Saturday, December 11, 2010
Here to introduce today's Sunday Morning Gospel segment is our newest cat, Wesley. He looks a lot, but not quite, like Perry, my other large male tuxedo. Wesley has this to say about today's selections:
"Meow, meow, mer-gow, meow." ("This is some great old-time gospel music.")
Of course, "old-time" is relative, given that Wesley is only about two years old. We rescued him from the doorstep of our church--or, rather, a very kind couple rescued him, realized they couldn't afford to keep him, then contacted our pastor, Mary. Who, in turn, contacted us. He loves his new home, and we love having him here.
Wesley (named after Samuel) hopes you enjoy today's offerings.
To the music: Trouble in the Amen Corner--Various artists
TROUBLE IN THE AMEN CORNER--Archie Campbell, 1960.
A HANDFUL OF SUNSHINE--Stuart Hamblen, 1955.
PRAY--Hank Snow, w. Jordanaires, Rainbow Ranch Boys, 1958.
YOU BETTER GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND PRAY--Johnnie and Jack.
YOU CAN'T GET TO HEAVEN ON ROLLER SKATES--Betty Johnson, 1958.
LAUGHING SONG--The Cathedral Quartet, 1970.
GLORYLAND JUBILEE (B. Abner)--Blackwood Brothers Quartet, 1953.
BRIGHTEN THE CORNER WHERE YOU ARE (Gabriel)--The Browns, 1960.
RAIN, RAIN, RAIN--The Imperial Quartet.
THIS OLE HOUSE--Lenny Dee.
WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN (Gabriel-Habershon)--Pat Boone, 1957.
WILL THE CIRCLE... (Gabriel-Habershon)--The Blue Ridge Quartet.
Fresh 78 rips from my collection--mostly repeats, but sounding better than ever. Or less worse than ever. The "new" selections are the Marek Weber Trio's Song of Christmas (actually, O Holy Night) and Silent Night. I'm guessing about 1915 for the recording year--unfortunately, my 78 discography has no dates for American Odeon discs in this series (3000's). And you thought life sucked where you are.
Christians, Awake! was a holiday standard way back when--I'll have to dig out my copy to use for the church prelude. Also famous was Day of the Lord, by Conradin Kreutzer (1780-1849). My ears identified it as one of those artsy, anthem-style sacred songs from the early 1900s, but I was a good 50 or 60 years off. Oops.
Anymore, the hipper blogs are ignoring Christmas almost completely--not even the usual sarcastic mentions, or worst-holiday-song-of-all-time polls, etc. Maybe I'm not looking closely enough. But it really appears as if Christmas barely rates hate these days. The silence is kind of sinister, really. In the blogospheres, you have people like Ernie and me and many of the usual suspects celebrating the heck out of the holiday, and, meanwhile, barely a peep from those who are just so bored and offended by it all. It's almost like a necessary counterpoint has been removed.
To the 78s: More Holiday Shellac
SONG OF CHRISTMAS--Marek Weber Trio (U.S. Odeon 3024)
SILENT NIGHT, HOLY NIGHT--Marek Weber Trio (U.S. Odeon 3024)
CHRISTMAS SYMPHONY (F.X. Chroatal)--Prince's Orch., 1912.
CHRISTMAS CAROLS--Noel, God Rest Ye..., Christians, Awake!--Collegiate Choir, 1924.
DAY OF THE LORD (A CAROL SCENE) (Kreutzer)--Criterion Quartette, 1924.
MEMORIES OF CHRISTMAS--Prince's O. w. Contralto Solo and Male Quartette, 1918.
KIDDIES' PATROL--KIDDIES' DANCE--Brunswick Concert Band, 1920.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE MAN--Bessie Calkins Shipman, 1920.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
This 1929 gem was in a group of 78s I bought (on eBay) from England, and it's the best of the bunch, even next to William McEwan's His Eye Is on the Sparrow. It's an art song turned into a "descriptive ballad" via the addition of sound effects, dialogue, narration, and a closing hymn. The song itself--The Trumpeter--dates back to 1904, with text by J. Francis Barron and music by J. Airlie Dix. There's no describing it--you just have to listen. The sections are Reveille, The Battle, The Roll Call, and Epilogue.
Its pacifistic message fits perfectly with the holiday--the Prince of Peace version, that is, not the "pagan" one, in which the winter solstice is acknowledged sans any religious, cultural, or temporal context. Our "pagan" ancestors were purely logical sorts, you know, totally in tune with nature just for the sake of being so. Pagans popped up several centuries after the age of "cavemen," a period dominated by brutish, club-carrying humans who pointed at things and went "Ugh!" when trying to describe something.
But I digress. (This cold weather also has me congesting.) Anyway, the central message of peace on Earth is a Christmas theme if there ever was one, and so I offer up The Trumpeter for Christmas. Ripped from my almost-VG+ copy.
Oh, and the closing hymn is Henry W. Baker's O God of Love, O King of Peace (1861) to the tune of Rockingham.
To the mp3: The Trumpeter (1929)
The Trumpeter (Barron-Dix)--Raymond Newell, Baritone, and Ion Swinley, Narrator, With Military Band and Effects. (U.K. Columbia 9776; 1929)
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Sometimes I take off my blogger's cap and put on the composer's version. Unless I can't find it, in which case I'll grab the comment board cap or the Internet-connect-reboot cap. My desk looks funny with all these caps on it.
