Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bluegrassical


Even though I'm just as horrified as the next pussycat at the assault on my sensibilities every time I peek at the news headlines these days, I'm putting my worries aside for a moment to address perhaps the one thing that's more important than the current political disaster, and that is the next generation of human beings.

Babies.

Don't you just love babies? They smell so good (when they've got a clean diaper on), and we dress them so adorably because, well, because we can get away with it for a few years. And even though they can't walk or talk yet, they look around with big eyes that are taking in everything in the world and soaking it all up.

A few weeks ago my husband and I took a quick - and I mean waaaay too quick - trip up to Astoria to visit our brand new grand nephew, our very smart and funny grandnieces, and one more (or, never know, could be two) still baking in the oven.

It was our first time meeting Owen, so we came bearing gifts, with a brand new outfit featuring a pair of pants with a dump truck on the bottom...because that's where the dump truck would naturally go, am I right?


Also, because Uncle Eddie is the reigning king of giving gifts to the kids in the family, we came bearing the best gift ever... a mustachifier. It was immediately put to use.


I'm proud of them, not just for making a beautiful baby, but for working hard to make their dreams come true. Soon they'll be opening up Astoria's newest brewery, Reach Break. My nephew makes a killer stout. In fact, if you've been to 7 Devils in Coos Bay you may have tried the Fig Stout that he did in a collaboration with that brewery shortly after Don Williams reviewed it in a column for A News Cafe. I'm also really fond of the Citrus Mykiss, with hints of lemon, pepper and rosehip. They just made the list of Top 10 anticipated breweries opening soon in Oregon, I have it on good authority that by the time you read this, they will have opened.
About that nephew, the one who makes beautiful babies and beer. While we were visiting, he told me that when he's hanging out with Owen, he likes to curate the music that his little man's mind is exposed to. To guide his musical journey with a little thought. I was immediately impressed, but even more so when he told me what kind of music he's exposing the little fella's ears to. Turns out, two kinds of music: Classical and Bluegrass.

You might think those two genres of music go together like green beans on ice cream, but I happen to know the relationship between Bluegrass and Classical is more like peanut butter and jelly. And I'm kind an expert on these things. My little musical soul started doing back flips and cartwheels when he mentioned those two words in the same sentence, because a playlist immediately started forming in my head.

Classical music has been my day job for the past 15 years. During that time I've become intimately familiar with a lot of classical music and the people who make it. But my night time job for almost as long as the mistress of ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre has graciously allowed me to become familiar with hundreds of musicians who are successfully making a living recording and performing - for the most part - not classical music.

But musicians gotta start somewhere, right? And not everyone starts with a garage band (well, for a lot of people that's where it starts...and ends). I have found that a really large number of successful artists started out with classical music.

That's pretty much my story. When I was 10 we got a piano. My parents sent me to Mrs. Janes for lessons. I loved music, and wanted to immediately be taught boogie woogie and jazz. Mrs. Janes had other ideas about teaching me music, and started me off with Chopin, then moving on to Beethoven and Rachmaninov. Eventually, in a move to stop me from dropping out of class, Mrs. Janes also acquiesced and introduced me to Henry Mancini's Pink Panther Theme and a boogie woogie piece that I won 8th place for in a recital.

But enough about me and my lame piano skills. I share the music; I don't play it.

What I'm getting at - and what got me so excited to put together a playlist that I call Bluegrassical for Owen - is that almost all of the popular Bluegrass musicians of today have a strong background in classical music, and  in many cases, pay homage to the masters during stage performances by weaving in a piece or two from the classical repertoire.

Some have gone even further. Multi-instrumentalist Bela Fleck has written a classical concerto for the banjo, and has recorded classical music with mandolinist Chris Thile (Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers).  Likewise, Edgar Meyer has written music equally in bluegrass and classical genres for his main instrument, the double bass. Fiddle sensation Mark O'Connor has written numerous lengthy classical works, but he and Fleck, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and others have recorded albums that combine their Appalachian style with the rock & roll of the 1700's, and the result is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I can't think of a better way to honor my new grand nephew and his parents than sharing this Spotify Bluegrassical playlist with them (and with you) that lovingly combines some of my favorite classical works with my favorite bluegrass pieces, with some heavy emphasis on the mandolin, ukelele and lute. I hope you'll give it a listen by clicking on the play arrow below, and feel free to share anything you think might be missing from the list.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Free Love Advice & Songs of Desire


