Dec 302013
 

Bauman album cover
A couple of weeks ago this lovely CD showed up in my mailbox. It came to me because three of my arrangements are included on it: “Be Still My Soul,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

The artist on this disk is Sara Noel Bauman, an extremely talented violinist, who took each of those arrangements (as well as eight other selections, including two of my personal favorites, “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables and “Clair de Lune”) and made them her own. Sara is currently concertmaster of BYU’s Chamber Orchestra, and as you listen to the music on this album you can see why. Her interpretations are flawlessly executed, but more importantly, they are simply beautiful.

Here’s her take on “Be Still, My Soul”:

And here is “I Need Thee Every Hour”:

Sara is using the proceeds from the sale of this album to fund a future Chamber Orchestra trip, and in charitable support of education for underprivileged children. Purchase this album at www.saranoelbauman.com This is one you’ll listen to over and over.

Dec 032013
 

Well, not exactly silent, but definitely a treat.

Several years ago, my brother learned American Sign Language after a surgery damaged his vocal cords and he could no longer speak. The voice loss, fortunately, lasted only a couple of years, but his love for ASL was permanent. His love for the language–though not his proficiency!–rubbed off on me. I think ASL (and it’s counterparts in other countries) renders some of the most beautiful and touching musical performances I have ever seen.

About a month ago, Susan Layton, an actress and ASL performer, contacted me for permission to use my arrangement of “Silent Night” in a video she was producing. I was delighted to agree, and the finished video is just too beautiful keep to myself. She pulled together lovely vocals (performed by Stacie Wiese, accompanied by Sarah Spangler), a sweet concept, and a touching, artistic interpretation. Here’s the result:

What a beautiful performance. Thank you Susan!

Dec 012013
 

Swirly Christmas TreeOne of the greatest things about self-publishing is that you can write Christmas music any time you like. For example, during the Christmas season.

One of the worst things about self-publishing is that you tend to write Christmas music at the wrong time of year to be useful. For example, during the Christmas season.

Case in point: Here’s a new Christmas piece, titled “A Holy Child is Born,” for vocal solo (with optional harmony for the third verse) and violin obbligato. In this track, the vocals AND the violin are provided by my wonderful friend, Sarah Crowther. Needless to say, she didn’t do both at once.

The lyrics to this one are unusual for me. I tend to write in full sentences–with (*gasp*) occasional run-on sentences thrown in for good measure. This particular song contains a lot of fragments–short phrases that I used to try to describe the picture of that first Christmas as I was seeing it with my mind’s eye.

There are a couple more Christmas things floating around in my head that will probably show up here in the next week or two, just in time to be of no practical use until next year. I should put up the tree, flock my windows and bake sugar cookies in July and see if it motivates me to produce Christmas music any earlier. Hmmmm… since the thought of that is making me grin, maybe I will. 🙂

Oh… I’ve been meaning to mention this for awhile, so this is as good a time as any. One of the questions that pops up quite often about site content is, “Why is this vocal demo in a different key than the score?”

The answer lies in the way the vocal demos are produced. I write a song and send it off to a vocalist, and then the conversation tends to go like this:

Seven Sharps et alVocalist: Can I have this 3 semitones lower?
Me: Um, sure, but that puts the last verse in 7 sharps, and every pianist in the world is going to hate me.
Vocalist: Oh, no problem.
Me: Right.

So I change the key, and the vocalist records the demo beeeautifully and I am thankful that I caved. But alas, when I go to publish the score, I proof it at the piano and realize that yes, every pianist in the world is going to hate me. And since I truly cannot brave the wrath of every pianist in the world, I publish the score in the original key.

If, knowing this, you want the score in the key used in the demo track regardless of its billion sharps or flats, it’s because you have to brave the wrath of only one pianist. In this case, just download the .pc file (assuming it’s available) and transpose to your heart’s content. When I hear the explosion from over your way, I will plug my ears and smile in smug satisfaction, knowing I did my best and that this meltdown is, for once, not my fault.

Happy December!

Nov 292013
 

SnowflakebluePerhaps you’ve seen some of the macro pictures of snowflakes that float around the internet. (Like these… taken with a DIY camera setup.) The beauty and variety are amazing. They also look a bit unreal, don’t they? Like something you’d find made of acrylic hanging on a Christmas tree.

Jamie WilliamsI think the beauty and variety found in the human voice is equally amazing. No matter how many voices you hear, no two are the same–each has its own unique characteristics and expression.

I’m lucky–I get to hear quite a lot of beautiful voices. Here’s an example… a solo version of “There Within a Stable,” sung by Jamie Williams of Mesa, Arizona, USA. She’s a mom with 6 kids, and a fellow music-lover with a gorgeous voice. I hope you enjoy her rendition. (The accompaniment has been updated for the solo version, and is available on the song page.)

Nov 222013
 
Choir directors… in case you didn’t get the message, the annual Jackman Music buy-one-get-one-free sale happens on December 12. (And no, I’m not on commission… just don’t want you miss a good deal. 😉 ) All the details are in the graphic below.

