What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas…or does it?

They say “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” But if you are a fan of Donny and Marie Osmond, you know otherwise. Fans of the brother and sister singing duo love to spread the news about their Osmond adventures, especially on one of the Osmond Facebook groups like Anything Osmond or The D&M Fan Page.

Images of Donny and Marie tower over Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip) at the Flamingo Hotel, where they have performed for 11 years.

I was lucky enough to make a trip to Las Vegas last month to see the Donny and Marie show for a bucket list trip to celebrate my 60th birthday. I have a bit of Osmond history and had hoped to attend the Meet and Greet after the show, but there were no tickets available. (For more background on the significance of the Osmonds to me and of this trip, read I’m Leaving it all up to you, Donny. This post is a follow up to that post.)

My friend Cheryl and me arriving in Las Vegas on October 4, 2019 to celebrate my birthday. Let the adventure begin…

While my friend Cheryl and I were in Vegas, Donny and Marie were inducted into the Las Vegas Walk of Stars. The induction ceremony was another chance for me (and probably my last chance) to meet them in person (and fulfill a childhood dream). Humor me as I share about my Donny adventure in Vegas (and for the fans who couldn’t be there).

A Bucket List Trip to Las Vegas

We arrived in Vegas a few hours before the Walk of Stars induction ceremony. We checked in early to our room at the Paris Hotel and had a wonderful outdoor lunch at Mon Ami Gabi with a wide open view of the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace and down the Strip. It was a great way to start our weekend adventure.

The view from our table at Mon Ami Gabi Restaurant, Paris Hotel, Las Vegas.

The induction ceremony was a few blocks away at the Flamingo Hotel on the sidewalk near the main entrance to the casino on the Strip. After lunch we walked to the location of the ceremony that was scheduled to start at 3:00. I heard that fans wouldn’t be allowed to show up until 2:30 to prevent people from blocking the sidewalk.

Our view for the Walk of Stars ceremony.

When we walked up to the site at 1:45, there was already a crowd of fans 1 row deep. A stage with a backdrop printed with ‘Donny & Marie’ on it was set up blocking one of the entrance doors. A chest-high barricade was also set up to keep the crowd a short distance from the stage. Security guards were also visible at the site.

Cheryl and I scoped out a place to stand and wait on the Strip side of the barricades. A red piece of fabric and cushions (like kneeling pads) in a square shape surrounded and covered the pavement block where the Star was imbedded into the sidewalk.

Although it was early October, the temperature was in the mid-80s and the Vegas sun was still hot on our backs. Being fair skinned, I put sun screen on my back before we left the hotel. However, some people behind me told me that the back of my neck was getting red. Some nice fans offered to help me cover my neck. The sun intensified the wait, and oh my aching feet!

Pre-Ceremony Activities

To pass the time, I periodically checked some of the Osmond Facebook groups that I belong to. I hoped to meet other Osmond fans from the group. As luck would have it, I noticed a post 1 minute earlier from someone who posted a photo that had the same camera angle that we did. I asked if anyone was ‘Cindy’. The lady in front of me turned around with a surprised look on her face. “I’m Cindy,” she said. (She is a big fan and regularly posts on the Osmond Facebook groups.)

As the time passed, people would stop and ask us what was going on. We’d tell them about the induction ceremony for Donny and Marie. A few tourists stopped to wait, but more so as the time neared 3:00.

Also while waiting, we got to see the framed ‘Walk of Stars’ plaque that Donny and Marie would both receive (similar to how they received Gold Records years ago). The plaques were being displayed by someone on the Flamingo staff (and his wife and son). They walked the plaques around to show the waiting fans.

Half an hour before the ceremony started, the media showed up. They came in with their big cameras, video equipment and tripods. They were closer to the stage (and the Star). Unfortunately, they were now blocking our direct line of vision for the Star’s unveiling.

A Surprise Guest

Shortly after the media arrived, the fans were surprised by the arrival of Alan Osmond, one of Donny and Marie’s older brothers. Alan was the oldest member of the original Osmond Brothers group. He is 70 and has Multiple Sclerosis.

