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For three years now, ever since I moved to the Lansing, Michigan, area and found out about the Red Cedar Festival of Community Bands, I’ve wanted to attend. The first year, when I mentioned it to my husband, he described it as “garbage”, thereby discouraging me from attending… somewhat. Last year, I again thought of going, but hesitated. Then, this year, I decided that just because he thinks it’s garbage, doesn’t mean that it is. And, since the festival is during the day, I don’t need him to drive me to it.* I put it on my to-do list for Saturday and went. I’m glad that I did. Garbage… not at all. There were 11 bands that played in the festival this year. The format is half-hour concerts by each band, with a 10-minute intermission in between concerts. I sat through three concerts, one each performed by the Meridian Community Band, the Grand Ledge Community Band, and the Downriver Community Band. Being in Meridian Township, it’s the Meridian Community Band that hosts this festival every year, now in its 18th year.

This festival is for anyone who likes to experience a variety of music. Where else can you hear moving pieces of music, a polka, a medley from the movie “The Great Race”, Greek folk music, and much more for free? (Well, donations are always welcome!) Not to mention, the quality of music is quite good. At one point when the Downriver Community Band performed “Promise of Living from Tender Land” by Aaron Copeland, if I didn’t know better, I could swear I was sitting in Orchestra Hall listening to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

For me, the best piece of the afternoon, was “Joy in All Things” by Brian Balmages, performed by the Meridian Community Band. I was literally tearing up during the flute solo. No exaggeration! Here’s a video of the piece performed by the California All-State Concert Band. Not as good as a live performance, but hopefully it will give you a taste of what I experienced at the Red Cedar Festival this year. Enjoy!

*For those of my readers who don’t know me personally, I stopped driving at night, unless the trip is short and/or necessary, due to sight issues. Recently, my ophthamologist gave me eye drops to, hopefully, help the problem. I have yet to test them out.
UPDATE: I tested the eye drops. Totally useless. They wore off after only a half hour and they didn’t make a measurable difference in the glare from the headlights. They did give me a headache though.

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… I wondered if I should go to confession the next day….

It was back to Hannah Community Center for me and my husband on April 1st. This time it wasn’t for a Community Sing, although the “community” did do some singing. It was for a folk concert. The singers/songwriters/musicians this night were Archie Fisher and Garnet Rogers. We found out about this concert at the Community Sing back in February. The emcee for the night announced that unlike most folk concerts put on by Ten Pound Fiddle, this one would be at the Hannah Community Center because there was an overflow crowd last time they played at their other venue at the Unitarian Universalist Church nearby. Figuring we shouldn’t pass up a chance to hear some obviously fabulous singers. Fabulous singers who also sing Scottish folk songs (my husband, Dan, is part Scottish), Dan whispered to me “we should go!” I agreed, though I’m not a big fan of Scottish folk songs. But, I dragged my husband to many a Polka Mass and he keeps reminding me of his bad experience at the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Polish Country Fair a few years back. I was having a wonderful time listening to Big Daddy. If I had a partner, I would’ve been on the dance floor polka-ing (my husband does not dance!) He kept complaining how loud it was. Alas, we eventually left before Big Daddy’s set was over… So, basically, I owed him. That was my attitude going into this night.

By the end of the night, however, I was glad that I went. These two artists are “earthy,” as Dan likes to say. I’ll just call their humor “raw.” Hence the thought: “should I go to confession after exposing myself to such language?” Dan assures me that Joel Mabus is much more “earthy,” but I don’t think so. (I’m a fan of Mr. Mabus and have enjoyed his concerts immensely!) Perhaps, “earthy” in a different way. I’ll concede that. Despite the “earthiness” this night, I laughed so hard! Haven’t laughed quite so much in a long time! It was wonderful to laugh like that!

So, if I’m laughing and having a good time, why did I also cry, you ask? It wasn’t so much out of sadness, as it was out of sentimentality. Many of the songs sung were just so beautiful and romantic. Garnet Rogers sung a song called “Small Victory” that made me tear up. Perhaps it’s a song that any animal lover would get tears in their eyes over. Here are the lyrics, but truly it’s best to hear the song sung. Alas, I could not find a YouTube video suitable.

Small Victory
(Garnet Rogers)

You’ve no business buying a mare like that
But buy her if you must
He bit the end off his cigar
And spat it in the dust
She’s old, she’s lame and barren too
She’s not worth feeding hay
But I’ll give her this, he blew smoke at me,
She was something in her day.

