In praise of laziness

>> Saturday, December 29, 2007

Faulheit, endlich muß ich dir
Auch ein kleines Loblied bringen!
O!. . . Wie. . . sauer. . . wird es mir
Dich nach Würde zu besingen!
Doch ich will mein Bestes tun:
Nach der Arbeit ist gut ruhn.

Höchstes Gut, wer dich nur hat,
Dessen ungestörtes Leben. . .
Ach!. . . ich gähn!. . . ich. . . werde matt.
Nun, so magst du mir's vergeben,
Daß ich dich nicht singen kann:
Du verhinderst mich ja dran.

Laziness - I must finally write for you
also a little paean!
Oh! ... annoying ... it will be for me
[to think of how] to celebrate your worth!
But I will do my best,
for after hard work, rest is good.

Highest good - whoever possesses you
will have an undisturbed life...
alas! I'm yawning... I'm ... growing dull.
Now you must forgive me
if I cannot sing about you:
you are hindering me yourself!


It's Boxing Day, Guvnuh!

>> Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day, also known as the Feast of St. Stephen (after the first Christian martyr), originated in England in the middle of the nineteenth century under Queen Victoria. It originated as a holiday for members of the merchant class to give boxes containing food and fruit, clothing, and/or money to trades people and servants. The gifts were an expression of gratitude similar to the bonuses many employers offer their employees today. These gifts, usually given in boxes, gave the holiday it's name, "Boxing Day".

Also related to the origin of Boxing Day is the tradition of opening the alms boxes placed in churches over the Christmas season. The contents of these boxes were distributed amongst the poor, by the clergy, the day after Christmas.

I'm spending Boxing Day in my pajamas! Here's hoping that you and yours had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to a very happy and prosperous New Year!


Santa's the dude!

>> Monday, December 24, 2007


The John Rutter Gloria

>> Saturday, December 22, 2007

Today I came upon these recordings of the John Rutter Gloria and was transported back to Christmas of 1980, which was the first semester of my junior year in college at Oklahoma Baptist University. I sang with the OBU Chorale, which in those days had the reputation of being one of the finest choral organizations in the region. Under the direction of James D. Woodward, (whom we affectionately referred to as "Dean"), the OBU Chorale was in its glory days in the early 1980's, and performed some exciting, challenging, and inspiring works under his skillful direction. And among the most exciting of these works was the Rutter Gloria, composed for SATB choir, brass choir, and pipe organ. I count the performance of this work as one of the highlights of my undergraduate experience, and one of the fondest memories I have of performing with the OBU Chorale, and with Jim Woodward.

The work is presented here in three parts. You can follow along with the score as you listen. Enjoy!


The Scrooge of my youth

This 1970 musical adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, entitled simply, Scrooge!, starring the brilliant Albert Finney as Ebenezer Scrooge, and the incomparable Sir Alec Guiness as Jacob Marley, is on my list of very favorites. (In fact, I'm not sure which is my very favorite, this one or the 1999 Patrick Stewart version.)

This adaptation is the Scrooge of my youth, as I was ten years old when it was released, and is the first version of the play that I ever saw. My brother and I grew up watching it on television, as it was played every year during the Christmas season during the 1970's. Both of us were into musicals, and this one had a distinct similarity to the 1968 musical adaptation of Dickens' Oliver Twist, entitled simply, Oliver!. Monte and I loved both films, and to this day, if I can catch this version of A Christmas Carol on television, I watch it.

I am posting two clips from this film because I want you to see not only the amazing performances of both Finney and Sir Alec Guiness, but one of the beautifully coreographed musical production numbers as well. I hope you enjoy them enough that if you've not had the joy of seeing this film, you'll go out and rent the DVD and watch it.


Scrooge puts on an irreverent face

>> Friday, December 21, 2007

Leave it to the British to satirize their own, and to do it in a way that only the British can. One of my favorite British television comedy series is Blackadder, starring the internationally popular, Rowan Atkinson, (Mr. Bean & Johnny English), as the title character. The following clip is the Blackadder version of the beloved Dickens tale, and if you're interested, the whole episode is available on YouTube.


