Tag Archives: music

an assortment of harps from Ireland

Here are a number of harps I encountered on my trip to Dublin last month. It’s one of those cases where I didn’t realize that I had amassed a collection of photos on a theme until after the fact. With the exception of the last photo, these are all just photos of things that caught my attention at different times during my visit.


Brian Boru’s Harp, from the 15th century, in the Long Room of Trinity College.


A harp of a more modern vintage, which appeared in a Dublin restaurant towards the end of my dinner one night.


A glass of Guinness, with the trademark harp logo. This was my first Guiness in Ireland, which I enjoyed in a little pub under the train station in Howth, a town on the seaside, outside of Dublin.


The Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin. Also known as The Harp Bridge. Photo taken from the top level of a double-decker bus, on my way to the airport.


The Euro coinage in Ireland has a harp on the back side. (This is the one photo I took after returning from my trip.)

The friday foto finder theme from 2 weeks ago was “music.” I was actually in Dublin 2 weeks ago today, and heard live music that day. (In fact, harps were played, along with a range of other instruments, including fiddles, banjos, a bodhrán, and Irish bagpipes.)

This week’s friday foto finder theme is “fridge magnet.” I actually probably did see harp refrigerator magnets for sale in Dublin (I know I saw magnets, and I know I saw souvenirs with harp motifs), but did not think to purchase (or photograph) any. I do have quite a few fridge magnets of my own, and will probably share some later. If you would like to play along with this week’s theme (or one of the past week’s themes, as I’m doing) pay a vist to the fff blog. New participants are always welcome!

faking it

I’ve been taking violin lessons for quite a few years now. (I’m not really sure how to count the years, given the big interruptions. I started 11 years ago, but maybe missed 4 of those years I also don’t know how my progress in those “on” years counts, given that there have been quite a few slowdowns and interruptions.) In any case, I consider myself to be an intermediate player. Mostly, I have played classical music with my teacher. Last year, after my experience playing fiddle along with the American folksongs performed by the elementary school, I felt the urge to explore fiddling a bit more. I bought a couple of books: 1 on Celtic fiddling, and one on bluegrass fiddling. Each came with a CD. I started with the Celtic book/CD, and it was complicated enough that I decided to just stick with that. I’ve been enjoying playing songs from it for the past year or so, on my own, in addition to the classical music that I work on with my teacher. I never got around to cracking open the bluegrass book.

A few weeks ago, a musician friend of mine sent an email asking if I had any interest in taking one of the workshops offered as part of a bluegrass festival in Cambridge. I was so very tempted by the intro to bluegrass fiddling. At the same time pretty intimidated. I’d never taken a music workshop before, and have very rarely even played the violin in front of other people. I have performed in front of others now, a few times, but only after much preparation and practice. This would be going in cold.

I decided to do it anyhow.

So, today, I went to a workshop on intro bluegrass fiddling. It was a lot of fun, but a little overwhelming. It was a 2-hour course, but after about an hour and a half, I found that my stomach was empty and my brain was full. I muscled through, though. And I think I learned a lot, some fraction of which I may even be able remember. One thing that amused me was that the instructor described a lot of what he taught us as tricks, including how to play along when you don’t know the music. I’m hardly ready for a bluegrass jam, but I think I now know how to fake my way through at least one bluegrass song.

For added flavor, here is a bluegrass band playing Angelina Baker, the tune that we used for much of the lesson¹:

¹ And one which the other 3 participants all seemed to know. I felt good² that I could make the other students feel better about their knowledge by being the one who didn’t know much of anything.
² For some definitions of good
³ I’m sorry if this isn’t very coherent. I’m actually completely wiped out. It was a long day, given that I had an hour plus commute each way, and stayed for part of the bluegrass show that followed. (Which, by the way, was excellent.) And I think I am fighting off a cold. But when I commit to blogging daily, by gum, I commit to blogging daily.

drip, drip, drop

It rained today, a little April shower.

I didn’t get any photos of the rain today, but here is a photo from March. I liked the way the drips lined themselves up. (And now I like the way we no longer have snow on the ground. We were away for the weekend, and the last of the snow had departed by the time we returned.)

The drips and drops remind me of the song “Little April Shower,” which I loved as a little girl. We had the record (it must have been a single) and I used to play it over and over on a little plastic record player. I’d do a little dance (not shown). Here is the clip of the song from the Disney movie:

As an adult I have enjoyed the Natalie Merchant version off the album Stay Awake. I can’t believe that even that album is now over 25 years old.

Who’s who?


With the excitement building for the new episodes of Dr. Who to start¹, there has been a lot of who-buzz. But Dr. Who is not the only Who who is out there. I offer you this list of whos: a sort of Who’s Who of Whos.

