Tag Archive: Christmas

Christmas Gear


Christmas 2012

This year we spent Christmas in Greenville. Instead of traveling to Florida like we usually do, Laura’s sister and mother came up to visit us. The foggy Christmas morning was spent opening gifts and relaxing.

Since I’ve been so obsessed with time-lapse lately, I decided to do one of our gift giving routine. Here’s a short video…

The entire video was created on an iPad 2. I used the iMotion app shot a 1 frame every five seconds. I used the Garage Band app and an Akai LPK25 keyboard to record the music, and I used the iMovie app to add titles and mix everything together. (more…)

An Old Fashioned Blog



Laura was with me in Barnes and Noble when I lingered over the leather journals. Later she apparently read my blog poston the subject. Subsequently, I received a beautiful leather-bound journal for Christmas.

As I wrote earlier, the temptation was to put the journal away and use it for a special project. In my heart I knew that if I did that, it would sit in a drawer somewhere and never get used. So, I jumped right in and started writing.

So far it’s been fun. It seems to be a raw version of RandomConnections. I’m still working out the format, but I find myself writing in paragraph form as if it were for an audience. I suspect the leather journal will long outlast this blog, so perhaps it is for some future audience.


I made the decision early in to use cursive handwriting rather than printing. Handwriting is fast becoming a lost art, and I knew mine had suffered since I type most of the time. I write at an angle in a flowing script. When I’m on, it looks great, but tends to be unreadable. I’m working on beauty and legibility. I have noticed my handwriting improve as I have written these past couple of days. It still looks horrible, but it’s getting better.

I’ve kept written journals before, and I think I can stick with this one. We’ll see what happens, and how much of that journal makes it over to this one.

Florida Christmas 2011


Santa's Florida Sleigh

Another Christmas has come and gone, and again this year we’ve spent it in Florida with Laura’s sister, Amy. It’s been a busy week, with boat trips, paddling trips, and explorations of the area. Normally I would have done several posts, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. So I’ve combined a few items in one long post. Here are a few highlights and photos…


We took a couple of trips to the beach. First was a trip up to Avalon Beach on North Hutchinson Island after a shopping trip to Vero Beach. The wind was whipping, and the waves were higher than usual. We didn’t stay long at the little park, but just parked so that Laura’s mom could look out over the ocean and we could walk on the beach.

Laura at Avalon Beach

Avalon Beach on North Hutchinson Island

Wright Family at Avalon Beach


Christmas Kitsch


Chia-Pet-Bunny-e1285118762596.png by RndConnections on Aviary

The Chia Pets have emerged from their long hibernation. The gaudy decorations having been springing forth in stores for the past month and a half. We have now hit the peak of the season for Christmas Kitsch.

Laura and I make regular trips to Garden Ridge this time of year to supplement our light supplies and see what other decorating ideas we can get. This place has the most extensive collection of blow-up, illuminated decorations in town. There are Santas, snowmen, elves, and just about any variation thereof. How about a snowman clad in camouflage? They’ve got ‘em.


Any color of Christmas tree imaginable can be had, along with acres of other decorations.


One of the more disturbing trends this year is the “Santa in the Outhouse” themed merchandise. There is the blow-up version…


But they had smaller animatronic versions, complete with upset Santa and lots of bathroom noises…

4180707624_30f990a985.png by RndConnections on Aviary

There are several YouTube videos showing this thing in action, but I’d rather not link to nor embed them here.

Then there are the nativity sets. One blogger listed his 27 Worst Nativity Sets. Some of these I don’t think are that bad, but the animal-themed ones are just weird.

Cat Nativity

Dog Nativity

Chicken Nativity

So, Christmas seems to get weirder and weirder with each passing year. As for our house, we’re keeping things fairly simple. We’ve added more colored lights to the back of the house and we’ve got quite a few white lights out front. Our tree has no ornaments, but only lights for one very good reason…

Rory in the treeCosmo in the Tree

Yep, we now have not only Cosmo, but Rory climbing the tree. They hopped up it when we first put it up, but for the last several days they have not bothered it. I just know that if we added ornaments, it would be an attraction.

Christmas in Florida



There were rumors and reports of snow back in Greenville. It wasn’t exactly my definition of a “white Christmas.” To me, a white Christmas is when you wake up and everything is covered in snow. However, I wasn’t going to be picky – snow is snow, and I would have enjoyed it all the same. The simple fact was that I was going to miss it all together. It was a warm 70 degrees down here.

The day began with the Wright family tradition of wrapping everything under the sun and putting it under the tree. They love to wrap/unwrap packages. It’s fun. This year Santa brought me life vests so I could take friends kayaking and a cool remote helicopter with built in camera. (more…)

Christmas Paddling


Indian River Sunset

It’s Christmas. That means a trip to Florida to visit Laura’s sister, Amy. Using the new kayak racks Laura gave me for my birthday, I brought down the tandem that we got last summer so that we could paddle it out on the Indian River. After an 11 hour drive, I had to hit the water as soon as I got there.

Amy's Canal

The water was quite calm, and sun was just setting as I paddled out into the channel. Since it was dusk I decided I didn’t want to get out into the main channel, but paddled out far enough so that I could watch the sun set. It was a short paddle, but enough to improve my mood immeasurably.

Indian River Sunset (more…)

Lessons and Carols


Sunday afternoon Laura and I attended the Service of Lessons and Carols at Furman. For the past 15 years, the Furman Chamber Choir has been presenting the program in Daniel Chapel. Tickets are incredibly hard to obtain, and we were lucky enough to get a couple of the 5:00 service.

