Music

Bow the Knee

A few weeks ago I was privileged to take part in a very special online 'gathering'.

The senior choir - the Songsters - at The Salvation Army church in Felixstowe in Suffolk in England meet every week online ... they can't meet in person because of the coronavirus, so they meet 'viritually' to stay in touch, be inspired and occasionally to hear from someone different.

So, I had the honour to speak to them, actually about my books, and then to lead them in a prayer 'devotion'. It was, I hope, 'different'.

Bow the kneeFor months a certain song has been travelling with me and has meant so much especially during the lockdowns and the uncertainty of the pandemic, so I chose this song to share with them.

This week especially it kept popping up all over the place, including on the random selection on my music library on my I-Phone. Like someone is trying to tell me something!

It's sometimes hard to pray and trust when life seems out of your control. But these words encourage me to keep trusting God however uncertain life may be. And to keep 'talking' to God and praying and believing.

So this Sunday I simply share it with you and hope it encourages you too.

The full lyrics are beneath the music video... but  the words of the chorus are worth repeating, and repeating, and repeating ...

Be blessed!

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

 

Bow the Knee

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev'ry step we take
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us
As we try to understand each move He makes
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

Bow the Knee

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev'ry step we take
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us
As we try to understand each move He makes
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

 

(words and music by Michael Harland and Christopher Machen)

 


All we need is Love

Here's another one of my 'favourite films' moments.

Ok, so it's a bit unseasonal ... but today I'm thinking about the 2003 movie Love Actually.

It's associated with Christmas, of course, because it's set in that season. But as the title indicates, it's all really about love.

Love in different forms, unrequited love, love which is not returned, love which is complicated, people showing love and sharing love, love at different stages of life.

I love it!

Why am thinking about this ... in July?

Well it's not to do with the whole 'Christmas in July' thing, I can assure you!

No it's because there's a song in the movie, near the start of the film, which is one of my favourites.

And it was released as a single this day - July 7th - in 1967.

All you need is loveI'm talking, of course, about All you Need is Love, from the 'Fab Four' - the Beatles!

Although it was written by John Lennon, it was credited to the Lennon–McCartney song-writing partnership. Lennon apparently deliberately wrote lyrics that were simple because the song was actually written not just for the British market, but for s specific global event and it needed to have international appeal.

All you Need is Love was Britain's contribution to Our World, the world's first live global TV special. The Beatles were filmed performing the song at EMI Studios in London on 25 June 1967 and the programme was broadcast via satellite, and seen by over 400 million people in 25 countries. 

It's one of those songs that's in our psyche and in our history. It's certainly in mine.

Many of us can just sing along. It's a song which with the constant repetition of the chorus 'All you need is love' .. has a powerful message. And it's not about love we can't attain. It's about doing everything with love.

I mentioned that on Sunday, but it's definitely worth the repetition. 

So - combining one of my favourite songs, with a favoured movie... here it is - as featured in Love Actually.

It's a strong reminder of something that's really important, and which - if we all just tried to love a little bit more -  could change the world.

 

 

 


This is Me!

Are you one of those who perhaps feels you don't fit in?

Maybe you feel like you work so hard and are never recognised for what you do? Or overlooked? Or taken for granted?

And you don't feel you can speak up for fear of rejection?

Are you one of those who feels 'different' to those around you?

Maybe you don't look like other people, or what people think people should look like? Perhaps you, like me and many others, are a little overweight and in a world where 'skinny' or at least 'thin' is considered standard beauty, you feel out of place?

Perhaps you don't dress in all the latest clothes, live in a posh house, go to the parties that apparently all the 'cool' people attend? You don't carry the right handbags, wear the right very high shoes, drive the right car? Or at least what others think are 'right' in this respect?

Do you live in a culture where ageing is just not on? People spend thousands on plastic surgery and making themselves look younger, or more handsome or prettier? 

You know what I mean! There are many many reasons why we might feel we don't fit in with the world. We feel rejected and out of place. 

