Tag Archives: Music

Making Music On St Maarten Is Magical

7 Jun

Listening to an expert on the steel drum. He was amazing.


Yesterday in St Maarten we decided to go on a different type of tourist adventure. We have been on this island several times and had no desire to tour around the island or go shopping. But we did find the perfect experience. We learned to play steel pan drums. 

A tour from our cruise ship went to the school run by Dow’s Musical Foundation. There we experienced the Caribbean music of the steel pan drums and practiced with a group to actually play a song on the drums.  

Who knew there were several types of drums?  Well there are: tenor, bass and one in between. Some are for the melody, others to hold the beat. Most of the drums comes in sets of two. There are two octaves, but the notes are devided between the two drums. Except for the base.  Those playing the base had to play on five different and much bigger drums. 

A magical moment playing the steel pan drums!


At first I was a little slow. But eventually I got into the beat with the help of one of the teachers (who is from Kentucky!). 

 Going back and forth between the two drums was a bit confusing at first, but soon my brain caught up and my hands used the drum sticks. It was sort of like playing the hammered dulcimer. A gentle snap of the hand to get the best sound! 

But the highlights was a short performance by one of the school’s founders. His passion for the music, his sense of rhythm and his joy were contagious and amazing. We then had the opportunity to listen to a group of school children as they preformed a song. These were students from one of the schools who take music lessons there. 


Over 1100 students have the opportunity to learn music. To support the foundation, we purchased a cd adding a liitle extra.  

It was worth it to see the smiles on the children’s faces as they focused on their playing, on their instructors and us. 

 I am so glad we took the opportunity to do something different and put a little musical magic in our lives!

The Melody of “Autumn Leaves “ Haunts Me

23 Feb

IMG_2370

Bob Dylan recorded Johnny Mercer’s Autumn Leaves for his new album, “Shadows in the Night”! This song has been haunting me since 1981! But now Bob Dylan is singing it, too!

My history with this song is driven by emotion. So to hear Bob Dylan’s rendition of it on the radio while I was driving somewhat stunned me. Luckily I was close to home and was able to pull into my garage. Yes, the song has that big of an impact on me! I even sent a text message to my sister and husband about it. They know my issues with the song.

My Grandma Thelma passed away from a massive stroke in 1981. I flew in from Kansas just in time to see her once more. She could not talk to me when I came to the hospital. But when I bent over her, she grabbed me with her good arm and pulled me closer. She then licked her hand and rubbed her kisses on my face. She could no longer really move her lips, even though she wanted to kiss me.

I felt her love. I knew that she was near death. I was glad I was able to see her once more.

She died that night. I think she was waiting for me to come. I was the one to tell my grandfather.

After her funeral in New Jersey, my parents, my grandfather and I drove back to the Catskills together where Grandpa and Mom would be sitting shiva at my grandparent’s home. It was August, and everyone was up in the mountains for the summer. It made sense to be where all their friends could visit with Grandpa.

The song haunts me.

All during the way, the long drive back to Kauneonga Lake, it seemed for the entire two hours, my Grandpa Nat sang Autumn Leaves. He told us that Grandma and he had made a vow to sing that song when the other passed away. It was their favorite song. In reality, I am sure he did not sing the entire trip, but it felt as if he did.

We did not notice the beautiful scenery along the way. We did not notice the landmarks that usually mark our journey. We listened to my grandfather sing. He had a beautiful voice. He sang and sobbed. My mother and I sobbed with him. I honestly do not know how my Dad drove. The words and melody were etched into my heart. For weeks it echoed in my mind.

The song continued to haunt me.

Years later a movie came out called, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” It’s sound track featured songs by Johnny Mercer, including Autumn Leaves.

I have never seen this movie. I did not want to hear that song.

But one day, while my husband and I were in the movie theater waiting to see another show, I began to feel sick to my stomach.

“I don’t know what is wrong,” I told my husband. “But I really don’t feel well. I feel like something horrible is going to happen. I think we have to leave.”

“It is the song,” he said. He knew about my issue with Autumn Leaves. “They are playing the melody of Autumn Leaves. Why don’t you leave the theater for a few minutes.”

I left, and came back when the song was over. My feeling of dread disappeared and I relaxed once I knew why I felt sick. I was really amazed by how my mind, my unconscious mind, could relate so strongly to a song, while my conscious mind was unaware that it was impacting my emotions.

However, in a way, the sound track to “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” helped me. For a few months the song was playing all the time on the radio. I started to be able to hear the melody without crying. Eventually I could also listen to the words without crying. I still felt an ache in my heart when I heard it, but I realized that this song was a commentary on my grandparents love for each other.

My Mother’s birthday is this week. Perhaps it is fitting that I have heard Autumn Leaves a few days before my Mom’s birthday. Perhaps it is fitting that Bob Dylan is singing this song. I have loved Bob Dylan’s music for my entire life. I still remember the first time I heard him sing Pete Seeger’s, “Where have all the Flowers Gone.”

