Lazy Sunday CXXVII: Joy, Part II: Music

The first short week of the new school year is in the books, and assuming I’m still alive when this post pops this morning, I survived!

That’s reason enough to be joyful, but in case my survival of a three-day workweek doesn’t inspire you, here are some more “the joy of” posts of a decidedly musical extraction that might:

That’s it for this weekend’s joyful musings.  Here’s to a musically fulfilling Sunday!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Flashback Friday: Christmas and its Symbols

It’s Christmas!  Another magical day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

2020 was a tough year, but Christ is mightier than The Virus.  Thank God—literally!—for sending His Son.

Have a wonderful, safe, loving Christmas Day.  God Bless all of your for your support and generosity, and for being such amazing readers.

Here’s 25 December 2019’s “Christmas and its Symbols“:

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Stop Amending the Classics, Bring Back Melody

This time of year, this blog focuses big time on Christmas carolstheir histories, the theory behind them, their compositions, etc.  One of the great joys in my life is playing and singing these carols.  They are sweet but powerful musical retellings of the Birth of Jesus.

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that churches have taken these classics and, in an attempt to check the “contemporary Christian music” box, added unnecessary and musically-boring codas to them.  This past Sunday, my parents’ church’s praise team was leading the congregation in a stirring singing of “O Come, All Ye Faithful“—and then tacked on a needless extra chorus written in a modern style.  The additional chorus was okay, but it paled in comparison to the majesty and tunefulness of the carol it amended.  The church went from a lusty chorus of socially-distanced congregants to a few people mumbling along to the tuneless new chorus.

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Lazy Sunday XCII: Christmas

It’s almost Christmas!  It’s been a wonderful Christmas season, and I’m looking forward to time with friends and family.

Seeing as Christmas is just five days away, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s Lazy Sunday to posts related to this most joyous of holidays:

  • Napoleonic Christmas” – As featured in “Lazy Sunday XCIV: 100 Week Review,” this post improbably became my second most popular post thanks to WhatFinger News sharing it on their main page last December.  The post examines an interesting revisionist take on Napoleon from a PragerU video, and the Prager connection is why WFN shared the post.  Napoleon is a fascinating figure, a man Beethoven admired—then reviled—and someone who completely changed the trajectory of modern European history—for better or for worse.
  • Christmas Eve” – My brief riff on Christmas Eve, which I characterized as “the most magical, mystical part of Christmas time,” this post explores that mysticism—that sense of ancient legacy and tradition—inherit in the night Christ was born.
  • Christmas and Its Symbols” – This post features analysis of a daily devotional from Daily Encouraging Word, which discussed the symbols of Christmas.  We Protestants tend to be practical, literal folks, but we lost some of the magic and mystery of the season—and of our faith more generally—when we abandoned symbolism for literalism.  Christ and Christianity took old pagan symbols and repurposed them to tell the Good News of the Gospels.  Talk about meeting potential converts where they are.
  • Singing Christmas Carols with Kids” – I’m blessed to teach music for a living, and a substantial portion of my side income comes from teaching private lessons.  This post celebrates the fun and joy of singing Christmas carols with young people, an activity which links us to our ancestors and our faith.

That’s it for this pre-Christmas Sunday.  Stay warm, have fun, and have a Merry Christmas!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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TBT: O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting

Christmas is looming large—a mere eight days away—and I have been enjoying an unexpectedly quiet exam week.  After returning from Orlando Monday evening, I’ve enjoyed some sleepily productive time at home, writing Christmas postcards and letters, watching movies, and enjoying the warm glow of my Christmas tree.  I’ll be spending next week with family, and all the hustle and bustle of my niece and nephews, so this quiet time at home has been a welcome calm before the joyous storm.

Despite the lack of serious deadlines (other than waiting for final exams to roll in so I can grade them), I’ve managed to get quite a bit done, and I hope to get a bit ahead on the blog.  I enjoy writing daily posts, but it’s nice knowing I have a few posts squared away some days in advance, as it relieves some of the pressure to produce.  I’ll be doing more throwback posts and the like as Christmas approaches, as it’s the time of year when we’re all scaling back our efforts and taking a bit of a break.

That all goes to the point of this TBT post, “O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting.”  The story behind the sweetly iconic carol is one of last-minute inspiration and hasty songwriting.  There is something about the intense pressure of a time-crunch that turns the coal of writer’s block into glistening diamonds.  Not every songwriter works this way, but I know for myself that a hard deadline does wonders for motivating this songwriter’s pen.

Indeed, during the height of distance learning in the spring, I fully anticipated I’d be churning out new hits, maybe even finalizing a long-delayed follow-up to my piano-and-vocals debut, Contest Winner – EP.  Instead, I squandered my newfound time (well, “squandered” is a strong word—I quite enjoyed taking that time to work on the blog, to travel, and to do the other things I’m usually unable to do).  Without a deadline pushing me to create, I didn’t get anything done!

