Bell Let’s Talk Day 2021

Greetings everyone,

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day.  One year ago, I wrote a post about mental health.  Specifically, I talked about where the stigma comes from and how important it is to be compassionate to those who are suffering from mental illness.  When I wrote that post, I had no idea that two months later, the pandemic would force us into lockdown and change lives forever, with more and more people experiencing loneliness, isolation, depression, and other forms of mental health.

Being in quarantine has given me the chance to reflect on life from an outsider’s point of view.  Over the past year, I thought about how many people are spending their days looking out of their windows and watching life go on outside.  But due to the pandemic, they are not able to take part in life.  And then, I started to think about how many people suffer from mental illness behind closed doors.  Those doors may be physical, in that those people lock themselves up, or  metaphorical, in that sufferers go through life with invisible barriers around them, never feeling like they can participate in life like everyone else.  But behind either type of door, they scream and cry in silence.  They suffer alone, feeling that no one is on their side or that no one understands their struggles.  And all too often, others only find about their struggles when it’s too late.  That is usually when the sufferers have reached their breaking point.  For me though, the saddest part is that when we hear mental health stories that end in tragedy, the usual reaction from people is, “Oh, that’s so sad.  She was so pretty” or “That person had so much potential.  It’s too bad it had to end in suicide.”  People say those things, but they never truly know what those people were going through.  Some never even take the time to understand the struggles that those people were facing.

Today, let’s change that.  Reach out to someone that you have not seen or spoken to in a while, because you may never know what that person is going through behind closed doors.  I can say now that that person will be so grateful and happy that you reached out, especially in times like these.  Let those people know that you are thinking of them and that you care about their wellbeing.  But most of all, let them know that you are on their side and that they are not alone in their struggles, because they have at least one person in their lives to turn to for love and support.  If you can make at least one other person feel loved and valued, then that makes all the difference in the world.

And now for today’s song.  My choice today is “The Lady of Shalott”.  In this song, the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson has been beautifully set to music and performed by Canadian Celtic artist Loreena McKennitt.  While the poem can be interpreted in many different ways, for me, it is an emotional and realistic picture of a woman suffering from loneliness and isolation and her struggle to break free, only to have the man who finds her at the end say, “She has a lovely face…”.  I listened to this song a lot while in lockdown.  Eventually, it became the inspiration for this post, especially when I started thinking about how many “Ladies of Shalott” must be out there right now, cut off from the world and going through their own personal struggles behind “four gray walls”.  I hope you enjoy the song.

 

The 250th Birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven

December 2020 marks the 250th birthday of the great composer Ludwig van Beethoven. It is not known specifically which day in December he was born, but since he was baptized on December 17th, we know he was born sometime before then.
To celebrate, I chose to listen to his Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral”, since I figured in times of worry and anxiety, such as what we have now with this pandemic, I needed to imagine beautiful, peaceful images of nature. Beethoven was a nature lover, and with his sixth symphony, he aimed to paint pictures of various pastoral scenes, ranging from peaceful walks in pastures to country dancing. The last two movements are my favorite parts of the symphony. The fourth movement depicts a brutal, intense thunderstorm, but after that, the music transitions into the fifth movement, which gloriously depicts the passing of the storm and the arrival of a blissful paradise of sunshine. This part made me cry tonight. I think we all need that message of hope right now, as we wait in dark times for the day when we can step out of our homes into the daylight. I have posted the music below; hope you enjoy it!
Happy birthday Beethoven, and thank you for sharing your musical masterpieces with the world. And thank you for giving me this emotional moment tonight, at a time when we all need it the most.

Mirella Freni has died.

Greetings everyone,

Today, I have sad news to report. Legendary Italian soprano, Mirella Freni, has died.

I first discovered Mirella Freni when I was in high school. I watched her perform as Susanna in a TV film adaptation of Mozart’s Le Nozze Di Figaro. Almost immediately, I was captivated by her effortlessly beautiful voice. As I checked out more of her work, I grew to love her for not just her voice, but for her incredible artistry, dynamic range, and deep, emotional depth. Above all, it is that emotional depth and her ability to move me to tears that has kept me coming back to her work after all this time. Even when I listened to her recordings without seeing her face expressions, I could always sense the little pauses and shifts in thoughts and expressions that she used to fully inhabit her characters and communicate with her audiences. It was like I could sense her communicating directly to my heart.

Now, I would like to share one of her performances. I have decided to post her singing, “Si Mi Chiamano Mimi”, since the role of Mimi in Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème is perhaps her most famous role. In this video, she is performing with conductor Herbert von Karajan, with whom she had a special, musical chemistry with. They worked together numerous times throughout their careers.

Rest in peace, Mirella Freni. You will be missed, but never forgotten. And I know that I will keep returning to your work for years to come.

Bell Let’s Talk Day 2020

Greetings everyone,

Tomorrow is Bell Let’s Talk Day.  When it comes to mental health, there is definitely much more education about it than there was thirty years ago.  However, there is still a lot of work to be done to break down the stigma.  That is why I would like to talk about it today.

In my view, I feel like some of the stigma comes from the fact that people get scared of those who have a mental illness.  Throughout my life, I have met people who shun others that are mentally unstable, as if that equates to them being horrible liars and/or monsters who should be punished and locked away from the world.  But the truth is, even though some of those mentally unstable individuals have recurring, violent thoughts, many of them are not psychopaths with violent intentions.  In fact, a lot of those individuals are ashamed of themselves for thinking such things, to the point where they feel humiliated in front of other people.  This causes them to become cold and distant to society, which leads to them isolating themselves from the world.  This isolation can be physical, in which they just stay in their homes and not go outside, or mental, in which they go outside, but their minds have been completely detached from the rest of their bodies.  As a result, they go through the motions of life, but inside, they are dead and frozen in a coma devoid of feelings.  Activities that they once enjoyed may no longer bring them pleasure.  But worst of all, they may feel like they are incapable of caring for the people that they love, which leads to them questioning why their love appears to be gone and why they are now cold, unfeeling individuals that cannot care for others.