More importantly we KNOW we have talents, so much to offer, but we're just not given the chance to prove it, because we're 'too old', 'too fat', not the right colour, not the right religion, not someone who looks 'successful', not someone who others think deserve a break? Or maybe you're just someone who people don't look at at all!

In a world where, it appears, 'celebrity' is everything, many of us model ourselves on unrealistic images and we discount so many people who don't fit the model.

But I'm guessing even those so-called 'celebrities' don't look great in the morning. Without that botox or the veneers on their teeth, or spending masses on money on makeup and clothes and cars ... they are just humans. Ok, yes, often rich humans. But why are we comparing ourselves to them? They actually have nothing to do with us. They are they and we are we. I am who I am.

I don't know about you but the older I get, the less I tend to worry about others and what they are up to. That's their life.

Yes, it's true that if we are ambitious, or passionate about what we have to offer to the world, it can be frustrating to be passed over, to stand out, to defy the world. But maybe it's just time to take control, recognise that we are 'different' and we have 'different' talents to the clones.

In 2017 a film came out which captured the imagination of the world. It's called The Greatest Showman a musical movie which told the story of P.T. Barnum, best known as an American showman who created a business by pulling off stunts and profiling 'different' people. Some say he took advantage of individuals who others considered 'freaks' but this movie dug deeper than that and highlighted the strength of those people who were marginalised. He was much more, including a politician, businessman, author and philanthropist, but it's the 'circus' badge that has stuck.

Some so-called movie 'experts' were critical of the film saying it was shallow and didn't expose Barnum for the man he was and glamorized what he did and how he made a living through exploitation. But The Greatest Showman was massively popular. It was beautifully filmed, was packed full of stars and the music and songs were FANTASTIC!

P.T.Barnum was born on this day in 1810, so it's a great opportunity for me to talk about the movie and one song in particular which I have listened to many times. We used to sing it in our Community Choir (when choirs were gathering) and it always lifted my heart and gave me courage.

PT BarnumThere are many quotes attributed to P.T.Barnum ... including this saying

'The Noblest Art is that of making others happy!'

... but he also apparently had lots to say about being 'different'. And I love that!

I may often appear confident but I don't feel like that sometimes, and I've certainly had to learn to live with my own insecurities, and to try to prevent others from 'bringing me down'. I may not feel that 'brave' and I've certainly been 'bruised', but as the years progress I just want to shout to the world....THIS IS ME! Learn to live with it! If you don't like it, then I don't need to be around you.

And so on and so on... 

It makes me feel rather defiant actually. Ok so I may never be a celebrity or even 'acceptable' to many. But I'm not going to let that affect my life! And I won't let it steal my joy! I won't let it stop me trying to share happiness, or be kind, even if others are unkind to me. 

Yes, I am different! I don't particularly want to be like everyone else! Why would I want to try to squeeze my personality into someone else's mould?

SO  ... here it is ... the song ...

Hope it inspires you too!!

This is Me (by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) 

I'm not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
'Cause we don't want your broken parts
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one will love you as you are

But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away 'cause today, I won't let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades
And reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that's what we've become

Won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

...This is me

And I know that I deserve your love
There's nothing I'm not worthy of
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is bruised
This is who I'm meant to be, this is me

Look out 'cause here I come (look out 'cause here I come)
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on)
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

(Whenever the words wanna cut me down
I'll send the flood to drown them out)
I'm gonna send the flood, gonna drown them out

This is me

 

 


Musical Memories

I'm not a classical music buff, and not particularly knowledgeable either. 

I like a bit of Beethoven and Mozart and a few other random composers but I have a lot to learn about that musical genre that we now call 'classical'.

But there is a piece of music that I love and which has specific memories for me.

In the Hall of the Mountain King - GriegIt's a piece of orchestral music called 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' by a Norwegian composer called Edvard Greig, who was actually born on this day - June 15th - in 1843.

It's from a wider composition or Opus called 'Peer Gynt' which was written for a five act play created in verse by another famous Norwegian - the playwright and  dramatist Henrik Ibsen.

