Archive for the ‘Tunes’ Category

Beethoven’s 1st and 4th symphonies

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

When I woke Sunday morning, a text message from my mom was waiting in my phone:

Sounds like peeps in Sugar Land are sick. Are you or Bill available for HSO tomorrow 2pm?

Although I haven’t listened to much classical music since high school in the 1980s, and I’ve played even less, I do enjoy attending the symphony, and going with my mom is a treat. Jean told me they would perform Beethoven’s 1st and 4th symphonies, and I remembered that Gran’mom especially enjoyed Beethoven. Bill agreed to cover naptime so I could go.


Jean and Bob en route to Jones Hall

As Bill came outside to snap this photo of me and my mom, a lone monarch butterfly appeared out of nowhere. It swooped toward us, then just as abruptly, flitted away. I immediately thought of Gran’mom, and I turned to see if Mom had seen it too. Her eyes met mine and she smiled, and I knew she was thinking of Gran’mom, too.

* * *
Houston’s symphony has a new music director — Andres Orozco-Estrada — who is not only more animated and visibly enthusiastic than Hans Graf, but also reassuringly beats his baton in rhythm with the piece. He’s fun!


Andres Orozco-Estrada

Beethoven’s 1st symphony in C major is a cheerful piece and it sounds Beethoven-y. I enjoyed it, and intend to seek out a recording of it so I can listen again. Beethoven’s 4th is striking in how light and modest it seems compared to his 3rd, 5th, and 9th symphonies. The program quoted his contemporary, Schumann, who described it as a “slender Grecian maiden between two Nordic giants,” and I can kind of see that.

The middle piece of today’s concert was a Schumann cello concerto in a minor key. I liked it well enough, although my appreciation of the tone and tenor of cellos goes most of the way toward enjoyment before the specifics of a given piece.


HSO cellist Brinton Averil Smith

* * *
When I was a teenager, my mom brought us to see Houston Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker. Later, in honor of my 20th birthday, she brought me to see Swan Lake. (She also gave me a bouquet of 20 pink roses in a vase that I just used to start some paperwhite narcissus bulbs that we bought together at Buchanan’s this afternoon.)

I played the flute from 4th grade through high school, and as a senior, I earned first chair and solos in symphonic band. So I got to hear our “symphony” perform every spring.

But I’m pretty sure it was Gran’mom who brought me to my first real symphony performances. In 1998, I was single and working for Plaut as an SAP implementation consultant. I was working in rural Georgia and most weekends I came home to my parents’ house in Galveston. (I needed a tax home in Texas and it seemed silly to pay a lot of rent for an apartment I’d only use 10-12 days a month. So I paid a little rent to my parents and enjoyed their company, too!)

My client paid for me to fly home to Texas every Thursday, but several times I flew to Florida instead, to play with Gran’mom. That fall, she bought a pair of season tickets to the Orlando Symphony and I scheduled a couple of visits so that I could attend the matinees with her. I recently unearthed the letter in which she wrote me excitedly to say she had our tickets. Gran’mom thought of me as her “little playmate.”

I just remember how sophisticated she made me feel. I didn’t think either the suits or the khaki pants and sweaters I wore to work were appropriate attire for concerts, so she took me shopping along Winter Park Ave. She introduced me to Ann Taylor, where I found the pale green silk pant suit that I later wore to the rehearsal dinner before our wedding. I also found my slinky black ankle-length opera dress.

She prepared delicious meals with fresh, local ingredients, introduced me to meat seared in herbes de Provence, and taught me to appreciate chardonnay. She read the newspaper and Newsweek, watched the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, and wrote letters to the editor and to her Congressman. She listened to classical music and made me feel special.

* * *
As I sat in Jones Hall this afternoon, immersed in the 4th Symphony, I was struck by how incredibly lucky I was to have Gran’mom dote on me. I really miss her. And she would have enjoyed the Beethoven today.

Big, beautiful Saturday

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Nine months ago today, I wrote about an epic Saturday we enjoyed with our girls. Today was another like it, with many of the same wonderful elements.

After our first-ever trick-or-treat outing together last night, girls were up until 10 pm and Bill and I were up later still. Girls slept well overnight but when they woke me at 7 am, I was still tired. Bill joined us in the kitchen a little later to warm some tortillas and scramble eggs for tacos.

We woke to the first morning of “winter” in Houston — clear, sunny, and in the low 50s — just cool enough for the heat to run. After breakfast, rather than going out, Cate declared for watching videos together on the couch under the kitty blanket. So we rewatched Disney’s most-recent feature, Frozen, for the second time (it’s growing on me), and for the first time in forever, we fired up the projector and introduced Cate and Sam to The Big Screen.

Do you want to build a snowman?

After some pumpkin play, some chalk on a big box, and a token lunch, Cate started to fuss and admitted she was too tired to eat anymore. So we pottied, donned jammies, read The Littlest Pumpkin and put girls in cribs. They went down for good two-hour naps almost immediately, and Bill even got a nap before we were done.

