Saturday, December 19, 2009

There Was a Life

Genre: Rock
Artist: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Album: Night Castle

This song has become an instant favorite. It is a song full of reflection, searching for the meaning of life. As the man looks back on a life of mistakes and failures, he wonders if redemption is possible. As the man is overwhelmed with his failure and sins, he stands at the edge of a cliff and debates committing suicide. He asks himself, "Are you scared of your life? Are you scared of your death?" He decides, "There are reasons to live, there are reasons to die." But the anguish and indecision rage inside him. I love the feeling behind the voice and the lyrics during this crucial moment. He wonders if the mistakes of his life must always remain the way they are, or if they can be made right. So much of what he has done cannot be repaired. "And in this darkness is there salvation? Is there forgiveness?"

Like the person in this song, I have faced such crucial moments where I could not see from a more eternal perspective, where I have also cried out, "Can someone say when the Writer of this story will just tell us how it will end?" The singer compares his life to a drop of water in a wave. He realizes that the wave cradles each drop, and each one is missed. Sometimes I have felt lost, or forgotten. But God cradles me along with everyone else, and if I stray I too am missed.
There is so much hope for tomorrow! Each evening when we sleep, we have a chance to wake up a new person. It is God's way of erasing our sorrows. "There are parts of yourself the soul decides to keep, and parts of yourself that the soul does release." Each day is an opportunity for redemption, an opportunity to repent and be a better person. There is never a time that is appropriate to give up. "The end's not the end while you're still alive."

The emotion and message of this song are incredible! I have listened to it so many times during this week (I just heard it for the first time on Tuesday). I can relate to the person in the song. I love the hope it offers! I wish I could do it justice on this blog, but I cannot. All I can say is that its beauty astounds me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Whirlwind

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Transatlantic
Album: The Whirlwind

Wait. Am I reviewing an album, or a song? The answer is BOTH! The Whirlwind is a nearly 78-minute long epic! It is divided into twelve individually named parts (tracks), but it is meant to be listened to as one great song. After a long seven years, the musical genius of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt, and Pete Trewavas come together to produce another brilliant masterpiece!

The Whirlwind can be interpreted on so many levels, but the heart of the message is that the whirlwind represents life's trials. We might think everything is going great, but suddenly life's storms come upon us and beat us down. We might think we are happy and successful, only to be torn down. Although the storm may seem merciless, there is a power at the center of it that is actually quite calm. In the eye of the storm lies the Savior. If you trust in Him, rather than being tossed by the storm, you will see how it can bring you closer to Him. You can dance with eternal glory, rather than be drowned by life's sorrows.

The CD is masterfully put together, with each of the four artists contributing so much material to make it perfect. One of my personal favorite parts is the segment titled Rose-Colored Glasses, which Neal wrote about his dad, who died earlier this year. In this segment, he talks about how there are times of suffering, but these times will pass and we will be reunited with those we love. He says that his faith is more than just rose-colored glasses; he trusts in something he believes to be real. It is by trusting that Source of faith, hope, and power that we can overcome life's trials.

I cannot even begin to describe the musical genius of the album. A blog post would be insufficient. There are several themes that connect the parts into one great whole--themes that represent the actual whirlwind, the calmness of the eye of the storm, the presence of the Savior, etc. And these are only the themes. There are also the amazing solos, the powerful harmony of the instruments coming together, and the subtle movements that lead from one part to the next. Then there are the vocals! Everybody sings and the parts they sing fit perfectly! All in all, this is a masterpiece never to be forgotten! Thank you, Transatlantic! I hope there is more in the future!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Will Go Sailing No More

Genre: Disney
Artist: Randy Newman
Album: Toy Story

Poor Buzz Lightyear... A lot of the comedy in the movie revolves around Buzz's vision of who he is. He sees himself as a hero with a special mission to save the universe. Woody screams at him, yelling the truth into his face, but Buzz is not deterred. It is not until he sees a commercial, reality slapping him harshly across the face, that he begins to realize that his ambitions are nothing. Still unable to face reality, he jumps from the top of the stairs to prove he can fly, only to find himself crashing to the floor. His broken arm is but a symbol of his broken heart and broken dreams, as he consigns himself to a life he views as meaningless.

I also have high ambitions for my life. With my dreams, I almost feel like I can fly, until my dreams are shot down. Sometimes people don't believe in me. Other times people let me down. Oftentimes, like Buzz, I feel that I have a "dream that ended too soon." When reality slaps me across the face, I think to myself that "I will go sailing no more. All the things I thought I'd be, all the brave things I'd done, vanished like a snowflake with the rising of the sun. Never more to sail my ship where no man has gone before...and I will go sailing no more."

But even though my dreams are sometimes crushed and I am left empty and broken, I still rise from the ground, determined to prove that I really can fly. I just can't seem to accept that "clearly I will go sailing no more." Fortunately, Buzz eventually pulled himself together. Defying all odds, he eventually flew, soaring in the sky where he belonged, but with a new realization that the place he really belongs is where he is loved.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wherever You Are

Genre: Disney
Artist: No clue.
Album: Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search For Christopher Robin

This song is so sad to me, but it's still one of my favorites. Winnie the Pooh and his friends have been searching long and hard for Christopher Robin with no success. One night, Pooh wanders away from his friends to the empty, cold night sky. There, all alone, he sings, "Come out, moon. Come out, wishing star . . . I'm out here in the dark, all alone and wide awake. Come and find me." He sings to Christopher Robin, pleading for him to come to him, "because without you I am totally lost." He finally comes to the sad conclusion, "I used to believe in forever, but forever's too good to be true."

This very sad song touches me every time I hear it. I can relate to Pooh's loneliness. I have gone through many times in my life when I have felt alone. The worst is when I feel alone, even though I am surrounded by people. It especially reminds me of the times when I had something beautiful, something I thought would last forever. I think of those times when I have felt the most happy and content . . . that feeling that I have finally found what I have searched for all my life. But, as Pooh says, "Forever's too good to be true." Those moments always end. And when they are ended, the loneliness returns, the loneliness that is only too real for the Wishmaster.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Music of the Night

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Charles Hart
Album: Phantom of the Opera

I can't believe I haven't done a song from Phantom yet. It was hard to pick which song to do. But I ultimately chose Music of the Night because it is one of my absolute favorites. It is the song where the Phantom beckons Christine to join him, to sing for him, to believe him. It is essentially a marriage proposal. Throughout the song he shows her around his lair, extending his hand out towards her and she takes it. Not the hand of a monster, but the hand of someone who loves her with a very tender love.

I saw Phantom on stage on my fifteenth birthday. I fell in love with it. Everybody who knows me will say that I fell in love with it too much. I must admit, perhaps they are right. But never before has a play delved so deeply inside me and stirred my emotions so passionately. I think the main reason it struck me so deeply was because of the time of my life, a time of change and when I felt misunderstood by everyone around me. I could understand the Phantom's yearnings to belong, to be accepted. I could understand his fear of cruel treatment from others. Although I cannot agree with all of his actions, I can understand the emotions behind them, emotions which he let control him. I ached with him and shared his loneliness. The imperfections I have that people were so quick to point out to me at that time I felt were as ugly as the face behind the Phantom's mask. Was I obsessed? Yes. But at that time of my life, Phantom was what I could relate to more than anything else.

There were many good things that came from it, though. For one, it got me into acting. For another, it also gave me confidence in my writing. I asked Eldon, one of my most favorite teachers, if we could perform Phantom at the school. The royalties were too high, so I asked him if I could write my own version. He helped me and encouraged me and I ended up writing a script for the show. Eldon praised it. Reading it now, it is awful. I am almost embarrassed that I ever let anybody else see it, let alone perform it. But Eldon gave me that boost I needed. He helped me have confidence in myself and my abilities. Performing Phantom was one of my biggest highlights from high school.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Edelweiss

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein
Album: Sound of Music

This song is a very special song on so many levels. For one thing, it was the last song that Rodgers and Hammerstein composed together. While they wrote this song, Oscar Hammerstein was suffering from stomach cancer. He died nine months later. This song is a memorial to him. Indeed, in more ways than one, it is a song to say farewell.

