Sing Handel in Boston, Bring Healing to Haiti!

JP Concerts presents: Sing Messiah!
Saturday, December 11, 8 p.m.
St. John’s Episcopal Church
1 Roanoke Avenue, Boston (map link)
$10 Donation includes score rental

Happy Holidays, Music Nerds!

Photobucket‘Tis the season for performances of Handel’s Messiah, both the all-pro and sing-along variety. And Boston, being the turbo-charged classical music mecca that it is, boasts many opportunities to get in on this holiday tradition. Today I would like to draw special attention to one that McDoc and I are involved in, because it will benefit a very good cause!

PhotobucketIn April of this year, McDoc went on a medical mission to Haiti, where he spent a week caring for patients who had sustained spinal cord injuries in the January earthquake. The mission was organized by Boston Healing Hands, the local affiliate of Healing Hands for Haiti, an organization with a 10-year history of providing physical rehabilitation services in Haiti. This excerpt from their mission statement explains what they do better than I can:

Healing Hands for Haiti supports and encourages the Haitian people in providing quality physical rehabilitation services for themselves in a spirit of self-determination, independence and human dignity with a focus on empowering Haitians with disabilities

Before I began learning about McDoc’s medical specialty, physical medicine and rehabilitation, I had very little awareness of the kinds of ongoing, long-term care needed by people with the conditions the specialty treats. Did you know that when someone undergoes an amputation (of which there were many in Haiti resulting from earthquake-related injuries), they need very specialized care in order to be fitted for a prosthesis and use it successfully? And folks with spinal cord injury need ongoing follow-up care as well. Healing Hands for Haiti’s medical volunteers not only provide direct care; they also train local caregivers to continue this crucial work.

McDoc has the opportunity to go on a second mission to Haiti, in March 2011. He’ll volunteer his time (and one of his three annual vacation weeks!), but there is also the matter of travel and living expenses, which total about $2,000 per team member. That’s where Handel comes in: proceeds from this Saturday’s sing-along Messiah will help support McDoc’s mission!

So if you’re in the Boston area and you love to sing, please join us on Saturday! Even if you don’t sing, you’re welcome to come and listen. Accompaniment will be provided by the Young Artists Philharmonic, led by conductor Isaac Kramer, and featured soloists include Megan Bisceglia, Nathan Keoughan, Farah Darliette Lewis, Joshua Pelkey, and Yakov Zamir.

If you can’t make it on Saturday but are moved to help, here’s how: checks payable to Boston Healing Hands may be mailed to:
Boston Healing Hands
Box 465
Milton MA 02186

If you designate your donation as in support of Dr. Brian McMichael, it will help McDoc directly. Thank you so much!

To help you prepare for the event, here’s a vocal warm-up courtesy of Random Acts of Culture:


Music for Juneteenth!

Happy Saturday, music nerds! Today was a busy day; McDoc and I went to a graduation party for one of his fellow residents (that’ll be McDoc two years from now!), and I spent most of the rest of the day… drumroll… composing! Woot! Oh, and there was also some activity in the Miss Music Nerd Bureau of Graphic Design, but the details have not yet been cleared for release. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So today’s post will be brief: music to mark a holiday that 36 states officially celebrate today: Juneteenth. It’s a commemoration of the time in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas, courtesy of federal troops who arrived to reclaim the state for the Union. (The proclamation had been issued by President Lincoln over two years prior to that; if only they’d had Twitter in those days…)

Here’s some great music to mark the day — enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, sung by Kathleen Battle and the Boys Choir of Harlem

A Change Is Gonna Come, by Sam Cooke

Lift Every Voice and Sing, sung by Ray Charles


Happy Easter Monday, Music Nerds!

Well, I did it! I got through my first Holy Week and Easter in my new organist-choir director position!

Feel free to share this badge of honor with any church musicians, clergy, altar guild members, church office workers, etc., that you know!

I had taken a sabbatical from church music when McDoc and I got married. The idea of having weekends uncommitted as a newlywed was appealing. ๐Ÿ™‚ So appealing, in fact, that I swore I wouldn’t take another regular church job again. My plan was to be a substitute organist, living the free and easy life most of the time, and riding the to rescue when organists desperate to get out of town needed someone to fill in. Being indispensable has its advantages!

Slowly but surely, though, I got sucked back into the regular church gig scene. So I was really happy when the opportunity came my way to work at a church that McDoc and I liked and had already decided to join. McDoc is now a member of my choir!

