Woodstock Revisited

They say that being a senior is just like being a teenager again, only you have more money.   You have no responsibilities, don’t have to work and can stay up late and party all night, if you wish.    While many of the today’s younger seniors may remember Woodstock, you definitely know you’re getting older when a local retirement home holds a Woodstock 50th anniversary night and you agree to go because your neighbor has free tickets and it would be a shame to waste a nice meal.   My mother agrees to go with us, although neither of us really remembers Woodstock.   My neighbor has more recollection of it, but I feel like I missed the whole hippy era, as at almost 13, I was just a bit too young and by the time I was old enough to peace out, disco had arrived.    While I remember much of the music from the era, I was more into the clean-cut Monkees than the Beatles, who had by then morphed into those long haired dudes strolling across Abbey Road.    My mother was a forty-something housewife back then who only listened to our music because the radio was on in the morning while we were getting ready for school, but I’m sure the station got changed as soon as we left for the bus. 

For those of you younger folk who may be unfamiliar, Woodstock was a famous music festival held on a dairy farm in upstate New York in Aug 1969, which attracted almost half a million young people and which became a symbol of the hippy era.   It rained over the three days, people camped and slept outdoors in the mud and listened to music and generally a peaceful groovy time was had by all.   Surprisingly there was no violence, considering the size of the crowd, but then the mood was mellow-yellow.      

Woodstock

Peace, Love and Fame!

(The couple in this iconic photo of the era, which first appeared on the Woodstock album cover, got married a few years later and are now seventy years old.   In a recent interview they said they didn’t even recall the photo being taken because they had just woken up.  Here’s a link to more on their story.)

 Woodstock had a music lineup of some of the best rock and roll groups of the time.   A friend of mine has a copy of the original festival poster, with the band playlist.   She was on her way to the show with a group of friends, complete with camping gear, when for reasons she doesn’t remember, they turned around and came back to Canada.   Most likely it was due to the negative publicity at the beginning – the drugs, the rain, the traffic, the lack of washroom facilities etc.   As she later went on to work in the music industry, she recalls it as one of the regrets of her life.   Here’s the playlist. Woodstock poster (2)

Of the groups who played, I only remember Creedence Clearwater Revival CCR (Bad Moon Rising), Blood Sweat and Tears (And When I Die), Janis Joplin (Me and Bobby McGee), Jefferson Airplane (White Rabbit, Somebody to Love), Santana (Evil Ways), and Sly and the Family Stone (Hot Fun in the Summer Time).    While I recognize some of the others, (Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix), I don’t recall what they sang, so Linda over at Walking,Writing,Wit and Whimsy (who has a great Woodstock post), shared this link with me,where you can check out the songs each band played at the venue.    https://www.woodstock.com/lineup/     The site also has some great photos and videos, and man do those kids look young, as do the performers.   Of course that was in the day when we didn’t trust anyone over thirty.  

Many of the musicians who were asked to play, turned it down, (The Doors, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Chicago, The Moody Blues, Simon and Garfunkel) and have expressed regret, including Joni Mitchell, who went on to write this famous song, after seeing the news clips on TV.   

I was surprised to read that the music went on so late,  but being out in the country there were no noise bylaws, although I’m sure the neighboring towns weren’t too thrilled about the sudden descent of half a million hippies.   John Fogerty of CCR, remarked that most of the fans were asleep on the muddy ground by the time they went on at 3am, so he played to one guy way at the back, who was flicking a Bic lighter.   (Wikipedia link)

Imagine hosting that kind of party today, half a million people united by music, singing in peace and harmony. 

Not likely to happen – there’s too much violence in the world now.   The organizers of the 50th anniversary bash ended up cancelling.  (Sorry Jay Z and Miley Cyrus, no soggy fields for you, although I’m not sure why you got invited in the first place).   There will never be another Woodstock.     There was however a smaller anniversary gig held in Bethel Woods, with performances by Arlo Guthrie, John Fogerty and Carlos Santana, who were all there at the first one – what a trip that must have been for them to play again at the same site so many years later. 

But back to my Woodstock party….

So maybe it was a good thing the retirement home stepped in to fill the void – keeping the flame alive for all us aging hippies.  (I believe they are called hipsters now if Taylor Swift lyrics are correct). 

