Christopher Bill’s “Happy” trombone

April 5, 2014

Christopher Bill, classicaltrombone.com

Christopher Bill, classicaltrombone.com

Wimp.com said:

Christopher Bill, a classically trained trombone player currently studying at the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music in New York City, plays a trombone loop version of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”. His sequencer software of choice is Ableton Live 9.

Christopher Bill notes at his YouTube channel:

Christopher Bill

Christopher Bill

Free Sheet Music: http://www.classicaltrombone.com/down…
Soundcloud: http://tinyurl.com/k825me5

Looped using Ableton Live 9.

Go give a listen to some of Mr. Bill’s other productions.


Tribute to Pete Seeger: Tish Hinojosa, “Festival of Flowers”

February 1, 2014

Somebody put a video collage of Pete together with Tish Hinojosa‘s cut off of a 1998 Pete Seeger tribute album, “Festival of Flowers,” just in the last few days.

Details:

From “Where Have All the Flowers Gone : The Songs of Pete Seeger” 1998
Tish Hinojosa – vocals
Marvin Dykhuis – gitarra de golpe (mariachi guitar)
Chip Dolan – accordion
Amy Ferris Tiven – violin
Glenn Kawamoto – bass
Paul Pearcy – drums

Tish Hinojosa’s voice constantly stuns me with its clarity; I think my first Tish album purchase is 20 years old now.

We should hear her more often.

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/latest-columns/20140122-wendy-davis-is-being-swift-boated.ece


Farewell, Pete Seeger

January 28, 2014

Just got the news that Pete Seeger died.  He was 94.

Such a loss for American music, to American music, and to history and art.

New York Times story here.

Pete Seeger at the Beacon Sloop Club in Beacon, N.Y., in 2010. Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

Pete Seeger at the Beacon Sloop Club in Beacon, N.Y., in 2010. Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times

I love the Andrew Sullivan photo the New York Times used — it reminds me of the best way to hear Pete, in the out-of-doors, near the Hudson, in the summer, with a small audience who could be coerced to sing along.

Pete was an alumnus of Camp Rising Sun (of the L. A. Jonas Foundation) near Rhinebeck, New York, from the very early days.  In 1974, between concerts at large venues with Arlo Guthrie, and on his way back home to Beacon, Pete stopped and spent a day with us at the camp.  He was , as always, wonderfully gracious, other than outward appearances indistinguishable from the 14- and 15-year boys in excitement to be having fun, exploring nature, and then leading us all in songs.

My unfinished master’s thesis was to explore Pete’s use of different rhetorical devices to get his messages across, and make them popular.   (One of my everlasting regrets.)

But despite his down-home-everybody-welcome demeanor, Seeger drove great movements, and pushed the arcs of history in wonderful directions throughout his life.

  • Pete was an anchor for Woody Guthrie in New York, and sometimes a rival.  As Pete told it, everybody loved Woody and always came to a performance to hear Woody sing.  It was often Pete who pushed Woody out front; no mistake that Woody’s famous New Year’s resolutions from 1942 included “Love Pete” among them.
  • Having learned from the Lomaxes at the Library of Congress, Pete recorded history in songs, preserving old tunes, making foreign tunes popular, and re-arranging verses here and there.  Pete revealed, discovered, or pushed the music of a family domestic (“500 Miles”), Cuban revolutionary poets (“Guantanamera”), his engineer sister (“Going to be an Engineer”), and hymn books.
  • Pete taught a song to seminar attendees at the Highlands School in Kentucky, people who went on to do great things with that song.  The song was “We Shall Overcome,” and photos show that those Pete taught to sing included both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Blacklisted after refusing to give in to the civil liberties assault by the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), Pete created a series of records to teach how to play a guitar, a banjo, and a twelve-string.  One of the kids who learned some twelve-string licks included a guy who went on to play strings for the folk group, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and their new tenor, a guy named John Denver.  Roger McGuinn electrified that twelve-string, and leading the Byrds, turned some of Pete’s songs into rock and roll hits — like “Turn, Turn, Turn.”
  • I asked Pete about getting him to Salt Lake City for a concert in the 1970s — he demurred, saying he needed to spend some time locally.  He told a story about showing up at a PTA meeting in Beacon to talk on some issue, and some local guy told Pete that Beacon didn’t need outsiders telling them what to do.  This hurt Pete, since he’d been living in Beacon at that time for more than 30 years, in the house he built by hand.   Pete told me that he realized a world reputation doesn’t count for much if you can’t use it to make things better in your home town.The “local project?” He said he wanted to get an old sloop, and sail the Hudson River signing to get people to clean it up.  At the time, the Hudson was very much a sewer from Albany to New York City.  A short time later the Sloop Clearwater was refitted, and Pete started music festivals up and down the river.  The Hudson, Pete’s local river, runs much cleaner today for his work.
  • I saw Pete and Arlo in concert at Wolf Trap, the performance park near Washington, D.C., a couple of times; and some other venues — but nothing ever beat that open air concert at Rising Sun.
  • Bruce Springsteen did us all a favor with his album of Seeger tunes; I chafed at Ronald Reagan’s choices of performers at his inaugurals, and at many other choices over the years.  I often thought Pete Seeger’s music, and voice, would be a better choice.  Springsteen’s pre-inauguration concert in 2008, from the Lincoln Memorial, had my full attention.  The only thing more perfect, I told Kathryn, would be Pete singing his own tunes from those steps (I heard him tell the stories of King’s and Marian Anderson’s performances there more than once).  Within a few minutes, Springsteen pulled Pete out onstage, and at the age of 90 he led the crowd singing Woody’s “This Land is Your Land.”  A perfect capstone, I thought.

