Saturday, March 28, 2015

Jay Livingston's Centennial

Jay Livingston at a McDonald anniversary
100 years ago today, on March 28, 1915, American songwriter Jay Livingston was born in McDonald, Pennsylvania (my hometown).

Earlier this week, the Observer-Reporter's Brad Hundt wrote about his youth in McDonald (when he was still known as Jacob Harold Levison).

Together with Ray Evans, Jay Livingston wrote the standards ''Mona Lisa'' and ''Que Será, Será,'' the 1948 Oscar-winning song ''Buttons and Bows,'' "Tammy" and many other songs.

The pair also wrote the theme music for the television shows ''Bonanza'' and ''Mr. Ed.''

In honor of this centennial, here is a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend" of Nat King Cole singing "Mona Lisa."


Flashback: "Hear Them Ring"

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pittsburgh Poet


This week, The Wall Street Journal reported on Pittsburgh poet Billie Nardozzi (front page, below the fold).  I read it while riding the A train, loving the chance to learn about a quintessential Pittsburgher.

A bit of James R. Hagerty's story:

... His style is plain spoken, his inspirations diverse. He writes about anything from the comfort of a loyal dog to the pain caused by insensitive relatives. His verse tends to be low on angst. “I hate negativity,” says Mr. Nardozzi, who often writes his poems, longhand, on a lined legal notepad in his home office.

Some of his poems pay tribute to individuals. A recent one, for instance, is dedicated to Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto:

He’s great for this city

And he’s what we have needed

And his ideas for change

Should always be heeded

Mayor Peduto said he has a framed copy of the poem, mailed to him by Mr. Nardozzi, on his office wall. Representatives of the Queen of England, the Prince of Wales and Conan O’Brien all sent thank-you notes for poems dedicated to them.

Given his penchant for the Beatles, he once penned an ode to the people of the United Kingdom. That poem, called “The British,” reads, in part:

I think you’re the coolest people

Living on this earth

And honestly and seriously speaking

I really think it is there from birth

And you write the most beautiful songs

That I have ever heard in my life

For they speak of passionate love

Between a gentleman and his wife

Many of his poems are published online by the Arkansas Free Press, which welcomes contributions but doesn’t pay for them. “Billie is our most prolific writer,” said Tracy Crain, editor of the Free Press. “He has a very tender heart, and he really has a need to share.” ...
For more, check out this Tumblr page dedicated to Billie's poems.

Friday, January 16, 2015

In Memoriam: Stefan Schack, 1972 - 2014

Back in my single days, I dated four people who had birthdays during this middle week of January.  I always wondered what it was that attracted these mid-winter babies to a summer person like me.

One of these old flames was Stefan Schack, whose birthday was today (January 16).  Sadly, this was a birthday that Stefan did not live to see.  He passed away on July 29, 2014.

Stefan had a beautiful, deep voice.  He was a man with devoted friends.  And, he had a keen photographer's eye.  (His Instagram account is a wonderful tribute to his love for architecture and the places he visited.)

Via Facebook, I still can read the messages that Stefan and I exchanged.  After Eric and I announced our engagement, he was so gracious, writing, "Hey stranger - heard you are getting married!  Just wanted to say congratulations - wish you the best ... "

I pray that you are resting in peace, Stefan.  The world is less for your early passing.

And, "Happy Birthday!" one last time.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Haul Out The Holly

It's that time of year.

For a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here is Angela Lansbury and friends singing "We Need a Little Christmas" as it was first heard in the 1966 musical "Mame."


Hat-tip: Rev. Gerardo Ramirez, who made mention of this tune yesterday on Facebook.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Guadalupe's Day

Many months ago, I spied this Instagram photo (snapped by our friend James) showing a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Thought I'd share it for today's feast day:

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Uncle Joe's Centennial

My great-great uncle, Joseph Berger, was born 100 years ago today on December 10, 1914, in McDonald, Pennsylvania.

Uncle Joe was the youngest sibling of my maternal great-grandmother, Mary Berger Vincenti (1911 - 1999).  He died in 2012 at the age of 97, making him the longest-lived member of my family.

At the time of Uncle Joe's 95th birthday in 2009, I penned a post on his life.  Among other details, it notes he was the son of immigrants from Belgium.

It was through Uncle Joe and Grandma Vincenti and their sister, Ann Berger Barrick, that my generation received a sliver of connection to that immigrant history (including a delicious recipe for thick Belgian galettes).

Here's to keeping their memory alive for many years to come.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sweet, Sweet Spirit

On Friday night, Eric and I saw an excellent performance of the play "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" presented by Manhattan Theater Works at the 14th Street Y.  Written by Carol Carpenter, it's the story of a Texas family grappling with violence, faith, sexuality, money and more.

The play briefly incorporates the hymn of the same name.  As you might expect, the tune has been in my head ever since (notably memories of the bass part that I once sang in a choral performance).

So, for some Monday morning inspiration, here is a dynamic rendition of "Sweet, Sweet Spirit" by the a cappella quartet For You:

Hat-tip: Our friend, Ann Marie Yali, who is chair of Manhattan Theater Works' board.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Smooth as Silk

One hundred years ago today, the great singer and bandleader Billy Eckstine was born in Pittsburgh.

In a segment marking the centennial, National Public Radio called him "a crooner who crossed barriers."

"Billy Eckstine was smooth as silk. He was tall and handsome, sported a pencil-thin mustache and sang in a distinctive baritone," remarked NPR's Tom Vitale.

In honor of the day, here is Eckstine with Nat King Cole performing "Rosetta":

Hat-tip: 100 Years Ago Today at Twitter (curated by yours truly)

Monday, April 21, 2014


A sunny Easter Monday calls for joyful music.  Here, compliments of Voices of Music, is the lively Bulgarian folk tune "Bučimiš"("бучиниш"):

Hat-tip: 500 Years Ago Today (new Twitter account curated by yours truly)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Good Story

I love this commercial from Thailand.  It contains a wonderful, life-affirming message:

"No one saves oneself. The community is essential." - Pope Francis

Hat-tip: Heather K.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quis dabit oculis

For this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," below is Costanzo Festa's beautiful and contemplative motet "Quis dabit oculis" (written in early 1514).  I think it lends itself well to the home stretch of Lent.


Hat-tip: 500 Years Ago Today (a new Twitter account curated by yours truly)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

It Goes Without Saying

I recently have begun to explore the music of Nico Muhly.  His Wikipedia profile describes him as a contemporary classical music composer and arranger.  Two loaded words there: "contemporary" and "classical."  I aspire to one day have the time and talent to properly unpack them.  But, before then, let's listen to one of Muhly's works in this space.

Below is the instrumental composition "It Goes Without Saying" for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."  It's a clarinet piece featuring "metallic noises" (including that of a kitchen whisk) and "warm, woody sounds."  It's a stretch to call this tune "peaceful" but it's a fun ride.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Million Miles Away

I love the pacing and peacefulness of "The Moon Song" from the movie "Her."  It speaks well of the quiet and tender moments of love that can be shared by two people.

Here it is below for this week's "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


Here are the tune's lyrics from the pens of Karen O and Spike Jonze:

"I'm lying on the moon
My dear, I'll be there soon
It's a quiet starry place
Time's we're swallowed up
In space we're here a million miles away

"There's things I wish I knew
There's no thing I'd keep from you
It's a dark and shiny place
But with you my dear
I'm safe and we're a million miles away

"We're lying on the moon
It's a perfect afternoon
Your shadow follows me all day
Making sure that I'm okay and
We're a million miles away"