Tag Archives: music

Only Time

When our son was a baby, we would frequently have music playing in his room at night, and very often, it would be the soothing music of Enya.

We played her music so much, in fact, that now, anytime I hear her song, Only Time, even ten years later, I have the most vivid memory of being up in the middle of the night feeding my son.

The lights were off in the room, except for a night light that provided a serene glow.

I was sitting in a bright green upholstered rocking chair that we bought before he was born to have in his room for moments such as this.

My son was snuggled in my arms, feeding quietly from a bottle.

My wife was in our bedroom next door, sleeping.

It was perfect.

Christmas piano

Favorite Christmas Recordings

A friend recently asked me about some of my favorite Christmas recordings, to help them find new music, so I’ll list them here. I’ve decided to at least sort these into “vocal” and “instrumental” categories, in case you’re unfamiliar with the artists.

Instrumental

Beegie Adair (jazz piano)

The Canadian Brass

Chris Botti (trumpet)

Eric Nordhoff (piano)

Jack Jezzro (jazz guitar)

Jim Brickman (piano)

Kenny G (saxophone)

London Festival Orchestra

Mannheim Steamroller

New York Philharmonic

The Piano Guys

SMS Orchestra

  • Christmas Meditations for Orchestra

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Vince Guaraldi Trio

Vocal

Alvin & The Chipmunks

Andrea Bocelli

Andy Williams

Barlow Girl

Bing Crosby

The Carpenters

Casting Crowns

Céline Dion

Chanticleer

Chris Tomlin

David Phelps

Frank Sinatra

Gaither Vocal Band

Harry Connick, Jr.

Home Free

Il Divo

Jane Monheit

Johnny Mathis

Jordan Smith

Josh Groban

Julie Andrews

The King’s Singers

Larnelle Harris

Libera

Luciano Pavarotti

Mary J. Blige

Matthew West

Mercy Me

Michael Bolton

Michael Bublé

Michael W. Smith

Nat King Cole

Neil Diamond

Pentatonix

Perry Como

Rosemary Clooney

SMS Men’s Chorus

Sons of Serendip

Steve Green

Steven Curtis Chapman

Straight No Chaser

Tony Bennett

Voctave

What do you think? If I’ve missed anything really good, please let me know in the comments! Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

The Glorious Unfolding

Take Another Step

A little over a year ago, two good friends introduced me to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “Take Another Step.” I was even privileged to be part of a group that performed this song as a special for my church. This song has meant a lot to me in the past few weeks and months as I’ve tried to follow God’s leading for me and my family.

Listen as Steven explains the meaning and significance behind the song:

Here are the lyrics and the song:

Well the band was playing, the flags were waving,
And there you were
In the middle of a sunny day parade.
The crowds were cheering, the sky was clear,
Not a worry in the world,
Marching on, sure and steady, strong and straight.
Take another step and another step and another step.

Then the lightning flashed, the thunder crashed,
And suddenly it began to rain
And everybody ran.
Then the sky went black as midnight
And you couldn’t see,
Paralyzed by what you just can’t understand.
And now here you are, you’re afraid to move,
You don’t know where to go, you don’t know what to do.

Take another step, take another step.
When the road ahead is dark,
And you don’t know where to go,
Take another step, take another step,
Trust God and take another step,
And another step, and another step,
Take another step, and another step, and another step.

“We walk by faith and not by sight,”
We know it’s true.
We say it and sing it and love the way it sounds.
But none of us can even begin to truly understand
What it really means ’til all the lights go out.
And there we are, nothing to hold on to
But the promises God’s made to me and you.

Take another step, take another step.
When the road ahead is dark,
And you don’t know where to go,
Take another step, take another step,
Trust God and take another step.

If there’s an ocean in front of you,
You know what you’ve gotta do:
Take another step, and another step.
Maybe He’ll turn the water into land,
And maybe He’ll take your hand and say,
“Let’s take a walk on the waves.
Will you trust Me either way?”
And take another step.
Take another step.

