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Thursday, December 22, 2016

One Step Up*, redux

I was just reminiscing with my supervisor about Betamax vs. VHS format with the same nostalgic bent as my father used to talk about life on the farm and gasoline at 12 cents a gallon. Plus ca change...

*--Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love, 1987.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Same Old Auld Lang Syne*, redux

Just had my first evaluation for work. Not great, but not awful either--and totally fair and honest.  The one significant glitch notwithstanding, one thing I've appreciated about my new place of employment is the professional way HR is handled here. Can't say the same about other places.

Take more notes, don't forget so much stuff.  They DO love my approach to customer service--unlike a former employer of mine who referred to my skills as "primitive" (This from a man who wouldn't hire African Americans--but I should have expected as much being in York PA as I was then).

Don't fall asleep in public view. My words, not theirs...zzzzzzzz... My health issues jumping up and biting me.

Had a note on my desk when I came in this morning--"Never Give In: Never Surrender 2016)"  I was about to chalk it up to an anonymous message of encouragement, but then realized that it was a film title request for our upcoming Midwest Tape order. Six copies ordered.

One more gig for the year at First Presbyterian Church of Ambler PA on Christmas Eve.  This year hasn't been as good for singing--fewer Masses at Annunciation BVM, but more playing, I think. Three different versions of Leroy Anderson's "A Christmas Festival" is enough.

Here's to a blessed, eventful, Spirit-led 2017.


*--Dan Fogelberg, The Innocent Age, 1981.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

As Time Goes By*

Welcome to my readers in Morocco! Country #56 heard from...

Feel free to comment on anything you see here.

So five weeks have passed since I started at the Free Library of Philadelphia. The things I've learned:

  • Many of my colleagues share my passion for food. I'm going to attend a "cookbook club" at one of the branches. This month's topic? Cookbooks of Marc Vetri. Don't know what I'm making yet--or if they're even having the meeting, they had a minor flood at the  facility.
  • Patrons can be warm and ingratiating, grateful for your help, or they can be cold, condescending, and grating on your nerves--or both, or inbetween. Wherever they are on the spectrum, I give the best service I can.
  • SIRSI, our integrated library system, leaves a lot to be desired in terms of creating reports. 
  • Not to take things so literally.  That's been a failing of mine over the years, and has held me back in some ways.  It's one thing to take things at face value--but I have to do so with eyes and ears wide open.
  • My current position isn't what I expected, but I am learning to bloom where I'm planted.
  • I have good ideas and have passed them on to people who are willing to run with them. Our participation in International Game Day was a big success, to hear all involved tell it
Time to go grocery shopping before The Game (Michigan-Ohio State). Enjoy the rest of your weekend.  Mine will be typically busy--shopping, singing, playing, taking care of family business and pleasure.  It's been nice having the kids home.  Sarah and DJ will go back to college tomorrow, and I'll go back to work on Monday.  Nice to be working again.


*--Herman Hupfeld, 1931; first recorded by Rudy Vallee, 1931.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Bienvenidos, Chile!

Country number 55 on the list. Feel free to comment, for or against, on anything you see here.
Not much to report. Learning new tasks, slowly...

*--Danny Flores, The Champs, 1958.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


"Daddy, you're home from Peru!"
Welcome to my Peruvian readers! Feel free to sound forth on any topic here!  All opinions welcome!
Welcome, too, to my readers from Algeria.  I would love to hear more from anywhere on the African continent.

Starting my fourth week at Philbrick Hall, Parkway Central Library, Free Library of Philadelphia.  It's going quick and I'm learning to be flexible.


*--Raymond Scott, 1937.  Heard on many, many Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoons.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Turkish Delight*

Welcome to my reader from Turkey! I know it isn't Dr. Maccaferri, because he's never read my blog. Feel free to agree, dispute, or otherwise respond, all in good natured camaraderie.

*--David Crowder, the David Crowder Band, 2008.  Here's a link to the music video.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Good golly, Miss Molly*: Another milestone reached

5000 hits on my humble blog. Good God Almighty.

So how do I get people to respond? Moving forward I'll try to be more interesting.
It remains to be seen how many tales I can tell "out of school" when I start my new job.  Discretion and moderation and talking in generalities will be the watchwords. Cheers.


