( Aug. 1st, 2009 06:34 pm)
Back from vacation. woo! It has been a long week. We left out early last Friday morning. Went to my aunt and uncle's home in Kingston, TN. They have a beautiful place in the mountains just off of the TN River. We all left from Kingston on Sunday and traveled to Myrtle Beach, SC. Stayed until Thursday and then drove back to Kingston. We JUST made it back to Memphis. Well, Arlington, actually. ;) I'll have to make a longer post later. Good to be home.
so, I turned on the tube today... Micheal Jackson DIED!!! Oh My God....

yeah, I'm kidding. While I felt that the event was GROSSLY over-blown by the media, it did spark a lot of interest for me into an artist who I never particularly idolized or followed closely in life. Don't know why- I have always thought that he was super-talented. Just really didn't give much notice to his music post-Jackson 5 era. Now, going back and listening, I have to say that I am impressed. Like so many artists, his work seems to mean more in death than in life. My favorite MJ song, Man In the Mirror, really resonates...


I won't even attempt to "define" the irony or be too specific because I simply don't know the guy. Not really. None of us do. But what a great song. Ok, so has it been long enough to laugh a little? Remember this vid from Weird Al? "Ham on, Ham on- Ham on whole wheat... all right!" ;p

( Jun. 19th, 2009 09:10 pm)
So... it's been a little longer than I would like since the last post. Not as long as has been the case in the past, mind you, but long enough. So I need to find something to talk about. What on earth CAN I talk about...

Oh yeah. I'll write about a humorous re-occurrence that happens to me. I am a musician and a singer. That is probably the one thing that most defines me as person besides my particular faith. I hope that my faith helps to define me- if not then it's not much of a "faith", is it? But that is too heavy right now. I want to talk about something embarrassing that has happened to me several times now- the latest instance just yesterday.

I LOVE music. Practically all genres of music. I am a scholar of music... in the sense that this is where my primary focus of education lies- singing, music history, music theory. But I don't think that I am arrogant about what TYPE of music or musicians I associate myself with. Furthermore, I am a singer and I have sung musics of all types... rock, jazz, christian, "classical", ethnic, music theater, etc. You might hear me singing a Grateful Dead song one minute, and the next hear me humming the lyrical "dainty" theme from Phantom of the Opera. And that is precisely what I was singing, softly (I thought) and to myself yesterday as I stood in line at Best Buy.

I had just passed by the DVD of the movie version of Phantom- and of course that put one of the song's that Christine sings -"Angel of Music"- into my mind. And if it's in my mind then you can damn sure bet that I'm going to be humming it, singing it, playing it on the piano until it "passes." And that wouldn't be a big deal if I was off by myself or around close friends or family. They know me well enough. But yesterday, I just happened to be standing behind... well, how do I describe this guy? Do you remember the wrestler Bam-Bam Bigelow? ;) That somewhat describes the dude's appearance... lots of tattoos, piercings, a gotee, and biker clothing.

So, before I realize what I am doing- which is singing "Angel of Music" softly in a very light and HIGH falsetto- he turns and makes eye contact. And I see the slight smirk form at the corners of his mouth. I turned and eyed the Phantom of the Opera DVD set which was on a stand not far away, as if that would somehow make the situation less awkward. I don't think that he made the connection. ;)

Things like this have been happening to me most of my life. I know that it is nothing really to be ashamed of. But it can draw some interesting reactions. I think that the only thing that might have made it more hysterical is if he had smiled really big (and sincerely) and struck up a conversation. "Oh, Andrew Lloyd Webber is my HERO..."
( Jun. 3rd, 2009 07:31 pm)
Well, as I said earlier, Vegas was great, but I was ready to come home by Monday. :) It was complete sensory-overload for me. However, I had a great time both singing with the fellas and hanging out with some of them on the two evenings we spent there.

