I remember MJ

Today has been a day . . . as we collectively memorialized the life of Michael Jackson and the jolt we felt at his sudden death. He died the same day as Farrah Fawcett. We expected her to die. I agonized as I watched her last days captured on film that were so much like the days which we walked through with dear Sandy just over a year ago. But Michael? I have been silently cheering him on to a comeback on his world tour, and new ground-breaking music.

MJ was bigger than life. Most conversations I’ve had in the last week have at least touched on what his musical contributions meant to us.  My memories center on two 5-year old boys, one white Scandinavian, the other black with pigtails all over his head, singing Beat It at the top of their lungs on our back patio. Or the whole group of neighborhood kids (as racially diverse as any group of military brats can be) roller skating to the Thriller CD on that patio. And a half-time show at a high school football game in Berlin Germany, where the high school choir I directed led a mass singing of We Are the World that gave all in the stadium a lump in their throat.

Thank you, Michael. With all your imperfections you made the musical world a better place.

In memory of song


In memory of Edna (age 90) and Inez (age 95) – 2 artists at the organ, who both passed over this week.

The Organist in Heaven
by T.E. Browm (b 1830)

When Wesley died, the Angelic orders,
To see him at the state,
Pressed so incontinent that the warders
Forgot to shut the gate.
So I, that hitherto had followed
As one with grief o’ercast,
Where for the doors a space was hollowed,
Crept in, and heard what passed.
And God said:—
” Seeing thou hast given Thy life to my great sounds,
Choose thou through all the cirque of Heaven
What most of bliss redounds.”
Then Wesley said :—
” I hear the thunder
Low growling from Thy seat—
Grant me that I may bind it under
The trampling of my feet.”
And Wesley said:-” See, lightning quivers
Upon the presence walls—
Lord, give me of it four great rivers,
To be my manuals.”
And then I saw the thunder chidden
As slave to his desire ;
And then I saw the space bestridden
With four great bands of fire ;
And stage by stage, stop stop subtending,
Each lever strong and true,
One shape inextricable blending,
The awful organ grew.
Then certain angels clad the Master in very marvellous wise,
Till clouds of rose and alabaster
Concealed him from mine eyes.
And likest to a dove soft brooding,
The innocent figure ran ;
So breathed the breath of his preluding,
And then the fugue began—
Began ; but, to his office turning,
The porter swung his key;
Wherefore, although my heart was yearning,
I had to go ; but he
Played on; and, as I downward clomb,
I heard the mighty bars
Of thunder-gusts, that shook heaven’s dome,
And moved the balanced stars.

As I’ve blogged before, when something comes up twice in a short period of time, it’s appropriate to take notice of what the universe would like me to hear or learn. These 2 ladies had great influence in my early passion to play organ. Not because they were my teachers, but because they inspired me with their passion for sharing their music. I’ve played all my life, but the last few years other things have taken precedence, and sometimes weeks go by without the feel of ebony and ivory. There is no balance in my life, and I feel like I’m not whole without my music. Thank you for the memories, dear friends, and for leading me back to my center.

Happy 200th, Mendelssohn

By now it’s looking like I have a music theme going, by the looks of my last 3 posts. It’s certainly evidence of my eclectic, if not schizophrenic, taste in music. One thing is certain, my collection of CDs and music on my Zen is anything but boring.

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn. He was only 38 years old when he died, and wrote prolifically for almost every medium of performance from orchestra to opera.

Happy Birthday, Mendelssohn!

The Day the Music Died (not)

50 years ago today a plane crash in Clear Lake Iowa took the lives of 3 rockers who had barely started their careers. Richie Valens was just 17 and had been in the business less than a year. Buddy Holly was 23, had been successful only about 2 years, and yet his music had a great influence on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The Big Bopper, the oldster of the trio at 28, was a DJ, and “Chantilly Lace” was his only really successful record, although I get a kick out of “The Big Bopper’s Wedding.”

I love rock-and-roll (hey, that’s another great song). A colleague of mine and her daughter went to Clear Lake last weekend. I listened to every bit of the Saturday night Sirius radio broadcast from the Surf Ballroom (where the final concert took place) with Cousin Brucie Morrow. I got goosebumps hearing all the interviews with those who were there.

Rock-and-roll nuts (like me) know every detail of that fateful night in Clear Lake Iowa. I even know every word of Don McLean’s “American Pie,” a poetic retelling of (as the song says) “the day the music died.” Others not so R & R crazy, may not know why today’s 50th anniversary observance is legendary, but I’ll bet they’ve heard Chantilly Lace (Bopper), La Bamba (Valenz), and That’ll Be the Day (Holly).

