Talented feline, Nora, continues to astonish "youtubers" drawing over 7.5 million viewers. It all started when piano instructor,Betsy Alexander, would teach lessons while the cat sat nearby on a second piano calmly pawing at keys. Alexander noticed the cat coming to the piano repeatedly, even playing duets with students. She decided to make a video and post it to youtube.com so her niece in Wyoming could see this funny cat. There are many people who like the cute animal videos posted to this site. Consequently in no time, Nora's video had received over 7 million hits. Two musicians, Skip Haynes and Dana Walden from California, saw the clip of Nora and saw great potential in the sequential notes Nora was playing. They called Alexander and asked if they could produce cd of Nora. Wait until you see the clip. They made a virtuoso out of this cute little feline. Nora has just released her debut album entitled "Cat on the Keys". CBS News asked if Nora would be touring, but the pet owner and piano teacher laughingly says that Nora is only a studio musician. Go to this link to see this talented cat. http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/i_video/main500251.shtml?id=3647284n
By the way, here are some pictures of Christmas in California. Some are in San Francisco with the Bradburys (Tabby's parents from Bethel, Alaska). There is one of my Mom's fabulously decorated Christmas dining room table. You'll also see the kids opening presents and the adults snoozing after the carb-filled Christmas dinner. Paul, Lorraine and their family also drove in late that night and stayed a few days with us. We also got to spend some time with some old "Orangehood" friends (Karla and Chad, you know what I'm talking about) as well as Matt and Tishauna Jones, Doug and Becky Salters, Paul and Darcy Baumeister, Wayne and Paula Scott, Amy and Gerardo Diaz, and Ryan Caputo... as well as seeing all the precious friends at church Sunday morning. We also had a surprise visit from Bishop Young and Pastor Young and their families. What fun we had!! Special thanks to: Steve for the gourmet chicken pasta and fried turkey in special Louisiana baste. Brent for the gourmet crab bisque and garlic mashed potatoes. (Its wonderful having brothers who can cook gourmet.) Tabitha for the Pumpkin rolls. Mom for the homemade Ruth's Chris sweet potato casserole (out of this world), prime rib, honey baked ham, cherry cheese pie, green bean casserole, and corn, prime rib. Sis.Bradbury for Chocolate pretzels and peppermint cookies. We also had a visit from Bro.Walker who came bearing gifts: Sis.Walker's peach pie (mmmmm mmmmm mmmmmmm!!) It was a wonderful dinner and a great time being together again.
The new year is rapidly approaching. Do you have your list of resolutions ready? Often people make resolutions they cannot keep, or simply won't keep. We start out with good intentions but soon find ourselves falling short. We can keep our resolutions if we start out simple and build on them. Here are a few I'm thinking about.
-Eat healthier -Be a better music teacher -Be a better wife, mother, friend -Notice not good, but great things in people -Practice more classical music -Show more appreciation -Live life to the fullest -Give everything my best shot -Spend more time with family -Be a good listener -Not just tell people, but show people that I love them -Be a Proverbs 31 woman -Not good, but great -Inspire not good, but great -Witness more -Drink at least 3 bottles of water per day -Keep in better touch with long distance friends and family
I may add to this later. But these thoughts have been with me today, Christmas day. What are your thoughts for the coming year?
Christmas is a wonderful time of year... a time to celebrate Jesus' birthday (although we have no proof when His birthday actually was). In our culture, when you honor someone's birth, you often reminisce about things they've done or accomplished and recognize them publicly. I am so thankful that my Savior robed Himself in flesh, slept his first nights in a humble animal feeding trough, and grew up to endure severe animosity, persecution, rejection, and humiliation for my sake. He did it all for me... and you. I am thankful because He died on a cross so that I could have salvation, healing, deliverance, and live in blessing (what a gift!). I am also thankful that because of this, I have an eternal home where one day I (the bride) will meet my groom face to face (what another fantastic gift!). This is what Christmas means to me.
Christmas is also about the celebration. Many times in our culture, friends and family get together and have big dinners and play games all day. At one point, there is the tradition of gift giving. Jesus set the example for us by giving Himself. This is a very fun holiday tradition. However, with all the lights, music, toys, and loud festivities, gift giving can sometimes be very stressful..
Problem: Gift giving at Christmas can be extremely stressful. You hope that the gift you select will be truly appreciated. You worry about someone not liking the gift that you saved all year for. You worry that its too cheap, too expensive, too functional, too practical, too outrageous, too personal, too impersonal, on and on....We spend so much time second guessing ourselves, that we are forced into choosing everyone else's leftovers... the items that are not getting bought in the first place. Hence, the cycle repeats itself on different terms: stress of inadequate selection, stress that you have to give something that you only bought out of obligation, stress that you don't even like the gift you're giving, and stress because you know the receiver will not like it either. Will it never end?
