Monday, January 31, 2011

Magical Moment 361, "It's Ain't Pennies"

New York City and surrounding areas, get your flash lights ready. Your battery operated radios. Your blankets, canned food, bottled water. Put your cars in the garage. Cancel your plans tomorrow. For tonight we shall have rain, sleet, ice, and snow falling from Heaven. If only it were pennies instead....

Taken at Fordham Plaza in the Bronx, "Pennies from Heaven"

To see more videos from Play Me, I'm Yours, click here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Magical Moment 360, "Hymns for Him"

Hard, wooden pews. Old, brick building. An organ, a piano, and a hymnal. There is a subtle charm inside the walls of a small, faithful church. And something inspirational when they still use the old fashioned hymnals on the backs of the pews. I appreciate the contemporary sound in some services with drums and a rehearsed worship band, it can be very powerful and compelling. But I'll always have a special place in my heart for the hymns I grew up with, their poetic heartfelt lyrics, and familiar melodies.

Today we sang one I haven't heard in a long time.
"Little is much when God is in it! Labor not for wealth or fame. There's a crown and you can win it, if you go in Jesus name."
How true that is. I've seen it. If that statement is true, "little is much when God is in it," then the reverse must also be true, "much is little without God." How many times have we seen that sad story?

A moment later, a man walked to the pulpit to sing a special song. Usually this means an instrumental solo, or singing along with an accompaniment track. But this man carried the same hymnal we had been singing from and opened it to a new page. He said, "This song is for my parents. They had a marriage made in Heaven, and now they're there." The song he sang was,
"In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore."
He sang the song acapella. Such a simple, un-elaborate gesture with no frills, yet it became so beautiful to all who saw it. Why? I suppose because God was in it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Magical Moment 359, "The Show Must Go On"

I played a show in New York City the other night. I was booked last minute at a lounge in the lower east side. I did my best to promote the show in the few days I had, but I knew with the most recent snow storm, the crowd would be sparse at best. And with another round of snow the day of the show, I knew I had to decide right then to cancel or go ahead as planned. The thought of trekking into the city in such bad weather for an unpredictable crowd tempted me very hard to cancel. Until I thought about my friend Bethany.

Bethany is a singer/songwriter from my hometown. She often plays at small, local venues. We've been friends since kindergarten, but I had never heard her play until recently. She had a show scheduled at a club in Lincoln, NE and I was so excited to finally hear her music. When I got to there however, I was one of only ten people in the audience. I looked around, puzzled, wondering if she would just cancel the whole thing, but as soon as I spoke to her I realized that thought hadn't even entered her mind.

She sat on the stage, acoustic guitar in her lap, and sang her heart out for an hour. I heard and felt every word she sang, and my eyes stayed glued on her the entire time. She captivated the whole audience...all 10 of us. But the number didn't matter. It could have been one person, or a hundred, and she would have given it her all and made those people thankful they came.

When I remembered this, I knew I had no choice but to keep the show scheduled. I drove over the George Washington Bridge, passing plow trucks and stranded cars. My feet got soaking wet as I walked from my car to the club, lugging my guitar. I paid the $8 in tolls and another $10 for parking. And when the show started, I had an audience of 5. By the end, there was 7. But it didn't matter. I knew why I was there. I can talk the talk of passion and dedication for what I do, but it means nothing if I can't walk the walk. All the way from New Jersey to the lower east side.

Enjoy this clip of my friend Bethany...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Magical Moment 358, "The Highest Compliment"

Anyone who struggles with worry or anxiety knows that there is no break from it. Despite reassuring myself, reasoning with myself, and preparing the best I know how for everything, I'm constantly surrounded by feelings of self doubt, nervousness, and apprehension. Even though I've been playing for a ballet school and company for five months now, I still feel butterflies every time I go to work. I'm so thankful for the job, and so surprised I got it, that I'm terrified the other shoe will drop. I'm probably the most inexperienced pianist on staff.

I feel pretty comfortable with most of the instructors, but occasionally I play for an instructor I've never met, and that's when things can go not-so-smooth. Everyone likes their class to run their own way and they have a certain taste of music they prefer. The other day I was asked to stay for an extra class, which I agreed to do. I walked into the classroom, hoping to see an instructor I've played for before. My hopes dropped when I saw who it was.

