My return to China

Ellie Lin at the Piano
My son, Max was a member of the Texas Boys choir for five years. His time with the TBC unlocked a world of musical artistry that very few people may ever know. I am deeply indebted to his directors, Mr. Bryan Priddy and Ms. Ellie Lin for teaching him to strive for an extremely high level of musicianship. Along the way he also learned a great deal about being a part of a community of musicians. These years are more precious to him than almost any other experience and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. It has shaped him into who he is.

On a couple of occasions during his time with the TBC, I was able to come and play piano for the ensemble which offered me a front row seat to observe how this very special ensemble operates. This also allowed me to become very close to both Mr. Priddy and Ms. Lin.

Max and his friends on a break.
A year ago, when his voice began to change, his time with the TBC concluded with an amazing tour to Germany. It is a huge understatement to say that this ending and transition into a different singing ensemble was an emotionally difficult one for the entire family. When Max aged out it also seemed that my time with the TBC had also come to a close.

Max and I were very sad to hear of Mr. Priddy’s resignation shortly after spring break this year. His hard work and dedication to the TBC provided countless memories for Max and his departure would surely be a huge blow to the boys.  Ellie stepped in to fill his shoes in the directors position which left the seat at the piano vacant for their upcoming month long tour to 16 venues in China.

When Ms. Lin contacted me and asked if I’d be available to join her, it was incredibly bittersweet for me. Of course the opportunity to tour China with a world class ensemble and with a musician of her caliber was a once in a lifetime chance and a huge honor for me. However, to go without Max is heartbreaking to say the least. However, Max was incredibly supportive as was my wife, Mary.  They encouraged me to say yes and find a way to make this happen. 

Although my duties as a high school choir director are minimal in July, I still have 4 services to sing and play for at First United Methodist church each Sunday as well as a summer musical to music direct at Brookhaven College in Dallas. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to sneak away from these commitments, but both institutions were overwhelmingly supportive in my seizing this opportunity to travel. Peggy Graff and Robert Stovall at the church were able to find pianists to cover for me there and wished me well on my journey. As for the summer musical – I was lucky enough to have a great friend and musical soulmate willing to take on the enormous task of playing and musical directing the show for me. I told director, Darise Error that my friend Debbie Pesnell and I share a musical brain and I truly believe she would do an amazing job picking up where I left off. It was a true act of faith and good will on her part to allow me to make this arrangement.

With all these loose ends tied up, I was finally able to say yes and sign on for this unforgettable opportunity to perform all over China.

I am incredibly excited and can not wait to see what unfolds.

Musical Elision

On March 6th, conductor Hans Grim and sixty plus talented friends and family will present choral works of Whitacre, Lauridsen, Elgar and more. The concert will also feature a jazz combo and solo piano performing works by Adam Guettel, William Joel and David Yazbek.

The concert will take place at 7:30 in Texas Wesleyan University’s Martin Hall at 1309 Wesleyan Street, Fort Worth, TX

The forty-six voice chorus has been rehearsing since October and will be presenting these eight gorgeous choral works:

Water Night – Eric Whitacre

“False Love” from Edward Elgar’s Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands

O magnum mysterium by Morten Lauridsen

Ave verum corpus by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Give Me Jesus the Fleming arrangement

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled by Bob Burroughs

Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal, Shaw/Parker Arrangement

and premiering an arrangement of Stravinsky’s Firebird for Chorus and Timpani

Some of the choir's Headshots

An all-star jazz combo will feature an original tune by Cal Lewiston called “A Daisey for Annie” as well as some musical theatre songs by Adam Guettel, Jason Robert Brown and David Yazbek.

This will be a very special evening of wonderful music in a wide variety of styles. Please consider joining the fun at this free event.

RSVP – to see who’s coming at the facebook event page.

Welcome Home

It’s been a very busy summer and my son Max had just arrived back in town from camp with his cousins. My mom brought him to church in the middle of the service and he came down front to where I was at the piano. He gave me a big hug and I invited him to play a duet with me at the piano for the offertory music. I gave him an ostinato fifth to play on the upper half of the keyboard whilst I improvised underneath. The resulting audio below captures the feelings I had seeing my boy after several days of missing him.

Welcome home, Son.

Max on our annual end of school camping trip.

Frozen Lake

 

“Bulletin – calling all adventures! The search for the frozen lake will commence immediately. Please return to base.” My text to son Max retrieved him from a friends house immediately. 

