Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Lilac Time

In Arvada, Books, Church, creativity, music on May 4, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Spring is my favorite season and lilacs are my favorite flower. They’re blooming now and it looks like a spectacular year for lilacs. Today I’m going to share a few other favorites from this week.

Music – Willie Nelson turned 85 this week and also released his latest album, Last Man Standing, the 156th from my count. In the title song, he laments losing most of his friends. “I don’t wanna be the last man standin’” he sings, “Or wait a minute maybe I do.” I for one hope he sticks around for many more years.

Movie – Come Sunday, streaming on Netflix, tells the story of Carlton Pearson, a rising star in the evangelical world of Oral Roberts. One night he saw a television story about innocent children starving to death in Africa. Believing as he did that only born-again Christians go to heaven, he prayed to God asking why God would condemn them to hell. And God answered, “Is that what you think I do?” When he preached that he no longer believed in hell or that people had to accept Jesus to get to heaven, he lost his following and his church, but he never backed down because God had spoken to him. You can listen to an interview with him on This American Life’s episode on Heretics.

Book – author Tony Hillerman died, I mourned not only his loss but the loss of his characters, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Luckily, Hillerman’s daughter Anne Hillerman took up where her father left off to bring us more Navajo mysteries. I enjoyed the first one, Spider Woman’s Daughter, but thought she stumbled badly on the second, Rock With Wings. Song of the Lion was better and now with the fourth, Cave of Bones, she’s hitting her stride. I’m happy to revisit my old friends Chee and Leaphorn and even happier to see the increased emphasis on Chee’s wife, Bernadette Manuelito.

Event – I just learned that the Arvada Center will host a Book Festival on Saturday, May 19, featuring author readings, an exhibit hall, panel discussions, hands-on activities, contests, and book-related products of all kinds. All for the $5 admission fee. Pay a little more to have brunch with an author and attend a variety of writing workshops. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually been to a book festival. This will be my first, and I hope to see you there.


Irrational Exuberance

In creativity, Friends, Home, music, Resistance on March 21, 2018 at 4:35 pm

The phrase “irrational exuberance,” was coined by Nobel laureate Robert Shiller and refers to the enthusiasm of investors not supported by reality. I’m using it here in a more general sense.
Even the most cursory glimpses of our world today reveals problems, so many problems that we can’t keep up.
If I turn on the news, I’m barraged with stories of women attacked in public places or their own homes, children abused,
childish and corrupt behavior from the man in the White House, the proliferation of racists crimes, threat of losing health care,
CEOs making 217 times the average worker’s salary, our crumbling infrastructure, the stimying of academic research for political reasons, sacrificing the environment to corporate greed, and reduced budgets for education.
I hear people screaming that anything they don’t like is “Fake News!” Other people scream unflattering names at the first group.
Wars slaughter men, women, and children all around the globe for stupid, petty reasons and new wars are threatened every day. And so on. Until I just can’t take it anymore.
I turn off the TV, sit back and breathe and try to clear my mind by turning my attention to the good things in my life.
It’s spring! Flowers are starting to bloom and trees to bud. I have plenty of books to read and words to write. I set my own schedule and answer to no one. I have love and joy and music and sunshine. I have church every week. To quote a friend, “It’s still a wonderful world.”
Yes, it is.
When confronted with bad news, I would like to think that I acknowledge it and do what I can, then, like the flower pictured, I’ll
find a scrap of soil and water and turn my face to the sun. I’ll put the shadows behind me and drink in the light.

Going to Church

In Church, Denver, Learning, music, spirituality on March 16, 2018 at 3:19 pm

“Sometimes,” she said, “you just want to sleep in on Sunday and not go to church.” In the sixteen-plus years I’ve been going to church, that has never happened to me. Okay, I’ll admit that sleeping in is a foreign concept. My circadian rhythms wake me reliably at 5 a.m. (6 during daylight savings time), every day, and should that ever fail, I have a cat as a backup system.
During these years, I have missed very few Sundays, usually only if I’m sick or we have a bad storm or my car dies.
I like going to church and look forward to it every week. It’s the highlight of my week.
It isn’t because I’m devout.
Part of what draws me in is the social aspect. I like to see my friends. Church is also where I connect with younger people including children. We have a great crop of about 50 little kids, two to three dozen of whom attend each Sunday.
With no kids or grandkids of my own, I have precious few opportunities to meet and make friends with young people.
I like singing although apparently not enough to join the choir.
I have always prayed privately, and I’ve learned that there is something powerful and humbling about praying in a group.
I like the sermons, which always push me to be a better person, even when I don’t agree with them.
The best part, though, is knowing that I’m part of a source of good in our little corner of the world.
From our preschool to adult study groups; celebrating Pride Month as a liturgical season to gleaning unwanted fruit and vegetables from neighborhood gardens to feed the homeless; providing shelter while a family secures permanent housing to making sack lunches for the homeless in Civic Center Park, we’re a very active church.
I came to church to develop the shriveling spiritual part of myself and learned, much to my surprise, that it isn’t all about me.

