Archive for the ‘ Music ’ Category

Brandy, Cigars, and Ballads…

On the evening of March 6, 1808, six Harvard men got together, lit UP cigars, opened UP the brandy, and struck UP the band.

The boys called their group The Pierian Solidarity.

Their original purpose was to get a little tipsy and trot all over town serenading young belles.

Who knew their society would become the first College Orchestra in the United States?

But it did!

Granted, the early group was a spirited bunch.  So much so that the Faculty of the Ivied Institution admonished them when they took a whole night off from school and spent it serenading the local gals.

They were censured so strongly that by 1832, the group had grown to one.

Poor Henry Gassett, a flautist, held meetings alone, called them to order, paid dues – to himself – and played his flute.

He convinced another flautist to join him for duets, and the small merry band was on its way to orchestradom again.

They elected and invited other guys to join and were a major influence over music at Harvard for the next 50 years.

The Harvard Glee Club and the Harvard Orchestra both trace their origins to the Pierians.

When the 19th Century became the 20th, Harvard actually referred to the group aas the Harvard University Orchestra.  It was a more serious outfit and was not only the first college orchestra in America, it was the largest.  It set about building an international reputation.

In the 1930s, the Pierian men caved in and joined forces with the Radcliffe Institute Orchestra assisting them from time to time in concerts.  Finally in 1942, the groups merged and became the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra.

Pierian membership was depleted during the years of World War II; Radcliffe was missing a few instruments in their group, so the merger was a win-win.

In the 1950s the group started recording, increased their efforts as a real orchestra and started travelling.  They played the former Soviet Union, Asia, Europe, Canada, and South America.

All because a bunch of guys got together on March 6, 1808 to smoke a few cigars, drink some brandy, and court some girls.

Ah, music, it often speaks when words fail.

I’m glad the Pierians didn’t.


Where Words Fail, Music Speaks – Hans Christian Andersen

Can’t Get It Out of My Head.

Ever get a song stuck in your head?

Yeah, me too.


So often, I’ve actually posted about this before.

But this time it was different.

The song was in French, and I’ve been singing it incorrectly for fifty years.

Literally, fifty years.

In the Summer of 1967, I along with two other teens and my High School Spanish teacher’s family went to Oaxaca, Mexico.

It was a Summer to remember, and one of these days, I’ll write about that.

While we were there, much of the ‘pop’ music was in French – I think.

At least this song was.

It’s called “Capri c’ést fini,” and it’s about a bad break UP.

I’ve been running this little ditty in my brain for weeks, and in my mind it was Capri sin fini, which is incorrect, and since all the French I know comes from Patti LaBelle numbers and Bond movies, well, I have no idea what that means either.

The song propelled Hervé Vilard, a French orphan to stardom. It was a yuge hit.


Born Rene Vilard in a taxi cab on the way to the hospital in 1946, Herve was abandoned by his father shortly after he was born  – like the same day, and his mom lost custody of her children, and Rene along with his siblings were sent to orphanages.

Rene wound UP in Paris.

In and out of foster homes in the Berry region of France, he miraculously landed in the Cher region and met Father Angrand who became his mentor, taught him literature and music.

In 1991, Vilard bought the monastery at La Celette and made it his home.

Back in the USA, we were all listening to John, Paul, George, and Ringo because their songs were in English.

Meanwhile, Herve, after hitting the big time in Paris, was on a South American tour and on his way to international stardom.

He had finally been adopted by a former French Resistance member and art dealer in 1962 which enabled him to leave the state child care system of France.

“Capri C’est fini” was his breakthrough hit and all the gals in France were just gaga over him.

He was on the cover of every magazine, signed a deal with France Dimanche, a French magazine for exclusive interviews as they searched for his long lost mom.

The magazine launched a publicity campaign and found the old gal, there was a big reunion, life was good, and most importantly, the magazine sold zillions of copies.

After a French tour as an opening act (which ended badly), he took off for South and Central America, which is where I first heard about him.

He was big in Turkey, Japan, and Korea as well.

He sold out concerts in Algeria!

Really, who does that?

And why did we here in the states ignore the poor lad?

He was good looking…

…could sing…

And he even had a video!

Seriously, a video in 1965.

I know, I was shocked too.

Yeah, I know, it’s in French.  Here’s a link to an English translation.

Today, Vilard is 70, lives in France, is considered a treasure, has been honored and awarded repeatedly, and still performs from time to time.

He’s also published two books.

But no one here has ever heard of the guy.

I think we need to get out more.

Keep It Jolly…

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells jingle all the way…

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus way…

Frosty the snowman was a very happy soul…

…and then there’s this.

“Please come home for Christmas” (by the Eagles)…

Why, oh why, do we have sad Christmas songs?

Really, isn’t the season stressful enough without crap like The Christmas Shoes?

Honestly, NewSong, you’re supposed to be a Christian group, sing the praises of Christ’s birth will ya?

I do not want to hear a song about some poor kid who doesn’t have enough money to buy new shoes for his dying mother so she’ll look good when she goes to Heaven to meet Jesus.

Jesus isn’t the fashion police, he’s the Savior of the world, and He’s got bigger fish to fry than footwear!

And there are others, hundreds of them – I’ll spare you and list just a few.

Sufjan Stevens has a little ditty entitled “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well you deserved it.)”

Well, break out the egg-nog!

The Carpenters’ classic, “Merry Christmas Darling” usually reduces me to tears, and I’m a HUGE Carpenters fan!

I just wanna be happy at Christmas!

“I’ll be home for Christmas”, if only in my dreams!!!!!!

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Please Daddy, Don’t get Drunk this Christmas.”

And even Prince chimed in with “Another Lonely Christmas!”  And the Everly Brothers – “Christmas Eve Can Kill You.”

Thanks a pantload!

And don’t get me started on Elvis’ “Blue Christmas.”

We all know Porky Pig is the only one who can sing that song.

Johnny Cash – “Ringing the Bells for Jim” – you find out soon enough that Jim is on his death bed.

Why do we need this crap?


Careful, Commas Matter…

When you sing the Christmas Carol, God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” you probably don’t take a pause at the comma.

Most people sing it as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, as a matter of fact, I’d say all people do.  I’m sure I did.

But the comma is there for a reason.

And we all know commas matter.

The song isn’t referring to Merry Gentlemen…no, not at all.

In the phrase God Rest You Merry, the word rest is a transitive verb and means “to keep, cause to continue, to remain.”

Soooo, the singer/lyricist of the 16th century is telling the Gentlemen to continue in their happiness and to not sweat the small stuff.

In modern English, the word rest has lost its use as predicate adjective that qualifies an object.

The English language has evolved over time, and with this Carol, even Dickens moved on to a new version when he changed the word rest to bless in his ubiquitous Christmas work , A Christmas Carol.

This change completely re-wrote the song and made the gentlemen merry instead of making their rest merry.

The 1760 version of the song goes like this…

God rest you merry, Gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay,

For Jesus Christ our Saviour

Was born upon this Day.

To save poor souls from Satan’s power,

Which long time had gone astray.

Which brings tidings of comfort and joy


Actually, there are several versions of the song; it’s been re-written many times.

And, there’s even a humorous version…

And even though they leave the comma out, I like the Pentatonix version.