This particular retirement home is a bit of a white elephant, the product of a poorly developed plan hatched by some company in Toronto where the rest of their buildings are located and fully occupied.    It opened several years ago, and fewer than 25% of the units are rented.   I’m not sure who it’s actually marketed for, as many in this small town could not afford the high prices, most seventy somethings would want more space (the apartments are very small), and the over-eighty crowd who might inhabit such a place, might need some medical help of which there is none available.   But I give them A for effort, as they are trying hard to fill it up.   One of their marketing ploys is to offer community events and free dinner tickets to anyone who might have expressed even the slightest bit of interest.  (My friend went to a yoga class there.  They even sent my mother a Christmas gift in the mail – a puzzle of one of her art works).   They host monthly theme nights, Roaring Twenties, Casino, Neil Diamond, and while older people in the community might support the events, it seems no one actually wants to live there.  

There is a big atrium, like in a fancy hotel, wasted space, but it’s supposed to be a social area.    A perfect spot for a sit in or a love-in or at least a free buffet with some folk music.     

I have a hard time deciding what to wear, and have to visit the basement and unearth a few old Seventeen magazines to refresh my memory of the clothes of the era.   I found the magazines in the attic when my mother moved off the farm.   They’re from 1970, the summer I entered high school, when I must have been worried about looking hip, although why I don’t know, as we wore uniforms, other than the first Friday of the month which was Dress Up Day.   

Seventeen Magazine

Dig those blue tinted shades!

Back then, Seventeen magazine came in the the big twelve-inch size format, like Life and Look magazines.    The ads alone were a trip down memory lane.   We seemed to be consumed with lightening our hair (Sun-In, Lemon Go Lightly), darkening our tans (Coppertone, Johnson’s Baby Oil, Sea and Ski, Noxzema), and wearing blue eye shadow (Bonne Bell, Yardley, Max Factor).   

But back to the fashions, and the all important question, when Jupiter aligns with Mars will you be dressed for it?

Seventeen Magazine

You will if you sew your own threads!

That song was far out – Aquarius – by the Fifth Dimension. 

In the fashion pages, we wore bell bottoms, embroidered peasant shirts and gauzy skirts, mini skirts, maxi skirts, tie-dye, leather sandals, headbands, love beads, rose or blue tinted granny glasses and anything with fringe.

Seventeen Magazine

Model Susan Dey before The Partridge Family and L.A. Law

And don’t forget the flower for your hair, preferably a daisy.   

The song San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) was written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas,to promote the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.    It also gave birth to the flower-child movement and the phrase flower-power.  

At age ten, I remember being annoyed when my first pair of bell bottoms got caught in the spokes of my bike, but later being quite envious of my grade eight teachers mini skirts and especially her long black maxi coat.  By high school short skirts were all the rage even in Canada, and my mother, who made our navy uniforms, made them short, but we still rolled them shorter, until the nuns caught you out.   By grade eleven she had given in, but it does make me cringe now looking my high school year book that they were that short.   I believe the nuns had given up by then too.   One year hot pants were in, but not part of the uniform.   The nuns would have fainted at that.    I had a pair I wore under a matching mini dress.   By grade twelve we were allowed to wear navy pants, but nobody did as jeans were in, wide and flared by then. 

But back to party prep….(which as I recall was often the best part of a night out). 

I found a pink cotton embroidered shirt, last worn fifteen years ago, in the back of a closet, and piled on some beads and bracelets.    As luck would have it, I had also found a suede necklace with a peace symbol at an outdoor craft show the weekend before, a bargain at $10.   

Hippy outfit Woodstock

Finishing touch, some dangling feather earrings.   I had a problem with my gold chain headband, as I have bangs and it did not sit quite right.   Alas, I did not have any bell bottom blue jeans, faded or otherwise, as in this famous Cat Stevens song, so regular skinny jeans had to do.  (How is it that I now own only one pair of jeans, which I admit haven’t been worn in two years, and seemed a bit snug, but isn’t that why yoga pants were invented). 

The residents really got into the spirit of the evening.   There were prizes for best costumes and I got some great ideas should I decide to resurrect my hippy costume for Halloween.    Daisy chain headbands, flowing caftans, ponchos, embroidered jean jackets, with most of the guys looking like cool cats in their bandannas.    Obviously, many of these people had lived through the era, and had a better idea than I did.   Someone had tie-died some white sheets to hang as a backdrop behind the stage.  As my only memory of tie-dye was a blue and white t-shirt which came out uneven, I had no idea it could be so colorful. 