Months ago, when I had no idea how a ballet class ran, I observed this woman's class. And I was stunned. She moved so quickly between combinations, that the pianist barely had a moment to change sheet music. She was all business and expected a great deal from her advanced students. I marveled over the pianist's ability to keep up and prayed I would never be scheduled with her. 

I smiled nervously at her and she gave me a nod before getting down to business. 
"The first combination will be an Adagio, but don't think of it as an Adagio." 
Uh huh. I had no idea what that meant. I only had a few seconds to choose the music, so I selected one of my usual Adagios and began playing it at a faster tempo, hoping that's what she wanted. It wasn't. She stopped me a few bars in and asked if I had something else. Now I was really flustered. I flipped the page to a Chopin piece that can be pretty versatile depending on how I improvise it. I'm not sure why, but that seemed to do the trick.

When the dancers finished the combination, I glanced up to read her face. She looked directly at me and remarked, "You play beautifully! I'm standing here getting chills!" 
I mumbled a stunned "thank you," suddenly embarrassed that all eyes were on me. 
She turned to her students and asked asked, "Does she play for any of your other classes?" There was a round of "no's" to which she replied, "That's a shame."

All at once I felt like I just might make it through this woman's class. It still required much concentration. And she still stopped me a few more times to ask for a different piece. But I didn't feel less-than. And when the class was over, she again addressed me directly, "I haven't seen this kind of spark in these dancers in a very long time, and it's because of the way you play."

That may be the highest compliment I've gotten in a very long time. And I wrote about it today, not to brag or boast, but to remember. The next time I feel inadequate or self-doubt, I have to remember the positive things that I know are true and shut out the lies I tell myself.

"...I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation." ~Isaiah 12:2

Other ballet inspired posts:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Magical Moment 357, "Any Old Business, Any New Business?

Do you enjoy looking at your old yearbook photos, or does it make you cringe to see what you once were? For me, and probably for most, it's a little of both. There is proof of how goofy, naive, and immature I used to be (dorky, bad dresser, stringy hair, but I digress). And proof of how much I've grown since then (I have better hair now).

I found something today from my early musician-hood that made me laugh out loud. I began playing piano professionally (I use the term loosely) during my senior year of high school. In trying to gain some more business, I asked my then piano teacher, Ceil Brown, to help create a business card for me. This was before I knew how to use a computer (oh my, I didn't realize I was so old). Ceil, in addition to being amazingly gifted and a wonderful teacher, is one of the funniest people I've ever known. She came back the next week with some very professional samples......and this one. I'm so thankful that I've kept it tucked away all these years and found it again, like a 20 dollar bill in my old jeans (though this is worth far more). Now that I think about it, I wonder, have I really gotten past this point as a musician? Cuz I seem to be singing the same tune...

"I kan play on the peanno for yoo. Iff yoo kall me I will play songz yoo lik to heer. Maybie yoo will pay me sum monie for me playing for yoo, ok? Yoors trulie Ellissabeth D."

Well, I must have grown some, because I have a professional business card now, with a logo created by a real-live, talented artist, Joanna Bessire. She created 3 mock ups for me to choose from. I chose the first, though I thought the bird idea was genius.  What are some ways you've grown either professionally or personally, and have the proof to back it up?

See more of Joanna Bessire's work here. Check out her blog here.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Magical Moment 356, "Eye Witness of Eyewitness News"

Channel 7 Eyewitness News is on our TV pretty often. I'm not a huge news buff, but sometimes I leave it on in the background to somewhat "stay in the loop" of the outside world. But something caught my ear today.

It's been a while since I've been around elementary school age children, and it's been an even longer while since I've been that age myself. I've nearly forgotten the silly games and rituals that take place in the world of a child. Remember the cutie shot? Circle, circle, dot, dot, now I have the cutie shot? Yesterday, I sat through ballet class and listened to 2 young girls discuss their sure-fire routine to create a snow day. It involved putting socks in the freezer, and some interesting rhymes (Zang, zong, zing! Come on sky, do your thing!). I snickered out loud despite myself. But today, I'm not snickering.

