Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SYTYCD Week 5

Greetings! Time to get the dancers twirling.

A crazy Grecian-inspired group number opens this week's show. I honestly have no idea who would have choreographed it. Ah - it was Stacey Tookey. She's hard to cipher.

I was a little confused by Cat when she said that they were going to go to 10 while they were still only at 14, but then she reveals that four dancers are going home tonight. Wow - that's a lot!

The lovely Christina Applegate is back! I love hearing her critique the dancers.

Emilio and Bridget: Jazz with Ray Leeper

The all red tones are very striking, and their parallel movements are good. I like how the routine wasn't lovey-dovey or man/woman-dominates-woman/man. It was just all fun. Well done!

Tanisha and Rudy: Contemporary with Mandy Moore

Hot!

Serge Solo

Starts too slowly. It's really hard for a male Latin dancer to do a solo, because most of his stuff is with the girl and he doesn't wear flashy clothes! How hard.

Zack and Jacque: Paso Doble with Jean-Marc Genereux

Paso dobles can be very standard. This was not standard. It was Rob Zombie, for Pete's sake! I loved it. Didn't like the lighting, but loved the dance.

Carly Solo

It is much easier for contemporary dancers to do solos. And are these solos a lot shorter than normal? Is it just me?

Teddy and Emily: Broadway with Warren Carlyle

Ouch - Teddy jumped on his knees to a crouch on his feet. That's gotta hurt! Teddy's also a little underdressed considering what Emily is wearing. Too bad the parallel jump-steps at the end were out of sync.

Casey Solo

Pirouettes are overrated, but his head was so on point that it made this one noticeable.

Emily Solo

There are some very quick spins in there that I liked. Plus I liked her outfit. Not much else.

Casey and Jessica: Contemporary with Travis Wall

The beginning of the routine looked very similar to routines that we only saw a couple of weeks ago, but then it got better as it went along. (Does Jessica remind anyone else of tWitch's wife Allison?) I really enjoyed the lifts and the parallel spins. It was a great routine!

Teddy Solo

I keep forgetting Teddy is hip-hop. This is kind of hip-hop/contemporary mash-up. It's okay. He didn't do too much with the stage.

Serge and Carly: Quickstep with Jean-Marc Genereux

This was one example of how the pre-recorded video packages really help the routine. Why? Because they spent so much time talking about the quickstep requirements (stiff top, crazy legs) that everyone is watching the routine to make sure Serge and Carly are actually doing that!

Jessica Solo

Not sure what extra push that gave, but she didn't really need it with that routine with Casey.

Ricky and Valerie: Hip-Hop with Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz

It was only a matter of time before "Turn Down for What" was played on SYTYCD. I'm not sure what you'd call it, but when Valerie made her legs pop up while she was doing the splits was incredible. And she did it twice over! The rest of the routine was okay, but that was great.

Top 7 Girls: Contemporary with Mandy Moore

Not too sure about the music choice - especially how it cut out at the end. But the movements of the ladies were very strong movements. Very nice. Also loved the outfits.

But NO REACTION to This is Spinal Tap?!?!?! Good grief! I was laughing, Christina.

On the group dance side, I love watching these, especially if it means we don't have to endure musicians plugging their next album. (A Great Big World notwithstanding.)

Top 7 Guys: Contemporary with Travis Wall

It's true - guys aren't usually the ones leaping up in a basket catch. He almost jumped too far! Yeowch!

Those pants remind me of that one guy that auditioned and just barely got cut. Their outfits are more flowy than the ladies'! Didn't like the outfits, but the routine was...odd.

Christina's words were so beautiful, though: "I come here for this!!"

The 4 Getting Cut: 

It's hilarious how the girls all kept wearing their outfits, but all the guys changed! Not surprised at all.

The four getting cut are Serge, Teddy, Emily, and Carly. I was right - that Casey/Jessica routine saved them.


As always, I LOVE when the All-Stars come in - not just because they help the contestants improve, but also because it's so much fun seeing them dance again! Can't wait!






Monday, July 28, 2014

A Tale of Four Cities

This spring and summer I got a chance to do something I'd never done before: visit more than two Major League Baseball stadiums. I've been to multiple games at the same stadium, but this was a more ambitious venture for me. Someday when I'm a millionaire, I'm going to do every single MLB park in one single summer. But for now, this was a good start.

Instead of giving you the lowdown on each park individually, I'm going to give out awards instead! The four parks in contention are Coors Field in Denver (where I attended a Giants-Rockies game in April), Comerica Park in Detroit (where I attended a Blue Jays-Tigers game in June), PNC Park in Pittsburgh (where I attended a Cubs-Pirates game in June), and Miller Park in Milwaukee (where I attended a Mets-Brewers game last week).