We arrived Saturday at around noon Vegas time. Jay arranged to have us picked up in Limos and taken to our hotel- The Mirage. This is one of the best known hotels in Vegas and in the same general area as Caesar's Palace, the Bellagio and so on. The hotel was ENORMOUS... most in Vegas are. Each hotel has it's own casino, of course, and also numerous restaurants, delis, bars, nightclubs and stores. The "theme" at the Mirage right now is the Beatles. Just happens to be my favorite rock group of all time. :) There is a Circus o lay show at the hotel which is based on the Beatles... it is supposed to be incredible! The price certainly implies so... over $115 dollars a ticket!! I didn't do it, which is the only regret I have about the weekend. But I just didn't want to spend that much on ONE show. Also, we really didn't have alot of time. Had I done that, I would have missed the chance to hang out with a few of the fellas on Saturday night which was one of the finest times that I have had since undergrad.

Several of us decided to take a taxi on Saturday night to a little Tapas Bar and jazz club that is off the beaten track. The name of the place is The Grape- it is known for it's fine selection of wines, and AWESOME "tapas", or appetizers. The first time that I encountered the phrase "tapas", I was in grad school in Atlanta. One of my friends asked if I would like to go out with he and his wife to a tapas bar that evening... I turned about 3 different shades of red, ( I heard topless bar). And no, I don't believe that there is anything "Freudian" about that... :)

Anyway, back to Vegas... this little place was AMAZING!! So different from most of the places in Vegas. It was low-key and classy. The atmosphere was definitely more my element. We loved the music, a jazz trio, and we all probably had a little too much to drink. I had several glasses of some great Italian red wine... I asked for Lambrusco and the waitress almost laughed. Apparently, Lambrusco is not a very high-end red wine. Although the Italians seem to love it (as I do) and it is the showcase wine at most Olive Garden restaurants. So she found a more "respectable" red on the menu... don't ask me the name. Should have jotted it down, because by the time we left that evening the letters of the wine, which I was trying to keep in mind, were swimming around just like everything else. :) I had several mixed drink along with the wine, including a very VERY well mixed Long Island Iced Tea... ;o. The music was swinging, the conversation was great and it was nice to get out and drive around town the town.

The next day, a few of us decided to rent a cheap car and drive out to see Hoover's Dam. Now this is right up my ally of things that I like to do on vacation. I'm definitely not a "clubster", or a gambler. I intended to take 20 bucks or so down one night and play some blackjack. But I never did. I was in Vegas and never played the first game!!! I have no problem with gambling from a moral/spiritual point of view. I don't believe that it is any more of a sin than eating, drinking, etc. Being addicted would be wrong in my belief system... in a similar way that over-eating or drinking is. And I did do both of those things. Apparently, I'm just not very attracted to gambling. I would rather spend my money on things that I KNOW that I will receive and enjoy. Like food. And good wine. ;)

But what was I saying...Hoover Dam. It was a gorgeous drive from Vegas to Boulder City... about an hour and a half 'round trip. Once you get to Boulder City you start to descend down into the Canyon... technically the extreme southern tip of the Grand Canyon. So, technically I can now say that I have visited the Grand Canyon, although this is not really the breathtaking portion which is further into Arizona. It's just amazing to think about how this is the water and electrical energy source that makes it possible for cities like Vegas, and L.A. to exist.

Sunday afternoon and evening was our concert! We sang for a PACKED house in a well-known restaurant and lounge at the Venetian- a very ritzy hotel. There was something in the air- an excitement... can't explain it. Maybe it was just being in Vegas. Just to sing there, knowing that this is the place where people like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Elton John, and so many others spent so much of their musical lives. It was a really neat feeling, and we were REALLY into the concert.

As a result, the crowd was too. They loved us!! Now, I think that it helped that many of them were pretty well "lit". But it was a great concert. I think that I mentioned that a big producer from L.A. was suppose to fly in and hear us. Well, he did, and apparently he liked us very much. Now, there was another big-wig from L.A. that happened to be there who seemed to be even more impressed. She liked us so much that she promised to do her best to land us a record contract in L.A. very soon.... !!! At the least, one the really high-rollers who was responsible for bringing us out this weekend, wants to fly us all to L.A. to do a concert for his friends and associates. So, I said that I would have to check my schedule, but I think I can find some time somewhere...