Kermit meets Scrooge

>> Thursday, December 20, 2007

In 1992, the folks at Jim Henson created a delightful version of this Dickens classic using Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and the entire gang of Muppet characters entitled, The Muppet Christmas Carol. Featuring the famed and respected London-born actor, Michael Caine, as Ebenezer Scrooge, this delightful adaptation features original music by Paul Williams and original score by Miles Goodman. Produced two years after Henson's untimely death, in May of 1990, it was directed by his son, Brian, and the voice of Kermit, (Bob Cratchit), originally performed by Henson, was done by Steve Whitmire.

This particular version happens to be a favorite of my three children, as it was released when they were all very small, and is viewed, at least once at our home, every Christmas.


The many faces of Scrooge

>> Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One of my favorite novelists of the 19th century is Charles Dickens, and of all of his wonderful tales, A Christmas Carol, is one of my very favorites, and of all of his colorful characters, Ebenezer Scrooge ranks at the top of my list.

A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas (commonly known as A Christmas Carol) is what Charles Dickens described as his "little Christmas Book" and was first published on December 19, 1843 with illustrations by John Leech. The story was instantly successful, selling over six thousand copies in one week and, although originally written as a potboiler to enable Dickens to pay off a debt, the tale has become one of the most popular and enduring Christmas stories of all time.

Contemporaries noted that the story's popularity played a critical role in redefining the importance of Christmas and the major sentiments associated with the holiday. A Christmas Carol was written during a time of decline in the old Christmas traditions. "If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease," said English poet Thomas Hood. (Source Wikipedia)

In the years after Dickens' death, the story was adapted for the stage and later presented in film. In the next few days I will present clips of several of those film adaptations. It's amazing how many there are, and begging your forgiveness if I don't present your favorite. In fact, I won't even be able to present my favorite version, which is the one featuring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge, (from 1999), because of copyright laws.

The first clip I would like to present to you is from the 1951 version, starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Michael Hordern as Marley's ghost.


Missing my girl

>> Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Okay, I've just got to say it! I miss Lauren. It's Christmas time and she's not here and it just isn't the same without her. I miss her smile. I miss her laughter. I miss her hugs. I miss the way she still squeals like a little girl when she gets excited. I miss sitting on the couch on Saturday mornings, before anyone else is up, and talking with her. And I hope she knows this Christmas, as she's far off in France, that she's in our hearts and that we love her.


The Gift of Music

>> Monday, December 17, 2007

Yesterday was a big day at our house. Both Heather and I participated in concerts preformed by our choral organizations--Heather with her high school chorale, and me with the Stillwater Chamber Singers. The two concerts were given back-to-back with the Chamber Singers at 2:30 p.m. at St. Andrew's Episcopal, and Heather's at 4:00 p.m., around the corner at The First Christian Church. It was a wonderful afternoon of Christmas music, and then afterwards, our family, including the kids' dad, and my son Nathan, who had come down from Wichita to attend both concerts, came over to our house for a little impromptu Christmas party.

After my concert, one of my voice students who had been in attendance, approached me to give her congratulations and to tell me how much she enjoyed it. As we stood there chatting, she shared with me that she brought with her, a friend who brought her 10-year-old step-daughter whom she and her husband had just gotten custody of after it had been determined that the child's mother was severely neglecting her. Charity went on to tell me that this child had never been anywhere or done anything special, and had never been to a concert of any kind. The only kind of music that this little girl had ever heard was rap music on the radio, and didn't even know that music like what we sang even existed.

As Charity described to me the child's reaction to our concert, my eyes welled with tears. She said that from the first note, (our opening piece began with a pipe organ and trumpet fanfare), the little girl's eyes opened wide and a huge smile lit her face. She listened intently as the choir joined in and as the music swelled through the sanctuary. Charity went on to describe how the child exclaimed that this must be heaven because she thought that this music could only come from heaven and even though she had never heard any of this music before, (even the traditional Christmas Carols), she tried to sing along with the choir with every note! The child was absolutely enthralled and sat through the entire concert without a fidget, and when it was over, (after over an hour), the little girl protested, "Is it over already? I want to hear some more!"