If  you would, pull out your collection of Pete Seeger music today, and give it a spin.  It will raise your spirits, I guarantee.

What wonderful gifts Pete left us!

So long, Pete, one of the best American citizens we’ll ever know.

Maybe we should just say, “So long! It’s Been Good to Know Ya!”

More:


Ashes to ashes, airplanes to spread them, Damon Runyon and silver bells: December 18

December 18, 2013

On December 17, Orville and Wilbur Wright got their heavier-than-air flying contraption to actually fly with motor driving it along.

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 1...

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip. Photo from Wikipedia

On December 18, Damon Runyon, Jr., got Eddie Rickenbacker to fly over Broadway to scatter the ashes of his father, Damon Runyon.

First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 9...

First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, American ace, standing up in his Spad plane. Near Rembercourt, France. Photo from Wikipedia. This photo dates near World War I; Rickenbacker remained a hero for a couple of decades. In 1946, he flew a DC-3 over New York City, and illegally scattered the ashes of raconteur Damon Runyon over his beloved Broadwary.

Not exactly the next day. 43 years and one day apart.  The Wrights first flew in 1903; Runyon died in 1946.

Today in Literature, for December 18:

On this day in 1946 Damon Runyon’s ashes were scattered over Broadway by his son, in a plane flown by Eddie Rickenbacker. Runyon was born in Manhattan, Kansas; he arrived at the bigger apple at the age of thirty, to be a sportswriter and to try out at Mindy’s and the Stork Club and any betting window available his crap-shoot worldview: “All of life is six to five against.” Broadway became his special beat, and in story collections like Guys and Dolls he developed the colorful characters — Harry the Horse, the Lemon Drop Kid, Last Card Louie — and the gangster patois that would swept America throughout the thirties and forties.

A lot of history packed in there.  Runyon’s early reportorial career included a lot of that history — he wrote the lead story for United Press on the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt, for one example.  Runyon found a uniquely American vein of literary ore on Broadway in New York City, and in the ne’er-do-wells, swells, tarts and reformers who flocked to the City that Never Sleeps to seek fame, or fortune, or swindle that fortune from someone else.

As a reporter and essayist, he smoked a lot.  Throat cancer robbed him of his voice, then his life at 56.

Runyon’s ashes were spread illegally over Broadway, from a DC-3 piloted by Rickenbacker. Runyon would have liked that.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Factoids of history:

  • Twenty movies got crafted from Runyon stories, including “The Lemon Drop Kid” — in two versions, 1934 and 1951. Appropriate to the Christmas season, the 1951 version introduced the song, “Silver Bells” composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. (Great explanation of the movie, and song, here.)
  • Runyon got fame first as a sports writer.  He was inducted into the writer’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.
  • According to Wikipedia, Jerry Lewis and others owe a great debt to Damon Runyon:  “The first ever telethon was hosted by Milton Berle in 1949 to raise funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.”
  • One might salivate over the varied fare offered in the theaters of Broadway in 1946, Runyon’s final year, “Annie, Get Your Gun” through Shakespeare, and everything in between and on either side
  • Runyon and H. L. Mencken both covered the trial of Bruno Hauptmann, the accused (then convicted) kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son
  • Yes, of course, “Guys and Dolls.” Frank Loesser created it, but not of whole cloth, but from the stories of Damon Runyon; it is a masterpiece, perhaps in several realms.  In homage to Runyon, Adam Gopnik wrote:

    Just as Chandler fans must be grateful for Bogart, Runyon fans have to be perpetually happy that the pure idea of Runyon, almost independent of his actual writings, produced the best of all New York musicals: Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls,” which made its début in 1950 and is just now reopening on Broadway in a lavish and energetic new production. But then “Guys and Dolls” is so good that it can triumph over amateur players and high-school longueurs and could probably be a hit put on by a company of trained dolphins in checked suits with a chorus of girl penguins.

    Your author here, Dear Reader, was once one of those trained dolphins. It was magnificent.