I know that the melody and lyrics of Autumn Leaves will always haunt me. Even though I can now listen to the song without that awful feeling of dread, or thinking something horrible will happen, I still feel that ache. I remember that trip back to the Catskills. I envision memories of my grandparents and parents whenever I hear it. And whenever autumn leaves begin to fall, I feel my loved ones’ spirits close to me.

 

 

 

 

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/j/johnny_mercer/autumn_leaves.html

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gnp58oepHUQ&list=PL1012F30BBCC1BEE9&index=4

 

http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/autumn-leaves

 

Ballroom Dancing: Relaxation, Reflection and Exercise

3 May

Dancing the Fox Trot is the most difficult for me. It is not because of the tempo or the moves. I think Rumba and Cha Cha are more intricate. East and West Coast Swing are quicker. Tango and Waltz are more elegant. The problem with Fox Trot is the music.   The music breaks my heart.

My husband and I have been taking ballroom dance lessons for almost ten years. We are finally at the point where I feel comfortable dancing in public and believe we know what we are doing.   When the right music plays, I sway with the beat.

We move to the dance floor and just relax into the music and the enjoyment of dance. As we are dancing, usually I forget everything going on and just focus on the mood of the dance. At the same time, we realize that we are getting our exercise for the day, as every part of our body is involved in the dance.

Recently we were on a cruise and danced every night. The dance band was marvelous. There were five or six other couples who also enjoyed ballroom dancing. It was wonderful fun.   We danced every dance in our repertoire: Tango, Rumba, Cha Cha, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Waltz, Two-step, and Fox Trot.

My parents dancing at a cousin's wedding in Israel.

My parents dancing at a cousin’s wedding in Israel.

But I often mess up the Fox Trot. I get distracted, off beat, or forget a step. My reason: the music — those classic American songbook songs — make me tear up. If I hear Begin the Beguine, by Cole Porter, I see my parents swaying. I hear the words, Embraceable You, by the Gershwin brothers, and I only see my parents dancing.   Add Summertime by George Gershwin, and that is my final straw. My Dad loved Gershwin music. I grew up listening to Porgy and Bess and Rhapsody in Blue. When a band plays any of his songs, and a few other composers as well, I sometimes find it almost impossible to dance.

My parents loved to dance. My Dad would put out his arm and sing the words, “When Frances Dances with me, Golly Gee. Oh How Happy I’ll be.” (He changed the words a bit.) Sometimes they would dance. And sometimes we would all laugh, because my Dad could not sing well at all. But that melody I know. It was my Dad’s anthem for my Mom and how he loved her.   (The Francis in the song was a guy. But since my Mom’s name was Frances, it worked just dandy.)

In the summertime, they would go out on Saturday nights to one of the big hotels in the Catskills for a show and dance. We knew where they went because they would bring home those little viewers on a keychain. When looking in the eye piece, we could see our parents in their ‘fancy’ clothes. I knew they probably had an excellent time away from us, and dancing arm in arm, and cheek to cheek.

Family events were another big dancing time. They did not like the wild music at the bar and bat mitzvahs, or the line dances. But when the band played ballroom music, my parents always danced. They loved going to weddings, not just for the emotions of the event, but because there was always great dance music.

Dancing swing at our nephew's wedding.

Dancing swing at our nephew’s wedding.

My husband also loves weddings for the music. He dances with me. But when I get tired, he dances with our daughter, all of our nieces, my sister-in-law. Any woman who wants to dance can have a turn with my partner. Just be aware, he is a very enthusiastic dancer!

When my parents passed away just nine months apart, I could barely dance. It seemed wrong to be on a dance floor trying to do something fun. I should just be grieving, not dancing.   I stopped dancing the Fox Trot. I honestly could not listen to that music without bursting into tears.

But slowly my attitude changed. My parents loved to dance. They would be so happy to know that I was dancing. And each dance is a memory of them. “When we are out together dancing cheek to cheek, I’m in heaven,” thinking that my parents are dancing with each other Cheek to Cheek (by Irving Berlin) as well.

These wonderful songs deserve to be heard and danced to by people who love to dance. As I twirl about the floor with my husband, in our not so totally graceful moves, my mind sees my parents dancing at family events, or even in our living room, always smiling and laughing.

When my Dad died, we placed a photo of the two of them dancing with him so they could always be together. And whenever I dance the Fox Trot, I feel them next to me…dancing forever cheek to cheek in a wonderful embrace.

I hope we have passed the love of dancing to our children. I know my daughter loves it. She has taken lessons as well. I do not think she understands the memories of the music. But she holds the beat and the rhythm of the songs when she dances. And I know that wherever my parents are they are as happy as can be, knowing the love of dancing continues.

And for me, ballroom dancing brings me relaxation, reflection and exercise, the perfect combination for a hobby to share with my husband.

 

 

Music lyrics:

http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/g/georgegershwin8836/embraceableyou299722.html

 

http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/c/coleporter5950/beginthebeguine235309.html

 

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/g/george_gershwin/summertime.html

 

http://www.sheetmusicbackinprint.com/popular/whenfrancis.html