Best View: TIE - Comerica Park and PNC Park

It used to be that there was no contest for the best skyline in baseball. Comerica Park is so close to downtown Detroit that the Renaissance Center and other famous Detroit buildings line the outfield view. Better yet, many of those buildings light up at night. 

However, the view from PNC Park is great, and most of the credit can be given to those awesome bridges they have. 

Detroit

Pittsburgh (sorry it's not the best shot)

Best Journey: Pittsburgh

Without a doubt, the trek from parking to PNC Park is the best one out there. The reason behind that is they close the Roberto Clemente Bridge (which takes you right next to the park) to cars and open it up to strictly pedestrian traffic. I used to only get to go on the road for Memorial Day after the parade finished up, but this was special. 

The weird thing was that some people still used the pedestrian walkways on the sides. Why? The middle is wide open!


Worst Journey: Milwaukee

There can be ways to make this walk interesting, but since the whole ballpark is surrounded by parking lots, you're pretty much walking through cars the whole time.

Best Tailgate: Milwaukee

Because the other three parks are found right in the city, they offer more restaurants in the area than actual places to tailgate. However, the parking lots of Miller Park are second to none when it comes to a good tailgate (or one hundred!). People arrive at Miller Park two hours before the game (sometimes earlier) to get a good spot and set up their smorgasboard of food, games, chairs, and beer. Forgot something? Just go to the next tailgate and ask them - they're usually happy to lend it out! 



Best Beer: Miller Park

This is pretty unfair, considering I didn't buy beer at any of the other places and my brother ended up buying me the beer I did have in Miller Park, but Spotted Cow is the best beer in all the land, and that is what I had. The end.

Best Place to Get a Foul Ball: PNC Park

Also a bit unfair, because this was the only place I got a game-used ball. But whatever. I got it, so there!



Best Food: Miller Park

I had eaten dinner already before I made it to the park, but I saw a BBQ stand that had brisquet parfait, and I was sold. They had many other delicious barbeque from which to choose, but alas - I was not hungry! I have had other tasty treats at Miller Park on other occasions. 

Best Scoreboard: Comerica Park

Comerica Park opened in 2000 with a pretty nice scoreboard flanked by two tigers whose eyes glow every so often - either for a rally or a 9th inning cheer. But when they completely overhauled it back in 2012, they put the other MLB scoreboards to shame. Not only is the thing huge, but it is crystal clear.



Best Company: TIE Comerica Park, PNC Park, Miller Park

Even though I went to Coors Field with my students, nothing beats the fact that I was able to attend three baseball games with every member of my family! I went to Comerica Park with my father, PNC Park with my sister, and Miller Park with my mother and two brothers. I mean, how awesome is that?! Clearly I come from a family that gets baseball.

Worst Timing: PNC Park

Unfortunately, this was the one night of my trip where nasty weather came through Pittsburgh. My sister and I had to hide out in a restaurant for half an hour, and then endure a rain delay at the stadium for 2 hours. As a result, we only got to see half the game before heading back home because it was so late.

Best Game: PNC Park

Pittsburgh put up all its runs while we watched, and it made the scant crowd that stuck around very peppy. This was also the only game I saw where the home team won.

The game at Coors Field was home run city...for the Giants. The Jays-Tigers game was scoreless and quick...until the 9th inning when the Blue Jays put up a bunch of runs. The Brewers were leading...until their closer gave up three runs in the 9th inning.

Best Souvenir: Coors Field

This was the game where I got Lenny, our classroom mascot. We now use him for games in the classroom; for example, if they answer the question correctly, they can get a bonus point by throwing Lenny into a (clean) trash can!



Best Statues: Comerica Park

Miller Park has a Bob Uecker statue (in two places, no less!), PNC Park has a Roberto Clemente statue, and Coors Field has a statue to honor Branch Rickey, but Comerica Park will always win this award because of their outfield statues.

Comerica Park has six statues of great Tigers players, and these are some of my favorite statues of all time thanks to the way the sculptor showed the players in action. The players all have their numbers retired: Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Willie Horton, Al Kaline (my favorite Tiger ever), and Hal Newhouser.

Oh - and don't forget the statue to the late, great Ernie Harwell that greets you when you first get through the turnstiles. My dad always stops and tips his hat to the great announcer.





Best Parking: Comerica Park

Ten bucks. Yes - ten bucks. Everywhere else was at least $16 - but for ten bucks, we got a lighted lot right down the street from the stadium and super easy access back to the highway. Miller Park parking was expensive, Coors Field parking was congested, and PNC Park parking was actually downtown (forget the bridge experience for a minute here).