“Silver Bells,” from “The Lemon Drop Kid,” with William Frawley, Virginia Maxwell and Bob Hope (1951 version):

More:

A view of New York City in 1946:

Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975)

Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) “The Artist’s Show, Washington Square,” painted in 1946

Times Square, showing part of Broadway, in November 1946, from the magnificent archives of Life Magazine:

Brownout Time Square.November 1946.© Time Inc.Herbert Gehr - See more at: http://kcmeesha.com/2011/11/29/old-photos-times-square-through-the-years/#sthash.ru9W0F9h.dpuf

Brownout Time Square.November 1946.© Time Inc.Herbert Gehr – See more at: http://kcmeesha.com/2011/11/29/old-photos-times-square-through-the-years/#sthash.ru9W0F9h.dpuf


October 31, also the anniversary of the sinking of the Reuben James

October 31, 2013

U.S.S. Reuben James (D-245) on the Hudson River in April 1939, over two years before she was sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic.

U.S.S. Reuben James (DD-245) on the Hudson River in April 1939, over two years before she was sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic. Photo from the Ted Stone Collection, Marines Museum, Newport News, Virginia, via Wikipedia

It was a tragedy in 1941, but before the U.S. could develop a serious policy response to Germany’s action, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.  Within a week after that, our policy towards Germany was set by Germany’s declaration of war on the U.S.

It’s important history for a couple of reasons.

  • The sinking was part of the massive, years-long Battle of the Atlantic, which the Allies won only by building ships faster than Germany could sink them.  Had the Allies lost this battle, the war would have been lost, too.
  • While the USS Reuben James was a Navy destroyer, the key weapons of the Battle of the Atlantic were Merchant Marine cargo ships, carrying goods and arms to Britain and other Allied nations.  “Civilians” played a huge role in World War II, supplying the soldiers, armies, navies and air forces.
  • Recently, politicians took to making claims that the U.S. declared war on Germany without any hostile action having passed between them, without Germany having perpetrated any hostilities toward the U.S.  Look at the dates, it’s not so.
  • Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the event, giving us a touchstone to remember.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub covered the event with longer, detailed articles in past years, including these, which you should see especially if you are a student in a history class or a teacher of one:

Europe has changed. The world has changed.  The U.S. has changed.  War has changed.  We should remember, especially those people who died defending the merchants who defended the idea of the Four Freedoms.

More:

 


Piano on Utah Lake

October 17, 2013

Let me state right up front that the only reason I’m posting this is because of the cameo appearance of Mt. Timpanogos in this video.

The sun is setting in the west; Timpanogos is that biggest mountain to the east.

Never heard of this guy before, the pianist William Joseph; found it through a clip in the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

I understand there’s a platform hiding beneath the water.  When my grandfather, Leo Barrett Stewart, Sr., was a child, about ten miles south of where this film was shot, he said one could paddle a boat out to the middle of Utah Lake, and see the bottom, picking the trout one wished to fish for.  That was before the invasive carp was introduced.

It would be wonderful to see Utah Lake restored to the point that you could see the platform holding the piano.

Filming and credit details from devinsupertramp below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


CBS’s short history of the flag at the Battle of Baltimore, Fort McHenry, and the new replica flag

September 16, 2013

Francis Scott Key beholding the still-flying Star-spangled Banner, after the Battle of Baltimore, 1814.  1912 painting by Edgar Percy Moran, Wikipedia image.

“By Dawn’s Early Light”: Francis Scott Key beholding the still-flying Star-spangled Banner, after the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. 1912 painting by Edgar Percy Moran, Wikipedia image.

Short videos often pack a heckuva punch for history classes.  Here’s one from today’s CBS “Sunday Morning,” with Charles Osgood reporting on the creation and flying at Fort McHenry of a replica of a flag that flew there 199 years ago on September 14 — the inspiration to Francis Scott Key for his poem, “The Star-spangled Banner.”

Published on Sep 15, 2013

CBS News video: Star-Spangled Banner flies again at Fort McHenry – Applying the same techniques used nearly two hundred years ago, a team of quilters created an exact replica of the flag that flew over Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812, the same flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem. Charles Osgood reports.

This is history that most of my juniors didn’t know.  It’s not history we’re supposed to teach, but it’s history they are accountable for on Texas tests.  A short video like this one at a key spot can boost scores on the state tests — and, though I’ve not been victimized by them yet, the new end-of-course tests probably assume juniors know this stuff, too.

I hope CBS keeps this piece available for history teachers, especially through 2014 and the 200th anniversary of the battle, and Key’s writing of the poem.

More:

Fort McHenry today:

Aerial view of Fort McHenry, at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor, clearly show the star design that made it more defensible from ground attack. During the Battle of Baltimore, British troops were not able to land and get close to the fort.  Image from the office of the Governor of Maryland, via the National Park Service

Aerial view of Fort McHenry, at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor, clearly show the star design that made it more defensible from ground attack. During the Battle of Baltimore, British troops were not able to land and get close to the fort. Image from the office of the Governor of Maryland, via the National Park Service


Orchestra of New Spain, performance calendar for 2013-2014

September 11, 2013

Some e-mail is more worthy of sharing than others.

