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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

christmas-treeFlipping on the car radio this time of year brings torrents of holiday music.  Many of the local stations change to an all Christmas format from Thanksgiving to the end of the year and you are bombarded with holiday tunes from every era and every level of quality– good , bad and ugly.  Most are happy, solemn, goofy or stickily sentimental.  Or nostalgically melancholic.

Melancholy plays a big part in many Christmas songs, especially in those songs about being separated from loved ones at Christmas– I’ll Be Home For Christmas and White Christmas for examples.

But there are very few that fall into the category of a Fairy Tale of New York from the Irish band The Pogues.  Released in 1987, it is about two Irish immigrants in NYC who look back on their stormy relationship and their dreams that have fallen due to drugs and drink.  I would be optimistic in calling it melancholic or bittersweet.

But it is a beautiful song and something in it connects on a very human level even through the harshest imagery of the song.   And it has connected in a big way through the years.  It has been the most played Christmas song in the UK since the turn of this century and is consistently named the most popular holiday song in many polls throughout Britain and Ireland.

Below is the video from the 80’s for the song.  A small bit of trivia: there is no NYPD Choir so the band recruited the NYPD Pipe and Dreams to appear in the video.  They were asked to sing “Galway Bay” but since they didn’t know the song they sang the one song they all knew, especially in their reputedly drunken state at the filming– the theme from the Mickey Mouse Club.  The film is slowed to better sync their lips to the intended song.

So, enjoy?  Maybe this song does so well because it makes our own Christmas melancholy seem not all that bad…

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GC Myers- Party lights smallIn this part of the country, childhood memories from this time of the year usually include the cold and snow in some form.  Frozen ponds with skaters on them.  New sleds at Christmas going down white covered hills.  Bundling up in heavy clothes and hats and boots.

It’s a little different this year thus far.  Today and tomorrow it’s going to be in the 60’s here and there’s hardly a hint of snow or real cold in the future forecast.  While it is pleasant weather to enjoy, it makes feeling the holiday a bit different than in the past.  Christmas lights just seem to have more sparkle in the reflection on snow than on the the still green grass.  Maybe the piece shown here, Party Lights from 2005, was a hint at what this season will look like in the future.

I don’t want to argue the subject of global warming here today.  However, it definitely feels real this holiday season and if this is to be the new norm, it’s going to take a bit of time to recalibrate and adjust to how this time should feel for those of us who live– and enjoy– where it is normally colder this time of year.

Okay, it’s time for a little Sunday music and I thought that the piano of Vince Guaraldi would fill the bill.  If the ponds won’t freeze over for the skaters at least they have his music to enjoy.  Here’s Skating.

 

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2014 GC Myers Season Filled with ColorI am wishing all of you out there a wonderful Christmas holiday.  I hope that you find the spirit of season and carry it with you through the new year and beyond.   And that spirit is philanthropy.

Philanthropy is a word that seems only attributed to billionaires and large charities that benefit may people.  But it is a concept that anyone can adapt on a personal level.  As a word, it means a “love of humanity” in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing and enhancing “what it is to be human”.  In these terms, each of  us can be philanthropists by whatever means are available to us because it is truly about a generosity of spirit.

It’s a spirit that is more evident during the holidays but it doesn’t have to be reserved only for a short period of time in each year.  Smiling.  Engaging with people, listening, practicing patience and helping those in need in whatever small ways you can.  None of these things seem like a big deal in themselves.  But on an enduring daily basis they can change the world around you.

And maybe that small step will lead to something bigger.  Hey, it’s worth a try.  Be a philanthropist.  What have you got to lose?

In the words of the song:  Have yourself a merry little Christmas.  Here’s a great version from the one and only Ella Fitzgerald.

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Bing and Bowie 1977Well, it is Sunday morning and that usually means that it is time for some music here.  Since it is the last Sunday before Christmas a little holiday music is called for.  This is a song that I have played here before.  It’s that odd pairing between Bing Crosby and David Bowie and the song The Little Drummer Boy/ Peace on Earth.

The story behind how it came about is pretty interesting.  In 1977, 73 year old Bing Crosby was in the midst of  what would be his last British tour.  While there , producers put together Crosby’s annual holiday special for American TV, this time with an English theme, a Merrie Olde Christmas.  It was filmed in September with a number of British celebrity guests, including the 30 year old rock star David Bowie.  Bing actually introduced and showed the video to Bowie’s song Heroes on the special.

On the day of shooting, Bowie learns that he is scheduled to sing Little Drummer Boy with Crosby.  He balks, telling producers that he hates the song and if that’s the song they wanted he might as well leave.  He said he was only there because his mother was huge Crosby fan.

Producers and composers went to work.  In just over an hour, they produced an original tune, Peace on Earth, that would be sung by Bowie as a counterpoint to Bing’s Little Drummer Boy.  The two singers both liked the new addition and the arrangement and ran through it together several times in less than an hour before recording the final version.

Bing Crosby died less than a month later and the special ran as scheduled in December of 1977.  The pairing of Bing and Bowie was considered an oddity then and producers of the show and song thought that was the end of it.  But bootlegs of the song circulated for several years, gaining in popularity to the point that RCA decided to release it as single in 1982.  It has become one of the most popular holiday songs in the intervening years.

