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Clockwise, from top left: Blackfriar's Theater in Staunton, VA, home of the American Shakespeare Center; National Cathedral in Guatemala City; church near Volin, SD; engraved stellae at ruins of Copan, Honduras; folk musicians in La Paz, Bolivia.

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My favorite movies

  1. Casablanca
  2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  3. Raising Arizona
  4. Fargo
  5. Shawshank Redemption
  6. Field of Dreams
  7. Bull Durham
  8. Fiddler on the Roof
  9. Patton
  10. Bananas
  11. Fort Apache: The Bronx
  12. Broadcast News

January 30, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Grand (public) opening at Valley Smokehouse

Ten days ago, on January 20, I had a gig at the brand-new Valley Smokehouse in Staunton, and in fact it was the very first public musical show there since they formally opened around the middle of this month. In preparation for the grand opening, they have hosted a few private events over the last few months, most notably a show by Michael Allman -- the son of Gregg Allman, who died in May of last year. My show all came about rather suddenly, and thanks to local businessman, radio host, and concert promoter John Huggins, I was the one slated to fill the bill. The requested genre of music was "Americana," preferably with an upbeat tempo, and I know plenty of songs that fit that description.

To my surprise, there were at least a dozen people already at Valley Smokehouse when I arrived at 5:20. The owner of the Valley Smokehouse, Gary Ingram, wasn't sure how many customers to expect on his first Saturday night, but it was evidentally more than satisfactory. Unlike my previous four public performances (all at Bedlam Brewing), I didn't have to bring my own sound system, since they have a very impressive such system already set up. That greatly simplified things for me, and I was able to get started playing just about at the designated time of 5:30.

Andrew at Valley Smokehouse

Yours truly up on the stage, with the various musical decorations on the wall in back.

With only one full day to prepare for the event, I was a little rusty on some of the songs. For example, on "Witchy Woman," I didn't have all the right chords until I had gone through the first verse, but it was pretty good after that. The harmonica part sounded pretty good, at least. I was told later on that the sound quality was very good compared to when I played in Bedlam Brewing back last June. (That was my first show there inside, and I was too cautious about the amplifier volume.) As you can see in the complete set list below, I stuck to my standard Eagles and Ozark Mountain Daredevils tunes, with several country songs and several rock songs mixed in along the way. I was pleased that I was able to reach the high falsetto notes on Chris Isaacs' song "Wicked Game," along with a harmonica that adds a soulful element. I thought I did very well on Billy Joel's "Piano Man" (on which the harmonica is prominent), but didn't elicit as much audience response as I had hoped. You never know. Around 7:30 or so, I took a break lasting about 10 minutes.

Valley Smokehouse

At the peak, around 7:00 PM, there were over two dozen people.

By the time the second half of the show got started, I realized that I just wasn't going to be able to fit in many of the songs that I had planned. I tried to focus on getting ready for each new song (getting the right harmonica, etc.) and making sure that I drank enough water. I recently figured out that the harmonica part in the Ozark Mountain Daredevils' song "Standing On the Rock" is played in "cross-harp" style using a C harmonica, rather than a G harmonica as I had been doing, and for the first time, I played it in public like it's supposed to be played! I was also proud of the way Sheryl Crow's "My Favorite Mistake" and Tom Petty's "Here Comes My Girl" sounded. Some of the folks in the audience asked me where they could leave a tip, and I was embarrassed to have forgotten to bring a suitable tip jar. On several occasions I got strong applause, and everyone seemed very satisfied by the way the music sounded. At first I was a little nervous about playing a new venue, but I was getting comfortable toward the end.

This was my first public performance (other than the usual open mic events at Queen City Brewing) since November 17; see my (typically belated) December 31 blog post.

I was very impressed by the appearance of the Valley Smokehouse. They really put a lot of effort into decorating the walls with musical memorabilia and building a carpeted stage with a first-class sound system. They serve great barbecue food and a variety of beer, and I think they have an excellent chance to become a big success. (The one drawback I noted is the lack of visibility from the adjoining street; they need a big flashy sign, and they need to get all those U-Haul rental trucks moved out of the way.) In any event, I was proud to serve as the first musical performer for the general public, and I truly look forward to playing there on more occasions in the future!

Set list: HYUGE!

Over the course of well over three and a half hours, I did 41 songs altogether, one of which (the Allman Brothers' "Melissa") I did a second time, on request, just as I was about to pack up at 9:05 or so. It's a beautiful song, and I was happy to play it again. Because I had to skip over many songs due to lack of time, and the list of songs that I prepared ahead of time was not in the same order as the pages in my binder, I'm frankly not certain exactly which songs came when. But aside from the precise sequence, the following list is pretty accuate at least.