Or maybe that’s just my excuse.  Regardless, I imagine it’s something many songwriters can relate to, and it’s certainly the story behind “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

With that, here is December 2020’s “O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting“:

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The Virus and Live Music: The Story of The Roasting Room Lounge

Christmastime always puts me in a musical mood, as blog posts this week suggest.  Christmas is the perfect season to illustrate the power of music, as so much wonderful music has been written about Christ’s Birth.

In The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus, it was also a lucrative season for musicians.  Other than wedding gigs (a market I haven’t managed to crack into yet), nothing pays better than a Christmas party.  They’re fun, full of free food, and they pay well.  The spirit of free-flowing generosity (and the generosity of free-flowing spirits) results in some warm winter paydays.

Of course, this year has been particularly tough for musicians, as I’ve detailed many, many times before.  Revenues from private lessons and gigs seem to be bouncing back (at least for me), and the struggles of The Virus brought forth a burst of generosity.  Bandcamp Fridays really helped inject some much-needed cash into the coffers of independent musicians (myself included).

Musicians have also had to get creative.  That’s why I hosted my annual Spooktacular from my front porch.  Venues are constrained by various local and State laws (and sometimes dictatorial edicts) limiting their capacities, and many eateries have been slow to resume live shows.  That’s created real limitations on venues and artists, but it’s also opened up opportunities.  My Spooktacular was mildly profitable, but it also brought people together for desperately-needed fun and camaraderie (and put a few bucks into the pockets of the musicians involved).  I don’t know if that model will endure once The Virus is defeated, but it’s something for musicians to consider in this strange new world.

But for all I’ve written about the damage The Virus has caused to musicians’ finances, I haven’t looked at the impact on venues at all.  That’s an unfortunate oversight on my part, because a venues’ success or failure can directly impact that of an artist.  Many musically-inclined venues are coffee shops or small restaurants, so they largely cut live music as they went to take-out-only and delivery formats.

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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Last December I dedicated several posts to reviewing and analyzing some of my favorite Christmas carols.  It’s the season for playing and singing them, and the more I dive into their histories, the more I appreciate them.

One carol that escaped my notice last year was “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”  It’s one of my favorites, so I’m surprised I didn’t write about it (although it did enjoy the spotlight in my Christmas Day post).

Apparently, my pastor noticed—not that I didn’t write about it on this blog, which I’m certain he doesn’t know exists, but that I didn’t play it at church.  In one of his sermons, he said, “One of my favorite carols is ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.’ I didn’t hear it this Christmas season.  I don’t know why they didn’t play it, but…” and then he went on to make whatever point he wanted to make.  Of course, all he had to do was ask, and I would have played it!

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Memorable Monday: Away in a Manger

Yesterday marked the first December church service of the year, so I was finally able to whip out some Christmas carols for morning service.  My pastor’s personal favorite carol is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” so that was our first congregational singing.  But he requested an interesting pick for the second singing:  “Away in a Manger.”

“Away in a Manger” is not always top-of-mind for me when it comes to Christmas carols, but it possesses the same sweet simplicity (and triple feel) of “Silent Night.”  It’s also very easy to play, which makes it nice to crack open when practice time is short (“Hark!,” by contrast, is a bit more complicated, especially with its profusion of secondary dominants and moving to minor in the last couple of phrases).  The melody is very sweet, and easily harmonized in thirds.

I’ll be writing about more Christmas carols this season.  I hit most of the high-profile ones last year, so it’s going to be fun to dig into some of the more obscure carols over the coming weeks.  But to ease into Monday, I figured I’d look back to last year’s post on “Away in a Manger” [note:  I’ve cut out the lengthy preamble about the pending impeachment at the beginning of the original post, so as to focus exclusively on the hymn itself]:

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Singing Christmas Carols with Kids

Today is Bandcamp Friday, which means if you purchase my music on Bandcamp, Bandcamp doesn’t take their usual 15% commission.  You can pick up my entire discography for $15.75—seven total releases, including the popular Contest Winner – EP.  If you want to enjoy some good tunes and support an independent musician, today is a great day to do so.  You can also support me directly with a tip.

It’s that time of year when Christmas music dominates the airwaves and our collective consciousness.  It’s always a tad irksome to me how folks will complain about Christmas music during the Christmas season.  Of course you’re going to hear Mariah Carey every fifteen minutes—it comes with the territory.  Naturally, let’s at least get through Halloween (and, preferably, Thanksgiving Day), but at least make an attempt at getting into the Christmas spirit.

Last year I wrote extensively about Christmas carols.  Indeed, one of my many unfinished projects is to compile a small book containing the stories of some of our most cherished carols (I want to write a similar book about hymns, too).  I play and sing a lot of carols this time of year:  I’m a music teacher.  Perennial favorites—and the selections my classes are currently playing—are “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Holy Night.”

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