My Go-To Tunes: Musical Memories

Sometimes, I’m going through life doing something completely mundane when all of a sudden my brain becomes aware of a song and I’m instantly transported to a different place and time. This happened yesterday as I was completing an overdue monthly expense report for my employer. I heard the high hat and the keyboards and started bopping in my chair. In came the bass, and I turned up the volume on my headphones without even realizing what I was doing. I started singing the first chorus before I became aware of the sound coming out of my mouth.

Sidebar – this happens all the time, much to the annoyance of my former cubicle neighbors when I used to work in the cube farm. “I’m sure you think you have a lovely voice, but it’s very distracting when you sing at your desk.” Um, well, I actually do have a good voice, but most of the time when I’m singing at my desk at work, I really don’t notice that I’m doing it. I’ll try not to listen to music but you screaming into  your phone is a distraction too! Is it any wonder I didn’t last there?

Back to the story…

When this happened yesterday, I was transported from my home office in Waterford, New York, USA, to the house on Mirramar Park in Blackmans Bay, Tasmania, Australia. I was sixteen years old in September 1990 when my host brother, Mike, blared the song at 6:45 AM and yelled at me to get out of bed. I remember the moment because it was one of the few mornings I did not get up before Mike to get ready for school.

This memory sparked another memory – February 15 is Mike’s birthday! A glance at the clock and some quick calculations and I realized it was already February 15 in Australia. I left a quick note on Mike’s Facebook page, sharing my musical memories and birthday wishes. He replied this morning (well, morning for me but I’m guessing he’s heading to bed).

Denise – You are AWESOME! I still absolutely love that song!!! i will play it tomorrow to my 3 daughters in your honour! I love how the bass line kicks in half way through the bar on the off beat…gold!

I love that music can be a universal language, connecting me to friends and family who happen to be on the other side of the world. Some people associate memories with food or scents. I know someone whose memories are triggered by clothes. But my memories have always been sparked by music.

The song that served as my memory spark this time was Modern Times by Daryl Braithwaite. Included on his album Rise, it is a staple on my “Aussie Tunes” playlist. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, but yesterday I was struck by the second verse. Though the song was released twenty-seven years ago, the lyrics are still relevant.

Somebody pulls the trigger, while somebody waits to get hit

Somebody freezes in the winter, and I’m complaining about the heat

Nobody listens these days, though they’ve all got something to say

I’m singing songs about waiting, and you’ll come back some day

Now I need to go listen to the song again. You can listen to it too, in honor of Mike’s birthday.

Something Not Rotten At All!

If you are a regular reader, you know I love Broadway musicals. For me, there is nothing like escaping from reality for three hours while a talented group of musicians and actors transports you to another world where people burst into spontaneous song and dance.

Some friends and I have been season ticket holders for the Broadway Series at a local theater for several years. We have seen great performances without needing to take the three hour train ride to New York City. Each year, we speculate about what shows might be featured in the coming season. As soon as we heard about Something Rotten! we put it on our list of “must sees” and hoped the tour would stop here. So we were all excited last year when it was announced that Something Rotten! would be part of this year’s offerings. I had hoped to see the show in New York City, but knew that wasn’t going to be possible once I broke my leg last year and travel became more difficult.

Because things have been very busy these past two months, and since I spent most of December withdrawn from the world due to my father’s death, I missed much of the publicity about the show. I also did not take any time to research the cast or read reviews, something I normally do. I knew the show would be funny, based on this sneak peek from the 2015 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That was all I really needed to know.

Since I did not pay attention to any of the pre-show press, I was surprised when I entered the theater and saw Adam Pascal’s name on the cast list. To say I have had a mild infatuation with Adam for more than twenty years is like saying some cats like catnip. Not sure who Adam Pascal is? Maybe you’ve heard of a little musical from the mid-1990’s called Rent? You know, the one with the the song upon which I based Thursday’s blog post? Yeah – that show! Adam was the original Roger. He’s since gone on to star in other shows, such as Aida, Memphis and Disaster!

