Wake Awake, For the Night is Flying

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To start off the Christmas Calendar Series, I would like to start with a choral song that marks the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Philipp Nicolai (1568-1608) in 1599 wrote the original music piece in German entitled “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (in English: Awake, the voice is calling us). It was a Lutheran piece that was played in churches across Prussia and other German-speaking regions for several centuries. Even Johann Sebastian Bach added his version of the piece to his cantata under the title Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140 (Sleepers Awake) in 1724. The first English translation of the piece was produced in 1858 by Catherine Winkworth, which was later followed by two more versions written by Francis Crawford Burkitt in 1906 and George Ratcliffe Woodward two years later.

All three versions are based on the works of Nicolai where the text in the piece was derived from  the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1–13). Nicolai refers to other biblical ideas, such as from Revelations the mentioning of marriage (Revelation 19:6–9) and the twelve gates, every one of pearl (Revelation 21:21), and from the First Epistle to the Corinthians the phrase “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The irony of the whole story was Nicolai had written the original masterpiece during the time a plague wreaked havoc on the town of Unna (near present-day Dortmund in North Rhine-Westphalia) and it was this piece that served as a sign of hope, where people should wake up and see the light of hope for Christ was born and he was the sign of hope.

In this piece, I’m presenting two versions of it. The first one was written by F. Melius Christiansen (1871- 1955). This was written during the time he conducted the St. Olaf College Choir from 1912 to 1944. His children would later find success at my alma mater, Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, Paul J. Christiansen (1914- 1997) would follow his father’s footsteps as choir director and composer there, having established a long-held traditional Christmas concerts, held on campus and in Minneapolis every year for over a half century.

This piece by F. Melius is conducted primarily in C natural major and can be performed on the high school and college level. I remember having sung this with my high school choir in Jackson, Minnesota many years ago and the resonance from the song has remained in memory ever since. This example seen below was performed by the St. Olaf College Choir in 2018, F. Melius’ alma mater.

The second version is a women’s acapella chamber piece conducted by the Dominican Sisters of Mary- Mother of the Eucharist. It was founded by John O’Connor in Nashville, Tennessee in 1997 and follows the chasm of the Dominican Order. The choir is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This piece, sung in E-flat major, resembles a church piece as it is sung in verses, each one having a refrain at the end, yet this one is best performed in a chamber of a monastery. Its echoes can be felt throughout the church no matter where the person is at.

And like in the past few years, where trials and tribulations seemed to be dominant in our lives, with war, the Covid-19 virus and a lot of uncertainty, I hope this season will bring hope to all those who need it. This piece seems to be our starting point as we have to look for the hope that has been missing for sometime. We all have it, it’s a question of just finding it.

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Music Genre: It Takes Two

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Today is the Day of Twos- 22 February, 2022. When we think of the number two, we think of two lovers, two’s a charm, two chances to succeed and two of happiness. When we think of the Day of Twos, we think of this love song with a twist sung by two singers.

“It Takes Two” was first produced in 1966. Sung by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston, the lyrics were written by Mickey Stevenson, Weston’s then-husband and Gaye collaborator. It looks at the hopes and dreams of two lovers as they look into the future. You can find the lyrics in the link here. Here’s what the 1966 version looks like:

The version was remade 24 years later by Rod Stewart and Tina Turner which became an even bigger hit and smashing success. It appeared in several comercials including one with cola giant Pepsi.

Regardless of what version you like, we need songs like this to give us an incentive to think ahead. In light of what is happening in the real world, we still have our dreams and hopes for a brighter future. And sometimes it takes more than one person to make it happen, because one cannot do it alone. It takes two to tangle, two to tackle the goals in life, and two to succeed. ❤ ❤

Let’s hope this holds true 200 years later when the Day of Twos happens again. 😉

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Dead Ringer for Love- A Tribute to Meat Loaf

Today we lost a rock legend. Meat Loaf (Marvin Lee Aday) died at his home with his wife at his side. He was 74. Meat Loaf had a storied career as a singer and an actor, having released several albums in the 1970s, 80s and early 1990s. This included a three-part album Bat out of Hell. We knew him for one of his best songs, “I’d do Anything for Love,” which was released in 1993 and received many international accolades. Yet Meat Loaf was known for his Casanova and Gothic attire in his appearance and his music was used for several different occasions. One of my favorites is a duet he did with the singer Cher, entitled Dead Ringer for Love, released in 1981. It’s a perfect dance song with a spice of romance in there, and it’s one that ranks up there with the very best. Therefore, the Files is paying tribute to the Ringer and his work with this song as a way of giving thanks for his years of work. Rock on, Ringer!

Genre: Castle on the Hill

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This Genre profile is also a classroom activity to be used to talk about memories and past tense. This song, Castle on the Hill, was written by Ed Sheeran and released two years later. It focuses on memories of a childhood where one experiences his ups and downs, his firsts and lasts, his friends and foes, and his love for the land he grew up. It talks about friendships and love, experiences that are worth remembering and those that are worth forgetting, and lastly what has changed between now and the time then. Have a look at the piece that is worth watching and listening to:

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Now comes the exercises that are worth doing. You can do one or all of them, but they all talk about the same thing- memories of growing up.

