Simple Song from Mass

Most of my musical energy has been focused on church music lately, as I continue with the pipe organ and choir. The dulcimer will again be part of our late Christmas Eve mass, with one or two solos and two songs accompanying the choir.

Meanwhile, our choir director Mary Pat had invited me to sing this Leonard Bernstein song, which I hadn’t heard before. The more I’ve worked on it, the more I’ve come to like it both musically and lyrically. With thanks to Mary Pat for her accompaniment and help preparing the song, and to Pat Pearish for recording:

Light for Winter video

Couldn’t make the performance? Or just want to see it again? Here it is in the form of a YouTube playlist.


The Storm / One Wintry Night (Jerry Read Smith)
Drive the Cold Winter Away (trad) / Carolan’s Welcome (O’Carolan)
Winter East and Kensington (Marcy Prochaska)
Come Before Winter (Jim Taylor)

Verso (Zipoli)
Now all the woods are sleeping (Bach)
Kyrie (Frescobaldi)
Hyfrydol, aka Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus (Prichard)

Dulcimer and horn*
Two preludes (Bach) (just dulcimer)
Arioso (Bach)
Bourree (Bach)
Tres Libre (Barboteu) (just horn)

Chtíc, Aby Spal (Michna)
Hard to Get (Rich Mullins)
Sanctus and Agnus Dei (Marcy Prochaska)

Easter Thursday (trad) (with horn)
Third Street Market (Marcy Prochaska)
What Child Is This? (trad) / Menuet (Quantz)

*Olivia Martinez
**Xénia Czifrík; Mary Pat Glaub, Michael Wraight, John Sherck

In praise of live accompaniment

When I was in college, I took modern dance every semester I could. I had done a very very short session of ballet once when I was little, but when my feet cramped I was confused and quit. Dance counted for the physical education requirement at my college, which is why I got started in it, and I loved it so much I continued. Embodied music and art, creative expression, grace and beauty and truth and stretching, opening the heart, the parallelism of bodily systems and mental / emotional ones. Amazing stuff.

We had a piano in the studio, and a thin young man named Blanton would accompany our classes. The teacher would explain and demonstrate the combination or the exercise we were to do, and he would immediately have the most fitting music for it. Tribal sounds for moving across the floor with wide legs and arched arms. “Ashokan Farewell” for a seated stretching sequence. Always just perfectly matched to the kind of movement we were doing. And, of course, his timing matched ours — an intro to prepare us, and an ending as we finished. At the end of every class we all applauded our thanks to him.

Now my daughter takes dance, and there is no piano in her studio. Her ballet teacher uses recorded piano and orchestral music, which means she has to pause her instruction to go start it and stop it, and the piece rarely takes the same amount of time as the movement, and often enough doesn’t quite match the mood very well. Her modern teacher uses some recorded music but occasionally also uses a hand drum, which I like a lot.

We went to her grade’s spring music program, and the whole thing was done to recorded music. There’s no flexibility for adjusting the tempo to the students’ abilities or for recovering from mistakes. The recorded music just goes — it runs the show — the students simply have to keep up and go along with it.

In high school I sometimes did “special music” in church — in the beginning it was wonderful because our worship band was able and willing to take the time to learn the pieces and practice with me. After a while though they required soloists to use recorded tracks.

I don’t think it’s simply an ego thing — wanting to be supported by or in control of the music instead of feeling like one has to follow or keep up with the recording. I think it’s more about synergy — collaboration — mutuality. It’s being part of something larger, something communal, relational, human, instead of standing alone in front of a recorded background.

I wish I could play the piano, well enough to improvise and select wisely like Blanton, so that I could offer to accompany my daughter’s dance class and school programs.

Concert videos, part i

My friend and harp-playing colleague Beth Pare’s husband Paul graciously agreed to film the concert yesterday. Please excuse the fuzz and buzz — the video was taken by a point-and-shoot digital camera from all the way across the room.

Scandinavian Walking Tunes

Polska efter Höök-Olle


And here’s a video of the Masanga Marimba Ensemble covering the original by Mhuri Yekwa Muchena.

Slip Jig from Style, by Denis Carey

A little one

Sometimes I like to let little ones try the dulcimer. I brought it to my daughter’s preschool class once, and here’s another one exploring. It’s sweet to see them enjoy the sounds they can make and discover different aspects of the dulcimer, the hammers, and music in general.

I confess there are also times when I am not up for young (or old!) exploration. If anything ever happened to my dulcimer I’d be heartbroken, and it would not be easy to replace. Plus, I don’t have insurance that covers it outside our home.