THE SUBJECT IS MUSIC

July 28, 2019

Let’s Discuss

Chapter 5

My Popular Music

Each generation, it appears, has its own popular music. For mine, it is what is now called The Great American Songbook, or Standards. I was born in 1930. The number one hit that year was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” which was adopted by the Democratic Party and played at the 1932 Democratic National Convention that nominated Franklin Delano Roosevelt for President. Americans were looking for happy days to return, and FDR promised them “a new deal.”
Some of the other hits of 1930 were “Ten Cents a Dance,” ”On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Body and Soul,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Embraceable You,” and “Three Little Words.”

Big Bands were still popular when I was the drummer for the Teen Tavern Tooters in the late 1940’s. Teen Tavern was a teen club for Columbus, Jordan, and Baker High Schools that was operated by the Columbus Recreation Department when World War II ended. The above photo was taken in 1947.

By 1930, big bands were beginning their dominance of the popular music scene because dance music was very much in demand. Swing was becoming the thing. The fox trot, jitterbug, and Lindy Hop were gaining popularity in the ballrooms. By 1936, the big bands had become dominant. There were a few vocalists whose names topped their accompanying orchestras on record labels. The number one hit of 1936 was “Pennies from Heaven” sung by Bing Crosby. However, the vast majority of hits featured big bands such as Tommy Dorsey, Shep Fields, Jimmy Dorsey, Jan Garber, Eddy Duchin, Guy Lombardo, Hal Kemp, and Jimmie Lunceford.

Then, in 1938 Glenn Miller started his climb to the top. Wikipedia reports he was the best-selling recording artist from 1939 to 1943. In 1942, he and his orchestra were given the first gold record by RCA Victor for “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.” It was a big hit with 11-year-old me at the time. Another favorite of mine was “Tuxedo Junction,” which was recorded in 1940. It sold 115,000 copies in the first week. When the Bradley Theater opened in downtown Columbus in 1940, it featured an organist from Atlanta whose Hammond organ was hooked up to the theater’s sound system. After the feature film finished, he would play a short concert. He sat on a sofa in the lobby reading a book between concerts. He was a friendly young man and he would take requests. I asked him to play “Tuxedo Junction.” I was thrilled when he played it. Unfortunately, he and his organ were gone in a few weeks. If you wanted to enjoy a live organ performance after that, you had to go to the Fabulous Fox in Atlanta, which was something I wouldn’t experience until six years late, when I was 15 years old.

Since it’s generally accepted that a generation is about 25 years, we can say that my generation began in 1930 and ended 25 years later in 1955. 1955 was the beginning of the ascendance of Rock and Roll music, and the ending of the reign of Swing. Bill Haley and His Comets multi-million selling recording “Rock Around the Clock” was played over the credits of the film “Blackboard Jungle.” Elvis Presley started his career in 1954 at Sun Records in Memphis. Little Richard recorded “Tutti Frutti” in 1955. At the time, I thought Rock and Roll was a fad that would not last. Swing never entirely went away but was rapidly eclipsed by Rock and Roll which is still the dominant form of popular music.

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THE SUBJECT IS MUSIC

June 10, 2019

Let’s Discuss

Chapter 4

The Symphony

George Del Gobbo, Music Director and Conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Photo courtesy CSO.

Things get hectic. There are many demands on our time.  Frustrations abound. What to do? George Del Gobbo has a palatable solution. The director and conductor of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra sent out a note promoting the orchestra’s upcoming season that makes a lot of sense to me. I am going to quote from it liberally.

He simply says, “You need music.” He urges us to take “a couple of hours on a regular basis and treat yourself to the sound of a wonderful orchestra playing some of the world’s greatest music.” When he says “world’s greatest music,” he is not just referring to the masters like Beethoven and Tchaikovsky  — though, he is certainly including them —  because he says, “You can expect us to have music for everyone…classical, pops, country…loud, soft, fast, slow … music that entertains…music that touches the soul … music that’s alive and begging to be heard and felt by none other than you.”