  • Experiences- Make a list of personal experiences you had in your childhood, both good and bad. Then choose one out of each and tell us a story about the experience- when it happened, why you did it and the result. Most importantly, each story must include a lesson to share with everyone.
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  • Friends- Make a list of friends with whom you hung around with during your childhood. Then you can do one or more of the following:

_Who was your best friend? Tell us about him/her?

_Tell us about your circle of friends- each one about his/her life, characteristics, like/dislikes/ hobbies, etc., and what happened to them in the present.

_Your experiences hanging out with your friends- what you normally did and the events that happened that were good or bad

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  • Place of childhood- Tell us about the place where you grew up. What did the community have while you were growing up and what has changed between now and then.
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  • Favorite Foods- Tell us your favorite foods you had while growing up and why you liked it so much. Would you recommend it to others and if so, why? Apply this to other topics, like TV shows/movies, music, books/magazines, cars, places to visit, etc. Anything that comes to heart and mind and you wish to talk about.
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  • Life with your family- What kind of family did you have? Tell us about your parents and siblings. What kind of life did you have with the family? Some events that happened that had a defining moment in your life would be helpful but not a must.
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  • What things did you wish you could have done but didn’t? Every single one of us has done this and has a list of regrets. List them and ask what would have happened had you done what you regretted not having done.
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  • Random Questions. Then feel free to add a few questions of your own on some index cards and have your students pick a card, read the question and talk about it. The questions must have to do with childhood memories and must be appropriate for classroom use.

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The song itself received numerous accolades and ended up as nr. 2 in the hit charts in most countries. It’s one song where you can close your eyes and return to the day of what you were as a child, reliving the days and trying to ask yourself, what-if. Therefore, it’s worth listening to in class, but just as valuable sharing your childhood experiences, regardless of where you came from and what you experienced. Our past helps us determine who we are at present but provides lessons to the future generations.

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Genre Profile: Be Legendary by Pop Evil

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There are heroes and then there are legendsheroes get remembered but legends never die.– Averstu.com

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In our first Genre Profile (formerly Genre of the Week) in ages, this song came to mind when we talk about legends. The past year and a half brought out not only the best in everyone but also legends. Doctors, nurses, law enforcement, journalists, teachers (among them) but also the common person have risked their lives to help others who were badly in need of help but have been left in the dust because of greed and ignorance.

It leads to the question of how we want to be remembered- specifically how we perceive ourselves in front of everyone and how we can make a difference.

And this is what the song is all about. Produced by the American rock music group Pop Evil, the plot looks at a group of people who find a relict of their youth- a video game machine sitting disused for many years- and decide to relive the moment when they became heroes in their game, answering all of the questions, many of which include all the „what-ifs“.

The song not only focuses on the past but it also sends a message which is „Now is our time. How do we want to be remembered?“ 

And this is where we start off with a good conversation with the older generations, asking them about their lives and how they would like to be remembered. Sometimes a look in the past can help us in the present dictate what our future should be like.  Something to think about as you listen to this song……..

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A Wish and a Decidation that Made it Happen- Coca Cola Christmas Commercial

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What is your wish for Christmas and what would it take for your wish to come true? This is the main theme for a truly, heart-wrenching commercial that was released in the media by Coca-Cola this year. The first Coca-cola commercial with Santa came in 1986, with the Santa train being introduced in the late 1990s. And while people can associate the Santa train with the Coca-Cola commercials, not to mention the title oft he song, The Real Thing by the late Melanie Thorton, this commercial hits the spot because of the love and dedication that it took to make the wish happen.

So have a look at the commercial and think about what you wish for- carefully. Then ask yourself what it would take to make this wish come true.

As a bonus, enjoy the song, The Real Thing by Melanie Thorton……..

I myself have a personal wish for you all, which you will find in the Advent Calendar that you will see quite soon.

Happy Holidays! 🕯️🕯️❤️❄️☕☃️🎄⛪🎁🎉⛄🌨️🤠🚛🚛🚛

Genre of the Week: A Tribute to the Swing

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This week’s Genre of the Week pays a tribute to some of the greatest soul and R&B (rhythm and blues) singers who have passed recently. One of them happened to be the predecessor to Elvis Presley in terms of fame during the infancy of rock music, Little Richard. Known as the Innovator, the Originator and the Architect of Rock and Roll, Little Richard was known as the person who created rock and roll with its combination of piano, brass and swing, and set the foundation for other artists of his time to follow suit, namely, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Eddie Cochran and especially, Elvis, who later became the King of Rock and Roll. While Little Richard provided the swing, especially with his smash hit, Tutti Frutti (released in 1955), other musicians experimented with instruments which led to rock music splitting into its many forms later on during the 60s, 70s, and 80s, such as heavy metal, R&B, dance (including disco) and pop music. Little Richard continued his career in R&B and soul music, thus leaving 73 years of legacy for many generations to listen to and learn about how rock music was born, raised and fanned out into the forms we listen to today. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. The Swing died on May 9th at the age of 87.