Best Experience: All of them

Nothing beats a night at the ballpark. Hockey games are rapid-paced, football games are power personified, and basketball games are a showcase in finesse, but baseball games take the cake for me. I love sitting down at any stadium and taking in the action of the teams on the field. Forget the frozen lemonade, the vendors, and the pretty pictures; all I want in front of me is some baseball!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Worship Conference: An Epiphany for the Musician

So I said I wasn't going to do any posting this week, but I was wrong.

Currently I am attending the WELS National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts.

(Yes, it does sound like the best thing ever, but I digress.)

I have experienced many emotions and feelings over the past couple of days, and in the future I would like to expound on them more in thought-out, in-depth posts. But for now, I'm just going to get some things written down, so I remember to come back to them in the future. If I don't, feel free to get on my case.

Logo courtesy of Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

1. Worship is incredible, when done right.

Today we as participants experienced two worship services. The first one was a service based out of our hymnal - Christian Worship - full of liturgy we've been singing for over 20 years, hymns that have been famous for hundreds of years, and choral pieces that fit perfectly into our theme of the service. We got to participate in the sacrament of Holy Communion together, and heard some incredible organ pieces, as well as full brass.

In the evening, our service was structured the same: hymns, liturgy, and readings. However, the way those ideas were presented was starkly different. There were several bands on the floor behind the altar, with instruments that included acoustic and electric guitar, keyboard, piano, drumsets, a djembe, sets of congos, tinwhistle, fiddlers, accordion, and more. The songs were sung in styles of the cultures around the world - African, Hispanic, gospel, medieval, and Celtic. And all of the pieces fit perfectly into the theme of our service.

I honestly can't say that I liked one over the other. They were both perfect.

I am a musician, which means I love music. When music is done right, it's beautiful in my book. I always hesitated to carry that feeling over to a worship service. I once was a traditional girl, but was then convinced that when contemporary worship is done right, it is just as edifying. Now I am a fan of everything. Know your congregation, and use worship and music that will speak to them. Stretch their boundaries, but give them an experience that will help them remember why they are at the service.

I had goosebumps in the morning as we all sang "The People that in Darkness Sat" and tears in my eyes when we sang "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" in the evening. The choral piece in the morning was chocolate for the ears, and the rousing gospel numbers in the evening actually had me involuntarily clapping along. I couldn't believe the organist in the morning played a difficult Bach piece with no music, and was equally in shock listening to the singers in the evening stretch their voices in praise. Everything was beautiful, and did the job.

2. Easy music isn't for beginners.

I had a conversation with someone today who couldn't believe I was looking at easy organ books. I do have the ability to do more difficult music, but am I going to do only difficult music for the rest of my life? Of course not! I live under the motto of "Make Easy Sound Hard." This doesn't mean I am horrible at the piece. Instead, I give it my full focus instead of simply playing it straight through with no thought to it.

Can I add anything to the piece? What registrations can I change when I repeat it? Can I speed up or slow down at parts to add emphasis? I learned from my aunt to play "Amazing Grace" with trumpet registration and an open chord drone at the bottom to sound like bagpipes. I pulled that out for a funeral last December, and it happened to be for a veteran, and people were crying because it touched them. Was it hard? No. Did it sound hard? Well, everyone was asking me where I got the bagpipes, so I must have pulled it off.

I also do this for choral pieces. Often I take a choir piece and bring the vocals down to unison so that my kids can sing it in church. That results in a piece that the kids enjoy and can still sing, while still giving it a catchy accompaniment - something that can't be said for all children's pieces, which can be too cutesy at times.

3. Rehearsals are tough. Get over it.

I had a tough time the first couple of days here because I was in the Festival Choir and we were rehearsing 3 or 4 times a day for hours. I was tired and frustrated because the directors (who were amazing, I need to say) were so picky on the pieces.

Then the concert happened last night. It was incredible singing those pieces. Better yet, those picky points the directors expounded on were points I made sure to do in the concert because they had been so adamant about getting them right in rehearsals.

As a director, I don't get to be in choirs very often. I was glad I got to experience that feeling again, and look forward to sneaking into more choirs later this week.

Photo courtesy of Selves Photography

4. I know a lot of people!

There are people here I have known since I was a baby. One of my grade school teachers is here. I have high school classmates and college classmates here (many of whom have gone on to be choral bigwigs in the WELS). There are people from all of my previous teaching experiences: China, Wisconsin, and Colorado. There are even people here from my first Worship Conference experience, which happened to be here in Kenosha 12 years ago. So many walks of life are flashing before my eyes right now. It's very cool.

5. I've got the bug again.

A few months ago I composed a piece for my little brother's wedding. Now that I'm seeing fellow musicians getting published, I am craving the chance to compose something else.