Take another step, take another step.
Trust God and take another step.
Take another step,
When the road ahead is dark,
And you don’t know where to go,
Take another step, take another step,
Trust God and take another step,
And another step, and another step, and another step.
Take another step, and another step, and another step.
Take another step, and another step, and another step.
Take another step, and another step, and another step.

Night

My Song in the Night

While I was in college, I had the privilege of singing in a collegiate choir. This choir introduced me to many excellent songs, many new experiences, and many wonderful people who are still friends today.

One of the first songs that I learned — perhaps the very first song that I learned — as a freshman was “My Song In The Night.” It was immediately one of my favorite songs, and still is one of my favorites today.

O Jesus, my Saviour, my song in the night,
Come to us with Thy tender love, my soul’s delight.
Unto Thee, O Lord, in affliction I call,
My comfort by day, and my song in the night.

O why should I wander, an alien from Thee,
Or cry in the desert Thy face to see?
My comfort and joy, my soul’s delight,
O Jesus, my Saviour, my song in the night.

My song in the night,
My song in the night.

O Jesus, my Saviour, my song in the night,
Come to us with Thy tender love, my soul’s delight.
My comfort and joy, my soul’s delight,
O Jesus, my Saviour, my song in the night.

My song in the night,
My song in the night,
My comfort and joy, my soul’s delight,
O Jesus, my Saviour, my song in the night,
My song in the night.

Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx: “Music took me everywhere.”

Tim Ferriss is well known for his top-selling books, including The 4-Hour Work Week, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. Tim also hosts a very successful podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, where he regularly interviews successful, interesting, and knowledgeable people. In December 2015, Tim posted his first interview with Jamie Foxx.

Ferriss and Foxx spent two and a half hours together in this interview, covering a wide range of topics. One of the most interesting topics to me was Foxx’s musical background, how he got started, and how it helped him become who he is today. I’ve transcribed this portion of their interview here:

Tim: Now, you mentioned getting into music, but it seems like, from what I’ve read of you, that music, in some ways, came first.

Jamie: Music did. Music did. When I was a kid, my grandmother made sure that I took piano lessons. And, you know, that’s tough for a little boy in Texas — you know, play Für Elise, and Chopin, and Mozart

Tim: And we’re not talking about Houston…

Jamie: No, we’re talking Terrell, Texas. And I love my city. My city was dope because it was only twelve thousand people, so it was, like, literally, twelve to fifteen families. So we all knew each other.

But you know, for a little boy playing at that time, the other kids didn’t understand.

“Yo, man, why you doin’ that?”

“My grandma want me to do this,” you know. So I — there were sometimes I was belligerent, like, “Why you want me to do this?”

She said, “The reason I want you to learn classical piano is because I want you to be able to go across the tracks and play your music.”

So people listening across the tracks, or on the other side of the tracks, for a southern city, was — the tracks in a southern city separates the city. One side is black; the other side is white. So in our city, the south side, the south side of town was where all the black folks lived. The north side of town is where the white folks lived.

So she said, “I want you to be able to go on the white side of town and play classical music.”

So she taught me how to play classical music — a lady by the name of Lanita Hodge taught me how to play classical piano, and I literally would go on the other side of the tracks and, you know, like start playing for wine and cheese parties, and things like that.

But my grandmother took it a step further, too, because she was able to see the future. Here’s a lady with an eighth grade education, she had her own business for thirty years — she had her own nursery school business.

She says, “When I say ‘across the tracks,’ I don’t just mean in Terrell and those people over there — I mean the metaphoric. Like, ‘across the tracks,’ like meaning everywhere in the world.”

See, she said, “Because music connects you to the whole world.

So in doing that, I would connect with other people on the other side of the tracks who, you know, in a southern city, in Terrell, we were a little behind the curve when it came to race relations. Let’s just say it that way without, you know — I don’t want to demonize my home town.

But there was that, “Who’s the little black kid?”

And my grandmother would be like, “Don’t…” You know, “Just play…”

Tim: Do your thing.