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One of the first things that came to mind upon hearing of his passing was a mixture of swing and rock, where Tutti Frutti was paid a tribute. In 1989, Jive Bunny and the Master Mixers created a mix of techno, pop, jazz, classic rock and swing with the release of Swing the Mood.

Little Richard’s masterpiece was included together with what other pieces of music? Hint: One of them was a song by Elvis, another was first used in a TV sitcom Happy Days. There are two versions. Listen to them and try to figure out who sang what song and in which year. Enjoy this one as we pay tribute to Little Richard.

Short Version:

 

Long (12 Inch Record) Version:

 

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Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers also had two other songs that were released, paying tribute to classic rock and swing, That’s What I Like and Let’s Party. They too were released in 1989 and all three of them reached Nr. 1 in the Bilboards. The group from Yorkshire, England later became known as Mastermix DJ Music Service and to this day, produce music and dance mixes for radio and for online streaming.

 

Fl Fi USA

 

Spoonful of Clorox by Randy Rainbow

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After having a chance to watch one parody and getting ourselves motivated into throwing Donald Trump out of office, our next parody will surely give Anne Hathaway grey hairs and Julie Andrews a heart attack. After all, they both played an important household character that we, as children, enjoyed watching growing up. This piece, performed by comedian Randy Rainbow is a response to a series of absurd comments made by President Donald Trump on experimenting with treatments that has caused an uproar among everyone and their dogs, literally.

And while sugar is not healthy when taken in excess, these products should absolutely NOT be taken at home and kept out of reach of children. And the lady in the black dress and umbrella approves of this message. Enjoy the irony and the laughs, but keep the warning labels on the jugs and needles.

 

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Randy Rainbow (known officially as Randy Stewart Rainbow) is an American actor, comedian and satirist, whose specialty is creating parodies of personalities and other events. He is credited for pieces, like “Randy Rainbow Calls Lindsay Lohan”, “Randy Rainbow Calls Dr. Laura”, “The Morning After Chelsea’s Wedding” and „Hey Gurl, It’s Christmas.“ Since the start of Donald Trump’s Presidency in 2017, Randy has created aslew of parodies that are long enough to list that a person can get writer’s cramps from even listing them. 😉 A Spoonful of Clorox, using the household cleaning products as a target of the parody, is the latest in the Trump series. He resides in New York and has been really active in the show business. He has a blog you can access here. You’ll find his satirical songs and the like on his YouTube page here.

Vote Him Away by Roy Zimmerman

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While politics, especially with regards to the situation in the US, are not really appropriate in times like the Corona Virus, this Genre of the Week looks at the parody of one song and how song artist Roy Zimmermann made it into art, supporting the dire need of change American have been desparately looking for. And for the record, we feel your pain, especially to the doctors and nurses who are working around the clock and risking their lives saving others infected by CoVid 19. This song’s for you all. ❤  🙂

 

The original song that was used for this parody can be found here.

 

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Fl Fi USA

The Gambler: A Tribute to Kenny Rogers

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There are many cultural aspects that are typical of the US. Country music is one of them. It is not like our German Volksmusik because it talks about love Bavarian style. It’s a type of music where you need a guitar, a road, a set of cards and some love stories of women in the past and present, who put a stamp in the heart of a man, dressed up in a cowboy hat and riding a stallion or a horse.

We’ve had many country music singers come and go in the last 50 years or so, like Wynonna Judd, Glen Campbell and Garth Brooks. But one person left over 40 years of country music on the highway as he left to join the Lord.

Kenny Rogers died on 20 March, 2020 at the age of 81 years. He was a talented singer, who started his career in 1976 and retired in 2017, leaving behind 36 albums with 24 songs receiving national and international accolades. His second, not to mention hardly ingnorable second job was an actor, who made his debut in 1973 but last appeared in 2009. He will be remembered as the rustling cowboy, who was a fast shooter and stole the hearts and minds of many women in the Wild, Wild West.  His most famous role that will be remembered by many is the man who cleaned town, Brady Hawkes, in the Gambler series, five films that were released from 1980 until its last one in 1994. He also played Jack MacShayne in the MacShayne film series in 1994.

As mentioned before, Rogers left a legacy that spanned 40 years in the show business. Many of us grew up listening to his songs and watching him clean town in the Wild West. When asked what country music means to them, seven out of ten will mention Kenny Rogers in one form or another because of his style, his tender heart, and lastly, as a lifelong teacher.  When hearing the news of his passing, one song came to mind that best describes his legacy, which is The Gambler.  Watch the video and ask yourselves these two questions:

  1. What was meant by his lessons brought up in the video in the literal sense? Remember, the song has to do with Poker and other card games that were popular in the Wild West, as much as today.
  2. At the same time, what do these lessons mean in the moral and figurative sense? Each lesson does have an underlying meaning that we can take with.

 

To close with a quote: Life is like a game of cards. How lucky we are depends on what hand we have. Some of us will be lucky, some won’t. Some will keep trying, some won’t. Some will find ways to win, some will find ways to hinder it. And lastly, some will find ways to stop the immorals from ruining their lives, others will simply watch and learn, to be used when the next window of opportunity opens.

RIP, Gambler.

 

Fl Fi USA