When the girls woke, they asked to take their blue bicis for a bike-walk around the neighborhood. We walked east along Fairview and then they fairly zoomed up Van Buren to West Drew. We ran into Andres and his wife and three boys, said hi to Mr. Hillary’s snow geese decoys, and continued down to the awning store parking lot where the girls practiced racing around in big circles. We then rode the sidewalk up Montrose far enough to say hi to the Funnel Tunnel before heading home again.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed a special opportunity at Hickory Hollow. The first time we heard Tuna Sin perform there, I had no idea that Auntie Emily and Mr. Buck are old friends. Since then, they conspired to recruit Sam, Cate, and me up on stage to sing a song or two. The first time, we regaled the audience with our “A, B, C…”s. A few weeks ago, we coordinated in advance to learn and practice, “Deep in the heart of Texas.” Cate and Sam don’t yet have the rhythm of the right, but they memorized every verse and sang ’em right through.

At bedtime, we brushed girl teeth, went potty, and slipped into new winter Hannas I found on eBay.

Do you want to wear the snowflakes?
It’s time to go to bed…
We cannot stay up any more –
we’ll end up on the floor –
and bump our heads…

Then girls climbed into the chair to read Ten Timid Ghosts (which is my new favorite, for its unspoken visual humor) and Happy Halloween, Biscuit. (I sat on the floor because for months now, girls are too tall for me to see over when they sit on my lap!)

After stories, we pottied a final time, put on nighttime diapers, and cuddled briefly as Bill and I sang, “Goodnight Sweetheart, well, it’s time to go… to bed, to bed.” Then into cribs and lights out. I love you, good night!

Samanthaism #: It’s a fish!

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Sometime a year or more ago, when we were still nursing, I enjoyed singing Karen Carpenter’s 1970 ballad “Close to You” to Sam and Cate. Their eyes were so very blue as infants, that the song seemed apt:

On the day that you were born
the angels got together
and decided to create a dream come true.
So they sprinkled moondust in your hair
and golden starlight in your eyes of blue.

* * *
A few weeks ago, I showed the girls a new episode of “Blue’s Clues,” called “Pretend Time”, in which Steve finds gear in order to play rocketship with Blue. Cate and Sam had never seen “pretend” illustrated so concretely, and they ramped up their pretend play soon after.

Sometime last week, Sam and Cate put beach baskets over their heads. When I asked what they were up to, Cate said they were “playing rocketship.” To build on their concept, we got out potholder mitts and backpacks. I also showed them the trailer video on YouTube of modern astronauts on the International Space Station, which they begged me to show them over and over again.

I also showed them photos of Apollo astronauts working on the moon. In one image of Alan Bean, you can not only see his boot prints on the surface of the moon, but also gray moondust all over his boots and spacesuit.

I pointed out the moondust, and asked Sam and Cate if they’d like to have moondust in their hair. They giggled and said, “No!”

* * *
During dinner Thursday evening, Sam started singing a little song:

On the day that you were born,
the angels got together,
and then they lined up
to go somewhere…

Intrigued by her new lyrics, I asked Sam if she knew what an angel is.
Without hesitation, Sam said, “si.”

So I asked her directly, “what’s an angel?”
Sam declared confidently, “it’s a fish!” She went on to explain that “it’s blue and it swims in the water!”

Of course! We’ve encountered “angel fish” in both books and aquaria. At which point it occurs to me that all this time, Sam and Cate thought the Karen Carpenter song was about blue fish sprinkling moondust in hair. Hee!

Radio redux: There’s a burp in your belly

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Per Baba Jean’s request, here are words to “There’s a burp in your belly,” as sung to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it”:

There’s a burp in your belly and I want it,
There’s a burp in your belly and I want it,
There’s a burp in your belly,
and it’s prob’ly pretty smelly,
There’s a burp in your belly and I want it.

There’s a burp in your tummy and it’s mine,
There’s a burp in your tummy and it’s mine,
There’s a burp and it’s mine,
though I’ll share from time to time,
There’s a burp in your tummy and it’s mine.

There’s a place in your middle filled with air,
There’s a place in your middle filled with air,
There’s a place filled with air,
and I really truly care,
There’s a place in your middle filled with air.

There’s a spot in your stomach filled with gas,
There’s a spot in your stomach filled with gas,
There’s a spot filled with gas,
that may soon come out your @ss,
There’s a spot in your stomach filled with gas.

There’s a burp in your belly and I want it,
There’s a burp in your belly and I want it,
There’s a burp in your belly,
and it’s prob’ly pretty smelly,
There’s a burp in your belly and I want it!

Firing off the Canon (in D)

Friday, January 15th, 2010

I doubt that I’ll listen to Green Day in quite the same way ever again.

David Cook concert photos

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

I had a ball at the David Cook concert and Bill was a good sport. The venue allowed real cameras and Mom loaned me her super swanky zoom lens, so I captured several memorable images:

David Cook

David Cook

David Cook

David Cook

You can see all my best David Cook photos in my Facebook album.