Seq-uenceGroupSong titleHarmonica? (key)
1EaglesDoolin' DaltonA
2EaglesCertain Kind Of Fool
3EaglesOutlaw ManG
4EaglesSaturday Night
5Tom PettyRefugeeE
6Johnny CashRing Of FireG
7Waylon JenningsLuckenbach, Texas
8Ozark Mountain DaredevilsStanding On The RockC
9Creedence Clearwater RevivalProud MaryD
10Creedence Clearwater RevivalGreen River
11Doobie BrothersChina Grove
12Doobie BrothersListen To The Music
13John Cougar MellencampPaper In FireA
14Hootie & the BlowfishOnly Want To Be With You
15Simon & GarfunkleMrs. Robinson
16KansasDust In The WindG
17Allman BrothersMelissa
18Soggy Bottom BoysMan of Constant Sorrow
19Doobie BrothersLong Train RunningC
20John DenverTake Me Home, Country Roads
21John DenverBack Home Again
22Billy JoelPiano ManC
23Chris IsaacsWicked GameA
24EaglesTrain Leaves Here This MorningE
25(traditional)Blue Ridge Mtns of Virginia
26Andrew ClemBetter Left UnsaidG
27Bob SegerTurn the PageG
28Steve GoodmanCity of New Orleans
29Stone Temple PilotsInterstate Love SongA
30EaglesWitchy WomanC
31EaglesLove Will Keep Us AliveA
32PocoCrazy Love
33Ozark Mountain DaredevilsLeatherwoodA
34Ozark Mountain DaredevilsHomemade WineA
35Ozark Mountain DaredevilsIf You Wanna Get To HeavenF
36Sheryl CrowMy Favorite Mistake
37Gin BlossomsFollow You DownG
38Tom PettyI Won't Back DownG
39Tom PettyHere Comes My Girl
40Plain White T'sRhythm of Love
41Allman BrothersMelissa

NOTE: The sequence of songs above is only approximate.

Other open mic events

For the record, here's a quick roundup of the times I have played at Queen City Brewing so far this year. The lists are based on my somewhat feeble memory, however, and may not be 100% accurate.

January 3 was marred by a harmonica flub on "Bennie and the Jets," due to dry lips and (perhaps) lack of practice. I really should do that one better. There weren't many musicians that night, so we each got to do extra songs, and some of the ones I did were not really that impressive.

January 10 was a little better but not as good as I'd like it to be. I played two David Bowie songs in recognition of the second anniversary of his passing. I made several changes to the chords in "Space Oddity," and surprised myself with a pretty effective rendition of "Golden Years." The two Moody Blues songs were a tribute to one of their members who had just passed away, Ray Thomas. (See below.)

[ CORRECTION: I originally included "Wild World" (by Cat Stevens) in the January 10 list, but later realized it was in December that I played that. ]

January 17 was indeed, according to host Fritz Horisk, "a superb night of music..." It was a relatively full slate of performers (me, Kimball Swanson, John Dull, Den Frumen, Calvin Stoltzfus, and Robin Shaw), so we each got to do just four songs. The first two songs I did were in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., since Monday was the official day of remembrance for him.

I passed on the January 24 open mic event because I had aggravated a small cut on my left index finger while playing at the Valley Smokehouse, and needed to let it heal. In fact, it's still bothering me...

R.I.P. Ray Thomas

The flute player for the Moody Blues, Ray Thomas, passed away on January 4, apparently due to complications from prostate cancer. He was the vocalist on many Moody Blues songs and wrote several of their lesser-known songs, of which my favorite is "For My Lady." I'll have to learn that one now. As a tribute to him and his wonderful group, I learned "The Voice," and relearned "The Story In Your Eyes," correcting some of the chords. (The Washington Post published an obituary on January 10, but I couldn't locate it using their online search function.)

December 31, 2017 [LINK / comment]

Yet another BIG show at Bedlam Brewing

I had another performance at Bedlam Brewing last month, November 17, and it went very well for the most part. After my show in September, I wanted to make sure the volume was high enough, but apparently it was still too low for the first song. For the first time, I had a brief feedback problem, which usually results from the microphone being too close to the speaker.

