Gratitude List 1853

(1) I felt a burst of gratitude just now, putting on my pullover sweater. I was a little chilly, I put on another layer of clothing, and I was warm. I felt warm inside too, thinking of all the times I’ve been cold. I believe that the ability to appreciate freedom from cold weather is directly proportional to the number of times you’ve frozen your butt off.

(2) Unusually nice run this morning, which surprised me. It’s only my third time back after the snowstorm, but I did three miles without stopping.  It was also 29 degrees Fahrenheit, but I did not feel the cold–even though I ran in running shorts with heavy gloves.  For me, the extra layers on the upper body make all the difference in the world. Glad I ran, and glad I still can.

(3) Last week I finished the first draft of the performance tracks for the first two scenes of Eden in Babylon.  I’m right on target, and grateful.

(4) I was a little down yesterday, but after writing a small piece and playing a song on the piano, I found my spirits lifted. I’m thankful for all the creative outlets that help me to process my feelings.

(5) Grateful for the good people of Moscow Idaho and especially for the friends whom I have made at my church. I came to my front door the other day and found a large can of coffee, with filters. (Just when I was running low, too.) When I misplaced something in Berkeley, it would invariably be stolen. When I misplace something in Moscow Idaho, I later find it having been placed anonymously on the Baldwin grand piano at my church. Grateful to be where I belong.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
   — Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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Gratitude List 1850

(1) Really good coffee, this Supreme Roast from WinCo’s. It’s made me a consistently nice morning cup for quite a few days now–and sometimes a pleasant afternoon cup as well.

(2) My daughter and I have been enjoying a nice “correspondence” of exchanging voice texts back and forth on our iPhones. Grateful for my daughter, and grateful for my iPhone–without either of which this correspondence would not be happening.

(3) Grateful for the local Latah Recovery Center, where there will be a noon meeting soon, and general peer counseling and direction towards all kinds of resources. It’s a great place to hang out, where one feels unafraid to discuss one’s issues.

(4) Really grateful for the church and the Baldwin grand piano there. I should be able to get over there today and do more Christmas tunes — maybe “We Three Kings,” “The First Nowell,” and “Adeste Fideles.”

(5) The ground is packed with snow, and I might find myself knee deep on the trek to town. The good news is I’m no longer in California, where I might have the opposite experience (if you can picture it). There is a lot to be thankful for, on this earth.

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Dark Holly

“Dark Holly” is a medley of various themes sacred & secular, based on the French version of the Christmas carol “The Holly and the Ivy.” This is not to be confused with the more well-known English version, which is in a major key. The French version is in a minor key — and my version is even darker.  I’ll try to lighten things up next week with maybe “Sleigh Ride” or something along brighter lines.   Enjoy —

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Re: Name This Tune

I’ve received a number of equally correct answers to the question I asked in the previous post. However, since I also asked the question to the 150+ recipients on my Friday Piano List, I’m going to wait a while before revealing the answer. The “winner” will be the first person who told me the original, single-word title. This occurred at about one in the afternoon today.

New Album (Me & Keva)

If anyone wants to support us, click here and take it from there. For $10+ USD, you’re not only getting the five tunes currently on the album, you get the next five for free. Or $3+ per song.

I wrote all five of these songs in the 70’s except for “Daylight” whose music I wrote in 1982 with lyrics added in 2018. Histories of each song are included with the album, along with lyrics to all songs.

The next five songs will consist of stuff I wrote between 2013 and 2016 in Berkeley. It will be a month or more before they are released. So you’re getting a sneak preview.

I’ve removed all free versions from everywhere, except for one YouTube of “Time Will Tell” that’s been widely distributed and well-received.

Please consider supporting this endeavor at this time.

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Gratitude List 1794

(1) This coffee tastes really good this morning.  I invest in Seattle’s Best Portside Blend, and try to make it just right.  A decent cup of coffee really gets the day started on the right foot.

