Hilltop Diary, November 1, 2021

Happy All Saints Day and All Souls Day tomorrow! We visited friends on Halloween (All Hallows Eve) and also on the night before. Only a few “spooks” came to the house where we were. Crystal made a pumpkin cheesecake for one of these events and a pumpkin swirl cheesecake-ish tart for the other, and so, a day before, I was dispatched to the grocery to buy some Philadelphia Cream Cheese. That shelf was bare! So are a lot of their shelves, due to supply chain problems! I asked if they would check in the back, and a fellow managed to find some on a truck that had just arrived at their loading dock! Cheesecakes saved!

I wrote two Epoch Times articles in the preceding days, the one on “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Bagpipes” will be on line (in their Arts section) on Nov. 3 and shortly thereafter in print. It seems they have now promoted me from just the New York edition to also be in the National Edition, the one you get in print delivered to your home, if you subscribe to it wherever you live. My second article will appear on November 9, on the Noble Art of Piano Tuning. For that one, I interviewed a blind piano tuner and researched piano tuning by the blind as one of their traditional professions, in addition to talking about piano tuning in general. These kinds of quirky topics interest me and are fun to research and write about. Then I’ll have another two articles this month, for a total of four published in November.

Crystal was to sing in a Cabaret show this month, but unfortunately it was canceled due to too many cast members coming down with Covid during the rehearsal phase, so it could not be properly prepared. Now she has agreed instead to do a one-time Christmas cabaret show with other singers at the Springhouse Theater on December 15, featuring music from White Christmas. She has enjoyed having tea and going to a couple of local shows with new cast friends from The Music Man, to some shows with me coming along (like Little Women, a musical I love), and to one without me, Sweeney Todd — not my cup of tea (sorry to those who love it). So we are keeping too busy and often feel tired. As always, it comes down to getting enough sleep and learning to say no to doing too many things. We joked today that the phrase “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord” has taken on a whole new meaning.

I’ve been tinkering with music for a new ballet I have been asked to write, a fairytale allegory about, and in honor of, a real-life ballerina named Raffaella Stroik who died tragically a few years ago. They do not yet have a choreographer, and hence I do not have a specific list of pieces in a proper timed scenario to work from. Nonetheless, I decided to get started writing some generic kinds of pieces that could probably be used in such a ballet, like a ballroom dance, or swashbuckling music for a sword fight. Here is a news story about Raffaella and the ballet project:

TV News story about Raffaella

Go Fund Me for the Ballet with more Raffaella Info


By the way, just a note of etiquette. I mean this kindly and not in an unkind way. People always imagine they are paying me a compliment to tell me my music is “good enough to be in a movie.” It is a compliment to tell a movie composer his music is good enough for the classical concert hall, but the reverse is NOT a compliment, to tell a classical, concert-hall composer with a doctorate in music composition that his music is good enough to be in a movie. That would be like enthusiastically complimenting a highly trained French chef that his food is good enough to be on the menu at Chili’s (no offense meant to Chili’s). I just try to smile and say thank you, because they are trying to be nice and to say they enjoyed it, after all.

Ballet perhaps falls somewhere in between the concert hall and film, requiring classical skill in both composition and orchestration (film composers use another orchestrator), but with shorter pieces that must match the story of the ballet scenes, something like movie cues. This first piece I have written for possible use in the ballet has the working title: “The Kind Princess Enters the Wondrous and Celestial Castle.” Depending on the story line, it may need to be longer or shorter or may be subject to revision, and it may have nothing to do with my fanciful working title! Even so, I thought you might enjoy hearing the mockup of this piece now. It is scored for large symphony orchestra.

Press the little arrow below to listen. I hope you enjoy it! (If you don’t have big speakers on your device, please use headphones so you can hear the full range its rich bass notes.)


site stats


  1. Steve Harris · · Reply

    Hauntingly beautiful!


  2. I understand the slight twinge of pain you might feel at being told that your music is good enough to be on a movie. I have the same sort of feeling when people tell me that they like my organ playing so much more than the one at one other church because it is not as loud (when really I would love to play the kind of majestic music played at the other church, except the organ at my church is not conducive to that kind of music, because it is electric and it sounds like you are blowing out the speakers when it is too loud). I think though that you can, in a way, be happy at that kind of a compliment, because I think it means that they were transported emotionally by the music you composed. In fact, so transported that they felt they were in another world.


    1. Thanks, Celia. Also, I really do not look “down” on film music as much it is might have appeared from my remarks above, because there are some composers like Bernard Herrman who rose to a high level of artistry in that medium. It is just a very different skill set, to portray the emotions of the film, while a symphony in the concert hall is concerned more with very long developmental musical forms, making a coherent narrative of its own. I’d say film music, in its shorter cues, is more like poetry, while the long classical forms are more like a novel. A poem is not better or worse than a novel, just different.


      1. Very beautifully put


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s