I'm also excited to get back to my choirs and test out some new ideas. I also am considering starting a Master's program in choral conducting. This path is a tricky one, and it would mean that I would have to allow other people (universities and colleges) to look at my conducting and leadership of a choir and determine from their wealth of experience if this is what I should pursue.

Both those ideas are truly terrifying. But it's conferences like these that really put the spur to the horse, and every three years that's exactly the kick I need.

6. I am in my element.

I hear people around me talk about how the worship services are too long, or the choir/piano/organ pieces are too hard/weird/ugly. I have none of those feelings (especially after my epiphany in #1). I never look at my watch during services, unless I am making sure I can get to the next sectional or choir rehearsal. I attend as many recitals as I can. I even sneak into other choirs so I can sing more - something that I did tonight and am sooo glad I did. This is what I love to do. This is what I was meant to do. And after so many years of not being sure what I was meant to do in life, I'm thrilled that I finally have it narrowed down.

This conference is spectacular. I hope the next two days are equally edifying.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

SYTYCD Week 3: The Parent Commentary

Time for a brand-new week of dances! My parents are in town visiting me, and they are big SYTYCD fans, too. I may add some of their thoughts in this week's article!

Opening Chess Routine: My guess is Christopher Scott.

Nope! It's two people I've never heard of. Apparently they're part of a dance crew.

Misty is back at the judge's table, which is good, because I liked her last week.

Last week's bottom 6: Bridget, Emilio, Emiliy, Stanley, Jourdan, and Teddy. Marcquet is still safe! Woot!

Jacque and Zack: Hip Hop with Keone and Mari
The opening on the ground must be annoying for the audience, but it's pretty cool. I especially liked when they locked hands and rotated on the ground.

They have lots of locking, but also a bunch of smooth movements incorporated as well. Hip-hop dancing has really evolved on this show. Notice that they weren't even wearing the "normal" sneaker-wear! These guys are great. I hope they go far.

Dad: "I liked it. And I liked that it wasn't full of weird costumes. It seemed very real."

Jourdan and Marcquet: Contemporary by Dee
There are some holds and lifts that are pretty unreal. I liked it a lot. Mom and Dad? Not so much. They are all right that the partnership isn't connecting like it should. Maybe Jourdan will be kicked off and Marcquet can start with someone new.

Oh - this was finally a song that I really liked and want to purchase. ("Disappear" by Misty Ekko)

Jessica and Stanley: Jazz by Tyce
Jessica flew up and then did the splits behind Stanley. That was pretty neat. I also liked the moments when they were just on the carpet and kind of stumbling through. It was also fun when they got to the edge and kind of teetered there.

It's interesting hearing the judges to tell these two to "tone it down."

Bridget and Emilio: Jive by Anya and Pasha
Mom: "Ooh I really like jive!"

Bridget might be my favorite dancer simply because she's not afraid to be a nerd. Kudos!

Dad: "Nice lift...another nice lift." He's right - there was some fun stuff there.

I wasn't a big fan of the routine - it was fun, and they had fun with it.

Emily and Teddy: Contemporary with Tyce (again?)
It started so smooth, and then they...shake hands?

Dad points out that there hasn't been a lot of parallel movements this week.

The ugliness didn't impress me as much as it impressed Nigel.

Brooklyn and Casey: Jazz by Bonnie
Wow - Casey's one-foot twirl was amazing! Dad's impressed by this routine's parallels. They do really well with the lifts, too. They seem to be very effortless. I really enjoy the costumes, too. Match-y, but not too much.

Valerie and Ricky: Viennese Waltz by Lacey
Another costume win. Dad and Mom agree.

Ha - she spun him! I liked it - it was cute. They were very happy and enthralled with each other. Mary made sure to be critical, which is good. I like hearing constructive criticism from Mary rather than screams.

Carly and Serge: Hip Hop by Luther
Have you noticed there has been a lot more SYTYCD/Dancing with the Stars crossover, even though they're on different networks? Dancers unite!

Dad: "I don't think they're in sync."

Interesting concept, but maybe not executed as well as it could have. There were some fun points.

Tanisha and Rudy: Broadway by Warren
Costume win again!

Lots of work with props again - but these props, unlike the phones from last week, don't hinder them too much. Unfortunately, the routine isn't very clean. There was a ton of parallel work here, and they did the best they could.

Dad's Rankings:
Rudy
Ricky
Casey
Zack
Emilio
Serge
Stanley
Teddy
Marcquet

Valerie
Tanisha
Bridget
Jacque
Carly
Jessica
Emily
Jourdan
Brooklyn

Mom guesses that Jourdan and Stanley Serge will be eliminated. Since we're an hour behind, Dad already found out who was eliminated.

