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Archive for June, 2009

I’ve been reading a short book this morning, The Girls with Grandmother Faces by Frances Weaver. She writes about making the most of the second half of life. In her chapter called “Sisters,” she writes a little about sibling rivalry among her and her sisters and how they became best friends later in life. I loved this particular story:

The ultimate sibling rivalry/cooperation story, as far as I’m concerned, starred Mary Marn and me. The big interest in our lives focused under our grandmother’s back porch. The cat and her litter of four kittens lived there. Each day we checked to see if their eyes had opened yet. Each one of us had our chosen kitten.

“This was 1934, pre-penicillin days. My appendix ruptured. I was one sick little girl. Dad came home from the hospital realizing he had to prepare his other daughters for any eventuality—in those days, a ruptured appendix was generally fatal. After a tearful discussion of ‘Franny might die . . .’five-year-old Mary wiped her eyes and asked, ‘Who gets the other cat?’

I grew up with two younger brothers and no sisters, but I did raise two daughters. They’re four years apart and were never the best of friends as kids. As adults they’ve discovered a love for each other that makes me extremely happy. However, there were some times . . .! Here’s one of them.

The oldest had discovered my IBM Selectric typewriter that I used in my home business, and she did a pretty decent job of learning how to use it. One of the “best” things she did was prepare a very official looking document (at least for a 10-year-old) that “proved” her little sister had been adopted. Since little sister was just learning how to read, you can probably imagine her “concern” about that up-to-then unknown discovery. I’m not sure how long it took for her to figure out the whole thing was a hoax, but the oldest really had her going for a while.

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There’s been so much coverage of Michael Jackson in the few days since his death, I hesitate to add more to the mix. However, I’d like to share one personal remembrance of him.

In 1989, our son was just a baby and his sisters were teenagers. Although MTV was at its best, I remember being so busy most of the time I didn’t pay much attention to all the performers and stars. For Christmas that year, we drove from Portland to San Diego to visit my mother whom we hadn’t seen for a while. We all went to Disneyland, one of her favorite places, and she insisted we see “Captain EO” with her. That ride/exhibit just blew me away it was so good. She loved it because she’s been a dance teacher her whole life and knew extraordinary talent when she saw it. Although Disneyland replaced the exhibit several years later, it was fun to see this extremely talented singer/dancer at his best.

Here’s an article about the exhibit and a short clip of “We’re Are Here to Change the World.” Just click on either the words in red or the picture to the left.

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A heat index here of 109 degrees today and for probably the rest of the week makes sticking around inside with the air conditioning blasting almost a necessity for a weather wuss like me. For the winter version of “wussiness,” you might check out my blog from Nov. 30, 2008,”Confessions of Southern California Wuss,”


Since we’re both transplanted creatures from Southern California now in Oklahoma, my friend Crystal and I have been finding things to do inside. One of those things has been finding videos of lots of “classic” weird songs, such as “Purple People Eater,” “They’re Coming to Take Me Away,” and many more like them. I love them all and can probably remember the words to most of them, or at least a good percentage.

But, this afternoon it struck me alongside the head like a sloppy V-8 commercial: How could I forget the incomparable Tom Lehrer? In fact, I “discovered” him many years ago on Dr. Demento. Here are just a few. Enjoy.

The Elements
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PeLVEq6sGU

National Brotherhood Week
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIlJ8ZCs4jY

The Vatican Rag
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f72CTDe4-0


Poisoning Pigeons in the Park
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhuMLpdnOjY

We Will All Go Together When We Go
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv6mPgtay6E

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A test blog

This is a test blog to see if an “Active X Error Box” shows up when I don’t embed videos. Several people have let me know they’ve gotten the box for several days. Since I don’t see it on my end, please let me know if it shows up with this blog.

Thanks,
Chris

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I’ve enjoyed many concerts by men’s choruses and chorales: San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and now this wonderful group from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Council Oak Men’s Chorale. Here’s a little about them from their website:

The History of Our Name: The Council Oak Tree

Our name comes from the Creek Council Oak Tree located at 18th & Cheyenne in downtown Tulsa. In 1836 the Lochapoka Creek Indians kindled a ceremonial fire using live coals they had carried from their Alabama homeland over a “trail of tears. ” Of the 630 that began the trip, 161 died. This great Burr Oak tree became the site for Tulsa’s first town hall, first conference room, first church and first court of law. This revered tree still lives and remains a symbol of our early settlers’ strong spirit.

It is in this same spirit of determination in the midst of adversity, of hope for a more inclusive future, and of the promise of new beginnings, that the Vocal Pride Foundation is rooted in the history of the Council Oak.

Mission Statement

The Council Oak Mens Chorale (COMC) is a fellowship of gay and gay affirming men dedicated to musical excellence in the performance of choral literature, providing a source to reach the community showing our pride, unity and support, and presenting a positive image for ourselves.

Brief History of Council Oak Men’s Chorale

The chorale was formed in 1997 from a group of 12 singers that came together to provide music for a World AIDS Day memorial service. Founded by Rick Fortner, they had no official name. Their hope was to provide support to the families and friends of those affected by HIV and AIDS. From there, the idea of supporting an ongoing gay men’s chorus in Tulsa took root.

From its modest beginnings, this small group of dedicated singers has grown into an organization that is known throughout the nation for it’s vocal excellence. From a one-time memorial service, performances have grown to include a three-concert season with numerous additional performances making COMC a year-round organization.