This piece is actually a celebration of my new Casio WK-3800 keyboard, an early Christmas present. Playing through the hundreds of patches, I felt the need to write some music for them. I know that people make fun of Casio, but this is one fabulous instrument. Seriously. My previous Casio had maybe ten decent sounds--this one boasts too many to count. And they're all tweakable. I'm about 1/4 of the way through learning this. The thing is beautifully designed, but the user's manual is the usual fragmented, flip-back-to-the-previous-section pain in the trunk. Three stops to find out how to load and play a SMF, for instance. That simple info should be centered in one spot and clearly headed. But do I obsess over any of this?
Meanwhile, Casio/PC interfacing is smooth as pie, with one exception: getting my music software to go with the Casio for MIDI input AND output. That required going into a menu and farting around until sound came in and out. It's very scientific. ("Ahhh... sound!")
There are seven parts to this suite, and much of the music is "live"--i.e., me playing in real time into my HP's Sound In, or whatever it's called. The rest is programmed. It shouldn't be too hard to tell the difference. For instance, the flubs in the first movement let you know I'm playing in person.
The distorted-guitar effect on "Happy Howlin' Day" was exactly, precisely, absolutely what I wanted, though I had to do that particular patch in real time--my program insisted on using some other, not nearly as good patch. Which is good, because I was able to finesse the lead line--to give it that draggy, bluesy sound I was copying. Pure Willie Johnson with Howlin' Wolf, circa 1951.
My method of composition consists of writing a section, getting it down and then recording it, then writing another section. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to patent this procedure.
Hope you enjoy: Midwinter Festival Suite (Hartsfeld, 2010)
PREPPING FOR THE HOLIDAYS
THE GREAT CRECHE CONTROVERSY
ANNOYING CAR ADS
NORTHERN SKY GODS
HAPPY HOWLIN' DAY
RING OUT THE SYNTH BELLS
(Lee Hartsfeld, live and otherwise, at Casio WK-3800, 2010)
Courtesy of Glenn Longwell, here's a little info about the Kiddie Land label: Kiddie Land. You'll have to scroll down a bit.
This 59-cent label debuted in March, 1949, I found out from the on-line Billboard archive. I don't know the date for today's disc, however. I do know that it's an unusually charming and well-produced children's record, and the picture sleeve is magnificent. The colors, especially, are gorgeous. A scanner would have done it greater justice.
The child-falling-asleep-and-traveling-to-Santa-Claus-Land theme has been used again and again--who knows how far it goes back? In such a story, the fantasized reality is truer than the waking version. The child finds his or her true self in the alternate Christmas Eve. This is the kind of old-fashioned offering that modern pop culture falls over itself to deride. You know, because we're so sophisticated today. I don't know how we can stand being so hip, I really don't.
To today's gem: Choo-Choo in Santa Claus Land
Narrated by "Uncle Joe" Boley, with Jeanne Roy and Bradley Bolke.; Orch. conducted by Al Rickey; Orginal score by Phil Wall. Early 1950s.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Absolutely gorgeous singing by the Lakewood, Ohio, High School Choirs of 1961--though, I feel I have a moral duty to warn you, the gorgeous public-school vocalizing in question is being applied to (gasp!!) Christmas carols. Which, I just read, have been banned from holiday concerts in the New Jersey School District of South Orange and Maplewood. This was decided back in the 1990s. The district is in the news because of a recent lawsuit against this decision. The lawsuit failed (of course), and Superintendent Brian Osborne is pleased that the no-carol policy survives. After all, that policy exists "to promote an inclusive environment for all students in our school community." (His words.) And what better way to honor cultural variety than by banning holiday songs from different countries and centuries? I can't think of any
But we're in Lakewood, Ohio, 1961, where no one was protecting our kids from annual public-school performances of Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head; O, Come All Ye Faithful; and the like. Travel back with me:
To the carols: Lakewood Sings--The Choirs of Lakewood High School--Lakewood, Ohio
NOW IS THE CAROLING SEASON--Senior Choir
JESUS, JESUS, REST YOUR HEAD--Senior Choir
A SPOTLESS ROSE--Senior Choir
CAROL OF THE BELLS--Senior Choir
CAROL OF THE DRUM (Davis)--Senior Choir
O COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL--Combined Choirs and Alumni
ALLELUIA--Combined Choirs and Alumni
THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU--Combined Choirs and Alumni
PRAISE WE SING TO THEE--Junior Choir
LET THY HOLY PRESENCE--Junior Choir
PRAISE TO THE LORD--Senior Choir
T.R. Evans and Ulah Gilmore--Directors. (Delta XCTV-82122/82123; 1961)
Seven freshly-ripped 1926-1927 78 rpm tracks, including five by Scottish evangelist William McEwan. Rounding out this short (but excellent) playlist--the B.B.C. Choir in Christ Church with fantastic versions of Onward, Christian Soldiers and Eternal Father, Strong to Save.
The first selection is a bonus--William McEwan's 1912 (or 1913) version of Will the Circle Be Unbroken, sounding as scratchy as ever.
To the shellac: William McEwan (1926-1927)
WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN? (Gabriel)--William McEwan, 1912 or 1913
HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW (Gabriel)--William McEwan, 1927
GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU (Martin), 1927
ONWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS--B.B.C. Choir in Christ Church, 1927.
ETERNAL FATHER, STRONG TO SAVE--B.B.C. Choir in Christ Church, 1927.
I'M GOING THROUGH, JESUS (Buffum)--William McEwan, 1926.
THE OLD RUGGED CROSS (Bennard)--William McEwan, 1926.