Pop Culture

In Books, creativity, Learning, Learning Tools, music on January 22, 2018 at 4:18 pm

For years, I watched Entertainment Tonight religiously. If I had to miss an episode, I recorded it to watch later. At some point, however, I realized that I had no clue who the people were they were talking about. I think I aged out of their target demographic.
It may have coincided with the TV writers’ strike in 1988 when the networks started filling time slots with unscripted shows, reality shows in other words. I had absolutely zero interest in the various Survivor-like shows, although I did like the talent shows like American Idol and Nashville Star and So You Think You Can Dance.
Then came the Kardashianization of America when kids started stating their ambition was to “be famous” with no thought of what they might have to do to become famous. I blame Ryan Seacrest who created and produces the show. I mean, ick. Why anyone wants to know anything at all about any member of that family is beyond me, but I can’t look at a news website without seeing something about one or another of them.
Nevertheless, I do like learning about exceptional entertainment options, and I keep up with them by listening to the NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. Host Linda Holmes and three thoughtful, intelligent guests choose one movie, TV show, musician, or play to discuss and recommend. This is my major venue for discovering worthwhile culture.
Recently, I learned from them about the Amazon Prime series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and also the captivating song, Havana, by Camila Cabella. Unlike ET, I don’t have to wade through a dumpster full of detritus to get to the good stuff. At my age, there’s no time for that nonsense.

The Wait is Over

In Christmas, Church, music on December 24, 2017 at 9:54 pm

My Secular Advent, Day Twenty-Two

The wait has now dwindled down to hours. Later today, I will head to my brother’s for conversation and goodies before dinner and the candlelight service at church. It does seem odd not to go to church this morning although I’ve been confused for a couple of days about what day it is. Sunday. Christmas Eve.

The hardest part about Christmas for me is the day after when, after all the angst and preparation, it’s suddenly over. Finished. That day, I will probably go out for breakfast, but I never participate in the annual gift return ritual.

While it’s still Christmas Eve, I want to enjoy the waiting a little while longer. Savor the sweet anticipation. Maybe this year we will finally experience peace on earth. We sang Silent Night and Joy to the World. Time to snuggle down and sleep through the night. When we wake in the morning, let the celebrations begin.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Christmas Music Naughty and Nice

In Christmas, music on December 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm

My Secular Advent, Day Eight

Every year the world of pop music attempts to add new Christmas songs to our repertoire, with mixed results. Obviously, we need more Christmas music, especially if you work someplace like the grocery store where the checkout clerk told me as I sang along to Bing Crosby, “It gets a little old if you have to listen to it all day long.” For most of us, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Some pop songs return year after year as novelty songs, like the one I heard at breakfast the other day, “Surfin’ Santa.” Or add “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause,” “The Chipmunk Song,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” to the list.

The best of the lot become standards: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “The Christmas Song,” “Blue Christmas,” and the most popular song ever, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” One of my favorites is “Christmas Without You” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.

It’s not that easy to write an enduring, non-religious Christmas song, although pretty much everybody tries. The best new one in recent memory is “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey. The song, reluctantly co-written by Carey and Walter Afanasieff in fifteen minutes, has earned tens of millions of dollars and became the first holiday ringtone to be certified double platinum for more than two million sales.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, whatever you do, don’t listen to Bob Dylan’s truly terrible Christmas album. Who’s bright idea was that? And with apologies to the incomparable Eartha Kitt, save me from ever again hearing the truly dreadful “Santa Baby.”

Friday Favorites

In Christmas, creativity, music on December 8, 2017 at 9:30 am

My Secular Advent, Day 6

In case you missed it, you must watch this Star Trek version of “Let it Snow”

If you’re tired of hearing the old Christmas standards, Sia’s new album, Everyday is Christmas https://wwwis getting rave reviews for its bouncy tunes and sly lyrics, especially Santa is Coming For Us, Candy Cane Lane, and Puppies are Forever. NPR’s Glen Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour declared these to contain “the queerest lyrics ever, supplanting don we now our gay apparel.”

“I’ll call Rudolph down to meet us in the street
We can dance, he can prance
There’s no can’t’s, ’cause here everything is possible.”

A couple of days ago, I mentioned the unlikely duet between David Bowie and Bing Crosby on Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy. You can watch the video here.

Finally, yesterday I wrote about my love for the classic movie, A Christmas Story.  Here’s the audio of Jean Shepherd reading the Playboy version of the chapter that became the movie, “Duel in the Snow or Red Ryder Nails a Cleveland Street Kid” from his novel, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. 