Woodstock - Tie-DyeUnfortunately, after Bad Moon rising, the musician/guitar player wandered into the wrong decade and stayed there, as I’m sure Tequila Sunrise and Margaritaville were not played at Woodstock.   His final nod to the sixties was Love Potion Number Nine, when really it was Diovol I needed, as the food was – well the polite word might be – institutionalized.   Can you dig it?   No I could not, and this is coming from someone who ate hospital food for years way better than that.   Unlike the original Woodstock, no drugs were allowed, well at least no psychedelic ones.   Although marijuana is legal now in Canada and they are even trialing it in nursing homes for pain control (don’t get me started), there was none in evidence.   Thank God, smoking inside buildings is not allowed.   

As parties go, it ended fairly early, but I was tired (one of the disadvantages of getting older is you can stay out all night but you don’t want to), and this hippy-chick was happy to go home to my nice comfy bed and grateful I did not have to sleep out in the mud with half a million other people.   While not quite as exciting as the first Woodstock, it was a fun happening.    Maybe they can do it again in another fifty years and  invite the Rolling Stones – they’ll be 125 and on their final world tour. 

PS.  In these strange and tumultuous times, maybe we need to be reminded of those famous slogans, “Make Love, Not War” and “Give Peace a Chance.”  

PS.  Do you remember Woodstock and the hippy era?   Do you remember any of the fashions and music?    

PS.   I think we had much better music back then, a lot of which is still listened to today.   I may be showing my age, but I have a dislike for much of the current music scene, especially rap, which I feel is totally lacking in lyrics and melody.   I listen to classic rock, oldies but goodies stations, and even the really old classics like Sinatra and the Big Band era.   Younger readers, how do you feel about your generation’s music versus the older stuff?    Do you think it will have staying power?    I read recently that Drake has now surpassed the Beatles record of eleven number one hits in a single year/album, but I could not tell you one single song Drake song, or Beyonce or Justin Beiber for that matter  – I guess I have turned into my mother and just change the station! 

Summer Playlist

            Here are six pieces of musical nostalgia for your summer playlist, and a list of activities to accompany them – because life should have a soundtrack.   As I am a fan of all things vintage they are oldies but goodies, dating from the 50’s to the 70’s.    A millennial told me recently that he wished he had been born in 1960 because we had better music, and we did, but I would welcome any newer suggestions.  

Sailboat

Old Cape Cod – I love all those old classics from the 50’s and this song paints a picture of a part of the world I would love to visit, being a big fan of Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket novels and Susan Branch’s Martha’s Vineyard books.  It was first recorded in 1957 by Patti Page, but I like Bette Midler’s 1972 version as well.   Best served with a lobster stew in a restaurant with an ocean view.     

 

Hovercraft

You have to be crazy to try this…

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer.     Originally recorded in 1963 by Nat King Cole, this happy summer song is best served with soda, pretzels and beer while reading a book on the beach and wishing summer would always be here.    

 

Indian Lake

Indian Lake

Indian Lake – another tune from the sixties – 1968 The Cowsills.   I remember listening to this (now politically incorrect) song when I was a kid and we would go up to the Grove-on the-Lake to swim on summer Sundays after church.   Best served with a snack at the Grove diner after renting a canoe or while camping.  

 

picnic basket

 Hot Fun in the Summertime – recorded in 1969 by Sly and the Family Stone shortly after their performance at Woodstock.    Best served out in the country sun with a picnic basket or at any outdoor music concert.

 

sailboat river In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry – a British rock band debuted this hit in 1970 which became the carefree summer song of the baby boomer generation.   Best served with a milkshake or smoothie while driving a jeep along the lake.    (Don’t drink and drive!)

 

pool chair

photo from poolsuppliescanada.ca

Sunny Afternoon – recorded by The Kinks in 1967 as a protest to the British taxes paid by rich rock stars.    Best served while lazing in a swimming pool with an ice cold beer in hand while dreaming of winning the lottery. 

 

Postscript:  I suppose I could have called this six summertime hits from the sixties.  Notice I said we had better music, not hairstyles or clothing!    

What is your favorite summertime song? 