Our sound engineer for this concert is also the sound engineer for the group Take 6. Enough said? If you are not into acapella, which is totally excusable, Take 6 is probably the best know acapella jazz ensemble in the world. And we wanted this concert to go as well as possible and also to get a very talented person's advice and coaching. Tony was FANTASTIC... not only the quality of his mixing, which is everything in acapella singing, but also in his advice and leadership. We had a four hour rehearsal and he brought so much to the table giving a unique perspective and interpretation to several of the songs.

He gave me a really nice complement, too. :) We were rehearsing one of the pieces in which I sing a solo. He just stopped us and said- dude, you have a GREAT voice. And this isn't something that he seemed to just "give away". He told me that I reminded him of the lead singer for Bare naked Ladies ... I was not immediately familiar with the reference. I had heard the name, of course, but couldn't place any of the group's songs. I looked them up... they did the song One Week. Great song! love the crazy lyrics.

After the concert on Sunday, we were taken out to "Tao". This is probably the most famous restaurant in Vegas. And it didn't take long to understand why... It is an Asian dining "tour de force". Our meal was like 7 courses... and Oh MY LORD!!! I was full by the last appetizer, but it was too good to stop eating. We had everything... sushi, spring-rolls, CHOCOLATE SPRING ROLLS!!! That's correct, dark chocolate filled spring rolls were ONE of the deserts. :) So much evil in such a short time... ;)

Anyway, just wanted to have a record of our trip for my future reference. I doubt that anyone would willingly be interested enough to read all of this. If you did, thinking that surely any story that included a bunch of guys and Los Vegas would certainly have some entertaining value.... sorry!! ;) But, FYI, this is really "living it up" for me... singing, having a few too many and seeing a town that truly never sleeps. :)
Wow! Vegas do take a bite, don't she?

We made it in late Monday evening. I was completed wasted and have felt in no way up to posting. But what an awesome time we had! It was a quick reality check for me, though, as I stayed the next two days with my grandmother at the hospital.

She came to our house today, which frees me up a few minutes. But I'm here alone with her right now and I swear that I can already hear her calling. Maybe it's real, maybe it's in my mind- I just don't know for sure anymore...

I probably should go. But I have SO much to post in a bit about Vegas and the concert... :0
( May. 30th, 2009 02:35 am)
I can never sleep the night before leaving on a trip. We are leaving this morning for Vegas... have to be at the airport at 7:45. It's a short trip. We arrive on Saturday afternoon, do our show on Sunday evening and come home on Monday. I've never been to Vegas so I'm really excited about seeing the city. I really don't know what to expect... I've heard so much about the town. All of the cliches, of course, but I am really interested in seeing the old downtown area. Unfortunately, almost all of our time will be dedicated to our gig. We will have some time on Saturday night but we'll have to retire early so that we can be rested to sing on Sunday. There is a producer from L.A. that is coming into town to hear us sing. If he is impressed, there is a very real possibility that we could be invited to L.A. to record. We've already been asked to do a show in Italy next summer that this same guy is associated with. So... it is at least something to dream about. :)

This has been a somewhat chaotic week. My grandmother has been in the hospital in Jackson, Tn. She was admitted there on Monday and tonight she was moved to Memphis. What began as a seemingly precautionary stay due to bronchitis (she is 86) became more serious during the week. She apparently had a very light heart attack on Wednesday, so we requested that she be moved to Memphis so that she can be treated by her cardiologist. In the process of traveling back and forth to see her I myself became really sick. I'm feeling much better now, but I'm still really weak. I'm just trying to find the will and the energy to make this trip and sing the best that my body will allow. So... wish us luck.
The past two days, my stomach has decided that it hates me and no longer wants to be a part of this body. :|

That's the only explanation that i have, as it seems that it is constantly trying to make it "out". But enough on that.

I believe that I perhaps caught some bug at the hospital taking care of grandmother (that's another post all together). You know, I remember a time that I almost NEVER got sick. I remember a time before then that I was sick almost all the time... growing up with horrible allergies and sinuses. But then there were allergy shots and, for years after, I would never catch anything. Never took a flu shot, never seemed to need one. In the past year, I think that I have been sick at least 4 times.... once with pneumonia and this is my second stomach bug. I know that it could be much MUCH worse, and I shouldn't complain... one trip to the hospital is plenty of evidence for that. But I am getting really tired of my stomach going ape-shit. An ulcer, perhaps...
This Memorial Day I am remembering... John Lennon.