You’re in the Dallas area, and you’re not familiar with the Orchestra of New Spain?  We do have several very good musical organizations around town bending towards the classical, apart from the big professional companies — including the Dallas Wind Symphony, the Arlington Master Chorale, the Turtle Creek Chorale, the Dallas Bach Society — so that finding a place to listen should NOT be a problem.

But I keep running into people who don’t know about these groups.

I got the schedule for the coming year from the Orchestra of New Spain — you really should go see them, and listen.  They’re good, and these events are fun.

 

Dear friends and subscribers,
The 2013-14 Season of the Orchestra of New Spain begins on October 10 in the City Performance Hall, Dallas Arts District. The season brochure is on its way and will arrive in your mailbox in a few days. While awaiting it’s arrival please peruse our offerings below, or in more detail at:
Thanks to all of you who are already subscribers. If you haven’t made your move you may consider this prime time to subscribe, and enjoy premium seating, even assured seating for some of our intimate events.
To subscribe, or renew your subscription, please visit us online, mail a check, or call the office.
And NOW, the
 
25th Season of the Orchestra of New Spain
Thur, Oct 10, 8 pm, City Performance Hall
Latino-Barroco Fusion Ensemble
 
Fri, Nov 8, 6:30 pm, North Dallas Home of Margo & Jim Keyes
Home and Garden concert
Fri, Nov 22, 7 pm, Christ the King Catholic Church, Preston & Colgate
Requiem for a lost leader
 
Sun, Dec15, 5 pm, Christ the King Catholic Church, Preston & Colgate
Christmas at Christ the King
 
          Sun, Jan 19, 6 pm, The Annual Courcelle Dinner
          TBA (not included in subscription)
 
Sat, Feb 8, 6:30 pm, Meadows museum
Sorolla, Falla, Lorca and Flamenco: preview
 
Fri, Feb 14 & Sat, Feb 15, 7:30 pm, City Performance Hall
The Rise of Flamenco: Lorca, Falla, Sorolla
 
Sat, Mar 29, 7pm, Zion Lutheran Church, Lovers Lane
Villa y Corte – Town and Court
 
Thur, May 15, 6:30, place TBA
Home and Garden concert
 
(If you have not received our brochure in the past or suspect you are not on our snail mail list, please request you brochure by mail the moment you read this, and before they are mailed next week!)
Orchestra of New Spain
214-750-1492
info@orchestraofnewspain.org
www.orchestraofnewspain.org
One can learn a lot about the great, lesser-known performance spaces around Dallas just following this bunch.  Who knows when that will come in handy?

Typewriter of the moment: Aaron Copland in California

August 15, 2013

Composer Aaron Copland at his typewriter in California; Aaron Copland Collection, Library of Congress, circa 1939 or 1940

Composer Aaron Copland at his typewriter in California; Aaron Copland Collection, Library of Congress, circa 1939 or 1940. The photos is placed as either San Diego or Palm Springs; I’m leaning towards Palm Springs with those mountains. Anyone know?

Oddly, the Library of Congress photo site is down for the weekend; here's an image that shows what the photo should look like.  Links should work again come Monday.

Oddly, the Library of Congress photo site is down for the weekend; here’s an image that shows what the photo should look like. Links should work again come Monday.

Details for scholars and history buffs:

ITEM TITLE

Aaron Copland at typewriter, Palm Springs or San Diego, 1939-1940.

SOURCE

Collection: Aaron Copland Collection; Music Division, Library of Congress
Box/Folder: 472/1
Original format: 1 print: b&w; 2.5 x 2.5 in.

DIGITAL ID

copland phot0077

I don’t think this photo is under any copyright, but the collection contains this general language:

Photographs – used by permission of The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., 254 West 31st Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10001, phone 461-6956, fax (212) 810-4567. The Fund’s permission is limited to the right to reproduce the image of Aaron Copland. All rights to use individual photographs are controlled by the respective owners of the copyrights in those photographs. For those listed as unidentified, we invite users to contact us with any information they may have with regard to those items.

Is it odd to find a composer working at a typewriter, and not a piano?  Especially before 1990, music writers had much occasion to use the machines — for lyrics, for descriptions of their music and how the published version should look, and for correspondence — and, baby, do composers have correspondence!  The brand on this machine I have not been able to determine; it’s a portable, I imagine, looking at the case to Copland’s left — the typewriter case.

Was Copland a hunt-and-peck typer?  Looks like to me from this photo.

Did you notice the U.S. flag on the pole on the other side of the house?

I wonder what he was working on, in California, at that time.

More:

English: Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland at a machine where we’d expect to find him — years after the photo at the top. Wikipedia image


Two portraits of Pete Seeger (with Judy Collins)

July 2, 2013

A couple of photos I stumbled on recently.

