posts tagged with 'music'

our school is music and outdoor education

Years ago, as I looked forward towards a time when I had older children—children who could read and divide and make responsible choices for themselves at least some of the time—I imagined that managing this project of home education would get easier. Wasn't that stupid! As it turns out, even though Harvey and Zion can do all those things, it's actually kind of a challenge to manage learning plans for boys who, were they in school, would be in 7th and 5th grade. It takes up a fair amount of my time. Not that I mean to complain: it's all pretty good fun. I like coming up with word problems and art projects and trying to get the boys to care about writing (well, that last one is a little stressful). But when it comes down to it, what has seemed the most important this winter has been music and spending time outside.

You've heard plenty about the outside part, so here's a music update. Zion has started trumpet; he's in the early stages of his study, so he's making noises that only a brass player trained in early education could enjoy (hey, that's me!). I wrote out a few exercises for him, then remembered I hated writing music and bought an elementary method book. Since the fall he's been doing great at learning to read music on recorder, so he was able to jump right into learning fingerings and building up his face muscles and breath control. He's having fun with it, too; long may it last.

Harvey, for his part, is a multi-instrumentalist. He hasn't picked up reading music as quickly as Zion (or maybe he's working on it at a higher level), but he's great at playing by ear and remembering the songs he's figured out. He's using the recorder as his melody instrument, and has advanced to being able to play in both octaves in several keys. He plays banjo with my guitar for fun, and is reading chord sheets and expanding the range of chords he can play. And on bass he's moving beyond memorizing songs to reading chords and tabs. Up next, learning to read bass clef! (well, maybe in a couple months). All that and he also composes tunes electronically on Garage Band! While he still gets frustrated sometimes when things are hard—because that's his personality—he's starting to reach the point where, instead of just learning his instruments, he can actually play music. That's where the fun is! And it's super fun for me too, so I wholeheartedly approve.

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bands back in Bedford!

There were no concerts in Bedford last summer because of the pandemic. Probably anywhere else either. Here, they started up again today and the folks scheduling them got things going right by kicking off the series with The Party Band. Of course you know we had to be there!

There was a moment of panic just before the show when it started raining. It's been raining pretty much nonstop this month but the forecast was clear, so it felt particularly unfair. I was determined to not move from our spot in protest, but for a moment the rain got significant enough that we all scurried for cover under a tree. But the band wasn't deterred, and took the stage (well, the grass) under steady light rain to start the show. As they finished their first song the rain ended, and a rainbow appeared in the sky directly behind them. Really!

the Party Band with a rainbow behind them

an omen of good music!

The Party Band plays great danceable brass band music, so I really don't know how anyone would want to just sit and listen to it. But then, I don't know how folks in Bedford do a lot of the things they do, and overall it wasn't a crowd who wanted to move. So I felt kind of silly as I moved and grooved up in the front row. But not that silly: that's what you do at a brass band show! The band certainly wanted to get people up and dancing, so I imagined that they appreciated that at least one adult was actually into the music (lots of kids were dancing all over the place, of course). And that was confirmed at the end of the show, when the band applauded for me! Good times. We'll go to the other concerts this summer I expect, but there's no way they're going to be as good.

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entertainment

I was going to write something this evening after everyone else went to bed, but instead I just watched all the other videos from the Marsh Family. My mom clued me in about them a couple months ago, but aside from watching one on her phone I didn't get into them... my loss, because they're all really delightful! We spent some today working on our own rendition of "Have the New Jab"... we've got a way to go to reach their level of talent, but Zion can belt it out like Tess and Ella and in Harvey we've got a banjo-bass double threat. Is viral video stardom in our future? Well, probably not, because none of the boys actually want to be on camera. But we're looking forward to lots more fun listening to, and playing, these songs!

our Christmas performance

While I've seen a bunch of Christmas trees out on the curb already (trash pickup was today in Bedford) it really still is Christmas, so it's not too late to show off a Christmas delight we participated in. Way back in late October I volunteered to be part of our Church's prerecorded Christmas choir—I was excited for the opportunity, because I'm usually too busy with Kids Church to participate. But when it has to all be recorded well before Thanksgiving? That I can do! In theory, at least: I did wait until the day it was due, as usual. But I got it done! If it was just me, I wouldn't bother to tell the world, but for one of the two songs the whole family got in there—and they liked us so much we're the last people to disappear at the final fade out. Check us out!