'Peer Gynt' is thought to be based on a Norwegian fairy tale, and it's about a boy called Peer Gynt who was a rascal. He stole things, played tricks and never helped his mother. He was disliked by all who met him.

One day he went to a wedding and met a beautiful girl called Solveig. He fell in love and was determined to marry her, but Solveig's parents knew Peer's reputation and sent him on his way. Heartbroken, he left his village because he couldn't bear the thought of seeing Solveig knowing she could never be his. He ran into the mountains where he could be alone and that's where his adventures began. 

Peer arrived at the castle of the Mountain King, where disgustingly ugly trolls caught him and took him to the king, who was furious that someone had entered his domain.

But he liked the look of the young man and when Peer persuaded the king that we wanted to stay, the monarch was happy for him to remain in the mountain kingdom so long as the young man marry his daughter. Although she was beautiful, she was not a patch on Solveig, and anyway in order to marry her, Peer was told he would have to be transformed into a troll - one of those mythical Norwegian/Scandinavian creatures that is generally unfriendly and even thought in some cases to be evil.

Peer decided he did not want to be a troll and he made plans to sneak off when it was dark. Before his escape he stole jewels from the king, filled his pockets and ran. However, the troll guards heard him, and he was chased and surrounded. The stolen gold and jewels were discovered and he was dragged back to the castle where he was kept in prison until he agreed to marry the king's daughter, Anitra.

That's just part of the story but it's one that sticks in my mind.

And that's because I learnt about it in school.

I clearly remember my teacher, Mrs Jones, playing us the music that Grieg composed in 1867 for Ibsen's play, and telling us the story of Peer Gynt. Then we all had to draw pictures from the different scenes in the story and I remember drawing one - very badly because I am and never was an artist - of Peer in the Hall of the Mountain King and being chased by the trolls.

That must have been fifty years ago or thereabouts but still I remember that lesson or series of lessons. The story of Peer Gynt fascinated me then and it still does now. I didn't realise at the time what an iconic piece of music 'Peer Gynt' is ... listen to it below and you may recognise it.

But on this day as I think about that piece of music, and the man who composed it, I also remember Mrs Jones.  And thank her, all these years later, for opening another door into the world for me.

There are a few teachers I remember from my school years but not all!

Some teachers just have a knack of bringing subjects to life. They are often not appreciated by their students or even the wider world, and some rarely receive the recognition they deserve.

So today I say thank you not just to Mrs Jones, but to all the wonderful engaging teachers past, present and future. You may not think you're making any impact at all but there again you may be creating memories that last a lifetime for your students.

Meanwhile, here's that piece of music that inspires me ...

I give you Edvard Greig's 'In the Hall of the Mountain King'....

Enjoy!

 

 

 


Somewhere Over the Rainbow

It was back in 1939 that the world got to know a certain young actress, singer and dancer who would become one of the most famous women in the world.

Judy Garland was born on this day - June 10 - in 1922 and she had already been on the stage for many years, as a child star on vaudeville, before she starred in The Wizard of Oz,  a musical based on a classic children's book called 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' by the author L. Frank Baum.

Baum actually penned 14 Oz stories plus 41 other novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, and at least 42 scripts - a prolific writer. I've read some of the Oz stories and if you've never done so, its worth it. But as I was investigating him, I discovered that actually some of his works were rather 'prophetic'. He apparently wrote about future inventions like television, augmented reality, laptop computers (in his novel entitled The Master Key), wireless telephones (Tik-Tok of Oz), women in high-risk and action-heavy occupations (Mary Louise in the Country), and much more.

The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz_first_edition_cover'The Wizard of Oz' is, of course, a fairy tale about the adventures of a young farm girl named Dorothy Gale, played by Judy Garland in the movie. She and her pet dog Toto venture into the magical Land of Oz after they are blown away from their home in rural Kansas by a cyclone.  It was first published in  January 1901, and the book has become one of the most loved and best-known stories in American literature. The Library of Congress has even declared it "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairy tale."  By 1938, when the film was in production, it had already sold a million copies. And it's success has gone from strength to strength, being translated into many different languages.

