Music 101

I’ve finally started watching Outlander, thanks to the not-so-gentle prodding of a friend. As one does when binging a series, I skip the recaps and intros. I just started season 5, and was a bit slow on grabbing the remote, so I heard the theme song, and I am so glad I did. Each season comes with a new version of the theme song; this version is sung a cappella by a choir. The accents, the crescendos, the fermatas, the harmonies…it is ethereal, it is stirring, and it is haunting.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been raised in a town that supported its school music programs. We all sang to Mrs. Clark’s direction from 1st to 5th grade. We learned the recorder. Band was optional, but it began in 5th grade. Band and Choir continued through middle and high school with options to join the jazz and marching bands, and the chamber choir. I chose all three. Part of the reason was because we had enthusiastic and talented leaders, Mrs. Imse and Mr. Pearson, especially. They loved what they did, and it showed, and it was their love that inspired and enabled us to be as good as we were. We made great music together, and it felt so good to be a part of an arts program that could bring many different people together to create something beautiful. I especially loved singing in the chamber choir, being a part of the six part harmonies, and knowing that we all wanted to blend together, not single ourselves out.

Hearing the choir on Outlander sing The Skye Boat Song is magical in the way only music can be; it transports and reawakens the soul to a past life, and stirs the desire to want to live it again.

The Eighth of Firsts – My First Cassette Tape

For Christmas this year Santa gave me a record player. It’s something I had wanted for a long time, but always thought too frivolous to have, especially because I would then need to buy records. In case you didn’t know, a record collection ain’t cheap. Even so, the older I get, the less I worry about what’s frivolous, because it’s those frivolities that lessen the effects of my bigger worries.

Part of the fun of having a record player and not wanting to spend too much money is that I really have to think about music I love, artists and albums I love, and music that is timeless and great for many occasions. With the record player, Santa gave me two Christmas albums: A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio and Have Yourself a Swingin’ Little Christmas by Various Jazz and R&B artists. The next album was easy to pick: The Beatles’ White Album. But then I got stuck. There is a LOT of music out there!

Then, this past weekend, I was watching Sunday Today with Willie Geist, and one segment was about how record collecting has spiked during the pandemic. What a cowinky-dink! Following that bit came a segment called “A Life Well Lived.” This week’s was about Lou Ottens, the inventor of the cassette tape. Watching these two stories helped me decide on my next disc of vinyl.

Cassettes actually hold a special place in my heart. My sister and I used to make so many mix tapes. We became masters of the art of perfectly timing when to push which buttons in order to get the song we wanted off the radio broadcast without getting the voice of the DJ. Then we got a dual cassette player, then a cd and cassette player. Those really changed the game!

But I can’t buy my old mix tapes on vinyl. So I thought about what cassette albums I used to own. My first, and one of my favorites, was an album by The Drifters. I would listen to that album over and over again, and sing all of the words by heart, which is funny to me because I was a child of the 80s, but I preferred the music of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. So, I just added The Drifters’ Greatest Hits to my budding collection.

I’m sure everyone has their own reason for starting a record collection, but I think the renewed popularity this past year, during a pandemic, has something to do with people trying to think of better times, and the magic of music can transport us to those places with just a measure of notes. Thinking back to my childhood, to the special times in my life, will spark my memory of what was playing in the background. And so it’s not just a record collection, but a collective record of my life’s happy moments.

What album would you buy first?

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

It’s Marci Gras! I did my part to make sure Fat Tuesday lived up to its name by making and eating an absurd amount of gumbo and cornbread. I’ve never been to the Mardi Gras festival, but I have been to New Orleans, and our hotel was right on Bourbon Street, and we visited the Mardi Gras museum to see the floats. I was also traveling with my 7-year-old at the time, so I had to be somewhat prudent. Anyhow, I was watching the news this morning about New Orleans and how there is no parade because of Covid, but houses and yards are decorated to the nines. One interviewee said, “The parade may be cancelled, but the spirit of Marci Gras cannot!” And that is when I got teary-eyed.

I don’t know about you, but I hope post-Covid celebrations rush in like someone opened the floodgates. Potential memories are being stolen from us. Sweet memories of passing out cupcakes on your birthday or Valentines to your classmates were erased like a chalkboard this past year. Dancing like nobody’s watching on a crowded amphitheater lawn is only a hallucination. Singing the school fight song with 109,000 other fans in the university stadium must have been a figment of my imagination. Hugging and holding hands? Only in our wildest dreams. Festivals, reunions, and play dates are all fictional chapters of our now boring lives. Gosh, I even fantasize about struggling to get the bartender’s attention during happy hour!

I hope when we become a herd again, we become immune to boredom. I hope we flock together and have a parade. A day of parades all over the world with singing and dancing, and everyone has a seat together at the grandstand with a perfect view of the spectacle. But the timing of these Mardi Gras celebrations will be reversed, because we’ve been abstaining for too long, as if we’d given up togetherness for lent. It’s time for the spirit of Mardi Gras that has been hibernating in our hearts to wake up, take a real good stretch, and let the good times roll!