Jackman Ad 2013

Happy shopping!

Nov 212013
 

Yesterday my web host had a server outage of epic proportions. 24 hours later, someone apparently waved a wand and said “bibbity bobbity boo” and my website has magically reappeared. I think that’s how it’s done. The internet is all just magic anyway.

Two takeaways from the outage: 1) Get what you need in advance if you can, so such an outage doesn’t cause you too much grief; and 2) I need to find some additional place to store all my PDFs so I have an option for such emergencies. Strange to think that “emergency preparedness” should need to include my website!

Anyway, it’s back… full steam ahead… and sorry for the inconvenience. 🙂

Nov 182013
 
Awhile back my husband came home at lunch time and casually asked me, “So, what have you been up to this morning? Anything interesting?”

“No,” I said, “Same old same old.”

And then I started thinking about what I actually had been doing that morning. I had listened from my cozy little computer room in Colorado (via Skype) to the wonderful Mr. James Loynes 5,000 miles away in England as he sang through a new song I was working on (spoiled rotten, I am!); I had looked through a whole new set of digital pictures (uploaded to Facebook) of my grandbabies in California; I had uploaded a new score to my website which was promptly downloaded by fine musicians in any number of countries I have never seen; and I had had a lovely chat with a new friend–a choir director in Poland.

No, nothing interesting at all. Same old same old. It’s an amazing and awe-inspiring world we live in, isn’t it?

Here’s what prompted the reminiscence of that particular day. This week, Piotr Sikora (the previously-mentioned choir director in Poland) sent me this lovely recording of “When the Son of God was Born” (in Polish), from an album he and his choir (Wyższobramski Chór Kameralny) are just finishing up:

I just had to share… what a gorgeous sound this choir has! They are producing the album to raise funds for the restoration of the beautiful old organ there in the Kościół Jezusowy (Jesus Church) in Cieszyn. (You can read more about it here.)

If you’re interested in listening to more from this wonderful choir, here’s their YouTube channel.

Happy Monday!

Oct 122013
 
Last night was a landmark for me… I actually finished something. Something big. And complicated. And boy am I patting myself on the back!

The Praise to the Lord Cantata page has been a placeholder for (oh my… **blushes**…) two years(!) while I struggled to keep up with life. Last night I finished formatting the last score and converting the last file. It’s finally available in its entirety. That means…

The SATB version of “Lying in a Manger” is also available. Many of you have written asking me when it would be posted, and it’s finally ready for you. (BTW, I have begun to dread questions that contain the word “When…?” ) It’s actually SSATTBB… but you can omit the harmonies in the TTBB and SSA sections to make it a simpler SATB.

Abraham and Isaac prepare to travel to Moriah

This is a story that affects me emotionally in a lot of ways.

It also means that another of the songs from Heather’s lovely project, “Reaching for the Light,” is now uploaded and available. This song is also from the aforementioned cantata, and is called “God Will Provide a Lamb.”

Since I was old enough to read, I have been particularly affected by the story of Abraham when he was commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac. I remember sitting on my mother’s bed with an old, old, old red-letter edition of the Bible, reading the story and looking at the full-page color plate that faced the scriptural page. (The picture was much less gentle than the one at the left!)

It wasn’t until much later that I recognized the event for what it was: a real-life “parable” about the sacrifice that Jesus Christ would make for them, and that He has made for me.

This song describes that real-life “parable.”

Here’s Heather Prusse singing the track, beautifully as usual:

The song is available in both SATB, and low- to medium-voice solo.

Happy Sunday!

Oct 022013
 
Damien and Lyric

Best friends. Most of the time. 😉

It’s a busy week–the grandbabies are here to play. They are a very picturesque pair. Also nice, well-behaved, smart, creative, (insert virtues of your choice here)…

No bias. Nope. None.

Since my attention will be elsewhere for a while, a few things waiting in queue will have to be patient a bit longer.

In the meantime, here are a couple of performances for you to enjoy:


First, a beautiful rendition of “Gethsemane” from YouTube.

This was performed by Karlene Endres (vocals), Beverly Adelmann, and Dean Sayles for an Easter (2013) service at First Presbyterian Church in Joliet, IL.

They used Marvin Goldstein’s lovely arrangement (available here), and the result was gorgeous.

Next is this video from last weekend’s Relief Society (women’s organization) session of the LDS church’s General Conference. (This is embedded Flash video and may not work on all devices. I’ll replace it with YouTube video when it becomes available.)

I’m a bit hesitant about posting this since the sheet music isn’t available, and… well, I’m not completely satisfied with the arrangement. It’s a medley of “Go Forth With Faith” and “As Sisters in Zion.” The first is an exuberant, upbeat, almost-march-ish hymn about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with all the world. The second is a gentle, sweet, almost-waltz-ish hymn about sisterhood and unity. The two did not want to play nicely together, and fought me every step of the way.

Emily and companions during the Colorado flooding.

Welcome to Colorado. Here’s your life-jacket.

