Laura Bruno Lilly

The road ends, but the journey continues...

A Boy And His Tuba

Dear Kaden,

Your Ma texted me some pictures and a video she took of you playing at your most recent concert. You sat tall and straight and played your part well – without tapping your foot – yes, I noticed! Good job.

A few weeks ago, I won this book for you. I read an interview a writer friend of mine had with the author, Mary Winn Heider, about her newly released book, “The Losers at the Center of the Galaxy”. Learning that one of the main characters was a boy whose best friend was his tuba – I knew I had to enter the contest and try to win this book for you! And I did!

I waited to send it on to you because I wanted to read it, too. Your Ma might like that it has references to Chicago (our shared hometown – we’re cousins, you know). I suspect the football team and stadium described in the book is based upon Northwestern University in Evanston, but it’s still fun to have that Chicago connection along with the tuba connection.

One of Winston’s (the tuba player in the book) favorite pieces to play is Darth Vader’s Theme from Star Wars – The Imperial March. So, I printed out a copy for you. Who knows, you might play it in a concert next year?

I found a very short 1-minute YouTube of a student about your age practicing playing it on the sousaphone. Which as you probably already know is the marching band version of a tuba. You might like to see it here.

I also am sending you a link to the author’s book trailer. This is a very short 1-minute Vimeo video where she talks about her book and shows you how she works out her action sequences – very fun!  

I am proud of you Kaden. Keep playing your tuba – it is way cool.

Lots of love & hugs (I get to say that because we’re cousins, too!),

Laura


Thanks to all you music teachers in the schools – you serve as first introducers to the glorious variety of instruments there are in this world to try out and play. And a huge thank-you to L. Marie – you help connect kids with books and readers with authors.


Resources for inspiring aspiring Tuba Players

Losers at the Center of the Universe book cover
  • Let’s start off with this book. It can be found here, here and here.
  • Free sheet music of arrangements of popular tunes for tuba at various proficiency levels by TubaPeter can be found here.
  • Your local Tuba Player Musician/Teacher (ask your music shop or school band teacher for recommendations).

COVID Clench, Pandemic Hair and Cardamom Braids

In my fantasies of what I’d do first once I was fully vaxxed, getting a haircut was the primo #1 Big Thing.

I’d been gearing up for the Big Leap into an enclosed, hair salon experience during the 2 weeks-after-my-second-jab clearance and figured it’d cross off two ToDos at the same time.

#1 – Getting that haircut!
#2 – Re-entering the world at large in a calculated and precise manner.

However, my teeth had other ideas.

Over the course of those 2 weeks, jaw pain, migraines, searing earaches, and weird teeth nerves asserted themselves to the point of my having to call the dentist for an appointment. Considering my last checkup/cleaning was in 2018, and we’ve since dropped dental insurance, I was a bit miffed.

Long story short, I passed my exam with flying colors. In fact, the dreaded cleaning itself was deftly performed by the dental hygienist with narey a wince on my part. Strange to say, but I had a fantastic experience.

So, what was the source of the pain? If not a rotting tooth, then what?
Something dentists are seeing a lot of lately – teething grinding (or technically, bruxism).

Aha. Makes sense. Only I’m calling it “COVID clench“.

The day after my dental needs upstaged that longed-for haircut, I called for an appointment and got in that very afternoon. I also got out in less than 30 minutes. The strange part was not the actual haircutting, but the torrent of words that flew from my mouth whenever I opened it to say something simple like, ‘please cut it a bit more’. Instead, a tumbling jumbling of words totally out of my control followed in quick succession.

I apologized to the hairstylist and ventured to tell her that I’m usually the lady in the chair who’d rather not chat with the one cutting her hair. But somehow that statement didn’t ring quite true to what was occurring at that moment.

Aha. Makes sense. Re-entry means remembering to use certain social skills.

Laura Bruno Lilly Mother's Day 2021
Luckily, I got that stringy Pandemic hair whacked off in time for my Skype Mother’s Day celebration…

As for those braids…(obviously not of the hair type)…I had a hankering to try out a non-sourdough bread recipe. Like many of you, my kitchen was dubbed The Sourdough Lab during the height of the Pandemic. I’m sick of it. All of it. But have a slew of very cool sourdough this and sourdough that recipes I created and perfected during that season of isolating in place. Someday they’ll see the light of day again, but not right now.

Instead, I treated myself to a non-sourdough bread making experience. Using Cardamom, a spice first introduced to me by my Palestinian sister-friend Hiam back in the early 80s while we were living in the Bay Area.

She used it as the defining ingredient in the making of her fabulous coffee. As a result, I have been enamored with other uses of Cardamom ever since.

Her basic recipe?
A handful of cardamom pods, a handful or two of sugar, a handful or two of whole coffee beans in a pot of water set to boil until it becomes thick.              

