Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Kickstarter: Holly JULY Christmas with Phoebe Gildea and Noah Brenner

Just a brief post here today to support a great little Christmas music Kickstarter project ending in the early, early AM on Aug 1.  Phoebe Gildea and Noah Brenner are creating a new album of Christmas music, due out for this holiday season.

Phoebe Gildea is a soprano who focuses on opera and musical theatre.  Noah is a harper (now, that's a new word for me - I always thought is was harpist), a singer, and an arranger.  They met while tango dancing, and are now collaborating on what should be an excellent collection of Christmas music!


Phoebe and Noah have a quite modest Kickstarter goal, that as of this posting is less than $1000 from being successfully backed.  They have a splendid selection of backer rewards, including near-immediate downloads of two bonus songs.



Please visit their Kickstarter page, read about their project, and watch their video.  Phoebe and Noah are happy, funny, energetic, and enthusiastically committed to this project.  They are exactly the type of artists I love to support, and they will give you a little charge of good feelin's, which all of us need these days.



Love these artists, love their project, and I hope you'll visit their page and be convinced to be a backer.

Merry July!

Have a Holly JULY Christmas Kickstarter site

Phoebe Gildea website - listen to Phoebe!

Noah Brenner website

Adorable!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Der Bingle's Tips for a Christmas in July Party!

Merry July good people!

There are many in the Christmas-on-the-web community that share a little taste of the holidays in mid-Summer, celebrating Christmas in July.  I think this is a beautiful thing, as, in July we are now closer to Christmas next than we are to Christmas past.  This year I thought I'd share a few tips to a guaranteed successful Christmas in July Party!

When
Well, anytime in July is good, but it would be best to avoid early July so you don't interfere with Independence Day festivities.  So, I think that July 25th is perfect, being 5 months from Christmas, but the Saturday closest to the 25th will work splendidly.

Invitations
Der Bingle loves traditional Christmas cards, and I think that sending Christmas cards out to your guests as invitations really gets the spirit in high gear from the get go.  It may be tough to find Christmas cards at your local retailers this time of year, but fortunately Christmas on the internet never stops.  Here are some of my favorite sites for Christmas cards:

Paperless Post - a veritable treasure trove of cards for all occasions, including an extensive Christmas collection.

A couple designs from Paperless Post:




Retro Christmas Card Company - modern cards with a retro feel.

This is a great one from Retro with a party feel:



Kansas City local Artist Stephanie Summers' holiday cards 

And, I really dig the cards created by the Museum of Modern Art

Find a design that fits your party and surprise your guests with a summertime Christmas card!

Attire

It's much too hot in these parts (Missouri) to wear an ugly Christmas sweater in July, but fear not!  There are plenty of sources for ugly Christmas sweater T-shirts on the internet!  Here's one: TeePublic.  And there are many others to choose from, including quite a selection on Amazon.  So, stay cool and still dress for the occasion!

Food

Even though it's Summer, you can still keep the spirit of Christmas dinner alive and well.  Instead of a roast turkey or a baked, glazed ham, try smoked sliced turkey and ham from your local deli.  You can smoke it yourself on your grill, as long as you have a way for the smoke to permeate it.  Get thin-sliced ham and turkey, and enclose it in a grill basket (like this).  Soak some wood chips, like hickory, mesquite, or apple.  Get your charcoal grill going, add the soaked chips to get a good smoke going, and place the meat in the basket on the grill.  The smoke will give the meat excellent flavor.

Fresh summer vegetables like red peppers and green beans add festive color to your menu.

And it wouldn't be a summer party without home-made ice cream!  Here's the ol' family recipe for excellent home-made vanilla:

Vanilla Ice Cream

4-5 eggs - beaten
1 1/2 cup sugar
2-3 cups whole milk

1 can evaporated milk
1 pint half & half
1/2 pint whipping cream

Peppermint candies, crushed,

Stir eggs, sugar, and milk together.  Cook over slow heat in top of double boiler, stirring occasionally, until it coats a spoon slightly.  Add evaporated milk, half & half, and whipping cream.  Stir to mix.  Add this mix to your ice cream freezer and freeze according to freezer manufacturer's directions.

For our manual hand-crank freezer, I crank for 30 minutes, constantly keeping an ice-salt mixture around the freezer canister.

Once the ice cream is frozen, immediately add the crushed peppermint candy and mix well, then serve.  Now it's truly a Christmas in July frozen minty treat!