'The Wizard of Oz' movie - the original - is one of my favourites. As a child I loved it's excitement. Would Dorothy ever 'get home'? And I loved its tension - the Wicked Witch of the East who is killed when Dorothy's house falls on her, and the Wicked Witch of the West who plagues her for much of the story. 

As an adult I watch it and read much more into its narrative twists and turns. Our longing to be safe and 'home' and to appreciate what we have there, without perhaps having to travel far to find happiness and fulfilment and friends. The 'evil' that may be around us and how we need to gain the courage to fight against it.

And, of course, I loved the music in the movie with original score by Herbert Stothart. The film was nominated for  six Academy Awards, including 'Best Picture', but lost out to another brilliant classic 'Gone with the Wind'. But it DID win 'Best Original Score' and 'Best Original Song' for  "Over the Rainbow" - sung at the start of the movie by Judy.

I love the sentiment of this song. We all dream and wish and hope for 'something better' don't we? But as the movie unfolds, we learn that sometimes our dreams and hopes and wishes are all right here, right where we are. We just need to learn to cherish and appreciate what we have.

Today, enjoy this excerpt from the movie and what I think is one of the most perfect songs ever written...sung by one of the most brilliant performers the world has ever seen.

 


A Little Respect

Today I'm thinking about a word ...

R E S P E C T 

And yes, if you know your music you'll know it's also the title of a song by the wonderful American R&B and soul singer Aretha Franklin.

In fact it was on this day - June 3rd in 1967 - that 'Respect' reached Number 1 in the Billboard Pop Singles charts. 

 

Respect aretha franklin"Respect" was originally written and released by the American singer-songwriter Otis Redding in 1965 but as I said before, it was two years later that it was a hit for Aretha Franklin.

I'm intrigued that in each version the stories are slightly different. Redding speaks from a man's perspective, obviously, who will give the woman in his life everything she wants, so long as he gets his due respect when he brings home the money.

In Aretha Franklin's take on the theme, she is shouting from the rooftops that she's a confident and strong woman who demands the 'respect' of the man in her life, including physical attention.

Aretha's 'Respect' was released at a time when the feminist movement was in the ascendant, and her song became an anthem for the feminist movement.

It's considered to be one of the best songs of the R&B era, and it earned her two Grammy Awards in 1968 for "Best Rhythm & Blues Recording" and "Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female". The song was even inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987.

In 2002, Aretha's version of the song received more honour when the Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry. In addition, it was placed at number five on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". And it was also included in the list of "Songs of the Century", by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wow! What a song!

But it's also a challenging word, that word 'Respect'. 

Taking aside the interpretation in the song, I think it's a very important word.

'Respect' can mean different things. It can mean deep appreciation and admiration of someone else or something else.  I think we can all understand that. There are things we 'respect' because we recognise their value to us and the world.

But 'respect' can also be defined as having meaningful regard for the wishes, rights and feelings of other people. Being thoughtful, considerate, polite, civil, attentive, courteous.

Some people might say that 'respect' is something that could do with being revived in our modern day culture and I think I might agree with that.

When I see people being vile on social media, I understand that they don't have a concept of 'respecting' others, and other people's opinions. They think THEIR opinions are more important and the feelings and rights of others are irrelevant, or even to be mocked and 'disrespected'. People don't respect or consider that others might think differently, believe different things.

When I read about people vandalising property for no particular reason than just to make a mess and disrupt the lives of others, I think that if they 'respected' other people's space and belongings and lives, they would not be inclined to behave in such a manner.

When I see the way people leave litter about, and 'fly tip' all their rubbish and pollute the oceans and the natural environment with plastics and other trash, it's a sign that they don't 'respect' our environment. They're not considerate of the world around them and how their actions impact not just on others, but on the natural world. And that's sad.