(2) Slept seven hours solid last night, the most sleep I’ve achieved in a single shot for a while.  A good night’s sleep has a way of making me feel “normal.”

(3) Started my new church job officially yesterday.   Played my first service at the United Church.  It went seamlessly.  Also I really enjoyed Jodie’s sermon.  Tuning into her, I realized she has a great gift.  That’s always been the best part of a church piano job — the part where I get to leave the piano bench, take a seat in the pews, and listen to the pastor’s sermon.  I also am happy to find that, after all these years, my sight-reading skills are still intact.  Moreover, the congregation truly appreciated me.

(4) Interestingly, Ian from our circle also started his new job yesterday — as the pianist at First Presbyterian Church.  I am happy to have been able to help First Pres find a piano player, and very happy to have been instrumental (no pun intended) in helping Ian land his first job.

(5) On Friday, I participated in a Zoom meeting involving two staff members from the recovery center, a Center employee who is currently homeless, and myself, as we addressed the concerns of two students from the State College who were curious why health care is so challenging for homeless people to attain.   It evolved into a much broader discussion on the theme of homeless rights.  I excitedly found the time to edit it for this Wednesday’s podcast, adding introductory music at the beginning and inspirational music at the end.   Best of all, I left the meeting with a renewed sense of hope.  And I enter the new week with focus. 

Great effort is required to arrest decay and restore vigor. One must exercise proper deliberation, plan carefully before making a move, and be alert in guarding against relapse following a renaissance.
— Horace

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Gratitude List 1793

(1) For the first time, I received a substantial donation to Eden in Babylon from a name I did not recognize. Maybe that’s a sign that things are looking up.

(2) This is the most consistent I’ve been with running since I moved to Idaho. I did 2 1/2 miles last night, 2 1/2 miles two nights before that, and 4 miles the previous morning. I’m sure I’ve lost significant weight, though have not yet been to a scale.

(3) Got another column published. I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to express my thoughts as to how some aspects of Christendom in contemporary American culture are extremely off-base.

(4) Am officially signing a W-4 and beginning my new job at the United Church next Sunday. Yesterday was Cody’s last day. I provided special music, and we had a ceremony afterwards in which Cody’s five years as their pianist was honored. The anxious fire that incessantly burns within me was once again soothed by the spirit of love and peace that prevails over this most accepting church.

(5) Zazen committed to a month’s worth of vocal coaching and I have my first official private music student since moving to Idaho. It’s wonderful how many new possibilities have opened up in my retirement, to permit me to do the work that I most love.

Hard work is painful when life is devoid of purpose. But when you live for something greater than yourself and the gratification of your own ego, then hard work becomes a labor of love.
— Steve Pavlina

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Gratitude List 1570

(1)  Having lost weight steadily during the period when I wasn’t running, it was a lot easier to run the three mile course than it was before.   Ran it, did 21 push-ups, and ran again this morning.   I feel good physically, but the main reason I’m grateful is that I’m still at it — after all these years.

(2) Had a good meeting with Kurt this afternoon.  I’m grateful for Kurt because he’s such a fountain of intellectual theological information, as well as a great guy.   Also had an interesting email exchange with Ashley Peterson over the weekend, concerning the so-called problem of evil.  I’m glad to be engaged in such discussions. It’s something I’ve not known at other times in my life.

(3) My version of An Affair to Remember now has over 2.5K views on YouTube.

(4) Very nice conversations with my daughter these days.   Grateful she is in my life.

(5) Well, I lost the entire week last week to things it would pain me to belabor. This week’s starting off all right, though not without challenges.  There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and there will be a new season — a new stage of experience.  It’s in the works — and I have faith.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  — John 12:24

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Awake the Dawn

Hey I realize I’ve been MIA as far as the blogosphere’s concerned.  I’ve been in the process of creating a midi-convertible piano score to replicate all the temp changes and other nuances just like I played it on the recording you hear below.  Then all kinds of voices will be heard singing overhead.   But this is going to take some more time.  Here’s how it sounds with piano alone:   –

Voices are in the domain of the Sound Designer and will be revealed pending further communication with him.  In the meantime, there is so much else I could share — mostly along the lines of Keva and I having met to learn a new song Time Will Tell.  That clip is about the third time she had tried to sing it with me on the first day of rehearsal.  She’s a very quick study, and grasps the entire concepts of songs, right off the bat.