Let me put aside my obsession feelings toward Adam and offer my opinion on the show. It was FUNNY! You don’t have to be a Broadway musical geek to enjoy the show. But if you are? You’ll love it! I tried to count the many musical and lyrical references to other musicals and gave up after thirteen. Cats, Evita, The Fantasticks, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Sweeny Todd, Rent, South Pacific, Annie – the list goes on and on. I know I missed things because I was laughing, which only makes me want to see it again. If the show is coming to your city, I recommend you go. Three hours of fun and laughter, song and dance, plus a hot man who can sing who struts around with his shirt open for part of the show! Who can’t use that right now?!

While I loved the show, the highlight of my day happened after the final curtain. Knowing we had time to wait before the bus home, I told my friends I was going to try to get to the stage door for an autograph. Believe it or not I have only waited at the stage door after a show once before – when my friend Lauren’s brother Matt Meigs was in town with the tour of Mary Poppins. (Matt is currently performing in Holiday Inn and you should absolutely go and see the show if you are in New York!)

I held back as the crowds cleared the lobby outside the stage door, scoping my best course of action. After a few minutes, it became clear who was still trying to get out of the theater and who was waiting for autographs. I stealthily rolled around the crowd, doing my best to avoid running over toes while gradually inching my way between people until I was at the front, to the right of the stage door. I was just in time because once I got into prime position, the door opened and the first cast member walked out.

I waited patiently, preserving my space by occasionally moving my feet from side to side so nobody stepped in front of me. Then Adam came out and was greeted with loud acclaim. I was the first person he saw before people started shoving Playbills in his face. He autographed Playbills for everyone, graciously accepting their compliments and posing for photos as he turned towards me. When it was my turn, I simply smiled and handed over my Playbill as he leaned over and said, “Let me take care of this young lady.” Swoon!

He continued to stand next to me, signing Playbills and taking photos, thanking everyone for coming. I told him there was no way I could move out of his way because of the crowd.  “Oh, no, don’t move. You’re helping to give me space!”

Who said a wheelchair wasn’t useful?! I totally played the disabled card to get to the door, and it worked! When he was done, I moved out of the center of the crowd, which gave him a path so he could get to other people. Free from the crush, I finally brought out my phone and asked for a photo – which is how this came to be.

Selfie of a white man with blond hair and goatee next to a white woman with glasses and brown hair. The pair are smiling and are back-lit by hallway fluorescent lights.

Sure, the lighting is not perfect. But I got a photo! This theater geek is a happy girl indeed.

Sometimes, when we meet the people we admire, we are disappointed because they don’t behave the way we think they will. Or, perhaps they are rushed for time or having a bad day and the encounter is not what we wished for. Yesterday, I had the best celebrity encounter I could have imagined. Adam was kind, generous, gracious and appeared genuinely appreciative of the fans who waited to meet him.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go listen to the Something Rotten! soundtrack yet again to see if I can catch more of those musical references. Feel free to stay and drool over that smile for as long as you like!

30 Days of Thanks Day 7 – Guest Post by Carryl Robinson

Today’s post is written by Carryl Robinson. Carryl and I “met” in an online writing group where we connected over a shared love of music and hockey. Besides writing, what else do you need? Carryl’s writing fills me with hope and makes me consider how I can make my own writing more lyrical. I was thrilled when she agreed to be one of my guests during this year’s 30 Days of Thanks. You can read more of Carryl’s work by visiting her blog, Echoes From The Cave, or by following her on Twitter @CarrylRobinson

For Lynn
(With Gratitude)

It began with sorrow, a gift from a dear friend who was moving half a continent away.  A business card emblazoned with a treble clef staff, and, peering through the “spaces” of the staff, a pair of eyes.  I felt them pierce through me, as if the person connected to that drawing already knew everything there was to know about me. Vocal Eyes Music, the card read. Lynn Skinner.

“I think you’ll like working with Lynn,” my friend told me. I didn’t even question her; I had learned to trust Susan’s instincts over the years of our friendship.  I called Lynn the very next day, my first voice lesson scheduled within the fortnight.