(I have to say, though, the sound of the choir is so good that it makes me think Matt, our music director, used ringers for the audio. Like maybe a prerecorded track by another choir? But never mind, we look good and that's definitely for real.)

musical togetherness

On Sunday afternoon I was feeling wiped out from a stressful morning of virtual church, so I wanted to do something that would be a bit of a challenge while not in any way resembling work that I had to do. Playing guitar was fun, but not quite pointless enough... then I had the idea to dig out the fiddle from the back of Leah's closet. She got it years ago—before kids—and we mostly forgot we even owned it, but it was there and still in fine playing shape. I rosined up the bow and squawked out a couple scales and tunes—about 15 minutes' worth, before Leah had had enough and came to show me how it's done. She hasn't played in a long time, but she's still better than me, so I retired to the guitar. Our repertoire wasn't wide (we did rock a duo on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"!) but still it was fun playing together.

Then today we took it up a notch—three notches!—by adding the boys to our ensemble. Harvey's been learning some chords on the banjo, and Zion and Lijah joined in on harmonicas. We played "I'll Fly Away", and it was fantastic. Although when I told Leah I was writing about it this evening she wanted to make sure there was no audio record of our playing. It'll be a couple weeks before we reach that point.

Honk for kids

The best thing about the Honk Festival every October, besides the music, is how it lets everybody who wants let to just go out there with all their beautiful artistic energy. I don't like the phrase "let your freak flag fly," but it does kind of fit. I can't rock a tutu like some people, to say nothing of stilts, but I do love watching and being part of the action. And most of all I like watching the young people. Because some of them can really get into it!

a young female trombone player rockin out in the parade

Honk spirit!

The parade always has tons of young marchers, and yesterday was no exception: some playing instruments, some dancing, some in strollers... all getting to be right in the middle of things. The kids on the sidelines could get into it too, high-fiving politicians and clowns and petting dragons. And dancing.

Of course, for the real dancing action you needed to go to Davis Square on Saturday. I did, and I spent a blissful hour jumping around to the wonderful varied music of the Party Band and a slightly less blissful hour moving as much as I could in the middle of the crowd listening to the Young Fellaz Brass Band. I got there late for their set—they started right as the Party Band finished but a couple blocks away—and while I did my best to push my way to the front I was stymied about two rows back. If only I was a kid myself I could have just squirmed through, even among the musicians, like one girl did at the Party Band set.

a young girl amidst the Party Band saxophonists

enthralled by the music

Everybody loved it, of course. My own kids didn't make it on Saturday—they didn't want to leave playing with friends for the uncertain prospect of listening to lots of loud music and maybe being bored. I was sad to not have them there, especially as I watched all the other little hippy kids having such a great time, but then again I wouldn't have been able to do nearly as much dancing with them around. And they were there in force on Sunday for the parade!

the gang on the side of the road waiting for the parade

ready for the action

The only sad thing about the day was that this year there were no bands playing Sunday in Harvard Square except on the main stage. The main stage is nonsense, completely packed up with people watching bands shuffle on and off for 15-minute sets; the hour-long side stages were what we've always enjoyed. Not this year. We did manage to catch 20 minutes of the charmingly-named "Bolschewistische Kurkapelle Schwarz-Rot," from Germany, and Lijah and I did a little dancing... but it wasn't quite enough. We're practicing music at home now, so we can start our own band. Seems good.