*--Robert "Bumps" Blackwell, recorded by Richard "Little Richard" Penniman on Specialty Records, 1956, released 1958.

Monday, September 12, 2016

La Bonne Cuisine*

This post is strictly advertising for my Facebook page, "De Kok is in De Kitchen". I'm not a chef or a chef's son, just a person who believes in the power of home cooking to transform lives and meals. Enjoy!

*Leonard Bernstein, composer, 1947. Full title: "La Bonne Cuisine: Four Recipes for Voice and Piano".

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Turn, Turn, Turn*

I've accepted a position at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Yay for me!!!

Effective October 3rd, I'll be working at the FLP's flagship, Parkway Central, in the area of Business, Science, and Industry, specifically as a reference librarian for the Business Resources and Innovation Center (BRIC).  In addition to regular patrons in the above areas, I'll be working to assist members of one of the five constituent patron groups named in the most recent FLP strategic plan--entrepreneurs.

You may well ask--what a musician can do for entrepreneurs?

  • We have to be self-starters, self-motivated and self-reliant.
  • We have to be fearless and creative in seeking solutions, finding experts in all walks of life, not just ours.
  • We have to temper our responses in both victory and defeat, learning what we can from both.
  • We have to be knowledgeable but always willing to learn more.
  • We have to be able to admit that we don't always have the answer.
  • We have to be willing to lead but equally willing to serve others.
  • We can never settle for anything less than our best.
  • We need to acknowledge the God-given talents in those with whom we associate, and love and cherish and treat them equitably.
  • We need to know when it is time for work and time for cutting loose.
  • (This is getting Ecclesiastical, isn't it?)
  • We know it's hard to be humble (thanks Mac Davis) but it's essential to complete success.
  • We need to know when to render unto Caesar and when to render unto God 

More to come. Onward.

*--Pete Seeger, The Bitter and the Sweet, 1962.  I'm as surprised as you are.  Everyone of my generation relates this tune to the Roger McGuinn-led The Byrds, but even Judy Collins covered it too.

Video Killed the Radio Star*

Welcome to country #50--the tiny island nation of St. Lucia! Welcome, and feel free to comment on and/or dissent from these blog posts!

I have a dear friend from my Glee Club days by the name of Joel Colman.  He's the cantor at the Reform Jewish synagogue in New Orleans.  Besides his faith, his music, and motorcycles, one of his great passions is amateur ("ham") radio, which he has participated in since at least his undergraduate days (and probably earlier).

He would tell interesting stories about the worldwide contests he'd enter with his ham radio buddies to see how many contacts they could make in a 24-hour period.  They had interesting and busy lives outside of ham radio, so they'd never win, but they always enjoyed hearing the responses they'd get from other collegiate teams around the world.  U-M's team was one of the first such clubs, and they were numbered by their entrance/acceptance into their association. The U-M team would give their ID, which included their number, and the responding team would always be astonished at the low number for the U-M team.

Why am I saying all this?

I think it's really cool that people from 50 countries out of the nearly 300 in the world have made contact with my blog. I only wish that more folks responded.  Either I'm always right (which is decidedly NOT the case) or I'm astoundingly boring (more likely true ROFL). On this occasion of the 50th country signing in, I would humbly ask that you enter your comments on any of the posts you find interesting.  If you don't find ANY of it interesting, post on THIS one, and I'll try to respond and do better.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sokol Fanfare*

Welcome to my readers in Thailand and in Saudi Arabia! Please stay a while, and read some of the other posts. Feel free to comment, good, bad or indifferent.

I've decided I'm going to post some musical things this year, most notably program notes for all the orchestra concerts in which I perform.

October 22, 2016
William Tennent HS, Warminster PA

Williams: Liberty Fanfare
Janacek: Sinfonietta
Shostakovich: Festive Overture, op. 96
Faure: Masques et Bergamasques
Other selections TBA

The Warminster Symphony Orchestra
Joseph Lovecchio, Music Director and Conductor
The US Army Herald Trumpets, Washington DC

More to come...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Day by Day*

So I interviewed with the University of Virginia and with the Free Library of Philadelphia in the last week. I have to say I like my chances better with the latter than the former. Between the heat and the monumental frustration I've had, I just have to take it one day at a time. Only way to survive.