I love the connotation that this song has. Captain von Trapp is about to leave Austria, a country that he deeply loves. He sings this song as a last farewell to his country. I love the scene in the movie where he begins to cry and can't finish the song. His country means that much to him. He knows it is time to say goodbye to a wonderful era, but it is so hard to make that change.

Even though the lyrics don't really mean much to me, the emotion of the song really touches me. I have also experienced such moments of having to leave an era that was so beautiful to me that I could hardly bear leaving. Many experiences on my mission fit this experience. Whenever I had to leave certain areas or certain friends, it was really hard knowing that things would never be the same again. The best thing that can be done to honor those eras is to remember them.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is Anybody There?

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Sherman Edwards
Album: 1776

This song is the culmination of John Adams's struggle as he fights for American independence. Throughout the play he is constantly arguing with Congress and meets obstacles almost at every turn. The final obstacle is the South, who refuses to vote in favor of independence unless they are permitted to continue the slave trade. When the South walks out of the room, Adams feels alone and helpless. In desperation, he sings, "Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anybody see what I see?" Then he tells what he sees: a vision for America!

"Through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory!" He describes the glory of the scene and then concludes, "I see Americans, all Americans free!" He then ends asking again, "Does anybody see what I see?"

Fortunately, others did see what he saw. American independence was won. I am so grateful to live in a country where I am free, where I can worship as I please, where I can say what I want, and where I have the potential to be anything I desire to be. I am so grateful to live in a country where the Gospel could be restored. I am grateful for the men and women who still see what John Adams saw. I refer to those men and women both home and abroad who protect our freedom. May John Adams's vision never fade from our eyes!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Sixth Extinction

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Ayreon
Album: 01011001

This song does not seem like a song that I would like because it is quite heavy. But there is a purpose for the heaviness. Each of Ayreon's albums is part of a huge story. This album focuses on a race that has evolved to the point where it has eliminated all emotions, and thereby eliminated all the bad things in life. There is no more crime or pain. They have even made themselves immortal. But there is no happiness or joy. So they decide to live vicariously through another race--ours. Unfortunately, our race eventually destroys itself, becoming extinct. As they see the destruction, they cry out, "I can see them crying! I can see the fear!" until "not a self . . . left alive."

But as they witness this destruction, they think of what they have learned. "Don't give up, remember how we felt--fire rushing through our veins . . . the meaning of life is to give life meaning!" How true that statement is! This race lived without feeling, without emotion. They could not die, but their lives had no meaning. Eventually, in this song, they reach the conclusion that they need to turn off the machines they depend on and deal with emotions and regain the will to fight and live.

The song ends with this race crying out to the Univsersal Migrator to make them whole, healing them from their meaningless lives. There is a God who is the Ruler of the Universe to whom I can cry out. He heals me and gives meaning and purpose to my life. If life starts to seem stale and empty, it is because it has lost its meaning. We must give our lives meaning, and there is only One who can do that. I personally know that I need to stop depending on other things, just as this race depended on their machines. By giving my life meaning, I will not meet my own extinction, nor will I be reduced to the same hopeless state as the race called Forever.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This is England

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: It Bites
Album: The Tall Ships

Out of all the new albums I've heard this year, this is the best one! There is not a song on the CD that I don't like. But "This is England" is certainly one of the best, possibly my second favorite of the whole album. What is it about? Um . . . England? I'm actually not really sure! But there are some very poetic lyrics in the song and the music is also incredible.

My favorite line in the entire song is, "I'm so ready to fly with nowhere to fly to!" Isn't that beautiful? I picture myself spreading my arms and preparing to fly, but just as I lift off the ground, I look around and I am not sure where to go. I have so much potential inside of me, but I'm not sure what to do with it. The song seems to be a conflict, going through the mundane and striving for something more. The end of the song leads to a sense of fulfillment and conclusion. "At the end of the day I'm coming home."

One of the things I love the most about It Bites is their vocal arrangement. They do fantastic harmonies. This song has quite a few examples. When my friend Nate first talked about this band, I didn't think I would like them very much. In fact, he even showed me this song and I wasn't impressed. But at the moment I put on their CD in my car, I fell in love with them. (The first song on the CD is an AMAZING example of vocal harmonies). I cannot wait until this CD is released in the U.S. I am definitely going to buy a copy.

The Way Home

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Neal Morse
Album: Lifeline

I first heard this song at the Neal Morse concert that I went to. It was one of the best birthday presents ever that Nate gave me. Neal had not yet released Lifeline, but he played this song at his concert. I loved it immediately. One of the great things about Neal is that his music is either based on personal experiences or else on people that he has met. This song is a combination of the two, but it could also be a song for me.

"Running from a destiny I wasn't sure was mine, I chose a life of obscurity and I left my dreams behind. I traded my ambitions for the safe and simple life. But lately I feel far away and inside I feel like I can't find my way home!" I love the first line about running from destiny. Sometimes I feel like I do that. I also feel the same way. I get lost. "And if I stay here too long, I may never find that place where I feel like I belong! Can't find my way home!"

"Eeking out fulfillment in a tiny plastic jar, there isn't much to go around when you don't know who you are!" This song is very touching to me. He explains that he knows that he is a child of God, but feels so far away from Him that he is no longer sure who he is. He does not feel fulfillment in his life. At the end of the song, he begs the Lord for help. "Lord, show me the way home! I know somehow I'll find the place where I feel like I belong!"

This song is about changing. It is about someone who feels lost and is finally turning to the true source of Light for guidance and help. I go through moments like these. It's not so much that I am running from my destiny as it is that I feel like I am going nowhere. Maybe, in a sense, I am running from my destiny. But, like the speaker in this song, "I feel just like a dark cold night that's reaching for the dawn!" Through the Lord, I will not only find the way home, but I will also find fulfillment in this life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Disney Afternoon Theme

Genre: Disney
Artist: Unknown-some person connected with Disney, obviously
Album: The Disney Afternoon

Ah...this song takes me back to my childhood. Every day from 2-4, my time would be spent watching Disney Afternoon. My favorite show for a very long time was Gummi Bears, but I loved the other original shows, such as Ducktales, Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers, and Tale Spin. I loved Gummi Bears a lot. I remember going to see a play with my Grandma Wanlass in California (the whole family went). She had some taffy, and I liked it because there is a Gummi Bears episode about taffy. I also longed to make Gummi Berry Juice so that I could bounce like the Gummi Bears.

For a while, Kelloggs cereal came with four characters from each Disney Afternoon show. I collected all of them, but then I lost Gruffi, one of the Gummi Bears. It was years before I found him again on the window sill of the den, behind the computer. He was faded from the sunlight, but I still have him. Eventually Grandma Wanlass gave me all the characters she has (I think they were a recent Christmas present, actually). So now I have my faded Gruffi and a brand new Gruffi.

When I was nine-years-old, I went to Disneyland with my parents and with Char and Samantha. Char bought me a cassette tape of the Disney Afternoon soundtrack and I was so happy to get it. I remember me and Samantha singing the Ducktales theme song as we drove back home that night. The cassette eventually broke, but years later my aunt Dee gave me the CD. I was ecstatic!

As the show went on, I had other favorites, such as Darkwing Duck. I collected almost all the action figures, and even got the Quack Attack (his ship) for Christmas. My favorite toy was Megavolt, who would actually shoot sparks. I wish I could get them again. Then Bonkers came on. I LOVE Bonkers. I can't believe it's not on DVD yet. Oh, well. Great times! This show was a big part of my life up to the time I moved to Utah, and I'm already collecting all the volumes of each show on DVD.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Forever and Ever

Genre: Disney
Artist: I'm not sure. If you know, please tell me.
Album: Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search For Christopher Robin

This song makes me think of my dear friend Erlândio. He was my last companion on my mission and he is a very good friend. Of all my companions, I have kept in contact with him better than any of my other companions. Somehow, we hit it off really well. Our friendship can be summarized by one of the "Interesting Stories" he would read to me from a book. It was about two children who grew up on a hill and were told that one day they would grow up and have to leave. But even if they did, their friendship would last because true friendship is an invisible force that unites people. Erlândio and I are bound by such an invisible force. Our hill was the mission. The day came when I had to leave, and even though we no longer are together in person, our friendship remains strong.