Jamie: And when I would play, you know, a lot of that, you know, broke up. I remember even, like, being armed with just my music in sort of that racial setting, sometimes. Like there was a time when there was a Christmas party…

Tim: Were these paid gigs?

Jamie: Yeah, I’d make like ten, fifteen dollars. You know what I’m saying? At that time, it was a lot of money. And I played for the church. So, playing for the church, I would make, like, $75 a week. So, if you count that up, that’s like $300 a month…

Tim: Real money.

Jamie: That’s real money at thirteen, fourteen. My grandmother would take the money, though.

[Southern grandmother voice] “Hey, give me this money.”

[Normal voice] “What you doin’ with my money?”

She said, [Southern grandmother voice] “You ain’t payin’ no rent, you gonna give me this money.”

So, but I remember at that time, being armed with just my music. And there was a Christmas party that I was supposed to play for — myself and my best friend, who was seventeen, and I was sixteen at the time. And here’s a little bit of the racial misunderstanding, shall we say.

I went to play for the guy at Christmas time, maybe it’s like December 17th. And we show up — it’s two little black kids on the white side of town. And when he opens his door, and he sees two little black kids, he says, [male Texas accent] “What’s goin’ on here?”

[Normal voice] I said, “Well, I’m here to play for your Christmas party.”

He said, [male Texas accent] “Well then why are there two of you here at the same time?”

[Normal voice] I said, “Well… [clears throat] …I don’t have a license, so he drove me. Uh, is there a problem?”

[Male Texas accent] “Yeah, there’s a problem — I can’t have two n*****s in my house at the same time.”

[Normal voice] And I was like, “Ah, well…”

You know, I was sort of used to the racial misunderstandings…

And I said, “Well, is there any way he could wait outside or wait…”

[Male Texas accent] “He can’t wait on the street. Starts at 6:30. Now you’ve gotta make your mind up, man.”

[Normal voice] So I told my boy, “Listen, just come get me at 8:30.” Which was pretty late for kids at that time.

So I go in, and he says, [male Texas accent] “Where’s your tuxedo?”

[Normal voice] And I said, “Well, you didn’t tell me to have a tuxedo.”

So we go into this room which looks like a bedroom, and I’m looking like, “Why does he have clothes hanging up in his bedroom?” But it was a walk-in closet. I ain’t never seen anything like that. I was like, “Man, we can make a split-level condo out of this!”

So he gives me a Brooks Brothers jacket that has patches on the elbows. I’m like, “Oh, shoot! High falutin’!”

Well now I’m really playing. But as I’m playing, uh, they were doing, the grownups there, they were doing, uh, racially misunderstanding jokes. I’ll say it like that.

And my grandmother taught me something at that time. She said, “When you’re in a setting like that, there’s a word I want you to remember — it’s called, ‘furniture’.”

I said, “What’s that?”

She said, “You’re part of the furniture. So you don’t comment on what’s being said. You play. That’s what you’re there for, and you let these people enjoy their…”

And the lady of the house felt bad. She said, [female Texas accident] “I just wanna apologize to you for what they’re saying.”

[Normal voice] I said, “Oh, no problem.”

She said, [female Texas accident] “Can you sing something for us?”

[Normal voice] And I was like, “Sure, I can sing something for us.”

And this was the song that I sung…

[Starts playing piano and singing]
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.
Everybody…”

Anyway, so as I’m singing, I remember watching those white guys — old men — some of them faculty at my school, that had just said something, you know, probably not — I don’t think it was that they meant harm harm, but it was…

Tim: They’d have to resign today.

Jamie: Yeah. And they look, and they go, they immediately change. “Wow, man, that’s good. You know any other songs?”

And I sat and did about maybe like a six song set. And I saw what my grandmother talked about — that music cracked them in half. They saw a different me.

And then afterwards, he gave me a hundred bucks! And I’m like, “Shoot, call me n***** every day! I got a hundred dollars! I’m rich!”

