Category Archives: Music

Planning the Pageant

I always look forward to the MPR airing of the Festival of Nine Lessons  Carols from Kings College in Cambridge, England.   I have been in the chapel at Kings on a couple of occasions and sat in the choir stalls next the choir during an Evensong service.  This Sunday, our church is having its second annual performance of  Lessons and Carols, and I am really excited because I get to plan it.

Our bell choir director asked me to finalize the program for the service again this year.  She is more interested in the music than the lessons, and you have to take both into consideration when you plan the service.  The hymns and musical numbers need to reflect the meaning of the lessons. For example, the first lesson is about the Adam and Eve story, and the music that follows needs to reflect the Fall.  Hence, the musical number is will be that of the choir singing Lost in the Night, a mournful and serious (but kind of hopeful) Finnish Christmas carol.  The Kings service always starts out with a lone boy soprano singing the first verse, acapella, of Once in Royal David’s City.  We don’t have any boy sopranos, but we have a female high school Junior who has a pure and high voice and who is willing to give it a try.  Local people from other denominations will read the lessons, and our bell choir and vocal choir will perform songs.

Our church was founded by German immigrants, and is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  I am of German ancestry, but most of my relatives were members of the  Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.  For reasons too complicated to go into now, I was raised in a Norwegian Lutheran Church.  I adore Scandinavian hymns, and planning our Lessons and Carols gave me complete control over the hymns that the congregation will sing at the service.  I made a point of finding as many appropriate Scandinavian hymns as I could. These people need to be educated.

We will sing Swedish,  Norwegian, and Danish Christmas carols, ones I  loved as a child, but none of which we sing regularly in our church. Some include:

Bright and Glorious is the Sky (In Danish, De Jlig Er Den Himmel Bla)

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers (In Swedish Haf Trones Lamp Fardig)

Savior of the Nations, Come (A German hymn but popular in Norway)

I suppose this is sort of self-serving, but it is fun, and no one has complained yet.

What pageantry have you been a part of?  What are your  favorite carols?



Thirty Percent

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

In class the other day, the teacher said, “Thirty percent of your life is doing things you don’t want to do. If you’re lucky.”

What do you think? I think it’s probably high for me in general. I know I am very fortunate to do what I love and have my own schedule. I’ve managed to cut a lot of the stuff I don’t like out of my life.

You may recall I’ve talked about the week of Christmas concerts in December and it all just makes me grumpy. That would be a time where 80% of my life is not what I want. But wait! There are changes afoot! New (temp) music teacher. Concert completely revamped! Not exactly sure what’s going on yet… the secretary compares it to herding chickens. But at least it will be different! (We keep reminding ourselves Change is Good!)

Is 30% high or low in your life?

It’s Just Not the Same

Today’s post comes to us from Occasional Caroline.

Occasionally, I start writing a comment on the Trail and my comment gets so long that I think I should just make it a blog of its own. So here goes. This started out as a reply to the 11/7 Old Favorites post from BiR.

Something that happens quite a lot, is that I “discover” something in its early stages, when it’s free-to-inexpensive, and easy to get seats to. Then it grows and grows, until it’s expensive and you have to get tickets well in advance or buy a whole season if you want to get in at all, and finally it’s out of my price range and a long term commitment.

Two examples are Talking Volumes and the Music at the Zoo concerts. I know that if they hadn’t grown, they probably would have been gone long ago, but I liked being in the little group who appreciated what they did and the way they did it and that they appreciated everyone who was there and we knew it.

In the early years of Talking Volumes, they had 5 or 6 events per season and they were spread out between about September and May. Now there are 4 or 5 and they all fall between October and early December. Too much, too close together. It feels like a job to go and they commit a lot of seats to huge book clubs. It’s just not the same.

When my sister and I started going to concerts at the Minnesota Zoo, tickets were $12-$15 and the hard wooden bench seats were labeled for approximately 20 seats per row (that’s an arbitrary number as an example, I’m not sure of the actual numbers). Several years in, prices started going up but all the seats were still the same price and if you purchased early enough, you could get one of the boxes at the top of the amphitheater if you purchased all 4 seats in the box. You had a good view and a chair with a back. Then one year they renumbered the bench seats and a row that formerly had 20 seats, now had 25. Fine if everyone on the bench had a 12-inch or narrower rear-end, but pretty cramped if there are even 1 or 2 plus size folks in the row. And prices continued to rise. My sister started getting the standing room only passes which was a good deal and it was easy to decide at nearly the last minute to take in a show. Now, when you buy a SRO pass, you have to choose your concerts when you buy the pass. None of this is terribly out of line, but when you started when it was simple, spread out, and cheap, it’s just not the same.

