Season’s Greetings

Christmas Tree 032

Christmas Tree 028

Bennet and I 004

Christmas is once again approaching. I’m not a “festive” person myself. I’d rather curl up with a good book and a glass of red wine and bask in my solitude. However, that doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t enjoy themselves; after all I’m working in a hotel environment. The Christmas tree in the fine dining of the E & O Hotel was so beautiful I decided to take a few pictures with my Canon PowerShot G15.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The E & O Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony 2011

E & O Christmas Tree 003

Another tumultuous year has zipped by and before I knew it Mazeta was asking me to accompany the E & O Nightingales for the annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on December 1. Of course there were a few changes—we have a new boss, signor Marco Battistotti (who gave a rousing welcoming speech), we had the Chief Minister of Penang pay a surprise visit and he also gave a brief speech. The Nightingales had different personnel from last year, and the guests adjourned to the new Sarkies in the new Victory Annex after the choir thingy was over. I would like to thank Mrs. Fong for kindly loaning me a Yamaha PSR-E423 keyboard, because I can guarantee you one thing never changes as far as this event is concerned—the cacophony produced by the guests reaches stratospheric levels. It’s all in good fun and this event does herald the beginning of the festive season for the hotel. I lugged along my Canon 550D and Speedlite 580EX II to take some pictures. The first picture above is of the glorious Christmas tree on the morning of December 1. I shot this using bounce flash from the 580EX II and again words fail me—I love my 580EX II.

(Below) Here I am, posing with my Yamaha. I’m a wee bit underexposed because Eugene (the photographer) doesn’t know how to use AE-Lock on my Canon. He’s a Lumix guy, duh!

E & O Christmas Tree 010

(Photos below) As usual I snuck into the Bombay Shop before the choir sang and took some pictures of the beautiful items on sale. Setting the 580EX II to bounce flash gives all these pictures a soft, natural look.

E & O Christmas Tree 021E & O Christmas Tree 022E & O Christmas Tree 023

E & O Christmas Tree 032

(Above) This year’s choir was splendid—they belted their hearts out and had a good time. A guy with an EOS 60D was present so I asked him to take some pictures of us. Fill-in flash saves the day, otherwise our faces would be in shadow.

(Below) Another picture of some choir members and myself. We were in a more relaxed mood now that the ceremony was over, ha ha.

E & O Christmas Tree 043

(Photos below) No lack of beautiful women either, heh heh. The shot immediately below was taken with the ever-beautiful Beatrice (aka Mrs. Saxon. Mike, don’t come after me) and the following shot was taken with the lovely Marilyn and Mazeta.

E & O Christmas Tree 036

E & O Christmas Tree 026

After the event was over the choir members and myself adjourned to a restaurant for some dinner. It was fun and here’s looking forward to the next December 1!

E & O Christmas Tree 046

All I Want For Christmas (Is To Wrap My Arms Around You)

Composed by Rick Cooper

I came across this vid on YouTube a few days ago, listened to it, and it struck a chord deep within me. I was very moved by the song, the lyrics, and the pictures Rick Cooper (the composer from Mount Dora, FL) had put in the vid. I sent him a comment, saying that it was a “Fantastic song and wonderful pictures. Brings tears to my eyes.” I didn’t think about it after that.

However, I had a pleasant surprise because Rick emailed a reply to me and said how much he appreciated my comment. He had been watching some of my YouTube vids too, and he was impressed (Thanks, Rick!) And guess what—he asked me to record a solo piano version of the song above because he wanted to post an instrumental version on YouTube, and would I do it? Would I? Of course! Rick made me feel so honored because he could have asked just about anyone else to do it, but he asked me. Prior to this we didn’t know each other, but through the power of the Internet, and most importantly through the spirit of kindness, two people thousands of miles apart have been able to connect. By the way I rushed a piano solo version of the song to Rick and he loved it—I’m so glad! Here’s his email that he sent to everyone on his video distribution list:

The Spirit of Christmas, the Power of the Internet

Philip Yeoh is a pianist/entertainer, a piano teacher, and an author of an eBook on learning to play the piano. He lives in Penang, Malaysia. Until yesterday, I had never heard of Philip, and he had never heard of me.

In the spirit of the season, Philip was searching YouTube for Christmas songs and came across the video of “All I Want For Christmas (Is To Wrap My Arms Around You),” the Christmas song I co-wrote with John Schwab. Philip sent me a nice note on YouTube to let me know how much he loved the song and the video. I responded to his note and thanked him for his comments. I then checked out Philip’s YouTube channel and watched a video of Philip playing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” I then went to his website and read about his extensive musical background and training. He is very, very talented.

An idea came to mind, and I sent another note to Philip. I complimented him on his playing, and suggested that he consider one day playing an instrumental version of “All I Want For Christmas (Is To Wrap My Arms Around You), especially since he liked the song so much. Well, I’m sure you know where this is heading…

In the midst of the busy holiday season, work, teaching, marketing his eBook and so on, Philip took the time to record my song. It’s amazing to think that he had never heard the song until yesterday, and he had no sheet music or anything to guide him. In a few short hours, he took the guitar/vocal version and turned it into a beautiful instrumental piece on the piano.

So the power of the internet connected two people separated by thousands and thousands of miles, and the spirit of Christmas resulted in a wonderful recording of a Christmas song that otherwise would have never been.

I am attaching the song if you would like to listen to it. I will also be posting it on my website and Facebook. I am including below links to Philip’s website and a link to the YouTube video of “All I Want For Christmas (Is To Wrap My Arms Around You),” which is now over 13,000 views.