Otherwise, I’m still out and about.  I told Dave I’d get this midi-convertible score turned in soon, so I do need to attend to this.  Not sure when anything more will be happening, officially.   Andy Pope · Awake the Dawn

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Gratitude List 1568

(1) Both sessions recording “Awake the Dawn” with full chorus went well on Tuesday and Wednesday nights respectively, though Wednesday’s was by far the most productive.   There was a positive spirit about the whole team, and the performance on the part of the Kids was outstanding.

(2) I’ve been engrossed in the first-in-a-lifetime task of creating a midi-convertible piano score based on exactly how I happened to play a certain piece (“Awake the Dawn”) on a certain night.   This is something needed by Dave, the new sound designer, and which I agreed to get done for him by Friday.  What’s nice is that, not only have I made substantial progress, but much of the experience of originally composing this piece years ago — of recreating the early pre-dawn moments, with the high female harmonies likened to the chirping of the night birds — is being rekindled.  So it’s a creative experience, as well as technically challenging.   This makes it much easier to stay grateful.

(3) PTSD therapy went well again this morning, though it continues to be very challenging.  I like the therapist.  She’s very dedicated, but also very light of heart, and easy to engage.

(4) Keva finished her job at the day school on Friday and has also decided to stay in the area and enroll at a nearby University.  I asked her about exploring the work-in-progress-album further and she responded excitedly that she is very eager to pursue this.   I’ve also thought of another older song of mine, “Time Will Tell,” to add to the four clips on the playlist, and also of a newer song I wrote in Berkeley that can be transformed for Keva’s voice.   This is a very meaningful musical connection — and it appears to be ongoing.

(5) Had a really nice time playing at a memorial service at the United Church on Saturday.  I was also paid in cash by the family (and paid well) but aside from that, it was a heartwarming occasion commemorating the life of one of the older theologians in town, a retired Disciples of Christ pastor with a Doctor in Divinity.  I stayed for fellowship afterwards, and once again sensed the feeling of everybody knowing me as “Andy,” though whoever they are, I have no idea.   Life in a small town can be warm.

“An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning on each other, become a strength.”  — Leonardo da Vinci

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Love Story

I’m taking requests now. I’m backlogged about five weeks worth of requests, and all of them are songs I’ve never played before. So this will be a learning experience. Thanks, Ashley Peterson, for the first request — good choice.   I’ll be back with “Circle of Life” next week, God willing.

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Taking Requests

I began making a podcast yesterday morning when I was in a depressed state. Actually, I’m not supposed to use the word “depressed” in this context (I am told) so as not to confuse my state with that of someone who suffers from Major Depression, which is a serious mental health condition. I’m supposed to say I was “despairing” — and anyway, that’s more accurate.

I disliked the podcast at the end of the day because my despair was interfering with the point I was trying to get across. I was going to just junk it, but when I got up this morning and started listening to it, I actually became jazzed. (For those unfamiliar with the terminology, “jazz” is the opposite of “despair.”)

So I’m touching it up a bit. This could take several hours. But when I submit it (at some point today) it will seem as though I think today is Thursday. Please overlook that disparity. Today is Friday (I think.)

I’m ceasing to make much sense, so I’ll close. But first I want to ask if anyone has any requests, and I’ll try to play one of them on the piano. I tried yesterday but couldn’t think of any songs I could particularly get behind. So I’m taking requests.

Uh – please do not request “The Piano Man” by Billy Joel. It’s one of several songs I will refuse to play. You’ll find out what some of the others are as you request them.

All that said, request away.

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Tuesday Tuneup 110

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater efficiency.