The smell of my lover’s cologne. On him, not on anyone else. The sound of his special ringtone when he’s finally gotten off of work after 10 hours. His hand on my hip as he leans in to kiss my neck. The voicemail I’ve saved from 2008 that says, “I love you more than all the raindrops in Oregon.” The taste of Wild Blueberry Twist gum that he was fond of when we went on our 2nd date – rafting down the Rogue River on the 4th of July. That moment in the middle of the night when he wakes up momentarily, to search for my hand so he can hold it. The feel of his tongue running along my lip. The memory of the first time he kissed me, at a ninth grade dance, just before the Vice Principal came up behind him and cleared his throat. These are the things (the things I don’t mind sharing with you, that is) that make me swoon.
Not literally, of course. Swooning, in the traditional sense, means to faint or become completely enraptured by ecstatic joy. For me, swooning is more like a giant sigh while butterflies do somersaults inside my stomach. Swooning is the way I feel when I’m in the first stages of falling in love. When I’m completely smitten and can’t seem to stop smiling from the moment I wake up in the morning to his “Good morning baby, I love you” text message. And still today I find myself feeling all giddy, whether it’s with anticipation, knowing that my lover will be here any minute, or from a sweet memory from four years ago.
That swoon, that deep breath that relaxes every muscle I have, is what lets me know that I don’t just love him. I’m in love with him.
There is one other thing that still makes me swoon, and that’s music. Of course. You know me well enough by now to know that was coming, right? But admit it. You’re the same way. I know you are. When you’re falling in love, just like when you’re going through heartbreak, you relate emotionally to every single song on the radio. Your senses are at Defcon 4. Suddenly, the lyrics that were pretty meaningless last week now make perfect sense and seem as if they were written specifically for you. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?
If you've been reading the Mistress of the Mix for a long time, maybe you recognize the words above. I first wrote them five years ago. Before my lover became my husband. But heading into our 9th year together, they still ring true. And the songs that made me weak in the knees then, still do it today. When I wrote those words, I published them along with a playlist filled with the music that was special just to us, the music we'd play when the kids weren't around because...well, you know. For this Valentine's Day, I thought I'd ask my friends to share the songs that make them and their lovers - whether its been 5 weeks or 50 years - share that secret smile of desire. I was overwhelmed by the response, but it created one heck of a playlist for 2017, so I hope you'll do yourself a favor and click on the play arrow below to give it a listen. 
There were a few other words I wrote in that column back in 2012 that I wanted to share again with you today. Just in case your situation has changed since then, or if you're sorta new to the Mistress of the Mix. Consider this my official Valentine's Day address to everyone. Those in love, but even more importantly to those who aren't, and especially those who want to:

I didn’t always have Eddie. Four years ago (well 9 years ago now), I was freshly divorced and pissed off. I felt like I had so much love to share and I wanted to be with someone. Or at least I wanted to have fun with someone. Even that seemed like too much to ask for. Dating was like beating my head against a brick wall sometimes.
Maybe that’s where you are right now. Wishing you had someone to swoon about. Maybe you’ve been hurt before, or lost someone or things just ended badly. Perhaps you’ve taken a few hesitant steps out there into the dating world, fallen on your face a time or two, and now you’re resolved to spending the rest of your life alone because you don’t want to get hurt again. Don’t want to get cheated on. Don’t want to be lied to. Don’t want to end up neglected, lonelier with someone than without.
Please, don’t do this. Don’t give up.
Would you rather be lonely for the rest of your life, never taking a chance because you’re afraid of something that may or may not happen?
So what if you end up in a relationship that doesn’t last the test of time. At least you had some happiness, some good company, maybe - hopefully - some good sex. At least a couple of nice dinners and interesting conversation. Maybe you’ll be lied to again. And it’ll hurt. But it’s not on you, it’s on them.
What’s the harm in putting yourself out there?
That old saying about how “It’s better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all?” It’s true.
So get out there. Give it all you’ve got. Worry about getting hurt when it actually happens. Don’t let it stop you from having a fulfilling life.
Flirt. Get smitten. Love. And here’s the most important thing of all: Be the best person you can be. Because when you fall in love, it’s not because someone else ‘made’ you fall in love with them. It’s because you love who you are when you’re with that person. You’re falling in love with YOU. So be that person every day, whether you have someone else encouraging you along or not. Because when you’re the best person you can be, it’s extraordinarily attractive. Who could possibly help but to fall in love with you? But you gotta put yourself out there.
Run along now, fall in love. 

But don't forget to listen to today's Playlist for Lovers put together by lovers. Maybe you'll recognize your special song on the list, but feel free to add new ones in the comment section below. Also, if you've got your own advice for those searching for love, let's hear it!