 

  

The Simply White Dinner

simply white dinner

           The Simply White Dinner is an annual event which originated in Paris twenty-five years ago and has now spread to cities all over the world.   The local version of this outdoor picnic has sold out again.  Every year this event gets bigger and more extravagant and every year people pay for the privilege of sitting with 300 other guests all wearing white on a summer evening and listen to jazz music while they dine on their own picnic fare.    Tickets are $60 per pair, (only pairs as the organizers want an even number of tables), and every year it sells out.   And yes, you bring your own food.   The $60 charge is only for the ambiance.   Bottles of wine (presumably white) are available for purchase, but you must bring your own bottle opener, white picnic basket/bag/cooler, white china, glass ware, real cutlery, (no plastic please), white linen napkins (to wave in the air for the group picture) and centerpiece (perhaps white hydrangeas).   You must wear white, and only white, except for footwear.    Elegance is encouraged, hats, fascinators, white boas, white gloves etc.   They supply the tables and chairs, the white tablecloths and the music.   The rest is up to you.   The location is top secret until the day before the event, presumably to avoid gawkers (although it might be hard to hide 300 chairs) but is usually somewhere along the waterfront.   This year they had a perfect summer evening with a lovely breeze coming off the water, last year it was sultry and sweltering hot.   It’s hard to dress chic when the humidity soars to over 40 C. 

           Now if you are a romantic at heart this sounds very enticing.   The event organizers promise a magical evening of outdoor dining, music and dancing under the stars.   It does sound wonderful and very Gatsbyish….who wouldn’t want to dress up like Daisy Buchanan?

       Except even the local newspaper christened it The Chic Potluck because……where are all the men?    The closeup in the paper showed a long table of stylishly dressed women with hats and white flowers or wreaths in their hair, with a few dapper men here and there, coerced into white suits or white golf shirts and white pants by their wives, but they were older, grayer men who may have grown up with John Travolta’s white disco suit in Saturday Night Fever, or perhaps Don Johnson’s pale linen jackets in Miami Vice, or maybe even Humphrey Bogart’s white tuxedo in Casablanca.    White is not a color favored by a lot of men, except for the classic white dress shirt which accompanies suits and ties, and I believe even that has fallen out of favor except for funerals and weddings.   Women enjoy wearing white, and as Jane Austen famously quoted in Mansfeld Park, “A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white” but I think Jane was probably thinking of younger women.    I abandoned white years ago as it can be unflattering to the skin tone of women over fifty.   In fact I don’t believe I own a single white item in my wardrobe.  I also can’t sit in the direct sun for three hours – would my beige parasol be confiscated at the door?   Parasol

Informal poll:  Female readers would your boyfriend/husband/male significant other be willing to don white (and we’re not talking white t-shirts here), to attend such an event?  (Male readers I would like your opinion too).  Men might be enticed by the promise of a good meal, but remember you are bringing your own food and it probably won’t be them making or packing the picnic lunch.   All of these are perfectly valid reasons to just stay home.   Still I am feeling a bit wistful about missing the promise of an enchanting evening(musical interlude from South Pacific) 

             The first year they allowed registrants to pre-order a boxed meal of a salad with protein/chicken for $22 (has anyone noticed that the $15 salad has now become $20) but that was soon abandoned, probably for liability reasons.   There are suggestions for picnic fare on the website…..appetizers, sandwiches, deserts.   The food does not have to be white, but what if it was?  If we’re going to have a theme here let’s go all out.   How about aged white cheddar with crackers, and white radishes and cauliflower veggies with ranch dip as appetizers.   Lobster or lobster rolls, or tuna on French bread.  Or that perennial picnic favorite, cold chicken and potato salad with white chocolate mousse or  crème brulee for desert?    Sounds like a plan, and you don’t have to pay sixty dollars to do it – you can put the money you save towards the lobsters.   Just organize a party for your own backyard some soft summer evening.   Invite some friends over and serve Prosecco or Pina Coladas.   Play old vintage Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin tunes instead of that horrible screechy jazz.   You might even cheat and stay out until midnight if your neighbors don’t object, instead of packing it in at ten as the official white party does.   (I’m not sure how much dancing under the stars would get done when it doesn’t even get dark here until well after nine, but you might get a good forty-five minutes of twilight twirling in). 

