Day 70: Old Kvetchers…and Birds

HaydnCD70Today’s Haydn CD (70 of 150) appears to be the last of the Welsh Songs for George Thomson.

I can’t say I’ll be sad to hear the last note of the last track fade away.

But I have quite enjoyed exploring these old folk songs scored by Joseph Haydn.

Almost as much as I enjoy listening to the old kvetchers here at Panera Bread.

One retired guy is Tony. Another is John. They’re fixtures as sure as the booths in which we sit.

I don’t know who their hangers-on are this morning. But Tony is waxing eloquent about some political issue or another. When Tony gets rolling, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Also of interest this morning are the huge groups of birds that swoop and flip and land in the tree outside the window. A lady with her son a few booths up from where I sit said, “Are you guys watching the birds?” I don’t know to whom she asked that question. But I spent time this morning filming the birds and taking a few picture. The movie turned out great. But the photo didn’t do the scene justice.

I wonder if I can upload a video clip to this blog? Hmmm. I’ll give it a try.

Yup. It worked. Amazing.

What do you think?

Today’s CD feels and sounds different from yesterday’s. The music is more interesting. The singing is more pleasant. I’m not sure what’s different. (It has to be more than my ears.) But something is. I’m actually enjoying each of these songs today.

The musicianship is Continue reading

Day 69: Moons

HaydnCD69It’s been a crazy holiday season. Already. Still. I don’t know which.

My wife and I haven’t recovered from Thanksgiving yet, and here we are frantically working on Christmas cards, considering tree shopping tonight, and catching up on work (strategic plans, grading final exams, preparing two new classes to teach, this blog, screenplays, etc.).

So we try to steal a few minutes together here and there.

Like this morning, for instance.

Instead of me jumping out of bed before the suns rises, and heading to some restaurant or office to work on this blog before my real work day starts, I suggested we both jump out of bed under cover of moonlight and head to Denny’s where we can drink their excellent coffee all morning long, split a Moons Over My Hammy plate, and work on Christmas cards. Together.

Surprisingly, she went for it, which – if you knew my wife – is quite something. She’d rather keep her head on a soft pillow, with covers pulled to her chin, than do just about anything.

CardsBe that as it may, here we are. This is the view I see of her. But, still, she’s here. With me.

And I’m listening to Welsh Songs for George Thomson II.

Which is quite similar to Welsh Songs for George Thomson I.

Only less so.

I’m still having a hard time getting into the voices of soprano Lorna Anderson and tenor Jamie MacDougall. If you’ve read any of my blog posts prior to this, you know why: their vocal range is not in my sweet spot. Anderson doesn’t sound like Pilar Lorengar and MacDougall doesn’t sound like Nicolai Gedda. The former’s range – to my ears, anyway – sounds lower than soprano and tenor. The latter is right in the sweet spot for me. Continue reading

Day 68: Say Hello to Welsh Songs

HaydnCD68I was curious about something this morning: How big is the United Kingdom, especially Scotland (since I’ve been listening to Scottish songs for the past week), compared to the state (Michigan) in which I live?

The answer surprised me.

The United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) is 94,058 square miles. Michigan is 96,716 square miles. So my state (ranked 11th in size out of 50 in the United States) is bigger than all of the United Kingdom combined.

Lest you think I have a debilitating case of State Envy, if you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you should know by now that I like to see things in context. If I can compare something unfamiliar (the century in which Haydn composed, for example) with something familiar (what was happening in America at the same time, for example), I can better understand whatever it is I didn’t understand before.

800px-Flag_of_Scotland.svgIn this case, I’m comparing the United Kingdom’s square miles to that of the United States so that I can better understand something (albeit a small thing) about the country or region from which these songs come.

The square miles of Scotland is 30,265, which is roughly comparable to the state of South Carolina (the 40th largest state) at 32,020 square miles.

800px-Flag_of_Wales_2.svgThe square miles of Wales is 8,016, which is roughly comparable to the state of New Jersey (the 47th largest state) at 8,721. Very cool flag, by the way.

While I’m at it, the square miles of Austria (Haydn’s birthplace) is 32,377, which is roughly comparable to the state of South Carolina.