*--Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, Godspell, 1971.

PS: How would you feel if I posted a link to the song title at the top of each post? Like this one:
Day By Day
PPS: Welcome to my reader in Croatia! 48 countries heard from.  Hope you enjoy the posts. Be sure to make some comments for yourself and your countrymen!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Welcome to my readers in South Korea! Forty-six countries in all have passed through this blog.  Once again, you're always welcome to converse, argue, agree, all in a spirit of scholarly pursuits.

*Traditional Korean folk song, used in John Barnes Chance's Variations on a Korean Folk Song for wind ensemble, 1967.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Pleasant Valley Sunday*: What constitutes an entry-level position to the American Library Association?

Wow. Just Wow.

I'm spending my Monday morning catching up on email, and applying for jobs (yes, still in the library field). I checked my usual places--I Need a Library Job, state library associations near me (and not near me), and the old stalwart, the American Library Association.  I've had my beefs with them in the past, mostly about the exhorbitant cost of membership and attending conferences--not to mention the folly that is their "Emerging Leaders" program--but nothing prepared me for this morning.

I was on their JobList page, searching possibilities near me (I'm in SE Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia).  I've been applying for jobs that required experience for the most part because most ads want it in some form--"professional", "library", sometimes "customer service", or my personal favorite, "progressive responsibility", whatever the hell that means. For some reason I decided to take a different path.  Since I'm relatively new to the field, I searched using the terms "entry level" and "academic library", letting the chips fall where they may in terms of location.

I was amazed to discover that there was one opening in the entire ALA world, a social sciences/education librarian post at the University of Oregon. An outstanding institution of higher learning, in a wonderful area of the United States, but a little too far to move the family on short notice.

Undaunted, I changed the search to "Public Library" and "entry level".


"Government Library" and "entry level"


"School Library" and "entry level"


"Library Cooperative/System" and "Entry Level"


"Museums" and "Entry Level"


"Special Library/Corporate" and "Entry Level"


Are you getting the picture yet?

Are you getting the picture, ALA?

What does "Entry Level" mean in the ALA? Anything at all? When more and more job postings ask for professional experience, meaning they won't count paraprofessional or volunteer work towards that number of years, where does one ACQUIRE "professional" experience?  Does a candidate have to rely on an HR person or library director slipping up and giving the professional title to someone not yet qualified? Why doesn't the ALA make such specifications?

The term "25 years old with 30 years experience" never rang so true as it does in the rarefied world of Library and Information Science. What do you say in your defense, ALA?

*--Carole King, Gerry Goffin for The Monkees. First released as a single with Last Train to Clarksville, 1967.
Pleasant Valley Sunday
Current CV for Daniel John De Kok Sr.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

And So It Goes*


I'm interviewing at the local upscale chain grocer on Tuesday.  I hope it goes better than the one with McCaffrey's HR department.

I have no idea where they'll place me.  I have a background in cooking, cookbooks, housewares.  I'd love to be doing prepared foods, but without the culinary arts shingle, that's not likely.  Even if I'm a produce clerk, that would be preferable to sitting home doing nothing waiting for the phone to ring/email to arrive.

I can't believe the way things have gone for me in the library world  Aaron Copland was right--"People want what they know or something just like it".  For a field that's 80% female, they sure are reluctant to hire strong men (sound familiar?).  The ALA's program for encouraging "diversity", Emerging Leaders, is, in my opinion, a big flop.  80% or more of the candidates are female, most of those women are white, and most of them come from pre-selected groups who "sponsor" places in the program. It's pathetically amusing to see the ALA try to trumpet itself as a progressive, modern, even edgy (think librarians with tattoos) organization.  Marian Paroo fit the visual mold, but she was a far more complex character then people gave her credit for.

Billy Joel, Storm Front, 1989.

UPDATE: No Soap. No Groceries, Deli, or Gourmet Cheese, either.
And So It Goes

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I Ain't Down Yet*

First things first: Welcome to my reader in the Sultanate of Oman! I don't get too many readers from Muslim/Arab countries, but you're free to leave your opinions, good, bad or indifferent, in the comments section.  Welcome, too, to Israel and to Mauritius! We're up to readers in 44 countries now.  Keep on plugging in, keep on commenting!