I walked away humbled and blessed, realizing that of all the gifts I will give this Christmas, the gift I gave to this child, the gift of music is the one most dear.


Give Gayla a Hippo for Christmas

>> Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas is a Christmas novelty song written by John Coctoasten and performed by Gayla Peevey ,(10 years old at the time), in 1953. Gayla was a regional child star of the Oklahoma City area. This 1953 hit was recorded in New York and later used as a fund-raiser to bring the city zoo a hippo, using the slogan, Give Gayla a Hippo for Christmas. When released nationally by Columbia Records the song shot to the top of the charts, and Gayla was presented with a baby hippo named Matilda the following Christmas, which she then donated to the Oklahoma City Zoo.

(You can listen to a recent radio interview with Gayla Peevey by clicking here!)

This particular video was done by some clever character who posted it on YouTube. The first time I watched it, I laughed so hard I thought I was going to pee my pants!


The B C Clark Jingle: An Oklahoma Icon

>> Saturday, December 15, 2007

If you grew up in Oklahoma, you know what I'm talking about. It just isn't Christmas until you hear it! I remember as a kid, when I heard the jingle I would get all excited because that meant that Christmas was almost here!


Schlaf in Himmlisher Ruh

>> Friday, December 14, 2007

Silent Night in the original German by the St. Thomas Boy's Choir. It doesn't get any better than this.


Ice damage in Tulsa

>> Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Here are a couple of pictures from the ice storm in Tulsa. Most of the state was badly hit, and the President declared the entire state of Oklahoma a federal disaster area. Over 500,000 Oklahoma residents were left without power, including my parents, who live in Tulsa.


The Patriotism of Peace

We should take care, in inculcating patriotism into our boys and girls, that is a patriotism above the narrow sentiment which usually stops at one's country, and thus inspires jealousy and enmity in dealing with others... Our patriotism should be of the wider, nobler kind which recognises justice and reasonableness in the claims of others and which lead our country into comradeship with...the other nations of the world. The first step to this end is to develop peace and goodwill within our borders, by training our youth of both sexes to its practice as their habit of life, so that the jealousies of town against town, class against class and sect against sect no longer exist; and then to extend this good feeling beyond our frontiers towards our neighbours.

Lord Baden-Powell


Iced in

>> Monday, December 10, 2007

Last night we were hit with another of Oklahoma's famous ice storms which sock you in worse than any snow storm I ever encountered while living in Montana. By comparison, it's not all that cold, but the temperatures are sub-freezing, so that combined with a southern plains winter thunderstorm is the recipe for a slick, slippery coating of ice, that leaves the outdoor world looking sugared and gorgeous, but is treacherous to get out into.

Guess I have to stay home from work today.

Well, damn!


Another Animated Christmas Classic

>> Sunday, December 9, 2007


Favorite Christmas memories

>> Saturday, December 8, 2007

Some, if not most of my favorite childhood memories center around Christmas. As I said in an earlier post, my mother was extremely fond of holidays, most especially Christmas, and because of that, the whole household was thrown into the spirit, including my dad.

Dad could be a real nut sometimes--so much so that he often got on Mother's nerves, and it was often that we'd hear, "Oh Law-RENCE!", ringing through the house on those occasions when he was especially annoying to her. But my brother & sister and I loved it when he was silly. Dad was, (still is), a serious, hard-working, veterinarian and seldom took time off to play, so when he was in the mood to play and act silly, we enjoyed it.

One of the big Christmas traditions at our house centered around the wrapping and giving of presents. We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, and in the weeks preceding Christmas we would watch the presents pile up under the tree until they would literally spread out into the living room floor. Mother would always comment that the tree was looking "vulgar", and we'd all laugh. As Mother and Dad would buy presents, (they always shopped early), they would hide the gifts at Dad's veterinary clinic. I never learned where in the clinic the secret hiding place was, and it always amazed me that our presents didn't come home smelling like the clinic, as I knew that was where they were stashed, until Dad would wrap them, one-by-one and bring them home to put underneath the tree.

