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(c) 2012 Trina Lambert

After a month of moving either our daughter’s things to college or (seemingly) everything in our home, last night we got to end the month on a high note—or more likely several high notes: Sherman and I went to go see both B.B. King and his band as well as the Tedeschi Trucks Band perform at Red Rocks Amphitheatre thanks to Jackson’s generosity for Father’s Day and my birthday.

Really, I was too tired to go to a concert, but we’ve been waiting a long time for last night’s performances. And, at soon-to-turn-87-years-old, B. B. isn’t getting any younger! (I know, I know—neither am I.)

After a hot, dry day and an even hotter, dryer long summer, the Red Rocks’ weather kicked up quite a wind and cooled things down. It even rained a little in my own yard first—why does our planning to go to a concert there change the weather in a summer with seemingly unchangeable weather? (Last month we went to hear the Lumineers and Cake—and I got soaked and frozen—good thing the weather improved as the night went on, as it did last night.)

I love the interaction at live performances and even the lack of polish you hear sometimes—if I wanted perfectly engineered music, I’d just stay home and listen to the edited music.

But what I don’t love is how many people really don’t pay attention at concerts. OK, now I’m going to expose the “country” person in me when I say this, but these people seem to have too much money and too little sense.

The problem isn’t new, of course. I remember going to a Jimmy Buffett concert in the late 80s and standing behind a large group of couples who talked to one another and often turned away from the stage throughout the whole concert. It was almost enough to endear me to the loud, off-key singing from all the nearby Parrotheads.

Look, I have ADD—I sometimes disrupt other people’s experiences by commenting at the wrong time or being too loud. But I get the impression that a lot of these people talking through the concerts or walking back and forth across the aisles don’t even realize they should act differently. I don’t expect white gloves and party manners—stand up, dance to the music, whistle, etc.—but could you try to be a little bit more engaged in what’s going on down on the stage or at least move to the sides?

Now I am going to sound like that stereotypical old person—I think with fewer and fewer boundaries in society and more distractions, more people don’t know how to, first of all, behave in group situations so others can have a reasonable experience, and, secondly, try to focus on the experience itself. For every person talking loudly through the songs, there was a person who was scanning emails and news and whatever else on his/her cell phone.

When I think about the difference between the environment in which my mom’s (just guessing here about the diagnosis) ADD was molded and the one in which mine was molded and the one now, I wonder if anyone now who has the propensity for ADD is going to have a chance at mitigating the more negative sides of ADD without experiencing a few more boundaries. And beyond that, if you don’t value something, such as minimizing your disruptiveness, then you’re probably not going to attempt to do things differently.

Seriously, I felt like one of the least ADD people around last night, but I had plenty of work to do on one of my own less-than-stellar ADD traits: hyper-focusing on noise and other nearby distractions while missing the big picture.

I didn’t really miss it—the music was great. I’m glad I got to see a legend and his band, as well as the stellar musicians in the following group.

But, seriously, people, going to a concert isn’t about you—it’s about all of us—together. Just because all the world’s a stage doesn’t mean your performance should supersede the ones listed on the ticket.

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(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

After a twenty-one year hiatus, I’ve returned to singing in the church choir. Can you believe no one remembers me?

Truthfully, I only sang in that choir for a year before night courses and then twins got it in the way. I did, however, put in a few years in another church choir—which wasn’t an easy thing to do when I was young and, perhaps, staying up late and going to pre-smoking-ban bars.

When the director of the current choir asked me where I’d sung, I should have answered, “With my mother—and with any choir she threw me into.”

OK, usually I went willingly, but with my mom, you never knew if showing up at her church wouldn’t mean being told to fill in with the bell choir or to sing the Spanish-language mass or to give musical support in some other way. My brother used to end up as cantor for her.

I may not have the best voice tone or range, but I’ve been taught to read music, count rhythms, and follow a director—or else. My fellow Ritter cousins know what I am talking about! From our early days, at family gatherings Mom would take the kids over to Uncle Carrell and Aunt Dottie’s house to sing. Sing we did—and in as many parts harmony as we could, even if we were always hoping for more people to marry sopranos or tenors.