I’ve always wondered why that region of the world (Austria, Germany) produced so many renowned composers, one after another, down through the centuries. Why did one of the (comparatively) smallest regions of the world provide the world with untold wealth from all of these brilliant Classical composers?

Doubt me? Take a look: Continue reading

Day 67: Thank You, “Wolfgang”

HaydnCD67I’m embarrassed. And somewhat pissed.

Last night, I forgot to rip more CDs from my Haydn Collection into iTunes.

In other words, yesterday’s CD was the last one from my wonderful box set by Brilliant Classics that I had on my laptop. I usually rip 8-10 at a crack just so I have a healthy reserve.

Wow. Time flies.

Fear not. YouTube to the rescue.

Thanks to a cat named Wolfgang Amadé Mozart who posts Haydn music to YouTube, I’m able to listen to today’s CD ,anyway.

Thank you, Wolfgang!

Here’s what I’m hearing today:

Track 1 (“Jenny dang the weaver”) is the perfect way to start, especially after the Aural interruptus I experienced this morning after sitting down with my cup of Light Roast. “Jenny dang the weaver” plays from 00:00 to 02:15 and it’s a delightfully jaunty tune, shared by soprano Lorna Anderson and tenor Jamie MacDougall. The title, alone, made me laugh. Not quite out loud. But it was a good sturdy internal chuckle.

Here are the lyrics to and a bit of information about this improbable tune, once again from Continue reading

Day 66: A Wee Thing

HaydnCD66 Once again, the compositions on today’s Scottish Songs for George Thomson seem more palatable to me than what I heard the day before.

But I couldn’t tell you why.

It’s the same singers:

Lorna Anderson and tenor Jamie MacDougall, both of whom actually are Scottish. They have fine voices.

It’s the same musicians:

Haydn Trio Eisenstadt, which consists of:

Harald Kosik piano
Verena Stourzh violin
Hannes Gradwohl cello

As with the previous CDs of Scottish Songs for George Thomson, this one was recorded where it was likely first performed, or even composed: Haydn Hall, Esterhazy Palace, Eisenstadt.

Speaking of which, Continue reading

Day 65: “I wish my Love were in a Myre”?

HaydnCD65 If there’s one thing I’ve learned from listening to Scottish Songs for George Thomson it’s that the song titles are often quite intriguing, even amusing.

Track 20 (“I wish my Love were in a Myre”), for example. The hell does that mean?

I Googled the title and found the lyrics to this very old song on a site called The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive that appears to be a labor of love for a woman named Emily Ezust. The lyrics:

Again rejoicing Nature sees
Her robe assume its vernal hues,
Her leafy locks wave in the breeze
All freshly steep’d in morning dews.
In vain to me the cowslips blaw,
In vain to me the vi’lets spring,
In vain to me in glen or shaw,
The mavis and the lintwhite sing.

The merry ploughboy cheers his team,
Wi’ joy the tentie seedsman stalks;
But life to me’s a weary dream,
A dream of ane that never wauks.
The sheep-herd steeks his faulding slap,
And o’er the moorlands whistles shill,
Wi’ wild, unequal, wand’ring step
I meet him on the dewy hill.

And when the lark ‘tween light and dark,
Blythe waukens by the daisy’s side,
And mounts and sings on flitt’ring wings,
A wae-worn ghaist I hameward glide.
Come, Winter, with thine angry howl,
And raging bend the naked tree;
Thy gloom will soothe my cheerless soul,
When Nature all is sad like me. Continue reading

Day 64: Aye, More Scottish Songs For Bonnie Lasses and Lads

HaydnCD64I spoke too soon yesterday.

Today’s CD sounds as lugubrious as the first one I didn’t care for a few days ago.

I believe it’s the tempo that does me in.

These songs seem more melancholy than yesterday’s. So their tempo is slower.

Therefore, the tunes sound more like church hymns than rousing Scottish songs about wee lads and naughty lasses and tankards of ale and moors and whatever else the Scots sing about that I love so much.