I know it’s one of my favorites.  Have a great Sunday…

 

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Bruegel, Pieter the Elder- Hunters in the Snow (Winter) 1565I was looking for a medieval image of a scene in snow that would fit a piece of medieval seasonal music.  In this instance or most any, you can’t go wrong with a painting from Pieter Bruegel the Elder.  The Flemish painter , who lived from around 1525 until 1569, has long been a favorite of mine with the gorgeous colors of his peasant scenes.  This is one of the more famous of the 45 or so known remaining paintings from Bruegel, titled The Hunters in the Snow  from 1565.  The contrasting darkness of the trees and the hunting party against the lightness of the snow and the atmosphere just make this piece memorable for me.  It is of its time but it feels as though you could step into it, be part of it.

The piece of music I wanted this to accompany is Gaudete, a well known piece that comes from the 16th century which means it, like the Bruegel painting, are not really medieval since that period ended with the 15th century.  But both feel as though they have that medieval feel and, besides,  Gaudete is based on truly medieval Latin lyrics.

The song is a Christmas carol that opens with the line Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus which translates to  Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born.  Gaudete is Latin for rejoice.  While I do not practice any particular religion, this is truly a beautiful expression of the meaning of the season.  This lovely version of the song is an arrangement for 4 voices, arranged and conducted  by Joan Yakkey and performed by 4 adolescents belonging to the Young Madrigalists group of the School of Music of Fiesole, Florence Italy.

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Peanuts Gang from A Charlie Brown Christmas - Chas SchulzI’ve been taking a few days off here around Thanksgiving, taking it a bit easier in the days that kick off the first days of the Christmas season here.  I can’t say I’m as big a fan of the holidays as when I was child but I still feel that same warm fuzziness when certain songs of the season come on the radio.  Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song or Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, for example.  One of my all-time favorites are the wondeful compositions from  Vince Guaraldi for  A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Hearing the relaxing tones of Christmas Time Is Here with the children’s chorus is like zen candy to me–it just pushes away all the bad things we,ve come to accept as part of the season and fills the void with a peaceful calm.

I thought I’d share Diana Krall‘s take on this great piece.  It lacks the children’s voices but it is lovely nonetheless and a good way to head back into my work.

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On Christmas Day

There are Christmas Days when you wake up with thoughts of the right now, thoughts about what has to be done, gifts that need to be delivered, etc.  Just thoughts about how you’re going to make it through the day.

Today I was up early,  as I normally am, and headed over to the studio.  I began to think about the roots of the holiday and the story of the nativity and the star that shone over the scene in the story.  The whole thing brought me back to looking into the sky and all the questions raised by looking upon the endless stars and innumerable galaxies, seeing how vast the universe seems and how small we truly are. Why are we here?  What is our purpose?  Are we linked in some way with the ancient lights that reach our eyes?

Perhaps the story of Jesus brings  comfort and an answer of sorts to these questions.  It provides a reason for being and the sense of a link to the unknown and unknowable.  It renders the universe to a single point of contact, one that feels knowable and within reach, if one only has faith in the belief.  For believers, the universe is simply proof of the existence of God, all part of a great design.

I can understand the attraction and comfort of this belief.  The need for it.

But whether I am fully invested in this belief or feel that it answers all my questions, I cannot say.  I can say that, even while still questioning the origin of the stars above,  there is much to be gained by living our lives in a way that is filled with love and empathy, acceptance and forgiveness.  All things that Jesus taught.  Whether you believe or not, a life filled with these qualities links us with those around us and the rest of the world and possibly the universe and all the forces supporting it.

And maybe, ultimately, that’s the meaning behind this day.

Merry Christmas. Live well…

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Well, it’s the day before Christmas.  I’ve been fairly fortunate in my life in that Christmas has normally brought nothing but pleasant memories of moments spent with family and friends.  Family get-togethers and quiet moments spent with Cheri fill my Christmas memory bank.  Oh, there have been moments of sadness, such as that first Christmas that fell several weeks after my mother died, but for the most part Christmas has been relatively free of the drama and tensions of everyday life.

As I said, I am pretty fortunate.

I thought for today I would simply show a video from Robert Earl Keen of his  Merry Christmas From the Family, a song that always makes me smile.  It sort of reminds me of some of the Christmases of my youth.

Have a great Christmas eve…

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Just a few days before Christmas and I can’t get a particular Christmas song out of my head.  Infectious.

It’s Must Be Santa and it’s from Bob Dylan.

Yep, Bob Dylan.

He has a new CD of Christmas songs, all done in his own way.  Some are old chestnuts that work better than others but the one that shines for me is Must be Santa.  It’s a fast polka with a klezmer feel complete with accordions.  Lots of fun.

My new favorite Christmas song.

And Bob dances in the video.

What more can one ask for Christmas?

Enjoy!

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Party Lights

I’m getting things around this morning for a gallery-type talk that I’m doing today for a group at a Christmas party at a local country club.  It’s a little different from gallery talks I’ve done in the past where the people in attendance are there specifically to hear me speak and I’m surrounded by examples of my work .  These folks are there to celebrate the holidays so I’m just a bit nervous about how well I will be able to grab their attention.

But I will certainly give it a try.

I will mainly focus on the story of how I came to be a painter rather than how I paint, leaving technique for other venues.  I figure this will be more biographical, trying to emphasize some of the elements that have a bit of inspiration.  I will probably talk  a little about attitude and serendipity, stemming from some great opportunities for my career that arose from my days as a waiter at a Perkins Restaurant.  I don’t really have a speech or anything like that.  I usually just get up and start talking and let it go, hoping that it will grow organically like one of my paintings.  Most of the time this works.

I hope it does today.

I wonder if they’ll have an open bar?

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