In fact, I could have answered “The Ritter Choir” to the director’s question. Don’t know the Ritter choir? Well, we most recently met to memorialize Uncle Carrell one day and my mother the next. Sherman is still raving about the gift we gave to send off Mom in a church with the acoustics architects dream of creating. Of course, it was the work of her legacy in action, right down to the cousin on the piano bench and the one directing.

So as I take my place again in the choir loft, I am continuing that legacy. As I remember how to mark music, read while looking at the director, count my rests, and stay in pitch, I am returning to what was begun in me by my mother—my mother who was a lifelong musician both inside and away from the church.

I do this for me, but I also do it for her, even if she’s no longer here to draft me into participating in her church services.

Her life lives on in endless song—how can I keep from singing?

Dix High School Marching Band 1955

Dix High School Marching Band 1955

The first time I heard or noticed Dan Fogelberg’s song, “The Leader of the Band,” I was in the early phases of a somewhat awkward road trip back to college in Ohio. My friend, Linda, had a visiting aunt and uncle who were driving back to their home in Dayton after spending the Christmas holidays in Nebraska. Somehow our families worked it out so we could cancel my expensive plane ticket and replace it with some gas money and an inexpensive night in a motel—who really wants to visit Iowa in post-holiday early January?

Turns out there was a good reason no one wants to visit Iowa then. By the time we had reached the Iowa border, winter had returned in full force, often forcing semis onto their sides on the icy roads. Luckily, Linda’s uncle was a cautious driver who took few risks—other than the fact we were on the road at all.

Elda Mae (Ritter) Lange, Senior Picture

Elda Mae (Ritter) Lange, Senior Picture

But before the weather changed, I remember riding on colorless roads through Nebraska, feeling generally bored, as most of us are prone to feel on drives through empty spaces, especially when we aren’t traveling with people we know well. I listened to the radio and thought a lot. When I started hearing the words of Fogelberg’s song, I instantly thought of my own mom, even though at that time, she was only tired because she was working long hours in her second career at the unemployment office in a time when too many people needed benefits.

My mom graduated from college at the height of the Korean Conflict. That meant that many jobs previously available to men were opened to women. And band director was one of those jobs. Like Fogelberg’s father, she was a school band director, but since she taught K-12 in rural Nebraska schools, she was also a choir director—and most likely in charge of the smallest child’s musical education.

When I came along a decade later, she had already taken time off to be home with my brother. Before I turned four, she was back working in the schools, bringing her songs with her. All my teen babysitters were her musicians, either vocal, instrumental, or both. Though she also taught piano lessons in our home, she wisely sent us to other teachers for our own lessons.

Mae playing piano, 1957

Mae playing piano, 1957

Our father ran the local drug store, which meant he worked all week except for Sunday. Mom had to do something with us when she had to escort her musicians to Saturday competitions. With most of her babysitters on the trips, she often chose to bring us along. I remember times when we rode the bus with the band and marched beside the band director through autumn parades. (Is it any wonder that when I was in band I could not join the band when our drum major started us on the wrong foot?) I spent days at music competitions, reading or drawing. At the end of the school year I often helped my mom sort the music back into its proper places.

Although my mom introduced me to more than my fair share of music, I didn’t turn out to be the musician she is. I’ve played piano, clarinet, violin, and oboe. Ever since my mom taught me to sing harmony while singing from the hymnal at church, I haven’t really been willing to sing unison. I sang in school, but my best memories are of the youth choirs my mom led at church and with my 4-H group in my teens. If I came home to visit after I had left home, she just might throw me into her bell choir at church. And I always say that it wasn’t an option for me not to have rhythm!

So the leader of the band was able to teach me how to sight read, just not how to want to practice. That’s why I think of myself as musical while I think of her as a musician. It’s just who she is—and who I think she will be until the end.

Mae singing with guys--no doubt as the high tenor!

Mae singing with guys--no doubt as the high tenor!

My mother was more than the leader of the band—she was one of those teachers who made personal connections with students. She was always leading someone in song, whether it was her students, people at church, in the community, or those in her extended family. While I have turned out to be merely musical, several of her family members are musicians, just as she has been. That is one of her greatest joys.

The leader of the band is definitely getting tired now. It’s not her eyes, like in the song. No, unfortunately it’s her essence that is growing dim. I have no answers for that, but know that I need to be with her in these confusing times and always remember that her song is in my soul.

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