Happy Birthday, Mozart

Today is the 253rd anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He lived only 35 years and 11 months and he wrote over 600 works — astounding for me to think about. I’ve written a few things, the manuscripts of which are stuffed in file boxes in my garage, and none of which approach the genius of Mozart.  Studies have postulated that listening to Mozart makes you smarter, or at least increases concentration abilities for a time. I don’t know about smarter, but listening to Mozart takes me to my happy place, where there’s peace, harmony, and no stress.

Take a Mozart break today and listen online to his complete works on the Mozart Tower Experience. My favorites? The wind concertos.

Leadership as musical enablement

While playing organ for a worship service this morning, I carried the analogy begun in my previous post even further.

Whenever I play organ in a church, I hear my German Lutheran Grandpa Walter’s voice — indeed his spirit often is near me. He used to complain mightily about the organist in his church (who, incidentally, was my beginning piano teacher.) He said she played too loudly, “only for herself,” he claimed.

As I’ve thought about his critical comments, I now know that the duty of the organist is as accompanist to guide the worshippers through their experience, and lead them in song. They are not there to put on a concert, there are other venues for that. The organist introduces the song, sets the tempo, outlines the melody, undergirds the dynamics, and then gets out of the way to let the people sing. One of my favorite things to do (in a congregation of good singers when the hymn is well-known) is to drop down to a whisper or maybe even drop out altogether for a verse or a section of a capella singing. The organ, with its myriad of hidden orchestra components, frames the entire program. With a prelude, the organ centers the attention; in soft, hushed tones it underlies the prayers; through modulation of keys, provides bridges between progressive elements of the liturgy, with trumpets, it soars with joy; all the while providing the infrastructure upon which community worship and singing happens.

Aha — organizational leadership! Good leaders set the tone, provide the accompaniment, and get out of the way so that others can accomplish their purpose. And, if the leader is a good one, does it all not for their own glory.

So to wrap this analogy to a beneficial conclusion, and not go on ad nauseum ;^)
A good library leader:
1. Builds a staff with diverse skills
2. Brings the staff together in teams
3. Blends some teams together as appropriate for tasks
4. Selects compositions/programs for appropriate times/places/audiences
5. Guides teams through the composition of projects
6. Determines planning and pace of programs
7. Enables others to be all they can be (darn, there’s that military influence in my background coming out again)
8. Does not detract from purpose through self-aggrandization

I know a number of library leaders who share my passion for music, specifically organ — Lars, Judy, Fran, Jane, Linda, are a few that come quickly to mind. Bet they already know this.

Leadership as a harmonious blending

Avocation: a subordinate occupation pursued in addition to one’s vocation especially for enjoyment : Hobby Merriam-Webster online dictionary

My first career in music became my avocation quite a while ago — which was the best thing that ever happened for me, since now I find therapy in making music. But when I quit music as a career field, I missed the rush of conducting a performing organization and the feeling of satisfaction in bringing the best interpretation forward through my conductor’s baton. I would point at one group, and they would add their voices; gesture to another section and they would whisper their accompaniment; while I lifted the soloist to bring out the melody.

I recouped some of that feeling through playing the organ. At my fingertips, I had the instruments of the orchestra at my beck and call. What fun, to mold a composition to my individual style. My right brain was challenged, and balanced the left brain logic and analytical thinking I was doing at work.

Somehow, while practicing today, “work me” invaded “personal me” when I realized that playing the organ is a microcosm of organizational leadership. Just as I set up various instrument combinations on each manual, with complementing voices and timbres, I look for complementing skills and attributes in staff teams. Where I use couplers to bring various voicings on the organ into other settings, I bring additional resources into various work projects that I’m leading. Adding a higher pitched stop adds a brilliance, and adding more bass to the pedal gives a stronger foundation.

End of a long week

Joy to the World — and boy, did it feel good. It’s been a grueling week — long meetings, lots of windshield time, personnel challenges, reports that didn’t get done. It was a great way to put it all to rest. The company was good (the cousins), the music was loud (3 Dog Night), and it all took me back to a time when I didn’t have to be a grown-up, for the moment anyway.

And why is this post appropriate to my librarian blog? Well, it was a replay of ALA 2001 in San Francisco, where I last saw 3 Dog Night when they played for the Scholarship Bash.
Night Out at Treasure Island