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Posts Tagged ‘will mcmillan’

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When I was 11, I had a bit part in a children’s play based on the fairy tale “The Love for Three Oranges.”

One at a time, three princesses emerged from three “oranges” in front of a prince who was a little slow on the uptake. A girl who had also been my partner Card when we painted the roses red in Alice in Wonderland was the first to emerge, crying out, “Water, water, I die of thirst!” and promptly dying. I died next.

By the time the third princess split open her orange and struggled to stand, the prince had managed to come up with some water and revived her. (I don’t recall anything else about the story but am pretty sure it didn’t resemble the one on Wikipedia.)

The Love for Three Oranges came to mind recently when I noticed that the tulips above were withering too fast. They’d been forced in time for Easter, I guess. I would have liked to hold on to their cheerfulness for longer than a few days.

I’m hoping that the tiny bud you see in the photo will bloom before the stem dies. I was so happy when I realized after buying the bouquet that there was a nascent flower tucked in where at first I saw only green.

Have you noticed that peaches, for example, when forced, sometimes rot from the inside out before they are ripe enough to eat? Fruit, flowers, and people all need to slow down, don’t you think, lest we wither before we fully bloom.

And speaking of slowing down, do check out the song that Will McMillan wrote on that very topic, here. It’s called, “Can We Slow It Down?” He performed the composition recently at the Unitarian church in Medford, where, he says, it  complemented the sermon perfectly.

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I’m hearing more and more these days about “good bacteria,” including in a song by singer-composer Will McMillan on the friendly bacteria we humans carry around.

Now, it seems, bacteria found in soil may help to save amphibians from dangerous fungal epidemics. Public Radio International’s environmental news program, Living on Earth, has the story.

“Around the world, fungal diseases have been killing millions of frogs and bats and snakes. And a newly emerging disease in salamanders in Europe is scaring biologists here, so the US Fish and Wildlife Service has introduced a ban on their import to try to protect amphibians in the US.

“But now scientists see some hope in soil bacteria that get onto the salamanders and frogs and apparently protect them. Doug Woodhams is an assistant professor of biology at UMass Boston, who’s been working with amphibians in Panama – and he explained what his team has found to Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer.

“WOODHAMS: Some of the amphibians have beneficial bacteria that live on their skin and these have antifungal properties.

“PALMER: This is kind of like having good bacteria in your gut, for instance, that stop you from getting sick. … Is there any evidence that  good bacteria actually work against devastating funguses?

“WOODHAMS: Yeah, there’s quite a bit of evidence. Many of the bacteria that we can culture from some amphibian species are able to inhibit the fungus in culture. We also have some population-level data that shows populations that tend to have these antifungal bacteria can persist with Bd in the environment and survive. …

“Bd is the chytrid fungus that’s been spreading around the world and devastating amphibian populations. So salamanders, frogs, toads. Populations that tend to have more of these beneficial bacteria seem to be surviving, and populations that don’t have as many of the individuals that have these bacteria seem to disappear. …

“The next thing we want to try is adding some of these bacteria, not just to petri dishes, but to soil and see if infected amphibians can be cleared of their infection by being housed on soil that’s been inoculated with these bacteria. …

“There are other fungal pathogens, so it could be something that you could apply in a cave that could reduce White-nosed syndrome [in bats]. Also, rattlesnakes have been recently affected by fungal disease during hibernation, so it could be applied into a rattlesnake den.”

More on the science here.

Photo: Matt Becker
The Appalachian Mountains are home to this Cow Knob Salamander, Plethodon punctatus, from George Washington National Forest, Virginia.

 

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I was delighted when Will McMillan asked me to review his Blame Those Gershwins CD, with music composed by Steve Sweeting, who also is on piano.

I think the first time I became aware of singer McMillan was in a production of the musical Tortoise, in which he played a sweet, low-key guy unimpressed by the hectic modern world. But I may have seen him in television ads when he was a little boy. He’s been performing that long.

I’ve listened to this CD several times now, and I’m really loving it. The title song playfully borrows themes from the greats — the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and more. It tells the story of a fan who finds more comfort in the American Songbook than in the unreliable world of romance (but who is also able to poke fun at himself).

I ought to think twice;/Should I really be relying on Kurt Weill for advice?/Life doesn’t rhyme like lyrical knowledge/You get from Rodger and Hartenstein College.

The lyrics for that song are written by Sweeting, who wrote the words for several of the other songs. The joyful “Bounce to the Wave,” with words by Betina Hershey, had me thinking of swing dancing but may suggest other bouncy activities to you, including children jumping on a new mattress. One tune was created for a lovely ee cummings poem that I wish we had known about when Suzanne and Erik got married. The cummings poem we chose was more obscure. In fact, I told the congregation, “We don’t know what it means, but we like the way it sounds.” (“Not even the rain has such small hands.)

McMillan wrote the lyrics to several songs, including “Stuff,”  in which he ponders his good fortune in experiencing the beauty and peace of nature and compares those wonders to other “stuff” we collect in our getting and spending world. He asks, “What have I done in some other life, to be blessed with this stuff,” reminding me of an uncharacteristically plaintive Elaine Stritch singing “somewhere in my youth and childhood/I must have done something good.”

Sweeting’s gentle, wistful persona in “Wait” is self-critical for hoping that something wonderful will happen without action on his part — and for being so resigned. “I sit and watch a year or ten just slip away/I let life come to me,/If it doesn’t,/Say it wasn’t meant to be.”

I really loved each song for its different strengths: the carefree “Let’s Go to the River,” the hopeful “What Am I Doing Alone,” the wise and accepting “Let It All Go,” in which Sweeting suggests that if a poem fails to flow and a friend fails to know when you need a friend, “Maybe the answer/is to love a poem and to write a friend.”