Q. Why do you say this?

A. I feel as though I’m not managing my time very well.

Q. Has time management typically been an issue for you?

A. Let’s put it this way.  I once wasted an hour in a bookstore looking for a book on time management.

Q. How much time do you think you waste per day?

A. At least half the day.

Q. What can you do about this?

A. Well obviously, I gotta get off my rump.

Q. Do you see yourself a lazy person?

A. Not exactly lazy — that’s not my M.O.  I’m a person who generally enjoys working.   But I’m more like a spacey person — you might say, a scatterbrain.

Q. Absent-minded professor?

A. Adjunct comes closer.   Not exactly a full professor . . .

Q. But an absent-minded person?

A. Yessir.

Q. How long have you been this way?

A. All my life.

Q. Why do you think this is?

A. Something in my mental make-up.   My nature is to be more interested in what’s going on in my own head than in what’s happening in the world around me.

Q. When did this first begin to trouble you?

A. In 1976 when I was a student at the UOP Conservatory of Music.

Q. What happened then?

A. I found that I couldn’t concentrate on the reading load.  Especially Music History.

Q. What did you do about this?

A. I approached them and said I was having difficulty concentrating.

Q. What did they do about that?

A. They threw me into an intense kinda Freudian therapy group.   It had nothing to do with reading comprehension.  I was there with a bunch of other people who were having problems, and the facilitator of the group was this really mean guy who kept telling me how horrible I was.

Q. How long did you stay in the group?

A. Too long!   I finally walked out after six months or so.

Q. What happened then?

A. The head of the group essentially put a curse on me.   He said: “If you bail out now, you are going to be f—-d up for fourteen years!

Q. Fourteen years??

A. That’s exactly what he said.   The number fourteen.   I’ll never forget it.

Q. What happened throughout those fourteen years?

A. Well naturally I could never stop think about the curse!   I had good times and bad times, numerous office jobs, a few musician gigs, a couple failed efforts at college degrees, but I mainly just couldn’t get it out of my head how f—–d up I was supposed to be.

Q. What happened when the fourteen years were up?

A. This is the weird thing.  I know I was an impressionable young man, otherwise I wouldn’t have stayed in that ridiculous group for as long as I did.   But I believe the effects of the curse from a stern male authority figure were deep-set.

Q. How so?

A. There came a day in the year 1990 when I had just finished a long-term temp contract with PG&E, and I had no idea how to pay my rent.  I was stuck in a tiny town near the Contra Costa Power Plant, feeling sorry for myself.   Then one day I got up and something was different.  I immediately went out and ran two miles and did a set a push-ups.   Then I got into the shower, and for reasons unknown to me, I started shouting:

“I am a child of God!  I am a child of God!!  I am child of the Most High King!  I am a child of God!!”

Then, stepping out of the shower — feeling absolutely wonderful — I saw that there was a message on my answering machine.  It was from a pianist whom I hardly knew who wanted to tip me off on a job she’d been offered.   The job was at a place called Gulliver’s Restaurant, in the city of Burlingame California.   This pianist, whose name was Tracy Stark, had decided to play on a cruise ship instead.  (Much better money).   So she was spreading the news of a possible gig.   (Musicians do help each other out this way, you know).

I put my best duds on, drove my Oldsmobile Cutlass down to the Bay Area, and hit the keys of a piano for the first time in six months.   It was a Yamaha C-3 baby grand, by the way.   When I touched the keys, I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Aahh!!” I exclaimed, feeling as though I was back where I belonged in life.   I then played my medley of “My Favorite Things” and “Orphan in the Storm.”   The manager handed me a W-9 and said: “Welcome to Gulliver’s.”

The rest is history – or my own history anyway.  I sat on that piano bench four nights a week for the next nine years.

Q. What do you make of all this?

A. The therapist was a sadist, and I was a gullible, vulnerable young man with all kinds of insecurities that he played upon.   The “curse” was nothing but power of suggestion.   I gave the fellow that much power.   When fourteen years had past, God intervened.

