Friday Five: Marching Memories

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Before I talk band camp, can we go back to the Fitbit? This thing = awesome. I’ve hit my step goal every day since I started until…today. Wah wah. I have a little over 2000 steps to go, but considering it’s been pouring rain since I left work I guess I can try to pace my living room?

After my post I had six people say they either were going to get one or ordered one. Love it! Let’s all be Fitbit friends.

I’ve been walking solo this week since Joe has been wrapped up in all things band camp. Lee, his brother–our best man, is here helping. Just like last year.

With band on the brain, I thought I’d sort through my buried high school memories and pull out my favorite marching band moments.

5. Busted

That one time….at band camp??  When the 6’5” trombone player marching backwards ran into me and drove my mellophone into my teeth? Yeah, it was horrible. Blood dripping down my chin, black lip, but lucky all teeth intact. It was a small miracle. I’m still friends with that guy…he now has a PhD in higher education and works for a Seattle university. I plan to cash in on his guilt someday so Joe and I can visit. I’m comin’ for you, Josh.

4. Rain or Shine

When I was a freshman we did a marching contest in a torrential downpour. I think we were the last band to perform before they deemed it too dangerous for anyone to be contained in a metal stadium. Lovely! I remember the band boosters finding some basement or church or something where the entire band crammed it to dry off. One parent bought out Walmart’s stash of athletic socks. We were covered in mud and dripping in our uniforms, but we were loving it.

3. Stink Eye of the Tiger

Speaking of weather, my sophomore year was the senior year of a one Rocky Calmus, superstar of Oklahoma football. During a playoff game, rain turned to freezing rain as the sun went down. Woodwinds got to pack up and go under the stands, but the brass? We played “Eye of the Tiger” (get it? ROCKY Calmus?) over and over and overandoverandoverandover. My valves were frozen. My lips were numb. I thought I was going to die playing the Rocky theme. (We won.)

2. Crowd Surfing

My first two years of high school were spent at a football dynasty school. The crowds for which we played are probably some of the largest crowds I’ve EVER performed before. I remember the pure adrenaline rush when I had my first solo. Just thinking about it gets my heart pounding. There will always be a special place in my heart for “Someone to Watch Over Me” because of it.

1. Sibling Love

Four out of five of my memories are from my first high school, mainly because I abhorred my band directors at the second school. ANYWHO…I do have one very special memory from my junior and senior years…and I didn’t have to go far from home to get it. I absolutely loved seeing my brother perform as drum major. He was amazing and it gave me so much pride to see him up there doing his thang. He was a total natural, as a leader and as a conductor.

Pictures of this week to come soon. Anyone else have favorite band camp stories?



Friday Five: Musicals on my Mind

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

In the last week, I’ve seen two musicals close to my heart, Les Misérables and Oklahoma!. They’re even better when your friends and hubs are in the pit, celebrating the last week of their festival with energized performances and texts during intermission.

As much as I love being part of the action, I love sitting in the audience too – basking in the glow of everyone’s hard work without breaking a sweat, not having my heart race before a hard or exposed section. I just get to take it all in. It’s pretty blissful.

My background is definitely in opera. I played a lot of it in school, performed with a huge opera company for three years and worked for another for one. Opera is amazing. But…BUT…I love musicals. I have since I was a little girl, when Disney movies WERE musicals.

Since leaving the theater this week I’ve had songs from the shows running through my head constantly. (Right now? A Little Fall of Rain.) Can’t stop, won’t stop: I’ve got Broadway on the brain. I think I’m 1/6th jazz hands.

When I started making my list of favorite musicals, it got out of hand fast. In the first brain dump I had over ten and that was me barely putting any thought into it. So, I had to make a few categories for Friday Fives—a Broadway Series of sorts. Today’s list are my pinnacles—the best of the best—where each song is its own hit—the shows I know entirely by heart.

There will be other lists, like favorite shows to see live, musicals I want to see, best movie musical adaptions, etc…but today, this is as good as it gets for me. And, spoiler alert, there’s not a Andrew Lloyd Webber title in sight. For shame!