The Seeger family in 1921; the youngest one is Pete, in his father’s lap:

Seeger family, 1921

The Seeger Family, 1921 Pete Seeger, the now-93 year-old folk singer, is sitting on his father’s lap.  Pete’s father was musicologist Charles Louis Seeger, Jr.; his mother was the violinist Constance de Clyver Edson.  The other two children are probably Pete’s older brothers Charles, III, and John.  This photo probably was taken while Charles and Constance toured the American south to teach music, after his having to leave UCLA because of his pacifist stance during World War I.

And 92 years later, with Judy Collins:

Judy Collins and Pete Seeger, photo by David Rocco, at the Clearwater Festival in Hudson, New York, June 15, 2013.

Judy Collins and Pete Seeger, photo by the preservationist David Rocco, at the Clearwater Festival in Hudson, New York, June 15, 2013. (We think that’s Pete’s wife, Toshi, on the far right edge of the photo.)

More:

 


All is not lost, is it?

June 26, 2013

NPR moved offices earlier this year.

Tiny Desk Concerts provide a lot of fun in live performance in the offices of a radio network.  To document the move, musically, Tiny Desk called in OK Go.  OK Go is a favorite here at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub — regular bathing music, you might say.

And in 223 takes, they recorded the move.

I’m especially fond of the elevator ride with Carl Kassell. (At least, that’s who I think it is.)

Who else can you recognize from NPR’s famous voices?

223 Takes – All Is Not Lost, OK Go

Details:

Published on Jun 3, 2013

The Tiny Desk has moved, and OK Go has helped make it so.

Earlier this year, we needed to figure out the best possible way to move my Tiny Desk from NPR’s old headquarters to our new facility just north of the U.S. Capitol. We wanted to go out with a bang and arrive at our new space in style, so our thoughts naturally turned to a catchy pop band we love: OK Go, whose unforgettable videos have been viewed tens of millions of times on YouTube.

Bandleader Damian Kulash used to be an engineer at an NPR member station in Chicago, so we figured he’d be up for helping us execute a simple idea: Have OK Go start performing a Tiny Desk Concert at our old location, continue playing the same song while the furniture and shelving is loaded onto a truck, and finish the performance at our new home. In addition to cameos by many of our NPR colleagues — Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, David Greene, Guy Raz, Scott Simon, Alix Spiegel, Susan Stamberg and more — this required a few ingredients: Number of video takes: 223; Percent used in final version: 50; Number of raw audio channels: 2,007; Percent used in final version: 50; Number of microphones: 5; Number of hard-boiled eggs consumed: 8, mostly by bassist Tim Nordwind; Number of seconds Carl Kasell spent in the elevator with OK Go: 98; Number of times Ari Shapiro played the tubular bells: 15; Number of pounds the tubular bells weighed: 300; Number of times the shelves were taken down and put back up: 6; Number of days it took to shoot: 2; Number of cameras: 1

OK Go played “All Is Not Lost” from Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, with words tweaked by the All Songs Considered team. And so begins a new era for the Tiny Desk, after 277 concerts (counting this one) in our old home. — BOB BOILEN

FEATURING
Dan Konopka, Damian Kulash, Tim Nordwind, Andy Ross

CREDITS
Producers: Bob Boilen, Mito Habe-Evans
Directors: Mito Habe-Evans, Todd Sullivan
Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait
Assistant Producer: Denise DeBelius
Camera Operator: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo
Supervising Producer: Jessica Goldstein
Editor: Mito Habe-Evans
Assistant Editor: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo
Production Assistants: Lorie Liebig, Lizzie Chen, Gabriella Demczuk, Marie McGrory, Andrew Prince
Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann, Keith Jenkins
Special Thanks: OK Go and our cast and crew of volunteers.

OK Go at the Albany Tulip Festival

OK Go at the Albany Tulip Festival. Wikipedia image

More:


“Rise Again”: How a sea chanty saved a sailor, and why government regulation saves lives

May 30, 2013

Stan Rogers?

P. Z. Myers was feeling a tad puny, though he’s in Minnesota where that Texas phrase might not win understanding.  In any case, he queued up Nathan Rogers singing his late father’s most famous tune, “The Mary Ellen Carter.”

That was Stanfest, an annual music festival dedicated to Stan Rogers, who died tragically trying to put out an airplane fire, in 1983. (Stanfest is July 5, 6 and 7 in 2013. Actually, Ricky Skaggs kicks it off this year on July 4, a day early.)

The Mary Ellen Carter” is a bit of an odd song, probably best performed where a bunch of people can join in, obviously fueled by a few pints to the guitar players, and seemingly not correct if not done with at least one twelve-string in the band. More, it’s a song with a story that you may not get the first time through, but you should get.  Stan Rogers’s poetry is not simple.  He tells complex stories.

Home in Halifax, one of three albums by Stan Rogers on which “The Mary Ellen Carter” appears. The song is also on Between the Breaks . . . Live! and The Very Best of Stan Rogers.

It’s a song about a group of men who were aboard the Mary Ellen Carter when that ship scuttled.  The song describes their work to patch her up, to raise her from the depths and make her “rise again.”  But we never learn whether the ship was refloated.  That’s not the point of the song.  It’s a song about getting back up when you’ve been scuttled, when you’ve got holes punched in your side, and you’re under water.