Alan Osmond greets the fans.

We later learned that he wasn’t aware of his sibling’s induction ceremony. Alan and his wife Susan were there to host a prince and princess of Ethiopia for Donny and Marie’s show that night. The fans were thrilled to see Alan in person. He graciously rode his motorized wheelchair along the barricades and shook our hands (including mine).

Of course, as we stood outside waiting in the heat, I took lots of photos and video on my phone. At one point, my camera was so hot, it started to overheat. I had to shut it down. Fortunately, I was double loaded for shooting pictures and also had my large SLR camera with me.

Fifteen minutes before the ceremony started, Donny and Marie’s music was piped through the outdoor PA system. The excitement was definitely building at this point. Some people were singing along, but maybe it was just me.

Introductory comments by Robert Alexander, VP of the Las Vegas Walk of Stars and Damian Costa, vice president of entertainment operations for Caesars Entertainment.

A few minutes before 3:00, the ceremony began with some remarks from Robert Alexander, VP of the Las Vegas Walk of Stars. (Wayne Newton was the first recipient of a star back in 2004.) That speaker was followed by Damian Costa, vice president of entertainment operations for Caesars Entertainment, representing the Flamingo.

Marie, center left, (in her stiletto heels) greets the fans.

Donny & Marie Take Center Stage

The fans cheered and screamed at the introduction of Donny and Marie. They entered from the right of where we were standing. They entered from E. Flamingo Road and walked through an aisle of barricaded fans. Marie surfaced into the center of the area first. They announced Donny’s name several times before he finally emerged from the crowd. He stopped to shake people’s hands, sign autographs, and take photos. (All the while I was hoping he would come our way.)

Donny (center) greets the fans.

When Donny and Marie took the stage, they thanked their fans and spoke about their residency at the Flamingo. Did you know that Donny and Marie have performed more shows in Vegas than Celine Dion and Elvis Presley combined? They included some of their good-natured ribbing in typical Donny and Marie fashion. Donny joked that since they already had the key to the City, he was going to run for Mayor of Las Vegas. Marie countered by saying she would run for President. Fans cheered even louder in response.

Donny and Marie at the Las Vegas Walk of Stars ceremony, October 4, 2019.

A Star is Born

That was followed by the unveiling of their new Star on the Vegas Walk of Stars. My cell phone was working again by this time but our view was partially obstructed by the media. Even with my big zoom lens, I couldn’t get a good photo of the unveiling. But I snapped away regardless.

From Marie Osmond’s social media post on Instagram.

The unveiling of the star was followed by lots of media attention. Donny and Marie posed with the dignitaries, and others including their brother Alan. Cheryl and I (along with the fans) patiently stood waiting and hoping for our chance to meet Donny and Marie. I didn’t know what to expect next. I hadn’t really thought any of this through in advance. I only knew that I had traveled from Washington State hoping to meet him.

Donny, Marie, Alan and Susan Osmond, and a prince and princess of Ethiopia.

My Chance to Meet Donny

I wanted to get that long lost photo with Donny in person. So when it seemed like Donny was leaving (on the opposite side of the barricaded area), I tried to get his attention by yelling his name. I think that other fans followed suit, because he turned around and headed in our direction. Now I was nervous. What next? What would I say? Would I get a moment of his time to talk? Would he remember that day on the set of Northwest Afternoon?

He walked along the barricade heading towards me while shaking people’s hands. My heart started racing. The main thing that ran through my mind was getting a photo with Donny. But how? Cheryl and I were separated by a few people. The memory from the last time I met Donny 20 years ago was fresh in my mind. I was reliving it all over again (when no one volunteered to take our photo together). I was juggling cameras and trying to take photos—all the while trying to keep my wits about me. And here he came…

My moment was gone in an instant. Donny wasn’t stopping for anyone. He quickly shook his fans’ hands and went to the next person. He DID shake my hand and…more than that, I don’t know what got into me…I kissed Donny’s hand. If you are an Osmond fan, you’ll understand why and what happened inside of me. (I’ve read similar reactions and experiences from others in the Osmond Facebook groups). As crazy as it may seem, I felt like a teenager again—swept away off my feet–like A Teenager in Love.