I’ve never been able to recreate that luscious and potent brew by myself. She did it best.

I miss you, Hiam.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for my Cardamom Braid Bread.

It makes for a delicate flavored loaf with a good crumb. Tastes good with both sweet and savory meals but I like it best by itself, smothered in butter!

Cardamom Braid Bread

Cardamom Braid Bread

Ingredients

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) or 2 scant tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1½ – 2 teaspoons ground cardamom (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups plus 2 tablespoons 2% milk, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions
  • In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, cardamom and salt. In a small saucepan, heat 1½ cups milk, butter and honey to 120°-130°. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add eggs; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough (dough will be sticky).
  • Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
  • Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Divide each portion into thirds. Shape each into a 14-in. rope. Place 3 ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid; pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  • Brush with remaining milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375° until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Giving Voice: The 8th Wonder of The World…

…Stevie Wonder.

On the many wonders of this world…

“There are more than 7 wonders of the world – he (Stevie Wonder) is #8.”

Angelo Roman

Innervisions – Stevie Wonder

One of my favorite albums during my college years (1972-1977). Here’s a studio clip on recording ‘Living for the City’ which is as fresh and (unfortunately) relevant to today’s issues as it was then… all (he)artistically mastered by a master. What follows is the whole song as recorded on Innervisions.

For a touch of relief in this world of many troubles and plenty of social injustices I end this with Stevie’s “Don’t You Worry About A Thing” on this same album, Innervisions.

Thank you, Stevie.

Poetry as a Pandemic Life Line

~~~
Today, this last day in April 2021, is also the last day of National Poetry Month.
~~~

Poetry is a life line.

me, Laura Bruno Lilly

Poetry speaks to our aloneness and draws us into a community of common experiences.

Allusions illuminating the seen and unseen – the felt or unfelt.

Resonant expression. Targeting the heart. Melting into one’s soul.

Before, during and post Pandemic – Poetry is a life line.

Pandemic Potpourri #6

As mentioned before: herein I will blog, and commenters can comment, without feeling guilty about seeming to disregard the seriousness of our present COVID-19 Reality. In other words, this space is reserved for escaping/managing Reality – however that translates. Anything goes, so here goes!

It’s been awhile since I wrote one of these posts.

t’s been awhile since I’ve posted, period.

I’m tired. I’m worn out. I’m wasted. Yet, excited to be alive.

Sounds paradoxical.

Perhaps the title of this should be renamed, Pandemic Paradox #1.

Just sayin’…


Three weeks ago, while standing in line for over an hour to get my first vax jab, my line-mates and I rejoiced that we ‘got this far’ through the Pandemic. We even fist-bumped as we each left the 15 minute sit area afterwards. I felt like dancing a jig and until the first stirrings of side affects occurred, I did enjoy a bit of rambunctious behavior around the house!

Today marks the day I received my second vax jab. I was delightfully surprised to see one of my first jab line-mates round the corner into the 15 minute sit area after my second jab today. We ‘caught up’ and reconfirmed our thankfulness for having gotten ‘this far’ and not taking anything for granted.

It did my heart good.

As I left, we fist-bumped a final farewell…and took care to resist the urge to hug.


Mama’s got a new bag of beans!
I opened a new bag of beans today.

(for me that refers to the only beans worth opening – coffee)
They are potent.
As if I’d been imbibing decaf these past weeks rather than the real deal.
The beans know.
🙂


While our latest Family photo (shown below) was taken during a not-so-recent ZOOM Thanksgiving in 2020 we continue to stay close.

I am hopeful that we will gather face-to-face during Family Dinner some day, some how in the months to come.

I wish the same for you and those you hold dear.

Thanksgiving Family ZOOM Time
The Fam, ZOOM Thanksgiving 2020 (l-r: new-to-the-family Lindsey & son Joe in Colorado, Hubby Terry in our living room, me in my studio, son-in-law David & daughter Michelle in Michigan)

Hope, I know, is a fighter and a screamer.

Mary Oliver

My Grandmothers, Too

Lineage

By Margaret Walker

My grandmothers were strong.
They followed plows and bent to toil.
They moved through fields sowing seed.
They touched earth and grain grew.
They were full of sturdiness and singing.
My grandmothers were strong.

My grandmothers are full of memories.
Smelling of soap and onions and wet clay
With veins rolling roughly over quick hands
They have many clean words to say.
My grandmothers were strong.
Why am I not as they?

Written in 1942.
I discovered this poem in 1992.
Presented here as an homage during Women’s History Month, 2021.

Outstanding Blogger Award

Thank you Mariss for nominating me for this award. Along with the honor it bestows, it also gives me a chance to break out of blogger’s rut!