This will be brief.
I'm 2.5 years out of Library School. I've submitted nearly 300 applications all over the country.
I can't even get a job in my adopted home town of Norristown, Pennsylvania. What added insult to injury is that the woman in charge of hiring for that hometown position, where I started my career with five years ago as a volunteer, sent me an impersonal form letter stating that others with "lot of experience" (sic) were considered ahead of me.

A few years ago I purchased a 250-count package of coffee filters.  I remember joking at the time that if I didn't have a job by the end of the filters, I'd quit looking.

I'm not giving up yet. I'm not out of coffee filters...but the package is starting to look empty.

This will probably be the penultimate post, The last post on this blog will be entitled"Land of Hope and Glory", which as many in the English-speaking world will know as the opening line of the lyrics for Pomp and Circumstance March #1 by Edward Elgar, the ubiquitous graduation march. What I'm graduating to, who knows?  Stay tuned...

*--Meredith Willson, from The Unsinkable Molly Brown, 1960.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

You Can't Always Get What You Want (part 2)

As promised, here's that list of "Four-hymn Sandwiches" for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time through Christ the King Sunday.  If you order now, there's a bonus--a set for Thanksgiving Day (USA) which falls between CTK and the 1st Sunday in Advent.  Enjoy, comment, argue, but most of all--SING!!!

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

From all that dwell below the skies (DUKE STREET) (#502)
Be Thou My Vision (#468)
Taste and See (#396)
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (#504)

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

All Creatures of Our God and King (#499)
Beautiful Savior (#461)
What Wondrous Love is This (#437)
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (#539)

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The King of Love My Shepherd Is (#440)
Prayer of St. Francis (#426)
Gift of Finest Wheat (#388)
The Church’s One Foundation (#436)

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

All People that On Earth Do Dwell (#372)
Amazing Grace (#519)
Cry of the Poor (#551)
Now Thank We All Our God (#456)

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

O God, Our Help in Ages Past (#528)
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (#312)
Taste and See (#396)
For All The Saints (#306)

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

All Creatures of our God and King (#499)
We Walk By Faith (#507)
Taste and See (#396)
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (#539)

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Come, Christians, Join to Sing (#498)
Holy, Holy, Holy (#295)
Pan de Vida (bilingual) (#398)
O God, Our Help in Ages Past (#538)

Feast of All Saints

For all the Saints (#306)
Blessed are They (#478)
What Wondrous Love is This (#537)
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (#539)

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The King of Love My Shepherd Is (#440)
Abide with Me (#565)
We Walk By Faith (#507)
Sent Forth By God’s Blessing (#548)

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

I know that my Redeemer Lives (#263)
We Will Rise Again (#523)
Eat This Bread (#400)
All People That On Earth Do Dwell (#372)

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name (#315)
Crown Him With Many Crowns (#311)
At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing (#273)
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (#487)

Thanksgiving Day

For the Beauty of the Earth (#457)
Beautiful Savior (#461)
Our Blessing Cup (#391)
 From All That Dwell Below the Skies (#502)

Again, I am not doing this for the purpose of tweaking my DOM's nose or embarrassing him--but because I'm tired of the disconnect.  I hope that he takes my suggestions and starts improving his choices for our parish. Rest assured that I will keep you abreast of any developments.


You Can't Always Get What You Want (pt. 1)

Note to self: Start a new blog on Church music.

I was beyond THRILLED when I checked in on PRISM's numbers for the last few days.  I've clearly been preaching to the wrong choir with the wrong message. That it took one slow-cooking rant to bring it on isn't important. What IS important is that I may have just found my audience.

To fill in the uninformed:  my last post described a scene and situation at my home parish.  I told my DOM that I would provide him a list of hymns I preferred to do.

Using OCP's extremely helpful (quit laughing, it is very helpful) Music Finder online, I was able to compile a "four-hymn sandwich" for each weekend, feast, and solemnity in the Heritage Missal between the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time and Christ the King Sunday. I know, ideally we're supposed to be using antiphons, chant, etc., but one step at a time).  In some cases , I was able to search by Scripture passage for the readings and responses; others, I had to take a more broad theme for the readings, Some weekends were extraordinarily difficult, others, not so much.