So today I'm thinking about how we can create more 'respect'. Of course there's that's old adage that we need to 'earn respect' and that's important. But we also need to 'learn' respect ... we need sometimes to put our own needs and wishes and wants aside and consider others. We need to stop thinking that WE are the centre of the universe and that no one else matters and learn that other people are worthy of respect. And even if we don't agree with them, we need to understand they have a right to their opinions and lifestyles. If we disagree with someone, we need to do that with 'respect'.

It's hard. But I think if we all have a bit more respect for others, and for our environment, the world would be a much better place.

 


With a Little Help from My Friends

I am blessed in life to have lots of lovely friends.

I've lived and worked in lots of different places and along the way I've met some fantastic people who have really filled my life with lots of fun and happiness. They've also supported me at difficult times and hopefully I've been able to do the same for them.

Having friends in my life is so important. Because, in addition to my family, I always know there are people to whom I can turn when I need that extra support. 

With social media I've been able to reconnect with a lot of friends with whom I've lost contact, and that's lovely, but I also have a small cohort of really close friends who will always be there for me, and I for them.

Although we are separated by time and space, and that's especially been the case during the past year or so when the global coronavirus pandemic has prevented us from travelling to meet up, I know that when we do see each other again it will be like no time has passed at all.

There are those friends who as soon as we meet, we pick up from where we left off, and it's like we've never been apart. That, I think, is the measure of true friendship.

There are also some pieces of music which are a bit like friends. They make us feel safe and warm and they bring back lovely memories.

On this day, May 26, in 1967 a brilliant album was released which includes a fabulous song which celebrates friendship.

Sgt._Pepper's_Lonely_Hearts_Club_BandIt is, of course, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles and it includes some iconic songs, including the second on the album - With a Little Help from My Friends

The 'Fab Four' have gone down in history as pioneers of rock and pop but what we forget is that in the greater scheme of things they weren't around for that long as a band - they formed in 1960 and broke up in 1970. However, they packed in masses of work and songs and albums into their decade as a foursome. Sgt Pepper's was their eighth studio album!

By summer of 1966 they were no long touring or doing live shows, perhaps completely exhausted with endless schedules and 'Beatlemania', and they were developing more and more innovative music, including incorporating different kinds of musical genres and storytelling.

And there's no doubt that one of the albums that has ensured their legacy is Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band! 

It's an album I've been listening to for as long as can remember because I have an older brother who loved it. I can probably sing along to many of the songs, but ahead of writing this blog post I did a bit more research and discovered some interesting things about it. 

It was Paul McCartney who had an idea for a song involving an Edwardian military band and that was the basis of the fictional Sgt. Pepper band. But if you know the LP album you'll know that it includes lots of different sounds, including not just Western and Indian classical music but also some vaudeville, circus, music hall, and avant-garde sounds.

I was also interested to learn that when the band started recording in November 1966, they also recorded two other songs which are just simply brilliant - Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane - which in fact were released as a double A-side single in February 1967 and so were left off the LP.

Anyway, back to With a Little Help from My Friends. Not all the songs on albums like Sgt Pepper's have been recorded by other artists, but the second track on the LP HAS proved popular with bands and singers down the years. One of my favourite versions of With a Little Help from My Friends is from the Scottish rock band  Wet Wet Wet, who recorded the cover version in 1988 as a fundraising single for the charity ChildLine, and it became the band's first Number One hit in the UK!

But today, to mark the release of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and to celebrate the Power of Friendship ... let's enjoy the original version from those Fabulous Beatles.

Warning - the video is a a bit weird and has basic animation. 

But what I discovered was that these 'moving parts' were actually included in the Promotional Video for Sgt Pepper's Heart Club Band ... if you fancy watching that just click on the words

Have a great day Everyone!

And if you are one of my friends - THANK YOU!!!!  Thanks for all the love, and support and care, and prayer and fun.

You are very special! 




Send the Fire!

Today is Pentecost in the Christian church!

Happy birthday 1Which means it's quite appropriate for me to shout to the rooftops ...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

... especially to all those Christians out there! 