Music

What would a Christmas party be without Christmas music?  Just a regular ol' party, that's what.  The final ingredient in a great Christmas in July party is a super, upbeat selection of Christmas music.  A few recommendations:

The Beach Boys Christmas Album - a perfect blend of summertime sounds and Christmas
The Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails sets
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's Christmas albums
Brian Setzer Orchestra's Christmas albums

Or you can stream Christmas playlists from Amazon Prime Music or services such as 8tracks or Mixcloud.  The King of Jingaling himself has several Mixcloud playlists ready to kick up your Christmas in July party jams!


Activities

Now, add in some fun activities and you have the perfect Christmas in July party.  Maybe you can do a summer-themed steal-a-gift/white elephant exchange.  Maybe some Christmas karaoke by the pool.  I'd love to hear your ideas for fun and games.

So there you have it - Der Bingle's Christmas in July Party Tips - go have a Merry ol' time!



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dispatches from Planet Comicon: Author Angela Roquet

Whenever I saw "novelist" in the Planet Comicon program guide, I made a mental note to visit the author at the show, supplemented by finding their table on the guide map and highlighting it in yellow.  Organized, that's me.  And, authors became a main quest during my day at PC.

Angela Roquet, author, consequently caught my attention in the guide.  There was a little stumble when I couldn't find her on the guide map, but a quick message via Facebook to the cooperative and quick-to-respond author let me uncap my highlighter and mark the location of Ms. Roquet.

I found her table fairly early in the day, and we had a very pleasant discussion.  She is local to the state of Missouri, though not a Kansas City resident.  Still, only being a couple of hours drive from KC, she's close enough to consider a local author.

Angela has a multi-book series called "Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc.", with the first book in the series titled "Graveyard Shift", followed by "Pocket Full of Posies", "For the Birds", and three others.  I had already downloaded "Graveyard Shift" to my Kindle, so I bought the next two in the series.  


Angela has also written short stories (including "Season's Reapings", a Christmas-themed story!!!), and other novels outside of her series.  One, "Blood Moon", is more in the paranormal romance genre, and led to an interesting turn in the conversation.  I asked Angela if she knew Lisa Kessler, an author with several paranormal romance publications.  She said yes, she had been acquainted with Lisa for several years.  She asked if I knew Lisa through her books or her opera singing.  Neither, I answered, and explained that I met Lisa and her husband Ken a few years ago in San Diego.  Yes, friends, that would be Ken Kessler of "Sounds of Christmas" internet radio!  And, astute readers may recall that Ken's first CD release "Sounds of Christmas" featured Lisa singing "Christmas Vacation". Just goes to show that everything comes around to Christmas music :-)


I haven't read Angela's work yet, so I can't give a book review.  I can tell you that it was a great pleasure spending a good bit of time at the Con talking to Angela.  She was exuberant about her work, friendly, and excited to be there meeting friends and fans.

Angela can be found at AngelaRoquet.com, and her books are also available on Amazon.

The Mysterious Angela Roquet
I'll definitely be getting a copy of "Season's Reapings" for my Christmas library, and can't wait to dive into "Graveyard Shift" for one of my summertime reads.

And Hey!  If you've read this far, here's the best part: as of this writing, you can download the "Graveyard Shift" ebook for free!  Go to Angela's website, click on the book cover, and download away!  I love free stuff.  Especially books and music.

Please visit Angela's website and treat yourself to a free book!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dispatches from Planet Comicon: KC Comic Artist Megan Fitts

This past weekend (May 20-22) Planet Comicon took over downtown Kansas City.  A few years ago, when I went to my first Planet Comicon, it was in a venue about the size of a high school gym and Billy Dee Williams was the star attraction.  Three years ago, the second time I went, it took up half of Bartle Hall, Kansas City's convention center.  George Takei, Wil Wheaton, and Peter Mayhew were the 'A' list guests then.  I got an autograph from Mr. Takei, and a pro photo op as well.  However, a visit with Lee Meriwether was a highlight of the Con.  She was talkative, totally delightful, and having a ball!

This year I went back again.  Planet Comicon is huge.  It takes up the entire convention center for its three day run.  George Takei was back, along with Jenna Coleman, Barbara Eden, one special guest I'll be blogging about later, Kevin Smith, and even The Great One, Stan Lee.  It don't get no better than Stan Lee.  I opted not to pay the $100 autograph fee for Mr. Lee, however I did get to visit with many fine artists, several of them local.  I'd like to take the opportunity with a few posts to introduce Merry & Bright readers to some of these wonderful artists.

At the top of the list is Megan Fitts, a Kansas City artist who recently received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute.  As her thesis, Megan created and (with the help of a Kickstarter campaign) self-published a comic book called "I Am Nora", the story of "a clone working in a hospital (who) discovers a taste of humanity and individuality."