Thank you, Philip, and Merry Christmas to all!

Rick

Thank you, Rick, for allowing me to become a part of your heart-warming song.

EDIT: The story of how Rick and I met online is now on his website. Please check it out!

Merry Christmas to all my readers

Before anyone knocks me, I love the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of Jesus in a manger. What I dislike is the other stuff—insane shopping, non-stop partying, eating and more eating, etc. I’m probably getting the Christmas blues *sighs*. I received a present or two from my students, so that was nice. No Christmas tree is up, I just bought this cute little Christmas stocking, because I already know what I want for Christmas and the New Year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers. May 2011 bring you lots of love, peace, and joy. Take care and God bless.

Thank you, God!

Yesterday saw me completely overwhelmed with a feeling of sadness. I tried hard to shake it off, I really did. But no, it was a downer. However, I had to work at the hotel, so off I went, and started tinkling on the piano as usual. I played quite a few Christmas tunes, the ones I like best are the more somber ones like Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Halfway through my set, a Caucasian couple walked past and the wife paused by my side and said something along these lines: “I wish you didn’t play so much Christmas music, I’m a long way from home and I’m feeling homesick.”

I replied, “Are your from the States?” She said yes, she and her husband live in Arizona. I was starting to perk up, so I said “You’re not from Tucson, are you?” And my goodness, she said “YES!” I stopped playing in mid-song and jumped up. We talked for about 15 minutes and it was like the good Lord had sent this couple to cheer me up. Thank you, Marg and Steve, for being so kind and warm to me. We talked about my college days in Tucson, and it was like revisiting with old friends. We laughed, and we hugged…awww! I haven’t had any hugs lately and it was so good to receive one!

Unfortunately Marg and Steve will be flying to Singapore tomorrow and they’re doing some touring in Asia before they head home to Tucson next month. I’ll be keeping in touch, Marg. That’s a promise. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to both of you. God bless!

The song remains the same

Somehow or other I’ve been suffering from a lack of blogging juices lately…with the help of a little Diana Krall playing in the background hopefully I can get this post published. The crux of the matter is that this festive season has left me a bit depressed—not to the point where I have to resort to medication yet, thank God. After all I have many things to be thankful for (and I do thank the good Lord for my blessings, every day). However, it is hard to feel upbeat all the time when some treacherous curveballs have been thrown my way. Trying my best to duck out of harm’s way, not 100% successful though.

I’m going through a major crisis in my life—something that will probably get worse before it gets better. I don’t want to elaborate too much yet, but the constant source of support that I’ve gotten from friends and relatives has been very encouraging. Nonetheless, it hurts when I have time to ponder, which is why I’m trying to keep myself preoccupied with anything I can find—my teaching, blogging, reading, exercising. Idle minds do give fodder to the devil and his workshop…it’s a blessing that I can feel that there are people who are praying and genuinely concerned about my well-being.

I know it’s silly, but I wish the beaming technologies of Star Trek could be available now. Instead, I have to get onboard a 747 if I want to get out of here. And that costs money, damn.

Still, all it takes is a little warm encouragement from a friend, who says “Hang in there.” Or the smile of a student when I gently encourage her to play (that happened today!) And whaddaya know, a student gave me an early Christmas present—thanks, Jason and Sue! Little things do matter and mean a lot to me…and that’s what keeps me buoyant, instead of slumbering down and wallowing in a mess of self-pity. And let’s not forget music…that really helps to soothe my troubled soul.

Apologies if this post sounds downhearted—it’s the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ—a miracle of miracles. I’ll just have to shoulder on and hopefully God willing, next year will see better days ahead for me…

Season’s Greetings to all my readers. Have a joyous Christmas and Happy New Year.

Coffee Bean for me!

In contrast to my blogging episode at Starbucks a few weeks ago (the latte was watered down, Internet connectivity was poor, and lots of children were running around) I decided tonight to cross over to the Coffee Bean for some web surfing away from home. And what a difference! I ordered a nice Ice Blended Hazelnut coffee with cream (very nice aroma and thick), I was alone in the air-conditioned section and the wireless connectivity’s excellent. And LOL, they’re already playing Christmas tunes in the background.

Speaking of Christmas, I can hardly believe that 2009 will be drawing to a close in a month or so. I’ll be accompanying the E & O Nightingales when they sing Christmas carols for the lighting of the Christmas Tree in the hotel lobby on December 1. This will be my 5th time doing it—I still get an adrenaline rush on the actual day…will post some pictures if I can remember.

Awww, Bing Crosby’s singing “White Christmas” as I’m typing this—that song always gets to me when I hear him sing it (yeah I’m such a softie) No more Christmas presents for me, since I’ve already acquired my Dell Studio 15 laptop and my Canon PowerShot SX120IS digital camera. And dang someone’s singing “The Christmas Song” over the speakers—I like these tunes when they’re done in a mellow style.

Right now a close friend of mine is celebrating her birthday, while another friend should be expecting her baby daughter anytime now (edit: she has given birth to a healthy baby girl). It’s so nice to have Windows Live Messenger to keep in touch with my close friends—I feel as if the miles don’t matter any more. I’m sitting back and chuckling at how difficult it was to keep in touch with my parents, for example, when I was studying in Arizona in the early ‘80’s. Snail mail (aka air mail) used to take roughly 10 days, and the only other forms of communication were the Western Union telegram and/or calling them on IDD. If only we had email and instant messaging then!

Okies, time to pack it up and head back home. And if you’re a Starbucks fan, I apologize…each to his/her own tastes, right?