Elimination: Jourdan and Stanley (Mom was right the first time!). I'm glad Jourdan's on her way out. Now Jessica can be with Marcquet and hopefully they'll have a bit of chemistry! And Stanley will have a great modeling career ahead of him!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

SYTYCD Week 2

We're back for dancers stepping out of their comfort zone!

Opening Number
My first guess is Tyce Diorio, but I'm pretty sure that's wrong. There's another Broadway guy nowadays.

(I was right - it was Josh Burgasse.) Oh my goodness - they put his name on the screen! Did they listen to me last week?! I'm so honored!

Cat busts a gut when the judges promote the MLB All-Star game by wearing jerseys. I love Nigel's reasoning, "We want a recommission - we'll do anything for FOX!" Oh, and he also mentions that Clayton Kershaw "scored the no-hitter."

More sports integration when Nigel mentions Brazil's embarrassing loss to Germany. Someone had ESPN on in his dressing room!

Bottom Six
Marcquet is safe! Whew. His partner, however, is not. Serge and Brooklyn both are in the bottom six, suffering from First-Out-of-the-Gate syndrome.

Tanisha and Rudy: Jazz with Sonya Tayeh
Oddly enough, my only qualm with the routine is the choice of chairs. Red upholstery normally in a doctor's waiting room now in a dominatrix setting?

I like jazz. It's very bold and brings out lots of agitation.

Valerie and Ricky: Contemporary with Travis Wall
There were some great still poses in this routine. I also liked the different lifts that Ricky did on Valerie. Travis made sure to utilize Ricky's strength in contemporary (hm...the best contemporary routine dancer from last week just so happened to get contemporary this week too?)

I disagree with the judges - I thought there was emotion enough.

Bridget and Emilio: Hip Hop with Luther Brown
Does a nerdy girl have to get hot? Can't a nerd stay a nerd and still get the guy? Plus they pulled the whole with-glasses-she's-not-hot thing. I got a beef with that.

And if I bring that sort of mentality into a routine, I'm probably not going to like it. Bridget didn't get low enough.

Jessica and Nick: Swing with Benji Schwimmer
Nick is once again playing to the crowd a lot. I do enjoy the routine for its uniqueness and fun! It was the stepchild of the SYTYCD disco routine.

Misty Copeland already surpasses whats-his-name from last week when she gives very good constructive criticism to Jessica about her neck.

Carly and Serge: Contemporary with Sonya Tayeh
Watch out SYTYCD: if you put in too many Sonya routines, we'll get sick of her!

I liked when Carly stretched up her leg and Serge stretched up his arm instead - it was different from the normal parallel dancing. There was one point when they were supposed to hit a pose, and Carly did it smoothly and Serge hit it strongly. I did notice that.

I think I liked the first contemporary routine more.

Emily and Teddy: Hip Hop with Dave Scott
I'm usually not a big fan of Dave Scott routines, but I really like this one. There's some good popping going on. There was a point where Emily shoots energy (I guess?) through Teddy, and then he dances and shoots it back to her and she dances! Good stuff. Very smooth.

Malene and Stanley: Broadway with Spencer Liff
Ah, props.

The problem with the props is that it keeps Malene and Stanley apart for so long. There's no chance for lifts or big jumps. These props are distracting! They should have only had the phones for a minute - not the whole routine. I didn't like it. Too bad - I like Stanley.

Jourdan and Marcquet: Jazz with Sean Cheesman
Right at the beginning, I think Marcquet was supposed to sit in the chair, but he ended up on the floor! He covered it well.

This jazz is a lot faster than other jazz, with less posing and more movement. It's kind of surprising how not-Sonya it was.

Oh - Jourdan got lipstick on her teeth. Someone tell her!

Brooklyn and Casey: Argentine Tango with Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo
New ballroom duo! Watch your back Tony and Melanie!

I have one problem with Argentine Tango: it all looks the same. There are many of the same steps used in the same ways in so many routines. How is this one different from the ones last season? It also was a little too slow for me.

Jacque and Zack: African Jazz with Sean Cheesman
I always get a big kick out of international routines because no one comes in with a background in native artistry on this show. And Sean usually brings out the warrior in all his dancers. Good routine.

Anyone else initially think it was body paint? I was glad to see it wasn't.

Syncopated Ladies
Couldn't really hear the music, but man were their taps right in sync! Who knew they made tap heels? I liked how they posed one beat before the music ended. Nice!

The cuts
There's no time for solo routines, apparently. I can't remember if that's always been the case.

Malene and Nick go home tonight.

Pretty fun routines tonight! What did you think?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Music Zone III

It's been far too long since I posted some great music. Here is more of my favorites that can be found on the Internet in a variety of locations!