I hope to discover some new start-ups to support until they price themselves out of my range. I did hit on a promising one with daughter #2 last Saturday. She lives in Lakeville and had spotted an interview with Lorna Landvik interviewing Lakeville’s own Loretta Ellsworth at the Lakeville Area Arts Center. Tickets were free and since we are big Lorna fans, she asked if I’d like to go with her. It was fantastic! The book Loretta had written (Stars Over Clear Lake) takes place partially in the 40s and features the Surf Ballroom. We were expecting a Talking Volumes-type event, which would have been fine, but this far exceeded our expectations. First, a chorus from a Lakeville high school performed a variety show of WWII-era music. They came out in different size groups, ranging from 1 to 20 members and almost all of them were excellent and all of them were well-rehearsed, enthusiastic, and charming young people. Then came the interview which was good and made you really want to read the featured book as well as Ellsworth’s earlier, young adult novels. Then, there was an excellent concert by the Hoplions Westwind Swing Band. They played a rousing set of big band, 40s tunes that was excellent. Great musicians and singers and a fun playlist. It was a wonderful show and we will keep an eye out for others like it in Lakeville, until they get to popular, too much in demand, and too rich for our blood.

 Anything just not the same for you anymore?

If It Is Worth Doing, It Is Worth Doing Badly

The title of this post is something allegedly said by Gustav Holst regarding amateur music groups  and church choirs taking on ambitious works to perform.

The recent musical performance at my church for Reformation/Confirmation Sunday is just what Holst was referring to.  Although we are a larger congregation and boast a lovely pipe organ and two fine organists, our choir is small and aging.  We have four first sopranos, four second sopranos, four altos, three tenors, and four basses.  (We suspect that at least half of the bass section can’t read music. They also have no sense of rhythm.)  Our big number was an  arrangement of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God  with a six person brass choir, timpani, anvil, snare drum, and two hand bell players.  The brass players and percussionists and were borrowed from the college, congregation,  and community. I think the percussion instruments came from the high school.

We worked on the choir parts for a few weeks, and then practiced once as a full ensemble the day before our performance. Our choir sits by the organ in the front of the church, facing the congregation.  The brass and percussion were wedged  behind the altar and pastors. The organ pipes were just above them.  Our organist for the performance likes to play really loud.  Strategically placed pillars  obscured the instrumentalists’ view of the conductor. (Some members once suggested that the pillars be removed to help with better visuals, but an architect in the choir said the building would fall down if we did that. ) Between the loud brass and percussion and the louder organ, it was very hard for anyone to hear one another.

It went just as you might imagine. When we were together, it was great. When we couldn’t hear, we just watched the conductor and hoped for the best.  Sometimes the trumpets hit their high notes; sometimes, well, they were close.  What was important was that the congregation loved it.  It was worth doing.  The young people who were confirmed may fall away from the church as many do, but by golly, they know they are Lutheran!

What endeavors in your life have been worth doing, albeit badly?


Birthday Boy!

Today is the birthday of our dear leader Dale!

We’ve talked here over the years of the gift that Dale has given us by starting the blog and setting a tone that we all appreciate.  Now let’s make a list of what gifts we would like to give Dale.

Here’s a poem for Dale’s birthday – although not quite up to the standards of Poet Laureate Tyler Schuyler Wyler.

You’re honest,
decent, lovable,
and truly are first rate.
You’re charming,
and clearly pretty great…

You’re dignified,
gracious, sweet,
and kind.
You’ve got a lot
of talent
and a wit that’s
hard to find.

You’re cleaver, cool,
and clean up really nice.
You’re worldly wise,
and wonderful
and full of good advice.

You’re fun
and entertaining,
not to mention
very smart.
You’re altogether awesome
and you’ve got a lot of heart!

What gift would you give Dale?

Music To Cook By

VS’s story about making pesto reminded me of the pesto fests that Husband and I had this month as we harvested the too large basil crop  in the garden.  Husband took the leaves off the stems, which I find to be the most tedious of chores, and I whirred up the ingredients in the food processor.  We ended up with 54 jars.

Husband has gout in one of his feet, and  he needs to shift his weight from one foot to the next pretty regularly if he has to stand for any length of time.  I figure that he stripped about 110 cups of basil leaves off the stems this year over three pesto making extravaganzas.  That meant a lot of standing at the sink. He said it would be easier for him if he had some music to listen to and shift his weight to as he took care of the basil.  He thought that Celtic music would be good for the purpose.  One evening we tried something by Clannad, but that was too dreamy and new age.  We finally settled on a disc by Danu, a group we heard once at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. He shifted and danced his way through the basil stems, and it wasn’t too tedious for him at all.

I listen to music as I do paper work for my job. I typically choose classical music for work.  We have music on most of the time at our house, and choose music accordingly for what we need to get done.

What music helps you work?