What makes this rendition most appealing is the choir–sister missionaries just setting off to various parts of the world where they will spend their time teaching of Jesus Christ and serving in any way they can. (That service often comes in unexpected ways… hence the picture to the left–my adorable niece (the one the in the closet) and her compatriots helping with cleanup during the recent flooding in Colorado.)

I loved looking at the faces in the choir–so happy, so beautiful, and they sounded great. The incredible thing is that they had the music memorized. I know how long these ladies had (or didn’t have) to learn the music and what their schedules are like. I’m well and truly impressed!

Happy Wednesday! I’m off to enjoy Dueling Action Figures and Other Very Important Things. 🙂

Sep 252013
 
Thanksgiving Turkey

No, I did not cook this. But if ever a poor turkey under my tender care looks this good, I will definitely take its picture.

Elephants.

Sometimes we do family portraits after dinner.

Thanksgiving.

Ahhhhh…. the word conjures up so many wonderful associations…

…gathering as much family as you can cram into one house… roast turkey… sweet potato casserole… eating way too much… pumpkin pie with real whip cream… eating way too much… raucous family games…

In the US, our “Thanksgiving” holiday falls every year on the fourth Thursday of November. It’s a day we set aside for gratefully remembering our blessings and the heritage we’ve been given. Oh, and did I mention eating too much?

Late in October, my wonderful little LDS Institute choir here in Colorado Springs will present a concert to kick off our Thanksgiving season. This year, as the choir considered the theme for the evening, we landed on the idea of the amazing earth our Heavenly Father created for us, and all the wonders in the world around us.

We chose as our title song, “This Is My Father’s World,” a beautiful hymn composed at the turn of the 20th century. The words were written by Maltbie D. Babcock (1858-1901), and the poem was set to music by Franklin L. Sheppard (1852-1930). I have adapted the words and melody for this arrangement for SATB choir, and also for medium-low voice solo. The solo will easily transpose up a couple of steps for you higher voices; I’m not sure you’d want to lower it, as it will probably get lifeless and growly set any lower.

Here’s a rendition of the solo version, sung beautifully as usual by Mr. James Loynes:

Our choir spent about half an hour on it over the last two weeks, and we’re finding it pretty easy to learn. The SSAATTB split for a couple of chords on the last page is quite manageable, so don’t let its looks fool you. (The piano accompaniment does end in four sharps for the last verse and chorus, so consider the abilities of your accompanist. I wouldn’t want them all looking for me… 😉 )

Sep 162013
 

Here, for your Monday entertainment, is a cover of my arrangement of “Be Still, My Soul,” recorded by Jenna Jackman Handy. She takes a lot of liberties with the melody… okay, scratch that… the melody is practically her own, and it suits her voice perfectly.

I know one or two of you are wondering… do I like this? I. Love. It. I love to hear people’s musical interpretations, whatever style they use, but more than that, I love to hear people sing their hearts out. Like Jenna does. Fabulous!

Sep 062013
 

Amazing how life gets away from you when you’re swamped inundated up to your ears in alligators … having fun! Yes. That’s what I meant.

There are still two more scores from Heather’s album to get ready to post, which have been back-burnered in favor of some other more pressing assignments. After I’ve dug myself out of the latest hole, they’re next on the list.

This Holy Christmas Night coverIn the meantime, here’s a new Friday Favorite that I think you’ll enjoy. We we just started this one in our Institute Choir.

It’s a gorgeous Christmas number called “This Holy Christmas Night,” written by Lloyd Larsen. We’re doing the SATB, but it’s also available for SSA or Solo voice.

If you click on the title above or the cover at the left, there’s an audio available. Look for the little blue speaker icon about halfway down the page, right next to the cover image that… well, isn’t there. 🙂 I scanned the cover so you’d know what it looks like. It’s really worth a listen.

This song includes a hauntingly-beautiful violin part, which is printed on the last page of the music. We sight-read the song this past week, and found it fairly easy to read through, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Enjoy!

Aug 062013
 
While my kids were teenagers, I guess I was more focused on youth themes and managed to get new music up early in the year. Since my kids are no longer in the youth program, it’s been getting later and later into each new year that I actually manage to get the music done and posted. Maybe it will help when the grandkids are teenagers.

However late it may be, the new song this time supports this year’s youth theme:

“…stand ye in holy places and be not moved …”.

The song is titled “This is Holy Ground,” voiced for solo with optional harmony or SATB choir. An optional obbligato for oboe (or other C instrument) is included for use with both versions. The words are a reflection of this idea:

“…holy places have more to do with
how one lives than where one lives…”
(Harold B. Lee)

The demo recording is another of the tracks done for me by Heather Prusse:

Available on CD: “Reaching for the Light” (All CDS)
Backup vocals by Annabelle Smith

Also new this time is a duet version of an older song supporting yet another youth theme, “Arise and Shine Forth.” The duet is sung by Heather Prusse and James Loynes:

Perhaps I’ll be more timely with this year’s youth theme. Since in the past some of the themes have been rotated and re-used, maybe it will be a repeat of one that’s been done before, and I can claim to have been several years early with an existing song. At any rate, I should get better when my oldest grandchild enters the youth program. (In only 7 more years??? That can’t be right.)