Here's 14 OT through 24 OT, inclusive. Tell me what you think.  I'm not going to get all thin-skinned on you; in fact I may even get feisty.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

O God, Our Help in Ages past (#528)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#262)
Taste and See (#396)
Sent Forth by God’s Blessing (#548)

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name (#315)
The King of Love my Shepherd Is (#440)
Pan de Vida (bilingual) (#395)
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (#312)

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Church’s One Foundation (#436)
Seek Ye First (#525)
I heard the voice of Jesus say (#439)
Rejoice, the Lord is King (#308)

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (#487)
Christ, be our light (#517)
Blest Are They (#478)
There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy (#438)

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

O God, our help in ages past (#528)
Seek Ye First (#525)
Pan de Vida (bilingual) (#395)
Praise to the Lord (#487)

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I Sing the Mighty Power of God (#460)
Faith of our Fathers (#509)
Gift of Finest Wheat (#388)
For All the Saints (#306)

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The King of Love My Shepherd is (#440)
God, We Praise You (#480)
Gift of Finest Wheat (#388)
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (#504)

Assumption BVM (August 14/15)

Immaculate Mary (#320)
Sing of Mary (#326)
I Received the Living God (#383)
Hail holy Queen (#328)

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

All People that on Earth do dwell (#372)
Holy, Holy, Holy (#295)
I Received the Living God (#383)
Holy God, We Praise Thy Name (#482)

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

God, We Praise You (#480)
I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say (#439)
Lead Me, Lord (#479)
Praise to the Lord (#487)

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

I know that My Redeemer Lives (#263)
How Firm a Foundation (#303)
I Received the Living God (#383)
Praise to the Lord (#487)

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy (#438)
We Walk by Faith (#507)
One Bread, One Body (#381)
Rejoice, the Lord is King (#308)

In the interest of full disclosure, yes, this list probably sounds Lutheran because I grew up in the LCMS. We used the red 1941 hymnal (and the blue one before that).  You can take the boy out of the LCMS but you can't take the LCMS (completely) out of the boy--but I would sleep better knowing that I gave my fellow Catholics better music to sing at Mass.

25OT to Christ the King Sunday to follow.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Way It Is*

Many of you know that in addition to being a musician, teacher, and librarian, I'm a long-suffering church musician. Within the last year or so, I joined a Facebook page called "I'm fed up with bad church music" where contributors tell their own horror stories of bad clergy/parishioners/music/composers/etc. The current project that I'm completing for my DOM may present a microcosmic look into what we're up against:

I went up to my DOM Sunday morning after seeing what hymns he'd chosen and told him that I was tired of doing the same old same old, month in and month out. He complained to me that (ordinary time) wasn't a good time to introduce new hymns--as if Nicaea (Holy Holy Holy) Old Hundredth (All People that on Earth do Dwell), Italian Hymn (Come thou almighty King), St. Anne (Oh God, Our help in ages past), and countless others should have to be taught at this point in the church's life (at least this parish). The DOM tried to blame the pastor for what the he is "up against". I stopped that cold with, "Well, if the Pastor is the problem, I'll take it up with him". After he had a chance to recover from that shock, he told me to make up a list of hymns I wanted to do.

So, I'm in the midst of creating a set list for each service between the 14th in OT to Christ the King, based on the antiphons, readings, responses and themes, with the help of OCP's Music Finder, I've been able to find suitable alternatives to the steady diet of Haugen and Haas I've been subjected to for the past 12 years. There are some notable gaps, but for the most part I've been able put together a liturgically solid, musically sound list. One area had me stumped, though. Permit a brief explanation:

We have beautiful stained glass windows in our church, produced in France (or so I'm told), one of which depicts "The Church Militant, Suffering, Triumphant", a phrase probably more familiar to Catholics of a generation or two previous than to those today.We used to refer to it in the LCMS as Christian or Spiritual Warfare--fighting the temptations of Satan, the world, detractors from the faith.