Such is the case with Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin in this beautiful song. Christopher Robin is trying to tell Pooh that he has to go away, but Pooh tells him that if it isn't something nice, it can wait "forever and ever." When Christopher Robin replies that this is a very long time, Pooh responds, "Forever isn't long at all, Christopher, when I'm with you." The song then delves into the wonder of childhood and boyhood and the meaning of true friendships. Pooh says, "I wanna call your name forever and you will always answer, forever! And both of us will be forever you and me. Forever and ever."

At the end of the song, after they have both talked about how much they long to be together forever, always by each other's side, Christopher Robin makes a promise. "One thing you should know: no matter where I go, we'll always be together forever and ever." Even though Christopher Robin would have to leave, the invisible force that unites him with his best friend Winnie the Pooh would hold strong. In fact, it is this same invisible force that leads Pooh to set out on an adventure when he thinks Christopher Robin is in danger. I am very grateful for this invisible force and I am grateful to Erlândio, who taught me how to be a better friend.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Remember Dreams Come True

Genre: Disney
Artist: Various
Album: Well, apparently it doesn't matter because I can't find a picture of it, but it's a Disneyland CD, I promise!

I don't know if you can really count this as a song, but I will anyway! It's at least a track on a CD. This was Disney's last fireworks show, and I can't think of a more perfect tribute to Disneyland. First of all, Julie Andrews hosts the fireworks show. She talks about Walt Disney and how he had a dream, a dream that came true and that has blessed millions of people. She talks about our heroes that he brought to life for us, such as Peter Pan, Aladdin, the Little Mermaid, and more. As she talks about these things, Tinkerbell flies above the castle. Then, we relive the dream as clips from most of the rides at Disneyland are played and fireworks match them. One of my favorites is during Pirates of the Caribbean, They play the part where the pirate ship is attacking the fort, and each time you hear the sound of a cannon being fired, fireworks shoot overhead as if they were cannon balls. It's great!

I saw this show for the first time with my family, when we went back in 2006. I went back in 2007 with Nate and we only watched half of it. It was too windy, so they canceled the show halfway through. But in 2008, something happened that made that year an unforgetable Disneyland experience! I walked up to a cast member and asked her if they were going to cancel the show, because I could see a little wind. She said that she wasn't sure and asked if we had seen it before. I explained that I had, but Nate had only seen half of it. She told us to a wait a moment while she talked to her supervisor. She came back and told us she got permission to make us VIPs. We got to sit on a bench where we had a perfect view of the show. A cast member also offered to take a picture of us, which he did. The fireworks show was NOT canceled and it was a very magical way to end the day.

Although this specific show has been canceled, I will never forget that experience and the wonderful fun I had that year and every year at Disneyland. Just as the message of the fireworks show teaches, I believe that dreams come true.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Any Dream Will Do

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Album: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

This is a play that I have loved ever since I was a little boy. It is also the play I have seen more often than any other by far. The play begins with the narrator singing about dreams. "Some folks dream of the wonders they'll do" but many "hide their hopes." "We all dream a lot. Some are lucky, some are not." The narrator then tells us that this can all be explained in the story of a boy whose dream came true. That boy is Joseph. Joseph then enters the stage to sing this song. He had dreams and because of them he was sold as a slave and eventually cast into prison. His dreams seemed hopeless. And yet, in the end, his dreams really did come true.

There are times when I feel like Joseph in this song. "Far, far away, someone was weeping, but the world was sleeping." Somebody needed help, but the world was oblivious to the fact. One of my dreams is to find those people that are weeping and lift their heads and give them hope. I want to change the world for the better. I feel inspired by my dreams. I gaze at the distant horizon and see the dawn breaking. But then, frequently, I begin to lose sight of my dreams. This happens because I am either ridiculed or else I feel extremely burnt out. "The light is dimming, and the dream is too." But, like Joseph, I am still waiting. I am waiting for my dream to come true, to make a difference in the world.

This song also takes me back to my childhood. I remember first seeing it in Salt Lake City with my aunt Dee. I also remember on one trip to her apartment she presented me with my own "coat of many colors." I saw it multiple times after that, including once at Riverside. (I loved that theater, especially their production of Robin Hood). My favorite production was with Michael Damian. I saw that with my dad and Becky. I would act out scenes from Joseph at home. In the scene where he was thrown in jail, I would be behind the rocking chair wearing a towel (because that's basically all he was wearing in the play). I also drew pictures of parts of the play on the computer and wrote the accompanying lyrics (although I struggled with such words as economic). As a child, this was certainly my favorite play, only to be replaced years later by Phantom of the Opera, another Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thank Goodness

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Music and Lyrics by: Stephen Schwartz
Album: Wicked

I had listened to the Wicked soundtrack multiple times before seeing it performed last month. This song never stood out to me as being very remarkable, but when I saw the play and understood the context of the song, it stood out a lot more to me. I'm not going to comment on the context of the song because I don't want to ruin it for anybody who hasn't seen the musical yet. But the part of the song that stood out to me were the lines: "Getting your dreams, it's strange, but it seems a little, well, complicated. There's a kind of a sort of cost. There's a couple of things get lost. There are bridges you cross you didn't know you crossed until you've crossed. And if that sudden joy, that thrill, doesn't thrill like you think it will . . ."

This song made me think about the price of dreams. Glinda had to make some sacrifices for her dreams. In this song, she happily proclaims that her dreams finally have come true. But as she says she, "Simply couldn't be happier," she suddenly stops and realizes, "Well, not simply." And from there she begins to reflect on what her dreams have cost her. Even though she obtained her dreams, the feeling was not how she anticipated it would be.

What about my dreams? I am working hard for them and sacrificing a lot of my time. But will this sacrifice be worth it in the end? Certainly there are some things that are worth the sacrifice, such as making it to the Celestial kingdom. All sacrifices necessary to make it there will definitely be worth it in the end and that joy will be far greater than I can anticipate. But what of my lesser dreams? I don't believe I should give up my dreams because the sacrifice might not be worth it, but I do think I need to better analyze my dreams and what the cost is going to be to achieve them. No matter what, all dreams will have a cost. The question is whether to cost outweighs the result. I don't know. I haven't really reached a conclusion yet. This song has just made me think about this subject a little more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

His Work and Nothing More

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Music by Frank Wildhorn, Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
Album: Jekyll & Hyde

As Jekyll immerses himself in his experiment, trying to fight against Hyde, his good friend Utterson makes a profound observation, that Jekyll's work is consuming him. Upon hearing this observation, Jekyll wonders, "Have I become my work and nothing more? I know that's not what I'm living for." Even his fiance and her father are concerned. His fiance tries to be supportive, but her father fears, "he's gone too far." Little do they realize just how much Jekyll has become his work.

Sometimes I also feel like I have become immersed in my jobs. I work so many hours during the day that I feel like I have my work and nothing more. I feel so burned out sometimes that I feel like I have "lost the fire [I] built my dream on." When people see how burned out I am and how much I long for a break, they ask me, "Is what you are seeking worth the price?" They wonder if I really need to work three jobs, taking up 15 hours of each day.

