Tag Archives: Music

Italian Dreams and Dallas Streets

by Colleen

On Saturday, I called home for an update.  I miss the goings-on of our big family in our big, rambling farmhouse while down here in Dallas, and calling and skyping home is one of my favorite things to do on a lazy Saturday morning.  To my surprise, I found out that it is still winter back home, complete with 16 degree high temperatures and a foot of snow.  The sunny, 65 degree weather outside my window had fooled me into thinking it was March or even April, and classes already seem to be interminable.

Despite the glorious weather, this semester has been off to an uncharacteristic start.  Many of my closest friends are away across the ocean this semester, studying on the University of Dallas’ Rome campus, and while seeing gorgeous pictures of them traipsing across Italy on Facebook is fun, I’d much rather they were still living down the hall from me.  In an attempt to become more cultured and not just sit in front of our computer screens, scrolling through pictures, a few of my friends from here (who are also never going to Rome) and I decided to get out into Dallas and attend a concert last Sunday night.

After a frantic day of studying, my friends Joe, Monica, and I headed out to the light rail station in the Dallas dusk, ready for some music and time away from campus.  We alighted at Mockingbird station, and wandered around looking for a place to eat that was nowhere even close to cafeteria food.  We found what we were looking for at Izmir’s Market and Deli.  The Iranian man behind the counter was charming  the falafal was fresh and flavorful, and for just a moment, we could pretend we weren’t in Dallas, TX.  Satisfied, we headed to the concert, and spent the night enveloped in the music of the Punch Brothers, a folksy, Mumford and Sons-esque band that filled the Granada Theater with glorious sound.

We headed back to campus that night content and tired, our minds, not lost in contemplation of the streets of Rome, but centered on the present here and now, which suddenly seemed a lot less lonely.

Punch Brothers

When You Take Away a Girl’s Piano…

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by Colleen

Once again, ’tis the season!  No, not THAT season-Finals Season!  And oh how festive and joyful the University of Dallas campus is.  I see people out at all hours, cavorting on the mall, and laughing in the library.  Oh wait, make that crying from lack of sleep.

Luckily, I have a fairly easy finals schedule this semester, and so I’m not going to be complaining about school.  Nope, I’m complaining about something else.

I moseyed on down the lounge in my dorm last week for a spot of piano playing only to find this:

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What? What?!  I was incensed.  I was enraged.  I was very, VERY annoyed.  C’mon, people.  Throughout the two weeks I have now been suffering from piano withdrawals.  I’ll look up from studying French and think, “Hey, PIANO! Yeah, I’m gonna go play!” only to suffer the extreme disappointment of not being able to.  I feel like I’m missing a limb.

My thought and feeling progression goes a little  something like this:

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Really?

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REALLY?

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FINE THEN.  I’ll just go watch youtube videos and melt my brain into mush.

Finals, I can handle.  This indignity-no.

Singing and Stones

by Kate

I have been singing a strange tune. Twice a month I play the harp in a large sunlit room in the locked down Memory Care Unit for Alzheimer and Dementia patients up the street from my home. They are a kind and appreciative audience, especially when my toddler daughter twirls and spins to the music, claps, and opens her mouth to sing joyfully along. I haven’t been feeling joyful this month. The toddler has been sick and clinging close for weeks on end, kicking me wildly during long and restless nights. On the opposite end of the age spectrum, the elderly neighbor for whom I am caretaker and de facto nurse fell ill with pneumonia just before Christmas, and has just returned from an extended stint in the hospital and in Rehab. My responsibility to the young and the old has left me feeling unusually drained and weary, and as though I have little left to give.