      Being possessed of an analytical mind, I decided to do the math.    300 tickets X $30 is $9000.   Nine thousand dollars to cover the rental of the table and chairs, the tablecloths and the jazz trio and DJ, might still leave some money left over, but as I don’t know anything about event planning, maybe they just break even?   They say they do it for the fun, it’s not a charity event.   It does seem like a lot of money though for some ambiance.   Last year I had tickets for a Local Harvest dinner, where for $30 a person you got an actual meal outdoors at the local farmers market square.   Although it was the end of September (timed for the harvest moon) and a coolish night they had heaters and a band played later.  (This reasonable price however might have been subsidized by the culinary arts students from the local college learning their trade).   The meal itself consisted of artisan bread, potato soup, locally sourced salad greens, a beef and a turkey entree, rustic vegetables and assorted homemade pies for desert.   And recently I attended a church dinner where the menu was a starter chopped salad, roast beef, chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, carrots, coleslaw and homemade strawberry trifle for desert.  (This meal however might have been subsidized by the church coffers as a thank you to the volunteers).    And last June I attended a WW2 swing dance in an airport hangar, with a truly memorable roast beef and chicken buffet with the most scrumptious cheesecake for desert with a choice of lemon, cherry or blueberry toppings, and afterwards an evening of big band music with a 23-person orchestra.   Vintage dress was encouraged, some women did, most men did not, although I did see a few who might have been wearing their grandpa’s old uniform.   Tickets for that charity event were $75 per person, but as they have increased it to $100 per person this year they must not have made any money.   So, it is possible to have both food and ambiance for a price, (and it is possible to get members of the male species out for an evening of dining and dancing if there is a vintage B17 bomber on display to tour). B17 bomber

        Perhaps it is a case of country mouse versus city mouse, but if given a choice I think I prefer food over ambiance.   Still if Jay Gatsby offered to buy the tickets next year and pack me a picnic basket I might be persuaded to attend.     

Song of the Night:   Dancing in the Moonlight

Quote of the Day:    “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights.  In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.  (The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald)

 

 

         

 

 

Music and Poetry for a Snowy Day

Karen Cullaton - In The Moon of Winter - Alcohol Ink on Yupo

                   In The Moon of Winter – Alcohol Ink on Yupo                                                                                                                                     

          I love music, but I’m not a big fan of poetry.   While I have no wish to offend anyone, I find a lot of it depressing, although it is entirely possible that I might be basing my opinion on too much Sylvia Path, having had little exposure to more modern poetry.   But then I feel the same way about most abstract art.  If I have to spend too much time figuring out what something is supposed to mean, I lose interest.  Too many high school English classes spent deconstructing metaphors ruined poetry for me for good.   Not that there aren’t perfectly wonderful poems out there.   While searching for a quote on winter in my new Bartlett’s Book of Quotations, I came across the poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost.   Robert Frost (1874-1963) was an American poet famous for his poems about rural New England, winner of four Pulitzer prizes and poet laureate of Vermont.   This poem was published in 1923 when he was living on a farm and horses were still a big part of the countryside and it seems particularly appropriate for this wintry time of year.   His other most famous poem is The Road Not Taken. Both are lovely poems but I will spare you the analysis, because that is the part of poetry I hated.   A good poem should be able to explain itself.   

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening 

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”  Copyright 1923. 
Snowy Woods - AMc - 2018

Snowy Woods – 2018

        It may be old-fashioned but I like the rhyming of the stanzas, that is an art form which you don’t see much anymore.   I remember studying both poems in grade eight as poetry was part of the curriculum.  Our teacher was a sixties hippy-child and being only nineteen herself, she wore mini skirts and maxi coats and let us listen to records in class, I Am A Rock (music link) and Sounds of Silence, the music of that generation being a form of poetry in itself.   Although I am fairly certain Simon and Garfunkel were not part of the English curriculum, no one told.   

I Am A Rock   

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing from my window
To the streets below
On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island

I’ve built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock
I am an island

Don’t talk of love
Well, I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
And I won’t disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died
If I never loved, I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Simon and Garfunkel – I Am A Rock – Sounds of Silence copyright 1965

            Our young teacher was correct, for what is a song but poetry set to music?   I sometimes think that is what is lacking in modern music, often the lyrics are stupid, profane, repetitive or just plain bad.  I think that is why I prefer those old classics from Sinatra & Company, the lyrics rhymed.   Taylor Swift is a modern musician who uses rhyming effectively.   While rap music may have rhyming lyrics it is sorely missing in melody, being able to string stanzas together does not a song make if there is no discernible tune.    Check out this 1937 Irving Berlin tune, I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm, for a cheerful rhyming melody about winter.    Click here for link to Ella. 