But for me, it is worth the price. At least, I hope it will be one day. I have over $3,000 saved up for when I get married. When that time comes, I know this will have all been worth it. I am also saving up for future vacations, school, and trying to get my car paid off. I know that in the end I will be really grateful for the work I am doing now. But even so, sometimes I wonder if it all really is worth it. I am working my life away, having little time remaining to enjoy myself. "There was a time [I] lived my life, and no one lived the way that [I] did . . . [I] had it all . . . [I] seemed to know just what to live for." I must be sure my life does not consist of only my work and nothing more. I want to feel alive every day and make every day a blessing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

So Many Roads

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Neal Morse
Album: Lifeline

This song is one of Neal's greatest! The song is about a man that stands at a crossroads in life, looking at all the different roads before him. So many are calling out to him, but he knows that only one road is right. First he talks about the road of fame that promises to make him "a star for a day." They will invent a personality for him. It is really neat because when he is at the crossroads, there is a theme music that plays. When he starts down this first road, the same music is playing, but it sounds darker, signifying that this is the wrong road. Next he tries to humdrum life, where he has a family, but he is never home because he is working all day long. After that he tries another extreme where he can "forget it all" and "party every day." At last, he comes to the road that he feels has been calling out to him. This road requires him to look in the eyes of the Savior and the Savior will be his guide.

Like the man in the song, I can also say that "I came to a place in my life when I looked out at many roads" and "looked for the one that was right, stood frozen in my soul." Actually, I come to that time frequently. I feel like I am there right now. I have so many options before me, but suddenly I am not sure which option is wrong. "There's so many roads to nowhere." I need to find the one that, for me, is really right. I, too, "feel like I have a calling." Right now I feel like I am living the humdrum life. I feel like I am working my life away. I don't like this road that I am on. It is a road that shouts, "Give up your silly dreams!" "Dreams won't pay your bills." But I am a dreamer and I have a strong desire to achieve my dreams.

Just like the man in the song, I am trying to look in the eyes of the Savior, and also trying to look through the eyes of the Savior. "I'm seeking the One who will guide me . . . If I trust in the One who loves me, He will lead me in the paths of light." Life offers so many things, but time is so short here on earth. I can't afford to take the wrong road. Indeed, there are so many roads to nowhere. I want to take the road to somewhere. Lately I have had some promptings as to what I should do. So I will follow these promptings, putting my faith in the Lord that He will not let me go down the wrong road.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chicken Farmer Song

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: The Flower Kings
Album: Space Revolver

This song is so much fun to listen to!!! It is very upbeat and happy and is the kind of song that automatically puts you in a good mood when it comes on. Like so many other prog songs, I first heard this at Nate's house while playing pool. I fell in love with the song instantly. I made myself a CD of "prog singles" that I could just put into the CD player and get a sample of several great songs. Chicken Farmer Song is one of my favorites when it comes on.

The song is basically about taking a break from life. Right now everybody reading this is thinking, "Ah. Gotcha. Now I know why Kevin loves this song." Yes, I do love the idea of taking a break from life. "I could use a day on my own!" That is how the song begins. "I would get away from it all-drift into the silent summer!" I would like to grace "the eternal summer." The song talks about walking out of the "darkest age" into the endless summer. Is that darkest age an actual age (like 23?) or is it a period of time, like the dark ages. Either way, it is time to step away from life's bleak obscurity and embrace all the joys life has to offer.

This song is full of great imagery. To me, summer represents childhood freedom. School is over and the months seem endless. True freedom is discovered. Whenever life gets hard and presses down on me, this song lifts me up and makes me happy. It reminds me to join the endless summer and leave the pessimism behind. I could use a day on my own. Maybe one. Maybe two. Maybe three. Maybe four. I need time to break away from the pressures of life and drink in the silent, golden summers that life has to offer. Most importantly, I need to make time in my busy schedule to live for a few minutes in the summer and walk out of my darkest age.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

June

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Spock's Beard
Album: Kindness of Strangers

This song is very special to me for many reasons. First of all, it is the song that introduced me to Progressive Rock, Spock's Beard, and Neal Morse. Neal Morse is my current favorite musical artist, and it all started with this song. I first heard "June" back in 2003 during the summer. I went to spend some time with Nate, as I aways do during the summer. He had recently received the DVD "Don't Try This at Home" by Spock's Beard, which was a DVD of one of their concerts. Nate wanted to watch it with his dad, so I sat with them. I'll be honest. I was bored during a good portion of it. I actually eventually left the room. I remember during "Healing Colors of Sound" I thought, "What? This is still the same song?" I was not used to songs lasting for longer than five minutes. But sometime during the concert, before I left the room, "June" came on. I really liked it. The next day, while Nate and I played pool, he played "Kindness of Strangers" and I got to hear the song again. I liked it so much that Nate burned 3 different albums for me to listen to.

The song is very nostalgic. It is imagining a time, lasting only one month, when Spock's Beard hits it big. "The sun came up . . . and never went down at night." Crowds camp out to see the concerts, singing songs by the band. The band members were able to have nice hotel rooms and all the luxuries life could offer, but then it was gone. They tried to get things working again, but then realize it's all gone and they say, "I wish we were still in June."

"June came upon us much too soon, then was gone." I have had many experiences in my life where June did seem to come much too fast and then was gone, leaving me empty and alone. Sometimes, as I think about those moments, I want to cry out with the song, "I want to go back!" Such moments go back to my high school days (which, by the way, I have decided I do NOT want to go back to), and my mission days. June is when I left Jundiapeba, my favorite area of my mission. I had some great experiences in June in Jundiapeba, such as my birthday that lasted an entire week because of everything the members did. But I was transferred during the last week of the month. For me, it certainly came upon me much too soon.

I am really grateful to Nate for showing me this song. It took a while, but it led to me really enjoying this kind of music and discovering Neal Morse and his solo albums, which have given me a lot of hope and peace.

No Seu Lugar

Genre: Pop (maybe?)
Artist: Kid Abelha
Album: Kid Abelha Acústico

Ok, before I go on, I have to say I don't really understand what this song is entirely about. It's obviously about a romantic relationship and how time seems to change depending on whether they are together or apart. My favorite line would be translated to mean, "Could it be that we were in a hurry, or was it time that stopped?" She goes on to sing, "With you, time stops. Without you, time flies." Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I really can't decide what she means by that. But in the song she says, "I want to see you take my place and I would like to be you." Um...sure?

I basically just like the poetic phrases of this song. But what I like most of all about it is that it reminds me of two of my wonderful friends: Adriane and Erlândio. During my entire mission, I really wanted to buy a CD by a Brazilian artist. These two friends strongly recommended Kid Abelha and so I gave Adriane some money and asked her to get this CD for me, since it is a collection of their greatest hits. When Adriane gave it to me, I remember that me, Erlândio, Adriane, and several members of the ward were eating underneath the bridge. I can't remember the name of the place where we were eating, I just remember that a lot of us were there. On the same occasion, Adriane also gave me several comics books I asked for.

I really enjoy listening to this CD. The last time I had it in my CD player in my car, I listened to the entire CD three times. To me, it is a reminder of my wonderful friendship with two wonderful people. I would love to be in their place, not meaning that I want to switch places with them, but I want to be where they are so that we can continue to create wonderful memories and fortify our friendships.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I Don't Think You Know Me

Genre: Rock
Artist: The Monkees
Album: The Monkees (what an original title!)

"If you think I want the life you choose to live,
I don't think I want the love you've got to give.
If you think my goals could be so trivial and small
Then I don't think you know me at all."

I have loved this song ever since I first heard it. I was probably thirteen at the time. It appealed to me, even though there wasn't a girl that matched the description of the one in the song who was "born between the covers of [her] fashion books" and thought she "could make it . . . on just her looks." What appealed to me was the idea of nobody knowing who I was. At that age, I really felt like nobody understood me, nor did they understand my motives for my actions. I would often sing this song while riding my bike on my paper route.

