Archive for July, 2010

Helen Intintoli and The St. Basil’s Elementary School Chorus- Winnie The Pooh, We Love You

Posted in ineffably poignant, my favorite song on July 30, 2010 by jonathanghess

This week’s selection is a record so special, delightful and rare that I’d like to present it here in its entirety- Winnie the Pooh, We Love You, written by Helen Intintoli, MA, and performed, under her direction, by The St. Basil’s Elementary School Chorus of Vallejo, California.

The concept of a school self-producing their own record is nothing new- try doing an Allmusic search for “High School” and see how many entries turn up (as a matter of fact, even the tiny hippie alternative school I attended made one- and someone resurrected it and put it in their blog!). The record shop I worked at even had a section set aside for them, albeit a small one. What is unusual is for one of these records to consist of well-written (and decently recorded) original music. Most (including the widely heard Langley Schools Music Project) are comprised of cover tunes, performed with varying degrees of enthusiastic ineptitude; records only a parent could love.

That’s why this record was such a surprise.

The very first track encapsulates everything that is special about this wonderful LP. It’s a perfect pop song in the multi-dimensional, musically complex mode of a Brian Wilson or a Bert Bacharach composition- beautiful melodic parts, lovely contrapuntal instrument lines and interesting, affecting chord progressions.

The center feature, of course, is the children’s voices. This LP is imbued with the plaintive, wistful emotional quality that can be unique to a child’s voice. Note that I say “can be”; an out-of-tune or tritely arranged childrens chorus can be gratingly unpleasant. On this production, Ms. Intintoli’s skilled direction brought out the best, most musical qualities of her students.

The loving care and musical attention to detail are evident throughout the record in numerous playful directional touches- the “buzzing” vocal at the end of “Isn’t It Funny How a Bear Likes Honey”; the chanted vocals on “Kanga’s Marching Song”; the Ray Davies-like melodic piano figures on the waltz section of “The Customary Procedure” to name but a few.  Some tunes are truly gorgeous- the first track and “How Sweet to Be a Cloud” in particular. I can only imagine how special it must have been for the young participants, and what wonderful memories they must have of the experience!

Through the magic of the internet, I located and wrote to Ms Intintoli. I asked her to tell me what she could about the production of the record and her influences. I was delighted to receive a response! She wrote, in part:

We had lots of fun making the recording.  It was part of a project for my master’s degree at San Francisco State in 1973.  I was teaching classroom  music part time  at St. Basil’s in  Vallejo .

I have a BA in music from College of Notre  Dame (Belmont) and my master’s is in Creative Arts Interdisciplinary.  I wrote the music and directed the production on stage. That way it incorporated many elements of drama, music, scenery and costumes, lighting etc.   I found a script for Winnie the Pooh but it had no music, so I worked songs into appropriate places in the existing play script. My musical ideas were influenced by the way different styles of music were used in Godspell. So I tried to match the style with the character–like Eeyore’s Blues and the whimsical nature of Pooh and the know it all Owl.  It was fun. I added into the script a “chorus” of butterflies, bunnies, and other small animals to let more children participate.

We made the recording in a warehouse type of recording studio in one afternoon.   It was a big hit and of course all the families bought copies.

What a thrill to hear from her! How marvelous to imagine this music in full production! I also discovered her subsequent professional history- she was hired shortly after her graduation by Solano Community College, where she has taught music ever since, leading chamber and jazz vocal ensembles. She also leads The Well-Tempered Voices, who have recordings available here.

In this blog to date, many of the pieces of music I’ve shared and written about have something “weird” or “off” about them- a reflection of my own rather deviant sense of humor. This is the first entry that is unequivocally sweet and sincere; a collaboration between guileless children and a mentor sympathetic to their sensibilities. Perhaps something of both resides in each of us, and that is why this record is so affecting. It is also the first post that I am sure the creator of the music will read, so- Hats Off to Helen Intintoli, and the St. Basil’s Elementary School Choir!

winnie the pooh we love you mp3

isn’t it funny how a bear likes honey mp3

eeyore’s misery blues mp3

the cutomary procedure mp3

oh pooh you can depend mp3

how sweet to be a cloud mp3

kanga’s marching song mp3

roo’s fun song mp3

we’re rabbit’s friends and relations mp3

farewell song mp3

give three cheers for winnie the pooh mp3


Jacques Loussier- You Only Love Once

Posted in cartoon music, whole weird world on July 23, 2010 by jonathanghess

French pianist and composer Jacques Loussier is best known for his jazz trio interpretations of classical pieces. Those spartan, tasteful arrangements are a far cry from the wild sounds on this soundtrack LP! On these dense, eccentrically orchestrated tunes, Loussier manages to balance richly melodic themes with dissonant noise, find toe-tapping grooves in non-2/4 time signatures, and generally remain unpredictable without sacrificing pleasurable accessibility.