He even gives you a guarantee, saying, “We guarantee that our music will lift your spirits, soothe your soul, and inspire you to carry on.”

To me, the thing that makes it work is the live sound of a large symphony orchestra in an acoustically ideal auditorium, and that’s what you get at the Bill Heard Theater in the River Center. So, do yourself and your community a musical favor by purchasing tickets.

“Think about…music entertains, music relaxes, and music inspires.

“The Columbus Symphony Orchestra…join us and enjoy life a little more.”

For more info click this link:

Columbus Symphony Orchestra.”

 

THE SUBJECT IS MUSIC

June 9, 2019

Let’s Discuss

Chapter 3

The Symphony

 

In my lifetime, I have seen a decline in audiences that attend symphonic concerts. Not too many years ago, when the Columbus Symphony
Orchestra performed at the 2,700 seat Three Arts Theater, formally the Royal movie and stage show theater, the theater was almost
filled for every concert. Not only were the audiences large,they were dressed well, the wearing men suits and ties and ladies in their
Sunday bests.Now, in the beautiful, state of the art almost 2,000 seat Bill Heard Theater at the River Center, there are many empty
seats. Also, many attendees just don’t bother to dress up any more. That’s certainly not because of the quality of the orchestra,
because, in my view, it is superb.

It’s true that back in the Three Arts Theater,  days there were not as many competing musical events as now. The Columbus State University Schwob School off Music offers many free concerts, some by the school’s Philharmonic Orchestra, an excellent  full-sized student symphony orchestra.  Except for Kaleidoscope, when all students in the Schwob School participate, the Philharmonic does not use the Bill Heard Theater. It performs in the much smaller Legacy Hall.  Still, I think the professional Columbus Symphony should be attracting more patrons. Hopefully, the upcoming season will draw larger crowds again.  Director George Del Gobbo makes a very good case for your participation. More on that in Chapter 4.

THE SUBJECT IS MUSIC

May 29, 2019

 Let’s Discuss

Chapter 2

The Symphony

image

Columbus Symphony in Bill Heard Theater at the River Center.

To me, the grandest form of music is the symphonic.  I don’t mean just music of the Classical and Romantic periods, but, also, pops, country and more played in the symphonic style by a large orchestra. How large? Some of Wager’s works call for orchestras with 120 musicians.  I probably started liking symphonic music when I was a young boy, because most movie music has been played by symphonic studio orchestras since the beginning of the “talkies” in the late 1920s. Fortunately, my family was a movie going family. However, an event that happened in about 1947  truly hooked me on the symphony.

When I was a 16 year old percussionist in the Jordan Vocational High School Band , I went to a concert at the 9th Street USO in Columbus, Georgia.  The Three Arts League brought the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Fritz Reiner to town. I was transported when, sitting on the front row in the USO auditorium/gym, I became engulfed in the magnificent sounds of that large, wonderful orchestra. The Jordan and Columbus High bands sat on the first few rows. When someone in the Jordan band asked Director Robert M. Barr who paid for the tickets, he would only say that a rich lady did. He said she wanted to be anonymous. I always suspected that rich lady was Virginia Illeges, who was a big supporter of the Three Arts League and joined with Bob Barr to revive the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra, founded in 1855, had gone dormant during the Civil War, then revived in 1908,  and shut down again for World War I, revived again in 1936, disbanded for World War II, but was brought back to life after World War II in 1949, the year after I graduated from Jordan, and has been active for 70 years.  Bob Barr was its first director and conductor. That role is now filled by George Del Gobbo. More on that in Chapter Three.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SUBJECT IS MUSIC

May 27, 2019

L e t ‘ s D I s c u s s

Chapter 1 — Marching Bands

The man with the baton, whose picture I took a few years ago, and I have something in common. He was leading the Williamsburg Drum and Fife Corps, representing the very first U.S. Army marching musical units. They started during the American Revolutionary War. Over time woodwinds and brass were added to become the Army bands like the 30th Army Band that I led as drum major in Munich.