Jul 252013
 

Duet time!

For as long as I have known Heather Prusse and James Loynes, I have wanted… longed… ached… to get their voices together on a song or two. Finally, with this latest new song, we managed it. (They actually did another duet together as well… it will follow shortly.)

The new song is titled “He is My All,” for either medium-voice solo or for mezzo/baritone duet. Heather and James sang it together, though they were never in the same room at the same time, nor indeed even on the same continent. Ain’t technology grand?

Here’s the track. Enjoy!

Jul 172013
 

PaletteI’m no visual artist. Give me a blank wall and a roller and that’s about as good as it gets around here.

I raised a couple of visual artists, however, and I know several others, and I’m always amazed at how they can take a blank canvas (or some other mysterious medium) and turn it into something incredible.

The new song this time is titled, “The Painter’s Hand.” It talks about the Master Painter–the One who does it best–and the masterpiece He intends to make of each one of us.

It’s available as a medium-voice solo with cello obbligato. It’s the next installment of Heather’s album, “Reaching for the Light,” and the album title is taken from this line of the lyric:

“He knows the strength that grows in shadow when I’m reaching for the light.”
Available on CD: “Reaching for the Light” (All CDS)
Cello by Ramona McConkie

About a month ago I was getting the score ready to upload, when a wise young Facebook friend posted this message:

Imagine this: you just painted an absolutely beautiful painting. It’s exactly what you wanted, and you’re really proud of it! You absolutely love it, so you give it to someone special. The problem is that they constantly point out the flaws. There’s always something that just isn’t right. And they don’t hang it up, they just leave it on the ground, not really caring what happens to it. Imagine that Heavenly Father is the painter, and you are the person He gave this painting to. Keep in mind that it breaks Heavenly Father’s heart to hear you constantly criticize yourself, out loud and in your head… You are absolutely beautiful in His eyes.

Thanks, Liberty! I couldn’t have said it better.


Valarie Olson

Valarie

My dear friend Valarie Olson was my co-conspirator on this song.

As we worked on it together, we thought about the innumerable things in the world around us that challenge our sense of self-worth. The way our Heavenly Father sees us is so much more accurate than the way we often view ourselves.

We hold ourselves to unattainable and often undesirable societal standards. He sees the true beauty that is our inheritance as His sons and daughters. We see the flaws… the rough edges… the unfinished canvas. He sees us as we can become.


Cover Art with captionMy niece Adrianna is the photographer responsible for the album art–she’s also the lovely young lady in the picture… however that worked!

Here’s the shot she took, captioned with the line from the song that inspired the picture.

Click for a larger, high-quality file. You’re welcome to download it for any personal use.

Jul 122013
 
Here’s one of my absolute favorite modern compositions: “Behold the Wounds in Jesus’ Hands” with text by John V. Pearson and Music by David R. Naylor.

This is a go-to standard in my library. The words are touching and sweet, and the music is beautiful. This video uses the BYU Singers’ rendition.

This arrangement is do-able by the smaller choirs typical of local congregations. There is one very high passage toward the end, but the highest notes are optional. This rendition is a bit slower than I usually take it with a smaller choir–hey, this choir has the breath control and the acoustics to do that!

SATB anthem, SATB Hymn, SSA and Solo versions are available, as well as a full orchestration and an organ prelude version. Here are a some places to get it:

The SATB Hymn version appeared in the Ensign magazine, and is downloadable free of charge here: Hymn Version

Other versions are available from:

Jackman Music (Publisher): All versions (except the SSA)

Sheet Music Plus: All versions (except the organ prelude)–and at a discount, which is always good. 🙂

Happy Friday folks!

Jul 092013
 

“The Lord is my Shepherd, no want shall I know…”

Since I was a very young teenager I have loved the 23rd Psalm and the imagery it brings to mind. It’s easy to imagine “still waters” and “green pastures” and, even better, to imagine yourself into them. I also love James Montgomery’s lyric inspired by the psalm. I’ve never been too fond of the traditional tune though. It has always provoked me to bounce around between alto and soprano, searching for a melody.

So, of course, I decided to write one of my own. And when you start messing with melodies, you find that you have to adjust the words to match, so the words have been rearranged a bit, and a couple of new lines added.

Here’s Heather singing the resulting setting of “The Lord is My Shepherd” as a solo:

It’s also available for SSATBB choir. Don’t let all the letters scare you. The 2nd soprano part just gives the lower sopranos an option slightly below the rafters in a couple of places, and the baritone part keeps the higher basses out of the basement for a measure or two. (Well, okay, they also fill the chords out nicely. 😉 ) It’s a fairly simple choral arrangement, with much of the first two verses in unison sections. Deceptively simple I guess… achieving a good unison is real work, but when you get there it’s oh so nice.