As a choir director I’ve always loved the format of the Lessons and Carols service. The service covers the entire story story of the Gospel, from Fall to Redemption. From an organizational standpoint it’s great – it’s an excellent opportunity for the congregation to participate in the readings, and it’s flexible enough to allow for new pieces as well as traditional favorites.

Sunday’s performance by the Chamber Choir was flawless, as far as I can tell. My friend and fellow singer Dr. Albert Blackwell described the sound as “sidereal,” which I thought an odd choice of terms at the time. However, the heavenly, star-like quality to the music makes the term appropriate.

Dr. Bill Thomas is director of the Chamber Choir, and he likes the pure British choral sound. There is very little vibrato, and the phrasing and shape of each notes is precise and lovely. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Bill with the Heritage Chamber Singers, and he used that same approach when working with us. I like doing the large pieces with the Greenville Chorale, such as the various requiems, etc, However, the refine precision of a small chamber ensemble is something I miss. Even the Chorale’s Chamber Ensemble hasn’t been able to capture this sound. The Furman Chamber Choir, though, had it spot on, and sounded…well, sidereal. It was quite a pleasant experience.

A Carolina Christmas


Carolina Christmas

Last night the Greenville Chorale gave its Carolina Christmas concert at McAlister Auditorium at Furman. We were joined by the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra, and we repeat the concert today at Mud Creek Baptist Church for the Hendersonville audience. (The photo above is from last year’s concert.)

We’ve been working on the music since mid-October. The tunes are familiar favorites, and it’s easy to get tired of them. That was happening here, and I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the performance. Thursday’s dress rehearsal seemed a bit sloppy. However, it all came together for the Friday concert, and both the orchestra and chorale sounded great, and were received very well by the near capacity crowd.

We’ve been collaborating with the Hendersonville group for several years now. I’m always amazed at how many extremely talented musicians there are in the area. There are our usual collaborators, the Greenville Symphony, who almost always sound fantastic, but the Hendersonville Symphony was just as clean and tight on their orchestral pieces last night. I enjoyed listening to “Waltz of the Flowers”, “Hansel and Gretel”, and “Greensleeves” as much as singing our own pieces.

Of course, there were a couple of not-so-stellar bits. “Angels We Have Heard on High” was a bizarre arrangement by Mark Wilberg that modulates just about ever other measure. It has to be pulled off flawlessly to make sense, and at one point the men came in so far under pitch that it took several measures to get back on track. We also did an arrangement of “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” which we performed perfectly, but Laura still described it as “alien.”

In addition to these, there were sing-alongs and lots of familiar pieces. As much as I love traditional carols, particularly of the old British tradition, my favorite piece of the evening was a rollicking arrangement of “Merry Christmas” from the movie Home Alone. It has the making of a becoming a classic Christmas piece in its own right.

McAlister Auditorium was packed last night, and we are expecting a full house at Mud Creek in Hendersonville at 4:00 pm. I’m hoping we can keep the same energy last night for today’s concert.

Carols Ancient and Modern


Ancient and Modern

I collect hymnals – the older the better. It’s fascinating to see how musical tastes have changed over the years, and see which hymns were included or excluded.   Language changes and various issues (such as temperance) rise and fall from prominence.

As far as Christmas Carols go, in addition to my Oxford Book of Carols, there are three hymnals that have held my attention.  I actually possess one of these, and I’ve just found copies of the other two online.  I guess that will have to do, if I can’t actually own the physical copies.

The first of these is Hymns Ancient and Modern, and is a general hymnal rather than being specific to Christmas.  For many years it was the primary hymnal of the Church of England, and is a standard reference for hymnology.   Anne Dudley put together an excellent CD of Advent and Christmas music based on tunes from the hymnal and entitled it Ancient and Modern.  I was able to acquire a copy of Ancient and Modern on eBay.  I think mine is the 1916 edition, and it’s a small pocket version with only the words to the hymns – no music (pictured above.)

In the mid-to-late 20th Century there was a revived interest in ancient melodies for worship. I noticed this in our most recent Presbyterian Hymnal, which included more plainsong chants and hymns with ancient origins. These next two hymnals are even older than Hymns Ancient and Modern. (more…)

Christmas a capella


I love a capella and close harmonies, for just about any genre of music.  My co-worker, Rick, alerted me to a new group he’d heard on XM radio called Straight No Chaser that does some absolutely fantastic Christmas music.   I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit lately, much to Laura’s dismay.

Most of the group’s music is in a Do Wop a capella style, with a little bit of a beat box going on in the background.  SNC was formed in 1996 at Indiana University, and over the last 10 years have been doing very well, touring and recording.

Their name, of course, refers to the consumption of alcohol, and several of their songs and albums have that twist.  Their first Christmas album was entitled “Holiday Spirits” and the latest is “Christmas Cheers.”  There are several outstanding arrangements on the latest recording.  There is a a setting of “We Three Kings” set in 5/4 time with an underlying “Mission Impossible” motif.  It sounds quite cool.  One of my favorite songs is “Who Spiked the Eggnog?” and has an accompanying video.

Apparently the group gained most of its fame when a YouTube video of them went viral. I’m not sure which video that would be, but here is a recording of them in 1998 performing the “12 Days of Christmas”, in their own inimitable style.

Of course, with this discover, I’ve been searching for other a capella and beat box groups. Seems there’s no end of recordings on YouTube. While I’ve got some time off I may explore some of these other groups, too.

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