Therefore, I challenge you to be compassionate to those individuals who are deeply suffering from mental illnesses.  If someone you know says he or she is fine, but you notice that this person has been absent a lot from school, work, or social gatherings, or if they seem withdrawn and distant from other people, that could be a sign that that person is suffering from a mental illness.  This person may also be irritable and constantly tired, because the illness takes their energy away or makes them unable to sleep well.  If you notice individuals with these symptoms, do not be afraid to reach out to them, because those individuals need love and caring.  They do not want to be isolated in shame away from the world; they just want someone to show them that they love them and that their struggles are understood.  Most of all, tell them that they are good people who deserve to be loved, because often, individuals with these illnesses do not feel that they are worthy of love.  Let them know that they matter to this world, and that there is someone in their lives who cares for them.

And now, since this is my music page, I would like to share a song with you.  This is called, “Seems So Long Ago, Nancy”, and it is by Leonard Cohen.  Cohen wrote this song about a real woman who was deeply depressed.  Sadly, she took her own life.  For me, this song paints a truly moving and accurate picture of someone who is suffering from depression, loneliness, and/or isolation.  Give it a listen, before you go.

A Little Sneak Peek

Hello everyone!

Happy Friday! I hope you are all staying warm and that Christmas plans are going smoothly.

I have decided to share a little sneak peek into the lullaby project. During a recent rehearsal, Cynthia and I recorded a few pieces together, and since one of them is a Christmas song, I figured that you would love to hear it. This selection is called “Huron Carol”, and it is a traditional French Canadian Christmas song. For our rendition, Cynthia incorporated Huron words into the English text, and I made the musical arrangement. I hope you enjoy it!

Have a Merry Christmas everybody!

Artist Spotlight: Anders Muskens

Greetings everybody!

Can you believe it’s almost Christmas? Time flies, doesn’t it?

Things have been very busy, both in music and in my life. But I am pleased to say that my music rehearsals with Cynthia Ganga on the lullaby project are going very well, and we are almost ready to start recording! We will have some great music coming your way in the new year, so stay tuned!

In the meantime though, I actually want to spotlight a recently released album with you. My brother, Anders Muskens, has recently released his new album on Spotify. It is titled, Mozart & CPE Bach Fantasias on a 1791 Fortepiano. Anders recorded all of these classical keyboard fantasias on an authentic 18th century period fortepiano. Before you go, please give this wonderful album a listen!

 

New Music Project!

Greetings everybody!

In my last post, I promised updates, and I told you to stay tuned. Well, I think I have kept you all waiting long enough. Here we go!

I am excited to announce that I have begun a new musical project! I am currently working with soprano Cynthia Ganga on some lullabies. The lullabies range from classics like Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and Brahms’ “Wiegenlied” to modern lullabies like Menotti’s “Lullaby” from The Consul and Fauré’s “Pie Jesu”. Later in the year, Cynthia and I will record the lullabies. We are very excited to work together on this wonderful mix of music.

Also, Cynthia has quite a beautiful voice! She is a wonderful singer, both to listen to and to play for. Before you go, make sure to check out this video of her performing “One Kiss” by Sigmund Romberg. It is from the musical New Moon.

That’s all for now! Until next time, take care!

The Best and Worst Endings in Classical Music

Greetings everybody!

It’s been a while since my last post, since I’ve had more changes happen in my life. But now, I’m starting to get back into music and a couple of projects. Stay tuned for more on those!

In the meantime, I discovered this interesting and entertaining YouTube channel hosted by David Bruce, who is a composer himself. This particular video that I am going to share is about the best and worst endings in classical music. In this video, Bruce gives a lot of insight and in-depth analysis on how to end a piece and the different ways that composers did so throughout history (as well as what works and what didn’t quite work, from a compositional point of view). I definitely gained a lot of insight and thought more about the little details and nuances of the endings of pieces that I never noticed before. Give this video a watch; it’s worth it! And while you’re there, check out more of Bruce’s channel; I know I will!

Greetings and updates!

Greetings everybody!

After a long hiatus, I am finally back! Things have been very busy lately, especially in my library program, so I have taken a break from music. This semester, I had three amazing library experiences. Along with coursework, I worked as a shelver at MacEwan University, worked as a Library Collection Assessment Intern for the Alberta Museums Association, and did a fantastic practicum at the University of Alberta Cameron (Science and Technology) Library. And now, as of today, I am now a shiny new graduate of the Library and Information Technology (LIT) program! I feel amazing, like I am ready to take on the world!

Despite my new blossoming career, I will definitely continue taking on music gigs and being there for all your music needs. Remember that for a wedding, show, or concert, if you need a pianist, I’ve got you covered!

And in the meantime, make sure to check out my latest video, “Let me call you sweetheart”.

A long-awaited return

Greetings everyone!

It has been a long time since my last blog entry.  I have been focusing on my career.  But now, I am back!

Very soon, springtime will be upon us, and we know what that means.  Wedding season!!  I am very excited to be practicing some old favorites but also learning new wedding music as well.

On that note, I have a treat for you!  Recently, I recorded a classic song, “Let me call you sweetheart”; composed by Leo Friedman in 1911 with lyrics by Beth Slater Whitson, it is the perfect wedding song; vintage, classic, and romantic.  I have uploaded my recording to this website, both as an MP3 file and as a YouTube slideshow video.  You can listen to it here.

I hope to have some more recordings for you in the coming months.  Until then, take care!