There’s a violin obbligato that goes with it, and though you can hear cello in the recording, there isn’t a cello score. The cellist was simply following the bass line of the piano score.

Just for fun, I thought I’d try my hand at doing a sing-along video complete with melody and lyrics:

Heh… the only thing missing is the bouncing ball.

I’m also posting Heather’s new recording of “Come Unto Christ.” The arrangement itself isn’t new, but there is a new cello obbligato that goes with it.

Happy Tuesday!

Jun 262013
 
"Reaching for the Light" CD cover

See that lovely cover photo? My wonderful niece Adrianna Marie Giles did that for me. I’m a lucky auntie!

Watch out folks… here comes the deluge. 🙂 I have a whole new collection of things to post that have been in the works for a year.

First, there are 15 new tracks, all featuring Heather Prusse (who is amazing). They’re available on a CD titled “Reaching for the Light.” An accompaniment track CD is also available. The super-high-quality digital downloads are available for purchase here. (For any of you who prefer it, they’re also available on iTunes–I hope that will make it easier for those of you on iPads/iPods/iWhatevers who have been having trouble with the downloads.)

The CD and all the high-quality tracks are available immediately. I’ll be posting the scores and free MP3s a couple at a time over the next month or two, since the work involved in adding them all at once makes me want to head for the hills and live like a hermit.

Listen:

Because You Prayed for Me

Miracles

The two songs I have posted today are “Because You Prayed for Me,” a medium-voice solo with violin obbligato; and an updated arrangement of “Miracles” with flute obbligato. The Personal Composer scores are available for both selections should you wish to transpose or resize the music. Free 128Kbps MP3 downloads of each are available for personal use.
The loooong story that follows below is what prompted “Because You Prayed for Me.” If you’re interested, read on. If not, go enjoy the music and this beautiful Wednesday. (Well, it’s beautiful here, and I hope it’s beautiful wherever you are!)
The story:
Waldo Canyon Fire evacuation

Looks scary, doesn’t it? That’s because it was. See the 390th car back on the left? Yeah, that’s me.

In June of 2012, we were chased out of our home and sent running for cover (along with 32,000+ other Colorado Springs residents) as a raging wildfire roared into the lovely neighborhoods just west of us. Low humidity, record high temperatures, and high winds blowing in precisely the wrong direction combined to create the perfect storm.

Perfect for the fire, that is. Not so much for the rest of us.

The Waldo Canyon Fire would become the most destructive in state history. It would go on to claim 346 homes, two people’s lives, and leave roughly 29 sq. miles of charred forests and decimated neighborhoods in its wake.

It was terrifying.

Waldo Canyon Fire

Seeing a friend’s house in a shot like this was a bit of a shock, to say the least.

As the fire crept toward civilization, we watched the news and social media, anxious for every bit of information we could get. Each passing day was full of smoke and statistics, evacuation notices and dire warnings, but each day was also full of well-wishers–friends, family, strangers from far and wide–who stopped by on Twitter or Facebook to say, “I’m praying for you.” (My favorite was a fellow denizen of a BYU sports message board who found it a bit odd to pray for us by our screen names, but did it anyway. She assured us that God knew precisely who she was talking about. I believe that. 🙂 )
A lost and confused visitor.

What do you do when your habitat is on fire? Visit my back yard, of course.

I can’t tell you how grateful the simple phrase “I’m praying for you” made me feel.

When the evacuations were lifted and we drove the 10 hours home from my parents’ house, the song “Because You Prayed for Me” started formulating itself in my head, and by the time we got home, it was a full-blown lyric. A few changes, an appropriate melody and… voila! it should have been done.

But it wasn’t done. It just wasn’t right. Or perhaps it just wasn’t the right time. I tweaked it and worked on it and worried over it for months, and it still wasn’t right. Then, before even a year had passed since the Waldo Canyon Fire had descended on us like a voracious dragon…

Black Forest Fire

It’s always amazing how beautiful pictures like this can be–in a horrible sort of way.

…another wildfire erupted in the nearby community of Black Forest. If the first fire was a dragon, this fire was two. Or three. Or twenty. It’s appetite eclipsed the previous fire by far, destroying over 500 homes, claiming two lives, and prompting the evacuation of roughly 38,000 people in a very short space of time.

This time the fire started in an inhabited area. Again the humidity was low, the winds were high and therefore this drove of dragons could pick and choose its breakfast, lunch and dinner. Which it did.

Again we watched the news and worried, and again the messages of love and hope poured in from all over the country and around the world: “We’re praying for you.”

Black Forest Fire

The courage and skill of the firefighters was a wonder and a blessing. They’re rock stars around here.

The weather forecast was grim: thunder and dry lightning with very little hope of rain.

We prayed for it anyway. And on the third day of the fire, in the mid-afternoon, it came. Torrential rain, directly over the burning forest, giving the valiant firefighters the upper hand at last.

Let those call it coincidence who will; we who lived it know better.

It was a direct and unmistakable answer to prayer, sent from a loving Heavenly Father, as people near and far lifted up their voices together and asked for what they needed.

