Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Apollo 13 (XIII) Returns to Earth

April 17, 2018

April 17, 1970

With the world anxiously watching, Apollo 13, a U.S. lunar spacecraft that suffered a severe malfunction on its journey to the moon, safely returns to Earth.

On April 11, the third manned lunar landing mission was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise. The mission was headed for a landing on the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon. However, two days into the mission, disaster struck 200,000 miles from Earth when oxygen tank No. 2 blew up in the spacecraft. Swigert reported to mission control on Earth, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” and it was discovered that the normal supply of oxygen, electricity, light, and water had been disrupted. The landing mission was aborted, and the astronauts and controllers on Earth scrambled to come up with emergency procedures. The crippled spacecraft continued to the moon, circled it, and began a long, cold journey back to Earth.

The astronauts and mission control were faced with enormous logistical problems in stabilizing the spacecraft and its air supply, as well as providing enough energy to the damaged fuel cells to allow successful reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Navigation was another problem, and Apollo 13‘s course was repeatedly corrected with dramatic and untested maneuvers. On April 17, tragedy turned to triumph as the Apollo 13 astronauts touched down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

Major Tom (Coming Home) in Esperanto

March 6, 2018

Sometimes I’m just moved to translate something.  This song has spent some time in my notebook, so I’m presenting it here.  I’m pretty sure the syllables work. Enjoy.

Standing there alone,
The ship is waiting.
“All systems are ‘Go.’”
“Are you sure?”
Control is not convinced,
But the computer
Has the evidence.
No need to abort.
The countdown starts.

Watching in a trance,
The crew is certain.
Nothing left to chance,
All is working.
Trying to relax
Up in the capsule.
“Send me up a drink,”
Jokes Major Tom.
The count goes on.

Four, three, two, one
Earth below us
Drifting, falling.
Floating weightless
Coming, coming home.

Second stage is cut.
We’re now in orbit.
Stabilizers up,
Running perfect.
Starting to collect
Requested data.
“What will it affect
When all is done?”
Thinks Major Tom.

Back at ground control
There is a problem.
Go to rockets full
Not responding.
“Hello Major Tom,
Are you recieving?
Turn the thrusters on.
We’re standing by.”
There’s no reply.


Across the stratosphere
a final message
“Give my wife my love.”
Then nothing more.

Far beneath the ship
The world is mourning.
They don’t realize
He’s alive.
No one understands
But Major Tom sees.
“Now the last command.
This is my fault
I’m coming home.”

Refrain 2x

Sole starante,
La ŝip’ atendas.
“Ĉio en ordo.”
“Vere ĉu?”
Ne certas direktor’,
Sed komputilo
Montras datumojn.
Ne nuligende.

Trance spektante
Ŝipanoj certas
neniom da risk’,
Penante malstreĉi
En kosmoŝipo
“Donu al mi drinki,”
Ŝercas Major’ Tom.
Kalkul’ daŭradas.

Kvar, tri, du, unu
Tero sub ni
Drive, fale.
Venas ni hejmen.

Dua etap’ finis.
Ni nun orbitas.
Stabiligiloj nun
Komencu kolekti
La datumaron.
“Kio ŝanĝiĝos
Post fina far’?”
Pensas Major’ Tom.

Ĉe la komandcentro
Nova problemo.
Eku la raketojn
Ne respondas
“Saluton Major’ Tom,
Ĉu vi ricevas?
Raketojn ŝaltu nun!
Ni atendas vin.”
Ne respondas li.


Trans la stratosfero
Fina mesaĝo,
“Amon al edzin’.”
Nenion plu.

Sub la kosmoŝip’
La mond’ funebras
Ili ne scias
Li vivas!
Neniu komprenas
sed Tom nun diras,
“Jen finordono,
Mi ja kulpas,

Rekanto dufoje


RWHS #3 Pioneer 10 Launched to Jupiter

March 2, 2018

This day in 1973 Pioneer 10, the world’s first outer-planetary probe, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a mission to Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet. In December 1973, after successfully negotiating the asteroid belt and a distance of 620 million miles, Pioneer 10 reached Jupiter and sent back to Earth the first close-up images of the spectacular gas giant.  In June 1983, the NASA spacecraft left the solar system and the next day radioed back the first scientific data on interstellar space. NASA officially ended the Pioneer 10 project on March 31, 1997, with the spacecraft having traveled a distance of some six billion miles. Headed in the direction of the Taurus constellation, Pioneer 10 will pass within three light years of another star–Ross 246–in the year 34,600 A.D. Bolted to the probe’s exterior wall is a gold-anodized plaque, 6 by 9 inches in area, that displays a drawing of a human man and woman, a star map marked with the location of the sun, and another map showing the flight path of Pioneer 10. The plaque, intended for intelligent life forms elsewhere in the galaxy, was designed by astronomer Carl Sagan.

