Gratitude & Peace

Gratitude… I’m filled with it, for my family, my chosen family, my friends, my colleagues and for those whom I serve.

I am an optimistic and reflective person, somewhat introspective and very philosophical. I’m also pretty self-aware. So these are thoughts for this Christmas of 2015.

Being part of a very positive company, as well as,, working with performers for an entertainment company is great. I do my best to put a dent in the universe and I choose to be a positive force for good in the world.

In preparation for our SCT show, at our final choir rehearsal, I quoted a passage from a book by Rob Bell: “We are both large and small, strong and weak, formidable and faint, reflecting the image of the divine, and formed from dust.” For me, it helps put things into perspective. We are all connected. We all need one another. The minute we think we are the center of the universe, that’s the moment we realize we are but a small part of a massive puzzle.

Even though “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”, for many, Christmastime can be a struggle. The reality is many of us are hurting. The circumstances could be great or small. There is fear in the world. Some people even use threats as a business model. There is anxiety caused by a multitude of conditions. Some of my close friends deal with great sadness of loved ones gone.

RHP_7230At the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree show, I sang a duet with my good friend John Cameron entitled “Peace”. Here are some of the lyrics (written by Michael McDonald):

I have come from so far away / Down the road of my own mistakes / In the hope you could hear me pray / Oh Lord, keep me in Your reach

How I’ve longed through these wasted years / To outrun all the pain and fear / Turned to stone from my uncried tears / And now it’s Your grace I seek

Oh wondrous child of whom the Angels sing / Know my joy, feel my suffering / Shining star make this love you bring / So bright that I may believe

We sang this song for us, and for those whom this season reminds them of pain. It’s too easy to offer platitudes that fall short of comforting the soul. The more we try to be candid with our pain, the harder it is to fake “having it all together”. Maybe we should try to allow for those dark nights, so as, to reach deeper truths. One of those truths I’m trying to live into is; we are all connected…

I’d encourage all of us to take time to look at the one you’re speaking with in the eye. Slow down and listen. Ask questions. Be curious. Be interested, rather than interesting. Use their name with affection in your tone. Make them feel important.

Here’s a worthy motto: Experience God’s love, then give it away. You may be what keeps them sane. Your love and affection could be the difference in their day. How do we love God? By loving others (Matthew 22:35-40).

I am filled with gratitude… for the beauty of connectedness.

Music Review: Michael Bublé – Christmas

Michael-Buble-Christmas-2011-front-coverI just found a Christmas album that will give you the warm festive feeling of the season. Michael Bublé is the consummate crooner, with a voice tailor-made for performing merry, holiday numbers. He is a hybrid of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin for the modern generation. He is at once a throwback and current—that’s not easy to do—but Bublé does it with grace, class, and most of all, infinite style! Bublé is the entire Rat Pack rolled into one.

The singer’s latest Christmas offering, simply titled Christmas, is a batch of standards and familiar fare, given the Bublé treatment. It’s a holiday marvel, one you will want to blast while wrapping presents, baking Santa-shaped cookies; sipping cider with a cinnamon stick floating in it; and decking the halls. Buble’s warm voice is worthy of an invite into all of your holiday parties. He doesn’t overdo it with chimes, bells and whistles, either! It’s all about that mellifluous voice with the backing arrangements produced by the genius of David Foster.

"It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" is as warm and toasty as a mug of peppermint-spiked hot cocoa and is true to Bublé’s Rat Pack style. His "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" is big-band, old world and epic. He partners with The Puppini Sisters (a headline act in their own right) for "Jingle Bells", with its bass-heavy kick contrasting with the female trio voices. Bublé is matched with fellow Canadian, Shania Twain for “White Christmas”. They make a decent team on the classic tune. "Silent Night" is rich and creamy, a true showpiece for Buble’s voice. On "Ave Maria," he shows his spiritual side. It may be the most beautiful he’s ever sounded. He turns "Blue Christmas" into a festive room-filler. The charts are world-class on Christmas.

A surprise song is "All I Want For Christmas is You," a sweeping re-make of Mariah Carey’s bouncy, upbeat original, but Bublé slows it down and gives it a gorgeous, slow and striking makeover. He makes the song fit his strengths. Few artists can take a popular song, cover it and give it such a twist that they reinvent , but that’s just what Bublé does.

The album is rounded out with the standards “Holly Jolly Christmas”, “Santa Baby” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”. Christmas, with its 15 strong songs has plenty of music for entertaining this holiday season. If you can’t tell, I absolutely recommend this CD!

Looking For The Christmas Spirit?! We’ve Got It Here!

Music Review: Diana Krall, Christmas Songs

frontFor most of my life, Christmas music was equated to work. As a music director, Christmas concerts were a big part of my job. I rarely listened to songs of the season for pleasure. Along with that is the issue, is that we have a couple of hundred songs getting played over and over and over again, like some demented Santa’s top 40. There are a handful of “must have” disks to tone down the chaos of family dinners, or serenade you during the opening of the presents.

Welcome Diana Krall to this mix. The smoothest voice in jazz hasn’t been a complete stranger to the holiday verse, releasing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” for past compilations. These merely hinted at what was to come from this entrancing songbird. Diana Krall takes on the classics with Christmas Songs. It’s a set that dances between the joyously upbeat (“Frosty the Snowman”) and songs of quiet contemplation (“Christmas Time is Here”). It seems to capture the ebb and flow of the season, wrapped in its tempo changes.

Krall has always been known for her crystal clear pipes, and they’ve never been quite so invigorating as with this collection. It is as if that infectious spirit of the season got her drunk on egg nog and had its merry way with her. The opening track “Jingle Bells” is a perfect example. The horns bob and weave as Krall’s voice punctuates the crescendos, flowing with passion and vigor. She’s just caught up in the rhythm, adding the decorative bow on the end “I’m just crazy about horses.”

The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra accompanies her, and man… do they come to play. They add the kick and charisma to gas up these tunes. Just as importantly, they know their place — backing Diana. Other Christmas albums just completely forget to grab hold of the reins, and the big band just somersaults out of control, bleeding over everything.

Krall has selected a classic set that include all our sentimental favorites without getting a wild hair to take chances with the material. It’s Christmas. We want those familiar favorites we sang carols to as children and listened to those nights when Christmas Eve grew old. Whether it’s “The Christmas Song” or “I’ll Be There for Christmas,” Diana captures all the magic of a child breathlessly waiting for Santa and a family setting aside their differences and bridging the miles that separate them, to come together as one.

The only casualties of this collection await us in the disk’s closing moments. “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” are fair tracks, buoyed by Diana’s effervescent vocal glow. They don’t necessarily detract from this collection, but sit as fat on the Butterball turkey that could have been trimmed. Her two shining moments are “Christmas Time is Here” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” “Christmas Time,” or the Charlie Brown Song as it tends to be informally known, is quiet and poignant. It just seems to whisper to the night’s sky to lose its grip on the powdered snow while the fire rages from the hearth. It comes draped in that blanket of warm fuzzy feelings. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” starts out so intimate, Diana tiptoeing in with the piano. Then the band nuzzles up beside her, dressing her heartfelt plea. It’s a beautiful piece.

Diana Krall fulfills her tremendous promise that jazz aficionados have sensed was simmering in her for many moons. She’s given us reason to get giddy about Christmas music again, which is a pretty tall order.