The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Writing 101, Day Three: Commit to a Writing Practice and Music, Music, Music

Mussorgsky,_Pictures_at_an_Exhibition_(Touschmaloff_orchestration),_page_1

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

More about music, eh? Well, these do not rate as “important” songs, more like songs that happened to be playing at certain stages of my life.

For someone whose first impulse is to claim that “I don’t do music” there has been enough of it in my life. I sang in the glee club at school and was part of a 100-voice choir during Canada’s Centennial. I pleaded (make that BEGGED) for a guitar. In grade four, my brother’s teacher, Mr. Weins was a very cool teacher. Sorta like having Chandler Bing, but without the edge. He brought his guitar to school, THAT was cool. So cool in fact, that just hearing about it made me want to perform with him. A friend and I practiced Four Strong Winds and I, somehow, managed to convince Mr. Weins to accompany us at the Parent Teacher Meeting.

The thing is about that event: no one asked me to, there was no talent scout out there looking to fill out the agenda for the meeting. I thought it up on my own and was very, VERY aware of the cheekiness of the request.

He said yes! It was a HUGE deal for me – it was after school, after dinner even, and in the dark! I walked to the school and sat on the edge of the stage with the teacher in the middle and my friend on the other side. Very demurely, no doubt one of those “aah how cute is that?” moments a parent would think. Except, no parents. I don’t remember any parents. My parents, that is. But I don’t remember any disappointment that they weren’t there. I have not up until this prompt remembered this event, so… yeah, not one of the iconic stories of my childhood. It just was.

I sang in the church choir. Mr. Fotheringham was the choir leader, his wife the organist, and his son, Everett was in my Sunday School class. Everett had a crush on me and wanted to hold my hands when we went skating at Victoria Park. Yeah, thanks, not so much. I remember how he’d show off during Thursday night choir practice by hammering out the signature drum riff from “Wipe Out.”

I had my moment of fame when I sang in the choir – I volunteered (again!) to sing the Lord’s Prayer.* I was not a talent. The only thing I had going for me was desire. I don’t think it was a very good performance. The congregation endured it. Bless then.

You know what songs get me, though? One’s that can reduce me to tears? The finale from the 1812 overture is one. Holy hell, when those canons start blasting and the swirls of strings and chimes crescendo and climax… well, climax is a good word for it. Leaves me breathless.

Another classical piece that leaves me weak is Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. But not just any old recording. The one that gets me is a performance on GUITAR by Kazuhito Yamashita. Exquisite transcription – just about impossible to imagine, but he pulls it off and the finale? Oh yeah, more raptures. Man!

Ok, that was the daily writing practice. Now I need a cigarette. 

Of course, I went back and edited this – ran it through spellcheck and stuff. Then I thought to add links to the tunes. I wasn’t going to do anything for the Lord’s Prayer*, because… well, I don’t do the Lord’s Prayer these days. But the first video in the search results blew me away.  It is the exact melody that I sang before a cringing congregation. Somehow, I feel redeemed for introducing you to Mr. Bocelli’s rendition.

If you’d like to listen to a recording of the complete performance of Pictures at an Exhibition, check out Marko Topchii‘s interpretation of Yamashita’s transcription.

 

 

 

 

 

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16 replies

  1. I’m not sure about this Writing 101 thing…I think I might had the class already… 🙂 You too, I think. http://marthakennedy.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/writing-is/

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  2. My two most favorite things to say “yeah…not so much’ and ‘Play Wipe Out!’ Especially when you’re with friends, you’re at your limit for wine and the band is a young bunch who have know idea what in the hell Wipe Out is. Oh, this was fun, Maggie!

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  3. Love to read your memories Maggie, thank you!

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  4. I have to agree with Barbara – I love your writing. You have a talent for making everything interesting! Great story 🙂

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  5. You had to know I’d love this one, Maggie! So cool that you were enraptured enough with music and singing and playing that you didn’t think twice about doing so in performance, too; that’s a rare gift, and I don’t doubt all of the parent-teacher meeting attendees and churchgoers appreciated it more than you can even guess. As for those orchestral favorites, ‘Pictures’ has long been one of my big loves, too, from childhood onward, so I was really thrilled when the retiring principal trumpeter of the Edmonton Symphony Orch (a friend from my husband’s days conducting Pro Coro Canada there) decided to do a trumpet-piano-organ trio arrangement of the Mussorgsky for himself and two pro friends, with projected images, and asked me to ‘fill in the blanks’ with my artwork to show in the places where the original Hartmann images are now missing. It was great fun working on the project both from the perspective of a fan (of the Mussorgsky and the players, as well!) and for the research on the original images and follow-up with my own to suit. Happy times. 🙂

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    • I suppose eventually I will no longer be surprised by the coincidences in this world. But not yet! For some reason I find it eerily fascinating that Pictures is a common point between us. Eerie, but delightful! I can imagine the fun you had working on that project. What a great story, Kathryn! Thanks!

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