Q. Say, is there a name for your condition?

A. I didn’t learn this until fairly recently, but it’s ADHD, of a severe variety.   And people nowadays say I’m neurodivergent, and somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Q. What can you do about it?

A. I think the answer is clear.   It’s the same answer for us all.   Trust in God – whomever you conceive God to be — and believe in yourself.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1554

(1) It’s been great getting to sit in the café lately, where a number of people have told me I look more relaxed and healthy than ever before. Funny too, because I haven’t been running and I think I’m fat. But if I transcend the personal perception of potbelly, I can be thankful for the compliment.

(2) Just sold a Pensive CD for $15 on the site. Thankful for my first sale.

(3) Looking forward to meeting with Kurt the retired linguistics professor this afternoon at 3:30 as usual on Zoom.  I continue to be grateful for the ongoing search for knowledge and purpose that I have found here on WordPress, as well as in my University community, among all the scholars whom I’ve been privileged to meet.

(4) Keva did an amazing job on both of those songs yesterday.   We’re planning to do another version of “Reaching for Your Hand” once she doesn’t have to read it off of her phone, but even so, it’s the best anyone I know has ever sung that song — out of many singers, over the years.  I’m grateful for Keva as well as for all the other young performing artists who recently have shown an interest in my work.

(5) Beautiful day, cool and breezy.   Nice running weather.  I may be a slouch but I am grateful I have two strong legs and two long lungs.   They’ve come in handy, here and there, throughout life.

“Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.”
— W.B. Yeats”

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New Piano Album: “Pensive”

Recently I mentioned putting together twelve selections for a piano album. I’m in the process of preparing CD’s for the usual regulars, but at the same time I’ve already uploaded the album onto a SoundCloud playlist, so that the world can listen free of charge. If you like the album and you feel moved to make a donation, you can always do so anonymously by clicking where it says donate. There are expenses involved, and donations are always appreciated.

If anyone wants a CD, hit me with a postal address in the Contact Form and we’ll work something out. Hope you all like my work.

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Gratitude List 1553

(1) Grateful for the nice change in the weather the past few days.  Sunny and warm, the walk to the Dollar Store was very enjoyable.  I never noticed how beautiful it can be on Paradise Creek before.   Grateful for the sense of vigor and new energy that is brought about by Spring.

(2) Grateful once again for my church and especially for their letting me use the grand piano for my recordings and many of the spaces for scheduled rehearsals of my musical.   I was there late last night and got a lot of new piano music recorded.  In fact, I have enough for a new album now, and have been arranging it on a SoundCloud playlist.

(3) I’ve been learning so much from some of the people I’ve met on WordPress, in addition to some of the very well-educated people whom I’ve met her in town, that I often feel like I’m going to school again – yet without the pressure of things like deadlines, midterms and grades.

(4) Had a really good meeting with Liam yesterday.  We set a groundwork of stuff for each of us to do between now and summer, and also plan to involve Cody, to the end that we get something happening again this Summer, after everybody does their homework.   I was impressed with how well-organized and encouraging the meeting was.   There’s a sense of something very exciting being drafted on the down low, behind the scenes.   

(5) There’s a feeling of people hanging together a little more right now.   I feel it in the community, and in my church group, and on the blogosphere, and even on a bigger level.   I’m encouraged to see the way people are toughing it out.   Just when I think I’m alone, someone is there for me.   We all have a lot in common, at this time.   

“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
    — Desmond Tutu 

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Over the Rainbow

I think this is the second of a number of takes I did of this song in recent days. I couldn’t surpass this one, because nothing I did afterward said what I wanted to say. As far as the song I did before this one, “Why Don’t You Do Right?”  Well, I did it over again because it just didn’t do it right.   And the song before that, “Everything Must Change?”  I figured it had to be changed.

You see, I’m compiling a new album that so far has nine tunes on it. I’m doing parts of certain tunes over again — and it’s an interesting project. Once I get to twelve tunes, I’ll put it all together, and let y’all know.   