I started right at the beginning of Lent, which is a slightly stressful time to step into the job; it’s kind of like climbing into the roller coaster car as it slowly creaks up to the top of the hill, right before it begins its rushing, unstoppable descent. Nothing to do now but go with it!

Holy Week consists of a service with every night from Thursday to Saturday, and then the big show on Sunday morning. My choir is small but mighty, and did an admirable job. We had a fine young trumpet player, a first-year Boston Conservatory student, join us on Easter Sunday morning, too.

By noon yesterday, when all was said and done, I was more than ready for a nice brunch, complete with mimosa! Here I am afterwards, with Tiny Dancer, our official choir mascot:

…And then it was time for some of this:

Now that I’ve gotten through all that, I can tackle the backlog of stories I need to post, and then turn my attention to some exciting upcoming adventures. Stay tuned! ๐Ÿ™‚


Miss Music Nerd Goes Green!

No, I haven’t bought a hybrid or installed solar panels… I’m a very conscientious recycler, though! ๐Ÿ˜‰

What I mean to say is… Happy St. Patrick’s Day, music nerds!

McDoc and I both have plenty of Irish in our backgrounds (Scots-Irish, to be precise, hence his ‘Mc’!), so you can bet we were wearin’ green today. There wasn’t any green beer or extended revelry for us this evening, as good little doctors and good little music nerds have to get home at a decent hour on a school night. Which is a shame, since we do live in Boston!

I started thinking of examples of Irish music, and of course, there’s a much broader spectrum than what you might first think of. There are also too many famous standards to include in one post. Click Mr. Readmore for Miss Music Nerd’s random yet highly selective St. Paddy’s Day playlist! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Continue reading

A Playlist Revisited: Have a Very Nerdy New Year’s Eve!

Two New Year’s Eves ago, I posted A Nerdy Playlist for New Yearโ€™s Eve. I thought it might be fun to tweak it a bit, in the spirit of out with the old, in with the new!

1. To get us in the mood, Ella Fitzgerald asks, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”

Like I mentioned in the previous post, many people are not at all sad to see 2009 coming to a close; ditto the aughties as a whole. Seems this sentiment prevailed through much of the decade:

2. REM: โ€œItโ€™s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Well, like I said before, you can’t fall out of the basement! This song, which was the first dance at McDoc’s and my wedding, is appropriate here:

3. Tony Bennett & Diana Krall: “The Best Is Yet To Come”

You never know what the future holds, though — paranoia will likely endure!

4. Donald Fagen: “New Frontier”

Here’s a song that never goes out of style, in my opinion, and this year it’s almost numerically fitting! Though “I’m gonna party like it’s two… thou… sand… and nine!” does sound a bit forced, I admit! ๐Ÿ˜›

5. Prince: “1999”

You want nostalgia? Here you go. I know, it’s set on Christmas Eve, but the sax supplies the requisite “Auld Lang Syne” at the end, so I still think it fits.

6. Dan Fogelberg: “Same Old Lang Syne”

If you roll VIP, you may want to check out this, the mother of all New Year’s Eve parties. If you’re like me, and it’s too rich for your blood, don’t despair — turn this on and waltz around your living room!

7. Johann Strauss: “The Blue Danube Waltz”

One more waltz tune, from an opera traditionally performed around this holiday:

8. Johann Strauss: Waltz from Die Fledermaus

Here’s the song I finished up with last year — I have a tradition of listening to it each January 1.

9. U2: “New Year’s Day”

I think I’ll add another U2 tune to that tradition, though — this puts me in a good frame of mind for new beginnings. ๐Ÿ™‚

10. U2: “Beautiful Day”

Your turn, music nerds: what are you listening to today and tomorrow? Whatever it is…

Here’s hoping for a beautiful 2010! ๐Ÿ™‚


Post-Holiday Blues + End-of-Decade Anxiety = Give Me a Funny Video NOW!!

Happy Eve of New Year’s Eve, music nerds!

Didn’t get quite what you wanted for Christmas? You’re not alone!

Garfunkel and Oates: nerdy comic geniuses, n’est-ce pas? Look for more on them in an upcoming post!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past couple days; I suppose it’s part post-Christmas slump and part end-of-the-year anxiety. Where did 2009 go? How can it be 2010 already? OMGWTFBBQ!!

It doesn’t help that the internets have been rife with both end-of-the-year and end-of-the-decade pronouncements. The general consensus seems to be that the aughties were a write-off, and that 2009 in particular was pretty dreadful. The Rude Pundit sums it up colorfully (in three parts), and I can’t find much to argue with there.

