Music to My Ears—Five Years A-Bloggin’

I was sitting at my desk the other day, contemplating what I would have for breakfast, when I suddenly realized, Oh my goodness! My blogoversary passed!

As of February 19, I’ve been blogging for five years. I didn’t think I’d last five minutes, let alone five years. But here I am. Like the proverbial bad penny, I keep turning up. I’m grateful to all of you who discovered this blog and keep coming back. Rest assured, the weirdness will continue. (Or, run away while you still can.)

On with the show. Recently, a friend who is taking a writing class shared the following video with me.

In case you elect to avoid spending almost eight minutes watching the video (though it was well done), its creator, Nerdwriter1, discusses the recurring musical themes (leitmotifs) of the Lord of the Rings movie soundtracks, composed by Howard Shore (movies directed by Peter Jackson, based on books by J. R. R. Tolkien). These are my favorite soundtracks of all time, so of course I had to take a look.

I was already well aware of Howard Shore’s genius. But the video was a lovely reminder of what you get when a powerful musical score is wedded to a powerful story.

   

See, kids? These are CDs. We used to play these back in the day.

On many days, I had the soundtracks playing in the background while I wrote. I can remember writing scenes that matched the tempo of Shore’s compositions. These soundtracks made me want to write the kind of story that would merit a skillfully written score played by an equally skilled orchestra.

So yeah, I love those soundtracks. But not just Howard Shore’s. I love the soundtracks from Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) (movies directed by Christopher Nolan), which were composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. These soundtracks, with their edgy orchestration, are an interesting contrast to the Lord of the Rings soundtracks. But they all have an epic quality that evokes emotion. (If you look at the list of musical selections on the Batman Begins soundtrack, you’ll note that each was named after a bat genus. Also, BATMAN is spelled out.)

    

    

I have music in my head, even as I write this blog post. I’m hearing the horns from The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack. Being a blogger is a kind of fellowship. You post something and hope someone will read it. And when someone does, and you get to know that person, relationships are forged. I’ve met many great people through this blog. People like you. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Kitty and her interns. Somebody’s gotta get the coffee.

Batman Begins movie poster from geekynerfherder.blogspot.com. The Dark Knight movie poster from popcritics.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Snow-Fro and Kissy Boo Shoppets are registered trademarks of Moose Toys.

A Night at the Opera

Have you ever had one of those days when you looked in your closet and picked out several things to wear, all the while thinking of each, Nah this won’t do? That’s how I’ve been the last several days with blog posts. I started one on writing tips from Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon (yes, really; it’s almost finished) and one on the great outdoors (less finished). But this post you’re reading is neither of those (Perhaps you’re thinking, Whew, I dodged that bullet), nor any of the other ideas I had swirling around in my head.

Last week, a friend of mine and I attended a student production of Mozart’s opera, The Magic Flute (which also is playing at the Civic Opera House in Chicago). Though I have attended several operas over the years, and enjoyed them, I can’t say I’m an opera aficionado. But I have friends who love the opera, and one friend who is an opera soprano (and a faculty member at the University of Illinois). So, that’s how I found myself at the opera several times.

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I didn’t know the storyline of The Magic Flute beforehand (click storyline in the first part of the sentence for the synopsis), though I’d heard one of its most well-known arias elsewhere. That aria, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”) is sung by the Queen of the Night, a character who does what is needful to regain her kidnapped daughter, Pamina. You can listen to that aria here if you like.

You probably already know this (if you do, you know way more than I did last week), but I’ll tell you anyway. The Magic Flute is a fairy tale that follows the hero’s journey model. We meet the hero, a prince named Tamino, whose call to action from the ladies of the court of the Queen of the Night is to rescue Pamina from Sarastro—her kidnapper. Along the way, he gains a sidekick—Papageno, who is forced to accompany him on this mission. In Act I of the opera, you start off with one idea about who is good and who is evil, then find that notion overturned in Act II.

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At left in black is Abi Beerwart, who played Pamina; in yellow, is Bethany Crosby, one of the ladies of the court of the Queen of the Night

I love the hero’s journey story model and fairy tales. Having grown up on a steady diet of fairy tales and musicals, thanks to parents who took my brothers and me to musical performances, this opera was right up my alley. I love that my assumptions were overturned, but not in a frustrating, this-doesn’t-make-sense kind of way.

Several small children in the audience were very vocal in their commentary. Some burst into tears, wanting to leave halfway through the production. Others, knowing cast members, cheered when their favorites appeared. Still others just wondered what was going on. Early in the performance, I had the same question. But at least the children were there, soaking in the rich tapestry that was The Magic Flute.

I’m reminded of a recent post at Jennie’s blog, A Teacher’s Reflections.

Major pieces of art? Masterpieces? Introducing this to preschoolers? It is not easy to explain to people how and why art can make a difference with young children.

You have to read the post (click recent post above to do so) to understand why I thought of it as I wrote this post. Jennie ends the post with, “Art makes a difference.” Perhaps watching The Magic Flute will be life changing for the children who attended it as well.

What kinds of art (musical performance, movies, books, animation, dance, painting or other forms of visual art) were you exposed to as a young child? What difference did it make in your life?