Lynn’s studio is calming and restful, with few distractions.  It feels like my favourite hoodie, a warm sunny spot on a winter afternoon, and a hot cup of tea all rolled into one.  On one wall, however, there is a photograph of a man.  He is obviously seated and he is studying an object in the foreground. It is the neck of a guitar.  The photograph had been taken from behind the guitarist, the man’s gaze was fixed, laser-like, on the guitarist’s hand and the neck of the guitar.  I was transfixed.

“It’s Pablo Picasso with the uncles of the Gypsy Kings,” she told me.

What manner of voice teacher has a photograph of a painter and a guitarist on her wall?  And why did I have such a hard time tearing my eyes away from that image?

I don’t know what Lynn recalls about our first meeting, but I remember feeling I had absolutely no business being in her studio at all.  I knew my breath control was abysmal.  I knew my voice was good enough for choral singing, and perhaps the occasional musical offering at church, but it was nothing special.  This pixie of a woman, this dynamo, this miracle worker who had given Susan her voice back was going to have her work cut out for her working with me.  I was a hopeless case.

And so we began.

It all begins with the breath.  Don’t let anything impede the flow of the breath.

When my beloved father died, very unexpectedly, I spent the entire hour in Lynn’s studio, sitting on the carpet, tears sheeting down my face. Breathe.  Just breathe.  She played the piano while I struggled to take the next breath, and the one after that.  And when I started holding my breath, in a futile effort to control pain and loss: Keep breathing.

Other lessons followed.

Singing seems to lead your writing, and sometimes your writing leads your singing.  Let’s work with that.

So she has me to write things.  What does it mean to live life in an open key?  Tell me about artistic alchemy.  She has me to experiment with colour and form as I listen to a much-loved guitar piece.  She invites me to play with sound, with melody.  I begin to learn to fly, even if my wings are under-used and weak, even if I think I cannot.  She invites me to show up, to put more of myself into song.

The Wailin’ Jennys, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, The Secret Sisters, The Indigo Girls, K.D. Lang, Sarah McLachlan, what do they have in common?  Why do you like to sing their music?

They’re all storytellers, I tell her.  I love songs that tell a story.  Start there.  Tell me a story.

And so I write a backstory for the narrator of “Angel from Montgomery” and I improvise a narration that fits “Bye Bye Blackbird,” and in the creation of both, I find the music shimmers every so subtly and takes on a different vibrancy.

I cringe and shake my head when I mess up a warm up exercise, when my fledgling efforts to improvise end up in a convulsing heap on her studio floor.  There are no mistakes in music.  Only time.

As an adult, how do I learn how to play?  I think it’s more accurate to say we have to remember how to play.

And I begin to learn to be patient with melody.  I begin to learn to be patient with story.  And miracle of miracles, I begin to learn to be patient with myself.

Slowly, sometimes painfully so, I am learning the lesson of the painter and the guitarist and the photographer and the voice coach who harbours them in her studio.  Because art, like life itself, is a gift, and gratitude seems the only response my heart is capable of offering.

My Go-To Tunes: Go Me!

Happy belated anniversary! Oh, you missed it too? Don’t worry. So did I.

Two years ago, on September 7, 2014, I swallowed my fears and hit “publish” for the very first time. I had no idea my little personal writing blog would grow. I thought maybe I’d get 50 followers, with most of them being friends and family. I worried people would laugh at my writing, or question me when I claimed to be a writer.

Well, look at little DeeScribes now! I’ve succeeded at this writing adventure!

  • 268 posts
  • 18,181 views (I love this palindromic number)
  • 9,428 visitors
  • 287 followers

Last year, I was encouraged to set blogging goals and I jokingly responded that I’d have 300 followers by the end of 2016. I never thought I would be this close to reaching the goal by September!

Thank you for sticking with me as I follow my writing dreams. Your words of encouragement, particularly this year, have sustained me when I was ready to crawl in a corner and withdraw. You honor me by taking some of your precious time to read my writing, and I appreciate the gift of your comments and feedback.

To celebrate our anniversary, I’m sharing a very “Dee Song.” Yes, it’s a real thing.  Just ask my friends. Don’t believe me?

