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Thankful for More Books and Music

November 13, 2019


A Cornucopia of Thanks for November, 2019:


A Month of Gratitude, Week 2–


Thankful for More Books and Music


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



While in last week’s WORDWALK post, I wrote about being thankful for my book clubs, books, as well as books and recordings which preserve my family’s history–my post for week two of “A Cornucopia of Thanks for November, 2019” will focus on more books and music.


Thanks to the National Library Service (NLS) and the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library, I recently was especially grateful to read MOSCOW NIGHTS:  THE VAN CLIBURN STORY–HOW ONE MAN AND HIS PIANO TRANSFORMED THE COLD WAR, by London author Nigel Cliff, copyright 2016.  (For patrons of NLS, this nonfiction book is order number DB 86789; the reading time is fourteen hours and ten minutes.)  While reading this 452-page book, I, for the first time, coordinated my reading of the book with listening, via my “Lady A” (Echo Dot’s “Alexa”), to the music noted in a chapter.  Many of the selections were available as recorded by Van Cliburn.  Although this method of reading and listening extended the reading time of the fascinating book, I thoroughly enjoyed this combo experience.


Divided into Prelude, three movements, 21 chapters, and a Coda–MOSCOW NIGHTS recounts Van Cliburn’s outstanding life (July 12, 1934-February 27, 2013) from child prodigy to winner of the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition at age 23, as well as the other amazing decades of Cliburn’s life.  Through reading this musical history, I refreshed my memory about the history of the Cold War Era.


Reading about Cliburn’s establishing–in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1999–the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Amateurs was of special interest to me because I am acquainted with the person who placed third in this competition in 2000:  additionally, Debra Saylor was awarded best performance for the Romantic Era in the 2000 competition.  Thanks to NEWSREEL magazine (a unique audio magazine established 61 years ago for readers who are blind and visually impaired), I have come to know Debra, who now teaches music in Alabama.

Welcome to Newsreel Magazine


My appreciation of the music from the “Lady A” continues each day.  Due to the unusual amount of snow and the number of “deep-freeze” days in Milwaukee, since October 30–I must confess that I have broken tradition.  In the past, I have not listened to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving; however, Mother Nature has prompted me to listen very early this year to some holiday music, most of which I do not have in my collection of CDs.  While reading HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN (DB 77320 for NLS patrons of BARD)–from the Canadian author Louise Penny’s mystery series which was extremely highly recommended to me by my former colleague and forever friend Sue–I learned of a Christmas carol which I did not remember hearing previously.  Well, of course, “Alexa” knew the holiday song and played “Huron Carol” for me.  Since that first listen, I have enjoyed the Canadian hymn many times.  “Huron Carol” is considered Canada’s oldest Christmas song as it was most likely written in 1642 by the Jesuit Missionary Jean de Brebeuf.  (If you do not have “Alexa” as a permanent house guest, you will find many versions of “Huron Carol” on the internet.)


If you are in need of a very relaxing rendition of a Christmas carol, I suggest “I Wonder as I Wander,” by Lori Pappajohn (a harpist and singer from British Columbia).


My third suggestion is John Rutter’s ethereal “The Angel’s Carol,” performed by the Cambridge Singers.


Please do not blame me!  Blame Mother Nature for this rush into the Christmas season.  I do like to give Thanksgiving its special place and time.


Finally, I am truly thankful for all of my WORDWALK readers!  Also, I extend my gratitude to all who post comments and/or send e-mails to me about WORDWALK pieces.


May your November sparkle with books, music, and gratitude!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


November 13, 2019, Wednesday




From → Uncategorized

  1. Dear Alice,
    On my recent visit with you and Willow, I thoroughly enjoyed the interesting anecdotes about Van Cliburn that you shared with me. Enlisting Alexa’s help in playing the classical pieces performed by Van Cliburn while reading the book was very clever of you! I am eager to ask Alexa to play some of the Christmas music that you suggested, and I am also looking forward to reading the Louise Penny mystery during the holiday season.

    Sending you and Willow my best wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving and many thanks for your wonderful weekly blog!
    Love, Mary

  2. Susan M McKendry permalink

    Alice–Thanks for the information about the Van Cliburn book, as well as the mention of the Huron Carol, which I had completely forgotten about. So glad you like the Louise Penny books, and it seems you are getting through the series at breakneck speed. I am very thankful for the many good books you have recommended to me.

    You are right that the weather makes it seem like it is Christmas right around the corner instead of Thanksgiving, and I am tempted to start decorating a little earlier this year. Always looking forward to your next blog.–Sue

    • Hi, Sue–Many thanks for your comments!  The advantage of reading a series years after the initial book was published is that I do not have to wait a year or so between books being available.  Now, whenever I hear “Huron Carol,” I will think of the Louise Penny series of books.

          I am counting down the hours and minutes until the final game of the JEOPARDY Tournament of Champions.

      Talk with you soon–Alice and Willow

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