Another swell find that came through the store that I never would have found otherwise- the film is pretty obscure. I selected five of the most rocked-out numbers, but the whole record is great, and available on iTunes if you want to own the whole thing…

ballet photo rouge mp3

ballade dans paris la nuit mp3

poursuite jaguar mp3

clara’s jerk mp3

leslie’s jerk mp3

Apologies again for the blurry photo.

Lynsey De Paul- Sugar Me

Posted in closet favorite, ineffably poignant, sad grandma music, whole weird world on July 11, 2010 by jonathanghess

Just stumbled across the “Sugar Me” video while looking for something else. It was on a non-English fan page of some sort, and was set to play automatically, something that’s always unwelcome. I had never heard of her or the tune, and was assaulted by the stomping jackboot fuzz beat, which was further distorted on the video version I watched by a terrible transfer… To be honest with you, I wondered if it was Lady Gaga, who I have also never seen or heard, and thought “Wow! Lady Gaga is amazing! Jeez, I’m getting on the bandwagon!”.

Nope. It’s Lynsey De Paul! Well, maybe you’re hip to her- “Sugar Me” was a big hit- but Lynsey, a prolific ‘seventies British pop girl who I now see lived a high-profile celebrity life, was new to me.  I’m going to keep an eye out for her records now (in New Zealand, hmm!).  There’s something intriguing about her- that robotic yet ethereal feminine delivery… that mole…. And as much as I was bemoaning the over-abundance of media and its effect on our imagination, I have to say in this case, the video makes her come alive to me. What is this frightening, dark space in which she performs to what appear to be a motionless colony of silverback Morlocks?  Apparently, Lynsey is politically right-wing, and one might discern a whiff of the fascist in her image and sound…

But hey! That’s pop for you!

Here is a link to a fine and special fan site, and a page of absolutely unbelievable 45 covers. You’ll need to click on the special Lynsey De Paul section- but I want you, too, to experience the beauty of her French fan’s home page; it’s the most BEAUTIFUL website I’ve ever seen!

sugar me mp3

Anthony Moore- Judy Get Down

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2010 by jonathanghess

Slapp Happy keyboard player’s perfect pop new wave non-hit. Would love to see a roomful of people try to dance to this!

judy get down mp3

Bad Ass Japanese Cop Show!

Posted in closet favorite, easy listning, ineffably poignant, whole weird world on July 10, 2010 by jonathanghess

Can’t tell you a damn thing about this LP because I don’t read the lingo. Just another delightful Asian instrumental rock record in the dependable HK tradition, this one with a lush seventies sound. This is a great-sounding recording, by the way- I can picture a nicely-equipped studio full of that excellent Yamaha gear of the day. Really the peak for analogue recording, those days, and this record sounds particularly nice on a record player. Phat, etc.

cop show phasor mp3

cop show blues mp3

cop show disco mp3

I have tons more records like this that I’ll be sharing with you. Great stuff!

Mort Garson- Plantasia

Posted in closet favorite, drum machine, easy listning, home recording, ineffably poignant on July 10, 2010 by jonathanghess

Plenty has been written about Mort Garson, who passed away not long ago, in 2008. I’m not going to recount his full, creative musical life here, except to remind you that he was the composer of the music for one of the coolest cod-psychedelic LPs ever, “The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds“. If you don’t have it yet, get it, love it, live it.

“Plantasia” is Mort’s final LP, released in 1976. It was one of a covey of media purporting to connect a plant’s health with the environment around it, a concern that now seems quaint and unique to the era (environmentalist sarcasm). One suspects an exaggerated communion of hippie and houseplant facilitated by something else, something herbal in origin. At any rate, Mort’s credentials are beyond reproach, and the sounds he gets from his synth, echoplex and drum machine are way ahead of their time.

The first example, “Symphony for a Spider Plant” sounds for the world like the melodic cousin of Eno’s “Somber Reptiles”. The second track, “Swingin’ Spathiphyllums”, has an analogue delay breakdown that is phrased exactly like those in Dub reggae. Both have a moody, melancholy feel that evokes pure yet brainless life energy, pulsing up through the dark soil for no goddam reason at all.

symphony for a spider plant mp3

swingin’ spathiphyllums mp3

King Richard’s Fluegel Knights- Dessert

Posted in closet favorite, easy listning on July 10, 2010 by jonathanghess

Comin’ ‘atcha this week is some hard-core easy listnin’! King Richard (Hollywood  trumpeter & arranger Dick Behrke) leads his Fluegel Knights through a swanky Herb Alpert-esque hip-shaker and then a poignant ballad, in the same leadoff/second tune order as the LP. I’ll bet you the next cocktail these studio pros sight read the tune’s tricky turnarounds and recorded it in one take.

KRFK dessert mp3

KRFK like to get to know you mp3

Technical note: I apologize for the poor photo quality. I have yet to learn to use my camera properly.