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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Summertime Happiness

Here’s a piano rendition of Clark Gesner’s song “Happiness” with a bit of the Gershwin “Summertime” thrown in as an afterthought. It’s entirely spontaneous, and was done at a moment when I felt I needed release from work-related and heat-related stress. I must disclaim that there is a clicking sound in the background at the beginning which may or may not interfere with your listening pleasure. (My daughter said it didn’t.)  It may be attributed to the fan that was running above me, being as my church (like many buildings in this area)  is devoid of air-conditioning.

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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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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.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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.    

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  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

In the Bleak Midwinter

I’m sure there have been bleaker midwinters than this (but I’m not sure when.)  The image on the soundcloud is right outside my door, at around eight in the evening last night.   The music behind the image conveys my thoughts around the theme of “In the Bleak Midwinter” — the Harold Darke setting to the words of Christina Rossetti (not to be confused with the more well-known setting by Gustav Holst.)  I hope you enjoy my thoughts.   

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New Album: “From a Distance”

It’s been about a year now since I’ve released a piano album.   From a Distance reveals the best of what I’ve been able to produce throughout the year when we’ve been social distancing and sheltering in place.   Unlike previous albums – which were recorded either with a Motorola or a Samsung smartphone, all selections were recorded with either an iPhone 11 or an iPhone 7.  The result is a much higher sound quality.  I listened last night, and it really gives the listener the feeling that they are attending a private live piano concert.  

Here are the twelve selections on From a Distance:

The Letter – Wayne Carson
Desperado – Glenn Frey & Don Henley
The Way We Were – Marvin Hamlisch
We Three Kings – John Henry Hopkins Jr.
In the Bleak Midwinter – Harold Darke
Be Thou My Vision – Traditional (Irish Origin)
All the Things You Are – Jerome Kern
Somebody Loves Me – George Gershwin
I Get a Kick Out of You – Cole Porter
I’ve Never Been in Love Before – Frank Loesser
Never Never Land – Jule Styne
From a Distance – Julie Gold

So far the album is available only on CD.  If (like some of us) you still have an affinity for that particular medium, why don’t you leave a mailing address in the Contact form, and I’ll pop one in the mail.  I do request a $15 donation.  (You can make that where it says “donate” below the page here, or get back to me if you don’t use PayPal.)

I really think you’ll enjoy it.  (I’ll also be posting my version of “In the Bleak Midwinter” in about an hour, and “From a Distance” next Friday.)

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Homeless at the Piano

The other day I was leafing through old WordPress posts, after Ashley Peterson submitted an intriguing post around the concept of editing past material. It didn’t come as much of a surprise that many of my older posts reflected a different spirit or attitude than I have today. Therefore, outside of minor edits (spelling, grammatical, etc.), I decided not to edit my content. It would seem hypocritical of me to do so, even if I disagree today with what I wrote back then.

One thing that glared was how much black-and-white thinking there was back in those days, and how I would often hyperbolize for the sake of emphasis, in a way that could easily have belied my statements. For example, at one point I wrote something to this effect:

“Here in my new life, lots of people like to listen to me play the piano. When I was homeless, the only people who ever cared about my music were other homeless people.”

This is both black-and-white and hyperbolic. While it is true that most of the people who cared about my music were homeless, it is not true that nobody who lived indoors didn’t care to listen. Also, it’s natural that most of my listeners were homeless, simply because I myself was homeless, and I mostly hung out with homeless people.

Let me tell you a story that exemplifies this.

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We who were over 55 had the privilege of hanging out at the Senior Center, where there happened to be three pianos. In the morning, I would sign in, and head for the Baldwin upright in a distant room in the corner of the building. I did this for the sake of privacy, because I was afraid of making too much of a scene at the other two pianos, where I could more easily heard. I didn’t want somebody to tell me to stop playing, because I might have been making too much noise.

