SubscribeStar Saturday: Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp Review

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This past week I hosted the first of two summer camps I’m putting on in June.  Next week is the ubiquitous, ever-popular Minecraft Camp, but this week saw the first inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp at my little school.

I’m not sure why I didn’t conceive of this idea sooner.  It’s not an original one, as rock ‘n’ roll fantasy camps have been around for awhile.  I’m not Ted Nugent teaching middle-aged yuppies how to play “Stranglehold” in the woods, but porting that concept to rockin’ out with kids is not difficult to do.

But last summer my headmaster kept forwarding me e-mails from a local country club, which was itself hosting a summer rock camp.  He did not include any commentary or suggestions along the lines of “you should do this camp,” but I got the message.  So when it came time to put together our summer camp catalogue, I tossed Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp into the mix.

My headmaster’s implied suggestion was a good one:  the camp was really wonderful.  Indeed, it exceeded my expectations, in large part because of the small but talented group of campers who attended.  We only had three kids sign up this year, but I’ve had semester-long ensemble classes with that few students, so I knew we could make some musical magic even with a small group.  Indeed, we had the perfect number for a classic garage rock band:  four (including myself).

Here’s some of the details about the camp—how long it lasted, a breakdown of our days, and the songs we played.  Hopefully it will provide a useful blueprint for other music educators looking to host their own camps.

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Lazy Sunday CII: Obituaries, Part II

Another week is dawning, and it’s time to look at the sun setting on some excellent individuals.  2020 was a rough year for many reasons, not least because of the deaths it brought.  Here’s hoping this week’s titans are resting in the arms of Jesus:

  • Rock in Peace, Eddie Van Halen” – If any of these three aren’t resting in the arms of Jesus, it’s probably Eddie Van Halen, though I’m holding out hope he experienced some manner of conversion experience and is playing “Panama” inside the pearly gates.  Eddie was a pioneering guitarist, but he also built on the legacies of past giants, like the violinist Niccolo Paganini (who was so good, it was said he sold his soul to the devil for the privilege; if that’s true, there’s a pretty good band in Hell right now—not that you’d want to go and hear them!)
  • Rest in Peace, Alex Trebek” – Smarmy.  Smug.  Canadian (I think).  Alex Trebek is synonymous with Jeopardy!, and it’s unclear that anyone can fill his shoes.  He brought just the right balance of bedside manner and not giving a damn to his hosting duties, asking guests for their tedious life stories, and occasionally finding them lackluster.  But, boy, he was a good host.  Rest in Peace, Alex.
  • Rest in Peace, Rush Limbaugh” – Speaking of irreplaceable hosts, Rush Limbaugh is one of the first greats to shed off this mortal coil in the great year 2021.  I don’t think anyone can truly replace Rush behind the legendary EIB Golden Mic, but I’m hoping they hire Mark Steyn as a perpetual guest host.  “The Rush Limbaugh Show w/ Mark Steyn” has a nice ring to it.  That’s a Canadian I can get behind.

That’s it for another macabre edition of Lazy Sunday.  Happier retrospectives to come in March.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Phone it in Friday XVI: Week in Review (5-8 October 2020)

I’m out of town for a few days, so I’m resorting to something I rarely do:  a week in review post.  Some bloggers feature these weekly, such as my blogger buddy Mogadishu Matt.  I sort of did one back with “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap,” but that was more a review of a week-long series of posts, not a review, per se, of the week itself.

Ah, well.  That’s just nit-picking.  Here’s what I wrote about this past week:

That’s it for this edition of Phone it in Friday.  Here’s hoping I wrote some material good enough that you don’t mind reading it (and reading about it) again.

Happy Friday!

—TPP

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Rock in Peace, Eddie Van Halen

It is with a heavy heart that we bid a fond farewell to the Mozart of our time, Eddie Van Halen.  Van Halen passed away after a lengthy struggle with lung cancer.  He is survived by his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen, and his son, Wolfgang Van Halen, who joined the band as its bassist in 2006.

Van Halen was truly one of the guitar greats of the twentieth century, the second half of which witnessed the rise of many guitar heroes to the pinnacles of superstardom, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.

But Van Halen’s licks didn’t stop with memorable riffs.  He could play neoclassical passages with ease, weaving them into songs about partying and and lusting after one’s teacher.  Learning his signature solo, “Eruption,” became a rite of passage for budding guitarists in the 1980s and beyond.  Van Halen also dominated on the keyboards—much to the chagrin of perennial showman David Lee Roth—as is clear from the entire album 1984, one of the best albums of all time.  Who can resist jumping when hearing the opening strains of “Jump“?

