Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘music

Lifting Spirits

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Amid the glut of dramatic economic distress and virus fears in the news every minute, there continue to appear glimmers of calm and inspiration. I can’t add any words to enhance the wonderful a cappella collection of student voices from Rome singing a Crosby, Stills, & Nash song that has been in my repertoire since the early days of my acquiring an acoustic guitar. They deserve your full attention.

Hat tip to Howard Rheingold for pointing me to this gem.

Claim a few minutes from the calamities of your day to sit and enjoy this. It is a worthy distraction.

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I’m going to find it difficult to sing this song alone from now on after having watched them.

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Written by johnwhays

March 27, 2020 at 6:00 am

Look Ahead

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Take a break from the growing fear and uncertainty embedded in the crest of this pandemic wave rolling across the globe and look ahead to the day when it will be a block of time in history. Turn off the news. There will be updated reports awaiting you in the morning. Check those and then get on with your day.

There will be a day when you once again get to hug those you love. Look forward to those moments.

My friend, David Keiski wrote a song about it and performs in this video he created for us all to enjoy at a safe distance. Let his words ring across the world!

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Don’t be embarrassed about deciding to set it on “repeat.”

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Written by johnwhays

March 22, 2020 at 8:50 am

Celebrating MacPhail

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Last night we met Cyndie’s parents downtown in Minneapolis again, this time at MacPhail Center for Music, where our daughter, Elysa, is Manager of Student Services. It was MacPhail’s annual appreciation dinner for supporters, which included a couple of award presentations and showcased some incredible student musician performances.

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Board members even showed off their singing chops with an enthusiastic rendition of a holiday classic, to which I’ve already lost the memory of the title. Student music performances included a group of harpists, an electronically enhanced cello and flute duet, a pair of powerful young singers with opera voices, a demonstration of a typical group lesson for beginning young cellists, and a smooth couple of songs from their Dakota Jazz Combo ensemble.

I’m a little biased, but the highlight for me was visiting Elysa’s office while we were there and seeing that she has Beatles figures staged in her bookshelf. It was also a treat to witness a glimpse of her workplace in action and meet some of the people she works among.

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One additional surprise bonus was the unlikely chance sighting of a fellow Tour of Minnesota cyclist, John Toomey, who also happens to be a MacPhail student and often uses rehearsal space there. What are the odds we would cross paths in the short time we both happened to coincidentally be near the main entry last night? I would say, long.

We are proud of Elysa’s many years of contributing to the success of an organization that is improving the world via music, “transforming lives and strengthening communities through exceptional music learning experiences that inspire.”

It certainly inspired me, providing hope that good will triumph over evil from the transformations MacPhail is producing in so many lives.

Music makes the world go ’round, and MacPhail is making sure the world will keep spinning.

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Written by johnwhays

December 6, 2019 at 7:00 am

Enchanted Evenings

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There is something extra special about simply spending time among friends for no other reason than the treasure of being together.

My good friend, Himalayan trekking partner, and fellow annual Tour of Minnesota bicycler, Gary Larson biannually hosts gatherings for dinner and music with long-time friends at his home. This past Saturday was our most recent celebration of food and tunes, with more than a few story-jokes that elicit as many groans as chuckles.

It is a priceless event to be a part of.

The food was divine. I’ve never met a stew served by Gary that I didn’t absolutely love. This time I was reduced to demanding a recipe. Not because I would be able to make any use of it, but Gary knew that and presented a printed copy for me to give Cyndie.

I thought it was the dijon mustard that provided the irresistible flavor I savored but Gary quickly corrected me that a second mustard ingredient is what I was tasting.

After dinner, a few of us bring out our guitars, banjos, and an occasional mandolin and delve into the depths of our memories to resurrect a variety of occasionally sing-along-able songs from years gone by. It truly does make for some precious enchanted evenings.

 🎵  look what Gary has created

he’s done it again

gathered all of us together

to feast among friends

then we revel with some music

and lush sing-alongs

well maybe not so lush

we can’t remember the songs  🎵

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Hail, hail, our friend Gary!

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Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

Out Again

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Feeling quite the bon vivant event-goers of late, last night we found ourselves out on the town again. We took a chance with our chickens and left their coop access door open long after dark in order to head downtown to Minneapolis for dinner and a concert with Cyndie’s brother, Ben.

Highest accolades shout-out to Mercy restaurant for superb food, great service, and fine ambiance.

Oh my gosh, the salmon and fixings were sublime. Shared bites from Cyndie’s and Ben’s plates revealed their choices were just as good.

Conveniently, the restaurant was just steps away from the State Theater where Ben had tickets for a solo acoustic concert by guitarist, Trey Anastasio. I am most familiar with Trey’s electric guitar artistry on his self-titled album, but I’m sure he is better known for his role in the rock band, Phish.

I’ve seen plenty of performances that were advertised as “acoustic” but stretched the definition to a variety of degrees. Trey’s show held reasonably close to the genre.