  • who: an English interrogative word a relative pronoun used to stand in for a person².
  • WHO: The World Health Organization
  • who: the sound made by a hooting owl
  • Dr. Who: A British sci-fi/fantasy TV show that has been on for decades, about The Doctor, a time-travelling alien who gets to have a new body every so often.
  • Whovians: Fans of Dr. Who (you know who you are)
  • The Who: A British rock band, originally formed in the 1960s
  • Who Are You? A hit song by The Who. (And the title track of the album “Who Are you?”)
  • Who am I? A 1998 Jackie Chan movie where he plays an amnesiac spy. (It features this very memorable fight scene with a man with very long legs and very good balance. [youtube])

  • Who dat? A phrase used to show support for the New Orleans Saints (a football team)
  • Who’s Who: a type of publication listing biographical information
  • Whoville: a fictional town (or possibly two towns of the same name) in two Dr. Seuss stories: Horton Hears a Who and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
  • Whos: Inhabitants of Whoville. Cindy Lou Who is one such Who.
  • Who’s on first? Abbott and Costello’s famous comedy routine of name/pronoun ambiguity. (If you don’t know it, you can read the full transcript. Better yet, watch this clip from the 1945 movie The Naughty Nineties on [youtube])
  • whodunnit: a nickname for a type of story where the reader (or viewer) tries to solve a mystery along with the protagonists
  • Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

  • “Guess who?” Something sometimes said by a person sneaking up behind another person, often while preventing that person from seeing by covering the eyes.³
  • The Guess Who: a Canadian rock band best known in the 60s and 70s
  • Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?: A 1967 drama/comedy movie starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn. (It’s not actually about dinner with a Canadian rock band, but about a family coming to terms with an interracial relationship.)
  • Who can it be now?: A song by Men at Work
  • Who’s that girl?: A song by the Eurythmics
  • “Who’s a good boy?” Something often said to dogs.Cf this Onion article:
    Nation’s Dog Owners Demand to Know Who’s a Good Boy

    With canine-cuddliness levels at an all-time high and adorability-boosting ribbons and chew toys plentiful at pet stores across the nation, no resolution to the good-boy-identity issue appears to be on the horizon.

  • “Who cares?” A question sometimes asked by someone who doesn’t⁴

Who’s got more whos?

¹Season 7, part 2 starts this Sunday, March 30th
² Prescriptive grammarians will say that who is only to be used in cases where the pronoun/interrogative is in the subject, or nominal, position, and that whom is what you must use in object positions. However, contemporary usage allows for use of who in object positions.
³ I’ve never enjoyed this game.
⁴ I care.

Whose whos are whose? (image credits):Horton Hears a Who!, Whoville from the 1966 animated movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas (based on the book), Who Dat, The Guess Who Greatest Hits album cover, The Who logo, Jackie Chan’s Who Am I?, Who’s On First? screenshot from youtube clip from The Naughty Nineties,Tardis, World Health Organization logo, and Introspective Pug.

twisted mystery tree (friday foto finder: tree)

This remarkable tree is in Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco.

I took this photo on a visit there in March of 2009. (The lovely greenness and sunshine are a far cry from the weather we had today here in Massachusetts.)

I have no idea what kind of tree this is, but I love the way it twists around itself.Anyone have an idea of what sort of tree it is?

This week’s friday foto finder theme is “tree,” and I have successfully found a tree photo. On a Friday, even. (Actually, I have oodles of tree photos. It was once again hard to choose. ) To see what other trees have been found, pay a visit to the fff blog.

And since today happens to be International Women’s Day, it seems an appropriate time to share Shaking the Tree by Peter Gabriel and Youssou N’Dour:

There’s nothing to gain when there’s nothing to be lost
There’s nothing to gain if you stay behind and count the cost
Make the decision that you can be who you can be
You can be
Tasting the fruit come to the Liberty Tree
It’s your day – a woman’s day
It’s your day – a woman’s day

Happy International Women’s Day! Go shake some trees.

Note: if you were to shake the trees outside my house right now, you would end up with a lot of snow dumped on your head.

high strung


John and I sometimes joke that the violin is the right instrument for me, being that I can be a little high strung.


When I get too tightly wound, I do sometimes snap.


It should also be noted that I have a tendency to fine tune things.

In case you didn’t see yesterday’s post, I wanted to draw attention to it. (It was the Big Thing I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.) These are some portraits of my collaborator in that endeavor.

Hey diddle diddle

It was the day before the big blizzard was expected to hit Massachusetts, and people all over the state were scrambling to buy their eggs and milk and bread and wine. I found myself in a school, in front of a crowd of several hundred people. And I played the fiddle.

I wasn’t wearing my pajamas, and I wasn’t late for a final. It was not, in fact, a nightmare. It was real, and I was actually supposed to be there. I was one of a small group of parent musicians accompanying the elementary school concert.

