Bob Marley Mornings

I never liked reggae. There: I admit. it. I bought one CD in college and absolutely hated it. I eventually gave it away. Now, after all these years, I’m slowly changing my mind about the genre.

One recent evening, one of our assistants was humming something and dancing while she was assisting me. I asked who she was playing, and she said, “Bob Marley.” I groaned inwardly, but listened. I can’t remember which song it was.

As soon as our other assistant heard it, she came in singing and dancing too. They both told me how popular Bob Marley’s music is in Africa (and I guess around the world). I know he’s considered the father of reggae, and that there have been many books written about him.

It turns out that I already knew two of his songs, “Stir It Up” (I grew up on the Johnny Nash version) and “I Shot the Sheriff” (Eric Clapton version).  But Marley did so much more. The songs mix romance, protest, and historical themes of Jamaica and elsewhere. Alas, he died too soon.

The Marleys were and are a musical family. I like his mom’s version of “Redemption Song.” Rita Marley, his wife, also has a nice one called “There Will Always Be Music.”

One Bob Marley song in particular inadvertently created a lot of comedy mileage. I was so startled by the screams, etc. (e.g., What the hell was THAT?!) mat the beginning of a version of “Chase Those Crazy Baldheads Out of Town” that everyone laughed about it for three weeks. We all agree that it does fit the mood of the song.

So nearly every morning, my helper plays Bob Marley. It’s  her favorite, but she also knows that I’m curious and am enjoying it. I’m beginning to recognize the songs right away. She also says that music of any kind makes work go faster.

Here are two of my favorites–“One Love” and “Three Little Birds (Don’t Worry about a Thing)”



I thought it would also help if I learned the instruments in a reggae band. So here’s some information. I guess the genre isn’t so bad after all.

“The Alley Cat” by Bent Fabric

I used to have a 45 rpm record of this instrumental, “The Alley Cat” by Bent Fabric. I hadn’t thought of it for a long time, but the fun graphic below helped me to recall it. Enjoy!

In a web search, I also found Augie’s Records, which looked intriguing.



Image result for Free clipart Himalayan cats

Handel’s “The Harmonious Blacksmith” — Variations

I have loved “The Harmonious Blacksmith” ever since I heard it on the radio several years ago. Legend has it that Handel was traveling somewhere, and that his horse needed a new shoe. He found a blacksmith at a local inn, who re-shod the horse, writing the piece as a thank-you. There is no historical truth to this, but it’s a nice thing to imagine, anyway. I also may have garbled the details from various stories I have heard. Here is more information online. The melody is part of a larger work, “Suite in E Major, HWV 430.

Here is “The Harmonious Blacksmith” as played on the piano:

When I was in middle school, I took a music appreciation class, and became quite a harpsichord fan for a while.The only harpsichord album I had at the time must have been by Bach, released on Angel Records. Here is “The Harmonious Blacksmith on harpsichord, followed by the full composition on harpsichord.

Next, here is a trio playing “Blacksmith” on oboe, bassoon, and harpsichord:

I didn’t know until recently that there is a group called The Harmonious Blacksmith. I’d love to see them in concert sometime.

Now to search for other harpsichord works…



Les Paul Would Have Loved This!

Today would have been Les Paul’s 96th birthday. Google commemorated it by an interactive guitar Google Doodle, which is pretty neat. I discovered it last night, and since then have been having way too much fun sounding terrible!

This brings back memories of visiting relatives in another state.  My 16-year-old cousin had been given an electric guitar for his birthday, and he let me try it out. I was almost 12. I refused to use a pick, and I ended up rubbing a water blister on my thumb, but I didn’t care. I was way too into strumming it and playing the various chords. The guitar was glossy and red, yellow, brown, and black–or some combination of those colors–and I couldn’t get enough. When I got tired trying to hold it the regular way, I laid it carefully on my lap, picking the strings fast–just like I’d seen some country musicians do. My cousin helped me when I needed it.

Good thing there were no music critics around. If my cousin–always a big teaser–was annoyed, he never, ever showed it. I’ve always appreciated that.

The neat thing about this Google Doodle is that you can record, play back, and use the keyboard to strum rather than work with a mouse or trackball. I learned a lot from the Post’s blog today. Melissa Bell shared the work of someone named Mark, who played Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Here’s the Post’s Michael Cavna, who posted someone’s version of “Ode to Joy.”

Here’s a little on Les Paul, the great man himself.

And here’s me, being my usual untalented, quirky self. I know this sounds awful, but I got a real kick out of it. Enjoy it if you can. I named “Just Hangin’ Around.”

The Contrabassoon and Contraforte

My entire knowledge of the contraforte and contrabassoon comes from an October 14th Washington Post  article by critic Anne Midgette. She interviewed Lewis Lipnick, who has played the contrabassoon for the National Symphony Orchestra for a long time. At the time the story was published, he had just bought a contraforte, which sounds a lot smoother. The low tones of both instruments invite humor (both off-color and gently sarcastic), which players take in stride as best they can. I enjoyed learning about the history of both instruments, and the clip where Lipnick is playing them.

Beethoven used the contrabassoon in one of the movements of The Ninth Symphony. That’s not shabby at all!

Classical WETA 90.9 has been celebrating “Christoph Eschenbach Month.” He’s the new music director of the NSO, and I really liked the cover profile Midgette wrote about him for the Washington Post magazine in early October. Both may be found in the archives.

A long time ago, our neighbor gave me a pocket guide to musical terms and instruments. I read and kept it for many years. Now that I enjoy listening to classical music more, I wish I still had it to refer to. Nowadays, there are tons of resources on the Internet. I picked this one from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra–for the audio and explanations that get kids (and anyone else) interested.