Solution: We often forget about those things that are so intangible yet tangible. There are people who have yearned for years to learn something but have never stopped to consider the where's and why's. People often tell me, "I have always wanted to play the piano." Or I get this, "I'd just like to have an introductory course to music." And "I know I'm already (such and such age), do you think its too late to learn how to play music?" It just seems intangible to some so they don't risk buying into it. Do it for them instead. Why not give someone the gift of music lessons, be it piano, voice, violin, saxophone, etc.? God gave us all the ability to learn (another gift), and the gift just needs to be extracted. A few years ago, I had a mother of three approach me before Christmas and tell me that she wanted to sign her children up for piano lessons. The kids were to open up small boxes on Christmas morning and find a "coupon" for piano lessons with myself as teacher for a solid year. The kids were ecstatic. There are so many people who wish they knew how to play an instrument. Look them up in your area or do a Google search. This is a gift that becomes very tangible; it never quits giving because it stays with you in your memory and in your soul as you learn how to play.
Chorus II did a great job last night. I got the recording from Bro.Wisener and listened to it today. I am so pleased. I think this class did a great job and especially after I told them to just relax and have fun with the songs. Here are some pictures of our fun time last night.
Thanks for all your hard work. You deserve a nice long well-earned vacation until next semester. =)
Have you ever tried to imitate that favorite singer or speaker? Many times we are able to come very close when we try hard enough. Just by watching some one's mouth, often times you can clearly decipher which muscles they are using to produce the given sound and thus you can easily mimic their sound. Every human being has his/her own vocal quality and God-given trademark sound. At a very young age we begin learning to mimic sounds and accents simply by hearing those around us. We mimic the muscular speech patterns of people closest. Regional speech patterns are dialects or "accents". Your personal accent is "a result of the infinite variety of shapes formed in the throat or the pharynx and the movement patterns of the tongue and jaw" (Bunch 269). I remember as a child in church listening to those around me sing, "I've got joy like a river, and it flows continuously." In my little ears, I heard, "I've got joy like a river, and it flows stin stinuously." Don't ask me what "stin stinuously" is, but I'll tell you I was mimicking the sounds around me. Those around me would have flunked Chorus II class. LOL.
Co-authors of The Singing Book, Bunch and Vaughn note: "While the sound is initiated in the larynx, the quality of sound depends on the shape of the pharynx." The pharynx or throat is flexible and able to form many shapes. Each shape causes your voice to produce different vocal qualities. Try to imitate these singers: Louis Armstrong, Pavarotti, and Mahalia Jackson. What did you notice happened in your pharynx? Now try to sing these styles: country, jazz, gospel, and pop. Notice how these style genres shape their throats differently for vowel pronunciation (Vowels are what produce the tones). See if you can discover what shapes makes them different.
Tidbit: the pharynx has a dual purpose. First, it aids as an air and food passageway. When you breath, it must be large and spacious. When you swallow, it closes around food and pushes it down into the esophagus. Bunch states, "When you swallow, the whole pharynx is pulled up and narrowed to squeeze the food down." She adds, "This brings the food up with it." Thus the whole throat area is very small. When the pharynx muscles relax, the space is large... and perfect for obtaining the most resonance and a "freely produced sound." People sing using many throat shapes and sizes. Yawn! When you yawn, the pharynx is large and spacious enough to produce a beautiful blending tone quality. I tell singers to think dome shape and vertically vs. horizontally when they sing... and that's a whole different post. Stay tuned! =)
Tomorrow night is the big night for Chorus II students. Tonight after church those of you who want to go over your solo project with Bro. I and myself can do so. Remember tomorrow night we are going to start later. 6:45 for rehearsal and 7:00 for ensemble final. Immediately following will be your solo projects. Remember you've been practicing 5 hours every week, you know your material, so don't let nerves get the best of you. YOU ARE TERRIFIC!!! Sing imagining you are getting to entertain the King of Kings in His Throne Room. What an honor!! Get lost in it! Even though its just music faculty in the room "grading you", sing for His glory. The confidence in that alone will help you to sail through this exam.
Rather than cds, I've actually been listening to the radio and I found a station that plays all my favorites except for Harry Conick Jr's "The Happy Elf" and David Phelps singing "Oh Holy Night." There is no one, and I really do mean NO ONE, that can sing it quite like him. Those are the only two songs I'm missing this season on my local station... and I do miss them terribly.