Ten years ago, while I was nursing yet another broken heart, my college roommate Chris sent me some music to make me smile. This song, “Supergirl” by Saving Jane, was one of the songs on the CD,  and when I told her I loved it, Chris told me it was a very “Dee Song.” See – I told you so.

“Supergirl” has been my phone ring tone for the past four years. It is a fixture on my Friday afternoon “move it” playlist. I use it whenever I need a reminder that I am flirty, fabulous, and fantastic. I searched for an official video, but the live versions I found were not as easy to understand as the original recorded version. You don’t need to watch the video, just listen to the song.

Happy two years!

My Go-To Tunes: Summer Songs

The weather in upstate New York is lovely this week. We have had several bright, sunny days and the temperatures are warmer. The tulips are colorful and each morning the smell of lilacs embraces me as I walk outside. Summer is coming and I already know what my song for summer 2016 will be.

I heard Justin Timberlake’s new song “Can’t Stop the Feeling” for the first time last Friday afternoon. Rarely do I purchase a song after the first listen, and I’ve never purchased anything by Justin, but this song screams, “Dee Song!” If you haven’t heard it yet, you should give it a listen – even if you’re not a Justin fan. Just be prepared to start bopping and grooving in your car, at your desk, or wherever you may be.

Trust me, this will be THE song of the summer. My only fear is I will grow sick of it before July. I don’t think that will happen. If it does, I guess I will just have to pick another summer song.

My Go-To Tunes: Earworms

Earworm: a catchy song or tune that runs continuously through a person’s mind

It started earlier today in a Facebook group message with my friends Tonia and Roslynn. In the middle of a discussion about disillusionment (say those three words together fast – it’s fun!), Roslynn typed:

Ruined for life.

And I’ll have you know FB autocorrected ruined to rhinestone.

That’s all it took. The earworm was there, stuck in my brain on auto-play.

For five hours now, I have been singing “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Yes, that classic country song written by Larry Weiss and released in 1975 by Glenn Campbell.

In my head. The. Entire. Afternoon.

What makes it worse is that it’s not just the chorus stuck in my head. Oh no! I have been singing the entire song in my head. Over and over.

You see, this song used to be a favorite of mine – when I was three or four years old. I had an orange plastic rocking horse with blue hair. I named him Filbert. I rode Filbert in my red plaid shirt, blue jeans and cowboy hat, singing along with “Rhinestone Cowboy” as it played on the stereo in my parent’s living room. I knew all the words. I’ve always been good at remembering song lyrics.

So, today all it took was the prompt from Roslynn to start the tune. I tried to get rid of it by introducing other music. I pulled up my ‘No Holiday’ playlist on my iPod thinking I could ride the stupid sparkling cowboy off my mental range. Sting, Carole King, Sheryl Crow, Bruce Springsteen, Midnight Oil, New Order, Pearl Jam – yes, that is what played. I have eclectic tastes.

None of those other songs worked. It’s still there.

What do you do when an earworm refuses to leave? You share it!

Don’t thank me. Thank Roslynn.

 

My Go-To Tunes Christmas Edition Volume 2

One of my most successful posts last year was this one featuring ten of my favorite Christmas carols. Selecting just ten was a difficult process. I thought it would be fun to feature an additional ten this year. Consider it part of my present to you.

The songs are not “ranked” or listed in a particular order. I have done my best to search YouTube for videos so you can hear the songs if you wish. For “classic” songs not performed by the songwriter, I have indicated the artist.

Silent Night/Night of Silence

Silent Night was composed by Franz Gruber to lyrics written by a young Austrian priest named Joseph Mohr. It was originally performed in 1818 on Christmas Eve. Fitting, as it is often sung slowly as a beautiful lullaby, even though Gruber’s notes indicate it is to be played in 6/8 time instead of 3/4. I included the link to this video of his original version performed by Innsbrucker Capellknaben so you can hear the difference. Gruber did not write the song for harp, but I did not find any good videos with guitar. It is always interesting to hear how music changes as more people interpret a song over time.