Sunshine Lake (Cartwright Park, Weatherford)

It has been freezing at night here for about a week and not much warmer in the day time, so I thought maybe just maybe a pond in nearby Weatherford might have iced over a little bit. So I piled my three in the car to head out to see. Two more kids from the neighborhood asked to come along so I quickly had a car load of excited

Maddie

kids awaiting the view of a beautiful frozen lake. As we pulled up it was quickly apparent that the lake was far from frozen, however about a hundred fowl charged the car honking and quacking and the sun was setting on the not frozen pond and my error was completely forgiven. 

The kids chased the ducks around and then we all went out for some frozen yogurt. Turned out Max had just had a lesson from the Fort Worth Museum of Science and Natural History about liquids, solids and gases, so it was an educational trip too. 

We all had a great time!

3rd Trip to the Emergency Room

My youngest daughter Madeleine took her third trip to the emergency room today. I discovered Maddie being consoled in the arms of her mother and was the first to notice she was bleeding quite a bit from the back of her head. Apparently, she was riding her sister’s back and they slipped. Maddie hit the back of her head on the brick fire place and it left a 7mm puncture wound on her scalp!! Ouch!

We were able to slow the bleeding down and my son Max and I rushed off to Cook Children’s Medical Center to have her checked out.

Madeleine was pretty upset initially, but by the time we arrived at the hospital she was all bounce and smiles again.

Maddie enjoys the ER
She was a model patient for the triage staff allowing them to inspect her and take various measurements. (Our little 2 year old weighed 13.1 kilograms.)

Big brother makes it all okay
Max had come along to help entertain and comfort Maddie and he was wonderful. They both darted around the ER like kids at Disneyland. The triage staff ordained Maddie with a bright pink head
Maddie waits for the ER doc
bandage which she loved. You can see from the pictures she had a blast.

When the doctor saw her the doctor asked if she had hit her noggin and Maddie said, “No I hit my head.”. Maddie charmed everyone there and even though they sent two nurses in to administer a staple – Maddie was completely at ease in my arms and didn’t even seem to notice the staple being applied.

Max was brave too. He was very concerned about the whole thing and even cried at first when we were heading out and when I told him what they were going to have to do. But when I told him he needed to be strong for his sister – he sucked up the tears and was strong as steal.

It’s no fun seeing your little ones hurt, but it sure shows you how much they love each other and how strong they can be when things get harried.

The Meeting and Dark Travel

Day 2 was now over and sleep and food had been in short supply.  One thing that hadn’t been in short supply was whining, griping and complaining about communication and food and on and on.  Of course everyone has their own set of beefs with how things are being handled.  Most of the concerns are completely substantiated and needed to be addressed.
Well at noon, or Director, Producer, Writer, Talent and Bus Driver, Matt decided it was time to address them.

Matt gathered us all together and laid into us all with as many expletives as were possible.  This went on for a couple of minutes and I’ll need to paraphrase a little to convey to you the jist of what he was trying to say.

Basically he told us we were on our own for meals and that if we were hungry we needed to find a solution on our own instead of depending on him to appoint meal locations and times.  His biggest beef was that we had all whined about it over and over, but hadn’t actively tried to be a part of the solution.  This was what got him angry.

These are the first days of a close symbiotic relationship between 16 very different people and we are all working out how, where and when to be.  Now that he had said we needed to fend for ourselves we all know we are responsible for finding our food either by ordering Pizza or stashing granola bars or what not.

His point about whining was also a very good one.  We had all gotten pretty negative.  HOWEVER – The stern cussing out we all endured was, in my mind, uncalled for.  Steven got up and left and I considered it – as did most of us.

I stayed because I could tell Matt was genuinely ticked off and maybe even hurt.  From his perspective, he’s doing EVERYTHING and trying his hardest to make everything work and we’re just complaining about how bad a job he’s been doing, so I can see how he might be upset.

That being said, I don’t know if many of us would put up with another verbal thrashing like we received today.

With no generator there was no electricity or lights or air-conditioning on the bus.  We were forced to travel with the windows open and lights off.  As long as the bus was moving it was actually very nice to have the cool breezes of Alabama and Tennessee floating by.

The lack of electricity meant that when batteries died as they tend to do on a 9 hour bus ride, we had to resort to talking to one another for entertainment.

I spent a couple of hours talking to our new bass player Lauren.  I learned all sorts of things about her that – had I been buried in my laptop I would have missed out on.  It’s nice when circumstances pull the plug and cause you to get back in touch with where you are.