Next to the little room on the corner was a room with a number of pool tables. Early in the morning, a group of people who happened to be almost entirely African-American homeless men would congregate to play pool.

Naturally, they would hear the piano, and sometimes come into the room to listen. I remember playing the jazz break in the song Skylark, and looking up and a man was smiling, snapping his fingers. Another time, I looked up after the song, and five Black men were clapping wildly outside the door.

Of course, this was gratifying. Every musician loves an audience.

But one day, I went to the piano at eight in the morning as usual, and there was a sign on the door of the adjacent room, to the effect that it was closed for repairs. But something seemed odd. It didn’t really seem like anything needed repair, nor was anyone repairing the room.

Disgruntled, I approached the front desk and spoke with one of the administrative aides, whose name was Laura.

“Why is the pool room closed?”

“Uh – the guys were making quite a ruckus, and they kinda smelled of alcohol, and they were starting to get a little loose with our property – and you know, we had to shut it down.”

“But Laura, you guys just took my audience away!”

“What do you mean, Andy?”

“Those guys were always clapping for me, and cheering, and all that! Now I don’t have anyone listening!”

“Well Andy, why you just play the Yamaha in the auditorium near thhe main dining area?”

Puzzled, I replied: “But then you guys are all gonna hear me.”

“But Andy – we want to hear you!!”

“Oh,” I replied, feeling strangely enlightened. “Well, in that case, I guess I’ll play.”

Long story short, it wasn’t too much longer before a number of Senior Center employees were sitting in the auditorium with their smartphones and tripods, filming a concert that I performed at the North Berkeley Senior Center. In fact, I played the music to Turns Toward Dawn at that concert, though the lyrics were not written till 2018, when I was already in Moscow.

I believe I still have the videos to that concert in storage somewhere. I might fish them out at a later time. But I gotta be honest with you — when I look at the man who played that concert, he does not look like the man people look at today. I easily looked ten years older than I do now. (Why my posture was better, I have no idea.)

All vanity aside, what is your take on all this? I mean, sociologically? Psychologically? It seems a bit unusual that I would have restricted my musical offerings to other homeless people. I have my theories, but it would be interesting to hear yours.

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All the Things I Am

I can explain everything.

Given the difficulty I have getting piano pieces to you guys consistently every Friday, I have decided that each time I go to the church with the Baldwin Grand, I will record three songs instead of just one. That way I’m less likely to slack, because I can just schedule them in advance.

I tried doing both “Desperado” and “All the Things You Are” yesterday.  This was the second time that I attempted to do it all by myself without enlisting the help of a second person to position the iPhone properly on the tripod.

The first time I succeeded, as is evidenced on my YouTube (though not on the version of “The Way We Were” on this blog, which leaves out the first minute or so that reveals me struggling and finally succeeding to get the iPhone onto the tripod.)

Yesterday I did not succeed, although I thought I had.  But when I looked at the video of “Desperado” the iPhone was bouncing up and down in such a way that was so horrible — I just couldn’t give it to you.   (That there was an internal piano teacher rapping me on the knuckles all the way through the performance didn’t help much either.)

As for “All the Things You Are,” I for some reason couldn’t remember two of the chord changes, even though I had just played the tune a week prior with our saxophonist, and played it night after night for nearly nine years during the 90’s at Gulliver’s Restaurant.   I tried it eight times, I believe, before admitting to my internal piano teacher that I would never remember the changes.   (The knuckle rap was less severe after the true confession.)

As far as ADHD, I flushed the new meds down the toilet on the 13th day, after having five bouts of sleep paralysis on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.   Correlating that the last time I had sleep paralysis of that severity was the last time I took an ADHD medication, I am wondering whether people with sleep disorders should be on ADHD meds.   I’ll talk to the doctor about it.

Finally, since my ADHD is currently at the level where it probably took me four or five minutes to write this reasonably coherent blog post and it will probably take my four of five years to score a drum part using Finale notation software, I’m a bit discouraged about my position and potential in life in general at this time.