It all happened so quickly, but it wasn’t over yet. Marie came over to our area as well. She was more deliberate with her fans, shaking hands and stopping for photos. I wasn’t able to get a photo with her, but I did shake her hand. Of course, I took photos as best as I could along the way too.

Marie stops for a photo with a fan.

I was giddy with delight and in somewhat of a state of shock for the next few hours. Back at our hotel room, we unwound from the afternoon’s events over a drink and watched the story on the local TV news station.

The Donny and Marie afterglow…

Life is Just What You Make It

While our tickets to the show weren’t until the next night, this event was really the highlight of my Donny weekend. (And it wasn’t even announced until after we had our tickets to Vegas that weekend). I didn’t get any other chances to personally meet him. So maybe I’ll never get that elusive photo with Donny Osmond. If I ever get another chance, and if I want it bad enough, I know that you have to not be shy in ASKING and trying to get his attention.

I can’t imagine what life would be like in the stoplight like that. It’s all that Donny and Marie have ever known though. I’ve heard that Donny thrives on it. So maybe someday, after the Donny and Marie show comes to an end (in a few days) and he goes on his world tour, I’ll get another chance. For now, I’m content with the memories, and my A Million to One shot at meeting Donny Osmond in Las Vegas.

We were here! (What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas!)

Thank you Donny and Marie for such great musical and whimsical memories throughout my life and your millions of devoted worldwide fans.

Donny Osmond Facebook post after the Walk of Stars ceremony.

I’m Leaving It All Up To You, Donny

If you are a Donny or Marie Osmond fan, you will immediately recognize the reference in the above blog post title to a famous song they sang, I’m Leaving It All Up To You. This weekend, I’m placing my fate, the chance to meet Donny, in his hands. And maybe with a little help from Above, it will happen. And here’s why…

Bucket List Weekend in Vegas

This weekend I am traveling to Las Vegas with my friend Cheryl to celebrate my 60th birthday. This is sort of a bucket list event for me. We’ve been planning this for several months with one purpose in mind—to see the Donny and Marie show. Next month, Donny and Marie will be ending their 11-year run at the Flamingo Hotel.

Donny’s announcement of their star from his Facebook page.

While it was my heart’s desire to attend one of the nightly Meet and Greet events they hold after the show, we were not able to get those coveted tickets. Shortly after we booked our flights and bought tickets for the show, we heard that Donny and Marie were being inducted into the Las Vegas Walk of Stars on October 4 (the day we arrive).

Maybe my chances are increasing to meet him. At the very least, this weekend will definitely have an Osmond theme to it. My friend Cheryl and I will be in teeny-bopper heaven—like A Teenager in Love! (That’s a Donny song from 1972.)

Yes, I’m just like millions of other crazed women of my generation who dreamed of meeting Donny.  Humor me as I share some of the background for why this trip is so significant to me. I’ve got A Million to One shot of meeting him. (Yes, that’s another Donny song.)

My Osmond History

I’ll start by sharing something I wrote in my scrapbook when I last met Donny 20 years ago. Yes it was a dream come true—almost perfect—as you’ll see—almost.

Wednesday, June 30, 1999 is what I affectionately call ‘Donny Day.’ It was a day in my life when many of my teenage dreams came true.

Back in junior high school when I was about 12-13 years old, I was a huge fan of the Osmond Brothers music group and especially the lead singer Donny. I had my room plastered with posters. I had all of their albums (and probably 45’s too). I read all the teen magazines. I dreamt so much about them that I even wrote a story about them. Much to my disappointment, I never got to see them in concert.