I know what some of you are asking - Why 'Happy Birthday'? 

Well it's because this is the day that we recognise the 'birth' of the church, that movement which started when the handful of  followers of Jesus Christ way back 2,000 years ago received the courage and momentum to take His message to the world. It's a BIT more complicated and theological than that ... but that's the gist of it. Please feel free to do more reading if you want!

Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day, the seventh Sunday, after Easter, when Christians believe that Jesus came back to life, even though his followers and many many more people had seen him die, hung on a cross outside of the city of Jerusalem on the day we now call 'Good Friday'.

After that first Easter Day when Jesus was resurrected, his disciples, his 'Apostles', saw him many times over a period of weeks, not as a ghost but as a real life walking around breathing human being. He appeared to them among other things to encourage them that even though he would not physically be with them in the future, God would still be with them through his Holy Spirit. This meant that even though Jesus was no longer on earth, his message of love and compassion and reconciliation with God and our fellow human beings, would continue.

Jesus finally 'ascended' back to heaven - that momentous occasion is marked on Ascension Day - and ten days later, the disciples were back in Jerusalem celebrating the Jewish Feast of Weeks (Shavout), when they experienced something extraordinary, supernatural and empowering.

The fire of the Holy Spirit fell on them ... this is described in the New Testament of the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).

This is what the Bible says happened...

Pentecost fireWhen the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit ... 

This coming of the Holy Spirit gave Jesus' followers not just the encouragement and courage, but also the power, and some of the skills they would need to take his message out, beyond what we now call The Holy Land, and into the wider world. It really was the moment when the 'Church' as we know it began.

THAT'S why Pentecost ... the coming of the Holy Spirit ... marks the Birthday of the Church!

Down the centuries, the Holy Spirit has inspired many many many millions of followers of Jesus to share his Gospel of love and compassion, and to make a difference in the world.

The events of Pentecost have also inspired many songs and hymns which not only tell of the coming of the Holy Spirit to our world, but also celebrate the changes that can happen in individual lives and communities when the Spirit of God moves among us. Those songs include one penned by the co-founder of The Salvation Army, William Booth,  who was a bit of a poet apart from anything else, which is a favourite for Salvation Army worship meetings, and not just on Pentecost.

The song was originally set to a different tune which is still sung in The Salvation Army but it was re-worked by a composer/song writer called Lex Loizides and has become a popular hymn across the wider Christian church and is sung especially on this Sunday.

So, to celebrate Pentecost, let's just enjoy this fabulous song ... here it is sung by the masses of people attending a Stoneleigh Christian Conference.

If you know it please do sing along.

Enjoy! and Be Blessed!

 


Bring Me Sunshine

Those of you who live in the UK and who are maybe of a 'certain age' will be aware that for many decades in the previous (20th) century the comedy scene was dominated by some brilliant 'duos' and probably the most successful double act was a certain 'Morecambe and Wise'.

The Morecambe & Wise Show and especially their Christmas 'specials' became a national institution and for many years dominated the Christmas Day BBC television schedule, watched by many millions. The 1977 Christmas episode was apparently watched by over 28 million people!  Their shows, featuring the two of them, gags, comedy sketches and songs were such a hit that big stars of the screen and stage were lining up to be included in an episode, even if it meant having the 'mickey' taken out of them.

Eric morecambe statueI'm thinking about them today because it was on this day - May 14th - in 1926 that comedian John Eric Bartholomew, OBE was born. He WAS Eric Morecambe - he took his stage name from his home town, the seaside resort of Morecambe in the county of Lancashire in North West England. There's a statue of him in the town overlooking Morecambe Bay, a bronze sculpture which was unveiled by non other than the Queen of England in summer 1999!

Eric had started performing in talent shows at an early age and when he met up with another young performer, Ernie Wise, they became close friends and, eventually, comedy partners.

After the Second World War, they served their apprenticeship in shows and on stage across the British Isles and on radio, before eventually coming to the notice of television producers and finally securing a contract with the BBC to make a television show. It was the start of an astonishing broadcasting career.