Richmond 162

Fife and Drum Corps, WIlliamsburg, VA

It was a very good band. After all, Army bands are made up of professional musicians. The Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence Band is truly impressive right now, not only on parade, but in concert, also. Let me hastily add, the Munich band was quite good not because of me. My MOS was “percussionist.” I was good enough to know that I was outclassed by the rest of the section. However, I think I was quite proficient as a drum major, so I didn’t feel guilty about my musician status. That’s because I had been legendary band director Bob Barr’s first male Jordan Vocational High School Red Jacket Band drum major. He accepted nothing less than a student’s absolutely best effort. And, not only did I lead the band in football game halftime shows, I led it in ROTC Pass in Review parades, so I already knew how to do that. As a side note, when he learned I wanted to be a radio announcer, he introduced me to WDAK’s Ed Snyder, a savvy announcer who had a degree in broadcasting from the University of Alabama. Ed became my mentor and helped me land my first job in broadcasting at WDAK in 1948. Pardon the digression. Back to the subject, marching bands.

Then, there is the college marching band. My experience there is quite limited. In the early 1950s, I was in the Mercer University ROTC band. It was the school’s only band at the time, formed when I was there to play for ROTC parades. I played snare drum in that one. Maybe someone reading this has big time college band experiences to tell us about, bands like Georgia’s, Auburn’s, Alabama’s, Tech’s, etc. I have four great-nephews and one great- niece who played at Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. I don’t know if any of them will see this, though.

If I get any comments on this way too long post, I’ll continue the series. The symphony will be Chapter 2.

MOVIES – THEN AND NOW A Star is Born Part 2

April 22, 2019

Part 1, I compared the production techniques of three of the four versions of “A Star is Born.” My cliffhanger at the end was the promise that I would compare acting techniques in Part 2.

First, for folks too young to remember the movie serials, I’ll explain the term “cliffhanger.” Each chapter of the serial ended with a “cliffhanger,” which meant it would end with something terrible happening to the protagonists. You had to watch the next chapter to see how they escaped destruction.

Now, back to comparing acting styles.

In the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, the acting was just a shade less than stage acting, which requires projecting not only of dialogue, but of facial expressions and gestures because audiences are at distances from the actors. In movie acting, the camera can come close so that speech and bodily expressions need to be “natural.”

What’s interesting is that in one scene a producer, defending Esther Blodgett’s screen test by noting her acting was “mild.” He pointed out that might be a good thing, that perhaps movie acting would become more “natural” in the future.

Indeed it would. That trend actually started when sound was introduced in the late 1920s. Hollywood had to start hiring stage actors who were vocally trained because many silent movie actors had heavy foreign and/or regional accents and squeaky voices. The problem with the stage actors was they were trained to project voices and bodily expressions. So, they were instructed lessen their projection.

They did, but not to the degree that would come later. The 30s acting was more realistic than the 20s, and the trend continued through each decade. Many movie historians believe the big change in the 1950s when “method” acting took hold with stars like Marlan Brando and James Dean.

Frankly, the effort to make acting totally realistic has often gone too far with actors mumbling to the point they are not understandable. I suppose the trick is to come across as being “natural” while speaking distinctly enough there to be understood.

As far as “A Star is Born” is concerned, the stars performed more naturally with each new version that I saw, it appears to me. Still, my favorite version was the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason. I missed the Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version.

I know this is too long, but I didn’t want to take time to make it shorter.