However, being as today is the Sabbath I will “keep it holy” by continuing to write the blog posts, essays, and religious news columns that my ADHD empowers me to do with facile — or perhaps this an autism spectrum issue — and cease to belabor the drum parts that my ADHD disables me from producing effectively.

Said ADHD does, by the way, enable me to play long improvisational passages on the piano with ease.  So I can assure you that I’ll get to the piano at some point between now and Thursday, and I hopefully give you “All the Things You Are” — since after all, I just told you All the Things I Am.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1634

(1) For about a day and a half, I found myself in a place of self-pity, in which past regrets played a greater role than present hopes. The way I got out of it was through prayer. I twice prayed on a walk to the nearby twenty-four market, and when I got back home after the second prayer, I noticed that the regrets over past mishaps and breakups had disappeared, and had now been replaced by an appreciation of the present day and an enhanced sense of hope for the future.

(2) I am grateful on this Thanksgiving morning for my church. In the past four years, they have put up with my unusual personality and have seen me through all kinds of trials. My pastor/counselor has been particularly patient with me, and I have learned that I can be completely honest and open with him, without fear of judgment. The church has given me my own code to enter the building, they have let me play their Baldwin grand piano whenever I choose, and they even have let my musical team rehearse our project free of charge in the sanctuary. No other church I have known in my life has offered me any of these things.

(3) This may sound trite, but as an extremely absent-minded person who loses at least five masks every month and has taken to buying multiple dollar readers at the beginning of every month at the dollar store (since I can’t possibly hang on to a single pair of glasses throughout an entire month), I want to give thanks that in the past four years, I have never once lost the gray beanie that I wear “for security reasons” at almost all times. (Currently, however, it is hanging up to dry in the bathroom, after I unwittingly wore it in the shower.)

(4) In a few short hours, I will observe the Thanksgiving tradition I’ve held sacred since 1976. I will go out for a four mile run, having missed only three years that I’ve counted since I first began running on April 9, 1976. (It’s always possible I counted wrong about there being only three years I missed. In this case, however, a “recount” is not possible.)

(5) There’s a lot for us all to be thankful for, and to look forward to after many of us got the crap kicked out of us by 2020. It looks like there’s a vaccine on the way, and the upcoming administration is at least putting an emphasis on unity and healing, rather than on perpetuating division in order to retain power. But in my personal world, I have to give thanks that, after basically being laughed at for years and told that my priorities were all screwed up, I have found a number of talented young people who believe in me and in my work. It may not seem like much to my naysayers, but it’s a start — and a good one. And my naysayers have nothing on me. I’m thankful that I’m a survivor, and that I’m not the kind who gives up for good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1630

(1) I’m feeling more peace about things than I’ve felt for a long time.

(2) I’ve been playing piano tunes lately from my set list at Gulliver’s of San Francisco, the gig I held throughout the 90’s. They seem to reflect a happy, more contented spirit than the earlier, more tumultuous, more boisterous stuff.

(3) Finally made it to Winko’s last night. Nice of Susan to give me a ride there and back. I had planned to buy $260 worth of groceries, eyeballed it at the store without a list, and came home with $261 and change. Pretty sure I’m good for the month.

(4) The team had a great meeting yesterday afternoon, in which our direction was clarified. We’re focusing on the Audio Show now, and I’m enjoying receiving lines that everyone records into their phones and mixing them at home using Audacity. Also, we’ve been getting more donations lately on the site here — some from entirely unexpected sources. It’s encouraging to see us all having a good time with the project, and it’s a good feeling to know that people are drawn toward it.

