A Beatles Reunion — Of Sorts

Ringo Starr is coming out with his 20th solo album, called What’s My Name, next month.  The album will feature an intriguing track for the Beatles fans among us.

ringo-starr-paul-mccartney-perform-2014-billboard-1548Sir Ringo will be singing a song written by John Lennon shortly before his death. The song, called Grow Old With Me, was recorded by Lennon on demo tapes for Double Fantasy, Lennon’s last album.  When a record producer played the song for Ringo, who had never heard it before, he was touched by it and decided to record it — and he asked Paul McCartney to play bass and sing back-up.  Sir Paul agreed, so the two surviving Beatles perform together again, on a song written by a third Beatle that includes a string arrangement that quotes from Here Comes The Sun, written by the fourth Beatle, George Harrison.  Ringo’s new album also will feature a cover of the song Money, which the Beatles also recorded and performed.

I’ll be interested in hearing the song, which is as close as we’re going to get to a Beatles reunion these days.  I also think it is pretty cool that Ringo, who is 79, and Paul, who is 77, are still active in performing and recording — and are thinking from time to time about their days in the Beatles and their now-departed bandmates in the greatest musical group ever assembled.

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Countdown Lists

The other day I drove up to Cleveland.  I tuned in to Sirius XM’s Symphony Hall for the drive, and learned that they were counting down the Top 76 classical recordings, as voted by their participating listeners.  I caught the countdown at number 11, which was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.  I was immediately intrigued by the countdown notion, and then was immediately astonished when the countdown continued and I learned that Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue came in at number 10.  Rhapsody in Blue, over Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony?  Seriously?  In what universe?

1200x600bfBy the time I reached Cleveland the countdown was at number six — Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons — and I was sorry that my drive had ended.  When I got home that night, I checked out the final few songs that rounded out the Top 10.  Beethoven dominated, with three pieces in the Top 10 and the Ninth Symphony coming in at number one, but the more modern composers did pretty well too, with Rachmaninoff, Barber, and Copland — as well as Gershwin — all getting Top 10 slots.  But wait a minute . . . no Bach?  No Handel?  No Haydn?  No Boccherini?  The baroque era and Haydn got horribly short-changed by Symphony Hall listeners, in my view.  You can check out the Symphony Hall list here.

Why are people like me interested in countdown lists?  Those of us who grew up listening to Casey Kasem doing American Top 40 every week, to see which songs were moving up, which were moving down, and who was up there at number one, are pretty much conditioned to pay attention to countdown lists.  But ultimately, the lists are just a way of keeping your finger on the pulse of the world at large and what other people are thinking, and liking.  They don’t really mean much in terms of actual quality or lasting significance — after all, the Pipkins’ Gimme Dat Ding reached the American Top 10 in 1970.  Retrospective lists, like the Symphony Hall list, provide great fodder for argument, though and you might just learn something or try something new as a result.  I’m going to give a listen to some of the unfamiliar pieces on the Symphony Hall countdown list.

Roots Music

Last night we visited the Burnt Cove Church Community Center to catch a performance of the Loose Cannon Jug Band.  It was a foot-stomping, knee-tapping way to end a sunny Saturday on the Labor Day weekend.

The LCJB is five musicians who play just about every traditional musical instrument you can think of:  tenor banjo, guitars, fiddle, harmonica, squeeze box, washboard, . . . and two jugs, of course.  The only thing they seemed to be missing was a spoons player.  They performed traditional songs and original creations, all in the style of early blues, bouncy gospel, and other American roots music of the ’20s and ’30s.  The songs, old and new, were terrific and often funny, and the band members all seemed to be having a great time — which meant that the audience was having a great time, too.  The audience sing-along to Mud Flat Laundromat was a highlight.

The Loose Cannon Jug Band show was one of the many offerings of the Summer Entertainment Series in Stonington.  For a small community, the Series offers an impressive array of shows — in fact, last night there was a second performance, of folk music, at the Opera House itself.  The LCJB show occurred at the Burnt Cove Church, pictured below, which is a beautiful old church turned into a performance venue, complete with pews for seating and pressed tin ceiling.  When the band launched into one of their raucous gospel numbers about sin and Satan, it was a perfect combination of sound and setting.

