Archive | Music

Off To Barcelona

There’s a fabulous Stephen Sondheim tune called “Barcelona.”

My guess is that the only people reading this who’ve ever even heard of the song are my husband, my sister and my mother. Be that as it may, it’s been ringing in my ears of late as tomorrow – guess what? – I’m off to…Barcelona. (Whoops! There it is again!)

I haven’t been to Barcelona in – gasp – 25 years and something tells me that it may just be a tad different than my last jaunt through town when I distinctly remember that nobody, but nobody, went to bed before 1 a.m. My husband keeps asking me what I remember about the city and I tell him honestly: “I don’t remember anything, but boy was it fun!”

I’ll be gone for the rest of the week so things will be quiet over here at RealDelia.

But since I couldn’t bear to leave you with radio silence – and I know that you are now DYING to hear this song – here it is, courtesy of that fabulous Sondheim production, Company: Barcelona. (Note: Song begins around 1:25 mark)

Have a great week!

Image: Barcelona by JuntosWorldWide via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Why Grown Ups Should Watch Glee

So there I was on a girl’s night out yesterday when I suddenly glanced down at my watch.

The time? 9:52 p.m.

“Um…I need to go home,” I said abruptly, grabbing my coat. “It’s late.” I tossed in a yawn for good measure as I stole out the door.

It not that I wasn’t having a good time. Or that 10 p.m. wasn’t a perfectly reasonable time for we middle-aged folks to call it quits anyway. (I personally thought we deserved a gold star for hauling ourselves out to a Tapas Bar on a Monday night to begin with…)

No, the real reason that I fled the scene was that  here in the U.K. where I live, the hit show Glee airs at 10 p.m. on Monday nights. And come hell or come high water, I’m there to watch it. Every week.

One of my friends was surprised to discover this about me. (Clearly, she hasn’t read my post on five inspirational show tunes. Pity.)

Lord knows there are lots of reasons *not* to watch Glee. Or at least not to watch it now that it’s entered its second season.

When Glee first started, the whole concept was really fresh. For those of you *not* in the know, the show is about the trials and tribulations of a bunch of high school misfits who belong to the school’s A Capella group and struggle for recognition. Along the way, you get to re-visit your own high school run-ins with bullies, friends, parents, teachers, first loves, crushes, athletes and everything in between.

As one critic wrote, the show’s main strength is its “near reckless portrayal of both people as stereotypes and vice versa.” Particularly impressive in this regard is Chris Colfer as the show’s openly gay, often campy teenaged character, Kurt, who won a Golden Globe for his affecting performance.

And then there are the songs…The All-American Rejects’ Gives You HellKisses’ BethBilly Joel’s Piano Man. (I go running to the sound track. No kidding.)

As it enters its second season, however, the whole thing has gotten rather stale, at least to my way of thinking. They’ve done a very nice job of featuring some of the minor characters from the first season. (I’m particularly fond of the super-bendy Mike.)

But the plot is becoming pretty tedious. (I mean, really. How many times can they compete for the Regionals?) Sue Sylvester has gone from being quirky and mean-spirited to completely off the deep end. As a friend of mine put it, “I think they’ve jumped the shark.”

And yet. And yet. Still I go on. (My friend still watches too.)

Why? You may ask.

I think the answer comes from last night’s episode, Comeback. (Note to American readers: We are 1/2 season behind you.)

One story thread had the ever-earnest Will Shuester (aka Mr. Schue) trying to help Coach Sylvester escape her suicidal feelings after her beloved cheerleading squad is defunded and she is publicly humiliated. As he encourages her to join the Glee Club for a bit of “music therapy,” Mr. Schue turns to her at one point and says something like: “The reason to join a singing group is because music is inspiring, Sue. It makes you feel better about the world.”

Cheesy. Trite. Self-serving.

Yes.

But also true.

And if you don’t believe me – (remember, I *do* go running to the show’s sound track and am willing to admit that out loud) – have a listen to this fellow:

He’s a college student who went onto You Tube and performed a simple, unplugged cover of Eric Clapton’s Layla.

Bliss.

At any age.

 

Image: Glee! by i heart him via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Gift Recommendation: Tim Minchin DVD

My husband and I went to a concert Tuesday night. It was a belated celebration of his birthday, which falls in July.

