A Sparkling Vintage Life


H is for Harmony

…as in, does anyone harmonize anymore?

In this article, Tim Challies makes the point that the demise of hymnal use in church, in favor of projecting the lyrics on slides, has had a detrimental effect on people harmonizing in church. No doubt the decline of music education in the schools has had a similar effect on the general population. Here’s a clip of a congregation singing in harmony together, if you’ve never heard it done.

But do we even sing at all anymore, anywhere, much less learn to harmonize? I sing, but I belong to both a church worship team and a community choir, and I’m rather an oddball besides. 🙂 These days it seems we leave singing up to the paid professionals, as if ordinary mortals can’t find joy and satisfaction in singing just for fun.

I’ll leave you with these heartening clips of families harmonizing together here and here.

Do you ever sing in harmony just for fun?


It’s a Bouncing Baby Book!

Ain’t Misbehavin’ launches today! To celebrate, I thought you might like to hear the song that inspired the title. While the song was first published in 1929, this clip is from a 1943 movie called Stormy Weather in which the composer, Fats Waller, sings it. It’s been covered by many artists over the years. (If you have a favorite version, please share!) I’ll keep looking for an original 1929 recording to see if it’s any different.

The Friday Five

What I’m reading: Life in Chapel Springs by Ane Mulligan. If you like the small-town charm and warm friendships of Jan Karon’s books, give this series a try. Life in Chapel Springs is the fourth book in the series (after Chapel Springs Revival, Chapel Springs Survival, and Home to Chapel Springs), but IMO you don’t need to have read the earlier books to enjoy this latest one.

What I’m listening to: The Write from the Deep podcast by Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young. Thoughtful inspiration for creative minds and a regular reminder of why we do what we do.

What I’m grooving to: The soundtrack to Chicago.

What I’m going to: Tonight: Stamp Camp at Cocolalla Bible Camp to exercise creativity of a different sort (and maybe get started on my–gulp–Christmas cards). Tomorrow, brunch with friends to catch up on what we’re writing, reading, and learning.

What I’m working on: A Christmas-themed short story. No matter how hard we apply the brakes, the holidays will be here before we know it.

How’s your Friday going?







Sunday Serenade: Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah

I’m excited to begin rehearsals tomorrow for a December performance of The Messiah tomorrow with our local community choir!

Here’s a sampling from the King’s College Choir. While we may lack their polish and professionalism, we make up for it in enthusiasm.

B is for . . . Baseball!

spokane indians game aug 2015

Spokane Indians vs. Vancouver Canadians at Avista Statium, Aug. 29, 2015. (Spokane won.) Note that the sky isn’t overcast–that’s smoke from the forest fires plaguing the northwestern U.S. this summer.

Spending a lovely evening with friends at a Spokane Indians baseball game brought to mind that old chestnut, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Traditionally sung during the “seventh inning stretch,” the song was written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Titzer. Interestingly, neither songwriter had actually been to a ballgame, so it was amazing that they were able to capture the spirit of the ballpark so accurately. The song debuted in a vaudeville act. Its first known use during a ballgame didn’t happen until 1934. It’s written in waltz tempo–imagine the fun of waltzing to it!

Here’s an early recording. Interesting that there’s a whole lot more to the song than just the familiar chorus!

Related post: A is for . . . Antiques Stores

Sunday Serenade: Brightest and Best

three kings

As we head into the new year, with all its fresh starts and turnings of new leaves, here’s an old Epiphany hymn that I’ve always liked. This is the version I’m most familiar with. However, I like this one equally well, and it’s a little more upbeat.

In the liturgical church calendar, the season of Epiphany marks the visit of the magi, sometimes (wise men) to the Christ child after his birth. “And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, the offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:9-11)  Traditionally Epiphany was celebrated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas.

The words to the hymn are:

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;Star of the east, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on his cradle the dewdrops are shining,
Low lies his head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all.

Shall we then yield him in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and off’rings divine,
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would his favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

According to my hymnal, the music was written in 1811 by Reginald Heber, and the words were added by James P. Harding in 1892.

I wonder what happened to some of these great old hymns. So few people sing them or even know them anymore, yet they have such beautiful tunes and rich, meaningful words.


31 Days of Summer, Day 31: “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer”


nat king coleNat King Cole, whose real name was Nathaniel Adams Coles, was born in 1919 in Alabama and grew up in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, where his father was a Baptist minister and his mother, the church organist, taught him to play the keyboard.  He showed an early talent for music, and as a teenager he sneaked out to hear some of the jazz greats of the day, like Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines. He began performing in the 1930s, calling himself Nat Cole. The “King” got added by friends later, perhaps a fleeting reference to the nursery rhyme “Old King Cole.” He first built a reputation as a jazz pianist, but it was his velvety voice that made him famous. He died of cancer in 1965. “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” was his last hit.

31 Days of Summer, Day 24: Sail along on “Moonlight Bay”

This very popular song of 1912 has been sung in many, many movies, even Looney Tunes cartoons. Many people recognize the chorus, but the verses are more obscure. A bit more romantic than today’s “I know you wanna be my main chick,” dontcha think?

Voices hum, crooning over Moonlight Bay
Banjos strum, tuning while the moonbeams play
All alone, unknown they find me
Memories like these remind me
Of the girl I left behind me
Down on Moonlight Bay
We were sailing along
On Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say:
“You have stolen her heart”
“Now don’t go ‘way!”
As we sang love’s old sweet song
On Moonlight Bay

Candle lights gleaming on the silent shore

Lonely nights, dreaming till we meet once more
Far apart, her heart, is yearning
With a sigh for my returning
With the light of love still burning
As in of days of yore
We were sailing along
On Moonlight Bay
We could hear the voices ringing
They seemed to say:
“You have stolen her heart”
“Now don’t go ‘way!”
As we sang love’s old sweet song
On Moonlight Bay

31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Summer, Day 21: Listen to Music Under the Stars

ravinia 1923

Program from Chicago’s Ravinia Park, 1923

Before we moved away from the Chicago area, I loved going to Ravinia Park each summer. Long the summer home of the world-class Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia hosts music of nearly all genres, from classical to jazz to pop. Even when seating was available on the covered pavilion, I preferred to stretch out on a blanket on the vast lawn, gazing up at the stars while the melodies and harmonies swirled around me. There was something almost magical about sitting outside on a summer night, listening to great music.

Band shell, Grant Park, circa 1940s

Band shell, Grant Park, circa 1940s

Imagine my delight, then, when we discovered that our new home in northern Idaho also boasts an acclaimed summer music event, the Festival at Sandpoint, where I can enjoy the Spokane Symphony every bit as much as the CSO, minus the huge crowds that Ravinia draws. And so I continue to spend several summer evenings–you guessed it–lying on a blanket under the stars, beautiful music carried on the breeze.

From large-scale music festivals to community bandshells to casual buskers in the park, keep an ear out for music in the open air Then spread out your blanket or set up your favorite lawn chair and prepare to be enchanted.