The ground is covered with a fresh layer of heavy, wet snow with no signs of slowing down. And today on the news, a reporter interviewed some school age children discussing the very same routine for creating a snow day! Not so silly anymore, these games!

I'm now left wondering 2 things. Was the ritual I was an eyewitness to at ballet class, the one responsible for this massive amount of snow? And does this mean that because I was so religious about getting my cutie shot as a child, that maybe I did actually skirt the dreaded disease?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Magical Moment 355, "Vocal Lesson"

Today was the very first day I attempted to lay down vocals for my album with Modern Vintage Recordings. I went into the studio very unsure of what to expect, after all, I've never been one to boast that I had the best voice. In fact, all 4 years of high school, I never once made the select choir group. I never made all-state choir. I never got solos in the school concerts or plays. I could only muster the courage to sing a special in church occasionally because at least I had a piano to hide behind. But in a recording booth, I get no piano. And all those insecurities I have about my average voice were magnified by a million through a state of the art, condenser microphone, amplified with huge speakers, and scrutinized by an audience of 2 producers. 

I know I can sing on pitch. I know my tone is nice. But recording a song is so much more than that. There is a story to tell, energy to emit, and a mood to portray. Many people can sing a melody on key and make it sound fine, but these are not commercial jingles. These are my songs, they may as well be my babies. They are the epitome of me, and all that my heart, soul, and energy has been poured into for the last six months.

I have a feeling that most of my work from today will be scrapped. And amazingly, I'm not discouraged by that. My producer made a comment that normally might have sent my perfectionist, ultra-sensitive self over the edge of despair. He said, "You're a great pianist. You're a great songwriter. You're a good vocalist." And that's the truth. My two loves, piano and writing, are my strengths. And vocal is my challenge. I've taken on challenges before though, and I imagine that if I give this one the same attention and persistence as those in the past, I'll overcome it. 

My posts as I chronicle my album recording with Modern Vintage Recordings:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Magical Moment 354, "The Class Saver"

I love the moments that I "accidently" see. They're not planned, rehearsed, or expected, and I'm lucky enough to be a third party onlooker, and later describe them:  

The ballet instructor was feeling the stress in her intermediate class of 10-year-olds. Energy and excitement was high tonight, and focus and obedience was low. She loved her class, and told them so every week. They loved her too, you could see the respect in their youthful attitudes. She was the kind of teacher who honestly cared if her students learned, and when she had to discipline and be stern, she wanted them to know it was only to better them as dancers...and people, for she cared about them outside of her dance class. 

One little girl sat on the side this evening due to an injury. Her foot was bothering her so bad, she could barely stand. And she watched as the instructor struggled to gain control of the rambunctious class. In an uncharacteristic moment of frustration, the instructor announced, "Why must I keep explaining this? I must be an idiot!" Her students at once realized their wrongdoing and immediately quieted. They performed the combination in guilty and tense silence. 

As the music played, the instructor watched, and the dancers danced, I saw the injured little girl rise from her restful spot. She scurried over to the instructor, all the way across the room, and whispered something to her teacher. The instructor's face softened, and I watched her giggle a little. Her entire mood changed. The little girl ran back to the side of the room on her injured foot. The dark atmosphere lifted and the class went smooth after that. The happy relationship between students and teacher was restored. I asked the instructor later what the little girl whispered.
The answer, "She simply said, 'You're not an idiot.'"

Other "accidental" moments I've caught:
I Knew You'd Come (one of my all time favorites)
Sweet Secret Moment
The Beginner's Class
The Little Boy and the Ducks

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Magical Moment 353, "Your Letter"

I had a nice, unexpected, and long overdue surprise today. Inspiration to write a song! I haven't done much writing in the last year because I've been so focused on recording. In fact, I haven't even thought about trying to write music lately. But today, I have no idea how or why, but the first line of this chorus popped into my head and suddenly I thought, "I have to write that song!" Maybe it's because I've been de-cluttering the house lately and throwing stuff away. Maybe it's because I watched the movie, Letters to Juliet last night. But somehow, this idea implanted itself into my brain, I caught some wind in my sails, and I actually finished it in one day. It's a little rough around the edges, but here is my proud work for the day! 