The reason we waited so long to celebrate isn’t that we were too busy back in the Summer or couldn’t manage to drag ourselves out for dinner. (That does happen sometimes, but it rarely takes five months to rectify.)

No.  The reason we waited five months is that right about the time that I was going to buy him a present, I got an email announcing that our very favorite stand up comic – make that really the *only* stand up comic we’ve ever listened to properly – was coming to London for a live performance at the O2 arena.

So I immediately booked the tickets and then ran out and bought a CD of said comic for my husband as a sort of “place holder” birthday gift, in anticipation of the real thing.

The comic’s name? He’s called Tim Minchin. He’s a bare-footed, mascara-wearing, red-haired Australian. And here’s the kicker:  he’s also a singer-songwriter and piano player. So about 90% of his act are his songs, with a few jokes and stories thrown in here and there.

And he is brilliant:  funny, irreverent, profane, absurd and just a little bit mad.

We first saw Minchin on the erstwhile Jonathan Ross show, which was – until last summer – the top late night talk show here in the U.K. And we knew right away that he was the guy for us. (I mean c’mon…when you love musical theatre as much as I do, the prospect of having someone *sing* their jokes to you is just way too appealing…)

There’s something really exciting about going to hear a performer you love live, even – perhaps especially – when you don’t…um…get out all that much anymore. (BTW? I’d say the average age in the arena last night was late 20s. When a grey haired couple walked in, I practically ran over and embraced them.)

What I like most about Minchin – apart from his hysterical lyrics – is the unadulterated joy he seems to take from his work. He really looks like he’s having a ball up there on stage, and his enthusiasm is infectious.

More importantly, when you watch Minchin perform – and much like another fave of mine whom I’ve also seen live, the writer and singer/song-writer Garrison Keillor – you get the sense that this oddball decided early on in life that he wasn’t going to give a toss what other people thought about him. He was going to choose a path – in this case, playing the piano bare-footed – that worked for him. And if he looked and sounded weird, so be it. He would be true to himself.

I don’t know about you, but to me that’s what it’s all about.

So if you’re still wondering what on earth to get that special someone for Christmas this year, let me make a suggestion: a Tim Minchin DVD.

Have a listen. And enjoy!

Image: Tim Minchin Nine Lessons and Carols For Godless People by nadworks via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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America's 10-Year-Old Susan Boyle: The Newest Child Star

Move over, Susan Boyle. You’ve got competition. She’s 10 years old, she’s beautiful and, boy, can she sing.

In Tuesday’s episode of “America’s Got Talent,” Pennsylvania native Jackie Evancho knocked the audience off its feet with her rendition of the Puccini aria “O Mio Babbino Caro.” The judges could not believe their ears: During an interview with Jackie after she was finished, one of the judges asked her to re-sing a note — just to be sure they really were listening to a 10-year-old and not some offstage diva.

Read the rest of this story at www.politicsdaily.com

Image: Vocal Microphone by Magic Photography via Flickr Under A Creative Commons License.

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*****

For those who are interested, I’m also over on Politics Daily today talking about the latest round of controversy surrounding the Lockberie Bomber’s humanitarian release from a Scottish prison last year.

Tips For Adulthood: Five Songs To Listen To While You Move

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Today’s list is inspired by – what else? – my imminent move.

I remember when I was leaving graduate school and needed to pack up my apartment. I called an old friend and asked him for advice on how most efficiently to do this. His advice? “Get really drunk and stay up all night shoving things into boxes.”

That may have been good advice for that particular phase of life (even then, it remains doubtful), but it certainly isn’t how we’ve been approaching this move. Instead, to distract us from the minutiae as well as to motivate us to clear the final hurdle, we’ve been listening to a lot of music in our house of late.

And I’m finding that when you’re moving, listening to music that’s about actually about moving can be particularly inspirational. In that vein, here are five songs to get you psyched up for a move:

1. Cleaning Out My Closet. O.K. Definitely not one to listen to with the kids around, what with all those references to killing one’s mother and the like. But there’s something really cathartic about the rage and determination that Eminem brings to this song that will have you decluttering in no time.

2. Movin’ Out. Yes, I’m a die-hard Billy Joel fan. I’ll fess up right here (along with admitting to a certain fondness for Barry Manilow.) The great thing about this song is that it’s all about New Jersey (“Who needs a house out in Hackensack? Is that all you get for your money?“) And New Jersey is the great state where I grew up – and, significantly, left at the age of 18. So for me, this song is a poignant reminder of why there are times in your life when you just need to move on.