The snow is snowing and the wind is blowing
But I can weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
For I’ve got my love to keep me warm
I can’t remember a worse December
Just watch those icicles form!
Oh, what do I care if icicles form?
I’ve got my love to keep me warm
Off with my overcoat, off with my glove
I need no overcoat, I’m burning with love!
My heart’s on fire, the flame grows higher
So I will weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
I’ve got my love to keep me warm.
Here’s a sadder tune with a Toronto locale from Bruce Cockburn, a Canadian singer/songwriter, with simple but vivid lyrics.  (music link)     
The Coldest Night of the Year  (Bruce Cockburn – copyright 1981)
I was up all night, socializing
Trying to keep the latent depression from crystalizing
Now the sun is lurking just behind the Scarborough horizonAnd you’re not even here
On the coldest night of the year.I took in Yonge Street at a glance
Heard the punkers playing
Watched the bikers dance
Everybody wishing they could go to the south of France

And you’re not even here
On the coldest night of the year

Hey look at me now
See the shape I’m in
It’s taken me so long to catch on to what’s going on
Inside this skin
When two lovers really love there’s nothing there
But this suddenly compact universe
Skin and breath and hair

I watched the all night TV show
In the all night bar
I drove all the people home
I was the one with the car

Now I’m sitting here alone and sleepless
And wondering where you are
And wishing you were here
On the coldest night of the year

 

        Gordon Lightfoot, a songwriter/poet from the sixties was another master at rhyming stanzas, his Song For A Winter’s Night is a Canadian classic.
 

Song For A Winter’s Night  (Gordon Lightfoot – copyright 1967)

The lamp is burning low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon the page
The words of love you sent me

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are lifting
The morning light steals across my window pane
Where webs of snow are drifting

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with with you
To be once again with with you

Song For A Winter’s Night – Gordon Lightfoot – click here for music link 

                There was an article recently in the newspaper about a lecture series and one of the topics was how to write a hit pop song in thirty minutes. A local musician is going to solicit a poem from the audience at random and write a hit tune to that poem on the spot.   Sounds intriguing….so I got out my old rhyming dictionary and set to work. 

On a winter afternoon
a summer’s day in June
cannot really come too soon
let’s all go to Cancun
(Chorus)
Forget the snow
Let’s pack and go

There you have it – my first song.   Ok, it needs work…..but it’s clear all the good lyrics are already taken.

Postscript:   While the lecture was interesting for a non-musician like me, I was disappointed in the song.   Since no one was brave enough to volunteer their own creation, the musician selected a W.B. Yeats poem (the Lake Isle of Innisfree) from a book of poetry someone had brought and sang what sounded like a Gregorian chant.  Lacking proper rhyming structure poor old Yeats did not translate well to melody, but perhaps it might have been a hit in 1888?  

Postscript:   My apologies if the spacing is off in the lyrics sections of this post. There must be something I am doing wrong with WordPress, as it looks fine in Draft form,  but they seem to have a mind of their own and swear they Ain’t Misbehavin‘.   

 

 

Here We Come A Wassailing

New Years Song: Here We Come A Wassailing – the Barra MacNeils – music link

         Wassailing is an old British custom associated with New Years which originated in the fifteenth century.   It is usually celebrated on Twelfth Night – Jan 5 or 6.   The tradition of wassailing falls into two different types, the house-visiting type which consists of neighbors roaming from door to door singing and drinking from a wassail bowl, which later became caroling,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and the orchard-visiting wassail, which refers to the ancient ceremony of visiting apple orchards in the cider producing regions of England, and singing and reciting blessings to the trees in order to promote a good harvest for the following year.   The wassail itself was a cider or ale based hot drink seasoned with spices and honey and served in a huge bowl made of silver or pewter.   The greeting wassail comes from the English term “waes hael” meaning “be well” which is what we traditionally wish for everyone at New Year’s – health and happiness for the coming year.

     The song Here We Come A Wassailing dates from 1850, and later morphed into Here We Come A Caroling.  Here are the very catchy lyrics, best sung with a pewter mug in hand. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand’ring
So fair to be seen.

REFRAIN:
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are your neighbors’ children,
Whom you have seen before.

REFRAIN

Good master and good mistress,
While you’re sit beside the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who are wandering in the mire.

REFRAIN

Call up the butler of this house,
Put on his golden ring.
Let him bring us up a glass of beer,
And better we shall sing.