RWHS-2: The Alamo

February 24, 2018

My This Day in HIstory email alerted me to this today, so I felt it was appropriate. This Real World Harper Song is sung by Frankie Avalon.


On this day in 1836, in San Antonio, Texas, Colonel William Travis issues a call for help on behalf of the Texan troops defending the Alamo, an old Spanish mission and fortress under attack by the Mexican army.A native of Alabama, Travis moved to the Mexican state of Texas in 1831. He soon became a leader of the growing movement to overthrow the Mexican government and establish an independent Texan republic. When the Texas revolution began in 1835, Travis became a lieutenant-colonel in the revolutionary army and was given command of troops in the recently captured city of San Antonio de Bexar (now San Antonio). On February 23, 1836, a large Mexican force commanded by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana arrived suddenly in San Antonio. Travis and his troops took shelter in the Alamo, where they were soon joined by a volunteer force led by Colonel James Bowie.

Though Santa Ana’s 5,000 troops heavily outnumbered the several hundred Texans, Travis and his men determined not to give up. On February 24, they answered Santa Ana’s call for surrender with a bold shot from the Alamo’s cannon. Furious, the Mexican general ordered his forces to launch a siege. Travis immediately recognized his disadvantage and sent out several messages via couriers asking for reinforcements. Addressing one of the pleas to “The People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” Travis signed off with the now-famous phrase “Victory or Death.”

Only 32 men from the nearby town of Gonzales responded to Travis’ call for help, and beginning at 5:30 a.m. on March 6, Mexican forces stormed the Alamo through a gap in the fort’s outer wall, killing Travis, Bowie and 190 of their men. Despite the loss of the fort, the Texan troops managed to inflict huge losses on their enemy, killing at least 600 of Santa Ana’s men.

The brave defense of the Alamo became a powerful symbol for the Texas revolution, helping the rebels turn the tide in their favor. At the crucial Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 910 Texan soldiers commanded by Sam Houston defeated Santa Ana’s army of 1,250 men, spurred on by cries of “Remember the Alamo!” The next day, after Texan forces captured Santa Ana himself, the general issued orders for all Mexican troops to pull back behind the Rio Grande River. On May 14, 1836, Texas officially became an independent republic.

RWHS-1: Gutenberg

February 22, 2018

A few years ago I posted about Real World Harper Songs [link] that I’ve begun compiling into playlists on YouTube. I’ve decided to occasionally feature one on this blog, keeping to the ones of better quality. I’ll try not to repeat myself.

The first one is from Amy Burvall and is about that German innovator, Johannes Gutenberg.

No Frets Shirt

October 12, 2017


no_frets_tshirtOccasionally I put a new shirt design up on CafePress. In this case I was trying for something that was about violins, but didn’t necesarily say that the wearer plays the instrument. In my new job as a repairer of violins and cellos I obviously know how to bow and pluck the strings so that I can test the instrument, but as of now I cannot be said that I actually have the ability to play the instrument.

If you like this shirt design and would like one, they are available via CafePress here: [link]  There are styles available for men and women, plus mugs!

Time to fiddle

March 20, 2017


Back in the 1990s I took some violin lessons, but eventually gave it up. I kept my fiddle though, even loaning it to my neice when she took lessons for a time in school. I still have everything that came with the kit, a violin kit from Sears which cost a little over $100. I added a metal chrome colored mute and a pitch pipe to the kit as well as a cleaning cloth, white hankerchief and shoulder rest. (more…)

The Compac Song

January 24, 2013

For 3 years I worked at a factory known as Compac Corp. in Stanhope, NJ where the main product was reinforced insulation backing paper.  One of the operators of the machine I ended up on was Don Davis (not the actor.) One time when I came in for my shift, he handed me a piece of paper and said that he wrote a song about Compac and that it took him all of 5 minutes to do it. Somehow I remembered it all of these years, though I did have to wrack my brain a bit to do it. I place before you the song he wrote with some clarifications of what the heck he’s talking about at the end.

