Category Archives: Music

Liverpool haunts: An ale and crisps birthday

Since my return from our London vacation, I have mined the experience for blog post material. Until today I hadn’t touched on the number one highlight of our trip: Liverpool.

We took an early train and arrived in Liverpool mid-morning. We promptly hired a Fab Four cab and spent two hours with a personal guide who took us to Beatles’ haunts: the house where Ringo was born, Penny Lane, the barber shop, Strawberry Field, and the church hall where John and Paul first met at a church fête. (The British pronounce this word like “fate,” for some strange reason.)

penny-lane

This all served as a fun warm-up for our afternoon activity: the National Trust tours of the childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. The National Trust maintains these properties with love and respect and allows wary access to others prepared to give the homes the same love and respect.

In front of Paul's house

In front of Paul’s house

The custodians share heartfelt personal stories of John and Paul, and they walk guests through the rooms where some of the most famous music in the world was born. We sang “Hey Jude” in Paul McCartney’s living room. We stood at his bedroom window and looked at what his view would have been like. We sang “Please, Please Me” in the front porch of John Lennon’s house, the same place he and John went for good acoustics. The doorknobs and light switches were original, so I think every person on our tour reached out to touch the doorknob and light switch of John Lennon’s bedroom. (Wouldn’t you?)

Beside the front porch where we sang.

Beside the front porch where we sang.

The evening found us at the Cavern Club, the music venue where the Beatles (and many others) got their start. We sang and danced under the ancient arches of the historic club—until we had to tear ourselves away to catch our London train.

cavern-sign

 

We happened to be in Liverpool on my birthday, so I can proudly say that for my birthday dinner, I enjoyed pints of ale at the Cavern Club and crisps on the train. (That’s potato chips in North America.)

Do I know how to celebrate 52, or what?

I was born in 1962, so I was too young to be a Beatles fan when their popularity first skyrocketed in the early 1960s. My interest in them came later. But my husband is a few years older than I am, and he had an older brother who was a teenager when the Beatles were prime time, so he is an avid fan and a trivia master of all things Beatles. Even though my passion for them should not even be measured on the same scale as his, I still visited these sacred sites with a sense of awe. I still reached out and touched the doorknobs and light switches. I slipped off my sandals and walked barefoot on the floors that Beatles’ feet touched.

They were simple human beings—not famous people—when they lived there, and tragic things happened. Both Paul and John were just teenagers when they lost their mothers when they were living in those homes. Paul’s stories had a before-and-after, “after Mom died,” theme. Paul’s father did his best, but “after Mom died” the meals weren’t as good, the cleaning not as thorough, and the furniture got a little shabby. Meanwhile, John’s mother was struck by a car—sent flying through they air—and killed instantly on the street where he lived.

Standing in the places where they lived when the world considered them ordinary and where they lived through those tragedies, I felt a “vibe,” a sense of the little pieces of them that still linger there. I felt it in the homes, I felt it when I danced and drank ale at the Cavern Club, I carried it with me to the train, and I remember it now.

Liverpool haunts.

strawberry-field

The gates of Strawberry Field

 

Paul McCartney: lighthouse

paul-mccartney-ottawa-july72013I was blessed enough to attend a Paul McCartney concert here in Ottawa on Sunday night—an evening of many perfect moments. Before he sang “Blackbird,” he told the audience he wrote the song at the time of civil unrest in the southern United States. When he wrote it, he envisioned someone strolling through a store feeling a lift of hope upon hearing the song over the speakers.

Paul McCartney: lighthouse.

A lighthouse stands steady and shines light to those who need help or guidance. The lighthouse doesn’t try to save everyone, everywhere; it shines light in its own corner of the world, leaving other rocky shores to the care of others. A lighthouse doesn’t target its light at a certain area. If it concentrated on one area or boat in distress, it would leave others to perish on the rocks. The light looks different to every receiver, depending on point of view. Some people can’t see the light at all, for they are too far away and don’t need the light. A lighthouse shines steadily, dependably as a source of good.

McCartney asked how many people in the audience had tried to learn “Blackbird” on the guitar. I sizable portion had. (I have. Have you?) When I plucked out those notes on my guitar, I didn’t know the spark that had led to its creation. I just knew it gave me a lift of hope.

McCartney shone the light of “Blackbird.” He didn’t try to save everyone, everywhere; he shone his light in his corner of the world and left other rocky shores to the care of others. He didn’t target his song in a certain area so he wouldn’t leave others to perish on the rocks. The song looked different to every receiver, depending on point of view. Some people didn’t see it at all, for they were far away and didn’t need the light.