Much to my embarrassment, I forgot to become a backer for her project before it ended.  Fortunately for Megan, her campaign was fully funded and she was able to publish her work.  Fortunately for me, I saw that she was in "Artist Alley" at PC, so I was able to stop by, meet and chat with Megan, and buy myself a copy of "I Am Nora".

"I Am Nora" is a wonderful, beautifully conceived and executed graphic story.  It has minimal dialogue, instead allowing the art to tell the tale.  Color is used strategically to marvelous effect - color is indeed a major character in this story.  Megan's drawing is simple yet filled with subtlety that adds amazing depth.  The eyes of the characters bring them to life, their posture gives them their energy.  I'm not giving away any of the story apart from the quote above, as there is great joy in knowing little when you open the book and then experience the story as it unfolds.

Following the story are four pages of insight into the creation of "I Am Nora", with sketches and notes about Megan's creative process.

A bonus find at Megan's table was "Old Friend", an earlier comic book she published with a 9-page, wordless story about a graphic artist, with fantastic, surreal elements.  It's heartfelt and totally engaging.


I encourage you to check out Megan's Tumblr page, The Art of Megan Fitts where you can hey! read "Old Friend" for free!

Well done Megan!  Der Bingle wishes you continued success!

Hmmm.... I wonder what sort of Christmas artwork Megan could do...




Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Young Novelists at the KC Folk Fest

One of the performances I caught at the KC Folk Fest was by The Young Novelists.  They were new to me, so I decided to catch their set.

The Young Novelists are either a duo or a six piece full band (more on that later).  Traveling to Kansas City from their Toronto home, they were a duo, couple Graydon James and Laura Spink.  Graydon plays acoustic guitar, Laura plays various percussion and melodica (at least it looks like the melodicas I found on the Internet after Googling "wind instrument keyboard"), and they share vocals.



Their set was very entertaining, and they are an exceptionally talented young duo.  Graydon and Laura combine for very tight, beautiful harmonies, reminding me of the classic CSN sounds.  Many of the songs they performed were originals, showing a talent for heart-of-roots-music songwriting.  A show highlight, however, was a killer - Killer! - cover of "Jackson", the frenetic song made famous by June Carter and Johnny Cash.

Graydon and Laura had a great rapport with the audience, entertaining us between their songs with stories about their young son, and a recent performance at an elementary school where none of the children knew what a CD was.  It's an iPod world, folks.


The best thing about The Young Novelists, though, was the exuberance that shone from them during their set.  They play with a natural energy that wraps up an audience.  Combine this with their talent as musicians and songwriters, and you have a really great, enjoyable show.  They work hard, and they love what they do.

After the show, and after they had stowed their instruments away, I caught a moment with Laura and introduced myself, and welcomed them to Kansas City.  And, let me tell you, Laura was so nice!  We talked about their stay here in KC at the Folk Alliance conference, both this year and last.  Laura talked to me like I was an old friend - what a sweetheart!

So, I left them to finish packing up, and I wandered out to the central merch table, where Young Novelists CDs were for sale.  I picked up a copy of their most recent, "made us strangers", their 4th release.  Previously under the name "Graydon James and the Young Novelists" they had released an EP, a live album, and a studio album.  For "made us strangers", the band name changed to just "The Young Novelists".  I then took the CD back down the hall and saw Graydon and Laura signing CDs at the door, so I went back up, got autographs, and chatted with them some more.  Graydon wrote a short novel on the CD cover while I was talking to Laura about being traveling musicians while raising a child.  I finally left Laura and Graydon to tend to their Folk Alliance business, feeling great about having met such a fine, friendly musical couple.


Then, on to the CD.  Popping the CD in the player on my drive back home, I was greeted with a much fuller sound than I was expecting from the the duo that I had just seen.  It was when I got home and was able to research The Young Novelists that I found out that in addition to Graydon and Laura as the core duo, they also have an incarnation as a full six piece band.  The fuller sound on the album - drum kit, bass, electric guitar, etc. - extended and complemented the music I had heard from the duo earlier in the day.  The harmonies were still there, musically expanded with full roots-rock arrangements.  Best of all, that exuberance that made their performance so special still shines though on the studio album.


Highlights:  well, everything on the album is good.  My favorites were the opener "palindrome", "always make the mistake" with Laura singing lead, the harmonies on "hear your voice", the heavier, ear-catching "what lies ahead" featuring some great piano work by Alex Dodd, and the more melancholy-sounding "couldn't be any worse", which includes some beautiful accompanying strings.