"Your Letter" by Elizabeth Grimes 1/23/11

Verse 1:
I knew the moment that we ended, I could see it all over your eyes,
I could tell you were pretending that my tears weren’t killing you inside.
So regrets and all of those last words that you never had the courage to say
They all came out after, in a tear stained and wrinkled way.

I’m glad I threw away your letter. Or else it coulda got the better of me.
There’ve been times I wish I kept it. But I know that ain’t the best place to be.
So I threw it away, like you threw me away.
Now the words being heard are the ones that I say

Verse 2:

There was a time I read it often. Kept it close like the blanket of a child.
Gave me hope, kept me safe, it was soft and I clung with all my might for a while.
But once I learned I could walk I found that it was holding me down.
I never saw a bird fly or soar without leaving the ground.

I didn’t burn it cuz I don’t feel spite.
I didn’t shred it cuz I don’t feel hate.
I just wadded it up, tossed inside, then turned and walked away.
Remember when you walked away?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Magical Moment 352, "Elizabeth's Box"

On my unmade bed in my bedroom, I opened a shoebox that hasn't been opened in a very long time. Occasionally, I lift its lid and haphazardly toss something inside, but today I took it out of its drawer and carefully sorted all of its contents.

One of my favorite singers of all time is Randy Travis and I love his song "The Box." If you desire, you may take a peek inside mine. You'll find...

~Two paper umbrellas from Hawaii, when I flew out there to meet my sister’s first baby.

~A book of matches from Lee’s Chicken, my very first professional piano gig. I played there from April 2001 to December 2005. It says in very 1970s print, "Live music, favorite beverages, dress comfortable, bring the kids."

~All the Playbills from every Broadway show I’ve seen.

~Silk lilac flowers that were in my wedding bouquet, because real lilacs are out of season in July.

~An old PX bag filled with dozens of military coins, given to me by Colonels and Generals from military posts all over the country when I toured in the Army Soldier Show.

~An entire Manila envelope full of poems written by my Grandma Valencia.

~My very first Cadet name tag, bearing my maiden name “Daugherty,” and a Ranger Challenge tab, from one of the most difficult  and ambitious things I did as a Cadet.

~A picture of ballerinas that Eddie got me a long time ago, because I’ve always thought they were so beautiful. Now I get to play for them three times a week.

~Numerous birthday cards, congratulation cards, and thinking of you cards from my husband, my parents, my grandmas, my sisters, and my best friend Deb.

~My husband’s old eye glasses. He no longer wears them since he had eye surgery, but he wore them when we first met. And I thought he looked so distinguished and handsome in them.

~An e-mail from SFC Crouse, an ROTC instructor who gave me my first salute at my commissioning. He was responsible for sending me to Airborne School, and making me believe that I could actually do it. He was the first person I called after I made my first jump.

~Four blue boxes from Tiffany & Company. One that my wedding present came in, and one for each anniversary gift since.

~Post cards of places I want to go, and people I want to meet. Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, Venice, some beautiful place in the mountains that doesn’t have a name.

~Trinkets from Korea, when I went as a Cadet. The Republic of Korea Marines were mesmerized by my height as a female, and gave me gifts on my last day there, a lighter, a bookmark, and a bracelet charm.

~Memorabilia from the 82nd Airborne. I was in it for a little while, and it was one of my dreams come true.

~A love letter from Eddie soon after our first date, where he outlined his plan for our future entitled, "Operation Make You Stay With Me Forever." Four years later, things are going as planned.

~Extra wedding invitations. You had to order a minimum of 50, and we had only 20 guests. 

~An angel pin that says “Friendship” from Deb. She gave it to me years ago. I’ve never worn it, but I’ve always kept it.

~Ticket stubs from a Dolly Parton concert, front row. I love her.

~Article clippings from my home town’s Lincoln Journal Star that my mother sends me. I hardly ever read them all, but I keep them.

~An e-mail my dad wrote me, when I was discouraged in the Army, and he motivated me to keep going.

~A piece of notebook paper with my favorite Scriptures in my handwriting. 

~A guitar pick from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on the day I got engaged.

I carefully place these treasures back inside and swallow the lump in my throat. I'm fortunate to have a box so full. For it is only a fraction of what is in my heart.