Thank you!

It feels so good to get to be grateful.

Now, finally, the song feels right.

This song was started by one fire, and finished by another. It doesn’t speak of literal fires, but has to do with the figurative “trials by fire” that each of us passes through in life, not once but many times.

This song is my way of saying thanks to the many people who offer prayers for others during these fiery trials. It’s my way of acknowledging the amazing and sometimes under-valued blessing of knowing that someone is praying for you.

Jun 222013
 

A fellow musician and (even better) a fellow Colorado resident has posted a series of articles with some good observations and advice on entering music in the LDS Church’s Annual Music Submission. If this is something you’ve done in the past, or considered doing in the future, this series of articles by Nathan Howe will interest you:

Let the Parade of Losers begin!
Next on Parade: Baptism
The Parade Comes to a Close
Series Summary: Best Practices for the Annual Church Music Submissions

Official information for submissions is found here.

Nathan has some great music available for download on his site as well.

Enjoy!

Jun 162013
 
Growing up is never an easy thing. Just ask anyone who’s done it. (Lets me out… most of the time… 😉 ) Childhood insecurities turn into teenage insecurities, and often those insecurities follow us right into adulthood. Remember those awful PhysEd classes in grade school? the ones where they chose two captains and let them take turns torturing the less athletic students by picking classmates for their baseball teams? Know who was the last one chosen every time? Yesiree. I couldn’t hit a baseball to save my life. (Actually, it was a blessing to be chosen last, because that meant you were often too far down the order to have to take a turn at bat. And you got to play right field.)

I remember watching Danny Ainge at a church youth activity. Baseball. Again. He stepped up to the plate, and the entire outfield (a couple of 16-year-old boys and the entire Beehive class) moved back 20 yards. And he hit it over our heads, out of the park. (To be fair, he did eventually play for Toronto in the majors, so it really wasn’t our fault.)

For the wimpy kid who was always chosen last, that was simply awe-inspiring. What I would have given to hit the ball out of the park… or to simply hit the ball.

Yep, the old man was young, once upon a time. And is it any wonder I was always chosen last?  Seriously. What kind of batter wears an Easter basket on her head?

Yep, the old man was young, once upon a time. And is it any wonder I was always chosen last? Seriously. What kind of batter wears an Easter basket on her head?

Let me tell you about something my dad said to me when I was a child. I guess, to be honest, I had better first admit that I don’t remember many things my dad taught me. Perhaps because I didn’t pay a lot of attention, and, well… I was a kid. In one ear and out the other. You know how it goes.

My dad was taking something apart under the hood of one of our cars. He had tools scattered far and wide, he was covered in grease (car engine compartments were a lot more accessible in those days, and a lot greasier), and an assortment of mysterious-looking, grease-covered parts littered the driveway. I wandered over to watch. I can still remember the smell of the grease–it has a definite smell.

When he noticed he had an audience, he thought he’d impress me by asking, “Well, think you could put this back together?”

Being the analytical kid I was (and a little perturbed at his disorganization), I answered, “Sure. I’d just put the parts neatly in order and keep them that way, and then put them back the way they came out.” Yes, there was an implied criticism in that comment. Something along the lines of, “How do you expect to ever even FIND all the pieces IN THIS MESS????” Being the tactful child I was, I didn’t say that part out loud. Being the transparent child I was (and still am) it was undoubtedly written all over my face, which probably made it worse.

Little did either of us know that in that moment, my future hung in the balance. If my dad had become defensive, if he had told me I didn’t know the first thing about fixing cars, and yelled at me to clear off and play with my Barbies or something… well, it would have been quite understandable, but my life might have been radically different.

Instead, he looked me in the eye and said, “You know, I believe you could. I believe you could do anything you put your mind to.”

That may have been the wisest thing my dad ever said, not because it was true , but because it could be true. Because it was possible. Because it was going to be true if I believed it.

I believed it. Somehow, the awkward little girl, who was always chosen last because she couldn’t hit a baseball to save her life, believed it. Maybe because it was so spontaneous, so un-premeditated on my dad’s part, I believed it. And down the road, when my piano wanted tuning and I had no money, but I did have a crescent wrench… I can do that. When I needed black formal shoes in a hurry and had only brown ones and a permanent ink marker… I can do that. When I needed a song on a particular topic but had only staff paper and a sharpie… I can do that. I’ve spent my life making things out of other things, or out of nothing at all, improvising at every turn, and every time I meet a challenge, the smell of automotive grease comes wafting in unbidden, and I hear those words again:

“I believe you could. I believe you could do anything you put your mind to.”

Childhood insecurities… teenage insecurities… some have come and gone. Some have hung around to throw me curve balls. That vote of confidence, in the middle of a mess on the driveway, has been my go-to bat. When I manage to hit something out of the park, that’s the one I’m swinging.

Happy Father’s Day, dad.

Jun 142013
 

You know, I’m not much of a performer myself, and one of the things that makes songwriting so rewarding for me is listening to other people perform my songs. So many beautiful interpretations are posted to YouTube, that I thought today I’d share the wealth.