3. Movin’ On Up. Oh, come on. Surely you remember this one. It’s the theme song from that 70s sitcom about the upwardly mobile African-American family, The Jeffersons. (Still don’t remember? Sure you do. Listen to this to jog your memory.) What an awesome song (and show.) I’ve been humming it for weeks now, as we contemplate a move into a bigger space with a nicer view. It’s not the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I’ll grant you. But next to where we’ve been living (see yesterday’s post), it’s not too shabby.

4. Leavin’ On A Jet Plane. The Peter, Paul and Mary version, puh-leeze. My husband hates folk music of any sort – or as he puts it, music that “inspires you to sway.” Me? Can’t get enough on it. Especially when it’s loaded with nostalgia, like this song is. So if you want to inject some melancholy into your departure – to really savor nostalgia for a place – pop this bad boy into the CD player and start swaying.

5. Hit The Road Jack - And then, once you’re done feeling sombre, it’s time to kick it with the incomparable Ray Charles. Here he is performing his classic Hit The Road, Jack. Say no more.

What have I forgotten?

Image: Packing Sucks by John and Katurah via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Tangible Signs That You're Middle Aged

“Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.”

–Bob Hope


Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Yesterday, I talked about middle age as a set of attitudes. Today I’d like to complement that idea with five concrete signs that you’re middle aged:

1.You start re-reading classics. I’m a big believer in the value of re-reading. But while in Waterstone’s the other day (UK equivalent of Borders), I saw a bookmark entitled “50 Books To Read Before You Die.” And suddenly I had this panic attack that I hadn’t read every single book on the list.  As it happened, I was already re-reading Wuthering Heights for my book group. But as soon as I saw that bookmark, I ran back to embrace Heathcliff with reckless abandon!

2.You leave Parties Before Midnight. I remember once taking this personality test which asked “Do you leave parties before or after midnight?” I dismissed the question entirely because at that point in my life, I didn’t show up to parties until after midnight. Boy, how times have changed. And it’s not just that I now have to pay a sitter when I go out. I actually find myself craving the solitude of…well, Heathcliff.

3. You decline alcohol because you need to exercise the next day. OK, in truth I don’t do this all that much. But I do restrain myself far more than I once did. For heaven’s sake, I used to smoke a cigarette *after* returning from a run. Or go running…to escape a hangover. Now my aging body does the mental calculation of how that morning run will feel after just one glass of wine and I find myself re-considering it.

4. You Start Renting BBC Mini-Series. It’s one of those sad truths of parenting that once you have kids, you never go out to movies anymore. My husband and I thought we’d be different than everyone else on this score but, of course, we’re not. Sure, we go to see a few of the big hits every year. I’m too much of an Oscar fan to skip those. But most of the time we rent movies about six months behind their release date. Lately, however, we have found ourselves renting assorted BBC mini-series that ran – gasp – in like the 80′s. Worse, we find them bizarrely addictive. Don’t believe me? Check out House of Cards. Tell me if you’re not hooked after Episode One.

5. You buy that Joni Mitchell album. You know that one – Both Sides Now – where she goes back and sings…Both Sides Now, except that her tone’s a little more plaintive, a little more somber, a little more…middle-aged. Worse, you buy it because you saw it featured in Love, Actually in that scene with Emma Thompson crying in the bedroom. And it’s haunted you ever since. Admit it. It has.

*****

Check out my response to the latest study showing the costs of unsafe abortions worldwide.

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Image: Joni Mitchell self-portrait by Jenny J via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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The Way We Are: What Barbra Streisand Teaches Us About Adulthood

I woke up Friday morning in a very good mood. For I knew that at 9 pm that evening, Barbra Streisand was going to be interviewed and then perform live on the Jonathan Ross show here in London.

Let me to preface all of this by saying that I’m not a huge Streisand fan by any standard measure. I don’t own any of her albums, and I’ve only seen a handful of her movies. But I still find her tremendously inspiring.

