Music for Troubled Times

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It’s normally a lively Christmas Season full of parties, pageants, and performances – including outdoor concert venues for musicians, strolling carolers, and elaborately festive church services, but this December 2017 is different. Santa Barbara along with Montecito, Summerland, Carpenteria, Ojai, Santa Paula, Ventura and other nearby cities are having quite the challenge with fires, smoke, power outages, and evacuations.

We musicians wait till the last hour to hear if a gig is still happening,  we check the air quality, look at maps to see if the location has been evacuated, and no one can say for certain what will happen if the winds stir fire and ash up again. We are all truly playing this season by ear.

Many people have decided to leave town during this uncertain time to stay with family out of state. Most of my musician friends are still staying around. Perhaps we are still hoping to play parties and events we agreed months ago to do. A few of my musician friends have even been evacuated twice! During an emergency like The Thomas Fire you can learn who your closest friends are – Perhaps they are the first people you call to ask, “Is your electricity out over there too? What have you heard? What are you going to do?” In our case it was bandmates and musical partners who texted immediately and kept each other informed when suddenly whole towns went dark.

You know how they say a disaster can bring a town together? Evacuated folks are moving in with friends living further away from the fire. Several friends of mine have elected to move back in with their ex-spouses – just until it is safe to move back to their own places, they are quick to add! We commiserate about the lost income, trouble we have getting into the holiday spirit, the ash flying everywhere, the masks we must wear outside. We mourn for those who have lost homes and everything in them. We celebrate the days when the air feels less smoky and the sky is not a weird orange hue. We cheer the brave 8500+ firefighters who are doing a tremendous job containing this raging beast by keeping most homes and people safe. We are saddened by the car accidents, and especially for the loss of fireman Cory Iverson and for his family’s pain.

My husband and I are counting our blessings of still having a home, but bags are packed  just in case – by the door. Top of the list to grab and go are his upright bass, a piano quilted wall hanging my sister made, and our now grown daughters’ baby books. Ready to also be rescued is the book of my jazz holiday arrangements I spent over 4 hours putting together after playing a gig in Summerland 2 weeks ago, the night the fire broke out. Looks like tomorrow I will be bringing it to an outdoor downtown mall gig with our quartet Jazzy Bell Jingle. I am really ready to get out, play tunes with great musician friends, and hopefully both bring and feel some Cheer and Christmas Spirit!

During this time of waiting my album Peace Prayer is having it’s first time 2017 digital release. Album contains calming hymns & originals with a hint of jazz. May it help bring you Peace this Season! (And hope for a Happy 2018).

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CA Here I Come!

outdoor-party

The history behind the story also known as…

Bob Takes The 101:  A Road Trip Musical Story/Game

Last Spring our keyboard & bass duo was invited to play a charity fundraising event held in the lovely gardens of El Mirador Estate, Montecito (pictured above). The 2017 theme was “California Dreaming” – they requested that we play as many CA themed tunes as we could – naturally Robert Kim Collins and I included a fair share of West Coast Jazz too. 😉

Once again I turned to musical friends and posted an inquiry on Facebook asking for tune titles specifically written about places in California. I also gathered ideas from my father Frank Denke’s album made for an insurance company in the 1950’s called, Melodies of California: Continue reading “CA Here I Come!”

Do You Hand Out Bad Charts?

Debbie Denke at the piano

Okay, I will be first to admit it: I occasionally dash off very bad charts to fling at my trusted musical partners the night of the gig when I am in a big hurry. I am a jazz & church pianist, vocal accompanist, and sometimes sing a few numbers on my gigs too – yet, even when I know better, now and then I fall short and exhibit CSS symptoms. Although this article resembles ‘preaching to the choir’ (including myself in that group) – it is a more detailed exploration into writing music extracted from my blog, Do You Suffer Chick Singer Syndrome?)

I’d like to share a few examples ranging from pitiful to pretty good charts (both lyric and lead sheets), that I have either personally penned or have been instructed to “Just read the chart and listen to the YouTube link and figure it out.”

The following levels apply to charts written by today’s jazz and church musicians, vocalists, accompanists and band members. Remember, men and women can suffer Chick Singer Syndrome – even superbly talented ones!  So with a touch of humor, kindly read on. Continue reading “Do You Hand Out Bad Charts?”

It’s All About YOU! Party Game

How To Play the Musical “Guess that YOU-tune” Game:

The host will want a copy of Debbie Denke’s album, It’s All About YOU!*

Additionally the host will want a pencil for each guest, a fun dessert to serve for intermission, a prize for the winner (I suggest something musical like an album or a music book as an award), and have copies of the list of clues for each guest (or a page with blank lines numbered 1-16), plus a copies of the lyrics to #16 It Had To Be You. Clues and lyrics are found in this site under the Downloads tab above. Allow about 90 minutes to play this game.

Continue reading “It’s All About YOU! Party Game”

It’s All About YOU!

 

It all started with the opportunity to play an intimate concert for about 6 couples in the home of some former jazz piano students of mine. This husband and wife invite close friends over for an hour concert (with a dessert break in the middle) dedicated to the memory of Marty’s great aunt – a piano teacher who willed them her grand piano. It is a sweet gig for me, especially since I get to work up solo piano repertoire and select what I wish to play for a small, very appreciative audience. Continue reading “It’s All About YOU!”

Do you suffer ‘Chick Singer’ Syndrome?

Do you hand out bad charts? Show up late for rehearsals and/or gigs? Assume the other musicians in the band will schlep your gear and bring the P.A.?

YOU, my friend, may indeed suffer Chick Singer Syndrome! (Or at least your bandmates suffer because you have it.) And, not to be sexist here, guys can have CSS too.

Caution: The following article is not meant to be taken too seriously, but if any working musician starts to exhibit the following symptoms you are hereby forwarned.  😉 *   Continue reading “Do you suffer ‘Chick Singer’ Syndrome?”

Amazing Gifts

Debbie Denke

What makes an amazing gift? (1/6/16) 

There is delight in unwrapping a special surprise inside a colorful bag or ripping open wrapping paper decorated with ribbons and bows to uncover a thoughtful gift. Yet there are many priceless gifts that don’t cost a thing (except maybe time, talent, or kindness) which can mean so much to brighten someone’s life. Continue reading “Amazing Gifts”

Extras for The Wedding Pianist: True Tales Part 3

Musicians – here is a post about additional tune requests you may encounter doing that special ceremony!

True Tales from a Wedding Pianist Part 1 discussed the essential tunes a musician  needs to play for a no frills basic wedding, and Part 2 was about a wild encounter I had with a last minute call from the Father of The Bride (scrambling to honor his detailed requests for his daughter’s ‘perfect wedding’). Continue reading “Extras for The Wedding Pianist: True Tales Part 3”

Playing the Organ for Pianists

console

Playing the organ both fascinates and terrifies me! I must admit knowing a bit about this instrument has gotten me quite a few more church and wedding gigs than I would have had if I just stuck to the piano. Perhaps this is because there are so few musicians who are bold enough to play such a powerful and intimidating instrument?

When I was 15 years old my father quickly taught me poor man’s organ from a pianist’s viewpoint Continue reading “Playing the Organ for Pianists”