I recall her well 10 years ago
She was a winner in her prime
She was fast and lean and willing
But they raced her past her time
And though she had the heart
Her legs were gone
It wasn’t hard to see
But they kept her at it in the hopes
Of one more small victory

She was shunted round from track to track
From Kentucky up to Maine
They’d run her in cheap claimers
All doped up to mask her pain
And if its my advice you want I’d say
The poor things had her day
You’d be thowing good cash after bad
Its best, he turned away

Oh they led her round the auction shed
And bidding started low
She’ll go for dogfood someone said
The markets been that slow
But she raised her head and pricked her ears
And before the hammer fell
She’s was mine
My friend turned round to me
You’re softheaded I can tell

But she’d been shoved from pillar to post said I
And always done her best
They used her up they rung her dry
You’d think she earned her rest
So if she does not bode out her day
Beneath some shady tree
I’ll have saved her from the knacker’s yard
And that’s enough for me

Oh that was near two years ago
She’s filled out some since then
And more so since she’s been in foal
She eats enough for ten
And this morn as I crept to the barn
Around ’bout half past three
There stood nursing on still trembling legs
One more “small victory”.

Tearing up yet?

Then there was this song, sung by Archie Fisher. He had the audience get involved by singing the refrain. As far as I’m concerned, this was the most beautiful song sung that night.

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Daydreaming

While searching for some music to listen to this afternoon, I ran across this video. The music is so beautiful; the musician is so talented in my opinion, that I wanted to share it with you.

Some soothing music to daydream by on this Valentine’s Day. Sit back, relax, close your eyes, and listen to “Daydreaming” by James Onohan.

The song is on the album “My Life, My Music Vol. 1,” which can be found here.

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For the second year in a row, I, my husband, and my mother-in-law attended the Mid-Winter Singing Festival this past weekend in East Lansing, Michigan. The theme this night was “Michigania!” The six song leaders were all folk singers from Michigan. Some of the songs chosen for this night’s sing were quite evocative for me:

    Rainbow Connection brought back memories of my childhood. I was a regular watcher of the Muppets TV show, and although I never saw The Muppet Movie I did have a cassette tape album with the songs from the movie on it. Remember cassette tapes?
    What a Wonderful World is a song I do not like. However, the memories it evoked were pleasant ones from our wedding day. As at all weddings in modern times (or so it seems), this song was played at our wedding too.
    The Flintstones Theme again evoked memories from my childhood.
    Rock that Sucker. For those not familiar, it’s a song by Claudia Schmidt and arranged by Joan Szymko. This night it was sung by Claudia Schmidt and the All Corners’ Festival Choir. This is a good song to be singing in light of the 10+ inches of snow we got just a few days earlier. However, the memory this evoked was from a week earlier when my husband backed his car into a snow pile at the end of our driveway and got stuck. Despite me telling him to “rock that sucker” (Ok, I didn’t say it quite that way), he continued to spin his car wheels while telling me that rocking the car never works to get one’s car unstuck from a snow drift. I guess my multiple first-hand experiences in the matter didn’t count. And, from what I could tell, it didn’t seem like getting angry and spinning the car wheels was doing much better. It did give the neighbors a good show though!
    You Send Me made me think of one of my long-time friends and his fiancé. He just proposed to her about 3 weeks earlier, on the second anniversary of their first meeting. I suppose, in a roundabout way, this also brought back memories of when my husband proposed to me. Different circumstances, but equally as romantic (if not more so!)
    As Time Goes By. No. No memories of Casablanca. Only warm memories of my husband and I cuddling on the couch watching episodes of the British comedy, As Time Goes By, that we periodically rent from Netflix.
    Edelweiss reminded me of my favorite movie: The Sound of Music. It also inspired me to start learning to play my keyboard again. I had to put it away quite a few years ago when I started working from home because there was no room to have it out. The last song I was learning to play was Edelweiss. Now, in our new house, there’s plenty of room to have my keyboard set up. Now I just have to make the time to practice again.

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In my personal prayer life, I’m not a fan of pre-scripted prayers in general. Joan Osborne once sang “What If God Was One of Us?” Well, I believe He was one of us. I believe in the Holy Trinity, one God in three persons. Jesus is one of the Trinity. He was fully human and fully divine. Sure, he lacked sin, but he did live here on earth, saw the suffering and experienced suffering of his own. As a result, I prefer to talk to God, Jesus, in everyday language, as if we were two friends sitting together enjoying each other’s company. That’s how I normally pray.

There are two exceptions, however. The Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I used to pray the Rosary quite often, then for some reason I stopped praying it as often. Then I started praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. Then, for some reason, I also stopped praying that.

