Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

11 February 2014


I am always delighted to peruse the posts of Robert Badger, who writes The News From Wabu-eup. While a seminarian at Saint Charles for several years, Robert offered his virtuosity at the organ for many daily and Sunday Masses. It was not unusual for him to pull out works from obscure (to me, anyhow) composers such as Alan Hovhaness to play at the Preparation of the Gifts. For several years Robert has been teaching English to Koreans. Most recently, through the social media we have offered each other samples of composers, songs, and instruments. His most recent post (cf. link above) highlights the artistry of Danish pianist Victor Borge, whom I have enjoyed since Harry Sands, a neighbor of my late grandparents and a former bandleader, played some of his tapes for me.

By the way, in case you haven't heard of Alan Hovhaness or anything composed by him, here is an arrangement of his "Prayer of St. Gregory," played by famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

And, for something completely different, a selection of Richard Cheese, whose clever parodies Robert introduced to me last year (pardon the graphic frontispiece):
As a clarinetist and soon trumpet player for Saint Clair Area High School Band (in fifth grade), my first love was classical music. Actually, it may have been Elvis Presley, as my father was a big fan and introduced me to him before I started playing an instrument. The first cassette I ever bought was of J. S. Bach's Greatest Hits, including the famous organ piece "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" and the "Little Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach" on harpsichord. Around the same time I started playing clarinet, I also took up the keyboard under the influence of Harry, my next door neighbor. He had a Lowrey which he played nearly every day. Our thin walls often enabled me to hear what he was playing. Years later, he would let me come over and play for him, to our mutual enjoyment. I was largely self-taught, having only a few lessons and scant patience for the rigors of practice. I didn't want to relearn silly things like finger positions; the bass clef was covered satisfactorily with chords. This latter preference helped me, I believe, to be able to transpose more easily. As a hymn organist I  can play songs in almost any key (but please, don't go over five sharps or flats without necessity!).

My high school friends and I used to compose mix tapes for our car rides. In this venue I would discover a broad swath of genres and artists, ranging from classic rock tunes like "War" and anything Queen, to pop classical pieces such as Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" (as heard in the movie "Platoon"). My tapes weren't as popular because my tastes weren't. Thanks to my mother and late grandmother, Engelbert Humperdinck became a favorite, supplanting but not altogether replacing Elvis.

But my senior year English teacher George Repella's fondness for Frank Sinatra turned me on to arguably the greatest entertainer in American history. My appreciation for Sinatra blossomed while I was in the seminary. I collected as many of his albums as I could. But meanwhile a classmate of mine got me interested in Led Zeppelin. He tried his best with Pink Floyd, to little avail. Another fellow seminarian got on a country kick. I did not follow suit.

Today, thanks to iTunes, I have discovered contemporary artists. Most recent additions to my library include the latest album from Nicole Atkins, Slow Phaser. Atkins' rich, dramatic voice has reminded people of one of her respectable influences, Roy Orbison. She has released three or four albums since hitting it big, but she has also covered Linda Ronstadt, Mama Cass, and The Doors quite artfully.

I listen to music as a musician does, attentive to chord progressions, rhythm and time signature (Burt Bacharach is good for that), other facets of music. I could use a refresher on Music Theory, for all the complexities that can delight the ear!

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