"First Class" - Henry Jackman
This song is the title track from X-Men: First Class. No, not the one that just came out - the one that came out in 2011. I listen to a lot of Spotify, and when I wanted to start a radio channel based on the music of Star Wars, this was one of the pieces that came up, and I love it.

The reason I love it: The strings throughout the piece generate a sense of tension, accentuated by the brass entrances, and finally the rockin' percussion.



"Where No One Goes" - Jonsi
Another song from a movie soundtrack - this one runs during the credits of How to Train Your Dragon 2, which just so happens to be a really good movie. Jonsi was also the artist who did the closing credits of the original How to Train Your Dragon ("Sticks & Stone"), and the score for We Bought a Zoo. He is part of the Icelandic band Sigur Ros.

The reason I like it: The song from the first movie is great; however, this song takes the best music themes of the How To Train Your Dragon movies and incorporates it into the song. FYI: the score for the movies was done by John Powell, and you really should get it.




"She Tows the Line" - Crooked Fingers
I heard this song thanks to the TV show Chuck. That show had so much great music featured in it, and you can find lots of websites devoted to a very nice playlist of the best songs from Chuck. This is one of them!

The reason I like it: This music came during one of the saddest turning-point moments of Chuck, and it always reminds me of that. 



"Ways to Go" - Grouplove
This music video is one of the oddest videos out there. I heard this song on radio station Channel 93.3 here in Denver, which features some great music that other alternative stations don't play. (I'm looking at you, 102.1 in Milwaukee, home of All Things Foo Fighters.)

The reason I like it: The song starts out with keyboard and bass, and sounds pretty hipster. My favorite part is 1:12, when the song finally kicks into high gear.



"The Cello Song" - Steven Sharp Nelson
Many music types may be familiar with this song as "Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major BWV1007" by Johann Sebastian Bach. Many normal people would call that suite's prelude "The Cello Song." So when Steven Sharp Nelson arranged this version, that title was very fitting. This version gives the song a little bit of a kick. (I should probably mention that Nelson is a member of The Piano Guys, a very popular music group.)

The reason I like it: The original is beautiful (I'll also include it below, performed by Yo-Yo Ma), and this one uses the melody and adds a beat. Some people might claim that's not necessary - that Bach's original work is fine just the way it is. I say, who cares? 




"Classic" - MKTO
My little brother just got married last month, and while my older brother, little sister, and I were in the car, this song came on. My sister really loves this song, and we all started dancing in the car. She also requested this song during the wedding reception, which the DJs graciously played. It's a good song to call "The Song of the Summer," because it's incredibly cheesy, but incredibly catchy.

The reason I like it: I believe the correct lyrics are, "Baby you're class and baby you're sick". Get it? Classic? Yea...

The real reason I like it: The piano riff that comes in at 0:51. I also appreciate the fact that the song tries to promote being yourself ("classic") and not someone else ("plastic").



"Love Like a Sunset" - Phoenix
This song has two parts. The first part is very digital, and grows. The mood changes with the changes in the instruments, until finally it finally emerges as a lyrical song at 5:40. 

The reason I like it: Phoenix is a great band, and is willing to take risks in their music. This piece is a strange journey, and it's got me on board.



"Ocean Journey" - Matthew C. Shuman
I got this piece from The Weather Channel. That's right - The Weather Channel. Before it "revamped" in November 2013, the Local on the 8s portion of the channel was highlighted by some great tunes. Initially it was jazz, and then it grew to some pop music (especially in the morning) and lighter instrumental fare. This is one of the great pieces that was played in the evening. 

The reason I like it: It is strictly piano - no frills. It's also an original tune - so many piano pieces nowadays are just arrangements of other pieces. I like this one. Bonus: this piece is performed by Matthew Shuman himself!



"Rockstar" - A Great Big World
Another recommendation by my sister during wedding weekend. This one reminds me of the songs I used to listen to in high school and college - songs by Something Corporate, The Fray, Snow Patrol, and Ben Folds. If that's your cup of tea, this song will fit right in. I have yet to listen to the rest of the album - hopefully it's all like this.

The reason I like it: Piano. Pianopianopiano. The chords that structure the verses are so simple, but have great depth. 



"The Impossible Planet" - Murray Gold
This one is taken from the Series 1&2 soundtrack of Doctor Who, my favorite TV show of all time. In less than two months (?!?!?!) the new series will premier featuring Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, and I am beyond excited. This song is not the normal thumping, rollicking Murray Gold music that I'm used to hearing on Doctor Who. Instead, the music (taken from the episode title of the same name) is very melancholy, foreboding, and moody - especially after the first 10 seconds (which I cut out of my mp3 recording). It would have fit perfectly for an episode of Firefly.

