Category Archives: Tuesday’s Tune

Tuesday’s Tune: “The Boar’s Head Carol”

Today’s post is a guest post from Margaret,  a blogger friend of mine from England. She blogs at  From Pyrenees to Pennines. I first began reading Margaret’s blog several years ago when she and her husband lived in southwestern France. They moved home to England and I love reading of her exploits. I don’t recall how I found her, but I did, and I am ever grateful for the sunshine and joy that reading provides. There is nothing like an English Christmas, nothing. Thank you Margaret, keep Making the Days Count.

“He who sings scares away his woes.” ― Miguel de Cervantes 

There’s a  programme on British radio called ‘Desert Island Discs’, which has been running regularly since 1942.  Just about everyone fancies being on it, and if you’ve made a name for yourself as an actor, a politician, an academic, a musician, a journalist, a physician, a TV personality, a sportsperson …. whatever, really, you may just get your chance.  For 40 minutes, the ‘castaway’ for the week has to imagine themselves washed up on a desert island, with only 8 gramophone records (how quaint that sounds) of their choice, one luxury with no practical use, and one book, together with the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare.  On air, they have the chance to talk about themselves, and more importantly, and just as revealingly, the opportunity to choose the 8 pieces of music that may have to last them for the rest of their lives.

What would I choose?  The list I occasionally idly compose in my head varies wildly, according to my mood.  But what I observe is that it’s always dominated by the human voice.  My list always includes some of the great sacred masses by the likes of Bach, Haydn and Mozart.  There’ll be some traditional music, maybe from Africa or India, and some ‘blasts from the past’ of my teenage years in the 1960s.  The voices range from the pure clear notes of children, through elegant, warm and melodious female voices, to resonant deeper male tones.  It’s hard to think of a single musical instrument with such range or versatility.

And washed upon my desert island, aside from listening to my recordings, what else would I be doing?  Well, singing for sure.  I don’t have the sort of voice that anyone would want to have in a top-flight choir…..  or any choir, really.  I read music only very insecurely.  Yet you won’t find me missing from our weekly choir practice unless I really, really can’t get there.

We’re engaged from the first moment we arrive.  We pat our faces and our bodies awake, stamping our feet rhythmically, or giving each other impromptu massages. We practice rounds and play musical games with notes from the highest to the lowest to get our voices mobilised.  And we sing.  We sing in canon, we sing in parts.  We learn that sometimes the hardest thing to do is to sing well in unison: there’s nowhere to hide.

Nicky’s in charge of us, and I can’t think what kind of title to give her.  She enthuses us; she won’t accept less than our best; she generates an atmosphere in which we all trust one another – our false notes will be forgiven and we’ll even be persuaded to be the sole singer of a line or two of song.  She’s the one who finds pieces none of us knows, from Africa to Finland, to lesser-known Gospel songs.  She’s the one who hunts out unfamiliar pieces from the English repertoire.  And this is the one I’ll share with you today.  It’s  Christmas song, but a secular one, sung at table at Queen’s College, Oxford.  Here’s ‘The Boar’s Head Carol’

During that hour or so on Thursday evening, we forget our woes and day-to-day worries.  We open our throats, and joyfully, we sing. American philosopher William James summed it up perfectly: 

‘I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing’.

Here we are at our summer barbecue, singing for friends and family
Here we are at our summer barbecue, singing for friends and family

Tuesday’s Tune: A Charlie Brown Christmas

It’s Christmas time. The season is upon us. Christmas will be here in sixteen days. I’ve survived Black Friday – I didn’t shop, or even leave the house.

I was four years old the first time the Charlie Brown Christmas first aired. It was 1965. We were living in Houston. We be there one more Christmas and then, we’d move to Sugar Land where I would grow up. My mom still lives in the house I call home, even though I haven’t lived there for close to thirty years.

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This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The network produced a special 50th anniversary special and then replayed the cartoon. I watched it, again.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is an animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. Produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez, the program made its debut on CBS on December 9, 1965. In the special, lead character Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a school Christmas play, but he is both ignored and mocked by his peers. The story touches on the over-commercialization and secularism of Christmas, and serves to remind viewers of the true meaning of Christmas. (Wikipedia)

Rewind, I can imagine us, my brothers and I, sitting on the couch watching the Christmas special in our jammies. For us, it was in black and white; we wouldn’t get our first color television until 1971. I don’t have a specific memory of watching it, I just know we watched it. Sitting on the couch.