So at one point I'm looking for songs on the Church Militant, or on spiritual warfare. I check the list of topics on the website. Nothing. I even emailed OCP (We use the Heritage Missal) and, in part, get this response:

...There are 9 songs under the topic Patriotism:
570   America
569   America the Beautiful
568   Eternal Father, Strong to Save 
567   God of Our Fathers
427   Let There Be Peace on Earth (really?)
451   Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory 
571   This Is My Song (FINLANDIA)
484   We Gather Together (Turkey and stuffing, anyone?)

Initially I was stunned. I had made it abundantly clear what I was looking for. When I wrote back and protested that Patriotism wasn't what I had in mind at all--even adding two links on the topics requested and giving two examples ("Onward Christian Soldiers", and "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus"), they responded by quoting the two links I gave and basically dismissing my arguments.

So it's back to completing the list which I promised to give him next Sunday I can only hope that things change--or the cantor will--and I've told him as much.


*Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is, Bruce Hornsby and the Range, 1986.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hello Goodbye*

The 40th country to check my blog--Columbia--did so today.  Bienvenidos! (5/17/16) UPDATE: Welcome to my reader in the Turks and Caicos Islands--41 countries heard from!

I was a member of the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club during my undergrad days.  While I enjoyed singing the Michigan songs and classical repertoire put in front of us by our directors (Leonard Johnson (assistant professor of voice) for three years, Dr. Patrick Gardner (Assistant professor of conducting) for the fourth), one thing I did NOT enjoy was some of the nonsense that made it more closely resemble four years of "Animal House" than singing in a top-flight choral organization.

Don't get me wrong. I dearly love many of the men with whom I sung in Ann Arbor.  Many of them are brilliant, distinguished in their fields, and would ring a bell if I mentioned their names to you. You may be asking, "where was the director in all this?".  The Glee Club was the oldest student run organization on campus.  The School of Music (later, the School of Music, Theater and Dance) supplied a director to the club, and I would daresay with mixed results.

Professor Johnson was a highly successful studio teacher who took over the club from Willis Patterson, also a studio teacher but with extensive choral conducting experience.  I learned to love singing from Professor Johnson, but found his leadership and conducting skill set to be lacking; when he was denied tenure in 1981, I wasn't surprised, but was decidedly in the minority among club members who opposed the change.

On came Dr. Gardner in the fall of 1981. He had finished his DMA at the University of Texas-Austin, where his doctoral work included study of a piece for gamelan and male choir (or so I heard). He was only 27, and it was exciting to work with him from the get-go. Gone were so many of the Duey pop and light classical arrangements. In their place were actual pieces originally written for male chorus.  He got us in the habit of really studying the lyrics and finding out what we were singing about.  The pieces weren't always loud or boisterous or rich in harmony.  Some, like Song of Peace by Persichetti and Halsey Steven's setting of Christina Rossetti's Remember Me, were by comparison skeletal, their harmonies and melodies deceptively simple (but NEVER simplistic).  Wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but I thrived on it.

Fast forward about 30 years. I go to hear Measure for Measure at the IMC conference at Rutgers (which I did and thoroughly enjoyed) but before I left, I had the great pleasure of hearing an excellent high school male chorus from Pennsylvania.  They performed not only music from the western canon, but from non-western sources as well.  It was their last piece, an extended work on the subject of Nelson Mandela, with which I took issue, and what will be the heart of the second half of this post.

I've noticed a trend over the last ten years--it may be longer--of choral composers writing music for texts that are decidedly activist in nature. To wit:

1) a composition for male chorus called "Seven Last Words of the Unarmed". Movement titles include "Officers, why are you pointing your guns at me?", "I can't breathe", and "What are you following me for?", This piece was presumably meant to honor black men who were killed by police officers.

2) a composition for male chorus purportedly in honor of Nelson Mandela, the last movement of which includes singers holding signs and chanting for rights for various groups. The performance of this piece that I attended had the conductor encourage the audience to stand and sing along (to music wholly unfamiliar to us)

3) A composition by a world-renowned composer who, in his program notes, noted his disdain for former president George W. Bush

In all three cases these were school-related groups. I have to wonder if the students were given the opportunity to freely express their dissent on the content of these pieces to the extent of being able to opt out of performing these texts. Given what I know of these groups, I'm inclined to think that there was considerable pressure on any who dared express a minority opinion, be they students, parents, or others in the academic community.

