Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy birthday, Wolfgang!

As a child, the only classical music I'd ever heard was in Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry cartoons (Rossini's Barber of Seville, Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture, Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor; first movement) and of course the theme song of "The Lone Ranger" which I later discovered was Rossini's "The William Tell Overture." Rossini must have been pretty popular among the Saturday morning TV crowd.

Even when I taught myself piano and guitar, I wasn't learning classical music, mostly tunes like "Camptown Ladies," "Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot" and "Bill Bailey"...hardly Wolfgang material.

The first time I actually studied "real" music was in 1996 when I finally decided to pursue my life-long dream of taking piano lessons. I was in my 30s and doing recitals with seven-year-olds Yes, it was embarrassing, but I was learing Bach, Beethoven, DeBussey, Chopin and of course, Mozart. I was in heaven.

Needless to say, I really got into classical music. It was a part of the music world I had never known and I wanted to learn everything about it. I was learning to play several of Bach's inventions and preludes, as well as Beethoven sonatas and Chopin etudes. I enjoyed Prokofiev, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, etc. I couldn't get enough. I started a CD collection of classical music and listened to music constantly.

Learning piano and studying classical music inspired me to learn the cello, so I started to take cello lessons, too. Yo-yo Ma was an inspiration. He still is. (He played at Obama's Inauguration! Wow!)

I'm not one to do anything half-heartedly, so I took a music theory class at the local college. It was challenging to say the least. One of our assignments was to compose an original piece of music in the style of Bach. We also had aural training where we learned to hear pitches and listen for intervals. This helped me quite a bit with cello. Unlike the guitar which has frets and you know where to place your fingers to play a chord and notes, the cello is almost totally played by "ear."

During my classical music phase, I attended many concerts and recitals. We saw Barry Douglas when he was on tour playing Beethoven. He was playing all 32 Beethoven sonatas (in different venues) and the five Beethoven piano concertos! I saw him play The Emperor...unbelievable! I've seen such noted pianists as Andres Schiff, Helen Grimaude, Christopher O'Reily, Frederic Chiu Emanuel Ax...and the jazz stylings of Billy Taylor and Ramsey Lewis.

The concert that meant the most to me was in 1998 when we went to Denver to see Yo-Yo Ma play the Dvorak cello concerto with the Colorado Symphony. It was the one of the best days of my life. He received seven curtain calls! I will never forget that night as long as I live. I first fell in love with Yo-Yo when I saw his short films about the Bach cello suites on PBS. I bought all six videos. Here's a link if you want to know more about these wonderful films. But I warn you, if you watch them, you will never look at Bach and his cello suites the same way again. They are a true inspiration, even if you don't know anything about classical music.

Here's an article about Yo-Yo's Bach film project:

Today, I'm still playing the piano. I'm working on Beethoven's "Moonlight" sonata, some Scott Joplin ragtime music, Bach's A-minor two-part invention and Mozart's piano sonata in "C" Irving Berlin tunes and traditional hymns.

Anyway, back to Mozart. I highly recommend the film "Amadeus"... an amazing movie showcasing the talents of Tom Hulce (as Mozart) and F. Murray Abraham (as Antonio Salieri). Winner of eight Oscars, the film was based on the play by Peter Shaffer. It tells of Salieri's jealousy and hatred of Mozart, and his anger with God for giving this wonderful talent to an unworthy, spoiled brat, when he, Salieri, desired nothing more in the world than to glorify God with music. The film is Salieri's confession to a priest:

SALIERI: My plan was simple. It terrified me. First I must get the death mass and then, I must achieve his death. His funeral! Imagine it, the cathedral, all Vienna sitting there, his coffin, Mozart's little coffin in the middle, and then, in that silence, music! A divine music bursts out over them all. A great mass of death! Requiem mass for Wolfgang Mozart, composed by his devoted friend, Antonio Salieri! Oh what sublimity, what depth, what passion in the music! Salieri has been touched by God at last. And God is forced to listen! Powerless, powerless to stop it! I, for once in the end, laughing at him!

An amazing film. Ya gotta see it!

Here's a link about Mozart if you want to know more about this gifted composer:

Happy birthday, Amadeus!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January Trees

January Trees
a poem by Luana Krause

I arise at dawn and wait for first light. The frost takes my breath away.

Wrapped in a cocoon of cold, I am held captive by the winter trees. During the night they turned white; the Creator using his ethereal impasto technique to create texture and form.

The frost is thick on the branches that reach toward heaven. Majestic sculptures of ice on exhibit in God’s museum for all to see.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Letter to the Editor

My letter to the editor was in the local newspaper this morning. I was responding to the editor's article about summer school. Here's what I wrote:

I disagree with the WTE's opinion that LCSD1 should "put more effort" into summer school. As the article stated, the academic gains made by "high income" kids during the summer was due to the involvement of the parents in their children's education. That is the key. Not more school hours. You can't mandate parental involvement.


Sometimes I wonder if the American public school system hasn't simply become a babysitter, catering to the needs of working parents rather than actual teaching.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's BlackBerry

Another reason to like President Obama...he's a BlackBerry user, too! I have no idea how I survived life all those years before the invention of the BlackBerry.