As an adult I continued to carry a fascination with the Osmonds and followed their lives through the media. In 1989, Donny was doing a national tour including a stop in Seattle. Much to my amazement, my husband agreed to take me to the concert. Donny was promoting his Soldier of Love album/CD. My husband and I loved the concert. I had turned my husband into a Donny Osmond fan!

Autographed Soldier of Love CD

After the show, we waited outside the theater by Donny’s bus. I was hoping to meet him, but I was not alone. The bus was surrounded by fans. Donny came out to the bus and pushed his way through the crowd shaking hands along the way. As luck would have it, I got to shake his hand. What a thrill for me. It had finally happened!

Almost ten years later in the fall of 1998, Donny and Marie got their own talk show. Now I could get my fill of Donny on a daily basis. In spring of 1999, I saw Donny being interviewed on the Today show. He was promoting his new autobiography, Life Is Just What You Make It: My life So Far. I knew I would have to get his book. (I’m reading it again now to get pumped for our trip.)

Not much later after seeing that interview, I woke up one morning to hear the DJ on my husband’s radio alarm talking about Donny coming to town. I excitedly started researching when and where he would be locally. I expected he would be promoting his book and doing book signings. I came up empty-handed though. I tried the radio station. They didn’t know where—just the date he would be in town—June 30—2 days away!!!

I called KOMO TV (a local television station in Seattle) to see if Donny would be on Northwest Afternoon. SUCCESS! Yes, he would and they still had seats available. I booked 2 seats—not knowing who I would get to go with me. (After all I was a closet Donny Osmond fan.)

On the set of NW Afternoon (one page from my scrapbook)

I had to simultaneously find a friend to attend with me and a babysitter for my kids. As a backup plan, I would take my oldest son, who was 6 years old at the time. I thought he would enjoy seeing the filming of a live TV show from behind the scenes. I was thrilled to find a friend, Kris, who was also a big Donny fan, but she couldn’t make the babysitter connections for her kids. So I took my son. Kris watched from home.

Once I knew I was going, I bought Donny’s new book—maybe I could get it autographed! The day of the show I was a nervous wreck. It was going to be a busy day trying to juggle my kid’s commitments and still make it to downtown Seattle in time for the show. Before I left the house, I made sure to set the VCR to record the show.

That’s as far as I wrote back then. I’m sure life got in the way and I never came back to finish that scrapbooking page. But the photos are on the pages, and I will never forget what happened. So I’ll pick up the story after we arrived at the studio.

Donny Osmond Day on Northwest Afternoon

It seemed like a small studio audience, less than 100 people, but it was totally filled with Osmond fans. Before the show, we told there would be a “Q & A” segment and to have questions ready to ask Donny. I was so nervous that I wrote down my question on a checking deposit slip, the only paper I could find in my purse. I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget: “How does he juggle the new show, book tour and family?”

On the set of NW Afternoon

It was very surreal to be there—so close to someone I had idolized as a teen and admired as an adult. I was able to ask my question. I was so nervous!! Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was put on a split screen view with Donny while I asked the question on TV. (I was pleasantly surprised to see this later on the video tape.)

Sharing the screen with Donny while I ask my question.

The best part of the program was actually during the commercial breaks. Donny would rush out to the audience, shake hands, autograph items and have pictures taken with his fans. Of course, I raised my hand to have Donny come our way. He signed a CD and his autobiography for me: “To Ardis, Love Donny Osmond”.

In the audience signing autographs

My Donny Moment

I asked Donny for a photo and of course, he was happy to oblige. I came prepared with my SLR 35mm film camera. (That was back before cell phones.) The problem was that my 6-year-old son couldn’t use it to take my photo. I asked if someone would take our photo, but no one volunteered.

Then the co-host of the show, Kent Phillips, offered to do it for us. The commercial break was coming to an end and Donny grabbed my hand and whisked me away to the set. (He didn’t really whisk me away, but hey, it’s my dream.)

Having my photo taken by co-host Kent Phillips.

Kent had my camera in his hands and was taking my photo on the set with Donny when the show was on-air again. Kent made some comments about returning from the commercials and that he was taking our photo. It was truly a special moment.