P.S. Extra bonus points if you can guess where I got the title, “A Night at the Opera,” from. Though I had one specific source in mind, there is another possible answer.

Photos by L. Marie.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

ice-creamAnd it’s about to get cold inside with the first, hopefully annual, Ice Cream Giveaway!

That’s right! As a way of saying Happy New Year and thanks to all who follow this blog, I’m hosting this giveaway. I found a place that delivers ice cream, sorbet, or gelato to your door—IceCreamSource.com. Unfortunately, they only deliver to the U.S., so I can’t make this an international giveaway. (Sorry about that.)

I wish I could send pints to all of you—you’re all deserving. But there can only be ONE winner! (Just like there can only be one Highlander!) I will have the pint of the winner’s choice sent to that individual. IceCreamSource.com lists many brands, including Ben & Jerry’s, Hagen-Dazs, Breyer’s, Silver Moon, and others. And what better way to celebrate the freezing cold of winter than with freezing cold ice cream??? Huh? Am I right or am I right?

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You might dash on over to IceCreamSource.com (click on the name in the second paragraph) and look at the brands, then comment below and tell me which one you would like, if you haven’t already done so in a previous post. If you have, cool. . . . And that by the way, is a winter pun. 😀 Also, since I’m nosy, please tell me which winter activity—including Winter Olympic sports—you love the most. (BTW: I love sledding! As for Olympic sports, I love all of the ski events, especially ski jumping; snowboarding; the luge; bobsledding; and all of the skating events—figure skating, ice dancing, speed skating, etc.)

Winner to be announced on Friday, January 31.

frozen-logoYes, winter sports are cool. But appreciating winter is sometimes a battle for me. On Sunday, as I was driving to church down one iced-over, unplowed street after another (all with the look of evil meringue), and watching snow falling for the 50,000,000th time this winter, appropriately enough I blasted the Frozen soundtrack. If you have seen the movie (Disney’s latest animated movie), or own the soundtrack like I do (it’s good, isn’t it?), you’re familiar with “Let It Go,” a lovely song written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and beautifully sung by Idina Menzel. Well, I tend to have anxiety sometimes, especially if I’m driving down a street glazed with ice and snow. So, I needed to hear that song, especially the last line: “The cold never bothered me anyway.”

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So, here’s to winter and its fickleness and frigid temperatures. Let’s raise our ice cream spoons and say, “Take that, winter! Yeah, the wind chill index is 20 below today! But you know what? The cold never bothered me anyway.”

Ice cream image from hfboards.hockeysfuture.com. Frozen logo from animationmagazine.net.

A Belly Button for My Bookcase

024Every bookcase needs a belly button. What? You don’t believe that? It just so happens that mine has one. (And yes, my bookshelves are crowded.)

Have you spotted it yet? The belly button I mean. It’s the word joy. A belly button reminds me that I was born a vulnerable human being—a tiny baby connected to my mother for nine months. Joy reminds me that I’m still a vulnerable human being in need of the fresh perspective that joy brings.

And of course, this season of Christmas with songs that declare “O tidings of comfort and joy” and “Joy to the World, the Lord is come” are a vivid reminder to be proactive about being joyful. Not always easy, huh?

Julie-as-Maria-maria-von-trapp-julie-andrews-30320447-486-750You know, the word joy has occupied my bookshelf so long—years actually—I stopped seeing it until today when I needed the reminder. See, instead of tidings of joy, I’ve been singing tidings of grumpiness, constantly focused on what I think I don’t have or what I do have (loud neighbors, a car with bald tires, a refrigerator without chocolate). I’d forgotten that joy, unlike happiness, isn’t intermittent or based on things going right. It’s an all-day feeling—a secret room in my heart. I can go there, put my feet up, and remember. As Maria (Julie Andrews) in The Sound of Music sang, “These are a few of my favorite things.”

Take a joy break with me today. Remember what brings you joy.

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“These are a few of my favorite thiiiiiiiiiiiiings!”

Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp from fanpop.com. Prince Zuko from probablymortal.com. M&Ms from shinebeautybeacon.blogspot.com. Royal Poinciana tree from commons.wikimedia.org.

Beauty for Ashes

To comfort all who mourn . . . to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes.
Isaiah 61:2–3 HCSB

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Over 20 years ago, during the bombing of Sarajevo, cellist Vedran Smailović reacted in a memorable way. He played Adagio in G Minor (supposedly composed by Tomaso Albinoni) on his cello amid the rubble of various bombed buildings. Despite the danger, Smailović, in formal attire, provided beauty in defiance of the ugliness and hope for those who despaired. Beauty for ashes.

I sense the call to do likewise. Do you? What will you do to provide beauty, even a tiny bit of it, to a world as thirsty for it as a plant thirsts for water?

While you think about that, you can listen to internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing The Cellist of Sarajevo, a lament composed by David Wilde in honor of Smailović, who had become known throughout the world as the Cellist of Sarajevo. If for some reason, the video below doesn’t play, you can find it here. Please note that the music takes awhile to start.

Smailović photo from Wikipedia. Video uploaded to Youtube by MB7classical.