Tag Archives: Christmas

Gabriel’s Message — solo piano

I really like this melody (it’s a Basque carol) and I find its subject matter, the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, one of the most interesting episodes in the Gospels. Like a lot of the stories of Jesus’ genesis, it’s not dealt with in *all* the gospels. Matthew, after his lengthy family tree (*this* is what the bible’s editors ran with for the opening of the New Testament…?!), outlines quite clearly the rather delicate situation that the young couple found themselves in, concerning this surprise pre-nuptial pregnancy, but doesn’t go into the specifics of ‘The Annunciation’. Mark, the breathless, bounding lion of a writer that he was, skips it and everything to do with Jesus’ early life. As does John (although he wins for best introduction). Luke, the doctor, the man of learning, he gives us everything we know about Mary’s bizarre encounter.

“Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

She’s perplexed at his angelically formal hello (fair enough), but he hasn’t even got to the good part yet…!

Many artists have painted the scene throughout the ages. The one I’ve chosen is by Carl Heinrich Bloch, a prominent 19th century Danish painter. The light effect is incredible. (The original hangs in Denmark’s national museum in Frederiksborg Castle, north of Copenhagen.)

PS If you’re listening on headphones, or on good speakers, marvel at the beautiful sound of the Nord Stage piano sound (I’m using one that’s sampled from a Steinway Model D). Especially the harmonics and overtones on the ‘most highly favoured lady’ phrase.

Winter Wonderland piano arrangement

Happy Christmas! This is a jazzy arrangement of ‘Winter Wonderland’ that I did last year for one of my piano students, Chloe, just as I was finishing up my teaching and preparing to embark on this year’s Post Tropical adventure. I’ve made it downloadable, so feel free to add it to your seasonal playlists…!

I’ve also revamped my website, so this is also an announcement of that. Feel free to ‘share’ and ‘bookmark’ and ‘like’ and ‘follow’ in the spirit of holiday cheer!!!

Much exclamation 🙂

Joy be with you all

Played banjo on RTÉ’s arts programme, The View, last night with James Vincent McMorrow.

I also sang carols with some of my fellow New Dublin Voices on the steps of The Gate theatre in full Victorian garb, complete with top hat. They were celebrating the opening night of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ and it was probably as interesting for us to see the parade of Dublin’s finest heading up the steps as it was for them to hear our singing!

(Quick plug – NDV gigs in John Field Room (11th), St Ann’s (12th), and Blanchardstown (19th).)

Loving the banjo at the moment. I didn’t know that it was actually invented by African slaves in the US by combining different African instruments. (One of the best banjo players in the world is Béla Fleck. I’ve seen him play a couple of times in Dublin. He made a film tracing the banjo’s African roots: trailer looks good…) I’ve been practicing by playing traditional Irish tunes out of a book I found years ago at home called ‘Whistle and Sing!’. It was compiled in 1974 by a man named Eamonn Jordan who lived in Portadown (where I grew up) and it’s an absolute treasure trove of songs, airs, and dance music from Ireland.

Despite not growing up on the side of the fence that celebrated Irish trad music I will be forever indebted to my dad for passing on and fostering a love of our musical heritage. He never learned to play an instrument himself but encouraged me and my sister to play. He brought me along to my first session when we were off on one of our mountain-climbing trips – me barely able to play more than a few chords on my first, high-actioned, acoustic guitar!

Sláinte, dad xo

The angels appear to the shepherds

A friend of mine put this message on Facebook this morning:

Looking for an easy chorus for a small choir of very young angels to sing in a nativity when visiting shepherds…anyone?

As if I hadn’t procrastinated enough this morning, I got the guitar out and came up with this little offering.  Have a listen:  Key’s a bit low for little ones, maybe?  Any other thoughts?

A     F#m  E                       D
Fear not! You must be pretty scared
A       F#m E                                  D          E
We’re not something that you’re dreaming
A        F#m E                         D
We’ve got some amazing news to tell
A        F#m E                   D      E
There’s a king born in a stable

A  D          E         A       F#m Bm    E     D/F# E/G#
Hosanna in excelsis, Hosanna in excelsis
A  D          E         A       F#m Bm    E     D/F# E/G# A   D E A    A D E A
Hosanna in excelsis, Hosanna in excelsis           deo

I know you’ve never seen a halo
But now we’re off to see the baby
Your sheep will be fine, sure what do they know?!
You should really get a move on

Hosanna etc.

I reckon this could be fun to sing.  There’s definitely room for some actions 🙂