There's Chipmunks for the tots, Harry for the Holidays for the fun and festive, Celine Dion for the sentimental, Josh Groban for the ummmm Sarah (jk) for the classic type (See Sarah's blog for photo =), Jackson 5 for your all American, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra for the traditional, Transiberian Christmas for the rocker, Stevie Wonder for the vintage, John Tesh and Kenny G for the relaxed soothing holiday-er (nice Christmas dinner music), Ray Stevens for the comedian, Pastor Myles Young's "Christmas in California for the Jazzy California lover (we all love that one).... Did I miss one? How about you? What are you listening to this Christmas season?
PS I don't know the man who sings it, but there is this HILAROUS version of "Twelve Days of Christmas." Help: Who is it?
Contemporary Christian artist, Mark Schultz, has got to be my favorite songwriter at the moment. He captures the listener's very soul with his storytelling songs. He is a seasoned artist who just began his claim to fame in 2001, but acquired much experience from holding position as youth pastor at his local church. He states that young people connect to storytelling so he began putting music with his stories. Schultz has already made it to #1 on numerous music charts, Christian and secular.
I'd like to point out that "Everything To Me" by Mark Schultz is getting a wide range of attention and not much less of a response from mothers who have given their children up for adoption. Mark, who collaborated with Cindy Morgan (another incredible songwriter) for this song, was himself adopted and not only writes this song from experience, but also draws from the experiences of mothers who have had to make this tortuous decision to give up their baby. After having a baby of my own, I could never imagine the anguish at having to give him up. At a concert, there was a very young mother who had already made an appointment to have an abortion the following week. She had no means to care for the baby and falsely believed this was her only option. However, after she heard this song that embraced that growing life within her, she canceled that fatal date and decided to give her baby to a family trying to adopt. I can't tell you how this song has moved me (Don't expect to not cry if you watch it. I cried my eyes out.).
Lyrics: I must have felt your tears When they took me from your arms I’m sure I must have heard you say goodbye Lonely and afraid had you made a big mistake Could an ocean even hold the tears you cried
But you had dreams for me You wanted the best for me And you made the only choice you could that night
(Chorus) You gave life to me A brand new world to see Like playing baseball in the yard with dad at night Mom reading Goodnight Moon And praying in my room So if you worry if your choice was right You gave me up but you gave everything to me
And if I saw you on the street Would you know that it was me And would your eyes be blue or green like mine Would we share a warm embrace Would you know me in your heart Or would you smile and let me walk on by Knowing you had dreams for me You wanted the best for me And I hope that you’d be proud of who I am
(Chorus) You gave life to me A chance to find my dreams And a chance to fall in love You should have seen her shining face On our wedding day Oh is this the dream you had in mind When you gave me up You gave everything to me
And when I see you there Watching from heaven’s gates Into your arms I’m gonna run And when you look in my eyes You can see my whole life See who I was And who I’ve become
Feel free to go to his website and listen to this song: markschultzmusic.com/nationaladoptionmonth.htm. How about you... do you know a child given up for adoption, or a mother who had to give her baby up? Maybe you were that individual: mother/child. I am neither but felt the full impact of the decision this mother had to make by listening to these words put to the power of music. To me it speaks of life and not death; of hope and not despair, of forgiveness and not shame and guilt. How does this song speak to you?
With a total of 5 projects out, some of my favorites of his are: "Remember Me," "I Have Been There," "Letters from war," "He's My Son," "Walking Her Home," "Back in His Arms Again," "Broken and Beautiful."
Chorus II students: Class this Thursday at 6pm; Monday at 6pm; Final is Wednesday at 5:45pm.
Last night Jeremy, Noah and I went to Books-a-million (we love bookstores... WITH CAFES... LOL). Yes, the usual holiday atmosphere was present. After perusing the entire bookstore for books and magazines to read, we settled ourselves down into the cafe for the duration. Jeremy sat facing the inside of the bookstore and I sat facing the window (Noah sat sleeping). I could not quite get a hold of myself because the noise coming from behind me was so giddy and made my insides want to burst. I tried looking in the reflection of the mirror to see who this sound was coming from. Finally I managed to turn in my seat and pretend to look at the people behind her. This lady was accompanying the Christmas carols played through the store's sound system at the top of her humming voice. She sat oblivious to everything around her and completely immersed in her book. It was TERRIFIC!!! I love what the Christmas Spirit does to people.
CA update: Last week I had the privilege of going back to CA for my future sister-in-law's (Heather Short) bridal shower. Noah and I flew with my Mother-in-law (Sis.Karen Wilbanks) and Sister-in-law (Tiffany Wells). We had a great time visiting, shopping, going to parties, and eating at favorite old haunts. Here's some pictures of our trip.