That doesn’t get lost on fans of Stan Rogers, nor others who listened to the song over the years.

The song has become a classic of the genre and many artists covered it even before Rogers’ death, including Jim Post who began performing it in the 1980s, as did Makem and Clancy, and the English a cappella trio, Artisan, who went on to popularise their harmony version of it in UK folk circles throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and Portland, Maine-based folk group Schooner Fare. Ian Robb recorded it with the other members of Finest Kind on his album From Different Angels. It was also recorded by the seven piece Newfoundland band The Irish Descendants as part of the tribute album Remembering Stan Rogers: An East Coast Tribute performed by a large number of acts at Rogers’ favorite venue in Halifax, Dalhousie University; the album is out of print though occasionally available from online sellers; the track does not appear on any of the band’s own albums.

It was also recorded by Williamsburg, Virginia-based Celtic rock band Coyote Run as part of their self-titled Coyote Run album. According to liner notes with their 10 Years and Running retrospective album, Coyote Run‘s recording of the song was done with the same 12-string guitar that Stan Rogers himself had used when recording the song.

As a tribute to Stan Rogers, “The Mary Ellen Carter” has been sung to close the annual Winnipeg Folk Festival every year since his death.

Surely you’ve heard it, no?

English: Winnipeg Folk Festival 2006.

Winnipeg Folk Festival 2006. “The Mary Ellen Carter” is sung to close this festival, each year since 1983. Wikipedia image

According to the lore, the song actually saved a sailor’s life once, in 1983, with the sinking of the Marine Electric.  The pedestrian version of the story:

So inspiring is the song that it is credited with saving at least one life. On February 12, 1983 the ship Marine Electric was carrying a load of coal from Norfolk, Virginia to a power station in Somerset, Massachusetts. The worst storm in forty years blew up that night and the ship sank at about four o’clock in the morning on the 13th. The ship’s Chief Mate, fifty-nine-year-old Robert M. (“Bob”) Cusick, was trapped under the deckhouse as the ship went down. His snorkeling experience helped him avoid panic and swim to the surface, but he had to spend the night alone, up to his neck in water, clinging to a partially deflated lifeboat, and in water barely above freezing and air much colder. Huge waves washed over him, and each time he was not sure that he would ever reach the surface again to breathe. Battling hypothermia, he became tempted to allow himself to fall unconscious and let go of the lifeboat. Just then he remembered the words to the song “The Mary Ellen Carter”.

And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Rise again, rise again—though your heart it be broken
Or life about to end.
No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend,
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

He started to sing it and soon was alternately shouting out “Rise again, rise again” and holding his breath as the waves washed over him. At seven o’clock that morning a Coast Guard helicopter spotted him and pulled him to safety.[1] Only two men of the other thirty-three that had been aboard survived the wreck. After his ordeal, Cusick wrote a letter to Stan Rogers telling him what had happened and how the song helped save his life. In response, Cusick was invited to attend what turned out the be the second-to-last concert Rogers ever performed. Cusick told his story in the documentary about Stan Rogers, One Warm Line.[2][3]

Truth is stranger and better than fiction once again. You couldn’t convince me that story was plausible, if it were fiction.

Cusick’s story has a coda, though, and it’s an important one.  From the survivors come not only tales of the trials, but information that, if listened to, can prevent future tragedies.

In a 2008 story in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, Bob Cusick related just how close and hard death breathed on him that night:

Bob Cusick is “still kicking.” That’s no small feat for any man about to turn 85. It’s especially notable when you are one of only three sailors to survive what was among the nation’s worst maritime disasters.

Tuesday will mark the 25th anniversary of the sinking of the coal ship Marine Electric in a blizzard off Chincoteague. Thirty-one sailors died.

Cusick was the ship’s chief mate. He still has nightmares about how the rusted relic of World War II rolled before the crew could launch its lifeboats. He can still feel the water swallowing him and hear the men screaming for help in the darkness.

But the nightmares aren’t as frequent now.

“It’s really been a long time,” he said from his home in New Hampshire. “And evidently, a lot of good came from that ship’s sinking.”

Most of it because of Cusick and the other two survivors’ testimonies.

Before we hear the good, let’s get the facts:

The Marine Electric was what mariners call a rust bucket. Its huge cargo hatches were warped, wasted away and patched cosmetically with putty and duct tape. The deck was cracked, and the hull even had a hole punched through by a bulldozer.

Still, inspectors cleared it to sail, and it routinely hauled pulverized coal from Norfolk to a power plant near Boston.

Its last trip was into the teeth of a violent nor’easter. The aging ship was no match for the weather. For more than 24 hours, the Marine Electric was battered by swells that stretched 40 feet from trough to crest.

For part of the trip, the ship had been diverted to escort a trawler into Chincoteague.