Don has since passed beyond.  I know that many of his co-workers disliked his surly attitude, but he never did me any harm. In the microcosm that Compac was, I only ever found one individual that had no redeeming qualities.

The Compac Lament

by Don Davis

to the tune of “Detroit City”

I wanna go home. I wanna go home

Oh how I wanna go home.

Today I worked a shift here at Compac

And  tell you that I think it was a sin.

Number 2 fell apart, Number 8 would not start.

Where’s the help? The wheel wrapped up again.

I wanna go home. I wanna go home.

Hey John, I wanna go home.

Night shift really sucks here at Compac.

Just look around there’s clowns ev’ry where.

There goes a foil ball through the air, and a firecracker over there.

Where’s the help? the foil broke again.

I wanna go home. I wanna go home.

Hey Frank, Let me go home.

One day I’ll quit working here at Compac.

I’ll get a job and work 8 hours ev’ry day.

I’ll make money by the ton, and I’ll have lots of fun.

And I’ll never say ‘Where’s the help?’ again.

I wanna go home. I wanna go home.

Hey Charlie! I’m gonna go home.


  • The machines in the lamenation department were all numbered with even numbers. Don Davis was working on machine #10 at the time which was in the same ‘room’ with laminators #2 and #8. #10 was the newest machine at the time.
  • The wheel wrapping up refers to a huge wheel on #10 that contained spools of fiberglass string. The spinning wheel created a diamond shaped pattern in the product and added strength. Occasionally one or two of the strings would break and sometimes grab a few others. Sometimes the entire wheel of strings would start winding around the axle assembly and the machine would have to be stopped and each string restrung.
  • John was the foreman on the day shift.
  • Frank was the night shift foreman.
  • Charlie was the plant manager at the time.
  • The lamenations department operated on two 12 hour shifts, day and night.
  • The product was manufactured by gluing together aluminum foil and paper wit the fiberglass strings between the layers. Occasionally the foil (or paper) would break and create a mess of varying degrees.  I either case it required the full crew of (usually 3 men to get the machine running again.
  • As mentioned, the shifts were 12 hours long. Many of us wished for 8 hour shifts.

Real World Harper Songs

April 4, 2012

I’m guessing your first question is, “What is a Harper Song?” In Anne McAffrey’s fictional series, Dragonriders of Pern, Harpers are the teachers, judges, and advisers of the people.  Much of their education is in the form of Harper ballads or teaching ballads which are used to teach the common folk about their duty to the dragonriders and about the menace of Thread.

A while ago, I began searching YouTube to find examples of songs that could be used as teaching aids in the real world.  I began with such historic ballads as Sink the Bismark and Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I found many sources ranging from the comical yet educational Animaniacs and Schoolhouse Rock tunes from the 1970’s to  many historical ballads sung by Johnny Horton and Fess Parker.  Very recently I happened upon a British based collection from Horrible Histories.

A history teacher in Hawaii has also joined the fray, creating historical music videos of varying quality based on popular songs in the best harper tradition.  I’ve collected many of these tunes in a playlist in no particular order on youtube. Real World Harper Songs.

Here [link] is a list of all the playlists of Real World Harper Songs that I’ve created on YouTube.

An Esperanto/English Duet

October 4, 2010

The Sunday before last, I was approached by one of our congregation’s eldest members. He’s one of the one’s who just loved my solo in Esperanto last month. He asked if I would sing another song because they were celebrating his wife’s 90th birthday and wanted to hear me again (blush.) So I checked with the church’s music director (my wife as it happens,) and she said OK. After service I mentioned that it would be cool if we could do a duet I’d been thinking of and she agreed.

I found sheet music which closely matched the YouTube video where I learned the melody and created a bilingual song sheet for us. The plan was to volley back and forth between English and Esperanto, yet share the refrains.

It was a fun thing to do, and I only hope my church continues its indulgence of me in singing offertories which are not in English. My next stint should be during Advent, God willing.