Open Mic Adventures XVI: “Please Come Home for Christmas”

I finally got around to writing the detailed review (it’s around 2200 words!) of my school’s Christmas Concert this year.  The full review is over at my SubscribeStar page, and includes the video for this performance andO Holy Night,” which I wrote about last week.  It was a really stellar performance, and I am super proud of the kids.

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.

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Delayed SubscribeStar Saturday Delivered!: Christmas Concert 2022 Review

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

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.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

TBT^4: O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting

It’s another Exam Week, a welcome respite after two weeks of madness.  Proctoring exams is a pain, but it’s the kind of tedious pain that we’re all used to enduring from time to time.  Fortunately, it’s basically two hours of boredom at a time, followed by frantic grading.  The sooner that’s done, the sooner Christmas Break can truly begin.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how pressure creates diamonds.  I was incredibly, almost superhumanly productive in the two weeks after Thanksgiving because I had to be.  I was putting in twelve-to-sixteen-hour days to get everything done, and while I was exhausted, I felt like a champion.

Then this last Saturday I had an endless day before me, and accomplished almost nothing.  Part of that was recovering from the craziness of the week before; part of it was woman problems (the greatest drain on energy and resources); part of it was the lack of anything to do.  I understand why retirees die within six months if they don’t find something productive to do—I was starting to think that all my endeavors meant nothing (maybe they do mean nothing, but as a Christian I know they do; if they didn’t mean anything, it’s all the more reason to keep myself moving so I don’t have time to dwell on The Darkness).

Anyway, that pressure can create Beauty.  All this pressure has had me thinking about Neo’s comment on my post “You’ll Get Everything and Not Like It“: “I always remember that our soldiers in France in 1944 had a saying, ‘The road home goes through Berlin’. Berlin is on all of our ways home.”  That’s the end of a very long and poignant comment, but those two sentences say it all.

With that, here is “TBT^2: O Little Town of Bethlehem and the Pressures of Songwriting“:

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Open Mic Adventures XV: “O Holy Night”

My favorite Christmas song of all time is Adolphe Adam’s “O Holy Night“—so much so that I wrote a subscriber-only post analyzing the song way back in 2019.  Naturally, it’s a perennial standard in my school’s annual Christmas concert.

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.

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Memorable Monday^2: Away in a Manger

Good old Ponty is under-the-weather and was unable to submit his #5 pick for Best Movies of All Time, so I’m reaching into the archives to pull out some Christmas merriment this Monday morning.

I decided to look back at a post about “Away in a Manger,” a Christmas carol that has become one of my favorites (maybe Ponty and I should do a countdown of the Top Ten Best Christmas Carols, but I have a feeling it’d get pretty redundant pretty quickly).  My Middle School Music Ensemble played this piece on the Christmas Concert, but we put it in 4/4 time and gave it a groovy bass line (the same riff from the Poison cover of the Loggins and Messina tune “Your Mama Don’t Dance“).

It was a fun twist on the original, but even though the Poison riff version was my idea, I prefer the original in its sweet, lilting 3/4—the perfect time signature for a peaceful lullaby.

Regardless of how it’s played—or which of its many variants are sung—it’s a beautiful little song about the Birth of Jesus.

With that, here is “Memorable Monday: Away in a Manger“:

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Phone it in Friday XXVIII: Christmas Concert

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!

Merry Christmas!


TBT^4: Hand it to Handel

Autumn is here, and it’s a time for music!  There is something about the fall that makes music even better.  Sure, summertime is for outdoor concerts and music festivals, but I find music sounds better in the fall.

There is some science behind this feeling:  sound waves travel farther in colder weather.  It has something to do with air particles being further apart in the cold, so sound waves can keep going.  I’m sure I’m explaining it incorrectly, and I’m too lazy to look it up, but just trust me on this one.

Unfortunately, I am no longer teaching the Pre-AP Music Appreciation course that saw me steeped in the best that medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, classical, Romantic, and modern composers had to offer.  That doesn’t mean I have to stop enjoying these composers, though!

One of my all-time faves—and a composer who is quintessentially English, even if he’s German—is George Frideric Handel.  His works are among the finest from the Baroque period.

With that, here is 18 November 2021’s “TBT: Hand it to Handel“:

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Lazy Sunday CLXIX: Even More Halloween Hijinks: The Musical

Happy All Hallows’ Eve Eve!  It’s the day before Halloween, one of my favorite holidays of the year.

Naturally, I needed to highlight some spooky posts, but I did many of those back in “Lazy Sunday LXXXIV – Halloween Hijinks” and “Lazy Sunday CXXXVII – More Halloween Hijinks.”  So I decided to go with some Halloween posts with a more musical flair:

Happy Halloween!


Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Open Mic Adventures XI: Spooktacular Supergroup Covers “Monster Mash”

The third front porch Spooktacular was a smashing success (at least according to my mom, my girlfriend, and me—a pretty unbiased group, yeah?), with many of my private music students taking the stage to share their talents.  Even a few former students, now off to bigger and grander things, stopped by to sing a song or two.

As is tradition at these events, I invited anyone with an instrument or a voice to join us on stage for a couple of songs.  By the time I offered up this invitation, most of my younger students and their families had left, but several were still around.

From those remaining—two bassists, a guitarist, two piano players, a singer, my niece, John (on acoustic guitar) and myself (on drums)—we formed an ad hoc supergroup.  One of my younger students—the young man who walks Murphy for me while I’m at work—took lead on the vocals, and really nailed it.  He sounds like a younger Bobby Pickett!

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