The UMMGC, some years after I graduated, adopted a slogan--"Tradition, Camaraderie, and Musical Excellence". When I was in the club, we frankly nailed the first two, and the third, well, if it happened, it happened (the year with Dr. Gardner notwithstanding--he was a strong personality and an excellent conductor). We rested on our laurels way too much, and I feel like the music suffered as a result. If it were up to me, I'd reverse the order on those three attributes and let the last two appear as a result of the first--but that's just me.

plus ca change...

So why did I name this post "Hello Goodbye"?

Because at this point in my life I'm not certain that I want to continue my association with the UMMGC. That would shock several people I know to their foundation, but I need to know. Is this obsession with the current political correctness, progressive attitude, and social activism in choral music going to continue, where we engage in a pissing contest over who can be the most "daring"?
The mind reels.

Lennon and McCartney for the Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour, 1967

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Double Talkin' Baby*

Welcome to my readers in India and Singapore! We're now in 39 countries.  Remember to write and comment on what you read!

Those of us from previous generations no doubt remember a California-based talk radio host by the name of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who dispensed advice and commented on the news, among other things. While she had legions of fans who hung on her every word, she also had detractors who found her often caustic, dismissive manner off-putting.

She took phone calls from people supposedly seeking advice, and while she was blunt and direct, she saved her real venom for people who would add multiple caveats after she gave her initial answer. As an example, she would get a call from someone whose child was living with their significant other outside of marriage.

When Dr. Laura would tell her (no nasty letters, her callers were overwhelmingly female) it's a bad idea, she'd add, something along the lines of "well, it's in our house"/"they don't pay rent"/"the significant other doesn't work/eats our food/ ties up the phone for hours at a time"etc., thinking that she would change her mind--which would only steel Dr. Laura's resolve. Nothing drove her nuts faster than these "gotchas".

Me too. To wit:

I belong to two particular threads on Facebook that are related to my vocation and avocation. One person came on asking for assistance in obtaining a PDF copy of a published, in-print, work of music--a clear violation of US copyright laws. When I called him on it, he became indignant and tried to explain himself away, but no soap. The moderator of the thread sided with me, removed the post, and came up with new terms of use for the thread.

The other asked what we thought was a fair price to pay high school students to be ringers in a church choir in suburban Chicago, I responded that there were, in addition to an abundance of professional church musicians, as well as college students willing and able to tackle the position. Only then did she say, well, we have to use high school students because it's in the terms of the grant we received, etc., significantly changing her question.

PEOPLE, a little sanity check please.

Are you saying exactly what you intend, what you mean? Jesus' admonition in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:37) would come in handy. "Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no". Clear enough?

Plain language doesn't have to mean simple-minded. Leave no doubt as to your intent.

*Danny Wolfe, c. 1956. Rockabilly standard with many covers

Friday, March 11, 2016

Where Everybody Knows Your Name*

1) Welcome to my readers in Taiwan and Switzerland, the 36th and 37th countries to log into my blog!  Found them this morning on the way around my sites.  Please feel free to respond to what I've written.

I'm becoming resigned to the fact that not everyone loves me and my work in the library world.  I'm officially on the outside looking in to what is proving to be a very small, parochial, insular community which looks upon outsiders and newbies who don't fit their preconceived notions of what a library professional is with suspicion, derision, and dismissiveness. Here's hoping my next interview goes better.  I'll let you know.

*--Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo for the TV show, Cheers (1980-91)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Waltzing Matilda* and what makes ME squeal (with displeasure)

Just a quick shout-out to "the land down under"--Australia! Welcome!!! I can't believe this is the first time in three years of doing this blog.

The adventure goes on, and as one wise man said, "When God closes one door, he opens a window".  More details when I have them, but it's a good sign.

On a totally UNrelated subject--I used my KitchenAid food grinder attachment to make a few pounds of breakfast sausage.  I had a good solid starter recipe, and obtained pork scraps from a local butcher to add to the cheap pork loin I bought at Shop-Rite. Tasty and fresh.  I think I'll get some chuck steak or sirloin to grind for hamburgers in the near future.