A song of his came on the radio this morning that I have not heard in AGES. It was Watching the Wheels from his last album- Double Fantasy. Awesome song. I've always found the lyrics and the timing of the song's release ironic and sad. To me, the song expresses how his life had come around "full circle" from his time with the Beatles, to the break-up, then escaping the frantic life of a celebrity and virtually going into hiding for 5 or so years. When finally, he found enough happiness and stability in his personal life to return to the public eye and to music.

He releases the album Double Fantasy in November of 1980. It seems to fans and musicians everywhere that they have years of John and his music to look forward to. The following month... December 8th, 1980, Mark David Chapman shot Lennon four times in the back as he was returning to his New York city apartment. John had signed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman only hours earlier that night. According to Wikipedia, John told a radio station hours before that he felt that he could be safe anywhere in New York. Years earlier, he was asked in an interview how he thought he might die. His response... "I'll probably be popped off by some loony." Wow.

Watching The Wheels

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings
to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k. they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice
designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine
watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy
you're no longer on the ball?

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels
go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

People asking questions lost in confusion
Well I tell them there's no problem, only solutions
Well they shake their heads and look
at me as if I've lost my mind
I tell them there's no hurry...
I'm just sitting here doing time

I'm just sitting here watching
the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go
( May. 23rd, 2009 01:46 am)
Late "out-of-town" entry...

Just a word or two about my father. Love my dad. Period. We have had some "kinks" in our relationship through the years, mostly due to yours truly being a selfish, spoiled, egotistical, ungrateful brat of an only child. Of course, I can admit that here but not to him. It's a guy thing me thinks.

But this isn't a heavy entry. Just something that really freakin' cracks me up about my father... something that I want to remember. Since I've been old enough to notice or care, my dad has had one particular idiosyncrasy related to driving. Well, more specifically, PARKING. Dad is... well, how can I describe his personality in a few words? He is the quintessential quite "absent-minded professor." He pretty much lives in his own world, except when he is teaching or performing. He is a brilliant musician and choral director. He is truly the most gifted person in a variety of different ways that I have ever known. He IS my dad and I know that many sons or daughters say such things. But he truly is. Since I was small, I have been awed- even slightly intimidated- by the things that he can do.

But dammit... he cannot park a car STRAIGHT if the space is 3 car lengths wide, the lines are painted in neon-green and his life, my life, and the lives of his hypothetical unborn baby grandchildren were hanging in the balance!!! He is the worst car-parking human being that I have ever encountered. When I am meeting him somewhere, some public place, and I want to know if he is already there as I pull up... I don't need to call. I don't even need to know which car he is driving on that particular day. All that I need to do is look for the break in the pattern of neatly parked cars. That is- where exactly does the pattern of cars parking at, let's just say, a 75 degree angle to the road BEGIN.

Here's a story. So today we are pulling into Kingston, TN after a 6 hour drive from Memphis. We are coming to see my younger cousin graduate from high school. My parents decide to stop at the first liquor store in town to pick up a few bottles of wine for our family. Now, this is a small town... the liquor store parking lot is small (only 2 spaces) and not far off of the main road. The two spaces are right in front of the store and BOTH are vacant. How simple could it be? So what does he do... he pulls into the parking lot and parks HORIZONTALLY across BOTH spaces! Hops out of the car, whistling... goes right on into the store. All the time the store clerk is looking at us like "Are they gonna rob me..." I MUST start taking pictures. :)

Brad's graduation was great. He graduated with high honors. I think that means a GPA between 3.5 and 3.75. He is going to UT and wants to be an engineer. Hope he didn't inherit my father's sense of symmetry.
Tonight, I attended my cousin's 6th grade graduation. A big step in his young life. He will be attending a new school next year. The all dreaded... middle school. In a way I envy him. Not really him but his current place in life. He has so much ahead of him. So many major decisions and crossroads. But he hasn't crossed them yet. He still has so much time.