The reason I like it: When I go on Doctor Who websites and they discuss their favorite pieces of music from the show, there are so many common answers - "I Am the Doctor," "Vale Decem," the theme song, etc. This one is a wild card, but it's so good



So there's another trip into The Music Zone! With three Zones now in the Blurb, you know the kind of music I enjoy. Do you have any suggestions? Comment below, and recommend this Blurb to all your friends!


Welcome to the Blurb! I write about everything from sports to movies to music to television and more. My favorite things to type about are the Detroit Tigers, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Disney, and music! If you like what you read, "like" my page at Facebook.com/blurbmusings!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SYTYCD Week 1 LIVE!

I got a little lethargic with my So You Think You Can Dance coverage during the audition weeks. Usually, that is the case. I try not to get behind any of the dancers, because more than likely they would be cut in the callbacks. (I'll miss you, Jaja from the Czech Republic! You deserved better!)

I was considering not blogging this year at all about SYTYCD. However, my sister likes seeing other people's opinions on the dances, and when she asked me if I would be doing my weekly blogs during the live competitions, I said yes.

So here I am, ready to break down what I liked about your top 20. This... is So You Think You Can Dance!

*Insert heavy bass and synth intro here.*

Some were disappointed that the LA callbacks and top 20 were whittled down to one night, but I was thrilled. There isn't much in that week that really impresses me. It's pretty much judge-led drama. ("You're going to dance for your life!") At least Tara Lipinski was there to liven things up. And the one guy that I immediately noticed during the auditions - Marquet - did end up making the top 20, and confusing many people of his actual dance style. ("He's not hip-hop????")

Opening number

Guess for choreographer: Sonya? It's definitely jazz. You can always tell because there are a lot more poses and jerky movements.

Ah - I was right! 1 for 1!

Judges

Apparently Jason Derulo is a popular guy. Someone needs to tell him to sit up straight!

It sounds like it's not America's favorite guy and girl this season. Too bad - I really liked that format.

Everyone is doing their own genre this week. Kind of like the "spotlight" dances they did a couple of seasons.

Brooklyn and Serge - choreo by Dmitri Chaplin (cha-cha)
I can't figure it out. Serge looks reeeeeeally familiar. And not just because he almost made it last year. Does he look like an actor? *thinking...*

I am incredibly thrilled by the increase of ballroom dancers this season. When ballroom is done well, it is hot. This cha-cha is no different. I try as much as possible to focus on the guys, because that's hard to do! Ballroom usually dresses the girls in outfits with fringe or extra fabric, so your eyes are automatically drawn to the girl. But hey - the guy looks smokin' too!

Good routine - a few missteps here and there, but it was clear that they were comfortable - they could do crazy stuff because they know what they're doing.

(Pssst, Jason - you need to say a little more than that.)

Emily and Casey - choreo by Travis Wall (contemporary)
Did they ever go stage right? Lots of complicated lifts and links. Didn't really get what the "storyline" was supposed to be. Emily had a pretty big smirk on her face most of the time.

Is it more difficult for people to vote for the dances with low light because they can't tell who is dancing? Just a thought.

Cat's incredibly long-winded voting regulations have been reduced. No more phone calling! No more texting! No one is more happy for that than Cat!

Valerie and Zack - choreo by Anthony somebodyorother (tap) 
I remember the first season there was a tapper, and the mic to pic up the tap sounds was awful. Gladly, the mics have greatly improved.

Love Valerie's red tap shoes!

I know that the stairs are supposed to be an iconic tap attribute, but it seemed to hinder the routine. It was a lot more fun to watch them glide across the floor, because they really didn't look comfortable going up and down those stairs. They were concentrating instead of floating. At least make the stairs a little wider!

Bridget and Stanley - choreo by Bonnie Story? (contemporary) - please put the choreographer's names on the screen!
Great jumps. They were both perfectly in parallel with each other.

More parallel perfection. That's hard, people! I think that's harder than the lifts. Good acting, too. Very believable. The lighting was better for this contemporary routine, too. I think that's important!

I liked this routine a lot. Bonnie is a keeper choreographer.

Ack! I got it! Serge looks exactly like Michael Weston!

Jacque and Jourdan - choreo by Mirat Dankei? (ballet)
Let's face it - no one understood a thing they said in the 8 second bio.

Ballet! How wonderful! And choreographed by a strict Russian ballet teacher. Get excited, audience - this is great. And he's not going to take any crap from the audience. I love it. More from him please! My new favorite choreographer. (He probably kicked the cameras out of the studio, too - which is why it was so short.)

They did get a little out of sync with their one-footed turns. Pretty sure that wasn't intentional. Also didn't quite finish with the music.

Jason sings with Snoop Dog
Oh - he does "Talk Dirty To Me." I like this version better.