My kids have watched it, too.

A lot has changed since then. I can watch A Charlie Brown Christmas anytime I want – regardless of the season. And, much has stayed the same, A Charlie Brown Christmas was, in a way, a protest show about the commercialization of Christmas.

It bothers me that the Christmas season seemingly begins earlier every year. But, I don’t let it get me down.

A few years ago, I purchased the music from the show and loaded it on my iPhone. I play it as often as I can. I plug in my speakers in my classroom and play it before school starts and sometimes in class when my students are working, no one tires of the tunes. The music is calming and peaceful and it reminds me of the importance of the season.

I remember driving home to Ohio once – I don’t recall when. But, the backseat was in an uproar. My two backseat passengers couldn’t seem to get along, the dog was whining and barking, there was heavy traffic on the road and I popped in the CD. Presto, chango. We listened, whistled softly hummed, and thought of the gift of Christmas.

We won’t be driving to Ohio this Christmas. I am not sure what our plans are, but it will be Christmas. But, wherever we go we will remember the meaning of Christmas.

B has been working on the lights and we got the backyard done this past weekend. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

My friend Scott sent his guest post to me Monday afternoon; and it’s now Wednesday, not Tuesday. It’s been that kind of week or so. I’ve known Scott since our school opened up in ’01.He teaches health education in the building and is a writer, too. He writes at Life is the Future and is planning to ‘Bite the Bullet’ this coming year. We were talking and writing came up – neither knew the other wrote, it’s interesting how that all works. I knew he loved music and collected vinyl. We got to talking and he agreed to guest post here at Making the Days Count. I enjoyed the read and I hope you do, too. I am thankful for friends like Scott, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Some of my favorite memories come with a soundtrack. Of course, almost all my memories come with a soundtrack—the good, the bad, and everything in between.

In teaching discussions, and even in life conversations, I make it no secret that music has helped me stay alive this long. Music has been one of my constants in a lifetime of change. It has seen me age, and awkwardly so. It has seen me make bad decisions, and dread repercussion. It has seen me laugh, cry, and scream. It has taken me across the country on the kick of a dream. It has kept me home in the arms of my family.

While writing, I rarely do any stream of consciousness without it. And even then, when the editing grip finally takes hold, I can hear the echo in the embers. It’s in pieces, in manic-depressant fits of stress and relaxation. Like dust motes in the blank stare of a daydream, music can fill space or demand attention. Depending on the mood, music confirms or denies feelings of self-worth, vents of frustration, and outbursts of elation.

Pop music of my childhood combined with the classics from my parents, which led me to being introduced to other styles of music. The alternative music boom of the 80’s and 90’s paved the way for exactly what I needed: the edgy, angsty hooks of punk rock.

I was about 14 when I found punk music. Coming from a fairly normal and fortunate upbringing, punk rock didn’t represent a distaste for life, necessarily, but it hit home as it satisfied a very natural need of adolescence: to question everything. Question the norm, question the rules, question the answers, question existence… question oneself.

A punk song may never change the world, but I could tell you a few that changed me. Which means, by virtue, punk rock does exactly what it sets out to do.

If you’ve been there, you know; people are drawn to punk for many reasons, all unique to each individual. For me, the attitude of the music and lyrics was easy to relate to. But songs with societal meaning registered just as much as the galloping riffs that accompanied those often-indiscernible words. (Good thing for liner notes.) The punk community is one that offends the mainstream with no mercy but all in the demand for tolerance and equity. Racial and class lines be damned.

Identity in school, as in life, remains just as difficult a topic as ever. In my case, not following pre-set expectations made a lot of sense… classifications, stereotypes, cliques all seemed dumb and immature. Counterproductive. Moreover, why can’t a person be interested in a variety of things, and hang out with lots of different people? Funny enough, finding like-minded friends and having that kinship of a social circle is essential in teenage development.

Cue the music. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

Tuesday’s Tune: “Love and Marriage”

Monday was our anniversary. It was our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. It seems like the other day I was waiting for my mom and step-mother on the sidewalk outside the church. They had gotten lost on the way from the hotel to the church. I can’t blame them, it’s easy to get lost on country roads. I still get lost when I go back to Ohio for a short visit and I get off the beaten track.