Or, maybe not church hymns. Maybe less about the aforementioned wee lads and bonnie lasses and more about lost loves and faraway lands. I can dig such songs as well as the next Scotsman. But not entire CDs of them. (By the way, that’s why I think the first Hobbit movie was such a dud. If people had to hear one more interminable, droning song about misty mountains and dungeons and gold they would have jammed soda straws in their ears. A little goes a long way.)

Today’s selection of songs again features soprano Lorna Anderson and tenor Jamie MacDougall, both of whom actually are Scottish. They have fine voices.

The music is terrific, provided by the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt, which consists of:

Harald Kosik piano
Verena Stourzh violin
Hannes Gradwohl cello

As with the previous CDs of Scottish Songs for George Thomson, this one was recorded where it was likely first performed, or even composed: Haydn Hall, Esterhazy Palace, Eisenstadt.

I couldn’t find a post of this CD on YouTube. So you’ll just have to imagine it. Or buy it and listen to it yourself. It’s not bad music. In fact, it’s quite nicely done. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Or tankard of ale.

Day 63: Still More Scottish Songs

HaydnCD63Another terrific selection of Scottish songs featuring soprano Lorna Anderson and tenor Jamie MacDougall, both of whom actually are Scottish.

The music is terrific, too, provided by the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt, which consists of:

Harald Kosik piano
Verena Stourzh violin
Hannes Gradwohl cello

As with the previous CDs of Scottish songs, this one was recorded where it was likely first performed, or even composed: Haydn Hall, Esterhazy Palace, Eisenstadt.

This morning when I went to Google something to do with these Scottish songs, I discovered this:

GoogleCallasIt’s Google’s tribute to the late soprano Maria Callas.

Classical music is cool.

Day 62: More Scottish Songs

HaydnCD62The underpinning of Buddhism is a word called dukkha, which is a Pali word often translated as suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction, un-ease. It is found in the Four Noble Truths – in fact, it is the first of the Four.

The second of the Four Noble Truths tells us where dukkha comes from — ourselves. We crave. Or, another way to describe it is we grasp. Essentially, we want things to be different from how they are.

That has to be the reason why I think differently about today’s Haydn CD from how I did about yesterday’s.

It’s, essentially, the same music. The same performers. The same musicians.

Yet, today, I like it. I don’t mind the near-contralto range of soprano Lorna Anderson, or the lower-range of tenor Jamie MacDougall. For some reason, I actually like today’s selection of songs.

Obviously, there are two possible explanations: (1) The song selections are different, and/or (2) I am different.

Frankly, I think it’s the latter. Maybe I just needed a little time to get used to what I was hearing.

Track 9 (“Hey tutti taiti”), for example. A really fun little ditty.

And Track 16 (“The wish”).

What I’ve noticed about today’s CD is: Continue reading

Day 61: Scottish Songs? George Thomson?

HaydnCD61Today’s CD looked like an incredibly interesting diversion from the previous compositions. And it is. Just not the way I was hoping.

I love songs from the U.K. Give me Ireland, Scotland (even England) any day. There’s something about the sound and feel of music from that spot on the globe that does it for me.

But, today’s music isn’t exactly giving me goosebumps.

For one thing, the tempo is too slow for a Scottish song – at least, my favorite Scottish songs. (Come to think of it, I don’t believe I could name any Scottish songs. I’m thinking of Irish songs full of tin whistles and “Laddies” and “Lasses” and Danny Boys.)

The song titles on this CD certainly have the right feel to them. Track 4, for example, is called “The wee, wee man.”

I’m glad I’m not a wee, wee man. (But I’ve had a lot of coffee this morning. So I may be soon.)

Here’s what I find off-putting about this music: The vocalists .

They are listed as Lorna Anderson, soprano, and Jamie MacDougall, tenor. (MacDougall sounds like the right guy for the job.) However, Ms. Anderson sounds more like a contralto to me. Her soprano range is definitely lower register. And Mr. MacDougall’s tenor range sounds more like baritone to me. So the two of them together are not endearing me to what I thought would be a toe-tapping round of Gaelic drinking songs.

Here. Listen for yourself. This is the exact same performance to which I’m listening this morning.

To be sure, laddie, “Rattling roaring Willy” (Track 6) is making me yearn for a pint or two. But, overall, this music sounds less festive and more pensive than is my preferred style. Continue reading