Not long after resuming its course, the Marine Electric started taking on water.

Seas crashing over those corroded decks rushed inside the hatches, mixing with the powdered coal to create an unstable slurry.

The water couldn’t be pumped out, because the ship’s owners had welded covers over the drain holes.

Cusick was lucky. He had just come off watch and was wearing an insulated coat his wife had insisted he buy and a raw wool cap she had knitted for him. They would eventually make the difference between life and death.

Cusick swam for an hour in the tempest before finding a swamped lifeboat. He climbed inside and wedged himself beneath the seats, slipping under the 37-degree water, to escape the howling winds. He gasped for breaths between waves.

Cusick found strength in a song about the shipwreck of the Mary Ellen Carter, and folksinger Stan Rogers’ refrain to “rise again, rise again.”

Cusick would spend 2 hours and 45 minutes in the frigid water, nearly double what Navy survival charts claimed was possible.

It was after dawn when a Coast Guard helicopter from Elizabeth City, N.C., running on fumes, dropped a basket into his lifeboat and Cusick was hoisted to safety.

Rogers’s song, and Cusick’s story, were put to great use.

As a result of this accident, and the detailed records of neglect Cusick kept, the Coast Guard launched its renowned rescue swimmers program. Ships sailing in cold waters are required to provide survival suits to their crews; safety inspections are more rigorous; lifeboats must have better launching systems; and rafts must have boarding platforms to allow freezing sailors to climb inside.

We lived on the Potomac when the Marine Electric went down.  We had the daily, sometimes hourly updates, and the growing sense of tragedy.  I well recall my amazement that anyone survived in the cold water.  In the 30 years since, I had never heard the full story.

This is why we study history.  This is why we write history.  This is why we revel in history, even faux history, being turned into art by the poets and troubadors.

Knowing history, and knowing the art, we can stand up to demand that money to inspect ships for safety be restored to the federal budget, that money to build safe air transport be revived, that politicians stop blocking the doors to the hospitals and clinics (Rick Perry, Greg Abbott), and that justice be done on a thousand other scores where cynics and highway robbers tell us it cannot be done or it’s too expensive.

And then we all may, as the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.

Marine Electric sank on February 12, 1983; Stan Rogers died less than four months later, on June 2, 1983, returning home from performing at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas.  Listen to Mr. Cusick’s story, and listen to Mr. Rogers’s telling of his:

More, and resources:


Feynman: Last Journey of a Genius (NOVA, 1998)

May 12, 2013

Feynman and an O ring

Richard Feynman, and a rubber O ring. See materials on Feynman’s role on the commission investigating the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. Image from Callum Hackett via Nic Hammond

Geography and history teachers, you should watch this on the day after Feynman Day.  Can you make use of this in your classes — say, after the state tests?

How about you physics and science teachers?

English: Green: Tuvan People's Republic

Tuvan People’s Republic, marked in green. Wikipedia image

In 1998 NOVA produced and broadcast a film that rather defies categorization.  Biography? Drama? Humor? Frustrated travelogue?

“Last Journey of a Genius” tells a lot of biography of Dick Feynman, but it focuses on his unusual drive to learn about, and travel to an obscure Central Asian country/province/area/culture called Tannu Tuva.  Feynman’s close friend Ralph Leighton plays a big role in this film, too.  This film reveals more about the character of Richard Feynman, his overwhelming curiosity and humanity, than you can get any other place, including his memoirs (which every civil human should read).

NOVA captivates me almost every week.  Good fortune found me in front of a television somewhere when this was first broadcast.  For several reasons, I’ve been unable to get a VHS, or a DVD version of the story despite many attempts over the years.

But fortune and good history smile again.  Open Culture collected the film, and it’s available for free in their documentary section.

Drumming, story telling, geography, Cold War politics, ballet, more drumming, some nuclear physics, astronomy, a lot of good humor, and a plea for orange juice.  It still makes me smile.

From Open Culture:

In 1989, PBS’ NOVA aired The Last Journey of a Genius, a television film that documents the final days of the great physicist Richard Feynman and his obsession with traveling to Tannu Tuva, a state outside of outer Mongolia, which then remained under Soviet control. For the better part of a decade, Feynman and his friend Ralph Leighton schemed to make their way to Tannu Tuva, but Cold War politics always frustrated their efforts. The video runs roughly 50 minutes and features an ailing Feynman talking about his wanderlust and their maneuverings. He died two weeks later, having never made the trip, though Ralph Leighton and Feyman’s daughter Michelle later landed in their Shangri-La. Her journey was recorded by the Russian service of the BBC.

The film now appears in the Documentary section of our collection of Free Movies Online.

via Metafilter

Related Content:

Richard Feynman’s Physics Lectures Online

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

Hang on to this link for Feynman Day 2014 (May 11).  What’s your favorite Feynman story?

This kind of history and science is exactly the sort of stuff CSCOPE critics in Texas, and critics of the Common Core standards, worry that children will see.  Very odd, because stuff this good is not even mentioned in CSCOPE, nor in CCSS.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Kenny Darrell, who found this film and let me know about it.