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playing superman's song

Leah sings to Zion at bedtime, and lately the songs he asks for aren't your typical lullabies (he also likes to sing along). Last week sometime she somehow got to singing "Superman's Song" by Crash Test Dummies, a band you may remember if you went to high school in the 90s. So then I got to enjoy a couple days of the boys singing it intermittently, which is how long it took me to actually realize what it was. When I finally did realize, yesterday evening after bedtime, I had to look up the chords so I could play it for myself on the guitar. And then of course I had to play it for the boys as soon as they woke up this morning, and then again a couple times throughout the day. The best part is I needed a capo to play it as originally recorded, but I don't have one... but I do have a pencil and a rubber band, which totally did the job. I still think I'll pick up a real capo the next time I go by the music store though.

This evening some friends were over for dinner, so naturally I had to give them a rendition as well. Since most of them are about my age we had ourselves a nice little 90s sing-along with tunes from The Cranberries, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Indigo Girls, and more! Also "These Boots Are Made for Walking", which isn't from the 90s but which is still fun. Note that everyone who answered when I asked about a song they remembered from high school was female.

After they left I had "Linger" stuck in my head for a couple minutes before "Superman's Song" made a comeback. I may be singing it to myself for the next week. Maybe by then I'll know the words!

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party music in Bedford

Last Thursday was the first of four summer concerts here in town. When they published the schedule I was pretty underwhelmed, but when Thursday afternoon rolled around we headed up anyway... it's hard to pass up a party! And I'm glad we did, because it ended up being a fantastic time.

Zion zipping down an enormous inflatable slide

wheee!

Besides the big slide and another bounce house (well, bounce obstacle course really) there were big Connect Four games and corn hole, and lots folks to hang out with: it seemed like almost everyone we know in town was there! And then of course there was the music too, which was surprisingly better than I had expected. I don't always trust the quality of "Caribbean music", but The Kolors Band had enough bass in the mix and plenty of energy to make things fun. I wanted to dance, of course, and the band wanted everyone up and dancing... sadly, in Bedford people don't, generally. But you can always count on kids, and once the band realized that nobody else but the kids was actually going to interact with the music they gave up on the rest of the crowd and had a little dance party for under-tens (and me). Here's Lijah getting down; you can also see us for a couple seconds in this video!

Lijah dancing to the soca beat

soca!

The show closed with a full 15 minutes of limbo madness, as pictured here. Amazing! There's no way tomorrow's show can possibly be as good. We'll probably still go anyways. Yay for summer music.

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checking in on the music program

This evening the boys and I took in a band concert at the high school in town. Well, most of it; we ducked out a little early, 8:00 being pumpkin hour for some of us. The show featured all the wind band performers Bedford Public Schools have to offer, from 5th graders to high school. It's impressive how far the kids progress over that span! Unfortunately we missed the high school wind band, the organizers having decided to save the best for last (and/or reward folks for sitting through the performances of less-accomplished players). But we did get to hear the big kids playing in the marching band and the jazz band. Surprisingly, the marching band was much better. Not more technically proficient, maybe, but they sure sold their Buckjump a lot more convincingly than the jazz kids did with Blue Train. Learning to swing is hard.

the marching band playing in the high school auditorium

rockin it indoors

If only the concert had started at 5:00 instead of 7:00, we would have loved the whole thing! It's hard being out of step with the wider scheduling of our culture...

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"Let me go, she said..."

Lately when Mama has been driving the boys in her car they've been listening to an album by the band Cake that was on heavy rotation in my life some time back in the '90s. I haven't heard any of the tracks myself this time around—when we all go somewhere together we take the van, and the CD isn't in it. And yet it feels like more than half the time now I have one of the songs stuck in my head, thanks to hearing the boys sing it. Their version aren't that good, but they're enough to trigger a pretty good recall of those tunes I last heard, oh, 20 years ago. So that's something I've been thinking about...