My brother David and I had been pacing outside the church, waiting. My other sister-in-law, B’s older sister had checked on us and asked what was up. It was the time before cell phones or at least inexpensive cell phones and few folks had one. I had no idea, I explained I thought they were lost. She seemed to accept it and went back inside the church. I can only imagine what was going through B’s head.

They arrived, more than several minutes late – my mom, step-mother, and sister-in-law climbed out of the car and hurried inside. My mom apologized and I smiled a nervous smile and muttered, “You’re off the Christmas card list,” under my breath.

I was kidding, of course. She gets a Christmas card every year and a call Christmas morning to wish her a Merry Christmas. She reminds me she got her Christmas card. And, we laugh.

She also reminds me that if they had arrived on time, the sunbeam, that had illuminated B and I at the precise moment we said our vows, would have missed us. Completely missed us, divine providence.

Much happens in 24 years – kids are born, parents and other family members pass away, there are job changes, career shifts, smiles, laughter, people change and grow, and all sorts of things that make a marriage strong. There are other highs and lows of life along the way.

I have much more grey hair than I did in 1991. Then, it was just coming in, and it’s longer, too. But, I still have my laugh and sense of humor and sarcastic wit, forged by experience and life’s hard lessons. I’ve learned to shovel snow, rake leaves, and be somewhat of a happy handyman that comes with being a homeowner.

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can’t have one without the other

Frank Sinatra is right, you can’t have one without the other.

Saturday morning I was at the flower market and got a dozen pink roses. They are beautiful, like B. They’ll last the week and then some, if we care them, like a marriage.

It was a busy weekend and time got away from writing, but that’s okay. I had time for the important stuff – family and love. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “Love and Marriage”

Tuesday’s Tune: “Back on the Chain Gang”

learningtocrawlTuesday, it’s almost over. But, there’s enough time remaining on the clock for a Tuesday’s Tune post.

It’s been a full day. I’ve been pushing my kids at school in history and science. In history, we’re covering the period immediately before the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution. In my science class, I tossed six pop cans in a bin of water and asked students to explain why some float and some sink. They’re vexed. I stayed late to work on grading and arrived home long enough to take the trash out before heading off to a scout meeting.

one Coca-Cola can floats, the other sinks, why?
one Coca-Cola can floats, the other sinks, why?

This past weekend heavy thunderstorms rolled through the area Friday afternoon. Friday night is football night, at least for the next five weeks. The rain wasn’t enough to stop W’s football game, but the lightning was and it pushed W’s game from Friday night to Saturday night.

W’s football team was playing a school from my school district and I knew, or had taught, several of the players, when they were in middle school.

I signed up to work the chain gang – the group of men who work the yard markers during the game. I worked the ‘chain gang’ the first home football game of the season – the game we won and it was fun. It’s an interesting perspective being on the sideline during a football game, especially on the visiting team’s side.

my view from the sidelines - the chain gang is up close
my view from the sidelines – the chain gang is up close

There are four of us on the chain gang. One person manages the down marker that also doubles as the line of scrimmage marker – from where the ball snapped and put into play. Two others manage the ‘chain’ two markers linked with a ten-yard chain – the distance needed for a first down. Then, there was me, I ran the clip, or the marker, that would be used if the game officials needed to measure for a first down. My job was to move the clip every time the chain was moved for a first down or change of possession. And, of course watch the game without with rooting for the Tigers. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “Back on the Chain Gang”

Tuesday’s Tune: Guest Post Susie Lindau

Today’s Tuesday’s Tune is a guest post from Susie Lindau of Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride. I’ve been following and reading her blog for a while; I have followed her wild adventures from the mountain tops of the Rockies and to Europe and back. I admire her get up and go attitude and never letting anything hold her back; she’s more than a survivor, she’s a THRIVER and she’s been an inspiration to me. I’ll let Susie share her musical inspiration…

The first time I bought a record, they were vinyl and department stores carried them. I remember being in the 7th grade and had started babysitting for fifty cents an hour. I had some cold hard cash to spend. Okay. They were most likely coins.