The comedy duo worked together from 1941 until Eric's death from a heart attack on May 28th, 1984. In 2002 he was named one of the 100 Greatest Britons in a BBC poll, securing his place as one of the most prominent comedians in British popular culture.

Morecambe and wiseEric and Ernie brought so much pleasure to so many people - myself included! 

And so, to celebrate all the laughs and joy they brought into my life and the lives of so many others, today I want to share with you the iconic song they adopted as their signature tune and with which they usually ended their show, often accompanied by a silly dance. 

I love it! It's so optimistic!

I defy anyone not to have their spirits lifted when they hear and watch  ... 'Bring me Sunshine' ...

Enjoy! And, if you feel up to it ... Smile!

 

 


Count Your Blessings

Are you a sucker for old movies?

I am!

And I especially love the old Hollywood musicals! There was a time when you couldn't avoid them on the weekends on British TV. There were and still are my guilty pleasure.

The films were usually 'feel good' tales of love over adversity - boy meets girl, falls in love, something happens to come between them, then it all gets worked out and the love is back on - and usually packed full of great songs.

It was through the old movies on TV that I first heard the name Irving Berlin, the American composer, lyricist and songwriter who was born on this day in 1888. He's actually considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history and it's reckoned he penned around 1,500 songs, including many that have passed into musical folklore.

If you fancy being impressed, just check out the list of some of his songs here and you'll see they include classics like White Christmas , There's No Business Like Show Business, and even the song that has become an American anthem - God Bless America.

Born in Imperial Russia, Berlin arrived in the United States of America at the age of five. He was by all accounts a bit of a youthful musical prodigy. He was paid for his first song, Marie from Sunny Italy, in 1907 - he received 33 cents for the publishing rights. By 1911 he has his first major international hit, Alexander's Ragtime Band'.

Berlin's career spanned 60 years during which he wrote not just the songs, but the scores for 20 original Broadway shows and 15 original Hollywood films - hence my cosy weekend TV viewing. Berlin songs were nominated eight times for Academy Awards. 

Songs written by Irving Berlin have reached the top of the charts 25 times and proved popular not just to the musicians of his own time and those for whom he wrote some of the songs but loads and loads of other musicians and singers down the years who have recognised the beauty of his lyrics and tunes.

So, yes, numerous singers from Berlin's own era re-recorded his songs,  including Doris Day, Perry ComoAl JolsonFred Astaire, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Frank SinatraDean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole.

But Berlin's songs have stood the test of time and have also proved popular in more recent times, being recorded by greats like Elvis Presley. Diana RossBarbra Streisand, Cher, Willie NelsonBob DylanLeonard Cohen, and contemporary 21st century stars like Michael BubleLady Gaga, and Christina Aguilera.

Count your blessings irving sheetBut to celebrate Irving Berlin's birthday today I'm going to turn to a little song of his that has always touched my heart.

It was included in the 1954 movie 'White Christmas', perhaps the most iconic Christmas movie of all time in my opinion. 

It's sung by two of the main characters in the film played by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, both of whom also recorded and had hits with other Berlin songs.

Blink and you may this one ... it appears to be just a simple tune with simple lyrics, but it's lovely...

It reminds us to remember how much we are blessed rather than fretting about any short-term problems that we might be facing.

It's a great message for us all - Count Your Blessings ...

As I was researching this thought today I discovered (from Wikipedia!) that this song actually arose from Irving Berlin's personal experience. He apparently was suffering from insomnia brought on by stress and his doctor suggested he try "counting his blessings" as a way to deal with it. I can certainly sympathise with the great songwriter on this one ... insomnia is something that I'm plagued with!

And although it appears to be just a little song, Count Your Blessings was nominated for an Oscar in the "Best Song" category at the Academy Awards, only to be pipped at the post by Three Coins in the Fountain from the movie of the same name ... another iconic film!

But maybe I'll come to that another day. Who knows?