And what was interesting was, I went to give him the jacket back, and he was like, “No, I, I, I can’t take it back.” So there was still a little bit of residue left over.

But I saw what the music did, and I remember when my boy showed back up, I said, “Listen, it was a cool gig, I got paid, but I gotta get out of here.”

I said, “Because I’m too smart for this. I need to go elsewhere.”

And I did. I changed my major — well, I changed the college that I was going to go to. I was going to go to another college in Texas and study music. Instead, I came to California — San Diego — to study music at International University.

What was interesting about that was that — being in Texas, it was blacks, whites, and Mexicans. When I got to International University, it was 81 different countries represented at that school. All connected by music and other things. Music and sports.

And the music arena at that time was high-end, strict child prodigies from Japan, child prodigies from China. I had a Russian music teacher, and I had a Yugoslavian music theory teacher, so it was — it was really “across the tracks.”

But because of that, and because of Estelle Talley, and Mark Talley, you know, picking me up every weekend to go play music, man, it set me on a, like I said, a crazy, wonderful journey.

And so the music was first.

And, you know, my college was interesting. I didn’t know anything about Jewish, Palestinian — I had no idea. I was at the student center, and there was this argument going on, you know.

I said, “What are they arguing about?”

[Middle Eastern accent] “Oh, my brother, they are talking about the Gaza Strip.”

[Normal voice] I said, “What is that?”

And they said, “You know, the Jewish occupation, the this, the that,” and I got a quick history lesson on that.

I got a quick history lesson on people from Argentina.

Or I would see a person who looked black, and I would be like, “Hey! What’s up, brother?”

And they would, [French accent][Foreign garble].”

And I’d be like, “Oh, where you from?”

And they’d say, [French accent] “Paris.”

And I was like, “Wow, they got black people from…?”

So, that music gave me not only an opportunity to share, but I was able to be educated about other people, because we studied Texas history. And studying Texas history is interesting. Like, if you study Texas history, if it didn’t happen in Texas, it didn’t happen. So when you look at, like — if this is your society bar, but when you think about politics, and what they know about across the sea, and what they know even about on the next block, or what they know is different in Texas from New York — that’s the reason that politics is so interesting, is because the people don’t necessarily have educations of other people.

Which is why I think that once we start opening up a little more, and traveling a little more, because — what is it, less than how many percent, less than five percent of Americans have passports and things?

Tim: A small number, yeah.

Jamie: So, anyway, that music, like I said, took me, took me everywhere.

Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein after JFK’s assassination

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On November 25, the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York was to hold its 25th annual fundraising gala, “Night of Stars.” They decided to still hold the event, but turn it into a memorial. Former vice president, now president, Lyndon B. Johnson, had been scheduled to speak at the event. In his place, Leonard Bernstein spoke to the 18,000 attendees. Here is what Bernstein said just three days after such a tragic event:

New York, New York
November 25, 1963

My dear friends:

Last night the New York Philharmonic and I performed Mahler’s Second Symphony — the Resurrection — in tribute to the memory of our beloved late President. There were those who asked: Why the Resurrection Symphony, with its visionary concept of hope and triumph over worldly pain, instead of a Requiem, or the customary Funeral March from the Eroica? Why indeed? We played the Mahler Symphony not only in terms of resurrection for the soul of one we love, but also for the resurrection of hope in all of us who mourn him. In spite of our shock, our shame, and our despair at the diminution of a man that follows from this death, we must somehow gather strength for the increase of man, strength to go on striving for those goals he cherished. In mourning him, we must be worthy of him.

I know of no musician in this country who did not love John F. Kennedy. American artists have for three years looked to the White House with unaccustomed confidence and warmth. We loved him for the honor in which he held art, in which he held every creative impulse of the human mind, whether it was expressed in words, or notes, or paints, or mathematical symbols. This reverence for the life of the mind was apparent even in his last speech, which he was to have made a few hours after his death. He was to have said: “America’s leadership must be guided by learning and reason.” Learning and reason: precisely the two elements that were necessarily missing from the mind of anyone who could have fired that impossible bullet. Learning and reason: the two basic precepts of all Judaistic tradition, the twin sources from which every Jewish mind from Abraham and Moses to Freud and Einstein has drawn its living power. Learning and reason: the motto we here tonight must continue to uphold with redoubled tenacity, and must continue, at any price, to make the basis of all our actions.