So, now we can hope that we hear "Christmas with The Young Novelists" sometime in the near future :-)

The Young Novelists website
The Young Novelists on Facebook
The Young Novelists on Soundcloud
"made us strangers" on Amazon

And, Laura Spink says, The Young Novelists are everywhere on the internet - Twitter, Youtube, Instagram.... check them out and enjoy!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

What the Folk?

Hello good readers, and happy Winter!  We have barely had a Winter here in Kansas City, with much higher than normal temperatures all season, and a measly 5 inches of snow, total.  I've only gotten to wear my favorite Winter coat, a kick-a** Montgomery Duffel Coat, for about 4 days.  Der Bingle loves temps in the teens, and we've had very few of those this season.

But enough about the weather.  I'm going to temporarily change directions here at the ol' blog, for a handful of posts over the next few weeks.  I went to the Folk Alliance International conference's Folk Fest last week, in it's 3rd year of (at least) a 5-year run here in KC, and got to see some extraordinary performers.  A $30 ticket bought 10AM-5PM access to music on 5 stages, with performers changing each hour.  I saw and talked to some great artists, and I'm going to take the next several posts and let you all know about them.

For tonight, as an into, here are some pictures from the Folk Fest.

 From the Sunday morning gospel brunch!



Sara Morgan, Arkansas-born, now Kansas City based, with dreams of performing at the Grand Ol' Opry.




The group known as Ayllu, with performers from Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, and midtown Kansas City.  They play South American-inspired music, and are all multi-instrumentalists, frequently within a single song.  Their set was absolutely smokin'!


Local musical extraordinaire Mikal Shapiro, playing with Ayllu.




The Young Novelists, a folk duo from Toronto.  More about them in a later post.



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Loose Ends 2015 Edition

Every year I end the season with a lot of things left undone.  All unintentional, all a factor of balancing time between work, family, all the other Christmas season activities, of which there are many, and this here little blog.  Each year I get many e-mails notifying me about new Christmas music, more than I can possibly do justice to.  Usually, the earlier I get notice the better, but even then sometimes the music can get lost in the shuffle.  If an artist or publicist sends me a physical CD, I do my best to critically and intently listen and write up s good thorough review.  I think I hit 100% on that mark this year.  It's the digital music and submissions that, sadly, sometimes don't make it to the blog.  So, here in the last official post of the season, I'm going to provide some info and links about some other fine Christmas music from 2015.

First up is "On a Christmas Night" by Found Wandering.  How on Earth did this one get by?  Seriously, how?  Thank Santa for Stubby, who did a great job covering this record with his full review.  This is a great, great record.  Starting with the album art, about the best thing I've ever seen, through all 11 tracks, this is a fantastic Christmas album.  I may return to this record and give it the justice it deserves when we kick off the 2016 season.  But for now, here are links to the record and to the band's site, and the fab album cover.


"On a Christmas Night"
Found Wandering site on Bandcamp

Next up is "Christmas Crackers" by Poke Music, a collection of 26(!) songs, originals and favorites, performed by many talented artists in various styles - crooner, Elvis, Madonna "Santa Baby" style, and more.  It is a most pleasing collection of songs sure to satisfy all the Christmas music lovers out there as well as the casual holiday-time listener.

"Christmas Crackers" on Bandcamp

And now, links, links, links...

"Christmas at the Piano" by Paul Tracy  Bandcamp link
"The Angel Gabriel feat. Dave Worm" by PC Munoz   Bandcamp link
"A Colorful Christmas" by Fetal Records Music  Soundcloud link
"Merry Christmas, with Love" by Lily Lambert  Soundcloud link
"Up All Night" by The Yule Logs   YouTube link
"Christmas Time Again" by SPiN  link
"Hark the Herald Angels Sing" by Claudia Hoyser  YouTube link
"Knights in Santa's Service" by Teflon Beast  Bandcamp link
Two tunes from Loop Line

Late Breaking:  Here are a couple more I found in the inbox:

"Christmas May Have To Be Postponed" - Carly Jamison  website
"Kidnap the Sandy Claws" - Fable Cry - Soundcloud link

Whew - I think that's it.  There is some mighty fine music in this list.  2015 was a down year for commercial releases but a banner year for downloadable, off-label, independent artist music.  Slick and commercial, or filled with heart and spirit, take your pick.

Please visit these sites, listen to the music samples, and support these artists if their music moves you.
Thanks to all who visited Merry and Bright this season - I hope you had a happy and joyous Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter, filled with new and old music for the season.  Have a prosperous 2016, and check back here from time to time!