COMC performance venues include the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Philbrook’s Festival of Trees, and numerous local churches and community organizations.

Although I could not find any videos of this group’s performances, here are a few of the songs they performed this afternoon.

First, “epiphany” from Altar Boyz. I think it surprised just about everyone, including me, who had never heard it.

A very touching song was “Tell My Father,” from Civil War.

Then there was “Greased Lightning” from Grease.

I love listening to men’s choruses for several reasons. First, they are usually accompanied by an excellent pianist. Today that was extremely talented Glen R. Jones. Second, the director is usually not afraid to help the group tackle difficult and challenging music. And the group’s only woman member, Elizabeth Smith Curtis, did that beautifully this afternoon. Third, the close harmony of Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Baritone, and Bass just sounds lush – it’s the only word I can think of to describe it. Finally, I fully support gay pride, same-sex marriage, and activism. As a clergy representative of the Unitarian Universalist church in Portland, Oregon, I performed more than 35 wedding ceremonies when Multnomah County authorized same-sex marriage for two months. It was a very powerful experience, and perhaps hearing groups like Council Oak Men’s Chorale reminds me strongly of that time.

They will be doing a full version of tonight’s short concert, “Not Your Mother’s Broadway” this coming weekend in Tulsa. And I have already bought my ticket.

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What better place to spend about four hours on a hot, humid day than listening to two wonderful bluegrass bands in an air conditioned performance hall.

I’ve loved bluegrass music probably forever, or so it seems. There’s just something about the instruments, the rhythms, and the overall sense of just plain fun, both shown by the performers as well as the toe tapping and dancing, even in their seats, by the audience.

I think I probably realized this love of banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin, and fiddle around 1972 when I saw the movie, “Deliverance,” and heard “Dueling Banjos.”

I was hooked. I bought cassette tapes of several bluegrass groups and listened over and over and over . . . never tiring of the music. Orange Blossom Special, sometimes called the “Fiddle Player’s National Anthem.”

Last fall two friends and I parked our RVs at Mayflower County Park in Bishop, CA (Riverside County) for about a week and spent most of our time at the Bluegrass Festival in Bishop. Lots of bands performing on two separate stages, as well as outdoor jam sessions, booths, food, and many people to talk to and enjoy the music with. It was easy to see how easy it would be to get hooked on following the festivals. And today I feel the same way.

Twin Rivers Bluegrass performed for two hours this afternoon. Most of the members live in the Miami (pronounced my-am-uh). They’ve been together for about a year and get together at Pam’s Place (Pam is their bass player) in nearby Seneca, Missouri. Here’s a video of them performing. I’m not sure when they changed the name of the band to Twin Rivers from Rising Creek.

Rising Creek Band (with most of the members and same costumes/clothing as Twin Rivers Band today)

To me, the highlight of this band is their fiddle player, 17-year old Jake Simpson. He’s been playing violin/fiddle since he was 5 years old and has won numerous competitions since then. He’s also got a perfect singing voice and plays other instruments besides the fiddle. This first video shows him playing a classical piece. His father explains the reason at the beginning.

Jake playing classical

Finally, here he is with his excellent bluegrass sense and talent at an Opry performance.

The Zoograss Boys were more laid back and have been playing together for a number of years. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any performance videos. They will be performing their very entertaining versions of bluegrass and old-time music, such as songs from the movie, “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?” at the Skiatook Bluegrass Festival next weekend, June 25-27, 2009 in the city of Skiatook, Oklahoma.

As I said, I love bluegrass!

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I’m loving all the concerts I’ve been able to attend at the OK Mozart Festival here in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and the best thing is, I haven’t paid a thing. Yes, I could buy tickets for the large evening performances by well-known artists such as violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg or jazz great Chick Corea. All of those concerts would be wonderful. However, the old checkbook is a little short right now, so I decided to take advantage of all the free performances. And I haven’t been disappointed. I’ll write a separate entry about the Irish band Kilkenny Street that I enjoyed yesterday. However, today I’ll concentrate on the singing group, the Ad-Libs, a group of fifteen middle-age and older men and women who thoroughly enjoyed performing for a standing-room only crowd this afternoon.

Because I had to search a little for parking, I got there a few minutes after the group began singing. The place was packed, not only with people sitting in chairs, but some at tables eating lunch and others standing at the back of the room. I actually found a seat in the back, right in front of one of the food tables, so I got smell delicious food throughout the performance. Yes, it made me hungry.

The Ad-Libs are ten women, five men, the conductor, the keyboardist, percussionist, and bass player. All the women were dressed in beautiful, sparkly black dresses and the men in sharp-looking suits. I would guess that the youngest was in his/her mid-fifties. But, how they could sing!

The first song I heard was the 1960s hit, “My Guy/Girl,” and I kept visualizing the scene from one of my all-time favorite movies, “Sister Act,” starring Whoopi Goldberg. Here’s the way the nuns performed the song in that film:

Next, the women sang “Moonglow,” by Benny Goodman. Here it is done by the Benny Goodman Quartet.

I had an extra amount of fun listening to and watching the group because one of the men looked like he could have been the twin brother of a good friend of mine. Same hair, although not quite as white, same style, parted on the same side, a little mussed up. Same height (tall), with the same way of moving, turning his head, and holding his hands in front of him while singing. Yes, my friend used to sing a lot and starred in a number of little theater performances, among them as the lead in “Man of La Mancha. He’s still got most of his beautiful tenor voice and I wish he’d sing more often.

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