What I really want to write about tonight is the musical portion of this graduation service. No, I don't intend to be a musical snob like so many who comment on Youtube performances. I get fighting mad when I see people dissecting a young person's performance... telling them how "awful" it is without any thought for the amount of courage that it took for them to even get up in front of a crowd and perform, much less post it on the internet! And then there are those who like to make criticisms about performances without offering the least bit of constructive advice. My theory on this is that these people simply try to feel better about their own performances by searching for examples that THEY find inferior and then tearing them apart- or they like to act like they actually know what they are talking about when they actually lack the knowledge to back up their comments with constructive advice. Blah! really rubs me...

But that moved me totally off track. Back to my cousin's graduation ceremony. As I said, it was a 6th grade graduation. As one might expect, it included a few selections by the 6th grade chorus. Now, as a singer and a musician, I never go into a public school performance expecting to be blown off my feet. Not that I never HAVE been, mind you. I just don't expect that. And that's not really what I think is most important especially at this very young age. What I want to see are young people who are inspired and who are truly part of a "musical experience."

What is a musical experience, right? To me, a musical experience is something subjective and individual to each of us. For these kids, what I wanted to see is a group of young people who's faces lit up... whose eyes "twinkled" just a little more as they sang the notes and lyrics to some very moving songs. And there were some very moving songs. But the kids... they looked absolutely scared to death! There were at least 40 in the ensemble. I doubt that 10 of them were actually singing. The director banged on the piano while 10 children very carefully made sounds. That's right, made sounds. And the thing is, there were some good sounds. I don't think that many would have noticed because it was so tentative, but some of these children had wonderful voices and ears! But they were so uninspired and so CAREFUL.

It was as though they were afraid that if they opened up, they might make the slightest mistake... God forbid that! Sure, kids and even adults are naturally like this when singing or performing for the first time. But it shouldn't be that way with a group of students who have been singing together since the 1st grade. What I wanted to see is some sign that someone has helped to instill into them a LOVE OF MUSIC. Music is a gift to us all. It is something that we all will carry with us through the best and the darkest moments of our lives. It's something so natural and human- truly a wonderful gift. I think that the number one objective of an educator of young people is to help them FIND their love and appreciation of this gift. That doesn't mean that you don't guide them in developing their skills. But don't scare them away from singing before their voices even change! Good Lord.

Anyway, I was proud of my cousin. He won the "accelerated reader's award." Something that I think will also be very valuable to him as he grows and matures. He absolutely loves to read. Well, tomorrow it's off to Kingston, TN for another graduation. Sorry for the rant. ;)
Well, I suppose that I need to sit down and write an entry of some substance. This weekend, I'm traveling to Kingston, TN to see my cousin graduate from high school. Im sure that to most, this may seem like an unusually long trip to be making to see a cousin graduate. But I am very proud of Brad and fond of my uncle Terry and aunt Joan. And my uncle made the trip from Richmond, VA to Memphis to see my graduation back in 1999. So I want to make it.

The annoying part is that I have to come all the way back to Memphis by Sunday morning in order to lead worship. I would find a substitute but I will be gone next week to..... LAS VEGAS!! That's right. I'm a worship minister at a c of C, and will be missing services next week in order to sing at a swanky gig in Vegas. Well, it's really not that swanky. Our sponsor is the owner of a very large jewelry store here in Memphis and we were asked to sing at a huge international jewelry show.

Oh yeah, a few words about "Deltacapella." We are a professional (I feel kind of pompous saying that, but I guess it's true) singing group based in Memphis, TN. We do a little bit of everything... but all acapella. That is only voices, no instruments. You can find out more about us here- www.deltacapella.com

Well, it's nearly midnight. Since I was up well past 3 this morning, I suppose I should hit the bed. More to come on the anticipated trip to Vegas (my first).
( May. 20th, 2009 02:52 am)
Well, it's 2:57 in the am, and I am posting my first entry on dreamwidth. Not much to say really... hopefully more will come later. I dig God. I dig music. I dig nice people of all backgrounds, faiths, cultures, and professions. Friend me. Please... ;)