Monthly Archives: October 2015

Harmonious Discord

Here’s a mental picture for you:

Choir rehearsal the day before Halloween. There’s a very convincing looking Dracula right in the front row. Batgirl, Spidergirl, Supergirl, and Agent Carter make me feel very safe, though. One girl rolled right out of bed and brought her teddy bear. Ron Weasley is casting spells with mixed success. Donald Duck is quacking in the back row. A few zombies are giggling in the middle, more animated than undead. Little Red Riding Hood is carrying our basket of props. Raven girl and a butterfly fairy are next to a Stanford co-ed. And Left Shark is, appropriately, at the left end of the stage.

And they are all singing “Christmas is Coming.”



Have a very happy Halloween!

The Iconic Voice behind “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

Sometimes when the right person sings the right song, there can be no other version of it that compares.

Most likely, if you’re reading the words, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” you’re hearing in your head the deep, deep voice of Thurl Ravenscroft, who sang the song for the Christmas special back in 1966.

Thurl Ravenscroft started out doing radio shows back in the 1930’s (kids, ask your parents grandparents what that is). He was a part of several singing groups, most famously the Mellomen, the quartet he formed in 1948. Walt Disney Studios hired the Mellomen to perform on the soundtracks to many classic Disney films, television shows, and even theme park attractions. Thurl’s voice can still be heard today at Disneyland on Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s a small world, Splash Mountain, and as “Fritz” the German parrot in the Enchanted Tiki Room. But his arguably most famous theme park appearance is in the Haunted Mansion, where he is not only heard but seen in the graveyard scene, as the broken bust (his face is often mistakenly thought to be Walt Disney) singing “Grim Grinning Ghosts.”

Even if you have never been to a Disney park, or watched the Grinch, there’s still a good chance you’ve heard Thurl’s voice, saying: “They’re Grrrrrrreat!” He was the voice of Tony the Tiger, spokescharacter for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal, for over fifty years.

Thurl Ravenscroft passed away at age 91 in 2005. His voice will live forever.

Read more:

D23 Disney Legends biography

Interview with Thurl Ravenscroft for Hogan’s Alley, Nov. 14, 2012.

See Thurl Ravenscroft singing “Grim Grinning Ghosts” as it was filmed to appear on the singing busts in the graveyard scene.

Hear “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, with additional facts and lyrics, on Songfacts.

Quote of the Week 2

“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, gaiety and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just, and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

This quote, or an abbreviated version of it, caught my eye on Pintrest. Often it is mis-attributed to the philosopher, Plato.


Who actually said it is a mystery, but the idea still resonates.

Music can transport us, transform us, transcend us.

Guess What We Are Doing Next…

This will be a little test to see who reads this blog.

The next piece of music we will be introducing at Tuesday’s rehearsal is from a classic Christmas TV special.

The show first aired in 1966, and was based on a popular children’s book that was published in 1957. The book was written by a famous author who lived in nearby La Jolla, CA.

Any guesses?

The animated Christmas special featured Boris Karloff as the narrator and title character. The song we are going to sing was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft.

Got it yet?

The book and show inspired a musical stage version that made its debut at the Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, in 1998. The musical has become a perennial touring favorite, and will be here in the San Diego area again this holiday season.

It also was adapted into a movie starring Jim Carrey.

I think you’ve probably caught on by now…


See you Tuesday!

The World’s Most Popular English-Language Song

We’ve all sung it, probably multiple times a year. We’ve heard it countless times, ever since we were little. Its cheerful little tune has delivered its message of good wishes millions upon millions of times.

“Happy Birthday to You” started out as a song two sisters wrote to welcome their pupils to school. Mildred and Patty Hill composed the melody back in 1893, with lyrics wishing a “Good Morning to All.” By 1911 or so, the lyrics were being changed to happy birthday, and in 1924 the melody and the birthday lyrics were published together. For a decade, the song was sung on the radio, in the new talking motion pictures, and stage productions of the day, all without copyright protection. But around 1934, Mildred and Patty’s other sister, Jessica, copyrighted the tune. Royalties then had to be paid each time the song was used commercially – sometimes commanding thousands of dollars for the rights – and the little elementary school melody became a $2 million a year cash cow. Have you ever noticed that “Happy Birthday to You” is rarely sung in movies or on TV? Now you know why!