The song shone steadily, dependably as a source of good.

Photo courtesy of Shawn M. Kent  www.flickr.com

Photo courtesy of Shawn M. Kent http://www.flickr.com

A Bolivian musical transporter

bolivian-dancersWe don’t need a time travel machine or a Star Trek transporter to take us to another time and place; we have sounds and music.

(Quickly—what sound does the Star Trek transporter make? Took you back in time, didn’t I?)

Last year in Bolivia, our Habitat for Humanity Global Village group was invited to an evening presentation of traditional Bolivian dances. I arrived on the terrace before the others, just as our host tested the sound system. He put on a song and then left to check on something else. I sat listening to the music in the tropical evening warmth. I looked up at a moon surrounded by feathery clouds. It was a perfect moment. As I sat there, the trip leader joined me. He sensed the quality of the moment and, without speaking, sat beside me to survey the moon. The perfect moment lasted until the song ended and the rest of the group crowded the terrace.

I bought a copy of the music, and when I hear the opening strains of that song, it transports me—boom—back to the tropical warmth of a Bolivian evening.

MJ wrote about this on her blog last week. Paul McCartney transports her to another time. http://emjayandthem.com/2013/06/27/silly-love-songs/

What are some of your time travel songs?

Choose to achieve

piano“There is only one reason that you ever fail at anything,” Michael stated, “and that is because you eventually change your mind.”

—from The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth through Music by Victor L. Wooten

If you look back over your life, you will realize that everything you accomplished you learned because you never changed your mind about it. As a child, before “thinking” got in the way and started to tell you things like “You’ll never do that,” you took a few weeks to learn how to walk. Later, you took some months to learn how to talk. How long did it take you to learn how to drive? What other things did you learn? How to wash the dishes? How to play euchre? All those things you learned how to do because you never changed your mind about them.

Now, what things did you change your mind about? Is there a dusty guitar in your corner, like there is in mine? Did you try kickboxing and decide it wasn’t for you? Did you drop out of university part way through?

Do you regret any of the “changing your mind” decisions? Do your flabby abs make you wish you had stuck with your fitness club? Does a challenging job search make you wish you had stayed in school?

The Music Lesson reminds me to consider carefully the choices I make about which projects to pursue and which practices to let go. I celebrate the successes, and I forgive myself the dusty guitar.

How about you?

___________

Please read The Music Lesson. It’s a “change your life” kind of book. I wrote a review of it here. http://wp.me/p2paMh-k

For the love, or hatred, of bagpipes

Photo by Wiseman Photography

Do you love bagpipes, or loathe them?

If you were to ask a random sampling of people, “What do you think about bagpipes?”, you would rarely hear, “Meh, I can take them or leave them.” People either love them or hate them.

I love them.

This is lucky for me. As I write this piece, I’m sitting on my back deck listening to my next-door neighbour practise his bagpipes. The haunting notes waft through the air to me here in my peaceful place. Chills, it gives me.

I harbour the quiet belief that anyone who says they hate bagpipes has never heard a massed band play “Amazing Grace.” In the 1990s I covered the North Lanark Highland Games many times for Rogers TV. When all the competing pipe bands assembled on the last day to march and performed together in a massed band, I cried every time. Chills, it gave me.

On my birthday last year I awoke to a warm, sunny day. I took the paper and my coffee to the front porch to enjoy the morning just as my next-door neighbour stepped out his front door to prepare himself for a pipe band competition. He played a perfect version of “Scotland the Brave.”

I soaked up the performance. “What a perfect birthday present,” I thought. “It doesn’t get any better than this.” 

My teenaged daughter, disturbed from a Saturday morning sleep-in, appeared at the door. Bleary-eyed she said, “What is up with that awful noise?”

Bagpipes: They aren’t for everyone.

A place called love

I watched At the Concert Hall  on Bravo! Canada the other night. The guest was Johnny Reid.

The host asked him to describe the story behind the title song for his latest album, “A Place Called Love.” Reid said that he wrote the song around the time that his grandmother passed away and his daughter was born. He asked himself, “Where did my grandmother go? Where did my daughter come from?”

The answer he came up with was a place called love.

Yesterday I was at a wake for the father of a friend of ours. I had never met the father, but I knew how much his children loved and respected him. As I stood in the crowded room and looked around at the community of support gathered in his memory, I had no doubt that he came from and has returned to a place called love.

I can’t think of anything better.

Storiform.com

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