My wife is a tool, er, um, provides great utility!

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

So, Bob bought tickets to David Cook’s concert in Galveston (see prior post). She likes him so much that she then bought MORE tickets once they released more reserved seats. The opening act, Need to Breathe, didn’t suck and may even be relatively creative in a Southern Rock/Blues sort of way (clear Lynyrd Skynyrd and CCR influences). However, Bob wouldn’t know. She and the person next to her were busy trying to take pictures of David Cook through the sub-structure of the stage (he was walking a dog). Should the stage have collapsed, Robin and she could be tied up in the litigation for months.

David walking his dog

David chatting backstage

While I was mostly indifferent through the process, I felt bad for the daughter of the woman next to us. Contractually, I believe that tolerating this sort of silliness certainly edges towards the “or worse” clause, but I went into it knowing my wife was a tool for a band (Rush), and realistically, I should have expected other such dysfunctions to manifest themselves later. The daughter, on the other hand, seems to have come up snake eyes on at least one roll of the cosmic crap shoot. You can choose a lot of things in life, but you can’t choose your parents. Too bad for her.

Unrelated thought: why does Alex Rodriguez own a Mercedes dealership in Houston, and why does he think I care about him? (Sponsor of the event)

Unrelated thought #2: Who’d’ve thought one would hear a Cutting Crew cover at a concert, ever.

Open letter to the tour visiting Galveston

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

American Idol winner David Cook and his band will perform in Galveston tonight. David strikes me as a smart guy, and he has ties to the Houston area. He told the paper he’s genuinely interested in Galveston, and I believe him.

The reality is that the tour just rolled in from Baton Rouge, will hurry through set up and sound checks, will do the show tonight, and then have to break everything down and hustle off to New Orleans. They probably don’t have time for sight-seeing.

But if David and his team had time to contemplate Galveston, here are some things I would want to mention to them:

Hurricane Ike hasn’t been in the news in ages, but the impacts of this devastating hurricane are still super salient today. While it’s impossible to absorb the thousands of personal stories wrought by Ike, it’s easy to imagine some of it if you’re paying attention.

As you ride down Stewart Rd and Jones Rd toward the Moody Gardens venue, consider that your route — and the homes and business on either side — went under 4+ feet of stormwater 10 months ago.

Stewart under water

Galveston’s Seawall is about a mile from the venue. During the storm, two people in a pickup truck fled here from the unprotected west end of the island. With the rest of the island under water, evacuation was impossible, so they sought the highest “ground” they could reach: the 91st Street fishing pier. They rode out the storm upstairs and survived. But by morning, their truck was swamped and much of the pier was gone. You can still see what’s left:

91st Street fishing pier

Galveston has brought together hurricanes and rock music previously. The cover art of Rush’s 1980 album, Permanent Waves includes a photo of the Seawall taken during Hurricane Carla in 1961.

Rush album Permanent Waves cover

Note the monument in the middle of the frame, placed in 1905 to commemorate the extension of Galveston’s seawall from 39th Street to 53rd Street. When Ike hit in 2008, not only were all the buildings on wooden piers swept away, but the multi-ton granite monument was rearranged by the sheer force of the waves:

Seawall monument

There are several long-time local restaurants near Moody Gardens that have survived to serve up yummy food. Cafe Michael Burger offers burgers and brats with a beach breeze, and Mario’s on 61st will deliver a mean pizza.

Tonight’s performance is more than a concert; it supports a broader effort to rebuild this community. Island Star Performances is recruiting national acts to perform in Galveston, and a portion of ticket proceeds will benefit the Galveston County Recovery Fund. In addition, the concert will attract visitors from the Houston area and beyond, whose hotel and restaurant bills are essential to the island’s economy. It’s important that these folks have a good time and return in the future.

Finally, I would say ‘thank you’ to the folks on Cook’s team who chose to bring the tour to Galveston. As an artist with a platinum-selling album, Cook could go most anywhere in the country. I appreciate that they’re coming to be a small part of Galveston’s recovery. And I’m grateful that tonight I will enjoy a couple hours of joy in a place that is still steeped in heartache.

David Cook to play Galveston!

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I admit that I subscribe to fan news for David Cook. Today’s email says he’s added tour dates, including a July 5th show in Galveston:

David Cook to play Moody Gardens July 5th

I know where I’ll be that night! Anyone want to go with me?

David Cook’s new album rocks

Monday, January 19th, 2009

david cook albumWhen David Cook won American Idol back in May, I could hardly wait for him to release an actual album. I also wondered what it would sound like, given the amazing range of styles he navigated during the season.

The album came out in November and the answer is definitive: guitar rock. Lots and lots of solid guitar rock.

David Cook in studioCook worked with the folks who brought us Green Day, Soundgarden, and Our Lady Peace to craft more than a dozen rockin’ guitar anthems. I’ve listened through the album twice now and it reminds me of Fuel or Nickelback, but with better lyrics and vocals. Every tune is listenable and most outright rock. Good stuff! Now, to rip it for my iPod…