The negative in this post has to do with customer service. I went to the local upscale grocer in search of the aforementioned pork fat to make sausage. I went to the meat counter and asked where I could find a couple of pounds of pork fat.

"We don't have that...we have bacon down the aisle there (points in the general direction of the display case)"
"Would you know what store I could go to to get (pork fat)?"
(and this is where I began to lose faith in that store)
"I wouldn't even know what number to sell it under"

Which tells me a) she's not a butcher, b) she couldn't be bothered with such a piddling request, and c) the much-vaunted customer service at this store has a few yawning gaps that should be rectified.  If you've seen the movie "Miracle on 34th Street" (the good one, not the modern one), you remember that the "us or nothing" model of retailing went out with mechanical cash registers. I would regularly tell customers where they could find what we didn't have, especially if it involved a local business. If the item was requested on a regular basis, and it fit in our merchandise profile, I'd either start inquiring up to management or if I was in a position to do so, place the orders myself.  I'm not going to give the name of the store for the simple reason is that it's the first such experience I've had there. Won't tell on IM or private message, either...

More later. Cheers!

*--Lyrics by Banjo Patterson; March music by James Barr, 1818.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

One Step Up*

The job front comes forward today.  I've had several nibbles lately.  Mansfield U, as I suspected, no-hired their 2nd semester temporary job and will post again for a fall semester start. U-Scranton gave me a phone interview for a Cataloging assistant position. No word on that one--the silence is deafening. This particular song title from the Boss seemed apropos.

As for new postings, I've seen humble and great postings crossing my desk and piquing my interest.  I'll let you know if anything comes of my applications. Cheers.

*--Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love, 1987

PS: welcome to my readers in the Dominican Republic! Country #34 heard from. Please leave opinions and comments as you feel moved to.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Changes* revisited

Plus ca change!
The more things change, the more things stay the same.

You've read previously about my travails and issues with the Norristown (PA) Area School District and their mishandling of various things, from too few seats at the newly constructed stadium, to the attempted dismantling of the performing and visual arts departments, to the ineptness and bumbling of the superintendent, the human resources department, and school board. I point to the recent posting for an extra-curricular marching band director ( for those playing along at home), and offer Dr. Samuels, Mr. Smith (NAHS principal) and anyone within earshot the following questions for consideration:

1) While the job description does state "...(the successful candidate) will function as a team member of the NAHS Music Department" it goes on to say that the successful candidate "will report to the NAHS Principal or designee".  Who is that designee?
2) "Lead staff preparation and pedagogical employment of a technique program for wind and percussion instruments". Can we assume that this is done in cooperation with existing NAHS instrumental music staff?  A common terminology when dealing with students across ensembles is desirable, and anyone who joins the staff should assimilate. 
3) "Order, organize, and maintain all equipment and supplies". Is this a line item in the existing instrumental music program's budget or will this be independent of that budget? What is the funding source?
4) "Select appropriate competitive circuit(s) and complete all necessary paperwork for chosen circuit(s)". Wow. This leaves a lot unsaid.

For those who aren't familiar with the various high school marching band "competitive circuits", here's a brief (and I hope accurate) list of organizations. Typically, high schools and colleges host competitions with classifications based on band size and school enrollment.
h Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association                            Tournament of Bands Bands of America
      Corps-style marching is the predominant style in these organizations.
      In my limited research, I only know of one state--Texas--which has a competitive division for show-style bands. There may be others--North Carolina for one, and Illinois has been considering it--but the style first popularized in HBCUs has made its way down to the high schools, and there are those who will at some point organize a competitive circuit for show bands here in the Northeast.

      5) "Work with Music Boosters to establish a student quota"
      Please elaborate.
      6) "Attend monthly Music Boosters meeting...Attempt to contact the family and redirect all communication to the Music Booster officers in instances where financial contributions have not been received from students"
      Again, I have to ask--what is the funding source? If this is referring to fundraising by the students and their families, how much is expected?
      7)  "Date Posted: July 30, 2015". Really? Posted where? It's not on PAREAP, and it hasn't been on the district website until now. What does the PA Department of Education require regarding job postings?

      I really hate to be Debbie Downer here, but we expect better of our district administration.
 Onward and upward--I hope.

*--David Bowie, Hunky Dory, 1971.