My mother drove me to Gimbel’s. While she headed to women’s clothing, I took the escalator to the second floor. The music section was situated to the right. There were tables full of LP’s. I passed Carol King’s Tapestry, Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, and The Who’s Who’s Next. Instead I sauntered over to the affordable 45’s. They had a recording of one song on each side. The A-side contained the hit and B-side had the lesser known tune.

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What did I buy? Judy Collins, Both Sides Now. I recognized her hit tune from a couple years before. Looking back, it’s pretty ironic.

Both Sides Now

Years later, while working as a medical illustrator at the VA Hospital in Madison, I met Judy’s brother. He was a speech pathologist. Like most doctors who worked at the VA, he also covered the UW Hospital since they are physically connected.

According to her book, Singing Lessons: A Memoir of Love, Loss, Hope, and Healing, her brother developed an interest in speech from a stutter he endured as a child. He had her big blue eyes. I drew a larynx for him.

Larnyx

Their father was a blind disk jockey, another auditory connection, but I never met him.

All these years I thought, Leaving on a Jet Plane was on the b-side and she did sing a cover of that song, but Who Knows Where the Time Goes is on the flip side.

She was the first singer I admired from afar. There have been many since. Ironically, after writing this blast from the past, I asked myself that same question. “Who knows where the time goes?”

Judy Collins Both Sides Now” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Tuesday’s Tune: Reelin’ in the Years

I’d like to introduce my first ever – guest blogger – Chris White. I’ve known Chris for a over forty years, he was my backdoor neighbor growing up and the leader of all things fun in the neighborhood. There were a lot of boys our age in the neighborhood growing up and only a couple of girls in our age bracket. Chris was a few years older than me, but I never felt that way – we played tackle football in the side yard,  baseball in the vacant lot, and when I got older, he became my boss at Tempo Records and Tapes.  I moved away from Texas in ’87 and he moved, too. We lost touch, but I never forgot growing up in the neighborhood. We got back in touch a few years ago on Facebook and we’ve messaged back and forth a several times catching up. His whimsical sense of humor was inspiration and I vividly remember many of the laughs we shared, many of which are not fit to print. Despite our moves, both of us still root for Houston sports teams. Which, if you know the history of most of Houston’s sports teams, is funny. Very funny.

I let Chris tell you the rest of the story…… 

I first discovered musical idols the day my older sister brought home “Meet the Beatles.” Not yet ready myself to idolize anyone not wearing a cape and tights, I watched fascinated as my sister melted into a puddle while the moptops went about changing popular music forever.

Flash forward a few years, leaping over a Herman’s Hermits infatuation that’s better left unexamined, to my freshman year in high school, when I first discovered that athletic skill wasn’t necessarily a prerequisite for attracting the opposite sex. I began to gravitate toward those girls who’d never heard of Johnny Bench but who could have described Led Zep’s Robert Plant in sufficient detail to satisfy a police sketch artist. It was around that time I discovered the first musical idol I could latch onto and call my own: Keith Emerson, the genius behind Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Keith was a giant of progressive rock, a colossus among multi-keyboardists — it was decades later that I learned he was (and still is, presumably) all of 5’4”. Regardless, Keith seemed larger than life at the time.

Since my family owned a Hammond organ, I began to teach myself how to play, taking baby steps at first. Wrangling a couple of friends who shared a remarkably similar complete lack of musical talent, I formed a band. Or more accurately, a “band.” Clay, the proprietor of this blog (thanks for the guest spot, Clay!), whose boyhood home was right behind my own house at the time, can attest to the fact that no amount of volume can make up for a dearth of musical skill. The amazing thing about lack of ability, though, is that it’s often accompanied by a simultaneous lack of awareness. Not realizing how bad we were, my bandmates and I continued hacking away on our respective instruments until a miracle occurred. Lo and behold, we gradually became mediocre. Eventually we progressed through “adequate” and “not terrible” and by the time we were seniors in high school, ended up somewhere around “pretty damned good,” complete with a record (recorded in an actual honest-to-God music studio) that got a few spins on KLOL, the dominant FM rock station in Houston at the time.