First up is this lovely cover of “Be Still, My Soul,” by Hayden Clark. Hayden was brought to my attention by Chad Neth, (who also recorded and mixed the track) so I actually know a little bit about Hayden.
Hayden was born in Seattle in 1995 to his parents Matt and Jodie Clark. In 1997 his family moved to League City, TX so his mother could be near MD Anderson Cancer center for treatments. Hayden loves fishing, spending time in the outdoors, and music. He has a huge contagious smile and enjoys spending time with friends. He sings Tenor in the Clear Springs High School Choir and for his ward and stake in League City, TX.

Of this hymn, Hayden says, “I really love this song because it reminds me that I’m never alone because the Lord’s always fighting for me.”

Next is this choral rendition of “Jezu mój krasny” (Beautiful Savior), conducted by Piotr Sikora, and performed by the Wyższobramski Chór Kameralny from Cieszyn (Poland). This was posted on my old YouTube page, but for those of you who may have missed it, it’s well worth listening to this beautiful interpretation. (And ahhhh…. those gorgeous acoustics!)
Here’s one of my favorites–a rendition of the piano duet “My Heavenly Father Loves Me” that is just… charming! (I can’t think of a better word.) Well done!
Last of all, here’s a recording of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” sung by Jenny Smith. The video mistakenly attributes the arrangement to her as well… nope, it’s still mine ;), though she does add some chords on the piano under the a cappella section. This is one beautiful voice.
So there you have it–a four-course YouTube feast. Eat hearty!
Jun 072013
 
Daniel DeFord Imp Extraordinaire

My son the philosopher.

A long time ago, when my son Daniel was four or five years old, in a fit of temper he looked at his older sister and said, “Amy, GET A LIFE!!!.” Then he added the statement that has become a regular part of the DeFord Family Lexicon:

“I have a life, but it’s stupid.”

So… I updated this pretty little website. I put all my streamed audio on Soundclick, using their Flash-based players so I wouldn’t have to sell my soul to pay for bandwidth. (Soundclick costs me a pretty penny, but only a pretty penny… not a pretty bazillion dollars.) I finished it all up and…

***drum roll***

It would appear that Adobe has simply stopped providing Flash to all mobile devices. (You computer gurus out there, yeah, you knew that. It’s what I get for not playing “Keeping Up With the Internet Roulette” in my rare free moments.)

So until I change all the players to something non-Flash-based, any of you using newer (Android 4+) mobile devices or iPads/iPhones/iWhatevers will find that the streaming audio may be uncooperative. Until I get the players changed out, here’s a workaround if streaming doesn’t work for you: use the links under the “Free MP3s” tab. Click, right-click or control+click the link to save the file to your device, listen away, then delete the file when you’re finished or keep it if you want it.

Comfy chair. Which I need.

This. I need this.

In the meantime, I will be subbing in new player code that is accessible without Flash. I will be doing this for approximately 180 pages. I will sleep when I can no longer see straight, propped up in front of my keyboard, and I will end up permanently bent into the shape of a computer chair.

I had nothing else to do anyway. “I have a life… but it’s stupid.” 😉

May 282013
 
“If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.”
~Marvin J. Ashton
Here’s something to warm your heart–the story of a young girl who was bullied by her classmates, and the young men who stepped forward to prevent it. If you haven’t heard the story (or even if you have!) take five minutes to watch the video–it will make your day.
“Angels in Disguise”
So many people in this old world desperately need to see evidence of the love of God in the actions of their fellow men and women. Sometimes the challenges they face are apparent; sometimes they are brought to our attention by a parent or friend; and sometimes they are invisible, hidden away in hearts too fragile to share.
“…in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.”
~Susan Evans McCloud, from the hymn “Lord, I Would Follow Thee

The new song this time is called “Only Love,” written for solo voice in a medium range. The title of the song is an imperative, much like the commandments the Savior said are the greatest in the law: love God and love His children. Love is a choice. If it were not so, how could the Lord command us to do it? And how different would the world be if each one of us would only choose to love, to act in accordance with these two great commandments in every situation, in every moment of our lives?

Imagine what could happen in today’s world… if each of us would vow to cherish, watch over, and comfort one another. Imagine the possibilities!
~Marvin J. Ashton

The lyrics were co-written with my friend Josh Weed. He and his lovely wife Laurel came all the way from Seattle one weekend so Josh could sing the demo track. When he stepped into my little makeshift studio he had no idea what a relentless taskmaster I turn into under headphones, but he was a good sport about it, and did a great job on the vocals. If you’d like to record your own version of this song, check out Josh’s post here for details on a contest he’s hosting. 😉

May 242013
 
Since I’m off visiting my parents this week, I don’t have my nice, organized (oh, very!) stacks stash of music handy. So in place of a Friday Favorite, I’ll give you the scoop on the SSAA Primary medley I did for last October’s General Women’s Conference of the LDS Church.