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My Musical Philosophy in Song: “Delilah”

On Sunday (my first day back playing piano in church!—everyone else was in their cars listening over a short-range broadcast)—I posted a video to my Facebook artist page of Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson singing Tom Jones’s 1968 classic “Delilah”:

I’ve received a handful queries about my statement that “this video sums up my entire musical philosophy.”  Naturally, there’s a bit of cheek in that statement.  My short answer is similar to the jazz musician’s (Louis Armstrong? Dizzy Gillespie?) when a lady asked him how to swing:  “if you have to ask, you’ll never know.”  The video should speak for itself:

But I began digging into this video a bit more.  What is this bizarre game show?  When was it aired?  How did Bruce Dickinson end up singing “Delilah”?  It reminds me another video that “sums up my entire musical philosophy”—Jack Black’s appearance on American Idol singing Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose”:

Fortunately, there are some scant details out there.  The show was Last Chance Lotter with Patrick Kielty, an Irish game show that ran for ten episodes in 1997.  The gimmick was that the show took losers from other game shows, gave them a lottery ticket, and anyone who had a ticket worth ten pounds or more could compete in the main game.  Some of the money won would go into a pot for one random audience member to win.

I haven’t quite worked out how the musical numbers figured in, but the musical guest would essentially sing a song to add even more cash to the pot by spinning a wheel (that was transparently rigged—the audience knew the wheel was controlled, from what I can gather).  That’s why Bruce Dickinson was on the show, and his performance of “Delilah” is one of the most spectacular musical renditions I’ve ever heard:  mariachi horns, bouncing bassists, leopard-print suits, and Dickinson’s soaring vocals.

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Midweek Update

It’s crunch time here at Portly HQ.  As such, today’s post will be very brief.

I’ve been writing a lot about Christmas and music lately—’tis the season, after all.  You can catch up on yesterday’s post about “Joy to the World,” as well as Sunday’s look back at my Dokken album reviews from Christmas 2018.

One reason for the Christmas music focus is that my students have their big Christmas Concert this Friday.  It’s always a great deal of fun, and we try to go for a homemade Trans-Siberian Orchestra vibe (if only I could get the administration to spring for some laser lights and pyrotechnics).

As an independent musician and a music teacher (I also teach history), I find myself playing the role of concert impresario quite a bit.  One lesson I’ve learned is that the money people—the producers—will always have their notes and revisions, often last-minute.  Your well-oiled, tried-and-true concert formula can often get totally upended with changes.  Learning to roll with the punches is hard, but necessary.

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Joy to the World

The musical mood continues here at The Portly Politico—as does the joy (check out my “Joy of” posts here, here, and here).  The Christmas season always lifts my spirits, and the boost from my piece on Milo and Romantic music has further buoyed them (if you’d like to elevate my mood to transcendent heights, consider purchasing some of my music).

With yesterday’s post on Christmas carols, I thought it might be interesting to look deeper into the most joyous of them all:  Isaac Watts‘s “Joy to the World.”

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Lazy Sunday XXXIX: A Very Dokken Christmas Series

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart wrote a series of hard rock album reviews for Orion’s Cold Fire, photog’s excellent blog.  This week, my students have their big Christmas concert, with all the spectacle and merriment that involves.  In that spirit, I thought I’d dedicate this Lazy Sunday to my reviews of Dokken’s first three albums, which you can read in full at Orion’s Cold Fire.

  • A Very Dokken Christmas, Part I” (Review on OCF) – This review looked at Dokken’s Breaking the Chains, the 1983 version (there was an earlier version in 1981 that was a demo, of sorts, for the band).  It’s a solid album, but not nearly as good as their next two.  The single title track, “Breaking the Chains,” is a fun and catchy little mid-tempo rocker, though.
  • A Very Dokken Christmas, Part II: Tooth and Nail” (Review on OCF) – If I’m not mistaken, Tooth and Nail is the first Dokken album I ever heard, after learning more about the band in The Rageaholic’s Metal Mythos: DOKKEN video.  It’s a great album, and it saved the band financially.  In one of those classic stories of artists getting screwed by major labels, Dokken was around a million bucks in debt after the release of Breaking the Chains and the subsequent tour, even though it was a hit record.  Tooth and Nail‘s title is no accident, as the band really did drag themselves “straight to the top” (to quote the title track).  This album got them out of debt—and on the way to hair metal superstardom.
  • A Very Dokken Christmas, Part III: Under Lock and Key” (Review on OCF) – Released the same year yours portly was born, Under Lock and Key would see Dokken at their best.  The album opens with the one-two punch of “Unchain the Night” and “The Hunter” (“Unchain the Night” starts with an instrumental introduction that sets a powerful, mysterious tone before cranking into high gear), and it’s all awesome from there on.

Christmas music it ain’t, but it sure makes for fun rock ‘n’ roll.  Have a Very Dokken Christmas!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

A Very Dokken Christmas, Part III: Under Lock and Key

My three-part series of Dokken reviews comes to an end—on Christmas!  Thanks to photog, proprietor of Orion’s Cold Fire, for the opportunity to contribute some hard rock/heavy metal reviews.

The final review in the A Very Dokken Christmas series covers 1985’s Under Lock and Key, an excellent album from start to finish:  http://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2018/12/24/portly-politico-a-very-dokken-christmas-part-iii-under-lock-and-key/

In case you missed them, here are my other recent reviews:

Stay tuned to this blog and www.orionscoldfire.com for more reviews.

Never unchain the night—and have a Merry Christmas!