Side note/commercial break: Next week, I’ll be summing up the year in classical music as part of my Community Blogger duties for the GRAMMYSยฎ. You can bet that will be much more uplifting than a lot of the end-of-year stuff I’ve been reading! ๐Ÿ˜€ )

MMN & McDoc singing at our wedding reception

MMN & McDoc singing at our wedding reception

But reality is, of course, always more complex than whatever the current conventional wisdom happens to be. And for me, personally, this decade had an upward trajectory, though it certainly wasn’t a straight line. It began with the loss of VirgoMom, in August 2000. You can’t fall out of the basement, right? It continued with a variety of grad-school misadventures, halting experiments in making a living as a musician, and the quest — now a madcap comedy of errors thanks to hindsight — to find Mr. Miss Music Nerd. Of course, in the end, McDoc found me. I know it’s really, really annoying when people say that what you’re looking for will come along when you least expect it, but I have to admit, it’s true.

At any rate, when I compare I am now with where I was in 2000, all I can do is sigh with relief. Well, okay, I can do a lot more than that. I have plenty to rue and moan about; I’d lose my Temperamental Artist card if I didn’t. But I have to say, to my shock and surprise, I am… content. Happy, even. Whoa, who’da thunk it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

It’s good that I’m getting this little episode of ennui out of the way now, because January will be very, very busy! I’ve been active behind the scenes, lining up interviews with interesting local music folk. I also have a pile of GRAMMY-nominated recordings that I’ll be featuring. But the really big thing, of course, is the countdown to the GRAMMY Week itself!! I bought my plane ticket for Cali and everything, so it’s game on, woot!! ๐Ÿ˜€


Carols from Hell!

Merry Eve of Christmas Eve, everybody!

Tomorrow is a big day for me; I have not one, but two Christmas Eve church gigs!

Since tomorrow will be all about the musically sublime, I thought it would be fun to devote tonight to the musically ridiculous!

I think everyone has at least one: the song that inspires bone-chilling dread every year, as soon as the Halloween are cleared from store shelves to make way for the commodities of Christmas. The song that makes you breathe a sigh of relief when December 26 rolls around. I know I do!

Herewith, Miss Music Nerd’s 5 Most Un-favorite Christmas songs!

First, a few parameters:

  • Only traditional, widely-known songs are eligible for this infamy, as Miss Music Nerd is not going to waste her beautiful mind keeping up with current pop mediocrity. That’s well-covered elsewhere.
  • I’m not going to get into the topic of bad covers of songs that may or may not be good; we’d be here all night. The particular performance doubtlessly has an impact on one’s opinion of the song, though.
  • McDoc asked me what my criteria are for categorizing a song as an un-favorite. If I took my time, I could probably articulate it in more detail, but for now I’ll just sum it up: songs that bug the sh*t out of me. ๐Ÿ™‚

1. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

‘Jingle bell’ and ‘mistletoe’ are nouns that should not be verbed. That is all.

2. Santa Baby

A common complaint about Christmas is that it’s too centered on materialism; common complaint about Halloween is that costumes for women are needlessly floozy-ish. This song gives you both.

3. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

It was sort of funny the first time… Actually, no, it wasn’t. ๐Ÿ˜›

4. Must Be Santa

Call me a mean old grouch, but I’m not so groovy with these additive, repeat a phrase eleventy times kinds of things. And a note about this performance: Mr. Dylan, Barbara Streisand called; she wants her hairstyle back. ๐Ÿ˜›

5. The Boar’s Head Carol

I chose this one not because I actually dislike it all that much; in fact, I like the harmony of the chorus quite a bit. However, it commits the musical sin of having the text set such that the ac-CENT goes on the wrong syl-LA-ble. Three times! >:-( The offending syllables are in bold below. That fourth one’s a wobbler, but I don’t like it.

The boar’s head in hand bring I,
Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary.
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio (Translation: As many as are in the feast)

Caput apri defero (Translation: The boar’s head I offer)
Reddens laudes Domino (Translation: Giving praises to the Lord)

The boar’s head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico. (Translation: Let us serve with a song)


Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio. (Translation: In the Queen’s hall)

Also, as a vegetarian, I can’t much warm to the idea of eating a pig’s head, though I appreciate the don’t-waste-anything ethic it represents. ๐Ÿ˜› I’m fortunate to have a wealth of alternatives!

Finally, because I hate to end on a sour note, here’s one of my not-un-favorites. This, I think, is just one of the most beautiful things ever. ๐Ÿ™‚


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