More:


Where have all the flowers gone? A bunch to Pete Seeger on his 94th birthday today

May 3, 2013

Pete Seeger was born on May 3, 1919.  He turns 94 today.

Pete is an alumnus of the Louis August Jonas Foundation‘s Camp Rising Sun, a little nugget that appealed to me when I signed up as a counselor at the Rhinebeck campus in 19#&.  Pete and Arlo Guthrie teamed up for a series of concerts at East Coast venues that summer, including Wolftrap, Saratoga, Tanglewood and others.  Pete lives just down the river from Rhinebeck, near Beacon — but driving home from one of those venues was just a bit too far.  Pete stopped off at his childhood haunts and spent a day with us.

I hoped to invite him to Salt Lake City.  Pete said he might make such a trip, but it was unlikely — and impressed me with his reasoning and dedication to principle.  He explained that he was sticking closer to home as he approached 65, because there was work to do there.  He said he’d attended a local school board or PTA meeting to voice an opinion on some issue in Beacon.  One of the local newspapers complained he was “an outside agitator.”  That stung, he said — he’d been a resident in the town for more than 30 years.

Instead of complaining, though, he started thinking.  He said he’s traveled the world and worked for causes for other people in other towns; and he said he realized that one’s life’s work might be dedicated to making life better where one lives.  So he’d decided to campaign to clean up his local river, the Hudson . . . you’ve heard of the Sloop Clearwater?

Pete’s dedication to making things better, with local action where one may make a huge difference, stuck with me, and it should stick with all of us.

Last month I was doodling around Twitter, and discovered Pete had signed up for a Twitter account — years ago.  He tweets regularly.

He’s an encouragement to all of us.  He boasts that there is no group he has ever refused to sing for, and in his typical humility, he claims that he can get any group to join, so they do all the heavy lifting.  During the pre-inaugural festivities for President Obama’s first inauguration I was happy to see Bruce Springsteen singing some of Pete’s work — highly appropriate for any president’s inauguration — and I thought it would be more fitting only if Pete was singing himself.  Then Springsteen brought Pete out on stage to close out.

Pete keeps up a schedule of concerts, most for causes.  He sails with the Clearwater, campaigning for clean water on the Hudson River (much accomplished) and community efforts to change things for the better.  As you will see below, he pulls his own when raising the sails.    He cuts his own wood to heat the house he built.

Considering his age, 94, we might wonder why he keeps going, doing so much all the time.

Why does he keep on going?  He might be telling us, from this 2012 recording.

More:  

English: This graphic was used for the cover o...

Cover of Pete Seeger’s single release (same photo on an album). The banjo features Pete’s traditional “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” a twist on a sticker famously seen on his old friend Woody Guthrie’s guitar. Wikipedia image

Some material in this post is recycled from an earlier post.


Just the gift for neo-con trolls! A Snark Tuner!

March 18, 2013

Well, actually it’s a Snark-brand tuner.  But when I saw the name, my mind just reeled with possibilities.

A Snark Tuner!  A Snark Tuner.

Your snark is not quite up to snuff?  Tune it up!

From a notice I got from Hello Music!

Snark Tuner offered by Hello Music!

Snark tuner. Alas, it’s for the benefit of guitar players, not to sharpen the snark of internet trolls, nor for other snarky commenters.

It’s actually a good buy, for a guitar player.  But if you were looking to snarken up your snark, you’re out of luck — unless your snark comes in whole tones . . .

Snark Tuner Close Up

Close-up of the Snark Tuner – -50 to +50, you know if your snark is spot on! I mean, you know if your guitar is in tune.

Technical specifications:

Overview
What It Is: This is the Snark SN-1 Clip On Tuner in Blue. The SN-1 has a Full Color Display that rotates 360 degrees, and a clip that stays put when you clip it on. You can transpose keys, calibrate pitch, and there’s even a tap tempo metronome. This Snark tuner has a High Sensitivity Vibration Sensor, and it can be used on front or back of headstock.

Why this is a great opportunity: Clip on Vibration sensitive tuners are great for tuning in a loud environment, especially with acoustic guitars. This one has a large colorful display that’s easy to read, but the real kicker is the built in metronome. Win.

Hello Music SKU: HMSNA3140

Specifications Features:
- Full Color Display
- Display Rotates 360 Degrees
- Stay Put Clip
- Fast and Deadly Accurate
- Tap Tempo Metronome
- Pitch Calibration 415-466 Hz
- Transpose Feature

Woulda been useful when I was performing.  Would Lewis Carroll have used one, do you think?

May get one yet, even though it won’t help with the internet.  How times change.

Even though it’s not what I imagined, like telling the difference between a burro and a burrow, I know several people who need to have this recommended to them — how about you?

“Fast and Deadly Accurate.”  I like that.

More:


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,976 other followers

%d bloggers like this: