Music stories

God Rest Ye Merry………Gentlemen?

For the next couple of Mondays, I’m going to dive into some of the…..strange lyrics and stories of Christmas carols. Today, I’m looking at the song, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”.

 

I have to start with the comma in the title. This has always intrigued me. The way it is written is God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. But that doesn’t really make sense, does it? Wouldn’t the comma be before Merry, not after it? Well, I found a NY Times article that deals with this. In the article, it explains that the phrase “God Rest Ye Merry” is explained as “God keep you merry”. OK, that makes sense. But in the over 3 centuries since the song was written, that comma has wandered.

 

OK, so we know what the first line is talking about. But what about this “tidings of comfort and joy” thing? Tidings just means news or information. So it’s news of comfort and joy.

 

The whole song is talking about keeping cheerful and happy because Jesus was born to save us. But why is the melody written in a minor key, if it’s so happy?? It is an interesting choice, isn’t it? Major keys typically sound cheerful or happy, while minor keys sound somber and sad. It’s a unique and interesting juxtaposition that I can’t really find an answer to. Normally, the music reflects the text…but this is a unique connection. What are your thoughts?

 

God rest ye merry gentlemenLet nothing you dismayRemember Christ our SaviorWas born on Christmas DayTo save us all from Satan’s pow’rWhen we were gone astrayOh tidings of comfort and joyComfort and joyOh tidings of comfort and joy

Music History, Music stories, Musical Community

What is the most famous Mexican song?

Happy Cinco de Mayo! May the 5th is the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, where the Mexican army defeated the French in 1862. It is probably celebrated more here in the United States than in Mexico, but it got me thinking about the question I posed in the title of this post. What is the most famous Mexican song?

 

I’m not as familiar with the music of Mexico, as I am with other countries, so I started doing some research. I found songs like “La Bamba”, “La Cucaracha”, “Oye Como Va” and “Besame Mucho” as the most famous ones. You can check them out below.

 

 

 

 

Other more recent Mexican musicians would include Gloria Trevi, Luis Miguel and Selena, among others.

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite Mexican song? Share it in the comments!

 

Music stories, Musical Creativity

May the 4th be with you!

I love Star Wars! Considering that the first movie came out 4 and a half months before I was born, the story has been a part of my life for its entirety! And so today is affectionately called “May the 4th be with you”, a twist on “May the force be with you”, so today, I wanted to share with you some of the blog posts that I’ve written about Star Wars in the past.

Cello Wars

Musical Form and Star Wars

Star Wars on a Melodica

Star Wars Rhythms

Star Wars Fun

Star Wars Kyrie

What is Your Star Wars Name?

 

And finally, for your enjoyment….John Williams directing the Imperial March

 

Music stories

Music is a dance!

Today is International Dance Day! While I personally am unable to dance on my feet, my fingers definitely dance! Don’t believe my lack of dancing ability? The first time I danced with my wife before we were married, I tried to dip her. I dropped her! She still married me and laughs at my lack of dancing ability.

 

But when we make music, we make it dance! The term used is musicality. How do you take the notes and lengths placed on the page and make them come to life? We make the music dance! Whether that is giving natural accents on the first beat on each measure, or phrase the music correctly, we make the music come to life. We’re not robots and the music shouldn’t sound robotic!

 

As we gain experience and confidence as musicians, we’re able to play faster passages, which makes our fingers dance across the instrument. In gaining knowledge and practicing what to do, making the music dance becomes natural and regularly happens without much extra thought. But at first, it definitely needs to be an extra step for students to learn how to do it well.

 

Obviously in music, there are different dance styles that we play, whether that’s a waltz, bouree, minuet, cha-cha and more. Those pieces are written in a way that the music naturally dances, but as experienced musicians, the idea of making the music dance can be brought into any piece, dance or not.

 

How do you dance through music?

Music stories

Take Your Son Or Daughter to Work Day!

Did you know that today is national take our daughters and sons to work day today? I didn’t, until I found it on a calendar for today. This is fun for me because in teaching from my home studio, my daughters get to see and hear what I do regularly.

 

Being a musician, my daughters have always been around music and what I’ve done as a musician, whether that’s as a church music director, at the piano, guitar or singing. They’ve been able to be around while I’m practicing, participating in children’s choirs I led, and much, much more!

 

They’ve both taken piano lessons. I learned the lesson early on with my oldest that while, yes, I am a good teacher, she wouldn’t listen to me. She thought it was always “fun time with daddy”. To be fair, she was 4! But other people have taught them. My youngest has taken guitar and drum lessons as well. Both sing in choir and both sing pretty much all the time at home!

 

Being an entrepreneur and working from home, my girls are regularly trying to help come up with advertising ideas and help out in whatever way they can. I appreciate that with all of my heart!

 

So while today is set aside as a day to take your son or daughter to work, I get the blessing and privilege of regularly having my daughters around, and it’s something that I’m so thankful for! It truly has been a joy to not only share with them my work, but also share the joy of music with them and watch their musical talent grow and develop as well!

 

If you’re looking for private piano, voice, trumpet, beginning guitar or ukulele lessons this summer, either in-person or online, click here!

Music stories

Music Can Be A Stress Reliever!

April is stress awareness month. We are all under some sort of stress. Maybe we’re students and we’re trying to learn new concepts, make good grades, play sports, make friends and things like that. Maybe we’re adults and have stress at work, stress with relationships, financial stress and more. How do we deal with the stress we’re facing?

There’s plenty of unhealthy ways to handle stress. But making music can be a huge healthy stress reliever. Back when I was in middle school and high school, I had plenty of stress, and when I sat down at the piano, I could feel that stress go away as I played on the keys. Some times, I even played as hard and as loud as I possibly could…and it didn’t break the piano! It’s the piano that I teach lessons on!

Yes, some might say that practicing music creates stress. I’m not talking about practicing. I’m talking about sitting down with music you already know and love, or music that you want to play for fun. This goes such a long way in relieving stress. It isn’t adding more by working on practicing things, but it’s just letting that stress flow from your fingers or out of you mouth when you sing.

Have you found music to be a stress reliever? How has it helped you?

Music Motivation, Music stories

With Scissors?

One of the biggest joys I get out of teaching is never knowing what students will say at their lessons. In introducing the concept of a dotted quarter note to eighth note rhythm, I explain to this wonderful student that when we get to eighth notes, we cut them in half. And so the conversation went like this:

Me: “How in the world do you cut a quarter note in half?”

Student: “With scissors?”

 

Not exactly, but a wonderful answer! I’ve had so many unique and creative answers to questions that I ask when I teach, and it always keeps me on my toes. And that’s one of the things as a musician that I’ve learned to do. Ask questions. I’m not the end-all, be-all source of knowledge on music. I’m still learning, just as my students are. But I’ve found that when you ask questions, you learn some very creative and unique answers. And definitely a lot more fun than just me droning on and on to her about the dotted quarter note!

 

If you’re looking for in person or online lessons, check out more information here.

Music stories, Practicing

Parents make the difference!

After being a child and taking piano lessons, learning how to practice, and then becoming a music educator, as well as a parent myself, I can clearly and firmly say that parents make all the difference in students’ learning. That doesn’t mean that parents have to be amazing and well trained musicians, but the encouragement and pushing at times makes a difference.

 

My story is quite simple, and very similar to many of my students. I started piano at age 5 because I loved music. And for the first few months, things went well. But then…it got hard. And I wanted to quit. Like tears quit. But my mother wouldn’t let me. You see, my grandmother let my mom quit piano lessons and it was something that my mom wished she wouldn’t have ever done. So, because she knew that I was talented, she wouldn’t let me quit. And I’m so thankful for that. I persisted, learned how to practice (even though I still to this day hate practicing) and I’m so thankful for that decision.

 

Just like working on homework, there will be pushback. It will be hard, and there’s plenty of other things the child will want to do. But having that routine, structure and discipline to practice makes all of the difference. As a teacher, one thing I come across from time to time with parents is the mentality that students will learn everything in 30 minutes with me. That’s impossible when it comes to music! Music lessons are not like Tae Kwon Do or other activities where you learn things in groups and do not have to put in any work outside of that time. Music is a commitment, and I try to stress that to parents at the start. It’s not only a commitment from the student, it’s a commitment from the parent, as that is a financial commitment as well!

 

Because of my experiences in being a student and my 20 years of experience as a music educator, I try to make learning fun. I give students the input on what they would like to learn in addition to the method books that we’re doing. I want to challenge my students, but I want them to not feel overwhelmed and burdened by it. My goal for my students is to have them love and appreciate music, as it will be around them for their whole life.

