Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's "Music" Resolutions . . .

I thought up a few music related New Year's Resolutions . . .  in other words, I had some time to waste.

But then, I got to thinking . . . singing and playing instruments is probably what has kept me sane all these years . . . and at least delayed the onset of whatever form of dementia lies in wait for me down the road.  There is research that supports the claim that singing improves cognitive and neural function.

No really . . . I am in a good mood today.  But . . . I stray from the subject at hand.

New Year's Music Resolution #1:   Stop buying guitars.

I wonder if I have it in me to keep from buying or trading for another guitar this year.  If I had the money, I would bet against myself.  I love visiting area music stores . . . especially Murphy's Music in Irving, TX. 

The truth might be that I actually née to sell or give away a few of my guitars.  I don't play all the ones that I have.  We will see where this goes in 2015.

New Year's Music Resolution #2:    Play more harmonica.

Both of my dear sweet daughters gave their Dad a Hohner Golden Melody Harmonica for Christmas, a Key of G and a Key of D.   I now have a Golden Melody in the keys of G, C, D, and E.  Later this year I will pick up another in the Key of A . . . and then I will be done for a while.  

My primary harmonica goal is to learn to bend some of the notes.   I would bet on my keeping this resolution. The one thing I haven't tried yet is using a harmonica holder and playing harmonica while playing guitar at the same time.  Let's add this to my resolution list as well.

New Year's Music Resolution #3:    Learn Claw Hammer Banjo.

If ever there was a BHAG (big audacious hairy goal) that I would set for myself, then it would be to learn to play Claw Hammer banjo on the long-neck banjo that Riva Laughlin gave me after Joe died.  The technique when explained is very simple . . . but something in the connection between my eyes, brain and right hand is a bit discombobulated. 

If ever there was a time I missed Joe Laughlin's help . . . it would be now as I try to develop this technique to where I could play Claw Hammer style in public.   Odds of keeping this resolution . . . 50/50.  But it won't be because I didn't try.

New Year's Music Resolution #4:    Accept as many gig invites as I can.

Keeping this resolution is based only on my becoming more disciplined with how I manage my daily/weekly schedule.  I have 5 older adult singing gigs each month.  I should have another regular monthly gig in the books sometime in January.  I don't see having 6 gigs-a-month as being any problem . . . but then, how about having 8 a month . . . or 10?   1st Church String Band gigs are part of this resolution as well.

In all honesty, I had a blast this month of December in 2014, singing more during the month than I ever have before.  Enough said.  I am going to sing more!  Put money on it. It's a sure thing.

What are your New Year's Music Resolutions for this year?  Let me know, won't you?

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Merry Christmas . . . and a late update . . .

A belated Merry Christmas to all . . . and early Happy New Years greetings.

December was indeed an exciting month to both experience and remember.

During December of each year, I usually sing a Christmas Carol show for 4-5 area retirement / nursing homes and community groups.   This year I received 8 invitations to sing.   So I recruited the help of our 1st Church String Band members.   As a result, this was the first December in the past 10 years that I did not have sing a single Christmas show by myself.

That's good, especially since we used a PA system for half the performances, and help is always needed to carry equipment in and out!

In all, we sang to 510 people.  This number included older adult residents, family members, location staff, and volunteers.

We know we were well received, because we were invited to return whenever we could schedule to do  so.

Hopefully, a prayer of mine was answered in the process.  Our little String Band is a decent instrumental group.  Vocally, we are very good.   My prayer has been that we could begin singing more regularly in public, especially to raise money for some of our mission projects at the church.

It seems we may be headed that direction once again.

Everybody please keep singing!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Have guitar . . . will travel . . .

In just a few minutes, I will be driving a few miles south to 1st UMC in Colleyville. I have been invited to play guitar accompaniment for the preschool Christmas program there later this morning.

What a joy!   Each of the grade level classes will be singing a simple Christmas song or two. No doubt the sanctuary will be full of parents and grandparents.  It will be a special time.

This is a season for singing.  I cannot imagine anything to do with the season of Advent and Christmas that does not include music.

Have guitar . . . will travel . . . off we go!

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>

Monday, December 8, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

It a "good" tired I'm feeling right now.

The 1st Church String Band had our first "full hook-up" show in over a year this past Saturday.  We haven't used amps and a PA system since a house concert in the early fall last year.   We provided music for the Seekers Class dessert party / gathering at the church.  From left to right is John Johnson on guitar and vocals, then yours truly on guitar and vocals, Mary McAdoo on vocals, Charlie Weems on electric guitar and vocals, Papa Russ Logan on mandolin and vocals, Gary Ingram on bass guitar and vocals, Ned Conner on guitar and vocals, and Stu Spencer on guitar and 5-string banjo.

My usual "system" is geared around playing solo or as a duet with my sometimes music partner, Larry Dykstra.  Rigging everything up for a band with 6 vocal mics, and running all the acoustic instruments through mixer boards is a chore.  However, the more you do it, the better and quicker you become at hooking it all up, and the better your ear gets when its time to balance the sound output.

In other words, so far so good!

It seems to me that people are more appreciative of Christmas music this year than in the past.  I mentioned in an earlier post that we usually get around 4 or 5 invites to sing during December.  This year we received 9 invitations, a couple of them last minute in nature, but 9 none-the-less.

As a result of singing more, we are getting much better at singing the songs in the arrangements that we have come up with.  Our banter back and forth between songs is getting more crisp, and our timing is pretty good.  I guess that all comes from playing together as a band more.   December is usually our busiest month, as we only sing "publically" a couple of times during the year.

Maybe that will change this next year.  We are all enjoying ourselves and each other. We are enjoying entertaining our audiences.  We are enjoying making music.

My Christmas and News Year wish is that we can keep it up.  But that all depends on everyone's schedules.  We don't play for money.  If we get fed, it's considered a paying gig. 

But . . . I'm hoping that we all will make a more determined effort to play more as a band in the coming year.

God's grace, and friends to make music with, still amazes me . . .  ><>

Friday, December 5, 2014

Just tired . . . but still singing . . .

I wrote previously that December was going to be busy.

I tell no lies!  Goodness mercy me!

December is a very busy month at the church.  It's the season of Advent, and there are a lot of special activities as we get together as a faith community for Christmas Eve services and for Christmas Day.

Now add to that more Christmas music shows than I have ever participated in before.  I usually do 4 shows in December, either solo or with members of the our 1st Church String Band.

This  year . . . 9 shows!!   It seems that people want to hear Christmas music this year.

We have a big show tomorrow night for one of our larger Sunday School classes, and then we sing on Monday morning, and Friday morning.   Thank goodness most of these shows do not require hauling around my PA system and mixer boards.  The show tomorrow night is an "all-hands-on-deck" show with full electronics.

I am going to try and spend some time deeply thinking about why Christmas music, at least to me, seems to be in demand this year, more so than in past years.  Perhaps it's simply a matter of calendaring.

Or, is it something else.  We will see.

God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>