Karaoke

Last night I was part of a group that went to a karaoke bar. We got up on stage to sing the Bill Withers’ classic Lean On Me, and of course watched other people perform as we waited our turn. From this limited, never-to-be-repeated exposure to the karaoke world, I’ve reached several conclusions:

1. Most people (including me) can’t sing or dance to save their lives.

2. Most people who enjoy karaoke don’t realize number 1, above, applies to them.

3. I had no idea that growling, headbanger-type songs are popular karaoke fare. It was disturbing enough to realize that some people would pick such offerings to be their songs to perform, but watching them belt out troubling lyrics that scrolled by on the screen upped the disturbing quotient to the nth degree. You want to steer clear of anybody who thinks it’s a good idea to publicly perform those songs.

Idagio

I’m admittedly something of a cheapskate, and my cellphone is pretty much app-free as a result.  I’m willing to pay for music, however, and when my old iPod started to show signs of its age I began looking for a new, reliable source for music to listen to on my walks.

220px-beethovenAfter doing some research, I decided to subscribe to Idagio, a classical music app, and it has been a great choice for me.  I really enjoy classical music, but I feel like my knowledge — of the scope of the works of different composers and of pieces from different genres and periods — is both narrow and shallow.  When your exposure is confined to the stuff you’ve personally added to your iPod, it’s going to be limited by definition.  For the cost of only a few bucks a month, Idagio has fixed that problem.  Now I’ve got access to a sweeping library of works by composers I’ve never really listened to before, and I feel like I’ve been launched on a pleasant voyage of discovery.

I like how Idagio is organized.  The “discover” section of the app highlights new works from artists, new albums, and playlists that have been created for Idagio.  When you go to the “browse” section of the app, you can choose among composers, ensembles, soloists, conductors, instruments, genres, or periods,  If you pick a favorite composer, you can listen to the composer’s “radio,” which is a random selection of pieces by the composer, or you can listen to their work sorted by popularity or pieces that were recently added.  If you like baroque music, as I do, you can focus on that period, listen to an assortment of music, hear composers you’ve not heard before, then do searches of the “composers” library to take a deeper dive into what they’ve created.  If you then hear something that you like, you can download it and create your own library of personal favorites.  The app also organizes music into “moods” — like “gentle,” “happy,” “exciting,” “passionate,” or “angry” — and the Idagio-created playlists include a range of options, from collections designed to increased concentration and focus to composer-specific and period-specific options, like Mozart piano music or “baroque meditation.”

In short, there are lots of different ways to hear the music, which increases the ability to use Idagio as a tool to broaden your exposure to the sprawling world of classical music.  And that’s a big reason why I’m a fan of this app.

Rhythm On The River

Last night we joined Dr. Science and the GV Jogger and checked out the Rhythm On The River festival at Bicentennial Park on the Scioto Mile in downtown Columbus. ROTR is a free event that featured a full day’s worth of musical acts. We arrived in time to listen to the last two acts — The Ides of March, who had a hit in the ’70s with “Vehicle,” and ’80s MTV staple The Fabulous Thunderbirds. It was a fun event on a beautiful early June evening.

If you’ve never been, the Bicentennial Park Amphitheatre is a good place to listen to live music. We lugged over some chairs and set up on the wide lawn in front of the Amphitheatre; even though we got there late there was plenty of room to find a good spot and get set up. The only drawback to a late arrival was that most of the food trucks were either sold out or besieged by very long lines. We endured a reasonable wait and picked up some excellent grilled cheese sandwiches from the Momma Can Cook food truck then settled back to enjoy the music.

As I enjoyed the music wafting by on a pleasantly warm evening and looked around at my fellow festival-goers, I thought about the value of a community festival like ROTR. It drew a very diverse crowd, and all of us sat together on a pretty green lawn, sharing a fun mutual experience. People who brought kids watched them play in the fountains next to the park, and everyone had a good time. It seems like the kind of thing cities should want to encourage.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  No green beer for me today — instead, I’ll be quaffing an authentic black and tan with Guinness and Harp, poured in an authentic pint glass.

And for those of you who want to feel a bit more Irish this morning, I offer the lyrics of Danny Boy, below.  But don’t feel too Irish when you sing it; the melody is a very old Irish tune, but the words were written by an English lawyer.

Danny Boy

O Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen and down the mountainside
The summer’s gone and all the roses dying
It’s you, it’s you must go and I must bide

But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
O Danny boy, O Danny boy, I love you so

And when you come and all the flowers are dying
If I am dead, as dead I well may be
You’ll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an Ave there for me

And I shall hear, though soft your tread above me
And all my grave shall warmer, sweeter be
For you will bend and tell me that you love me
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me