On the set with Donny and back from the commercial break.

Kent then directed me back to my seat in the audience. As he handed me the camera, he whispered in my ear, “I didn’t hear anything. I don’t know if it took any photos.”

I was aghast. Was the camera off? That was my biggest fear. But I wouldn’t know for sure until I developed the film. I tried to take my mind off of that possibility.

After the show I hung out by the TV station entrance and took photos of Donny as he left. It was a dreamy fairy tale like day! As I mentioned Kris watched the show from home. It was fun to virtually share the experience with her. I also remember hearing from a family member who saw me on TV, but didn’t know I was at the show.

Donny leaving KOMO television station after the show.

Once I came back to reality and had my film developed, I was devastated to learn that my worst fear came true—there were no pictures of Donny and me on the film. Fortunately, all was not lost. I took the video tape to a recording company who created some photos from the video tape. The photos were pretty blurry, just like a paused show on the TV screen. And remember this was 20 years ago.

While digging through my scrapbook, I also found another piece of fun Donny memorabilia. It was an email from a friend sent a few years later.

Hi Ardis, Just had to let you know I was watching NW Afternoon today and they were showing that Donny Osmond was going to be tomorrow’s guest and they showed an excerpt from the show he was on last time he was here and it showed the clip of Kent taking your picture with Donny Osmond on the set. It was fun to see. Just had to let you know.

Anticipating Donny Day 2019

So that was my Donny moment. As I said it was “Donny Day” for me. Now I’m expanding it into “Donny Weekend”. Will I be able to get a real photo with Donny and meet him again? Would he even remember that show? It was so special to me and thankfully is immortalized in my scrapbook to cherish forever.

So Donny, I’m leaving it all up to you, and the Lord above. Maybe we’ll meet again in Las Vegas! What are the odds? A million to one?

Update 11/12/2019: I had a million to one moment with Donny and Marie on my Donny weekend in Vegas. You can read all about it in What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas…or does it?.

Red Carpet Event Held to Honor Tempting Fate

It was in the summer of 2015 that Tempting Fate, the movie that includes soundtrack music by Pedro González Arbona, was released in theaters across Africa.  Ever since that time, I waited and watched as the movie traveled its course through the normal film industry outlets, and hopefully to American theaters.

Click on image to view movie trailer and sample Pedro’s music.

Although Tempting Fate was a big success in theaters throughout the African continent, the only release of the movie in America was via Amazon and other streaming types of services in 2016.

Gone were my hopes of sitting in an American cinema again and watching the movie on the big screen like I did with Pedro at the 2014 VIP screening in Houston.   Thankfully, it didn’t totally dash my hopes of sharing the movie with my friends—which lead to a recent private viewing party at my home.  But first…

Tempting Fate Background & Success

Why is Tempting Fate so significant to me?  I’ve been connected to the movie since the summer of 2013 when Pedro was hired to compose the movie soundtrack.  I was privileged to read the movie script while on holiday in Spain with Pedro and his family.  I was already praying for Pedro’s music to be used to glorify God.  So knowing his music would be used on this Christian movie felt like answered prayer to me.

My prayers ramped up over the course of the production of the movie and during Pedro’s intensive composing process.  Then Pedro and I attended the VIP screening in Houston in July 2014.  It was a monumental day in my life and a dream come true for Pedro to see his music come to life on the big screen.

Pedro’s red carpet interview in Houston, July 2014.

A year later, Tempting Fate premiered in Lagos, Nigeria, during an all-star red carpet event.  It ended up being one of the top 10 Nollywood movies of 2015. (Nollywood is the Nigerian movie industry, based in Lagos.)  The movie is one of the top 25 movies of all time in the Nollywood film industry.

Thanks to Kevin Kwankwor, the Nigerian born writer, producer and director of Tempting Fate, the movie was one of the first Hollywood/Nollywood movie collaborations.  Tempting Fate stars Nollywood movie icon Ramsey Nouah and Hollywood actors Dan Davies, Andrew Onochie, Tiffany Denise Turner and John J. Vogel.