In keeping with Mariss’ attention to word definitions (she ferreted out what exactly a blog award nomination really means) I thought I’d first focus on what the name of the blogging award she nominated me for really means.

outstanding: adj (1611) 1. standing out – projecting 2a. unpaid 2b. continuing; unresolved 2c. publicly issued and sold securities 3a. standing out from a group – conspicuous 3b. marked by eminence and distinction syn: noticeable  

Webster’s 9th new Collegiate Dictionary, 1988

Personally, the part of that definition I can relate with is 2b. continuing; unresolved.

Which segues easily into question number one of five to be answered with regards to accepting this blogger award!

  1. For how long have you been writing a blog?
    This website/blog went live on August 30, 2013 (and the journey continues…)
  2. What made you start?
    from my first post: The obvious answer to this is of course, ‘Why not?’  I, however, could think of many reasons ‘why not’ whenever it was suggested to me to begin blogging. The biggest one being: anybody and their uncle can write anything and put it up into the nether-land of cyberspace for all to see regardless of quality. And then I remembered that was one of the main reasons I’d balked at recording my first cd. As a working musician, I’d done demos and was busy with gigging, teaching and performing. After all, anybody and their uncle can record anything for all to hear regardless of quality; it is all so easy to do these days…I needed someplace to showcase my (he)art, give voice to our between-homes journey and perhaps even enlighten others of the parallel communities filled with invisible ones living among us in 21st Century America. And blogging is yet one more tool to get what needs to be said out there.
  3. Why do you continue to blog?
    Unresolved stuff mixed with Pandemic stuff.
    Pandemic stuff is probably understood by most.
    Unresolved stuff – beyond the scope of this blog post!
  4. Have you ever met any of your fellow bloggers face to face? If so, how did it feel?
    Nope. Never. But plenty of Almosts.
    I imagine it will feel like a crazy-fun disconnect-reveal simultaneously turning into an old friend/new friend reunion type thing – Let’s do it!
  5. Do you write regularly? If so, why?
    Yep. Different reasons – daily entries in my Morning Pages since 1997 help in sorting through issues/plans/ideas/clearing out/etc. Other writing is for pure pleasure of creative expression.

Now it’s my turn to nominate and ask a few questions. To those nominated, there is no obligation to take up the challenge of answering and asking the questions. If you do accept, then please answer the questions, nominate 5 other bloggers and then compile a set of 5 of your own questions.

Have Fun!

The Questions:
  1. What’s the first thing (or two) you’ll do once you ‘get your shot’ and/or the world otherwise opens back up after the Pandemic?
  2. What makes you break into your ‘happy dance’?
  3. What was your favorite subject when you were in school?
  4. Which of your blog posts is your favorite and why? Please provide a link.
  5. Coffee, tea or ????
Two of my favorite things: goats and dark roast coffee

Don’t Overlook The Obvious

Once upon a time, in the early 1990s, I experimented with simultaneous double sided quilting and piecing of individual blocks. It seemed a promising way to make a scrap quilt in one easy swoop. Until it wasn’t.

I quickly realized the effort far outweighed the reward and set the project aside.

Scroll forward to the early 2020s:

Whilst (I love it whenever I can use this Brit-term) rummaging through various fabric scrap & abandoned project bins, I came across those four orphan blocks.

For more than three decades, they have survived numerous stash purges with no idea of what to do with them after each re-evaluation of their worth to keep!

Then, a few weeks ago, it came to me. The solution glaringly obvious. Finish them off as…

…Mug Rugs.


In terms of my creative development and output, these past few months have been strangely empowering. It’s as if the scales have dropped from my eyes as I re-examine projects that stalled out for whatever reason.

Seeing the now ‘obvious’ next steps which lead to ‘finishes’ is supremely delightful – from poetry writing to quilting UFOs to all things musical; from 3 measure fixes to going with the flow of an intuitive tempo to mug rug creations.

And more. So much more.


*for those interested

Binding Join Mini-Tutorial

Carolan’s Concerto

Background

Turlough O’Carolan.

Most Celtic music enthusiasts and instrumentalists are familiar with this man’s body of work and prominence of place within the Irish folk tradition.

Turlough O'Carolan on Irish 50 pound note

Long credited as being Ireland’s national composer, Turlough was born in 1670 and lived during the Baroque Era* of Western musical history. That Baroque reference is important to note. While traveling the lands of the Emerald Isle as an itinerant harper, he was in fact a contemporary of Scarlatti, Geminiani and Corelli – all composers of varying prominence of the day.

Put another way: Turlough O’Carolan could be called the Baroque Bard of Ireland.

My off-the-cuff quip notwithstanding, a rich mingling of musical traditions is indeed the basis of Carolan’s Concerto.