In 2000 Pope John Paul II designated the Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday in the Catholic Church. Typically, starting with Good Friday, the devout are encouraged to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet as a novena, to pray the prayers daily for nine days. The prayers are offered for different souls each day:

Day 1: All mankind, especially all sinners.
Day 2: The souls of priests and religious.
Day 3: The devout and faithful souls.
Day 4: Those who do not believe in God and those who do not yet know Jesus.
Day 5: The souls of those who have separated themselves from the church.
Day 6: The meek and the humble souls and the souls of little children.
Day 7: The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus’s mercy.
Day 8: The souls who are detained in purgatory.
Day 9: The souls who have become lukewarm.

(To learn more about these devotions click the links in this blog post, or go to http://www.ewtn.com.)

I liked praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet because it helped me to think about others in the world, take my focus off of myself. When I used to pray it daily, I would pray along with the Divine Mercy in Song program on EWTN radio. I even bought a CD of the Divine Mercy in Song so that if I missed the Chaplet recitation on the radio, then I could recite it along with the CD when I had the time. Then, for some reason, I stopped my devotion. Recently, on Good Friday, I made a vow to myself to say the Divine Mercy novena, hoping that I would get in the habit of daily structured prayer again. Well, I haven’t exactly been reciting the prayers every day, but I’m still hoping…. One thing that has been happening is that the individual prayers have been sticking in my head and I find myself throughout the day singing the prayers. Something that doesn’t happen otherwise.

And, this got me thinking about prayer and music. For me the musical Divine Mercy Chaplet so moves my soul that I want to sing the prayers at all hours of the day. The music enhances my personal prayer life. The music allows me to give a physical voice to the prayer.

Then there’s the Hail Mary. When said by itself in English, or as part of the Rosary, at least for me, it can become quite automatic. Sometimes this is what I want. Sometimes I just want God to talk to me through the prayer. Get lost in the prayer so to speak. However, this prayer can also become quite routine. So much so that the words can be said, but they are not felt. Perhaps this is why I stopped reciting the Rosary those many years ago. I figured that if I couldn’t put my heart and soul into the prayers, it would be better if I didn’t pray them at all.

And, then there’s the Ave Maria. The Hail Mary in Latin.

Listening to this my soul cannot help but feel the words, feel the prayer. The music allows my soul to give a spiritual voice to the prayer.

I’ve found that music can enhance my prayer life, whether by inspiring me to pray more spontaneously or by feeding my soul’s need to feel prayer, to glorify God, and thus appreciate the beauty and meaning of the words.

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Sometimes words move a person, sometimes music does. This week I came across this video on YouTube. I was so moved by Harvey Reid’s playing “The Scotland Suite” that I thought I’d share it with you, my readers. Sit back and let the music envelop you!

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When warriors come and bang the drum
And march their troops before us
Then friends of peace link hand in hand
And join as one in chorus

— Third verse of the song “How Can I Keep From Singing?” composed by Joel Mabus, 2003. Original hymn composed in 1860 by Robert Lowry.

Yesterday I, my husband, and my mother-in-law went to a Community Sing at my husband’s old middle school, now a community center, in East Lansing. This particular community sing was part of the annual Mid-Winter Singing Festival held this time of year. This is the first time that we’ve gone, but I’m guessing it won’t be our last. All of us had a wonderful time. If you like singing (even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket like me), like folk music, or like comedy you’d love this “concert”. Leading the sing this night were Joel Mabus (my favorite), Susan Werner (a new favorite), Frank Youngman (funny!!!), and Rachel Alexander (what she can do with 70 amateur singers in a 90-minute workshop is amazing!).

The mix of songs is older (i.e. “My Blue Heaven”) and newer (i.e. “My Girl” by Smokey Robinson). The singers on stage put their own spin on things too. And, every year after intermission at the Saturday Community Sing, the “choir” from Rachel Alexander’s 90-minute workshop comes out on stage to sing 2 songs. This year one of the songs sung was by Susan Werner herself. She sang with the choir. The song: “Help Somebody”. Loved, loved, loved it. Loved the song, and the 90-minute choir was spectacular. Here’s a performance of the song, though not the one I saw, obviously:

This night, WKAR, the East Lansing public TV station was filming a documentary about the Mid-Winter Singing Festival. I don’t know how the documentary will turn out and I don’t know when it’ll air, but if you can get WKAR on your TV, then I suggest you watch to get a feel for what it’s all about.

If you’ve never been to the Mid-Winter Singing Festival and the Community Sing, I’d highly recommend it. Plan ahead. The next Singing Festival is Friday-Saturday, February 4-5, 2011.

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