At that age, my favorite "alone spot" was underneath the stairs in my house. I remember being there one time and writing the lyrics to this song. I've never felt that my goals were trivial. I've always dreamt big. But so many times throughout my life, even at that young age, I have been criticized for my dreams. Those who want me to settle for less do not know me. And yet, for some reason I often try to please these people. "I've chased what I was running from." But if I try too hard to please everybody, I end up not even knowing myself anymore.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dream Child

Genre: Rock
Artist: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Album: The Christmas Attic

Although this song appears on one of Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas CDs, I don't think it has to be a Christmas song. It is about a dream that a man has one winter. In this dream, he sees the Christ Child. But the Child is not a babe. It is a young boy. The man asks, "Do your hands . . . still bleed? After all of this time, do you think there's still need?" This symbolizes the sacrifice that the Savior made when He gave His life for ours. His hands were nailed to a cross. In essence, the man is asking, "Does your sacrifice still apply? Does it work for me? Is it a current thing?" Well, the Child does not reply, but motions for the man to walk with him until they reach an evergreen forest. The man notes that "there were thousands of candles upon every tree! It was beautiful! But, there was one mystery." The only candle that was lit was in the hands of the Christ Child.

These candles, the man realizes, are the dreams of every person that has ever lived. But the dreams have been vanquished. All hope has been lost. All of us have sinned. All of us are fallen. But then the man marvels as the Christ Child "one by one, re-lit them all 'til each dream was awakened." Then, after re-kindling these dreams, the Christ Child turns to the man and tells him of all the dreams that He has, and all the things that might be. It is His dream that our hope stays alive in Him and that we all return to Heaven. After this, the man awakens, but hopes that sometime in his life he might be able to dream this dream again.

I just love the imagery of this song. It is true that our ultimate dreams are only possible in and through Jesus Christ. He is the Light and Life of the World. I have burnt out my candle so many times, but when I turn to Him in full sincerity of heart, with real intent, He is more than willing to re-light my candle and guide me back to my heavenly home. Although His hands do not literally bleed anymore, He has engraven me upon the palms of His hands. His sacrifice does still matter and it does still have power to save me. This song is so soothing to me. I love to listen to it, especially before I go to sleep. Like the man in the dream, I have dreamt of the Savior many times. But I long for the day when seeing Him will no longer be a dream, but an ever-present reality.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fantasmic

Genre: Disney
Artist: Multiple Artists (music comes from multiple movies)
Album: Disneyland Fantasmic! Good Clashes with Evil in a Nighttime Spectacular

I LOVE THIS SHOW!!! In fact, I was very sad when I found out that Disneyland wasn't going to be presenting it this last time that I went. This show not only combines adventures from multiple Disney movies, but it combines live action with animation. The theme of the whole show, however, is about the power of imagination. Mickey's imagination creates scenes from Fantasia, Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and the Little Mermaid. When confronted by several villains, it is Mickey's dream/imagination that gives him the power to conquer and have a "Happily Ever After."

Imagination has always been a huge part of my life. As a kid, I loved going to parks and pretending that I was entering a whole new world. A slide would teleport me to a deserted island, a swing would give me wings to fly to Neverland, and monkey bars would keep me safe from the crocodiles below. I called the place Imagination Island. It was my own Neverland. It still is. I also remember playing basketball against myself. I would have the Imagination team and the Villain team. I would always try to play better when I was representing the Imagination team because they were the good guys. The people on that team would be characters from books and movies.

Imagination has always been my weapon. It gives me ideas for stories. It allows me to pull out my Legos and immediately have a story for them. It allows me to create songs and poetry. It lifts me from the gutter and lets me soar. "Dream a fantastic dream!" "See it in your mind and you can find, in your imagination, mysteries and magic." "Dreams are make believe, but could they all come true?" Yes, they can! I dream fantastic dreams. I know they can come true! I bet my life on it, because my dreams are what make my life.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)

Genre: Disney
Artist: Music by George Bruns, Lyrics by X Atencio
Album: Disney Classics Vol. V

Since I was a little kid I have loved The Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. It has been interesting to see the changes over the years. I remember when the pirates would chase the women around the village just because they were women. Later, Disney added trays of food so that it looks like the pirates are chasing the food and not the women. This change didn't bother me like it bothered some people. Either way, it shows the endless appetite of pirates. The real changes came after the movies came out. Now Jack Sparrow appears throughout the ride, and Barbosa and Davy Jones also make an appearance. It amazes me how realistic they made Jack Sparrow.

I also remember watching the sing-along video with this song when I was a little kid. I loved watching it because I could see the ride without being at Disneyland. For that same reason, I really loved the Disneyland sing-along video. But if I remember correctly, this song was actually on the same video with the Zorro song. Either way, I have been very familiar with it since a very early age.

One of the reasons why I have always loved this ride is because I have always been fascinated with pirates. When I was a little kid in California I had major gold fever. I dreamed of finding Captain Kidd's lost treasure, most likely buried somewhere along the east coast. I loved reading about Captain Blackbeard, the hellish pirate that shot his crew members for sport. I would dress as a pirate for fun, whether or not it was Halloween and sometimes I would dig for gold in the backyard. Who knew-maybe the construction workers totally missed a gold mine while they were building our house! When I played with my Lego pirates and soldiers, I always made the pirates the good guys. As a kid, it really was a pirate's life for me!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It's a Small World

Genre: Disney
Artist: Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman
Album: Disney Classics Vol. 2

In honor of my recent trip to Disneyland, my next three Disney songs will all be from Disneyland. I will begin with It's a Small World. Most people would probably shudder at this point and say, "You like this song? It's the most annoying song in the world! Even Scar on Lion King hates it!" That's true, but Scar is the villain, remember? I'm sure Timon and Pumbaa love this song!

I like this song because of its message. It actually never really was a favorite until I came home from Brazil. After spending two years in a separate part of the world, I really felt that it was "a small world after all." We all belong to the same human race. We each share the same moon and the same "golden sun, and a smile means friendship to everyone." We all share the same emotions: laughter, tears, hope, fears. "There's so much that we share!"

I really enjoy going on the ride and seeing the depictions of the various cultures around the world. My favorite part, however, is the end when you enter the last room and everybody from around the world is there, but they are all dressed in white and are singing together. You can still tell what part of the world they are from, but they are all united. To me, this is what Heaven is like. Everybody there, even with their differences, but all dressed in white and unified. In a world of hate, strife, and contention, this ride is a peaceful reminder that we all belong to the same race and that we are all brothers and sisters.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Never Neverland

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Comden and Green
Album: Peter Pan

I remember when my mom got the video recording of Mary Martin as Peter Pan in this Broadway musical. I must have watched that video so many times. I also remember seeing the play performed at Orem High School while my brother Danny was there. It had always been a favorite.
This song is sung shortly after Peter Pan meets Wendy and he is telling her about where he lives. What I like about this song, though, is that it doesn't refer to Neverland as a far away place that you cannot reach. "You must find it in your heart . . . It might be miles beyond the moon, or right there where you stand." That is Neverland for me. It is not a physical place that I go to (though I often wish I could). It is a mental place, an emotional place. But it is a place that is necessary for me to discover time and time again. "That's my home where dreams are born."

What is the treasure in Neverland? "You can never, never grow old." What is the key to finding Neverland? Happy thoughts! It is the sad, depressing, pessimistic thoughts that keep people grounded, including myself. It is bitterness, resentment, lack of trust, and hate that make people grow old and weary in heart. But forgiveness, love, and joy have the power to lift to a higher ground, to set one's heart one wings, and lift them above the drudgery of the world.

"I have a place where dreams are born." It is a place where I will forever be young at heart. It is a place where I find hope and encouragement. It is my own Never Neverland. It does not hide me from all bad things. Even Neverland had the wicked Captain Hook. But going to my own Neverland gives me my own pixie dust to fly, giving me the advantage over such things.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Epilogue (Finale)

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, and Herbert Kretzmer
Album: Les Miserables

This scene is the perfect end to the musical. Valjean, a man who was once a and criminal, has dedicated his life to help others in need and has taken care of the daughter of a former employee, for whose death he was partly responsible. Now, after having spent years of service and charity, his time has finally come. Lying in his bed, he calls out to God and now asks for a blessing on himself--that he might be brought Home. Fantine, the mother of the girl he has taken care of, appears and tells him to lay down his burden. After saying goodbye to Cosette, who he has raised as his own daughter, he passes to the other side. The passing is very peaceful and hopeful as Fantine comes to accompany him to heaven. When I die, I want to die as Valjean, feeling ready to meet the Lord. I want to be satisfied with what I have done.