      Yes, who doesn’t sing better with a little alcohol in them.  Think of it as a kind of medieval karaoke, not drunk but with just enough of a glow to warm the tingling fingers and toes on a cold winter’s night.    The pewter mugs are family artifacts, but lacking an ancient wassail bowl I improvised with a plug-in soup tureen, (thrift shop find $7), although a slow cooker crock-pot would work well too.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are numerous recipes for wassail on the internet, including some non-alcoholic as well for children or non-drinkers.    

mulling spice recipes 2 (3)       

      I tried the Cranberry and Spice Wassail recipe on the packet of Gourmet Village mulling spices and it was good but I think I would substitute apple cider for some of the water to give it more flavor, and I also added more honey to sweeten it.   Both the Mulled Cider and Mulled Wine recipes sound comforting too, and because it’s all about jacket (4)

 don’t forget to serve some food so those merry revelers don’t get too drunk and curse your apple orchards instead, because then you may not have a good crop and as the British novelist Jane Austen said, “Apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.”

      I recently tried this recipe for Caramel Apple Cider from the Southern Living Christmas All Through the South cookbook 2013 – 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla and 4 cups apple cider.  Stir together brown sugar and whipping cream in a large saucepan.  Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for two minutes or until bubbly.  Stir in vanilla and apple cider.  Cook ten minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring often.   May garnish with whipped cream, caramel sauce or ground cinnamon.    It really is like drinking liquid apple pie.    

Ringing in the New Year, with best wishes for health and happiness in 2018!

Joy to The World – Christmas Playlist

Violin and Horn - AMc - 1990

Violin and Horn – 1980

 I have been listening to Christmas music lately, because it’s hard not to, with it blasting over the intercom twenty four hours a day in every store and workplace, telling us ’tis the season to be merry and be of good cheer, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la.  This is the most profitable time of the year for most businesses and they are just doing their part to get us into the Christmas spirit.   I love Christmas music, I really do, but in small doses, and not the same old songs, over and over again.  You hardly ever hear a lot of the old Christmas classics anymore, especially if they are religious hymns, so last week when I found a stack of vintage records from the 40’s and 50’s in my mother’s basement it was like finding treasure.   They were stored in brown cardboard albums, a 78 in each paper sleeve, mostly Hit Parade tunes,

but also a few smaller 45’s of children’s music.   I was surprised at how thick the vinyl was, compared to albums from later years.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I didn’t recognize many of the Hit Parade ones but I took a trip down memory lane with the 45’s – Horace the Horse, On Top of Old Smoky, Did You Ever See a Lassie – the lyrics came back in a flash.   We had a portable stereo in the sixties and then one of those big furniture cabinets in the early seventies that played eight tracks too, but my mother says she remembers playing those vintage records on an old phonograph that you wound up by hand when she first moved to the farm in 1944.   Her farm had hydro, but my father’s didn’t until after the war. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 There were a few Christmas classics in the bunch – an original Columbia records Gene Autry – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, (one of the best selling records of all time), with If It Doesn’t Snow on Christmas on the B Side, and a Silent Night/Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Silver Bells by Bing Crosby.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe children’s 45’s included Frosty the Snow Man, with God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman and Joy to the World on the flip side, and Santa Clause is Coming to Town with Silent Night.    (Note to self – check Ebay to see if any of these are worth anything…just out of curiosity, you can’t sell childhood memories).   

I used to listen to Christmas music every day during my commute to work, (while an hour a day of Christmas music can be good for the soul, listening to it for eight hours a day in a retail environment is not).  I would flip over to an American radio station which had made it a tradition to start playing it the day after Halloween.   This station tended to play the same soundtrack, over and over again, and while I liked most of the selections, there were some that just made me cringe and change the dial – Feliz Navidad, You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch, Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas time, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Santa Baby, the Charlie Brown Christmas instrumental, and that annoying Chipmunk song. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer is just plain wrong, what kind of song is that for little kids, reindeer bashing at it’s worst!    And I am probably the only person who doesn’t like Mariah Carey’s, All I Want For Christmas Is You – that high note at the end hurts my ears, and it reminds me of old episodes of Ally McBeal walking home by her lonely self at the end of every single episode.  I can listen to Jingle Bell Rock and Rocking around the Xmas Tree, but only once per season.   While I realize everyone has individual favorites, why would they include those when there are so many wonderful songs to get you in the Christmas mood.       