5. Grease

This musical also wins the award for “Best Musical that is Routinely Ruined by High School Productions.” Step away from the auditorium and see this on a big stage, or better yet, the movie screen. It’s before John Travolta got weird and weirder. It’s total perfection and I frequently have “You’re the One that I Want” blasting in my car.

4. The Sound of Music

Here’s another one repeatedly botched by inexperienced kids and high school administrations that want to shy away from any hint of Nazis. But, when it’s done right, this is a classic of “Barbra Streisand” proportions, which translates to “biblical” in Broadway talk. This show permeates my childhood memories and still pops up when my sibs and I do the “Sound of Music pose” for photos.


3. Miss Saigon

When it comes to sheer power, this musical would be my #1. I’ve known the soundtrack since I was little, when I confiscated my parent’s CD. I certainly didn’t understand what it was about, but I loved the beautiful music and quickly learned both parts of “I Still Believe”—which I sing in my car all the time. But, after seeing this live, my face was puffy for a day from all of the crying. It’s such a great story, made even better with stunning music. I mean, “Bui Doi”? It’s like four minutes of constant chills. If this is coming to a theater near you, please go. You’ll be forever changed. Not convinced? Watch this awesome promo for its revival in London’s West End. #chillsfordays

2. West Side Story

*snap* *snap* *snap* I. love. this. musical. Like, with every ounce of my being. There isn’t one moment where I’m not entralled when watching. It’s way better than the Shakespeare from which it’s based. Blasphemy! But TRUTH! Bernstein proves his mettle in WSS’ unforgettable score, a score that’s made even more awesome in the hands of Stan Kenton…if that’s even possible. (It’s our go-to CD for road trips.) But, my favorite song has got to be “One Hand, One Heart,” which we had played by horn quartet at our wedding. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

1. Les Misérables

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. There will never be too much Les Mis in my life. I’ve seen it live at every opportunity, I own the movie, I’m obsessed with the 25th Anniversary Concert, and it makes for a pretty incredible drum corps show. It also is the foundation of my family’s sing-a-longs, which have me and Booh battling it out for Eponine. Bryan does a mean Javert and would easily give Russell Crowe a run for his money. In my mind, this is the most perfectly crafted story + score from beginning to end. Forever my favorite, it’s my 2-4-6-0-#1.

Anyone sad there’s no Cats or Phantom on this list? Bryan, are you singing Aida as you read? What would be on your list of faves?

Friday Five: Heavenly Brahms

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Tonight Joe is performing Brahms’ German Requiem with the American Festival Chorus. The word “Requiem” might seem a little intimidating to most. It’s literally a ‘Mass for the Dead.’ What’s not heavy or intimidating about that? But, musicians know Requiems are the stuff of dreams and some of the most beautiful, most powerful music ever written. Need proof? Check out Mozart’s, Faure’s or, my favorite and maybe the most famous, Verdi’s…and don’t forget to pick your jaw up off the floor when you’re finished listening. Ohmygod, the 22-minute mark of the Verdi. I get chills every single time I hear it.

I’ve never played Brahms’ Requiem, despite him being one of my top three favorite composers. I joke with Joe that I’m a Brahms-hornist. His is the music I like to play most and, to me, what I play best. His harmonies, his heart, the forward motion of his works…its some of the most thoughtful music you might ever experience.

If I had to list my top five works by Brahms it wouldn’t be too surprising. The man only wrote four symphonies and one horn trio. Done. So, I decided to be a little more specific and draw out some of my favorite moments for you to enjoy. This is just the beginning of Brahms’ beauty. If you aren’t familiar with it, grab a cup of tea. You’re about to hear the best of it.

5. The Violin Concerto

Listening to this makes me wish he had written a horn concerto. I love his play between soloist and orchestra.

4. Symphony No. 4, 4th Movement

One of the things I love most about Brahms’ symphonic works is his powerful brass chorale-like writing. It’s distinct, but doesn’t detract from the rest of the orchestra. This movement is a perfect example of it. I also love it because it’s the first of his symphonies I performed as principal. It’s when I knew Marci + Johannes = Forever.