6Hoyt Bray, Rob St. Clair and 4 others
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Nate Gross

Movies, Then and Now

April 3, 2019

 

Deciding on watching something new, we rented the latest version of “A Star is Born,” released in 2018, the 3rd remake. I had seen the original 1937 version with Frederick March and Janet Gaynor on TV and the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, but missed the 1976 one with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Of those I saw, my favorite is the 1954 version. Being 23 years old when I saw it in 1954 at a theater at Augusta, Georgia — I was serving in an Army band at Fort Gordon then — the music in it was the popular music of my youth. That’s probably one reason I liked it best.

Another would be the different shooting techniques. The 2018 version was shot in cinema verity style, which is all right for documentaries, but, for me, not in dramas. Cinema verity uses handheld unstable cameras, which makes the audience aware of the camera. Millions of feet of World War II combat films were shot by U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers using 16mm handheld cameras. Most dramatic films are shot in the direct style, which uses stable cameras with the idea being that it’s best that the audience is unaware of the camera. In the direct style, actors are instructed to never look directly at the camera lens. The 1937 and 1954 versions were shot in the direct style

How does Lady Gaga compare with Judy Garland and Janet Gaynor and Bradley Cooper with James Mason and Frederick March? Stay tuned for part two of Movies , Then and Now.

LONESOME? DOES SOCIAL MEDIA HELP OR HURT?

October 20, 2018
If you are lonely, you are not alone.

One source says 60 million Americans suffer chronic loneliness.

Studies show that loneliness can cause a lot of health problems.

Now, we're being told the problem is getting worse because of social media.

That seems strange because social media connects people. 

Social networking on the internet helps if used to promote face-to-face 

conversation, but if used as a replacement for that.

So, I suppose the lesson is that it's okay to do Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Don't use it as a substitute for face-to-face interaction with others.  

“Think About That for a Moment”

August 7, 2018

That’s what Gayle King, a co-anchor on CBS This Morning, advised us to do as she reported on the largest forest fire in California history during the rapid-fire, tightly-edited Your World in 90 Seconds opening segment on the show. (At one time, I did not like newscasts to be referred to as “shows.” I thought of them as being serious business. That was during the Walter Cronkite era. Now, unfortunately, the term “show” is accurate.” None of today’s news shows comes close to the numbers Cronkite, Brokaw, or Jennings newscasts pulled on CBS, NBC, and ABC. Admittedly, there were fewer choices then. But, I digress. Back to MS King and her advice.) If we had stopped to “think about that,” we would have missed the beginning of the next story.

That is one advantage that newspapers and magazines had over broadcast news. We could stop to think about a story before we went on to read the next one.  However, there is now something that lessens that advantage. It’s called a DVR, which stands for “digital video recorder.” Miss a story because you’re thinking about the one you just watched, just hit the rewind. I wouldn’t be without a DVR.  The latest stats I could find online show a little more than half of TV households have a DVR. Commercial TV stations and networks probably weren’t too pleased with them when they came into use because a lot of folks, including me, record most of what they watch so they can fast forward through the commercials. I do watch some commercials, the clever ones that give me a little entertainment or important information for my time spent watching their sales pitch. They have to come at the beginning of the break to hook me.

Book Review

July 9, 2018

THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING

Even though James Patterson books have sold more than 300 million copies, up until now I have never read one of them. I have read President Clinton’s autobiography, My Life. Now I can say that I have read a  James Patterson book. And, I now plan to read another one, because I really enjoyed The President is Missing, which I read because it was co-written by an actual former President of the United States. I would imagine a lot of folks have read and will read it for the same reason.

While it is definitely a page-turning cyber-attack thriller loaded with violent action and many surprises, it has the depth of geopolitical and White House intrigue, and it does address today’s political climate. However, James Patterson, in an appearance on Book TV on C-SPAN, said the book is not political. I’m not sure what he means by that, because it also definitely deals with politics. Maybe he said it because parties are never identified. I never saw the words Democrat and Republican in the book.

There was a time when I read almost no fiction, but I read more of it now, especially by authors like Grisham and Follett. And, now, as I said, I’m going to give Patterson another read. Any suggestions on which of his thrillers I should try?