You're talking to a genuine, unapologetic CrackBerry. Yep. I absolutely love it!

Just yesterday when I was driving home, listening to NPR reporting on the presiden't agenda for his first day in office, I was thinking: "Barack is Bar-ROCKin' the White House!"

Shame on you guys for trying to take his BlackBerry away!

Check the link:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Guitar Hero

The other day I dug out my guitar from the closet and dusted it off. We're going to visit my folks in April and I want to be able to play a few tunes with my dad, whose been practicing his guitar every day since he retired two years ago. He's very good. I'm mediocre at best.

You might say he's my guitar hero. He played the guitar back in the 1960s, but never really had time to practice. Too busy making a living and raising us kids. But now at age 65 he's pursuing his dream. He bought a Yamaha acoustic when he retired and last Christmas my mom bought him an electric guitar. He prefers the electric, but he enjoys playing both.

As for music preferences, he's not into modern music. He likes Chet Atkins, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash...also some classic rock and roll.

My history with the guitar goes back to when I was in high school. I was 16 and bought a cheap thirty-dollar guitar and a book on how to play. I listened to John Denver, Simon and Garfunkle, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and the Beatles, trying to emulate their styles. A friend of mine had a 12-string that I messed around with. Now that was fun...double strings. Wow!

When I graduated from high school, my parents wanted to get me a graduation gift. They were thinking I'd like a car. My dad's a brilliant auto mechanic and he could easily find the best deal on a used car and the ability to keep it running like a clock. But what I really wanted more than anything was a new guitar. So my dad took me to the music store to pick out a guitar (no pun intended). It was one of the best gifts I've ever received.

Now, 3o-plus years later, I'm still playing the guitar. Several years went by when I didn't play at all. I was focusing on piano, cello and choral singing. But now that Dad is playing, he's inspired me to play, too.
So here I am, playing "Country Roads," "Scarborough Fair" and the theme from "Deliverance." Watch out, Dad, and get ready for dueling guitars.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Norman's New Year's Resolutions

Sheriff Al Chambers here. On December 20, we took Norman Bates into custody for the murder of Marian Crane, Milton Arbogast and several other victims. The newspapers reported the sordid details so I won't go into them here. Suffice it to say that Mr. Bates will not be seeing the light of day for quite some time. Of course we drained the swamp where we discovered the naked body of Marian, wrapped in a shower curtain and stuffed in the trunk of her car. We scoured the house for evidence and questioned everyone even remotely associated with Norman Bates, including his third grade teacher, Mrs. Horrorwits. As far as I was concerned, it was an open and shut case. A few days after his arrest, I went back to the house. I walked down the dark halls, noting the bloodstain at the top of the stairs where Arbogast had died. I even ventured to the basement where the dead mother was found. How could someone as shy and unassuming as Norman Bates be capable of such atrocities? I was just about to leave when I decided to check his bedroom one more time. That’s when I found it. A journal. Blank, except for one entry:

My New Year’s Resolutions:

Stock up on shower curtains, Ginsu knives and Lysol Toilet & Tub Cleaner.

Check expiration date on bottle of strychnine.

Mother’s Day gift: search ebay for Christian Dior gown and Prada shoes.

Accept offer to go on the Jerry Springer Show: “Mama’s Boys Gone Bad.”

Get therapy.

Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

Replace motel shower heads with low-flow.

Offer the use of the Bates Motel for the next season of “Survivor.”

Renew membership to the “National Psycho Killer Taxidermists Guild.”

Sell property and take that caretaker job at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado.

***Of course Bates’ journal is secured as evidence for the trial. But one question haunts me, causing restless nights and a profound uneasiness that gnaws away at the doorposts of my soul. What in the world is "ebay"?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Kids' Book

I'm writing a story for my three youngest grandchildren for their birthdays. They will all be five years old this year. I've decided to make the story into a book, complete with illustrations by yours truly. Unfortunately, I haven't created any serious artwork in years, so it's time to get out the old sketch pad and practice my line drawings.

On Monday I'm meeting with Sophie, my graphic artist friend, so I can pick her brain and see what we can do as far as illustrations go.

I don't have the whole story worked out but it involves a dragon and a cupcake.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Dog Whisperer

I discovered this show a couple of weeks ago on the National Geographic Channel. Now we are taping every episode and are totally addicted. Cesar Millan is an absolute miracle worker. I wish I knew about this program when we had our dog Britt. She was a great dog but I always had trouble walking her on the leash.

His theory of Calm Assertive Energy is amazing. Over the years, I've read almost every dog training book ever published and I've never seen anything like what Cesar does. It has to do with the psychological aspects of understanding dog behavior.

He understands that dogs are animals, not people. That's a hard thing to teach dog owners. They treat their dogs like babies or children, giving them human emotions. Cesar's motto is the rehabilitate the dog and train the owners. He says that there's isn't a dog that he can't handle. Even vicious dogs like pit bulls.

He usually solves behavior problems in just an hour or two. Watching this show, I realize that I did quite a few things wrong with Britt. If we ever get another dog, I'll be ready.