It is obvious that the grievous nature of our loss is immensely aggravated by the element of violence involved in it. And where does this violence spring from? From ignorance and hatred — the exact antonyms of Learning and Reason. Learning and Reason: those two words of John Kennedy’s were not uttered in time to save his own life; but every man can pick them up where they fell, and make them part of himself, the seed of that rational intelligence without which our world can no longer survive. This must the be mission of every man of goodwill: To insist, unflaggingly, at risk of becoming a repetitive bore, but to insist on the achievement of a world in which the mind will have triumphed over violence.

We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. And with each note we will honor the spirit of John Kennedy, commemorate his courage, and reaffirm his faith in the Triumph of the Mind.

Bernstein’s speech is included in The Leonard Bernstein Letters.

Disturbed: Sound of Silence

Disturbed: The Sound of Silence

I’ve been a fan of Simon and Garfunkel since I was a teenager, even though many of their lyrics frankly didn’t make sense to me until I was older. Recently, I was introduced to Disturbed’s version of S&G’s song, “The Sound of Silence,” 1 and was awed at what a different edge they gave to the song.

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs
That voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
And the words it was forming
And the sign said
“The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sound of silence


1 NOTE: The fact that I am sharing this version of Disturbed’s song does not mean nor imply that I endorse all of their music.

All Is Well

Here is another favorite Christmas song of mine, from Michael W. Smith.

All is well, all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love’s light
Sing Alle, sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
Let there be peace on Earth
Christ is come, go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing Alle, sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
Lift up your voice and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia, sing Alleluia, all is well

Lyrics by Michael W. Smith and Wayne Kirkpatrick

Here is video of a duet that Michael sang with Carrie Underwood during the CMA Country Christmas 2014 show on ABC.

Rest

I was listening to this song today, one of my favorite Steve Green songs from his Christmas album, Joy to the World. I love the simple message and reminder of this song.

Rest, the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love
Trust, His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

There is no need for needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever doubt
His perfect Word
Still reassures in any trial

Rest, the Lord is there
Lift up your prayer
For He is strong
Trust, He’ll bring release
And perfect peace
Will calm your mind

There is no need for needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever doubt
His perfect Word
Still reassures in any trial

Call Him if you grow frightened
Call Him
With loving care
He’ll lift the burden and you’ll

Rest, the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love
Trust, His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

Rest, the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love

Lyrics and music by Phil McHugh and Greg Nelson
©1985 River Oaks Music, c/o New Wings Music (a division of Lorenz Creative Services Corp.)/Greg Nelson Music (BMI) River Oaks administered by Tree International.

Behold, the Great Creator Makes

Today a friend emailed me the lyrics to this Christmas carol, with which I was previously unfamiliar. The words were written by Thomas Pestel, and the music is a 15th century English carol arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Behold the great Creator makes
Himself a house of clay,
A robe of virgin flesh He takes
Which he will wear for aye.

Hark, hark, the wise eternal Word,
Like a weak infant cries!
In form of servant is the Lord,
And God in cradle lies.

This wonder struck the world amazed,
It shook the starry frame;
Squadrons of spirits stood and gazed,
Then down in troops they came.

Glad shepherds ran to view this sight;
A choir of angels sings,
And eastern sages with delight
Adore this King of kings.

Join then, all hearts that are not stone,
And all our voices prove,
To celebrate this holy One,
The God of peace and love.

Words: Thomas Pestel (ca. 1586-1600), 1639
Tune: English carol, 15th century, arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

The St. Peter’s Choir, St. Peter’s Church, Philadelphia, PA