The musical is called "The Miserables" because it portrays the misery of the poor. It portrays the levels to which they must stoop in order to make a living, their disease-rampant streets, the deaths they face, the treachery and dishonesty of some people, and much more. And yet, the end of the musical shows the end for those who still strive to walk the higher path, even in the midst of difficulty. As Valjean passes away, the chorus begins to sing, quietly at first, but then ever stronger: "Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night? It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light! For the wretched of the earth, there is a flame that never dies. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise! They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord! They will walk behind the plowshare, they will put away the sword! The chains will be broken and all men will have their reward! Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!"
No matter how difficult life can be at times, there is another world where our chains will be broken and we will be free from our misery. Valjean knew that world, for in the midst of his misery he tried to do the right thing, even when it wasn't convenient for him. At last, there on his deathbed, he is allowed to go to a place where chains will never bind him, where he is no longer remembered for his past transgressions, but is able to go to a place where he is not seen as a criminal, but as a good man that has centered his life around love.Valjean's story teaches forgiveness and the reality of repentance. I hope to one day end my life as marvelously as he ended his.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

To Each His Dulcinea

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Lyrics and music by Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh
Album: Man of La Mancha

I really like the Padre's reflection on dreams. Before we build our lives on dreams, we must remember that a man holding a moonbeam is really not holding onto anything. And yet, the Padre does not condemn dreaming. He concludes that life would be wonderful if every person was capable of dreaming. In the midst of people condemning and mocking Don Quixote for his dreams, the Padre remains calm and sees the goodness of the life that Don Quixote leads.

I have lived the cycle of the dreamer multiple times. This is the cycle:

1. A person has a dream
2. The dreamer tries to live the dream
3. The dreamer is mocked by unbelievers, people afraid to live their own dreams
4. The dreamer faces a huge obstacle, possibly fails somehow
5. The dreamer gets discouraged and considers giving up
6. The dreamer experiences a moment of reflection and self-discovery
7. The dreamer regains determination and strives to live the dream again
8. The dreamer succeeds and the dream is realized

Steps 3-7 can be repeated multiple times. There are constantly people that make fun of me and my ideas. There are times when I have given up dreaming because I get too discouraged. I hate feeling like I have no dreams left to live.

What I need to remember is that dreaming is not bad. So what if my life is built on dreams? They keep me from despair. They keep me fighting. They give me a will to live. More than that, my dreams are not empty. By fighting to fulill them, I will make them meaningful and I will accomplish many things. I am a dreamer. It defines who I am. So I will keep on dreaming.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Spirit Carries On

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Dream Theater
Album: Metropolis pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory

This song is meaningful to me in a way that does not quite fit its meaning in the story. The singer (James LaBrie) begins by asking some questions in a very soft and meaningful tone: "Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die?" He goes on to say, "Life is too short, the here and the now, and you're only given one shot. Or could there be more? Have I lived before? Or could this be all that we've got? If I died tomorrow, I'd be alright because I believe that, after we're gone, the spirit carries on."

Imagine this life being all there is. There would be no point in our existence. But the good news is that there is more after this life. It doesn't all end here. However, what our life will be like beyond the grave is up to us now.

Sometimes I feel like I am working so much that I feel like a machine. My life feels hollow. This song reminds me that I need to make sure that there is more to my life than just working and studying. In sacrament meeting today, one person said that our lives are so short. We need to make a difference now. That really stood out to me. The words of this song came back to me, reminding me that life is indeed short and that I only have one chance to make the most of it.

When my spirit carries on to the other side of grave, what will I have to say for myself? "I stayed out debt because I worked all day." I think God has more important questions to ask, such as, "How did you use the talents I gave you? How did you bless the people I put in your path? What did you do to strengthen your family? How did you let your light shine forth?" Life is too short for me to spend all my time stressed and over-worked. I need to do what I was born to do. Then, I truly will be alright when I die, because I will be ready, "safe in the light that surrounds me, free of the fear and the pain."

At the End of the Day

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Spock's Beard
Album: V

This is probably my favorite song by Spock's Beard. The musical introduction to it is beautiful. It is very calm but then as instruments are added to it, the tempo picks up. But it is very upbeat and happy. Finally, after a great introduction, Neal begins to sing. Combined with the beautiful music are the beautiful lyrics.

The song basically talks about how difficult life can be, comparing life to one day. During our lifetimes, we encounter struggles, heartache, loneliness, and disappointment. "You walk a lonely line" "You literally curse each day," "You feel like you're all alone." But the message of the song is that "At the end of the day, you'll be fine . . . You'll know what this was for . . . You won't feel any pain . . . You'll be feeling right as rain as the veil reveals it all." The message, basically, is that life is full of challenges. But at the end of our lives, we'll understand the purpose of the suffering and it will all come to an end. "Say goodbye to the world that you know . . . You'll be dreaming as you fly away."

This song always puts me in a good mood. It reminds me that no matter how hard my life is right now, soon all the suffering will be ended. When I am having a hard time, I just need to remind myself that one day I will see the reason for it. There are times when I feel completely alone, but that feeling doesn't have to last forever.

One of the great things about the last couple albums that Neal did with Spock's Beard is that they contain hidden spiritual messages. Eventually, Neal left Spock's Beard to be open and clear about what he was trying to teach. But At the End of the Day is a great example of a song where Neal tries to give hope to the listener. The powerful message, coupled with the beautiful music, makes this song a masterpiece.

Friday, April 17, 2009

All of the Above

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Transatlantic
Album: SMPT:e

In honor of some very exciting news, I am returning to the first artist I discussed in this blog: Transatlantic. After seven years apart, the members of the supergroup have come back together and a new album by them is due to be released at the end of this year. To commemorate such a marvelous event, I have chosen to discuss the song that started it all.

All of the Above is over 30 minutes long and, like all of Transatlantic's songs, it is a complete masterpiece. It follows a person's struggle as he loses all hope and loses himself. The song actually starts out very positively. It is like it begins after the story has ended, but rather than saying, "Once upon a time," it beings, "In a state of fallen grace...it came" taking the listener back into that state of fallen grace. It follows a man who believes nothing matters. He has lost himself to some things he has done. But the narrator sings to him that his actions are not all there is to him, but he doesn't hear the narrator. He degrades himself in order to find fulfillment. He chooses less-than-desirable company, becomes the enemy just to be better, and ends us looking complete, but only being half alive.

One day while he is in the dumps, he finds himself in a railway station. There is no peace in his mind. He feels trapped, imprisoned, and hopeless. But then, in the midst of despair, he looks up at the full moon and senses the moon is somehow aware of him and declares softly, "Innocence and undying love will reign!" The man has sought fulfillment in all the wrong places, but then realizes that in order to find what he has been looking for, he must return to who he really is inside and turn away from what he has become. There, in his state of fallen grace, the full moon arose and smiled. Like a child, but fully grown, the man becomes aware of that fire in the sky, the fire that burns inside him and returns all hope to him.