But that will soon be changing. Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that the copyright, which over the years became the property of Warner Music, was invalid, and that “Happy Birthday to You” is a public domain song after all.

Here are a couple of interesting articles about the history of the song, and the court case from UK Telegraph  and from Billboard.

Happy <insert big round number here> Birthday to our fearless director, John Whitson!


Concert News!

Good news! In addition to participating in the Poway High School Choir Winter Concert, we will also be holding our own concert at Twin Peaks! Add these dates to your calendar:

Friday, December 4th – Twin Peaks MS Theatre – Lunch/RAM time (exact time TBD) – Casual Concert attire

Monday, December 7th – Poway Center for Performing Arts – stage rehearsal for PHS concert (Time TBD)

Tuesday, December 8th – Poway Center for Performing Arts – PHS Winter Concert – 7:00 p.m. – Formal Concert attire

The concert at Twin Peaks will be free (no tickets required) and parents are welcome to attend. The program will be longer than what we perform at PCPA.

The PHS Concert will require tickets, which will have to be purchased at the PCPA box office or by phone. We will have details as soon as we get them.

Casual Concert attire will be our choir polo shirts (order forms will be sent home next week) and jeans. Formal Concert attire is a long sleeve white shirt (collared and button-up for guys and preferably gals), black dress pants for all, and black socks and shoes. Please email us if you have any questions.

We are very excited that we will have the opportunity to sing for our own schoolmates, teachers, and staff!

One Last Chance…

… to take advantage of the ticket offer for the Poway High School Fall Choir Concert.

Orders must be turned in on Friday. Thank you!

*********** CORRECTION **************

Change in plans. We were just informed that they would not accept any late preorders.

There are still tickets available, but they must be purchased at the door the night of the concert. Bring your order form with you and they should honor the free ticket for the choir student. We apologize for the confusion.

A Fugue (Gesundheit!)

Fugue noun \’fyüg\ A musical composition in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a continuous interweaving of the voice parts. (Definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster)

A fugue starts off relatively simply, with one voice stating a musical theme. Then a second voice enters, starting the same theme, while the first voice continues on to a second theme. As more voices enter, the music becomes more and more intertwined, overlaying the theme that seemed simple enough at the start in such a way that the music sounds incredibly complex. J.S. Bach is the most famous and familiar composer of fugues, many of which you would recognize today.

When I was looking for an example to share with the choir today, I came across some videos on YouTube that demonstrate a fugue in a simple yet powerful way. I’ve embedded one below, but search for “Fugue” and “musanim” or “smalin” for more.

Each color represents a voice. When the bar moves higher on the screen, it corresponds to a higher pitched note. Similarly, when it moves lower, the note played is lower. The length of the bar matches how long the note is held. In this view, you can see when each new voice enters, and how it starts out playing the same musical theme that the previous voice did.

The movie was created using software written by Stephan Malinowski, the fellow playing the organ on the video. The software is called “Musanim” and it creates what he calls an “animated graphical score” for a piece of music. He came up with the idea of visualizing music as a bar graph in 1974, and it took years of experimentation and programming to complete, mostly because computers had to catch up to his ideas. Check out the History section on his website, for the whole story.

(disclaimer time: we are not affiliated in any way with Stephan Malinowski, his software, his website, or his YouTube videos. We are, however, a pair of Computer Science degree holders who programmed Atari 800’s back in the day and therefore find this stuff really geeky and cool!)

Okay, I’ve gone completely off track here, but I hope you enjoy seeing music in a different way. To return to the musical theme to TPMS Choir: the new piece of music we started at rehearsal today is based off the Bach “Little” Fugue in G minor. It is a challenging piece, but it is off to a good start and will be a lot of fun by concert time.