Malene and Marquet - choreo by Louis van Amstel (samba) 
I LOVE Louis!!

Lemme just say this right away: Marquet has presence. Malene who? His footwork is incredible. He's got poise. He was awesome. I'm voting for him. Everyone should vote for him. VOTE FOR MARQUET.

Carly and Rudy - choreo by Stacey Tookey (contemporary)
This routine is very similar to the first contemporary routine we saw tonight: technically great, but there's no story to it. They're just dancing. There's no giant connection to be made. Yes, there was passion, but why?

Emilio and Teddy - choreo by Christopher Scott (hip-hop)
Clearly Christopher Scott is SYTYCD's go-to hip-hop guy now. It must because of his bold music choices. The Commodores??? "Night Shift???????" Not really sure about this routine - it's kooky, that's for sure. Emilio did some crazy flips. (I'm a sucker for flips.)

Jessica and Ricky - choreo by Sonya Tayeh (contemporary-jazz)
Wow - Ricky went from a horizontal turn into a one-handed handstand. That was impressive!

With this routine, it's back to amazing. These two can generate the power and mastery and it comes through the screen. This was very good. Especially when Jessica planked on top of Ricky. She's got abs of steel.

Sonya has magic. I've always appreciated her routines, even if I don't always appreciate her hair.

Tanisha and Nick - choreo by Louis van Amstel again!!!!! (cha-cha)
It's at this point where I really wish we'd had a preview ep of the top 20 where there was one dance with all the same styles dancing together. That ballroom routine would have been awesome.

Nick does a great job connecting with his partner and the audience. He was really getting into it! I liked watching him.

So in conclusion...
This is a very talented group, and it will be interesting seeing these people out of their style next week. That's when we can really get excited!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What We've Been Waiting For

Rick Porcello is 25 years old.

Rick Porcello is 25 years old.

I'll give you some time to let that sink in.

This revelation shouldn't dawn on you because of his prowess over the past few games, amassing an 11-4 record before the All-Star break and an ERA below 3. No - this should dawn on you because it seems like he's been pitching for the Detroit Tigers forever! Right?!

His official debut came in April of 2009, but he's been on the Tigers' radar since the 2007 High School draft, where he was picked by the Tigers 27th overall. At a time when Justin Verlander was breaking out in a big way (17-9 in 2006, 18-6 in 2007) at such a young age, everyone just assumed that Porcello would be right behind him. Verlander and Porcello would become the mighty due of the roster, and lead the Tigers to many World Series victories.

Things didn't exactly end up that way. Verlander certainly dominated, but he did have his down seasons (11-17 in 2008). And Porcello, while he started strongly (14-9 in 2009), ended up becoming a very average pitcher. He was known back then for drawing groundouts, and if his pitching wasn't up to snuff, the opposition would pick him apart - not on home runs, but on the power of the small ball.

Eventually, as Doug Fister and Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez joined the roster and racked up the wins, Porcello was demoted to 4th- and even 5th-place on the 5-man roster, sometimes coming up short behind perennial 5th man Drew Smyly and others.

For three straight seasons, Porcello has been trade bait speculation for the thousands of Tigers fans who tune into Detroit sports radio and communicate via social media. Most of the fans had decided that Porcello just wasn't going to cut it as a Tigers' pitcher. I even heard it in my father's voice when we were going to Comerica Park. It wasn't excitement or disappointment in his voice when he said, "Porcello is starting." It was just a shrug of the shoulders and an "I wish we were seeing Verlander" regret in his voice.

But in 2012, 2013, and 2014, Porcello has avoided arbitration and signed a 1-year contract, ending that speculation of trade fodder...for a little while. It always seemed to come up again near the trade deadline (July 31) if he had been mediocre in the first 2/3 of the season. I'm sure if he'd done it this season, he would have been packaged in a trade for Rays pitcher David Price.

It didn't happen, though. Instead, Rick Porcello has finally become that pitcher we all expected him to become back in 2009. His sinker balls have sunk. The ground ball hits he draws so often go straight to a Tigers defenseman. (He had 17 tonight!) And while he might not get the strikeouts like his teammates do, he draws the out.

Suddenly it's Porcello that's receiving the consideration to start in the All-Star Game. It's Porcello who has over 10 wins before the break, allowing him to join great pitchers like Mark Buerhle, Clayton Kershaw, and Masahiro Tanaka. And Verlander is the one, sadly, that is struggling.

Porcello could have spent more time in the minors and still be at this position in his career. But I think, because he spent nearly all of his career in the majors, that this sudden upswing is all the more surprising and exciting for Tigers fans. We've watched his starts since 2009, and now that tricky arm is finally bringing powerful offenses to their knees.

And since Porcello is only 25, this could only be the beginning.

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