(5) I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll just say it. I’m thankful that I don’t live in California anymore. It can be a beautiful place, but it’s just so nice not to be struggling to survive in that chaotic, cut-throat culture. People up here are just nicer enough and I have just enough more breathing room, that I no longer feel incapable of doing the things I enjoy, for all the struggle I was having down there trying to “make it.” I’m thankful for my retirement income. I’m thankful that this month marks three years where I’ve paid rent on a place of my own, where I’ve lived in peace and quiet. I would have died in a gutter down there. I’m thankful for my life.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” 
-Harriet Tubman

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1621

(1) Unusually beautiful morning. Walked slowly to the church humming the song “By My Side” from the musical Godspell. Played it on the piano for the first time in forever, along with a couple worship tunes and some jazz improv. As awful as yesterday was, so is today wonderful. Isn’t that the way it always goes?

(2) Just had a really nice talk with my pastor. Cleared a lot of things up.

(3) I haven’t gotten any work done for three days and have felt like I’m lagging far behind the reasonable goal for what I’m doing. However today I feel like I can probably get a little work done (I’m having to totally revamp the Vocal Score based on what’s been learned at rehearsals) – and I also am feeling that if I don’t happen to get any work done, it’s not the end of the world and I won’t beat myself up over it, as I usually do.

(4) Slept unusually well last night — seven hours solid. When I awoke I was a new man, and what can best be described as a “medical issue” yesterday (involving extreme bodily discomfort affecting my mind) has gone away (for now). Actually feeling pretty good today.

(5) Something has changed in terms of my ability to do once again some things I used to do very well before twelve years of homelessness affected my head. I’m getting back the ability to vocal-direct and to conduct musical rehearsals. I’m also blessed with a great group of people, whose professionalism and devotion definitely help me to stay on track. But mostly I am blessed with the revelation that God loves me. He shows His love for me by permitting me to engage a joy that I had feared was long past.

In light of that revelation, it almost doesn’t even matter if the musical is never produced, or if I never see its production in my lifetime. Each day, working with those Kids — if I can even call them Kids — is a joy unto itself. God’s blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Members of the Team

At this time, I thought you might like to see some work from a couple of the very talented young people whom I am so fortunate to be working with on my musical project. Here is Keva Shull, currently playing the part of Taura, the ingenue in my new musical, Eden in Babylon.

And here we have Cody Wendt, the man on the right hand side of the piano he shares with his brother Ian on the left.  Cody is playing the part of Benzo, one of the antagonistic characters in the show.  He and his brother do an enchanting rendition of “Scarborough Fair.”

If you’re interested in hearing other piano reductions of the musical score, I’ve placed them on a shareable link on my Box drive. These are primarily for the purpose of helping cast members learn the music, but you might find them enjoyable all the same.

Other news is that we have finally found a male lead for our emerging production. I’m eager to begin working with Cooper Knutson, who has been recommended very highly by a number of people in the area. Further information is on our Facebook group. Hope you all are gaining encouragement from our group effort, at this trying time in human history.

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Awake the Dawn

The team thought it would be a good idea for me to record a bunch of piano-only clips of the songs in the score to my musical EDEN IN BABYLON. This one was done on the famous Green Piano in Rm. 33 (of which I’m certain word must have reached your ears).  The Green Piano is an aging workhorse clunker that’s just perfect for the boom-chuck of musical theatre. And anyway, I read my piece “Awake the Dawn” off of my vocal score, and this is the first time I’ve played the tome from start to finish without missing a beat. A little touch of Edvard Grieg at the end, and we’re in business! Enjoy.

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Free Piano Music

On these four albums, you will find compelling improvisations around contemporary classics you may recognize.   These and other albums were sold as CD’s between 2018 and 2020, mostly locally.  As of today, I’m offering them for free.   Any charitable donation will of course be appreciated.  

 

Piano clip art black piano transparent clipart god clipartcow

Exile 


Abstractions 


Pinnacle


Suspended 

 

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Hunted

This is a take-off on the song “Hunted” which is the opening number of Act Two of my musical. Tom & I actually did this yesterday, but it was a rush job because of the conditions at the church. It doesn’t really represent the song the way it’s presented in show context. I had to sleep on it to consider whether it might stand on its own. You decide.

