Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday season, my favorite time of year. Thanksgiving Day itself is bittersweet, for on that day, even as we enjoy spending time with family, we remember with sadness those we have lost. Both of Jan’s parents died in the past few years; they had lived with us, and in doing so, became like parents to me.  To know them, was to see where Jan gets her beautiful spirit, character, and heart for service. She has a beautifully humble saying that she shares when we talk about her parents, “I have drunk from many wells that I did not dig.”

After this day of thanks and remembrance, Jan swings into action, turning our house into the SOUTH North Pole in a period of just three days.  She is in total Martha Stewart mode, asking me to bring down TONS of decorations from the attic, telling me to put this HERE, tote that over THERE, bring the ladder to hang this garland, haul that up from the basement, go get the extension cord and bring me some batteries, but no, not THOSE batteries…a decorating world without end. Amen.

How do I rise to the occasion, with a turkey “hangover” and Riley cozily looking on  from his dog bed?  The first thing I do is put on some Christmas music, perhaps even my own Christmas at Our House, which puts me instantly in the Christmas spirit.  I’ve collected a variety of Christmas albums by various artists over the years, from David Lanz to David Nevue, and the sound of my favorite Christmas songs, even in November, makes me feel like Christmas is here.

When I look at the beautiful home Jan has made for us, I wonder how I got so lucky. With her by my side, every day seems like Christmas…

Sunday, December 29, 2013

26 Angels

This limited edition print, 26 Angels, by Birmingham artist Liz Landgren, commemorates the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.  The original was sent to the Sandy Hook community.  The artist gave Jan one of the prints, and we hung it on the anniversary of the tragedy.

Landgen hoped to promote healing by asking us to think about the paradise the 26 victims are enjoying now and forever, rather than the tragedy that ended their earthly lives.  People all over the world sent in their most comforting verses from the Bible.  Look closely and you will see them.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Something to Think About

I'm reading a great book titled "The True Measure of a Man".  It contains a quote that I had never seen before, words that Napoleon wrote at the end of his life:

"I die before my time and my body shall be given back to the earth and devoured by worms.  What an abysmal gulf between my deep miseries and the eternal Kingdom of Christ.  I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself and of Alexander and of Caesar should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant - Jesus - should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations."

Here are three famous men - Alexander the Great, Caesar, and Napoleon - seeking to control the world by power. When we see their lives contrasted with one man, Jesus, the humble life of a carpenter, we marvel at how truly extraordinary He was and is, that the world has been so powerfully changed through His simple life of humility.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Senior Living

Seniors hold a special place in my heart. They always have. When I was a young boy, I enjoyed sitting in my grandfather's store, listening as the old men sat by the woodstove in rocking chairs, talking about old times. Today, whenever I am offered the opportunity to perform for seniors, I jump at it. I think they deserve our gratitude and respect. If there is any way that I can use my musical gifts to make them forget about their pain, or bring back pleasant memories, or just make them feel engaged for a few minutes, I am happy to do it.

Last week I performed a short concert at Kirkwood By the River, a beautiful place in Birmingham for senior living. A friend of mine lives there, a very accomplished and cultured man whom I have known since I was 15 years old. He invited me to have lunch with him before the program, and it was a great pleasure to visit with him.

I played for a lively group of seniors who live in the independent living section of Kirkwood.
Believe me, whenever I play for older people, I am the one who is blessed. They bless me, by showing me that, despite the ravages of time, illness, pain, limitation and loss, all that they are is STILL THERE. They show me that the human spirit, the true reflection of God's nature, cannot be extinguished.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Habits

About this time every year, a week or so before Thanksgiving, I always do two things: read my favorite book about the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville NC, and listen endlessly to the Brahms Requiem. I guess that the seasonal changes, i.e., the falling leaves, windy cold weather, the end of the year, etc., turn my thoughts to the shortness of life, and the transitory nature of human accomplishment. Doesn't sound very positive, does it?

It IS positive, though...

Do you know the name of the original owner of the Biltmore Estate? You know, the guy who PAID for it, the one for whom it was built? Who was the architect? Who designed the beautiful landscaping of the estate?

I'm guessing that not too many people know.

Yet for these three men, the Biltmore was their greatest achievement. They didn't enjoy the fruit of their labors. The architect died before the mansion was even completed. The landscape designer died 8 years later, his plantings not coming to maturity for decades. George Washington Vanderbilt died at 52. His wife Edith remarried and sold 100,000 acres of the estate. Ten years after his death, his daughter married into an British family, and it is her two British sons and their families who run the estate as a tourist attraction. His beautiful home - property sold, now run by strangers for strangers.

Their great achievement remains as a testament to their short time on earth. They themselves are shadows, ghostly reminders of the temporary nature of life.

The Brahms Requiem, besides being one of the most sublimely beautiful musical works ever created,is a hopeful and comforting work. I listen to it over and over during a two week period, finally listening mostly to the 7th movement: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yes, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them". (Revelation 14:13)

With these, my two helpers, I close the year with a deep reverence and gratitude for life - for the gift of music, for family and friends, and especially for the hope of Heaven through the love of Christ. And also with a timely reminder of the brevity of earthly life, and the immensity of eternity.

So I am thankful, and hopeful. And challenged to do better in the coming year - to accomplish more with the gift I've been given, to spend more time and energy doing the things that really matter in life.

As my friend Bucci would have said, "That's deep"...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The boy can play

Hey guys, I am not even going to look back to see how long it's been since I've last posted. Guess I've been busy... Just a coupla random thoughts today, to get me back into the swing of blogging. I've been hanging on this quote by Will Ackerman about my playing for a couple of years. In fact, I have NEVER used it - not once. After I sent him a couple of MP3s of my playing, his response by email to me was: "Damn, the boy can PLAY." I chuckle every time I think of it. I have a feeling that Will and I are destined to work together one of these days. Only time will tell if it is producing great music... or a carpentry project. Adios for now! Mike

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Whisperings in Birmingham

Last night I attended a Whisperings concert in Birmingham. I had been invited to perform, but as I didn't know the hall or the piano, I decided against it.

I heard my dear friend Joseph Akins perform, in his inimitable way, some of his songs that I know and love - his arrangement of "Tennessee Waltz" and "Butterfly Ride", among others.

Lee Bartley, from Colorado, whose playing I didn't know, was TERRIFIC. His jazz stylings, facility, harmonic and rhythmic flair, place him among the handful of popular piano artists that I think are really first rate.

Walter Knapp
, who lives in Birmingham, is a wonderful player who deserves to be heard by a larger audience. His interpretation of three Chopin Etudes was inspiring, and his transcriptions of hymn fill me with envy. He sounds like Rachmaninoff! It was a great evening of wonderful music, and I felt privileged to attend.
Welcome to my News Page. This is where you will find up to the minute information about recording projects, new releases, upcoming performances and more. You will want to visit every week because each FridayI will be offering a new original song for you to! In addition, from time to time I will be sharing studio happenings, what I am listening to, favorite books, and glimpses into my personal life. Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions on what you would like to know about me and my music.


Search This Blog