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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Amazing Musical Experience

I’ve been to a lot of concerts, some amazing. The Leonard Cohen concert in St. Louis when Cohen had just started touring again. The first Jimmy Buffet concert I had ever been to—including the shenanigans of parrotheads.  Or the many Dylan concerts, some with Phil Lesh—where the Dead Heads were the biggest part of the show. If you read my blog you know some of the other amazing musicians I've heard. But I never expected a funeral for a long-time friend’s Mom in the small chapel of an independent, assisted-living facility to be the most remarkable musical event of my life.

The family who had lost it’s matriarch at the age of 89 has a strong musical connection. All three daughters have beautiful voices. And they had arranged for an opera singer to perform solos during the service. Even though I know nothing about opera and did not recognize the songs, I couldn’t help but realize the soloist had a spectacular voice. But there was yet to be a more amazing event.

I had known the deceased as the Mother of my friend. A beautiful woman with good humor and grace. A lovely eulogy was delivered by one of the daughters. She mentioned how many ways her Mom had left the world a better place.

When it came time for the relatively small crowd in the intimate chapel to sing the traditional hymns, I suddenly was overwhelmed with the beautiful voice from the young woman sitting next to me. She had the most amazing voice I have ever heard. Not louder than others singing in the crowd, but of a quality and fullness I’ve never experienced. As she sang “Amazing Grace” you could well imagine an angel had joined the chorus of voices. Through the rest of the hymns I sat as if stupefied with my mouth open, but not making a sound.

I know as little about opera and ballet as any subject. But I once saw Nureyev dance. When he came on stage, all the other ballet dancers immediately looked as if they were wearing lead weights. He appeared to defy the laws of gravity with invisible wings. That’s how different this young woman’s voice was from any I have ever heard. I later learned that Kate, the young woman sitting next to me and a granddaughter of the deceased, is an international opera singer.

I know you don’t go to funerals to hear the music. And I can’t say that I have ever before enjoyed a funeral. But in that little chapel in St. Charles, Missouri I realized in an acoustic revelation that the world really was a better place because the deceased had lived. She had left behind a world of music in her daughters and grandchildren. And she made me wonder if maybe I need to start listening to opera. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Witty, Wonderful and in a Distinct Blues Style—a Review of Phil deFlume’s New Album

You might think that bloodlines bias my opinion of the most interesting, witty and wonderful musical album just released by my brother under the name Phil DeFlume. Well, here’s what another musician, Astad Dhunjisha, has said about the album.

A total home run!  Just finished my 6th listen. I really enjoyed it. Some awesome guitar solos!  

Music speaks differently to each one of us.  For me there was just so much on the album that I loved, the vocal harmonies, the horn sections, the tabla on newspaper rock, the groove of in water.  For me what stood out most of all was the humor and the witty lyrics.  It took me quite a bit of scanning the album art for me to make the connections and that was rewarding!   A lot of songs stood out - the test of which is that I wake up humming them each morning!    For me Newspaper Rock and the last song of the album spoke a lot to me -  so much good stuff though - Mabel's toes breathlessly inventive and witty, hot donkey love was super entertaining! 

What a great album in a very distinct blues style!

For more info on the album or the singer / songwriter go to  or to for an interview with Phil.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


As a retiree I try to do a few community activities. Most of the time I make an effort to avoid, at all costs, driving downtown during the day, a commute I made for over twenty years. And since I now do whatever work I do from home, and also have activities such as  water exercise classes or swimming several days out of the week, I enjoy the freedom from wearing make up, doing something with my hair, and putting on professional-appearing, even business casual, clothes on most days.

Ah, the joys of sitting at your computer wearing sweat pants or shorts, or even pj’s. Nothing else can make you appreciate more having given up work, or at least the structure of a formal work environment, except perhaps no longer setting an alarm clock in the morning. Though I've had to do that for various appointments lately more than I like to admit.

But on some days I make the effort to attend in person a meeting for one of the professional or community groups to which I still belong.   Today was one such day. After leisurely reading the newspapers over coffee and attending to a few household chores I realized I was dangerously close to missing a lunch meeting downtown to which I had committed months ago. A quick shower, brief application of make up and a change into business casual clothes left me sweaty, anxious, and running late. And thankful that this was a very occasional occurrence.

I made it to my destination in time, found an on-street parking spot (most amazing), successfully navigated both parallel parking on the left-hand-side of the street and the new “Smart” parking meters, and proceeded to the meeting with about a minute to spare. Only to find the meeting had been cancelled about an hour before my arrival. I calculate this was while I was in the shower—or dashing for the car. The two were so close in time I can’t really be sure.

Needless to say, I should have checked my email before leaving home. Though that might not have saved me from the trip downtown as my email had been running slowly this morning.

The person who had cancelled the meeting was very apologetic for not having gotten the word out sooner. And, of course, most of the attendees who are already downtown would have gotten the email in plenty of time to avoid a pointless trip. But then, as luck or maybe fate would have it, I ran into an old friend, while receiving the news of the cancelled meeting. He graciously insisted on taking me to lunch. We had a delightful chance to catch up on family, friends, professional activities and otherwise make my little journey into downtown well worth the time I had invested in the excursion.

Now I’m home and catching up on other activities I've put off. But I’m left wondering if the best experiences often are the ones we don’t plan. The ones that life just throws at us through serendipity. That’s certainly what happened to me today.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Must have Music

For those of you who have read my occasional concert reviews—often as much about the crowd and atmospherics of the experience as a traditional musical review—you probably have wondered whether I have any musical credentials. Well until recently I would say, no, none, nada.

I was in high school orchestra. I played percussion—for me the refuge of a would-be musician without any ability to produce the desired tone. You see, I had plenty of opportunity to play a musical instrument that produced lovely sounds, I just couldn’t do that.

I had piano lessons as a kid. But I hated them. And I can’t carry a tune in a basket if my life depended on it. Nor have I taken any formal musical appreciation classes. By what right do I write about music other people make? 

Well, I do have a lot of experience listening to other people make music as I have musicians in my family. My mother was an accomplished pianist and organ player. And the teacher of those music lessons. I now understand her frustrations with not only my lack of ability but lack of interest in learning to play, given her talent and fierce love of music.

I also have another first degree relative who has always loved not only listening to, but playing, music. My brother and I played together briefly as I was learning percussion and he was working on his guitar playing, having easily moved beyond those mandatory piano lessons to a second-loved instrument.

And my brother now has firmly moved into the composition and musical production arena with the release of an album. You can hear some of the songs he wrote, and performed along with an interview about his musical and creative inspirations at

KRCU, the Cape Girardeau NPR radio station affiliate will be playing the interview on Going Public, the local magazine program, this evening at 5:00 PM Central Time.

The family musical saga continues. One of my sons also plays a variety of instruments, including piano and guitar. So I figure I’m a recessive carrier of the musical gene in our family.

Enjoy your music in whatever form, be it producing or listening.