At The College Of Musical Knowledge

When it comes to rock music, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grip on its history and principal performers.  I lived through most of the history of that particular musical genre, was immersed in it when I was in high school and college, and read about my favorite artists and the early days of rock ‘n roll, the British invasion, and psychedelia.  I can pretty easily identify songs that fell into subgenres like doo-wop, bubblegum, acid rock, and disco and can identify obscure songs and artists.  And even though I don’t listen to current rock music much these days, I still carry around that history.

2014-ryan-stees-featureWith classical music, that’s not true.  I didn’t pick it up because it was the prevailing musical form in my formative years; instead, the apogee of the classical period happened decades or even centuries before I was born.  I’ve listened to it over the years, but my knowledge really is narrow and about an inch deep.  I’ve watched Amadeus, listened to a kid’s tape we had when the boys were little called Mr. Beethoven Lives Upstairs, and am generally familiar with at least some of the creations of some of classical music’s biggest names, like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.  I know that I really like baroque music.  But . . . that’s about it.  I still confuse Schubert and Schumann.

For a fan of the music, my knowledge is pretty dismal.  It’s embarrassing.

Recently I’ve decided that I’m not just going to accept my state of blissful classical music ignorance, and am going to try to broaden my horizons by discovering some new composers, learning about distinguishing between the different classical musical periods, and trying to understand the whole composing process and how orchestration works.  I’m not going to try to learn how to read music — we’re talking baby steps here — but I’m hoping to end up with a better appreciation for the music that I listen to most frequently these days.

Thanks to the great Idagio app that I’ve written about before, I’ve already discovered a few previously unknown composers whose music I really like, and learned some interesting things about process.  This year I’ll be reporting from time to time on what I’m getting out of my enrollment in the College of Musical Knowledge.  Fortunately, there’s no curriculum, and there won’t be any midterms.  I’ll just be auditing the classes.

A Day In The Life

We had a great time at the Sgt. Peppercorn’s all-day Beatles Marathon at the Bluestone. I was there from 11:45 to 11:45, hanging in from the great introduction to the show from Sir Paul McCartney though all of the early songs and Sgt. Pepper, to the second disc of the White Album. At that point, with my feet aching from standing for 12 hours straight, Revolution No. 9 dead ahead, and looking at about 2 a.m. as likely target for the end of Abbey Road, I decided to call it a day. We left hoarse but happy.

But what a day! If you like Beatles music (and singing aloud with a group of friendly, lubricated, singalong strangers), it’s a must-attend event. It’s impossible to go, listen to that music, and not be happy — and impressed at both the musicianship and stamina of the great band. It will definitely put you in a holiday mood!

Next year we’re going to get there even earlier in hopes of getting actual seats.

Involuntary Singing

I’m in the midst of a two-day singing binge.  Yesterday I sang in the “Vorys Choir” at the firm — an ad hoc group that sings a few Christmas carols and parody songs at the Columbus office every year.  I’ve been doing it for years, and fortunately there is no requirement of any talent or singing ability.  The main criterion is that you are willing to don a Santa cap and sing out loud, as Buddy the Elf instructed — and that’s something that I can do.  It’s fun.

hqdefaultToday, we’ll be going to the all-day Beatles marathon at the Bluestone.  Starting at 12:30, the performers will run through every song in the considerable Beatles repertoire — with a few others thrown in.  The Sgt. Peppercorn performers are a lot more talented and professional than the “Vorys Choir,” but there’s no doubt that, at many points during the show, I’ll be joining in.

When I hear Christmas songs I just find myself singing along, and when I hear Beatles songs I do the same.  I can’t help myself, really.  I know all of those Christmas and Beatles songs by heart, and I’ve sung along to them since I was a kid.  When I hear them now, I just naturally join in.

For the record, I think it’s easier to sing along with the Beatles, because all you need to do is follow the lead singer in the Beatles’ recordings, in whatever key and tempo and vocal stylings they chose.  When I sing Ticket to Ride, I think I sound like John.  When I sing Hey Jude, I think I sound like Paul.  Christmas songs sung by the “Vorys Choir” are harder because of the key chosen by our musical accompanists — so you might start out in a comfortable vocal range on Silent Night, for example, and mid-song find yourself beyond the top end of your capabilities and needing to downshift into a lower register.  In any professional choir, that would be verboten.  Fortunately, with the racket created by the “Vorys Choir,” nobody notices and nobody cares.

I hope that every Webner House reader gets to sing a favorite song of their choosing, aloud, during this holiday season, and enjoy the chance to make a little noise.

Am I The Midwest?

Hello Emerson is a rising band from right here in Columbus, Ohio.  Kish and I have had the chance to see them perform several times, and they’re great.

They have a new song out called “Am I The Midwest?”  I’ve linked the YouTube video for the song above.  If you’re a born and bred Midwesterner — even if you’ve since moved away — I bet the song will strum some mystic chords of memory for you.  It’s a great song that really captures a living, breathing piece of this part of America that so many of us call home.

Hat tip to the GV Jogger and Dr. Science, whose son Jack plays keyboards for Hello Emerson.

Future Stars

Last night we joined friends at The Art of Jazz fundraiser for the Jazz Arts Group at the Columbus Museum of Art. It was a terrific affair that featured performances by the Columbus Youth Jazz All-Stars, who played a mix of jazz classics and some impressive original compositions by the young performers in the band, and a closing concert by with Byron Stripling, the Artistic Director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, engaging vocalist Niki Harris, and Bobby Floyd, Andy Woodson, and Jim Rupp.

The music was great, from beginning to end, but the segment that really blew me away featured two of young men from the Fort Hayes high school, Jaxon Dixon and Jack Thompson, getting up on stage to play with the pros and showing great poise and awesome talent as they performed. They fit right in, and their contribution to a memorable evening was a great way to illustrate the value of the educational and youth outreach programs of the Jazz Arts Group.

I love jazz, and it’s great to see that it’s alive and well and in the hearts of young people who will carry the jazz torch forward.