Dad's routine was to leave very early in the morning to go to the clinic to feed and medicate the animals, as well as clean the kennels and runs. He'd then return home around 7:00 a.m. when the family would eat breakfast together, and then he'd take us to school. During the Christmas season we'd eagerly listen for him as he came through the door that led from the garage into the utility room, and if he was singing "Jingle Bells" or some other silly Christmas song we knew that he had his arms loaded with presents to lay under the tree. We got to where when anyone would wrap a Christmas present and lay it under the tree, we'd say that they were "Jingle-Belling". My Dad started something that turned into a regular tradition at the Erwin house. One morning, we heard him coming through the door singing, but it wasn't "Jingle Bells". He was singing some silly song he'd heard on the radio, "Grandma got run over by a reindeer, walking home from our house Christmas Eve..." We all busted up, and Mother whined, "Oh, Law-RENCE!", as we rushed to the kitchen to see how many presents he had loaded up in his arms, jumping up-and-down and squealing with glee, as he ignored us while he made his way through our large kitchen to the living room where the tree stood in the front window.

To this day, I can't ever hear, "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" without thinking of my dad, and of course, the memories of my parents at Christmas always puts a smile on my face.


Happy Birthday, Sis!

>> Friday, December 7, 2007

I know yer lurkin', so here's a birthday fun from me to you! Have a great one!


Talk is cheap

>> Thursday, December 6, 2007

One of the most persistent ambiguities that we face is that everybody talks about peace as a goal. However, it does not take sharpest-eyed sophistication to discern that while everbody talks about peace, peace has become practically nobody's business among the power-wielders. Many men cry Peace! Peace! but they refuse to do the things that make for peace.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.


I'm from the Dr. Seuss generation...

>> Tuesday, December 4, 2007

...when the Grinch was a 1960's Christmas icon!


Hey, Monte, look what I found!

>> Monday, December 3, 2007


The Sounds of Christmas

>> Sunday, December 2, 2007

I have always been thankful that I grew up in a home that was constantly filled with music. In fact, many of my favorite childhood memories have music connected with them. My parents, although not professional musicians, were great lovers and appreciators of good music, and both of them sang in our church choir. Good music filled our home on a daily basis via the stereo or the radio, and all three of we kids took piano lessons and participated in our church and school music organizations. Two of us even ended up making music our life's vocation.

Around our house, holidays were always very special, mostly due to our mother and her love of them. Her favorite holiday was Christmas, and she went all out with the decorating, cooking, celebrating, and making merry. Our dad was usually the one who chose "background music" for our various seasonal celebrations. At Christmas I remember the sounds of the Montivani Orchestra, the Robert Shaw Chorale, and one of my very favorite albums was one of Tennessee Ernie Ford with the Robert Shaw Chorale. However, for me, it just wasn't Christmas until I heard Handel's Messiah. Messiah was probably my dad's absolute favorite work and every Christmas and Easter he'd get out his recording of it and we'd listen, once again, to the glorious sounds of "For Unto Us a Child is Born", "Every Valley", and, of course, the "Hallelujah Chorus". When I later went to college and majored in music, I would sing the work so often that by my sophomore year, I had it completely memorized, and now, as a professional musician, I can't even count the number of times I have performed this most beloved masterpiece.

Two Christmases ago, I sang the work, once again, with the Stillwater Chamber Singers, and had the honor of singing the aria, "O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion", which has always been one of my very favorites. The following recording is by a Japanese counter tenor by the name of Yoshikazu Mera, and it's probably one of the most incredible performances of the aria I've ever heard. Gotta get my Christmas Messiah fix!



>> Saturday, December 1, 2007

Imagine all the people living life in peace.
You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us,
and the world will be as one.

-- John Lennon


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