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Why Don’t You Do Right?

“Why Don’t You Do Right?” is an old standard (1936) jointly composed by a couple of cats named Kansas Joe McCoy and Herb Morand.  I believe it was popularized by Peggy Lee and most associated with her rendition.   Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, April 16, 2021.

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Re: Everything Must Change

I briefly posted my version of “Everything Must Change” yesterday, prior to promptly removing it from the public eye upon recognition of bloopers too big to bear widespread disclosure.  

Specifically, I kept forgetting during my improv around the standard changes to enter into the repeated modulating passage that precedes the signature hook.  Anyone who knew the correct changes could easily raise their voice in justifiable objection.   So I had to remove the rendition before any further foreseen damage could be effected.

I’m headed up to the church at this moment, confident in my capacity to create a conducive restoration of the formerly misshapen theme.  So convinced am I in my competence to thereof, that I even have dared to announce it beforehand, though one knows not what the future brings.

The piece had been on my mind for two reasons.  One is that it seems fitting in this time of temporal transition, with Good Friday representing the power of Christ’s sacrificial love, wherein there is a death to the flesh in its formerly all-inclusive nature, to be followed by a promised rebirth of a far more transcendent form of life.   “Everything Must Change” can be said to embody this theme, in its core essence.

A second reason is that its chord progression resembles that of another piece that had crossed my mind recently; and that, in fact, I had already performed on a video recording.  “All in Love is Fair” is a song by Stevie Wonder that was popularized in roughly the same era as “Everything Must Change.”  Their chord progressions are similar though not identical.  My mind, while improvising around the progression to “Everything Must Change,” kept forgetting which tune it was that I was supposed to be embellishing.  Many odd short-circuitries of mortal mental prowess transpired.  The upshot was a failure to honor the essence of either piece.   A reconstruction of said construction is therefore in order.

That’s about it!  I’d hesitated to offer what might be interpreted as a mere disclaimer — but then I had a hunch that the explanatory information might be useful to someone, on some level.  I’ll be back within a few hours.    

Daylight

This is from Sunday the 14th, when Liam Marchant brought all his sound equipment to rehearsal. Among other events, Keva and I were able to make this new recording of “Daylight.”

The image, taken from my iPhone, is a view from directly outside my door.  

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Gratitude List 1654

(1) Taking a week off from EIB rehearsals was just about the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. I caught up on my sleep as well as on reading and housecleaning. Was also able to devote more time to my daughter and to my friends. Grateful for the power of rest.

(2) The first column in the five week series is beginning to take off, surprisingly enough. Though the essential message — having to do with stigma — is a challenge to articulate, I have confidence that after five weekly columns, I’ll have gotten the point across. Grateful for the opportunity.

(3) I’ve sold five new From a Distance piano albums already. Taking the cash bit by bit to the Dollar Store for groceries is reminiscent of a former time of thrift, when all throughout the 90’s I took my tip money four nights a week to a Lucky grocery store after getting off my regular gig at Gulliver’s Restaurant. Never had a food bill in those days, never had to go to a food bank, never went hungry.

(4) I was a new man when I arrived at the recording session yesterday. The spirit of professionalism was striking, and we nailed “Turns Toward Dawn” on the 3rd take. The way that Liam and Cody work together, both with expertise in their respective fields, neither having known the other before a few short weeks ago, is beyond impressive. After the session, we ran “Oracle.” This was the first time I’ve accompanied it since Cody took over teaching the choral parts, and it rocked. I was blessed — I was jazzed — I was proud.

(5) Grateful for my church, where I’ve been a member now for over 4 1/2 years. They have supported me in my best and put up with me in my worst. Very thankful for my new life in Idaho, after years of struggling on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.

Don’t lose faith. Promise yourself that you will be a success story, and I promise you that all the forces of the universe will unite to come to your aid; you might not feel it today or for a while, but the longer you wait the bigger the prize.   — George Bernard Shaw  

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