s funeral. It was one she particularly loved and I thought it was very appropriate since she and my father spent so much time growing, maintaining and enjoying the beautiful flower gardens around their home. 

The Promise

by Natalie Sleeth

In the bulb there is a flower;
In the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise:
Butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter,
There’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence,
Seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness,
bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future;
What it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning;
In our time, infinity.
In our doubt, there is believing;
In our life, eternity.

In our death, a resurrection;
At the last, a victory
Unrevealed until its season,
Something God alone can see.

Other posts about music at my Mom’s funeral…….

Lord You Have Come To the Lakeshore

God of Eve and God of Mary

Now Thank We All Our God

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

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