Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Still Got the Music in Me

Feast of Lights Saddleback College
It's been the most Christmasy Christmas I can recall since my childhood...thanks to holiday music. Frank and I have swung through a December of Sunday music. We started with Saddleback College's astonishing annual Feast of Lights, my first time, though it's been a holiday tradition there for 25 years. The choir's haunting "O Holy Night" brought me to tears.

We followed up a week later with a jazzy afternoon, a "Charlie Brown's Christmas," at the home of Luther and Vicky Gonzales Hughes. Luther, a world-bassist, who happens to own the late Howard Rumsey's instrument, hosts home concerts as part of the California Jazz Arts Society, which Frank and I joined several months ago. With Luther's accomplished friends at keyboards, drums, and vocals, the Sunday afternoons always delight...but this one was special, with
Becky Hughes. Late Bloomer
Becky Hughes and Dale Boatman interpreting the lyrics of old favorites. Becky, whose album is called "Late Bloomer," sprinkles a little sultriness on old standbys.

This past Sunday we went to my third Christmas singalong at the home of Barbara Smith, a musician and music teacher who decorates her home, herself and even her guests for the holidays. Yes, Barbara keeps a box of Christmas caps for everybody. And underneath each chair we each found percussion instruments so we all could become musicians, at least temporarily, in a rousing version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas.

I at last had a chance to hear the mighty William J. Gillespie pipe organ at Segerstrom Concert Hall this week, too, where the annual Christmas Spectacular featured Todd Wilson, from the Cleveland Institute of Music, with members of the Pacific Symphony. This concert included a singalong finale, so we chimed in with "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World."

William J. Gillespie organ
Tonight, before I head for Arizona for Christmas with my 7-year-old granddaughter (and her parents) I'll be going to a final Christmas music singalong at my apartment complex. When I get to Arizona tomorrow afternoon I'm going to ask Kendra to sing a few holiday favorites for me.

But the music isn't going to die when December runs out of days. Frank and I already have tickets for several Pacific Symphony concerts, and will be going January 12 back to Segerstrom for Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. Billed as a "romantic tour de force," this piece brings me back to my childhood every time I hear it.

My friends know that my grandfather, Jesse Crawford, had been known worldwide in the '20s and '30s as "The Poet of the Organ," and "Master of the Mighty Wurlitzer." His two children, Jeanne, my birth mother, and Howard, my uncle, inherited the musical ability gene. My late big 𝄠𝄠𝄠sister, Patti, did, too. From an early age she excelled at both singing and piano playing. Professional musicians have told me she had perfect pitch. Perfect.
Grandpa Jesse Crawford

Though I sang in glee club, and danced with the Carpenterettes and Manual Arts High School's Pavlovettes, I couldn't master the piano. Somehow the musical ability gene skipped me...nonetheless, I inherited the appreciation gene, as did my son, Steve. I don't know if they play or sing, but I do know Patti's daughters, Spring, Dawni and Star, all also adore music and attend frequent concerts.

But, oh, how I always have longed to have my sister's talent, both vocal and piano. One of the earliest pieces I remember Patti playing...and we couldn't have been more than seven (me) and eight (her), was the Tchaikovsky piece I'll be hearing next month, the First Piano Concerto.

Sister Patti and her music-loving daughters, Spring, Dawni and Star
"Boston Globe critic Matthew Guerrieri commented that Haochen Zhang, Gold Medal winner of the 13th International Van Cliburn Competition, displayed “poetic temperament as much as technical power … [he is] a pianist with ample reserves of power whose imagination seems nonetheless most kindled by subtle delicacy,” artistic gifts that should serve him well when he tackles Tchaikovsky’s popular piano concerto. "

Here's Lang Lang with the wonderful Opus 23:

And here is Zhang:


  1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories!
    I do love to sing and dance! Although I have only had moments of perfect pitch.
    Enjoy the music and Happy Holidays!

  2. Sounds right up my alley. I love holiday music. My highlight was attending a holiday performance by the Rockettes.