Posts Tagged ‘Music’


Wednesday, December 8th, 2010


Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

—John Lennon


Yahrzeit2John Lennon

Happy Little Working Song

Saturday, November 27th, 2010


Sometimes we put this piece of music on the CD player to jump-start our Saturday chores. Really, it ought to come with a warning label. I’m still singing it hours later when I’m walking the dog, or trying to write a letter.



Celtic Christmas

Monday, November 22nd, 2010


Today is the feast day of St. Cecilia, my saint-name-day (Sheila being the Irish form of Cecilia). St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music, a fact that has always pleased me—irrationally, considering I have no musical talent beyond the ability to sing lullabies relentlessly for hours to restless children.

Anyway, in honor of St. Cecilia, I post this tribute to a wonderful holiday concert that my husband and I attend every year with a group of friends: Celtic Christmas, at Dumbarton Church in Washington, DC. This concert is difficult to describe. It takes place by candlelight in a beautiful old church in Georgetown, and includes traditional seasonal music, unusual obscure pieces, and original compositions, which vary from year to year. The incredibly diverse Linn Barnes plays lute, guitar, banjo, harp-guitar, and Uillean pipes. Allison Hampton plays Celtic harp as if descended from on high to share the music of the spheres. Their performances are heightened and deepened by those of amazing flutist Joseph Cunliffe and percussionist Steve Bloom.

Pieces are interspersed with Barnes’ anecdotes both serious and humorous providing historical background (here is a man serious about music). Other pieces are accompanied by Robert Aubry Davis reading evocative seasonal poetry and prose that he researches especially for the concert (here is a man serious about literature).

This annual event sweeps us into the spirit of a joyful yet poignant Christmas. We depart expecting to step out into softly falling snow, listening for sleigh bells, the call of the heavenly host, and the distant howl of a wolf.

CakeDaisiesAunt Marge


Yahrzeit2John Fitzgerald Kennedy

For He Is An Englishman

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Today is the birthday of humorous librettist, dramatist, and director W.S. (William Schwenck) Gilbert (1836-1911), a man who knew how to make a line scan perfectly. It makes singing his verses so very satisfying.

In his honor, I post these sketches from a fabulous performance of The Mikado, probably Gilbert and Sullivan’s best-known and most often performed comic opera. This one took place at the Pittsburgh Public Theater a few seasons back.

The “Japanese” names, like the nonsensical G&S plots and their occasionally offensive point of view, must be taken, like most forms of entertainment, in historical context—this one, that of a supremely confident 19th-century colonial power. It’s still fun.


Hungry for music

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Today is the birthday of passionate and controversial itinerant poet Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931), and I post in his honor this poem, along with a sketch of a lone violinist my daughter and I encountered this summer during an evening stroll through downtown Charlottesville.


Hungry for music with a desperate hunger
I prowled abroad, I threaded through the town;
The evening crowd was clamoring and drinking,
Vulgar and pitiful—my heart bowed down—
Till I remembered duller hours made noble
By strangers clad in some suprising grace.
Wait, wait, my soul, your music comes ere midnight
Appearing in some unexpected place
With quivering lips, and gleaming, moonlit face.

—Vachel Lindsay

Heavenly Strings

Friday, November 5th, 2010


One of the numerous advantages of homeschooling is accompanying one’s children on field trips. Recently we attended a performance by amazing violinist Karen Briggs and her back-up combo. The concert, one of a series organized for school groups, was held in the Kennedy Center’s Jazz Club, which is set up with cafe tables and chairs rather than rows of seats, and intimate enough that Briggs could chat with us informally between pieces (and that I could see her well enough to sketch). She played for us a range of pieces, and her fiery interpretations and improvisations, drawing on classical, jazz, gospel, African, and Middle Eastern traditions, mesmerized and dazzled the audience, many of whom, it turned out, were young violinists. Briggs has played in concert halls all over the world and is probably best known for her work with keyboard artist Yanni. We all departed with stars in our eyes.



Opera Look-In

Friday, October 15th, 2010


Each year the Washington Opera presents “Opera Look-In,” at the Kennedy Center Opera House to educate children about opera. The program presents opera in a highly accessible manner, combining storytelling, brief scenes in costume, and selected arias (accompanied by the full Opera House Orchestra!) with behind-the-scenes explanations of the use of lighting, music, costumes, and props. School groups attend from all over the Washington, DC area, including homeschool groups—lucky us.

Last year the program revolved around the opera Carmen, and included an exhibition of costumes created by fashion design students at Duke Ellington School for the Arts. This year’s program featured Ellington School students supposedly lost in an opera house, encountering as if by accident scenes from The Barber of Seville, Madame Butterfly, Lucia di Lammermoor, The Magic Flute, and (big crowd-pleaser) Cosi Fan Tutte. It’s not easy to sketch in the dark, and by the end I gave up and settled back to enjoy the humorous last quintet.

To engage an auditorium packed with elementary school students is no easy task, and the kids were riveted. I wonder how many go home and ask their parents to rent Cosi Fan Tutte so they can see the rest of the story.

Sunset Serenade at the Zoo

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

This is a heads-up that the LAST National Zoo Sunset Serenade of the summer takes place tomorrow night—Thursday, August 5th (weather permitting), from 6:30 to 8pm. If you have never attended any of these free outdoor concerts, then this is your last chance (this summer, anyway) to pack a picnic dinner and join the fun on Lion-Tiger Hill. The evening usually ends with spontaneous barefoot dancing. According to the Zoo website, tomorrow’s group is The Grandsons, performing from their WAMMIE Roots Rock-winning albums.


Magic House of Music

Saturday, May 29th, 2010


For two years my daughter has been taking piano lessons from the artistic and ever-cheerful Emily, whose birthday it is today. And so I post a sketch of Emily’s house, one of the secret magic places in the Federal City—a green and flowery bower even in the whiteness of winter, colorful with painting, sculpture, and pottery from her hand and her travels, cozy with paisley and pillows, and suitably furnished: baby grand in the corner, dog napping on his pillow, cat queening it on the windowsill. To repose here through the Wednesday lesson is to enjoy a brief weekly vacation from stress.

Now it’s time for some music: Happy birthday, dear Emileeee, happy birthday to you!