3. Symphony No. 1, 4th Movement

Another great symphonic finale. This one, however, holds an even more special place in my heart. Joe and I performed this while on a European Tour with our Chinese orchestra. The concert was in Paris where Napoleon was buried and this movement features a powerful “alp horn” section where the 1st and 2nd horns echo back and forth….as loud as possible. Quote possibly one of our finest moments as a performing couple. Oh, did we wake you, Napoleon? Listen for the glorious, understated low-brass chorale at 3:46. The horns come in right after at 4:10.

2. Symphony 2, 1st movement

The first time I ever played this was at a summer festival where the conductor was getting a lesson. Poor guy wasn’t capturing the heart of the movement, so his instructor came to the podium to work on the second theme. It’s a gorgeous melody that feels equally heart-warming and heart-wrenching. He called it the “Grandmother Theme.” And now I can’t hear it without thinking of my own grandmas. It’s beautiful like that. Picture your own when the theme starts at 2:35.

1. Horn Trio, 3rd movement

Of course this would be my number one. I wish I could put the whole piece as my favorite, but if I had to pick a movement, this would be it. The piece was written shortly after the death of Brahms’  mother and, in this movement especially, you feel his intense grief as if it’s your own. It’s quite remarkable and brings me to tears in live performances.

I cannot tell you how much time I’ve spent listening to all of these videos as I’ve found them. I thought this was going to be a fast post to throw together, but that’s what happens with Brahms. It’s hard to come back to reality when you’ve heard a piece of heaven.

Friday Five: Christmas Music

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

After three weeks of playing non-stop holiday gigs, I thought it would be nice to have a break and clear my head…and not shovel snow off my car at 11pm in negative-degree temperatures. But, I miss it.

The music. Not the snow.

I’m a Christmas music fanatic, normally hitting play on my various homemade mix CDs long before Thanksgiving arrives. I’m the one who’s ecstatic there’s a Christmas Radio Station, who doesn’t tire of Barbra’s out of breath jingling bells or Dean and Frank’s campy marshmallow world. I can’t help it.

I realize I’m in the minority here, but my music’s too loud for me to hear you complain.

Here what I’m listening to:

5. The Nutcracker

Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece falls quickly in the eyes of most musicians. A typical Nutcracker gig can mean weeks of performances between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve—devouring a pit dweller’s holiday in one sugar-plumed bite. I’ve managed to escape the perils of these gigs, choosing to keep my holiday repetition free and my love of this score intact. Until this year. It was only five performances, but I feel like I survived and came out on the other side loving this music even more. I still was covered in goosebumps upon hearing the melodies I’ve grown to love. My first Nutcracker performance, after all, was when I was three months old. It’s in my blood. I heart you, Tchaikovsky! Here are two of my favorite numbers (neither great recordings):

The only down side to our performances was the over-zealous fog machine in the beginning of the second act. This photo was captured by our trumpeter friend, Max, who wasn’t trying to breathe/play/see/remain conscious through the smoke. Lucky him.

Nutcracker fog in pit 4

4. The Wild Cards

Not every Christmas album is an entire hit. Actually, there are very few whose every track I adore. Just because you can rock out some Fa La La La Las, does not mean your Caribbean Silent Night works. Here are some singles that survive my track skipping:

Mariah’s All I Want for Christmas
Ella’s Sleigh Ride
She & Him’s The Christmas Waltz
Bobby’s Jingle Bell Rock
Vince Guaraldi Trio’s O Tannenbaum

3. The Classics

If you were competing on Family Feud and Ray Combs (NOT Steve Harvey, please) said “someone who sings Christmas Carols”…who would you say? I’d go with Bing. How could you not say Bing Crosby? (If the round came back to me again, I’d say Andy Williams.) These are the quintessential tunes for the season. I could listen to these albums all day (and have).

Suggested listening:

Bing: The Voice of Christmas
Andy: Complete Christmas Recordings

2. The Crooners

Somewhere around high school, I fell for the dulcet tunes of Harry Connick, Jr. It began a total infatuation that’s lasted half my life: I love old-fashioned crooners. The style has evolved slightly, but it’s these crooners that make me swooners:

Harry Connick, Jr.
Christmas with the Rat Pack
Michael Bublé

1. Brass

If I can’t hear the words, I better be able to hear brass. You can go the traditional route, like with The Philadelphia Brass Ensemble, but I like my Christmas with a side of jazz. Stan Kenton, actually. His original Christmas album is incredible, but we tend to prefer The Capital Bones’ version.