I first heard Night of Silence when I performed it with a choir in college as part of our yearly festival of songs. Written by Daniel Kantor, this song is what is known as a quodlibet – a partner song that can be sung simultaneously with another song (you can thank me for that Scrabble word later). This version, by St. Olaf’s Choir, illustrates how this is achieved. Whenever I sing Silent Night out loud, I am hearing Night of Silence in my head; and when I am alone I usually choose to sing the latter.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

When I was growing up, attending St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church with my parents and older sisters, I knew it was Advent when this song was the opening hymn at mass. In the Catholic Church, Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year and starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a season of expectation and waiting in preparation of the birth of Christ at Christmas. As a child, singing this song at the start of mass meant Christmas was really coming – in less than five weeks! I associated it with many secular activities such as baking cookies, decorating and shopping for presents. Once I was older and took the time to really listen to the words of the hymn, I recognized the hope and promise included within them. Not only do we ask for God’s presence here among us, but we celebrate in the certainty that He will come. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

I first heard The Piano Guys while my sister Mary Jane, a talented violinist and dedicated music teacher, was undergoing treatment for brain cancer. I sent her a video, asking if she had seen them. She replied saying she had, and she was hoping they would do a Christmas album. In 2013, two years after her death, they did release a Christmas album, and every time I listen to it I think of her.

Ding! Dong! Merrily on High

This carol, with English words by George Ratcliffe Woodward set to a French dance tune from the 1500’s, was new to me when my piano teacher, Roberta, gave me a book of Christmas carols as a present in seventh grade. It quickly became a favorite and I asked her if I could play it the following year when she coordinated a Christmas recital for her students. The piano at my parents’ house shared space in “the piano room” with my mother’s sewing machine. Most of the time, Mom did not work if I was practicing. But there were times when she was busy with her sewing jobs and needed to be in the room while I was practicing. Mom is a singer, like me, and would hum or sing along with the music as I played. She liked the melismatic nature of the tune – with the “oh” syllable in “Gloria” being stretched across several notes in succession. I always think of her and I together in the piano room when I hear this song. To me, it sounds best when sung by a choir with an organ accompanying. Enjoy this version by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

This song, written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, makes my list this year because of my best friend Stephanie. This is one of those songs that makes me think of her, no matter where or when I hear it. We were not quite teenagers when this song was released in 1984, and MTV had just come to our hometown. In addition, we had Friday Night Videos and USA Up All Night. This meant we never actually slept at “sleep-overs.” We stayed up in front of the television all night watching music videos. This video was excellent because in one clip we got to see all the music stars we liked – Wham!, Duran Duran, Sting, Paul Young and more. We would remind ourselves who was coming up in the next frame, making comments as we ate chips or popcorn in our pajamas. “Do you think they ever let Phil Collins out from behind the drum kit to sing?” “Do you think Sting asked to sing the lyric with his name in it?”

It has been years since I’ve actually watched the video, which I did repeatedly last week with much laughter. Who told Simon LeBon those contrasting stripes were a good idea? And I’m fairly certain that at one point in the early 80’s I had all three haircuts sported by the members of Bananrama in this video. While the song has been rerecorded several times, this is still the best version. It’s not Christmas until both Stephanie and I have heard this song in its entirety on the radio. This year it happened at 1:49 PM on Stephanie’s birthday, December 4.

Celebrate Me Home

Jazz pianist Bob James and Kenny Loggins wrote this song which appeared on Loggins’ debut solo album of the same name in 1977. It was never intended to be a Christmas song. I heard the song from time to time growing up, but it wasn’t until I was an exchange student in 1990 that the song began to have meaning. I was living with my second host parents, Kathy and Jack, for Christmas that year. Kathy and Jack were Americans who had decided to immigrate to Australia. Although they had been in Australia for more than fifteen years at the time I lived with them, and Jack had become an Australian citizen, most times it still felt like I was living with an American family. Kathy had this album, and listened to this song as we made cookies and popcorn balls because she said it reminded her of “home.” Now when I hear it I think not only of home here in the United States, but also my “home” in Tasmania and that wonderful Christmas in Australia.