This arrangement ended up with a bit of backstory which has nothing to do with the arrangement itself. Well, except for one chord.

Late last May I received the assignment to arrange a medley of “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus” and “He Sent His Son” for the October Conference session. These are two of my favorite Primary songs ever, so the idea was intriguing and downright fun. The assignment had a July 1 deadline, and since June was already pretty full I divvied out the month, reserving the last week for work on this arrangement.

waldo-canyon-fire-1Then on June 23, a wildfire of epic proportions broke out in the forest near my home, and I spent the last week of June being evacuated along with 32,000 other residents of Colorado Springs.

So much for my nicely-scheduled life.

After the danger was over, and we were allowed back into our homes (ours was fine–we had friends who weren’t so lucky) I spent the next few days playing Frantic Madwoman Arranger, trying to overtake July 1st. Which didn’t happen, but considering the circumstances, I didn’t miss the deadline by too much.

I listened with delight to the beautiful YSA choir that performed it during the Conference (and they really did a fabulous job!) until they got to the chord at about 4:35. Which wasn’t a chord at all. Which meant that in my rush I had omitted the harmonies from the score, and missed it in the proofreading. (Oh, and it was such a glorious chord!) Can you spot it?
Layout 1
It’s an interesting feeling to watch a broadcast happening hundreds of miles away and find yourself actually ****blushing****. Oh the poor altos! It was a nasty jump to a rather high note, and I hereby officially apologize.

Jackman music has published the score, complete with the harmonies that belong in that measure. (I didn’t publish it on this site because it was an arrangement of several other composers’ work and I really don’t want to deal with royalties. So Jerry did it for me. 🙂 )

The score is available here, as either hard copy or PDF download.

May 122013
 
Once Upon a Time there was a girlface small Little Girl who needed a syringe smallshot at the doctor small doctor’s office. Oh boy was she scared small scared! Her Mom heart small Mother said, “I will watch you, and if you do not cry, I will buy you a Strawberry Float small Strawberry Float!!!” The girlface small Little Girl tried. She winced and gritted her teeth and … she cried.

Her Mom heart small Mother bought her a Strawberry Float small Strawberry Float anyway. And the girlface small Little Girl learned that sometimes trying your hardest is enough, even if you fail.

When first grade came around, the girlface small Little Girl wanted to have a Party hat small birthday party. Oooohhhhhh how she wanted a Party hat small birthday party! So she invited her whole class over after school for her baby brother’s Party hat small birthday party. Without telling anyone. They all came.

Her Mom heart small Mother ran to the store, bought more birthday cake smallcake, and then laughed after the Party hat small party ended and the panic subsided. And the girlface small Little Girl learned that there are things in this life you just have to throw up your hands and laugh about.

Before she knew it, it was time for the girlface small Little Girl to enter that Dread Chamber Of Horrors… Jr. High School. At the end of each day full of awkwardness, walking past groups of Bully smallMean People With Nothing To Do to get on the school bus small school bus home was a Remarkably scared small Scary Thing.

Often as the girlface small Little Girl walked that walk, she would find her Mom heart small Mother waiting at the end of it, to take her for Ice Cream Cone small ice cream, and to talk, and to listen. Mostly listen. And the girlface small Little Girl learned that listening is a Very Good Thing.

The girlface small Little Girl loved to Girl Playing small sing and play, and to write down the words and Music Notes small melodies that floated around in her brain. It was hard work, since she had no instrument.

So her Mom heart small Mother saved Coins cmall pennies and nickels and dimes, and bought an Old Piano small old piano with 55 keys that worked and gave it to the girlface small Little Girl.

And the girlface small Little Girl learned that things do not have to be expensive to be priceless.

The girlface small Little Girl Girl Playing small played and sang, and Girl Playing small played and sang, and scribbled on Staff Paper smallpaper and napkins and receipts and sometimes her hand.

Her Mom heart small Mother listened to every song, and honestly believed they were really good. And the girlface small Little Girl learned that “the praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.”

The Little Girl watched her Mom heart small Mother in good times and bad times, and saw her absolute dedication to the SLC Temple small covenants she had made. And the Little Girl learned to be unshakeable in her own commitment to the same SLC Temple small covenants.

When the girlface small Little Girl had a Family small family of her own, her Mom heart small Mother gave her the Rocker small Old Rocking Chair from home, and the Spinet small Sweet Little Spinet piano that had replaced the Old Piano small Old Broken Piano.

And the girlface small Little Girl thought of the empty spaces these gifts would leave, and finally learned what it really means to share.

The girlface small Little Girl still composes on that Spinet small Sweet Little Spinet; the Rocker small Old Rocking Chair moved on with her daughter so she can rock the grandbaby smallGrandbabies; the Lessons are her inheritance forever.

Every time she touches the Piano Keys small keys on that Spinet small Sweet Little Spinet, the girlface small Little Girl remembers the Lessons her Mom heart small Mother taught her, and learns anew that the best inheritances are the ones bestowed while we live.

Flowers small Happy M-day mom.