Old Christmas hymns can bring on an instant attack of nostalgia.  Going through the stack of old albums from the sixties I came across Christmas with Mitch Miller.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When my dad used to watch Sing a Long with Mitch on Saturday nights, there were lyrics at the bottom of the tv screen, and yes tucked inside the album cover was a yellowed song sheet if you wanted to sing along.   Does anyone remember when newspapers used to print songbooks for caroling at Christmas?   What wonderful memories that album evoked, of going to midnight mass, when it was still at midnight, and struggling to stay awake, while the choir boomed out a resounding version of Hark the Harold and Joy to the World at the end, and you went out into the frosty night wishing everyone Merry Christmas, and then home to a midnight feast of bacon and eggs and sausage and then to bed way past one.  This was a family tradition as we always slept in on Christmas morn, except for my poor mother who would get up at 4:30 to put the turkey in the oven for the 1:30 dinner with our grandparents and then go back to bed.   We weren’t allowed to open our presents until my dad came in from milking the cows.  The last time I went to Christmas eve mass, about a decade ago, it was at 9pm and there was folk music, which was okay but not compared to these…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

   The Andy Williams Christmas album was another favorite, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(although I now dislike the highly overplayed Most Wonderful Time of The Year), as was Burl Ives, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.  My mother used to sing that in the kitchen, and it really was her favorite time of year.  We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but my parents always made sure we had a good Christmas.  Other memorable songs off that album were, Please Send Some Snow For Johnny, and Silver and Gold.   Other great albums were the Carpenters – Karen Carpenter had the clear pure voice of an angel, (There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays, Merry Christmas Darling, What are you doing New Years Eve), Boney M (Mary’s Boy Child, I’ll be Home for Christmas, When Darkness is Falling) and the whole soundtrack of the movie White Christmas, (Snow, The Best Things Happen While Your Dancing, Count your Blessings, and the army songs).   My Dad had a deep baritone like Bing Crosby, and used to sing the odd line in the barn while feeding the cattle, so I have a hard time listening to White Christmas.   Any Christmas song that makes you think of happier times can be a sad song when you are feeling nostalgic for Christmases past and loved ones who are gone.   Then there are others, the songs that are just plain sad, like Grown Up Christmas list, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, I’ll Be Home for Christmas if only in my Dreams, Blue Christmas, The Christmas song (NatKingCole), Silver Bells etc.    I love the Rosemary Clooney verision of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, but that line, “through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow” always makes me feel sad. 

If you want some merrier songs – We Need a Little Christmas, Must Be Santa, Christmas in Kilarney, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, are good choices and I can even stomach I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas if there are some wee ones around to march to the beat.   Ring Christmas Bells by the Trans-Siberian orchestra remains a personal favorite of mine for it’s uplifting beat, their Christmas Cannon is a like a soothing meditation with a children’s choir, and Here We Come Awassailing reminds me of a Dickens Christmas.  

For romantic Christmas songs you can’t beat, Let it Snow, Baby It’s Cold Outside or Sleigh Ride, for invoking visions of a simpler old fashioned time.  Who wouldn’t want to go for a ride in a one-horse open sleigh like Currier and Ives? 

sleigh ride 3 (2)   This is a picture of my uncle in the old cutter sleigh from the farm.   When we were kids the sleigh was stuck up in the rafters of the implement shed where it’s black leather seat made a fine nesting place for mice.  In the early nineteen hundred’s my ancestors used to go to church in this very same sleigh when the roads were bad, because despite the snow and the cold, no one ever missed church!

Sleigh Ride - AMc - 2016

Sleigh Ride – 2016

 There’s a wonderful stanza in Sleigh Ride – “There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy.  When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie.  It’ll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives. These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives.”   When we are older we don’t remember most of the presents we got, but we do remember the whole family sitting around the dinner table and talking and even after the big turkey feast there was always room for desert.   After the table was cleared, we ladies would spend two hours in the kitchen hand washing dishes, and then it would be set again for evening supper after the presents were played with and the chores were done, and we would end the day with a late-night game of euchre, except for me.  I would be curled up in a corner reading whatever book Santa had brought me, as that was always my favorite present.  (There may be a blog on Dickens A Christmas Carol next week if time and snowstorms permit). 

me reading (4)

      Down in my basement I have an old stereo unit that I bought at Sears years ago.  It plays cds, tapes and albums, and while I’m wrapping presents this year I will be singing along with Mitch.  What’s on your Christmas playlist?  Your most loved and most hated Christmas songs?  Please leave a comment if you wish.

Song of the Day:  Joy to the World – Mormon Tabernacle Choir – click here for music link