Suggested listening:

A Stan Kenton Christmas by The Capital Bones Big Band
Kenton’s original A Merry Christmas
Philly’s Festival of Carols

Whatever you like, just crank it up and sing along. ‘Tis the season for that to be okay.

Any albums/singles you think should’ve made the cut? Any artist you wish would record an album? I’m lookin’ at YOU, Brandi Carlile. #prettyprettyplease????

# band camp 2013

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Exciting news from Utah: We have survived Band Camp 2013! No matter where we live, this week is, and always will be, one of the most stressful of the entire year – just the nature of the job. The days start around 6 and end around 9, and then Joe comes home and stays up all night writing drill for them to learn the next day. It makes for a long week, but luckily Joe had younger brother Lee here to help. They make up one half of The Brothers Falvey, but they pack a powerful punch as a teaching team.

The Brothers Falvey

Lee was our Best Man three years ago, when he proved there’s at least two Falveys who can put up with a manic Marci under stress. 🙂 He’s the Boomer to my Sooner and such a funny, sweet guy. Here’s Lee doing his thing…

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…and here’s Lee being, well…Lee.

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I love to hear Joe called Dr. Falvey. I’m not sure when I’ll get used to it, but it hasn’t happened in three years.

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You can finally see the mountains!

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For the most part they had gorgeous weather–it can be so beautiful here. Just incredible.

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Until the last few days of the camp when we had some serious rain showers.

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The best breaks are those spent resting in the grass.

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This is pretty  much what every night looked like at our place. Exhaustion, backpacks and puppy cuddles all around.

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Come back soon, Lee! We loved having you here and insist you visit again so we can show you more of Utah than the band field and our house! #Boomer #Ripcord #WeLoveYou

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# musical homecoming

This last weekend Joe and I participated in the 50th anniversary of Utah State’s alumni band. It was a two-day event that brought in special conductor Col. Arnald Gabriel—Conductor Emeritus of the United States Air Force Band—for the big finale concert.

This wasn’t my first time to play under the Colonel. He was one of the conductors at that fateful 1997 Midwestern Music Camp at KU that changed my life forever.

At a picnic the first night of the alumni celebration, I went up to say hello and introduce Joe and told him it was a reunion 16 years in the making. I told him I had been one of the many campers he influenced over the years and that it was that summer I knew I wanted to be a musician forever. I didn’t know whether to thank him or blame him!

Midwestern Music Camp Horns - 1997
Col. Gabriel and the Midwestern Music Camp horns. (Please check out that *GIGANTIC* mint green scrunchie on my wrist. Good lord!)

He laughed and said, “do you remember what we played??” I told him I’d never forget. It was this – who wouldn’t want to be a horn player after performing a piece like this?:

Band Camp jokes aside, the few weeks I spent in Lawrence, Kansas altered everything. I can still picture the classroom I was sitting in when the horns had just finished a sectional on the Overture to Hansel and Gretel when I knew I wanted to be a horn player. Nothing could ever give me so much of a high. That piece still holds an extremely special place in my heart – it was even played at our wedding.

That camp also gave me an even greater gift – the most incredible lifelong friend, Bobbie. We met the first night when she came up to me on our way to dinner to ask if I was a horn player. Life changing moment.
Bobbie and Marci - 1997

Marci & Bobbie - Midwestern Music Camp 1997
Bobbie and me with Col. Gabriel and KU’s Bob Foster

I could—and will—write entire posts on Bobbie, but this is just one of the many ways that camp influenced my life and how wonderfully special it was to see Col. Gabriel again. Sweet, sweet memories.

Marci and Col. Gabriel - 2013

The next day we played a fantastic concert and at the end, true to form, he held up his signature “I love you” hand signal to the band and I almost lost it. We love you too, Colonel. Thank you for everything.