Comfort and Joy

In Christmas, music, spirituality on December 4, 2017 at 10:03 am

My Secular Advent, Day Two

I’ve excised many activities from my Christmas calendar so I can focus on what’s truly meaningful, hope, peace, love, and joy. Gone are gifts and their attendant shopping, wrapping and mailing; parties, cookies and candy (well, I may make half a recipe of fudge. I’m not made of stone). What remains are my two four-foot Christmas trees and a few other simple decorations, about a dozen cards with my annual Christmas letter, Christmas Eve dinner at my brother’s, and the candlelight service at church.

And, of course, there’s the music. Every year I pick one concert of Christmas music to attend. When my friend Vera’s daughter Tricia sang in her high school choir I went to their Christmas program. She taught me that the correct lyrics were Deck the Hall, not Deck the Halls. When she graduated, I flailed for a few years, not from lack of choices.

For a few years, I sought out performances of bell choirs across the city. I do love bell choirs. Then I met Marla at church. She’s the musical director of the Arvada Chorale and also her own women’s chorus, Safonia, and enjoying their Christmas concerts has become my tradition.

Yesterday, they presented “Merry and Bright.” It was lovely and I’m sorry you missed it. You have another chance to catch Safonia performing with the Rocky Mountain Ringers on December 15. (http://www.rmringers.org/).

The program featured several traditional Christmas standards, including the most beautiful rendition of Jingle Bells I’ve ever heard. Yes, Jingle Bells. Even that little ditty sounds glorious when sung by 22 inspired women’s voices arranged and conducted by people who know what they’re doing. There were a couple of songs I didn’t know, which is fine. I like being introduced to new music, but I expect and appreciate hearing the familiar tunes and feeling them wrap me in their comfort and joy.

She Loves You

In Colorado, Denver, music on November 30, 2017 at 7:12 am

One month after the devastating assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” hit American radio stations, including KIMN here in Denver. I remember thinking it was a strange title for a song by a group named after bugs, but the song was fabulous—cheery and optimistic. If there was one thing this country needed right then, it was a little optimism and good cheer.

It debuted on the KIMN top fifty chart on my 16th birthday in January of 1964 and I’ve felt a special connection with the Fab Four ever since. Paul McCartney has broken my heart three times in the past 53 years by marrying other women when I was the one he was clearly meant to be with. When I was 16, he was too old for me. Now I’m too old for him. Sometimes the world just sucks.

That summer they came to Red Rocks and I wanted to go more than I’ve ever wanted anything before or maybe since. Somehow, I had the $6.60 for a ticket. Very expensive for that era. They went on sale at the downtown Denver Theater box office on a Saturday and my dad had to work that morning. I was inconsolable, convinced they’d be sold out before I could get there. Miraculously, they were not sold out and my brother and I both bought tickets. As we would later learn, the concert at Red Rocks was the only venue on their first US tour that didn’t sell out. I have no idea why.

Danny and I went to the concert and I am eternally grateful to him for taking his younger sister to the biggest event of the year. That was my first concert at Red Rocks and still ranks among my peak experiences. Watching Ron Howard’s sensational documentary Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years last night on PBS brought it all back.

If I seem to have a little extra spring in my step today, it’s because I’m feeling 16 again.

Light Up Your Face

In Learning, music, spirituality on November 29, 2017 at 5:18 pm

I went out for breakfast this morning and sat in a booth next to two women and a baby. The baby looked at me and gave me that wide open smile that seems reserved for babies and other innocents. I couldn’t help but smile back.

It lifted my spirits all day.

While smiles are not as contagious as yawns, they are infectious. As the saying goes, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”Nobody really knows why we smile, apart from some nonsense speculation that it’s a perverted form of baring our teeth to scare off enemies. We do know it’s not learned behavior. Babies born blind who have never seen a smile, still respond the same as their sighted counterparts. Ain’t science grand? Furthermore, smiling is universal, occurring in all human groups and for the same reasons. We smile because we’re happy and also to make ourselves happy.

That’s right. If we put on a smile, whether we’re genuinely happy or not, our brains will interpret it as happiness and our mood will change accordingly.
And it turns out your mother knew what she was talking about when she told you it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. I hate it when that happens. She was also right that babies smile sometimes smile as a result of gas until 6-8 weeks old. After that, their smiles mean the same thing ours do. Unborn babies even smile in the womb. That’s understandable. What’s not to like in a natural environment designed just to keep them happy?

Here’s a song from Nat King Cole to bring a smile to your face. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAjx0d-fda4)

Sing along, “Smile though your heart is aching, Smile even though it’s breaking” and tell me three things that make you smile.
Here’s my list: (1) Daffodils in the snow, (2) starting a new book by a favorite author, and (3) the full moon rising over a lagoon.