Flash back to December. Phoebe mentioned that her school music teacher was looking for an adult to play small violin part in the upcoming February concert. I was intrigued. I’ve been taking violin lessons for a few years, but I have never labeled myself as a violinist. I mean, I take lessons. I am, if anything, a student violinist. The only performances I had ever done with violin were a handful of recitals with my violin teacher and her other students, playing a single song in front of a moderately small audience composed mainly of the parents of the other students. (Who were mostly kids.) And the last of these was 5 years ago.

After some rather fruitless efforts trying to communicate with the teacher via Phoebe, I tracked down the teacher’s email address, and let her know I was interested in learning more about what she needed. She wrote back that another parent had already responded, and she was waiting to hear back. She decided to send me the music to look over, anyhow, in case the first parent decided not to participate. It turned out that there were more violin parts than I had expected, with violin parts to accompany 9 of the songs that the kids would be singing. Nine. On the bright side, they were fairly straight-forward. They were American folk songs, including “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” and “Skip to My Lou.” Phoebe really wanted me to play the violin part of “Fiddle-I-Fee,” one of the songs her grade would be singing, and which featured a prominent fiddle part. I started to learn the music, and became really taken with the idea of playing in the concert.

In the end (and there was a lot of back and forth and waiting and anxiety on my part in the meantime), we worked it out that the other parent and I would both participate, and we’d split the songs. We each took on the violin parts for 4 songs, which were grouped by grade, and then both learned the final song, which was a number sung by all the grades.

I spent a lot of time practicing, and worked on the music with my violin teacher during my lessons, in place of the classical music I usually play with her. I pretty well immersed myself in those songs. I played the CD, provided by the school teacher, of computer-generated instrumental versions of the songs in my car for a month straight. (I mean, when I was driving. I didn’t go out of my way to sit in the car to listen.) I played along with the CD. I played without the CD. I watched YouTube instructional videos on fiddling techniques. I worked myself up. I talked myself down. I played till my fingers were sore.

The concert came, with its two performances to accommodate the crowds of family members of the 400 students of the school, and felt I did pretty well. At the very least, I didn’t embarrass myself (or Phoebe).

I had a great time.

I could write loads more about the whole experience, but I should probably just move along. But I will say that I’d love to find more opportunities to perform.

Anyone need a fiddler?

The Hey diddle diddle image is from wpclipart.com.

Tidings of comfort and joy.

For the past several years, Neil of Citizen of the Month has put together a remarkable online concert to celebrate the many and varied holidays of the winter season, and he has graciously hosted once more. Please go check out the amazing musical and photographic stylings on exhibit at The Seventh Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. As always, the entries are varied and wondrous.

I didn’t manage to get my act together this round, for a variety of reasons, but I hope to again next year. You can find me and my voice in several of the past concerts, but I’m too lazy to see which. Last year was one.

I have been in a dark place since Friday, but I’m not yet ready to share those thoughts. Too many thoughts. I wrote something on Monday, but it is still too raw to post. In the meantime, I have taken comfort in many things, including music. Most of all, I take comfort in having my little ones with me and holding them close.

May they remember only joy this holiday season.

Saving All My Pants For You

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This edition of National Pants Radio is dedicated to those who seriously love pants: a playlist of classic pants songs to fit all body types.

  • All You Need Is Pants – The Beatles
    However, shirts and shoes are also required for service in most establishments.
  • Pants Me Two Times – The Doors
    Pants me once, shame on you. Pants me twice, shame on me.
  • Pants Will Keep Us Together – Captain and Tennille
    Especially if they are stitched well.
  • Pants Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
    At the seams.
  • Can’t Buy Me Pants – Beatles
    I’m not buying that. Money can buy many things. Even pants.
  • Making Pants Out of Nothing at All – Air Supply
    Would these be invisible pants?
  • Do You Believe In Pants? – Huey Lewis & the News
    Yup. Except maybe the invisible ones.
  • You Give Pants a Bad Name – Bon Jovi
    That style is really unflattering.
  • You’ve Got to Hide Your Pants Away – The Beatles
    Just toss them in the hamper.
  • Tainted Pants – Soft Cell
    I don’t even want to know what those stains are.
  • Where Did Our Pants Go – The Supremes
    Did you check the dryer?
  • A Man Without Pants – Engelbert Humperdinck
    Is he, by any chance, wearing a trenchcoat?
  • Need Your Pants So Bad – Fleetwood Mac
    Um, I’m using them right now. Can’t you get your own?
  • They’ll Never Take Her Pants From Me – Elvis Costello
    That’s just creepy.
  • Addicted To Pants – Robert Palmer
    You and me both, Robert. Better than heroin, though. Or leggings.
  • The Power of Pants – Huey Lewis and The News
    Sustainable. Renewable. Fashionable.
  • Saving All My Pants For You – Whitney Houston
    Um, thanks. I’ll be sure to make space in my closet.

Today marks the 6th anniversary of this blog and a special day for me to reflect on the meaning of pants.