“In Carolan’s time, there were three musical traditions in Ireland – art music, folk music, and the harper tradition. The harper tradition served as a link between art and folk music and was the main conduit for the oral tradition. Carolan created a unique style by combining these art forms, and then adding elements inspired by Italian music which was then fashionable in Ireland. He was a great admirer of Vivaldi and Corelli, whose modern music he would have heard in the homes of his noble Irish patrons, and this admiration is reflected in the melodic construction and forms of many of his pieces. In fact, it’s said that his Carolan’s Concerto was a winning response to a compositional challenge from Geminiani, an acquaintance, colleague, and contemporary.”

Bridget Haggerty, Tribute to Turlough

My Take

Shortly before the beginning of the infamous New Year of 2020, I earnestly tackled composing an arrangement of this piece.

I wanted to adapt it for solo classical guitar in like forever and was pleasantly amazed at how it came together so quickly. I even produced two possible endings and put them up for a vote with my son and son-in-law – both musicians.

Consensus: First ending.

My take on Carolan’s Concerto was proving to be a breath of fresh air and loads of fun.


Carolan's Concerto excerpt
score excerpt ©2020 LBL/Purple Tulip Music

Within weeks of that previously mentioned infamous New Year of 2020, I started serious practice of my new arrangement.

General impression: It is good. It is a completed piece.


Carolan’s Concerto – arr. for solo classical guitar by Laura Bruno Lilly ©2020
(NOTION score computer playback)

A computer generated playback of my arrangement of the Celtic tune Carolan’s Concerto, written by the blind Irish Bard – harpist, troubadour and composer – Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738).


It was also too fast for me to play a tempo.

Discouraged, I set it aside.

Until a few weeks ago. That’s when I pulled it out for a re-look and when the ‘obvious’ hit me.

Why not play it anyway? Who says it has to be performed at such a scathing tempo?

Besides, the traditional tempo set for that piece is also traditionally variable.

A lively rendition of Carolan’s Concerto played ‘a tempo’

Here’s the thing:

Not every guitarist is a shredder, lightening fast player. Plus, my arrangement is not a single line ‘solo’ that can be easily ‘shredded’!

Even after properly practicing certain passages of the piece at slower tempos and then speeding them up incrementally I may never get it up to the tempo as played in the above video.

So what?

Play it. Just. Play it.

“Some players are simply faster than others, the way some athletes are faster, bigger, stronger, etc. Still, none of that means ‘better.’ So, find your own performance tempo, and then bring more of yourself to the piece. Remember, you possess your own sound, tone, phrasing, attack, texture, etc. If you highlight those qualities, I promise you, no one will ever complain about the tempo.”

Shawn Persinger, Wood & Steel magazine, vol 99, Issue 1, 2021

*period or style of Western art music composed from ~1600-1750. A good synopsis of the times, characteristics and elements of the music can be found here.

The ‘3 Measure Fix’

Sometimes all it takes is a 3 measure fix.

This vaguely simplistic concept was brought to light a few days ago while staring down an old (as in a piece I put aside years ago to work on ‘later’) arrangement I began, but never finished, for solo classical guitar. Something about it wasn’t quite right back then and something about it still wasn’t quite right, right now.

There were these 3 measures that, well, just didn’t measure up.

In seeing what I’d done previously with fresh eyes, I couldn’t dismiss it as a throw-away. I’d already invested much time and effort into crafting an original arrangement of a traditional Tarantella. It was, in truth, almost finished.

Stylistically, there are many songs in Italy that qualify as a Tarantella – basically a rowdy, raucous dance tune with moves inspired by – you guessed it – the Tarantula. More specifically, ridding one’s self of one and/or what happens after one gets bitten by one (frenzied madness)!

As is typical in folk music, each town, province, heck – family – has their own version of this. I mention family because coming from a musical family, these things get passed down along with the traditional family recipes. But not necessarily in tangible, written down form.

I knew how to play it in ensemble. That’s just a fancy way of saying I could rock out those rhythmic chords on my 12-string acoustic and/or classical guitar to my Dad’s clarinet/saxophone or my former duo partner’s violin/mandolin melody instruments.

But I really wanted it in my personal arsenal of songs to play for fun in a solo classical guitar context.

That said, I knew how my arrangement needed to sound.

I sight-read the unfinished score on my music stand with its errant 3 measures standing out as ugly as ever. Searching for a solution, I reviewed the source materials referenced in the initial creation of the arrangement and noticed something tucked in between the pages of my notes. All those years ago, I had hand-written a 3 measure idea to insert as a possible replacement for the trouble spot.

Sometimes all it takes is a 3 measure fix.

My ‘fix’.

Hmm, why hadn’t I just gone with that in the first place?


This video offers a good example of a player working through various ideas for an arrangement of the most recognizable of all Tarantellas.
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