So I am singing a lullaby. I’ve been learning lots of lullabies on the harp lately, as the toddler and the elderly audience are equally appreciative of them. When my daughter was born my mother gave me a beautiful illustrated book of lullabies from all over the world, and I’ve slowly been discovering new and beautiful songs. The one I stumbled across yesterday and have been singing ever since is from Scotland. It’s a strange little song, with a raw honesty to the lyrics and a bit of a bleat of despair in the melody that struck a chord in me. Here are the lyrics:

O Can Ye Sew Curtains

O Can Ye Sew Cushions? And can ye sew sheets?
And can ye sing ballooloo when the bairn greets?
And hee and haw birdie, and hee and haw lamb;
And hee and haw, birdie, my bonnie wee lamb!

Chorus:
Hey-o, way-o, what will I do wi’ ye?
Black’s the life that I lead wi’ ye;
Many o’ ye, Little for to gie ye.
Hey-o, way-o, what will I do wi’ you?

Now hush a baw lammie, and hush a baw dear,
Now hush a baw lammie, thy minnie is here.
The wild wind is ravin’, thy minnie’s heart sair,
The wild wind is ravin’, but ye dinna care.

Somehow, singing this song is a great relief. It seems to lessen the weight of the toddler who is even now clinging to my neck. All of this has made me think about my father and the stone. Unlike many men his age, my father is not retired and living a peaceful life with the prospect of grandchildren to brighten his days. Instead, he is a full time farmer tilling the soil and toiling to turn organic produce into profits. With two children still in high school, a rotating cast of  twentysomethings camping out in the attic, and two elderly people living in the back rooms the big white farmhouse is still bursting at the seams. Still, I know that my father is grateful for his life- for his good work, his land, his home, perhaps especially his wife. I asked him over Christmas if he was grateful for his children as well. He hesitated. and said “My children are a stone upon my chest.”

I know that my father loves us, but he has a lot in common with the Scottish mother sewing curtains long ago. Raising nine children has always been hard,  and doing so on one income is a Herculean feat in this day and age. The prospect of launching nine lives successfully into the world is a daunting one. As my father would tell you, his battle is not finished by any means. He is still carrying that weight. And so, the day before Christmas, I headed down to the barn and pulled up a heavy slab of sandstone. I took it into the house and inscribed a message on the front, and then turned it over and had all of my siblings sign the back. We wrapped it, left it under the tree, and dragged it out to present to my father on Christmas morning.

My father loves that stone. Mom says he lays on the couch now and then with it balanced across his broad chest, just to feel the weight. He says it feels right. I believe that it feels like singing that Scottish lullaby. There is a powerful release in singing out the darkness- and in doing so, there is room for new hope.

And I’m Feelin’ Fine(ally)

by Colleen

It’s Finals Week here at the University of Dallas.  I think a bit of this is on everyone’s mind:

Yup.  It’s some fuuuun times here.  I literally can not find a place to study that isn’t full of other people studying.  It makes me feel like a slacker. The campus is fine(ally) settled down.

Every time I sit down, I suddenly am struck by all the things I would rather be doing, and studying on my bed is no longer an option.  Do you know how dangerous it is?  5 minutes into studying for Economics, and my uncomfortable dorm room mattress is suddenly heaven.

Here are all the irrational and assorted things I get the urge to do when I really should be studying:

1. Go for a walk, a long one, with a nice book of fiction that is not an epic poem that is not a thousand years old.

2. Play piano-yes, let’s drag up pieces from years ago.  Might need to brush up on that Beethoven for Understanding the Bible class, right?

3. Watch Arrested Development (actually I have done that when “studying”.  It’s a brilliant show, and I highly recommend it)

4. Look, I suddenly want to write for the blog again!

5. Compile a Christmas wish list in my head.

6. Listen to Stan Rogers and relive my childhood.  I want to “take the Northwest Passage”, and that makes me “an idiot, I suppose”. Ouch.