I also find myself going through the same cycle as this man. Sometimes I feel backed against the wall of despair and hopelessness. At times I forget the true source of fulfillment. In moments like these, I need to re-evaluate who I am and who I have become. If I don't like who I am, then I realize that I must make some changes. I must get out of myself and serve others and express love for those around. It is through service that I find happiness and fulfillment. It is by making other people smile that makes me feel whole, complete, and truly alive. All of the Above is able to capture all these emotions that I feel and sometimes this song is all I need to get back on my feet again. I really love this song! It is a classic and demonstrates true talent on so many levels.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Rising

Genre: Religious
Artist: Jason Deere
Album: Joseph: A Nashville Tribute to the Prophet

This is definitely not a song you would hear in Sacrament Meeting, but it is great to listen to. The previous track on the CD recounts the First Vision with music playing in the background. As soon as that track ends, it immediatlely goes into The Rising. The song begins with Joseph Smith telling his mother about the vision that he had. Then he tells the preacher. As soon as he does, he sees the rising of the persectution and the great destiny before him. The chorus is the following:

The boy, the faith, the prayers, the hate
From weak things great things are rising
The love, the fear, the fire, the tears
The persectution, the spirit, the peace

That pretty much sums up the prophet's life. All these things mingle into the rising of the Church of Jesus Christ. I love other lines in the song, where Joseph says that preaching the Gospel to all nations "put a price upon our heads." They were constantly "running from darkness and running to light, praying on our knees for one more day every night." I just love how the song captures the challenges that Joseph and the early pioneers faced, and yet still they pressed forward to bring about the "restoration of all things."

I greatly admire Joseph and his courage. He is a man that dedicated his life to the Lord. I wish I could be as dedicated in my own life. It amazes me how the Gospel was central to everything that Joseph did. I often complain that I am really busy and I often feel like I do not dedicate myself to the Lord as much as I should. I need to learn to be more like Joseph. Look at all the things he had to juggle, and still the Lord took first priority in everything and was easily woven into everything that Joseph did. I am so greatful for him and his example. I know that he was called to be God's prophet in these modern times. The rising that Joseph started is still going strong, and it will until it fulfills Daniel's prophecy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Power of God

Genre: Religious
Artist: Steven Kapp Perry
Album: From Cumorah's Hill

To me, this is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. It talks about the way some people see the world without God in the picture--how they see us as just an island in space. This imagery evokes a feeling of loneliness. But then in the chorus we are told that the power of God can be seen all around us, if we'll just look with the eyes of faith. I love the concluding lines of the chorus: "For how could we hope to see His face, who never could see His hand?" This song is based on Alma's statement that all things denote there is a God (Alma 30:44).

In challenging times, it is almost a natural reaction to wonder where God is. Some doubt His existence. Some fear He has abandonded us. Others continue to have faith and look for tiny miracles. I remember realizing this on my mission. When I began to look for daily miracles, I began to find them. I need to be better at that now. But I still maintain faith that if we look for those miracles in our daily lives, we will find them. These miracles are also called the Lord's tender mercies.

I remember that back when I had my paper route I would often ride my bike through parks when I was done and just enjoy being outdoors with the trees and fresh air. One of my friends started to accompany me and we would talk about a lot of things. I remember one day we were riding our bikes and talking about God and His plan. My friend mentioned how atheists do not acknowledge any of the things we were talking about. I remember pointing to a tree and saying, "Look at that tree and tell me God doesn't exist. It's impossible!" To me, nature has always been an example of God's power and love for us. When times seem hopeless and discouraging, all we need to do is take a step outside and look around us. God's creations testify that He lives and that He is aware of us. He loves us. "Listen to the wind blow, then listen once again."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where Is the Place?

Genre: Religious
Artist: Steven Kapp Perry
Album: Come to the House of the Lord

This song is absolutely beautiful. It begins with a lonely singer who is trying to find peace on earth, and wondering if it really exists. She longs for a place that her heart can find home, where heaven and earth embrace. Then the choir answers her that such a place does exist in the temple. There she will find rest and revelation. Together, the choir and singer proclaim that just like Adam and Eve, we are all outcasts of Eden and trying to find our way Home again. The temple helps us achieve that purpose.

I was first introduced to this song when my beloved bishop, Bishop Harris, passed away. The ward choir sang it at his funeral. I love Bishop Harris. I remember how he would stand by the door and great everybody with a compliment. To my older sister, he always said, "Becky, you're my favor-right red-head." To me, he'd always say, "Kevin, you always bring such a great spirit to our meetings." He made us feel important and loved. I remember one Sunday in which my family didn't go to church. It seems like we were coming back from California or something. Anyway, Bishop Harris called us that evening to see if everything was alright and told us that he missed us at church. He was a great man!

Bishop Harris also was there when I received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained a deacon. He is the one who set me apart as the Deacon Quorum President and I remember the blessing he gave me to this day. I remember his push for temple attendance and had the entire ward focused on it. He worked a lot with the youth. I always felt like he was one of my best friends, even though I was only twelve or thirteen. What bishop has time for a twelve or thirteen-year-old? He did.

Shortly before he passed away, he got up in sacrament meeting and apologized to the ward because at the hospital, they had read his charts wrong and almost administered the wrong care, which would have killed him. He had gotten angry with the hospital staff for their carelessness. He apologized to us for not representing the Church well. I thought to myself during his apology, "Wow! I have Nephi for my bishop!" Nephi felt bad for getting angry because his brothers wanted to kill him. I wish that was my biggest sin. Well, maybe except for the part where my brothers want to kill me. I could live without that.

Every now and then I go to Bishop Harris's grave and I think about him. I always come away with a resolve to do better. He is one of the best men that I have ever known. I hope to one day be as great as him.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Second Star to the Right

Genre: Disney
Artist: Music and Lyrics by Sammy Cahn and Sammy Fain (and Sammy the Way-out Seal!)
Album: Peter Pan

Well, let's be honest. Can Kevin have a blog and not mention Peter Pan on it? Of course not. I actually cannot say that this is one of my favorite songs. To be perfectly honest, I love the music on Peter Pan, but the lyrics leave a lot to be desired. Not Disney's strongest movie for its songs, but the music and story more than make up for the rest. First of all, I love the opening of the song, and therefore the opening of the movie. The instruments come first, then the choir, and then Peter Pan's anthem, followed by a flute that makes me picture Tinker Bell flying down to an open window, where a young child is gazing out at the stars. Very strong imagery and very beautiful music. Then they start singing and it goes downhill. I just feel like they lose the awesome power they started with. According to an online source, the melody was actually written for Alice in Wonderland. Figures.

But the lyrics are not a total loss. "The second star to the right shines in the night for you to tell you that the dreams you plan really can come true." To me, that's what Neverland is: a place where dreams come true. Neverland is the symbol of all childhood hopes and dreams. But these dreams can be realized, so long as we continue wishing them, and doing all we can to make them come true. That Second Star is the best star to wish on, because it will lead you to Neverland.

I remember when I was younger, I would try to find the second star to the right. I would go out to the front lawn of my house in California and look up at the sky. But as I tried to find the second to the right, I would get confused because I wasn't even sure which one the first star was! Maybe once you are flying and you get closer you can tell the difference.

Peter Pan makes me think of a great childhood memory. I had gone to a birthday party for the Larmore twins and got a fun bag of candy at the end. My older brother, Danny, wanted some of my candy, but I was a selfish little boy and told him no. (After all, HE didn't go to the party and HE never shared his candy with me). Well, one day we are eating Peter Pan peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when Danny tells me, "Hey, did you know that if you eat Peter Pan peanut butter and then a piece of candy you can fly?" "Really?" I said. I totally believed him. "Of course! But since I told you, you need to let me have a piece too." "Ok!" So we both ate some of my precious candy and then went out front. We jumped off the bricks in front of the den window, only to land a couple inches below us on the grass. "Oh, darn. I guess it didn't work," Danny said. I wasn't so convinced. "Maybe we have to jump off something higher! Let's jump off the roof!" Danny talked me out of it, telling me that our mom wouldn't let us. I was sad and thought that my mom ruined all my fun. I don't know how many months it took to me realize Danny had conned me. Oh, well. It makes a great memory now. :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Out There

Genre: Disney
Artist: Music and Lyrics by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz
Album: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

This song begins with Frollo's lies to Quasimodo, promising him protection from the harsh, cruel world that would see him as nothing more than a monster. Once Frollo leaves, Quasimodo regrets the fact that he is not able to be part of the people below him. He notices the people below that shout and argue and don't enjoy the freedom they experience.

I often wonder what my life must seem like to others who might be watching me and I am not even aware of their existence. I am often bogged down by homework. I rarely have free time because I spend all of my time at work when I'm not in school. I constantly am tired and I long for a break, much like Quasimodo longed for a break from his own life. But then I think of my blessings.