Now, as it was getting dark I settle back in my seat and called Mary to check on how things were back home.  She seemed good and I was feeling better about being trapped out on the road being cussed out and sleep deprived.

Then, I talked to my boy.  There’s really nothing quite like hearing your own offspring talking to you from thousands of miles away.  He was bright and cheery and sounded genuinely excited to talk to me.  I started to loose it on his second sentence.  Or conversation went something like this.

Where are you daddy?
Well, I’m in Alabama sweaty.
I don’t know where that is.
Well, it’s pretty far away.  About a thousand miles.
Are you coming home?
Well, I’m afraid it’s going to be awhile sweetie.
Are you coming tomorrow?
Well, no.  I’ll be home after Halloween.

At this point Max started to cry and it was hard to tell exactly what he was saying, but I could tell he was upset and I think he may have thought I was telling him he couldn’t dress up for Halloween.  He started to cry and say he wanted to be Pablo and dress up like a Penguin.  I was a mess at this point and couldn’t talk anymore.

Mary took the phone back and asked me if I was okay.

I wasn’t.  I’m still not.

In the back ground I heard him saying I broke his heart.  I know it was 8:30 or so and he was past his bedtime and therefore prone to dramatics due to his need of sleep.  I also knew that he missed me and I missed him.  He wanted me there and I couldn’t be.

I thought I was doing alright, but apparently not.

First Day Out – 19 hour Bus Ride

It wasn’t the sound of my alarm clock that awoke me at 6 am this morning, but instead the reminder alarm of my cell phone.  I set that to remind me to call my guitar player Paul and make sure he was awake.  Although I made it home shortly before 1 am last night, I hadn’t gone to sleep until about 3.  I had spent those 2 hours talking to my wife Mary about everything under the sun, not wanting to say goodnight and go to sleep because then it would be time to leave.

Last  night was supposed to be our second rehearsal with our new bass player, Lauren.  However, due to “circumstances beyond control” our rehearsal was canceled and Lauren is from Seattle, WA and is the most recent bass player to join our little band of 5 instrumentalists in the band which accompanies the new musical adventures of the 3 Red Neck Tenors.

Now I say supposed to be our second rehearsal because the bus containing our music and several of our singers is still on its way back from Oklahoma where it had been undergoing repairs.  We can only hope that this represents the end of any troubles with our bus.

So it’s 6 AM and I call Paul and try to sound as peppy as possible.  His girl-friend Lindsey answered the phone and confirmed that they were in fact up and moving.  Later on the bus she said I sounded pretty asleep which is consistent with my memory of our conversation.

Well, I shoved the last of my belonging into my suitcase and zipped it shut.  I crept into my son Max’s room and gave him a kiss on the cheek to say goodbye.  Hey responded with a yawn and rolled over and went back to sleep.  It is going to be hard to leave him behind.

Then I went in to say goodbye to Mary.  She wished me safety and told me she loved me and I was out the door.  Besides saying goodbye to my wife and kid for 8+ weeks I am also saying goodbye to my house.

My wife and I bought our current house about 5 years ago and are just about to close the deal on selling it.  We are having a house built in Aledo which is significantly bigger, better school, and higher priced.

So farewells are flowing pretty freely as I had kissed both members of my family goodbye and just closed the door for the last time to my home of 5 years.  However, no time for that – I’m late!

Now, as I’m sure will become exceedingly evident in the entries to follow this, the Grapevine based production company is not exactly famous for doing things according to any kind of schedule.  However, I didn’t wish to start the tour off late, so I broke the land speed record for traversing from Fort Worth to Grapevine.

When I arrived there was of course plenty of time before we were underway and I was able to run to Chick-fillet and grab some breakfast.  I moved into my spot in the back of the bus and proceeded to sleep off and on for several hours until it was noon.

When I woke up we had pulled into a bus stop somewhere just before the Texas – Louisiana border.  I’m usually pretty disoriented when I first wake up, but add to that being at some non-descript bus stop where the clearest landmark is the presence of trees that are much taller and greener than the normal central Texas variety.  Apparently there was no further plan for lunch than this truck stop so I bought a Hotlink, a bag of pretzels and a water.

Tonight we stopped just out of Jackson Mississippi to indulge in some local Mexican food.  Now we’re headed further towards Alabama and eventually to our destination of Niceville, Florida.  Our estimated time of arrival is now 2:30am.

Traveling hasn’t been to bad, but it’s only 9 PM now so we’ll see how I feel when we get to the Hotel 17 hours after leaving Grapevine