This is music for the thinking music lover. It is thoughtful without being cerebral. It doesn’t talk down to the listener. The questioning, patient vibe suggests a tentativeness that is a kind of strength, a self-knowledge that is OK with not having all the answers and an openness to receiving the joy that is offered. Amazon has the CD. And iTunes. It’s going to be my companion in the car at least until I have all the lyrics memorized.

Oh, and kudos to Doug Hammer, McMillan’s longtime piano collaborator, for the recording and mixing on this one.

McMillan and Sweeting’s launch party is October 2 in Somerville, Mass. Call 617 628 0916. Or check Brown Paper Tickets online.

Will McMillan and Steve Sweeting, the guys behind the jazzy, bluesy CD Blame Those Gershwins

Will McMillan & Steve SweetingA

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The blogger at A Musical Life on Planet Earth — who has been healing from an injury suffered when he nearly tripped on an eager toddler in a music class — doesn’t need to be told that music is healing.

But for the rest of us, a new study from Greece on music and heart health might be enlightening. Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard, “There are many ways of reducing your risk of a heart attack. A healthy diet. Regular exercise. And don’t forget your daily dose of Dylan or Debussy.

“A newly published, small-scale study from Greece finds listening to either classical or rock music positively impacts two important predictors of cardiovascular risk. The effects are particularly pronounced for classical music fans, who, in the study, had a more robust physiological response to music of either genre.

“ ‘These findings may have important implications, extending the spectrum of lifestyle modifications that can ameliorate arterial function,’ a research team led by cardiologist Charalambos Vlachopoulos of Athens Medical School writes in the journal Atherosclerosis. ‘Listening to music should be encouraged in everyday activities.’

“The pulse waves of one’s circulatory system and the rigidity of one’s arteries are related but independent predictors of morbidity and mortality. Essentially, the stiffer one’s blood vessel walls become, the greater the pulse pressure, and the harder the heart has to work to pump blood into the arteries. This can lead to higher blood pressure and an increased strain on the heart. …

“The participants, described as ’20 healthy individuals,’ visited the lab three times. On each occasion, baseline measurements of aortic stiffness and pulse wave reflections were taken following a half-hour rest period.

“They then either listened to a half-hour of classical music (primarily excerpts from J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suites); a half-hour of rock (including tracks by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Green Day); or a similar period of silence. …

“The key result: both indicators were lower after participants listened to either genre of music. … More at Pacific Standard here.

And you can listen to to Will McMillan’s healing singing at A Musical Life on Planet Earth, here.

Will McMillan

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Did you enjoy Will’s post on flying, the entry that I just reblogged? You might like to follow him, too.  He often embeds music in his entries.

I think I first became aware of Will’s “musical life on planet earth” when he took the role of the Tortoise in Jeff Flaster’s charming little musical Tortoise, about taking your time to enjoy life. Since then my husband and I have been to many of Will’s cabaret performances in the greater Boston area (often with the inimitable Doug Hammer on the piano).

In fact, you could catch them this coming weekend. He writes, “Doug and I have been happily rehearsing for our upcoming performances on Friday and Saturday, October 17 or 18, at Third Life Studio in Union Square, Somerville — supported in part by a recent grant from the Bob Jolly Charitable Trust.

” ‘Songs About Parents & Children’ will feature two sets of songs — divided by an intermission with lots of refreshments from Trader Joe’s — and will include music by Joni Mitchell, Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Jerry Herman, Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields, Stevie Wonder, Jones & Schmidt, Cole Porter, Maltby & Shire, Weill & Brecht, as well as a couple of originals. …

“There is free parking in a nearby bank’s lot. Third Life Studio is also accessible via the 85, 86, 87, 91 and CT2 bus lines (click here for more details).

“You can click here to buy tickets for Friday, 10/17/14. Or you can click here to buy tickets for Saturday, 10/18/14.”

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In April, singer Will McMillan read a post at Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog, here, about research on why people feel joyful when singing with others.

Having dug into the physiological research and found that heartbeats often synchronize, Will wrote a blog post of his own and included an MP3 of singing “Blue Moon” with his frequent collaborator, Bobbi Carrey. “(They perform at Scullers in Cambridge this coming Thursday.)

It was in the comments at Will’s blog, here, that I found this YouTube recommendation — a deeply empathetic baby listening to a sad song. You see what music can do.

I hasten to add that for me, there are fewer happier moments than crying to a sad song. Don’t know how old you have to be to feel  happy-sad. I hope the baby feels good.

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My husband and I are big fans of Broadway music and also of Boston area singer Will McMillan, who gave a free concert in the Brighton library today.

The show was centered around the composer Harold Arlen, beloved for songs such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Blues in the Night,” “Let’s Fall in Love,” and “That Old Black Magic.” Interspersed with his songs, Will gave a delightful rundown on Arlen’s life, work, and main collaborators (Ted Koehler, Johnny Mercer, and Yip Harburg).

For my money, no one puts over a song with the emotional truth of Will McMillan. He becomes the story. In fact, he almost skipped a beat on the little-known intro to “Rainbow,” when the words seemed to carry special meaning for him. And I really liked how he tied the words of “If I Only Had a Heart” to an important goal in his life: “to be a friend to the sparrows and the boy with the arrows.” Or, to see all sides.

Joe Reid, a fine jazz improviser, accompanied Will on the piano and got “Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe” in his honor.

Read more at Will’s blog, here, where you can listen to his MP3s, too. Catch him and frequent collaborator Bobbi Carrey at Scullers November 14.

Cabaret singer Will McMillan with a fan after his show in Brighton today.

Will-McM-with-fan

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