Christmas Time is Here

In 1965, when A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on television, many of the creators thought it would be a flop. Of course the special, featuring music by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, went on to become one of the most-loved Christmas shows. I have always loved Peanuts and especially look forward to this show every year. The plot remains relevant, even though aluminum trees are no longer made. For me, the music is part of what makes this show so remarkable. If you take away the great score, with three original songs written by Vince Guaraldi, the film looses something. Yes, it is still a story of children learning what Christmas is all about, but some of the magic is missing.

This song in particular makes me think of the real meaning of the holiday. Lee Mendelson, the show’s producer, wrote the lyrics himself. Their simplicity matches the story told by the Linus and the entire Peanuts gang, and for me is best summed up in the final line:  Oh that we could always see, such spirit through the year.

I Wonder As I Wander

I first learned of this tune in the sixth grade when I read the novel Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. The novel describes the sibling rivalry between two twins, Sara Louise (“Wheezy”) and the beautiful, talented and favored Caroline. I don’t know if I was mature enough to fully understand the book in sixth grade but Mom said I could read it, so I did. She also read it while I was reading it. It is the only novel I remember us reading at the same time. I thought she was reading it because her given name is Caroline. Looking back on it now, I think she was reading it so she could answer my questions when we talked about it.

In the novel, Caroline performs this song as a solo at the Christmas pageant to great acclaim. I had never heard the song. Roberta, my piano teacher, found sheet music for me but told me she felt the song was best if performed acappella. This version, performed by The Blenders, is one of my favorites. I first saw the group years ago on The Arsenio Hall Show and didn’t realize they were still making music. Thankfully, they are. If you don’t know more of their music, please take some time to acquaint yourself. After you finish this post. You might enjoy their version of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. 

White Christmas

Bing Crosby debuted this wonderful song written by Irving Berlin on the radio in 1941. It has been featured in movies, television shows, and advertisements. Hundreds of artists have recorded it – it is the most recorded Christmas song according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).  And although I hate bitter cold winters and snow, even I enjoy a white Christmas. Yes, I know Christmas is not about weather, or where you are. But, there is something magical when snow drapes the pine branches and covers the lights on the trees, and crunches under your feet (or wheels). When the snow falls softly all around you as you look up at the sky to catch flakes on your tongue, it just feels like Christmas.

Gabriel’s Message

This song is a Basque Christmas carol. It describes the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel told Mary she would become Jesus’ mother. I first heard it performed by Sting when it was included in A Very Special Christmas, an album produced to benefit the Special Olympics. Sting also recorded it in 2009 for his On a Winter’s Night album. I included a link to that version below so you can hear the comparison.

Last year when I wrote this list, I mentioned how I find Mary’s story fascinating. Mary was asked to perform a monumental task, and accepted her role in God’s plan with grace. I often find myself struggling to accept those things I cannot change, so I doubt I could have said yes with such humility without asking a million questions first. No wonder she is referred to as the most highly favored lady.

We Need a Little Christmas

You may know the song, but did you know it first appeared in the Jerry Herman musical Mame. Angela Lansbury starred in the original Broadway production as Mame Dennis, a wealthy and eccentric bohemian living in New York City during the Great Depression. Mame’s motto (which I thought included scandalous language when I first heard it in elementary school), “Life is a banquet and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death,” has been quoted by many. In the musical, Mame’s nephew Patrick is entrusted to her after Patrick’s father, Mame’s brother, passes away. In the first half of the musical, Mame loses her fortune in the stock market crash of 1929. She sings this song when she decides Patrick and her servants need some cheering up. I have included a recording of the original Broadway cast so you can hear the song as Jerry Herman intended us to hear it. If you only know Angela Lansbury as the voice of Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast, you may be surprised to see her in the great costumes from Mame.

Right now, I feel we do need a little Christmas. Each day as I listen to stories of death, war and tragedy on the news, I silently pray for some holiday peace and goodwill to hurry up and get here. I know I can’t be the only one to feel this way. Maybe if we all think it, Christmas will come to those who need it most.

 

What songs are your favorite Christmas carols? Share them in the comments!

My Go-To Tunes: Trailblazer

Don’t tell anyone, but I secretly enjoy bluegrass music every now and then. There are bluegrass artists on my iPod. I have been known to sing along in my car.