And lastly, I really just want to go home.  Christmas in Wisconsin, here I come!  3 finals to go…

Back on the (Organist’s) Bench

By Colleen

I distinctly remember thinking, “Oh, it will be such a nice to change to not have to play organ for mass anymore, and to be able to just sing!” upon leaving home in August.  I have been playing the organ for Sunday mass at the “Jewel on the Ridge”, St. Peter’s Parish Church since I was 14.  And while I do admit that it was the best job in the world, I was looking forward to a change.  It takes a lot of concentration to accompany a mass, and I never was able to just sink into the beautiful rhythm of the words and form of the mass, always waiting for a cue, signaling the start to the Alleluia, Sanctus, or the communion hymn.

So, it came as a big surprise even to me when I heard the words slip out of my mouth, volunteering to play organ for mass at the Dominican priory here on campus.  It was a natural reaction to the situation.  My brothers, Raphael and Patrick, had invited to me to go to mass with them that Sunday.  The mass took place in a large room, complete with a lecturn, alter, and to my surprise, an organ in the far back corner.  Windows dot the wall behind the alter, letting in little bits of the Dallas skyline, set into plain, stone walls .  In other words, it was the complete opposite of St. Peter’s.  Except for that organ.

The priest who does the mass normally is 97 years old, and  there was no music.  What could I do?  I went up to the priest after mass and volunteered with Emma, who is now doing all the cantoring with me.  The familiar pattern of Sundays in now back in place for me: get up, pick out music (typically I call Mom for this-we have the same book here as back home), practice, and walk over to mass.  Now of course I have to walk much farther than across the road, and the way is so much different, studded with small, twisted trees and sidewalks, in place of oaks and maples, and grass and gravel scraping my Sunday heels.  But at least I’ve found some equilibrium.  I’m back on the bench, and here to stay.

Musical Nights

by Colleen

While all my other sisters are soaking up the glories of fall (which happens to be my favorite season), I am still stuck in never ending summer.  Nothing changes except the grass, which gets browner.  Despite the bleak landscape here, I have found places of beauty, most unexpectedly.

A few nights ago while out looking for my friend, Emma, I wandered down to the music department of UD.  The music department is the smallest department in UD, consisting of a few practice rooms, and two offices.  And although I am taking piano lessons there as of last week, I really haven’t had occasion to go there much.  Emma plays classical piano amazingly well, though, so I thought a logical place to find her would be in one of the practice rooms.

And I did.  But it wasn’t just her, and she wasn’t even playing the piano.  To my amazement, I opened the door to that tiny, dingy white room on an unknown student, to me, playing some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard in my life.  He was playing his own original compositions, all from memory, never written down. The first song I heard completely blew me away.

Now, despite the fact that I play flute and piano, have participated in many musicals, and sang in choir all throughout high school, I have never had a strong devotion to music.  I prefer words-words on the page of a book and words strung together by me even.  But that night, that music told me all I ever could want to know.  It brought tears to my eyes; I felt like I was seeing my whole life, personified in the music before me, music that someone had created himself.  The room was filled to bursting with the melody.

I walked out of the room dazed by the gorgeousness of sound.

Just typical college life, right?

The Music Man

By: Clare

As August comes,the realization that summer ends comes with it. One by one, older siblings make their way back to their colleges for another school year. This year, all those leaving are heading down to Dallas, either for college, or jobs. The first to leave has been Cale, who started making his way down yesterday.  Cale has been spending his summers, even sometimes Christmas’, with us for almost as long as I can remember, and is more like a brother to me than a cousin. His jokes never fail to make me laugh, and even his laugh makes me laugh. Cale is also our resident musician. There’s been many a summer night when I’ve stayed up late listening to Cale play his guitar and sing a particular song he is obsessed with getting down perfectly at the moment. I love being on the first or second floor and suddenly hearing Cale’s loud singing voice projecting all over the house from the third floor. Even it’s just him coming into Mary’s room and playing the same scales over and over, we still enjoy it.

(No, he is not asleep. This is Cale playing his scales on the floor of Mary’s room. I really don’t remember why he decided to lie down.)

Cale, we will miss you and your music.

 Folks, Elvis has left the building.