First of all, I have not one job, but two! I literally have a few thousand dollars saved up just in preparation for marriage, not including money I have set aside for school, Disneyland trips, etc. The fact that I can go to Disneyland so often when I know of many good, wonderful people who will never have the chance to go in their entire lives. On top of that, both of my employers are wonderful! Dana, at the MTC, is a very understanding boss who takes a personal interest in the lives of his workers and does what he can to help them. Christy, at Deseret Book, is very dedicated to her job, quick with her wit and humor, and always makes herself available if I have a concern. She is also quick to praise any extraordinary performance.

Work aside, I also get to go to BYU! I also know of many people who do not have that opportunity that would like it. Some consider themselves lucky to go to any college at all. I have a car that gets me to places faster. It works wonderfully, even though the carpet inside is ripped up, there are slashes in my door, the "check engine" light never goes off even when I take my car in, and even though my CD player's quality isn't good. I still have a car! And it still has a CD player! I also have many friends! No matter where I go, there is almost always someone I can talk to.

With so many blessings, I need to be sure that I am not like the people Quasimodo observed who were "heedless of the gift it is to be them." My life can be hard, sure. But it is a great gift to be me. It is a great gift to be alive. I must treasure every instant, just as Quasimodo would if he were "out there" living my life.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hakuna Matata

Genre: Disney
Artist: Music and Lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice
Album: The Lion King

This is another song that takes me back to my high school days. Me and Kat Dillenbeck used to walk down the middle of the street at night singing this at the top of our lungs. Ha ha, what fun memories! I remember one time we were singing it as we walked by the local junior high school and the sprinklers were on. She suggested, as a joke, that we run through the sprinklers. I said, "Hakuna Matata!" and ran straight into the jet-stream of water. I was soaked, but it was so much fun!

Around the same time I was in the play "Much Ado about Nothing" at ALLC. I was playing Verges. My director, Eldon, decided to depict my character as Igor. Dr. Frankenstein's assistant. I loved my character so much that I would often walk with a limp and a hunched shoulder. One night, while I was acting in character, Kat told me to run and hop over a fence. I began to run across the street and tripped over my own legs (due to running with a limp) that I fell face forward into the asphalt. I got up laughing. Ah, what carefree nights! Whenever I listen to this song, I cannot help but go back to those days and smile.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Curse

Genre: Musical
Artist: Music by Kurt Bestor and Sam Cardon, Lyrics by Michael McLean
Album: Rigoletto

I absolutely love this song! Its message is profound and powerful: "There is no curse or evil spell that's worse than one we give ourselves." Bad things happen to us in life, but the worst thing we can do is react poorly to it. A person with a cruel heart is far worse than a person under a curse. "And yet we cry, 'life isn't fair!' Beneath our cries the truth is there: the power that will break this spell...is locked within ourselves." Instead of complaining, I should change my circumstances. Even the scriptures teach that man was created to act and not to acted upon. Why sit around resigned? If I am not happy with my life, then it is up to me to change it, to improve it.

"Yet we'd rather blame and curse our fate than change. We run from everyone to hide from the pain and all the shame." Such is the natural reaction. Such is my reaction. I would rather run from a situation where I could get hurt than go through the often-painful process of changing myself. But that doesn't change the truth. In order to become a better person, I need to be less prideful and not get upset so quickly at little things.

Isn't it remarkable how man is in charge of his own destiny? My life is whatever I make of it! Will I let life's problems overwhelm me and drag me down? No! I will make the necessary changes in my life so that I can find contentment and fulfillment. "The power that will break this curse . . . is locked within myself." When life is hard, I need only reflect on this song and then I remember to set that power free.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stay With Me

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Lyrics and Music by Stephen Sondheim
Album: Into the Woods

In this song, the witch has caught Rapunzel allowing her prince to visit her in the tower. She, of course, is furious with Rapunzel. But then the story takes a twist as the witch explains why she locked Rapunzel in the tower. She has raised Rapunzel as her own daughter and now is afraid that Rapunzel will leave her forever. She basically asks her what was wrong, was she not handsome enough like the prince was? She sadly states, "I am old. I am ugly. I embarrass you." When Rapunzel protests that she was lonely and wanted to see the world, the witch's heart nearly breaks. "Don't you know what's out there in the world?" she asks. As a witch, she has been shunned and treated poorly by society, making her react the only way she saw fit, by being a "wicked" witch. Basically, the witch wants Rapunzel to protect her innocence.

She tells Rapunzel, "Princes wait there in the world, it's true. Princes, yes, but wolves and humans, too." Yes, there are so many wonderful things out there in the adult world. But there are so many horrible things as well. I have tasted both. I have been through betrayels, heartache, and despair just as I have been through friendships, love, and joy. Referring to these last few things, the witch asks, "Who out there could love you more than I? What out there that I cannot supply? Stay with me. The world is dark and wild. Stay a child while you can be a child with me." But people are so eager to grow up. They shed their innocence, seeking for something new and exciting. I, on the other hand, cling to innocence as much as I can.

The lesson in this song however, reveals that perhaps both Rapunzel AND the witch have the wrong philosophy. Rapunzel wants to leave her home and her family to explore the world. That isn't right. We have families to help us face the world. Yes, people need to have independence, but they should not cut themselves off from those that matter most. As for the witch, she cannot create an Eden for her daughter. We were put on earth to face challenges and endure trials and heartache. It is only by doing so that we can recognize joy, love, and friendship for what they are worth. It is not easy, but it is the best way. All the same, I can sympathize with the witch's plea for Rapunzel to remain a child as long as possible. Once you grow up and face the hardships of life, you wish to prolong those hardships as long as possible for those that you care about. But the fact of the matter is, you cannot shelter anybody. They need to confront the challenges of life. The best thing I can do for those that I care about is to be there as their support. It is not easy to stand on the sidelines and watch a loved one endure a difficult trial. That is perhaps the hardest lesson I have ever been taught in my life. It is a lesson I am still learning.

Once Upon a Dream

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artisit: Lyrics and Music by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn
Album: Jekyll & Hyde

There are two songs in Jekyll & Hyde with this title. The first is sung by Emma and she recalls the relationship she once had with Jekyll that is now dissipating. The other is sung by Jekyll as he realizes that his dream is being shattered. Both are sung to the same music and are very powerful. In Emma's, she says, "Once upon a dream, I was lost in love's embrace...Once there was a time like no other time before." Then, at the end of the song, she sadly reflects, "Once upon a dream, you were heaven-sent to me. Was it never meant to be? Are you just a dream? Could we begin again?" This song captures the sadness of having lost someone you love. In the play, Jekyll has not included her in what he is doing because he does not want her to know the kind of monster he has become. Little does he realize how much Emma still loves him and wants to be a part of his life. Their relationship even seemed heaven-sent. It was perfect, but now it is fading quickly. I know the feeling all too well.

When Jekyll sings, he recalls his dream: "I conceived a perfect plan that would change the face of man! . . . For it was my dream to create a perfect world! . . . "And I was unafraid. The dream was so enticing! But now I see it fade and I stand here, alone! Once upon a dream, all I had to do was try. Too late now to wonder why it can never be. Could I begin again?" Well, my ambitions are not quite as high as Jekyll's. I am not trying to create a perfect world, but it is my dream to create a better world. I want to change the world in some way for the better. I know I can do that! And yet, all that I have done seems to have come to nothing thus far. It is very discouraging.

What I like about these songs is that they both end on a hopeful note. Emma and Jekyll both had wonderful dreams, and they had never been happier than while wrapped in their dreams. Sadly, both of these dreams were ruined. But they both wonder if they could begin again. That is the hopeful part. Some of my greatest dreams have been shattered, but that does not mean that I will never dream again. I can begin again. I can create new dreams. I am a dreamer and as such I will continue thinking of dreams to pursue. Hopefully, another dream will come true soon.