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Chris White on flaming guitar with Rex meredith on vocals and Curtis Peet on guitar

It was on a road trip in 1976 to play a spring break gig in Corpus Christi that I was introduced to the musical idols who would keep all others at bay for the next forty years. One of my bandmates brought along a supposedly high-fidelity 8-track tape of Steely Dan’s “The Royal Scam” album, which we listened to over and over and over in my dad’s Olds Delta 88. By the time I was back in Houston a few days later, the trajectory of my life had been irreversibly altered. No longer would I be quite as satisfied with the bombast glam of Queen or the overwrought noodlings of Kansas. I had discovered complex chord changes, jazz harmonies, guitar solos wicked enough to send the swiftest-fingered rockers back to the practice room, all set to rock songs with lyrics that were literate without being pretentious. A shimmering, gorgeous surface hid the musical complexity underneath, and the lyrics only gave the faintest of brush strokes to the sordid tales they painted, forcing the listener to fill in the details using his own imagination. That some people didn’t “get” Steely Dan, taking them as a light-rock band with glossy songs, only made it that much better. I was in that select group who understood how deep their music actually was. Genesis? Yes? Rush? Don’t get me started with those prog-rock posers, Steely Dan were real musicians playing music that was challenging in a way nothing else I’d ever heard on rock radio was. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: Reelin’ in the Years

Tuesday’s Tune: Anticipation

After two days of meetings this week on Monday and Tuesday, full of reminders, staff get-togethers, and new curriculum; I get a full day to work in my classroom today. O and I were there last Thursday and I was back Friday afternoon. I am excited.

The seventh graders read a book in ELA, The Giver by Lois Lowry. It’s a new classic dystopian novel for kids it was published in 1993 and it was made into a movie and released in August 2013; read the book, it’s better. Trust me. In the first chapter, Jonas a twelve year-old boy and the main character, describes his feelings about the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve in December as he rides his bike home. At first, he describes his feelings as being frightened, but realizes the word doesn’t describe how he feels about the changes which lie ahead for him. When he reaches home, he realizes he isn’t frightened, but apprehensive.

I’ve been back and forth to school several times in the past week. My rides to and from school have had similar thoughts – making lists, thinking, worry, apprehension, fright (sort of), and I decided I am full of anticipation and even perhaps, like Jonas a little apprehension.

I remember a song from my youth about anticipation, Heinz used it in its ketchup commercials to highlight how thick its ketchup was – it was so think, it took a while to begin flowing out of the bottle. As a scientist, I know it’s because t’s a non-Newtonian fluid that exhibits characteristics of both a sold and a liquid.  But’s that’s another story.

Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: Anticipation

Tuesday’s Tune: “All Summer Long”

americangraffitiWe are back home; and I am back at home in the basement. We left late Sunday night and arrived early Monday morning. O decided to join W and me, after we had pulled all of the boats and stored the outdoor furniture before leaving for the cottage for the summer. I don’t know when we’ll get back. I only know when I get back it will feel wonderful, like summer.

I am only a few days away from ‘being back’ but I’ve been back at school a couple of times in the past week and peeked into my classroom. I spent a few hours this afternoon working on planning and thinking.

At the beginning of the summer, I began tutoring a student in reading and social studies. We met several times this summer and today was our final tutoring session. She will be in my first period U.S. History class and we’ll continue working on some of the social studies skills we focused on this summer – sequencing and looking at cause and effect relationships.

It hit me this morning that summer is almost over when I read that 42 years ago today American Graffiti was released. It is the quintessential summer movie and though I did not see it in the theater, but I’ve seen it several times on television and replayed it on DVD. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “All Summer Long”

Tuesday’s Tune: “Blue Skies”

I am number that third guy who walks into a music store searching for a tune he’s heard, sometimes I’ll have the tune, or maybe a bit of the chorus. Sometimes I have it correct, most times though, I am all messed up. Eventually I get it right and find the song.

Monday morning - nothing but blue skies do I see
Monday morning – nothing but blue skies do I see

Blues skies made an appearance yesterday. It was great to see them after Sunday’s storms. Storms rolled across the lake in waves Sunday afternoon. The first wave came around noon and brought wind, thunder, lightning, and rain. The second wave came a couple of hours later. The third wave came around 5 PM.

B and I had decided that gardening would have to wait for another day and she took off with O and friends to let the kids see a movie and to shop – she needed paint for the downstairs powder room among a few other items. I finished my chores and decided to watch a baseball game upstairs when the last wave rolled through.

5:09 PM Sunday August 2nd

I had my back to the lake Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “Blue Skies”