This week I’m featuring the video of our grand finale, “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Most readers will be familiar with the version by The Eagles, which was the version my High School Music Ensemble used as its primary reference. The song goes back to 1961 and Charles Brown, a blues pianist.
It’s also quite challenging, with a lot of secondary dominant chords and a slightly irregular structure. For example, sometimes students would hang on the B7 chord for four beats before resolving to E major, which shifted after two beats to a delightful E augmented chord. Other times, though, the B7 would only play for two beats, followed by E major (or E7), before resolving to the tonic, A major.
A number of my private lessons leading up to the concert involved diving into some of the nuances of the piece in more detail (naturally, quite a few of the students enrolled in High School Music Ensemble also take private lessons with me after school). The barre chords are challenging for guitarists, and the different ways of playing that fun little E augmented chord also provided some educational mischief. For my bassists, we worked quite a bit on the various walkdowns, such as the opening A->Amaj.7/G#->A7/G sequence. That’s not hard to play, but there’s a lot a budding young bassist can do with it.
Regardless, as you’ll hear, this piece brought the house down, and the young man singing it was a hero the rest of the day—I heard him greeted to wild applause and cheers upon arriving to his first period class after the morning concert. The video here is from the same mother who took the “O Holy Night” video, so if you see her lingering on a particular guitarist/bassist for an extended period of time, that’s why.
I never got around to writing about the annual school Christmas Concert last Saturday, so subscribers are getting a double dose of SubscribeStar Saturday today. Despite this past week being exam week—historically full of free time—I was quite busy with a number of things related to closing out a semester of school. Some Town Council things came up, too, so it was a fairly productive week.
All excuses aside, I’m finally getting around to it.
The short version is as follows: it was amazing. The kids performed extremely well. Some of them gave what I would consider to be career-best performances. There’s something magical about the stress and excitement and anticipation that bring out the best in students.
It wasn’t without glitches, but those small bits aside, it was fantastic.
In the interest of changing things up and preventing listening fatigue, I don’t program it every year, but it shows up just about every other year, so it’s fairly ubiquitous. If I a particularly gifted singer, it makes for even more poignant performance.
This year I have been thus blessed. Not only is the singer great, but the band is, too!
Of course, this video is not from an open mic night, so the title is (yet again) a bit of a misnomer, but it certainly fits into the spirit or ethos of the proud open mic tradition I so cherish.
Today is the day of our big Christmas Concert at school. It’s both my favorite and least favorite day of the year, because while the concert is incredibly fun, it’s also incredibly stressful. It’s worth it, though, to see the kids singing and playing and having a good time.
As I’ve grown older, fatter, and achier, I’ve scaled back a bit of the theatricality and bombast of the Christmas Concert to something a bit more manageable. Gone are the days of singing while standing on a piano (I did that once, years ago). I also strive to make the concert focused on the kids (well, and Jesus).
Still, it’s a lot to pull together, with not only my two classes (the middle and high school ensembles) but also two choirs, three dance classes, and six Foreign Language classes. I’ve completely eliminated solos (outside of soloists on songs within these classes) to streamline it as much as possible.
I’ll be doing a full write-up one Saturday (possibly tomorrow) covering it, but for today, just pray for yours portly. I’m confident it will be a good concert, I just gotsta get through it!
It’s Christmastime, which means a mad dash of yuletide craziness for yours portly, followed by a stately glide into New Year’s. Right now I’m riding the wave of insanity, hoping I don’t wipe out along the way to the crest.
Years ago, I worked for a municipal performing arts center as the Cultural Coordinator—a cool title for a stressful job. The venue was a beautiful opera house of the kind that graced many mid-sized Southern towns in the late nineteenth century. We did not host an opera company (as far as I can recall, not a single note of opera was performed in the venue while I was there), so the name is a bit of a misnomer, but we did feature a number of different performances, both those we booked ourselves through the city, and those put on by enterprising residents who rented out our facilities.
The month of December was brutal. In addition to our own events, we were also slammed with rentals. Friday and Saturday nights saw me splitting my time between an outdoor musical event and whoever happened to be in the opera house that weekend. One Christmas, I was so stressed out I starting losing weight without even realizing it, leading to my 2011 weight loss odyssey.
Unfortunately, I was so busy and stressed, I started loathing Christmas—a holiday I love!
Fortunately, while I’m still pretty busy at the holidays, I no longer dread their approach. That said, I have had quite a week, and have another major one ahead of me.
My apologies to readers who are used to waking up to a fresh Portly post in their inboxes, ready to enjoy over a hot cup of coffee at 6:30 AM. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been working pretty much nonstop. Since probably 2009, when I started my two-year stint as the Cultural Coordinator at the Sumter Opera House in Sumter, South Carolina, the first half of December has been a brutal yuletide slog for yours portly.
Christmas 2010 was particularly grueling, with an event at the Opera House every night for the first two weeks of the month, including outdoor music on weekends for the City’s Festival of Lights. I was so stressed that I developed a painful sore on the roof of my mouth, which made it unpleasant to eat anything but the softest of foods. That was an unintentional blessing, as it kicked off my 2011 Weight Loss Odyssey, a journey during which I shed a whopping 110 pounds in about eleven months. Even in extreme stress, there are hidden blessings.
Regardless, my Christmastimes for the past decade have been jam-packed with events. That’s not always a bad thing: I like keeping busy, and Christmas gigs can be very lucrative (about four years ago I played a bank Christmas party while suffering from a gnarly head cold, but a steady supply of cough drops and water got me through to the $300 reward on the other side). There is one event that looms over all others this time every year, though, one that I paradoxically love and dread: the annual school Christmas concert.