Our seats in the balcony placed me appropriately between two levels of interested fans. There were two guys behind me who I assume came with dates who were in love with the guitarist. These guys decided to have a full-voiced conversation about the mundane, …about one of their dads, something down in a basement, how the truck was performing… in the middle of some fascinating finger movement across frets.

Two people in front of us were being moved to the highest levels of euphoria upon hearing the opening notes of every song, unable to keep their hands from floating into the air in joyous rapture, occasionally rising to their feet to dance, as if powerless to resist the bliss unleashed by the connection their minds provided to the Phish song Trey was acoustically covering.

I couldn’t join the Phish faithful in singing along, because I didn’t know the lyrics, but I was thrilled to be witnessing the live-performance virtuosity of such an accomplished musician.

It made it easy for me to overcome the urge to turn around to tell the guys about my deck and the power tools I was learning to use in replacing all the rotting cedar boards with new green-treated two-by-sixes.

As our car barreled east on I94 through St. Paul after the show, a call came in from Ben. He just wanted to let us know he was a few blocks from home already and wondered how we were doing. Funny guy. We had about 40-minutes left to get to Beldenville.

Happily, I found the chickens all safe and sound on their roost, cooing at my arrival to close the door.

Another smashing success of a night out on the town. Thanks, Ben!

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A Weakness

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When there is a Ken Burns documentary on PBS, I seem to lose my ability to turn away. And when it is a series of 8 two-hour episodes over two weeks, my nights vanish in a blink.

Last night, I barely noticed the storm that rolled over us because I was fixated by episode 7 of “Country Music.” Luckily, we didn’t need to move to the basement for cover.

I never considered myself a “fan” of country music as presented by radio stations, but the portions of this epic documentary that I have seen in the prime time broadcasts this week and last are showing me how much of the music that I do like is interrelated. The performing artists, songwriters, and recording engineers frequently cross over the artificial boundaries created by radio stations and record companies intended to compartmentalize their “product” and maximize profits.

The music that works the best for me comes from the fringes of Country Music where there is more artistic control and less broad commercial appeal.

In general, I could say I have a weakness for Ken Burns’s documentaries, but this one on the subject of a particularly American style of music, much of which has occurred in my lifetime, is almost overpowering in its demand for my attention.

I hope the universe will forgive me for getting nothing productive accomplished while this show is making its broadcast debut.

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Written by johnwhays

September 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Remembering Woodstock

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Ten years ago, on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, I wrote a blog post musing about how that event influenced my taste in music. In honor of reaching the milestone of 50 years hence, I’m going to re-post those thoughts once again…

Have I mused on music already here? I don’t remember.

It was 40 years ago now that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held. Three days of peace and music. I was 10 years old. I don’t have any recollection that I had any clue it was occurring.

I’m not clear about what point in my life it was that I got hooked by the music being made by artists like the ones that were so well represented at the Woodstock concert. The first album that belonged to me was a gift from a sibling or siblings (anyone remember?). It was the Monkees, “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. That album was released in November of 1967, so maybe I got it Christmas of that year. I remember they pranked me with the trick where they taped the album to the cover of the box the present was wrapped in so when I lifted it and looked in the box, there was nothing there.

The next record I recall getting was one that my sister, Linda, allowed me to select for myself, as a gift from her. I didn’t have a clue what to pick and went with what I saw before me when walking the aisle of the local record store. Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” was something that I recognized as having heard on the radio and it was in the front of a stack down at my eye level. I picked it and remember her trying hard to make sure that was what I wanted. I’m pretty sure she could sense it was not a well thought out selection. But I held firm, trying to portray that I was making an informed decision. I wasn’t.

Eventually, I came to revere the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The first concert I ever saw in person was The Allman Brothers Band. I was a fan of The Beatles, Derek & the Dominos, America, Loggins & Messina and a wide range of related groups. I have always liked live recordings and I think my favorite albums from all the above artists or groups are their live concert recordings.

     Impressionable years

Somewhere in my very impressionable music years, I heard the live recordings of Santana, The Who, Richie Havens, Country Joe & the Fish, Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joe Cocker, John Sebastion, and I’m sure others who performed at Woodstock, and those songs all locked in my consciousness as foundation blocks.

I probably heard them on the soundtrack of the documentary film released after the concert. From those songs, I built a fascination for Leon Russell and records like Mad Dogs & Englishmen, The Band, “Rock of Ages” and “The Last Waltz”, Little Feat, “Waiting for Columbus”, George Harrison and the musicians he recruited for “Concert for Bangladesh”.

This wasn’t music that was played on popular radio (remember the AM band?). This is what record albums and FM radio were all about. Eventually, I got a job at a retail record store for about a year and became immersed in more albums than I could comprehend.

I wasn’t old enough to be aware that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was happening at the time, but later, it became a very significant part of my music world because of the recordings made there. And the music that was made there came from the spirit of that moment. Woodstock was a very important event for me, after the fact.

Increasingly more so, in the accumulating years following that August weekend back in 1969.

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Written by johnwhays

August 20, 2019 at 6:00 am