  1. Only Want To Be With You -- Hootie & the Blowfish
  2. Like A Rolling Stone -- Bob Dylan
  3. I Won't Back Down -- Tom Petty
  4. El Condor Pasa -- Simon & Garfunkle
  5. Wild Horses -- Rolling Stones
  6. Outlaw Man -- Eagles
  7. Lonesome L.A. Cowboy -- New Riders Of The Purple Sage
  8. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out -- Eric Clapton
  9. Proud Mary -- Creedence Clearwater Revival
  10. Listen To The Music -- Doobie Brothers
  11. Dust In The Wind -- Kansas
  12. Helplessly Hoping -- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  13. You Know Like I Know -- Ozark Mountain Daredevils
  14. Come Together -- Beatles
  15. Heart of Gold -- Neil Young (BY REQUEST)
  16. Turn the Page -- Bob Seger
  17. Piano Man -- Billy Joel
  18. Here Comes My Girl -- Tom Petty
  19. Small Town -- John Cougar Mellencamp
  20. Every Breath You Take -- Police
  21. Landslide -- Fleetwood Mac
  22. Us and Them -- Pink Floyd
  23. Comfortably Numb -- Pink Floyd
  24. Better Left Unsaid -- Andrew Clem
  25. Leatherwood -- Ozark Mountain Daredevils
  26. Peaceful Easy Feelin' -- Eagles
  27. A Change Would Do You Good -- Sheryl Crow
  28. The Time of Your Life -- Green Day

I wasn't really at the top of my game, but I did well enough to get plenty of appreciative smiles from the patrons, some of whom stayed for nearly the entire two-hour set. Due to lack of time, I tried to rush the last few songs, and I probably should have left out "A Change Would Do You Good," which I only learned recently. One song got left out entirely: "Found Out About You," by the Gin Blossoms. I have two more shows at Bedlam Brewing scheduled for next year, and I hope to line up dates at other local venues soon.

More open mic events

Back at the regular open mic event at Queen City Brewing on November 22, I stuck to familiar material for the most part, but some of those songs I had not done in public before. I felt very good about the way they sounded.

I missed the following week (November 29), but returned to Queen City Brewing on December 6, with a few brand-new (for me) songs as well as old standy-by's. The host Fritz Horisk remarked that "Penny Lane" was especially challenging. After it was over, I talked to him about the online video I had seen on Facebook, and he agreed with me that the "surprising chord" that the musical instructor was discussing was not a B minor 7, but rather a G major 7. That made me feel good. It's an unusual song, and I manage to use a single harmonica (key of D) to play in both keys as the song modulates back and forth.

On December 13, My first four songs (listed below) were first-timers for me, and I realized I probably need to sing "White Christmas" in a higher key. Otherwise, I did OK. People even got up and danced for "Your Song," which was nice. It's one of my favorites.

December 20 was another evening of great fun at Queen City Brewing, as we all got into the holiday spirit. My first four songs (listed below) were first-timers for me, and I realized I probably need to sing "White Christmas" in a higher key. Otherwise, I did OK. People even got up and danced for "Your Song," which was nice. It's one of my favorites. Afterwards, another musician, Larry Ragland, suggested that I add a G major 7 chord between the D major and A major chords in the first line of each verse, and I agree with him on that 100%.

On December 27, I was expecting a low post-Christmas turnout, but was pleasantly surprised that at least ten patrons showed up. But there were only two other musicians besides Fritz (Diane Byrer and Patrick Dimeo), so I got to do more songs than usual.

Major world languages

Language 2002
Chinese * 874 # 1,213
Spanish * 322 329
English * 341 328
Arabic ? 221
Hindi 366 # 182
Bengali 207 181
Portuguese 176 178
Russian * 167 144
Japanese 125 122
German 100 90

# : 2004 data for Chinese pertained only to Mandarin speakers, whereas data for Hindi speakers were defined more broadly.
Asterisks (*) denote the official languages of the United Nations, which also includes French (68 million speakers).

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I speak Spanish, some Portuguese, and have dabbled in German, French, Italian, Russian, Catalan, and Quechua.

Major world religions

Religion 2002
Christians 2,038 2,281
Muslims 1,226 1,553
Hindus 828 943
Chinese folk 389 454
Buddhists 364 463
Sikhs 24 24
Jews 14 15
Local, other 32 379
Non-religious 925 798

The obvious discontinuities in the last two lines of data are of uncertain origin.

SOURCE: The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 & 2012

I belong to the Episcopal Church and am annoyed at the recent polarization. According to a Theology quiz, I scored as a "Classical Liberal."

Ten Commandments

  1. Worship ONE God only
  2. No graven images
  3. No taking God's name in vain
  4. Keep Sabbath day holy
  5. Honor parents
  6. No stealing
  7. No murder
  8. No adultery
  9. No bearing false witness
  10. No coveting what others have

Seven deadly sins

  1. Pride
  2. Covetousness
  3. Lust
  4. Anger
  5. Gluttony
  6. Envy
  7. Sloth

Proverbs 6: 16-19

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:

haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies,
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

Romans 12: 17, 21

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr was a leading theologian of the mid-20th Century, and often wrote about foreign policy from a "Christian realist" perspective. From

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.