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

Gratitude List 1532

(1) I am thankful that my daughter is in my life today.   It makes me feel good to know that, whatever might have gone wrong, I’m not the type of dad that I keep hearing some of these Kids tell me about.   I’ve made mistakes — but at least I care.  Some of those so-called fathers did not even care — and worse.

(2) Thankful for this desk.  For my Lenovo IdeaPad, which safely returned from a warranty fix-up.    Thankful for Audacity free audio editing software, because I got into the multi-tracking and the mixing last night or the first time, and it was all I could do to stop mixing Zazen’s song, I was so thrilled.  This opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities.  I can actually even place musical underscores at key moments in my oral presentations.  It’s amazing what technology can do, if properly utilized.

(3) Grateful for the revelation that when I lost my cool recently, I was basically mad at all the other people on the team because I wasn’t doing my job.   True, they weren’t doing their jobs either, but it’s my job to make sure they do their jobs, and they’re definitely not going to be about doing it without pay and without pressure of definite deadline if I don’t kinda gently get on them about it, now and again.   So, I’m glad I saw the light.  I got my work cut out for me now.

(4) Just ran six miles — my longest run since I’ve been in North Idaho, I’m ashamed to say — and it feels great.  Looking forward to getting a lot of work done tonight.

(5) Looking forward to meeting my new student on Zoom for the third time tomorrow, and to having coffee thereafter with my buddy Tom, the fellow who helps with the four-hand job of putting the smartphone on the tripod.  But other than that once-or-twice-daily step-out, I mostly continue to be grateful to be sheltering in place.  It’s teaching me to be grateful for the place I have for shelter.   For a long time, there was no such place.   Things really could be — and have been — a lot worse than they are today.

“I believe I am better than the people who are trying to reform me.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

A Song Called Him

There are going to be a few changes in the concept of this blog. Due to COVID-19, I’m receiving a lot of suggestions that I provide more piano music, and less of the other stuff. The reason for this is because Music has a way of getting people through hard times. Music can comfort and inspire in a way that mere words are not meant to do.

Words have their time and purpose. Many words have been comforting and inspiring, and have transformed the hearts of men and women throughout the history of this earth. But this is a time when largely, words fail me. I don’t know what to say about everything that’s happening. But I know that when I play my piano, I’m saying something to somebody — without even having to open my mouth.

So there will be more music, and it won’t always come towards the end of the week. I’ll try to keep to the Friday schedule, but I’ll also post on whim. It just seems to be the energy of this transition that we all share. I can’t explain why. It is something I feel in my heart.

I’m in the process of preparing a new piano piece.  It’s a song by the name of “Him.” No, it is not about Jesus. I was not a believer when I wrote the song. I wrote it when I was 19 years old, and it is part of the first musical I ever wrote. It’s interesting that its name is “Him,” but I did not become a Christian until I was thirty.

You’ll note that there won’t be a youtube video. The nice man named Tom who has been helping me is not going to gather with me at the church, nor am I going to that building to prepare the piece. There may not be videos for a while, because it’s a two person job for me at this stage, and I am only one person, sheltering in place.

In my apartment, however, I own an upright piano. It’s not of the quality of the Baldwin Grand, but it has its own flavor. You may hear background noise, and I’m pretty sure one of the keys just lost its tune. The piano is almost 100 years old.  But it will do the job.

Now, if you don’t believe in God, consider this.

About two years ago, I was given a free piano by a woman I hardly knew at the time. She was moving to a new house, owned three pianos, and could not fit them all in. She knew I was a piano player, so she asked me if she could give me a piano.

Prior to this time in my life, I have never owned a piano. Now, at the age of 67, I do. I not only got it for free, but she even paid for the movers to bring it over and place it where it sits right here in my house.

The piano was horribly out of tune. The next day, a 19 year old guy from Kansas happened to be passing through town. He stopped at my church to ask if there were a piano he could practice on. We said: “Sure!”