And she’s inspiring in precisely the same way that author Frank McCourt – who passed away recently – was inspiring. In McCourt’s case – and as I wrote about when he died – he reminded us that 66 isn’t too old to pursue your childhood dreams. That’s the year he published his break-out hit, Angela’s Ashes. In Streisand’s case, she reminds us that 67 isn’t too old to keep on pursuing your childhood dreams. She just released her latest album, “Love Is The Answer,” and performed live at the Village Vanguard two weekends ago for the first time in 40 some years.

I know that some people aren’t wild about Barbra. They don’t like her politics. They don’t like her personality. Fair enough. But here are just a few things to remember about Streisand before you diss her:

1. She is the top female recording artist in American history. Wow. I had no idea.

2. She doesn’t read music and can’t really be bothered to do warm-ups or vocal exercises.

3. She’s the only person to receive an Oscar for both acting (Funny Girl) and song-writing (A Star is Born).

4. She’s got star power. Even Stevie Wonder was obliged to do the standard Jonathan Ross show where he appeared alongside two other guests. Barbra got a solo interview. Unheard of.

Me? I could watch The Way We Were every weekend of my life. The way it ends with that bittersweet reunion between Streisand and Redford’s characters on a busy New York street and all the longing, regret and acceptance built into that scene? In a word: adulthood. And I also loved The Prince of Tides – which Streisand directed. (Dysfunctional family, decline of American South, personal journey towards self-hood, plus Jewish New York Therapist all rolled into one? What’s not to love?)

If you’re still wondering how you feel about Streisand, listen to this You Tube clip of her performing Send in The Clowns. Devastating.

Oh yes. And stay tuned for Wednesday’s post for more life lessons from Barbra…

*****

Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, do check out my post on PoliticsDaily.com about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s newest secret…he’s Jewish!

Follow me on Twitter.

Image: Barbra Streisand by Nadwork via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Inspirational Show Tunes

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

So I was signing up for Facebook yesterday – more on that tomorrow – and in my profile, they asked me to list my favorite music.

I wrote: “You wouldn’t want to know. Trust me.”

And that’s because – let’s face it – I’m not much of an audiophile. Sure, I love to sing along to the soundtrack in Tesco. But I’m not the kind of person who goes out and buys CDs, downloads tunes onto my Ipod or otherwise follows any developments in the industry. As I believe I admitted once before, I’ve even been known to watch the odd Barry Manilow concert on TV.

There is one exception, of course. But not one I was quite ready to share with my friends on Facebook…yet. As readers of RealDelia know full well – I LOVE show tunes. So here, without further ado, are five songs from musicals to inspire you in adulthood:

1. Marian, The Librarian – You haven’t lived until you’ve watched Robert Preston seduce a very young Shirley Jones in this most winning of love songs from The Music Man: have a look.

2. If Ever I Would Leave You – On the more serious end of things, here’s Robert Goulet (because really, what’s a musical revue without Robert Goulet?) singing one of my favorite all-time love songs – one that’s full of the agony and longing of romantic love – originally from the movie Camelot.

3. You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile – The title says it all. From Annie. Have a listen.

4. It’s a Fine Life - Here’s a song about making the best of whatever comes your way from the musical, Oliver! It’s a duet sung by Nancy (Bill Sykes’ gal) and her sidekick, Bet. (Truth in advertising: I once played Bet in a Jr. High Production. Ah, those were the days…)

5. Make Them Laugh - Because laughter is the key to adulthood, watch this clip from Singin’ In the Rain whenever you’re feeling blue.

Image: Singin’ in the Rain by elycefeliz via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Hobbies in Adulthood: West End Here I Come!

The writing was on the wall when I found myself lingering in Tesco (a major British supermarket chain) just so that I could sing along to the soundtrack playing in its aisles. I mean, c’mon folks. How often do you get to listen to Men At Work’s Land Down Under and Celine Dion’s  My Heart Will Go On in one 10 minute interval?

Then, last Friday night, I found myself squirreled away in a recording studio in the seedy end of Camden Town. About eight of us middle-aged parents decided to forsake shame and concoct a mums and dad’s band to perform at the upcoming school summer fair. We called ourselves The NERMADS, which was short for New End Rock Mums And Dads (Our children attend New End Primary School in London. I personally preferred the moniker “Nermaids” but it didn’t fly…or swim). Some of us played guitar; others the saxophone; most of us sang.

