Friday, October 02, 2015

How High The Moon

This year, Eric's dad and stepmom are both marking major birthdays as well as their 25th wedding anniversary in December.  Two weeks ago, to help celebrate their milestones, we spent a fun long weekend together in Nashville, along with his Eric's two sisters and their husbands.

That Saturday evening, we went to the Grand Ole Opry.  Among the many performers were the Quebe Sisters (described as "triple-threat fiddle champions").  I was very happy to hear their cover of the '40s jazz standard "How High The Moon."

I've loved "How High The Moon" since I first heard it during the opening credits of the 1988 film "Biloxi Blues" in a lovely slow (even mournful) take by Pat Suzuki.

For a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend," here below are both of those renditions.


Friday, July 10, 2015

The Silent Wish You Make

Recently, I have been doing some research on the work of lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman.  (Marilyn Bergman is a fellow graduate of NYU's undergraduate liberal arts college.)

While going through the many songs for which the couple has created lyrics, I came across a gorgeous rendition of "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" performed by Stacey Kent and Jim Tomlinson.

Here it is below as a "YouTube clip for a peaceful weekend."


P.S. This song was written for the 1969 film "The Happy Ending." But, I'd say it fits perfectly with the current-day #LoveWins hashtag.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Respect It So Deeply

Two weeks before Eric and I married in June, 2013, I received an email from a friend who is a Catholic seminarian.  In the message, my friend urged me not to proceed with the wedding.  His concerns were strongly-worded but heart-felt.

My friend's message forced me to spend extra time articulating the "why" of our wedding and our marriage.  Amidst the execution of a million last-minute details of a Manhattan wedding, that email compelled me to articulate how our big day was not the repudiation of my faith but the fulfillment of it.

As a Catholic Christian, having identified the other human being with whom I intended to spend the rest of my life, I was compelled to create a special time and place where our family members and friends would come to pray with us and over us -- while being uplifted by sacred music and hearing from sacred scripture.  (Our Liturgy of the Word purposefully began with the chanting of the Taize setting of "Veni Sancte Spiritus.")

As a Catholic Christian, I was compelled to make a public statement of lifelong commitment to the man I loved.  (We did so using the prayers and vows of the Church's Rite of Marriage.)

I never expected to find sentiments akin to this in a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.  But, there they were last week in Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges that has brought marriage equality to ever state in the nation:

The money quote:

" ... Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that the seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. ... "

Amen, Justice Kennedy.  Amen.

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)