When I was younger, I swore off bluegrass. I was never going to listen to bluegrass. I hated bluegrass.

Most of this stemmed from over-exposure. My brother-in-law’s family held an annual bluegrass festival in or near my hometown. For several years, my dad ran the concession booth and my friends and I were roped in eager to earn a few dollars so we agreed to work the weekend. For twelve hours each day we listened to bluegrass while serving hamburgers and hot dogs, counting out change and following my father’s orders.

But a few years removed from the festivals, I realized I appreciated the musicality and talent of some bluegrass artists. I hummed along in secret when Alison Krause came on the radio. I even wrote a country tune which could easily be played by a bluegrass band.

A few years ago I found this song by The Roys. I like the upbeat nature and the lyrics spoke to me. More than one person has called me a trailblazer. While I may not always think they are correct,  I do appreciate the compliment.

Yesterday was the twenty fifth anniversary of my arrival in Australia as a Rotary youth exchange student – one of the first students with a disability to participate in the program and (from what we can tell) the first to use a wheelchair. Now I am a Rotarian, and have been elected President-Elect of my Rotary Club. Yesterday was also the first of my President-Elect training sessions. During the training, someone called me a trailblazer.

Later, when I got in my car to drive home, this was the first song to come on when I hit “play” on my iPod. It’s been in my head ever since, so I’m sharing it with all of you. Have a great weekend!

My Go-To Tunes: Festive Friday!

Friday is here! I made it! Hopefully you made it too.

I am gleefully, absurdly happy today because I have MY chair back and for the first time since Monday I am sitting pain free. As a result, I have been dancing around my apartment for the past half hour, rejoicing in my ability to move parts of my body which have been immobile in the loaner chair.

Each year, I declare one song to be my “summer song.” This summer, it is “Shut Up and Dance with Me” by Walk the Moon. Yes, I know it is over-played on commercial radio. But I tend not to listen to the radio as I get bored easily with music. So, I can usually tolerate songs for longer than I would if I were a regular radio listener.

Plus, I may have used this exact line with a potential dance partner a time or two. I’ll use it with you now. Watch the video and engage in a little chair dancing with me!

If You Need a Reason to Sing

A few months ago, a friend shared a story on Facebook about a study which found singing show tunes helped improve mental performance in people with dementia. I was thrilled by this news because I regularly sing songs from Broadway shows. I sing them when I’m driving, when I’m at home, when I’m sitting at my desk in my office – you get the point.

There are times my favorite songs to sing are what I call the ‘watch me – you won’t stop me’ numbers – like “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” from South Pacific or “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” from Annie Get Your Gun. Sometimes I need something less upbeat. Thank goodness for songs like “Somewhere” from West Side Story, or “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserables.

But most of the time when I sing show tunes, I like to sing what I call the ‘I want it and I can do it’ numbers. Although these songs can happen at any point in a musical, these are often the third or forth song in the show – like “I Want to be a Producer” from The Producers, “The Wizard and I” from Wicked, or “I Can Do That” from A Chorus Line.

Since singing show tunes is helpful to your cognitive status (hey – there is research to back me up on this!) and since the Tony Award nominations were announced this past week, I am happy to do my little bit of public service and provide you with one of my favorites should you be searching for a melody to improve your memory. I chose this song from my “Broadway” playlist on my iPod then searched for a video to share. It’s difficult to find videos that were not recorded surreptitiously on shaky cell phones in a dark theater or recordings of a television performance. You can easily find alternate videos and clips for the song by doing a quick online search. If you do look for yourself, I hope you will sing along with a smile. It’s good for you.

“Astonishing” from Little Women (Music by Jason Howland, Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein)

I have always loved this story and I have felt a deep connection to Jo March since I first read the book in fourth grade. Maybe it is because she has several sisters. Maybe it is because she is a writer and doesn’t see herself getting married to the boy next door.

I have never seen the musical, but I do love this song which Jo sings immediately after she refuses Laurie’s marriage proposal. Sutton Foster, who played Jo in the original Broadway cast and who sings this recording, is amazing. When I need a boost, this song does it. Try it for yourself. It’s good for you.