The studio had all the requisite features if you wanted to fancy yourself a rock chick for  – oh, about three hours or so:  the nearly invisible entrance hidden beneath the railroad tracks…the chipped paint and dark lighting…heck, I half expected someone to be shooting heroin when I walked in. (Only the bathrooms disappointed. As one friend noticed, they were unfailingly clean. Sigh).

And it was a blast. We sang that old favorite Stand By Me, that folk lover’s dream Put a Little Love in Your Heart, as well as assorted rock tunes. (Check out some of us at the actual fair here and here.)

I’ve always loved to sing. I was in a women’s a capella group – The Ursa Minors – back when I was an undergraduate. And I briefly sang with a group at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago when I first moved there. But that was like 15 years ago and since then, I haven’t really sung with anyone (well, outside of those poor souls haunting the cereal aisle at Tesco).

I’m a big fan of pursuing hobbies in adulthood. I think that – as adults – we sometimes feel that hobbies are for kids: you learn to shoot a bow and arrow. Maybe you take some piano lessons or do an art class here and there. And you have fun. But once you grow up, that’s when the serious stuff kicks in: work,  family, LIFE.

But I think that’s a huge mistake. Because there’s something exhilarating about taking up something entirely new – or perhaps returning to an earlier interest – when you’re grown up. Perhaps you even take a class and discovered other like-minded souls. I did this with an acting class last fall.

It’s just…fun. And it keeps you feeling alive.

Which is why I’m incredibly psyched that – right after said performance at the school fair and after running the school raffle for a mere three years – I finally won a raffle prize. And guess what it was? A half-price coupon at London’s adult learning centre, City Lit.

When I got home, I sped through the course listings and happened upon this gem: a *brand new* course offering next year called – wait for it – Actors Singing From West End to Broadway.

An entire six weeks of show tunes? And you don’t have to have any formal training?

Bring it on baby. And Give My Regards to Broadway, because I’m bound for the West End…

*****

Speaking of show tunes, I came across this internet-age tribute to West Side Story – Web Side Story – courtesy of Middle Aged Women Blogging.

Image: Singers by Mr Mo-Fo via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Things I've Learned About Women's Health in the U.K.

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Today’s post is inspired by my visit yesterday to a woman’s health clinic here in London. (I was going to title it “Madame Ovary” – clearly I’m spending way too much time scanning clever literary lines for my own good.)

As with other forms of health care, women’s health is also done a bit differently over here. And so, as part of my ongoing obsession with socialized medicine, today I thought I’d share a few things I’ve picked up along the way regarding women’s health:

1. All questions are referred to an advice sister. Yup. That’s what they call her. Not “our consultant” or “the on-call/duty doctor.”  An advice sister. It sounds so comforting. And given my penchant for therapy, I was half inclined to ask her if I could hang out all day and talk about some non women’s health-related things. I mean, hey, it’s free, right?

2. You don’t necessarily see an OB/Gyn. This is probably also true in some women’s health clinics in the United States, but here you only see an OB if you’re having a baby and a gynecologist if you’ve got a serious (gynecological) problem. For pretty much anything else – routine exams, birth control, infections, you name it – you can see anyone ranging from your general practitioner (GP) to a sexual health expert, a family planning expert, to an AIDS professional. It’s very rare to actually see a (specialist) doctor.

3. Speculum come in different sizes. Who knew? Turns out there are medium, medium long, large long, petite…heck, even virgin speculum er…speculae. I’m sure this is also true in other countries, but I just learned this little factoid. (The Virgin Speculum – I hear a Stephen King novel coming on!)

4. IUD’s were first used on camels. Apparently, this was to keep them from getting pregnant on their long treks across the desert back in the Middle Ages. I’m telling you, if you hang around with the advice sister long enough, you get a real education, folks.

5. Women’s health is increasingly DIY. I posted a few weeks back on the strong personal responsibility ethic that pervades socialized medicine. This is particularly true of women’s health, where clinics are encouraging (particularly younger) women to conduct routine tests on themselves. You go into the bathroom with a little kit, read some instructions posted on the wall and voilà – everyone’s a doctor. It’s all very empowering.

*****

Was anyone else thrilled to hear that Pete Seeger – of folk music fame – just celebrated his 90th birthday? Makes you want to break out in song. C’mon everybody: If I Had a Hammer

Image: He Lived his Life like a Camel in the Wind by eNil via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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