 

Learning music is something that everyone can do. It’s like learning a language. There are levels to your understanding and knowledge. A good part of that comes from how much time you spend working at it. I love the opportunity to encourage students, but a part of that also means encouraging parents as well, because if they truly want to see the full value of their investment in lessons, the work has to happen on a consistent basis at home. It doesn’t have to be hours on end, but 5-10 minutes once or twice a day will add up!

 

I am scheduling summer lessons for in person, as well as online. You can find out more here.

About Craig, Music stories, Trumpet

Easter and the Trumpet

Before I really focused in on organ playing, I was typically busy on Easter Sunday with singing and playing trumpet. And that’s where I want to focus on today. But before we get to Easter, we have to go back to that fateful moment back when I was in 5th grade and could choose an instrument. I wanted to play drums. My parents said no. Why? Too expensive? Too loud? No. The reason was because I couldn’t play it for church. Nevermind that drummers/percussionists are used regularly in worship services. Anyway, no drums. So, I went with…..the trumpet. And it started a journey of loud noises that I’m so thankful for.

 

When you think of Easter, it just seems right to have trumpets. You see, trumpets are loud. Trumpets signal things. And that’s what I got to do in middle school (not very well) and in high school (I got much better). Of course, the funniest story happened to me my freshman year of high school. As a band, we went every 4 years from Wisconsin to Disney World to march. It was awesome. It happened to be my freshman year that we went. It was over Holy Week, and to make things educational and fun we did other experiences. I guess part of the educational part was spending time at Cocoa Beach so that us Wisconsin kids could understand what a warm spring was. Well, I didn’t get in the water, and applied sunscreen…..but didn’t reapply. So, I burned. Badly. So much so that wearing a shirt HURT. We got back on Good Friday and I had to play for worship on Sunday. In a tremendous amount of pain, I gutted it out, my red skin shining through my white dress shirt. That, of course, was self-inflicted!

 

I loved the opportunities that I had to play my trumpet for worship. Especially on Easter. Once I got more into playing the organ, it was pretty tough to do much with playing the trumpet, as not only was I quite busy playing, it’s difficult to play trumpet and organ together! My goal for this summer is to get back to playing for worship again, which means getting back into regular practice. That is something I’m looking forward to doing.

 

While growing up, Easter and music definitely were hand in hand for me. I’ve loved being a part of making music in the church, especially at Easter. Today, I get to sing in our church choir, and the best part for me is that my oldest daughter is singing in the choir as well. That’s the fun of music. It spans generations. And in my life and in my family, it definitely has!

Music stories, Singing

Easter and choirs

Yesterday, I shared about my anniversary of the first time I played the organ for my first worship service. Today, I want to share a bit about my choral music experiences, specifically around Easter.

 

I honestly can’t remember a time in my life without singing. Strange as that sounds, it it so true. My dad sang in choirs growing up and when he was in the seminary, he sang in choir there. So he had recordings of many different groups that he would regularly play around the house. And I loved singing. In my church children’s choir, students couldn’t join until they were in 3rd grade. An exception was made for me when I was in 2nd grade. I sang through elementary school, middle school, high school and in college in many choirs, singing for many different events in many different styles.

 

But Easter is so different. There is a power and beauty when voices join together to sing and retell the story of Jesus’ resurrection. And when you’re singing with others, it is such a high and a joy when the hard work pays off. And in the church choirs I sang in through middle and high school, there were so many pieces that were so joyful and beautiful, not only for the congregation, but for those of us singing them.

 

After I graduated from college, I stopped singing in choirs for 20 years. Why? It wasn’t because I developed a dislike of singing. It was because I became a choir director and was on the other side of the choir. And I didn’t really make singing for myself a priority along with my directing. But then, in 2018, something changed. An opportunity opened up for my choir to audition for an opportunity to sing in a mass choral event at Carnegie Hall. You can read about that in this post. We made it, and because I couldn’t direct, I had to sing. That weekend showed me that there was something missing. I had missed singing in choir! For a few others along with that, I stepped out of my full-time position and have been focusing in on building my music lesson business, but I’ve also been singing in our church choir again! It’s been so wonderful! The opportunity to get back to something that I have loved so dearly for so long, and missed out on doing has been fantastic!

 

As you listen to the choirs singing tomorrow, be thankful for the talents given, as well as the work put in by the singers. But even more than that, know that there is joy coming from the singers making that music too!