I then proceeded to hear an absolutely dazzling rendition of the Pathetique by Ludwig van Beethoven. So I approached the young man to query of his experience. He gave me his card, and it turned out he was a piano tuner.

I had previously called the local piano tuner. But he wouldn’t have been able to get to me for six more weeks. This guy not only tuned it, he gave me a 25% discount, and came back the next day for a touch-up. Then he went his way, as he was only passing through town.

So now I had a free piano, freely delivered — and actually freely tuned as well, since a friend of a friend then offered to pay for the tuning. Overjoyed, I sat down at the piano. Something immediately seemed familiar.

“I have played this piano before!” I exclaimed.  

But I hadn’t really — I had only played one of its kind:

Howard Baby Grand piano made by Baldwin 1916 | eBay

“My God!” I shouted. “This is the same piano that Dad had!”

Not the same, of course, since my father — the ragtime piano player, Dave Pope — had converted his vintage 1921 Howard piano built in Cincinnati to a player piano.  This new one did not have the player. But it felt the same.  And more importantly, it played the same.

So I sat down and joyfully played a song called “Him.”  For a song called “Him” was composed in 1972 on the spittin’ image of the 1921 Howard upright that I so mysteriously received in 2018.

Is there a God?  Maybe not.  Could it be coincidence?  Odds are astronomically against it.  What about the Universe?   Just another name for God.   Synchronicity?   A creation of God.  Manifestation?  Even the most powerful among us powerful human beings do not have that much power.  Besides, I never asked for it, never prayed for it, and never tried to manifest it.  It was just dropped in my lap.  I had absolutely nothing to do with the arrival of that piano.

“But why does it have to be God?”

Good question.  My answer?   “God” is just a word.   Words have meanings.  Ask ten people what the word God means?  You get ten different answers.  This is why a book was created – was manifested, if you will — by the Universal Spirit Being whom in English speaking countries we call “God.”

That book is the Word of God.  God is a Word.  “In the beginning,” says St. John, “was the Word.  And the Word was with God.  And the Word was God.”

And I have found that — unlike other gods — my God keeps His Word.

Now, please enjoy the music of the amazing Pathetique — at a time when every other word has failed me.  

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Resolve

I did this one a few months ago, back in the good old days when I could still go to that church and hook up my rig with the tripod, and traverse the keys of that amazing Baldwin grand piano like there was no tomorrow. Sadly those days have been replaced by more difficult days, as we all know.

But anyway I am posting this medley of “Moon River” by Henry Mancini, “Wintertime Love” by Jim Morrison, and the old English version of the hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter.” I call it “Resolve.” It’s a cut on an album called Abandon. If you want a copy of the entire album after hearing this, hit me up and we’ll work something out.

Never did look at this video until tonight. I ripped it to mp3 at the time to stick it on the album, and for a reason that ought to be obvious to anyone who knows me, I only glanced peripherally at the video.

(By the way, if the reason isn’t as obvious I think it is, go ahead and tell me you think it is. If you’re right, maybe I can give you some kind of grand prize on my way to the bank, if and when.) Enjoy, folks.

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

Cold This Season

Something made me put all this together, at some point.  First, this is my song “Cold This Season.” It goes into something Old English, then some Sondheim, and then finally the song “On My Own” from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schönberg.  It may be stuff you’ve all heard before–in some form–but there’s a certain flow and applicability here.  Hope you enjoy it. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand.

By the way, this is a cut off of my newly released Suspended album.   Hit me up for details if you want to buy it.   

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Love is Blue

This French ballad was composed by André Popp.  (For real!  No pun intended, and he was not a distant relative.)  Lyrics were originally composed in French by Pierre Cour, with English lyrics by Bryan Blackburn.  References to the 2nd Movement — the “Allegretto” — of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony throughout. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, March 12, 2020.

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A little bit goes a long, long way.