At the Lagos premiere, July 2015.

A Red Carpet Invitation

I would have loved to rent out a theater and host a real gala event to celebrate the success of Tempting Fate and share it in style with my friends.  Since that wasn’t an option for me, I held a private viewing party at my home instead.

It was an elaborate party with the look and feel of a real Hollywood premiere.  Invited guests were informed of the formal nature of the party and to come dressed to meet the paparazzi.

Upon their arrival, they were literally given the red carpet treatment.  The main hallway of my home, once lined with scenic photographs, was transformed into a gallery of photographs from the VIP screening Pedro and I attended in Houston. My honored guests (celebrities) slowly walked the red carpet as the paparazzi clicked away on real cameras (not cell phones) to capture the celebrity’s entrance.

Each guest was assigned the identity of a celebrity and wore a name tag pinned on their back.  They played along, not knowing their own identity, but knowing who the other celebrities at the party were.

A Surprise Guest Appearance

After a paella dinner and a toast to the movie’s success, we got comfortable for the main event.  As a preview to the movie, I presented a video from the VIP screening in Houston. That followed a surprise video appearance by Dan Davies, one of the actors from Tempting Fate.

Dan Davies at Lagos premiere.

Dan played Scorpion, gangster and leader of the bank robbery/drug gang, a central figure in the movie.  We met at the VIP screening in July 2014 and occasionally connect via social media.  (Read my interview with Dan, A Behind the Scenes Look at Tempting Fate with Actor Dan Davies, for more information and background on the movie.)

Dan graciously sent a video to greet my guests and to introduce the movie.  That very night in Accra, Ghana, Dan won the African Golden Movie Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Role.  Dan’s nomination was for his portrayal of Michael Rice in A Trip to Jamaica, the top Nollywood movie of 2016.

Dan recorded our Tempting Fate introductory video a few days in advance of the awards, so it was a nice surprise to me and my guests to hear of his win later.   Dan was the first American to win this prestigious African award.  Congratulations Dan!!

Watching Tempting Fate

The movie viewing followed.  By this time, I had already seen the theatrical version of Tempting Fate several times.  The movie went through more editing after the screening in Houston.  Most notably to me was the change in some of the music.  Another composer was added to the soundtrack and some of Pedro’s music was dropped, a common occurrence in movie production.  I gave occasional commentary while watching the movie, mostly in reference to the music.

Click on image to rent or buy the movie on Amazon.

Watching the movie this time around was easier for me—to remove myself from my personal involvement and attachment to the music and Pedro’s proud moment.  However, like audiences across Africa and even in my home that night, Pedro’s music accompanying the final scene brought tears to our eyes.  Tempting Fate has such a powerful and thought-provoking ending.

Post-Movie Celebrity Interviews

After the movie, I took on the role of the press and interviewed each of my guests, I mean celebrities, about the movie. It was at this point that I also revealed their celebrity identities and the significance behind their chosen names. (But that’s a story for another time.)

Sometimes I think my involvement in the movie makes my opinion less than objective. So I had much anticipation in hearing what my honored guests thought of the movie. It was such a blessing to hear their reactions to the movie and its message.

One guest (aka Emma Stone) had never seen a Christian movie before. “The theme of forgiveness really resonated with me, probably because that is what I’m working on in my life. It really hit home. I found it very meaningful and very valuable in my life,” she shared.

Another guest (aka Sandra Bullock) said: “I thought it was great, very touching, pretty deep and pretty real. A great message for all of us.”

Another guest (aka Meryl Streep) was a local pastor who I’ve known for years. Her perspective about the movie was very insightful.

“I thought it (the ending) brought it all together in a very healthy and practical way. Edu had said to others, this is how you live. And then he had to face his own quandary of how to forgive the two people that hurt him the most. So I thought the culmination of all of those stories was very well done…The movie would help people think through their own lives and situations, and where maybe they are not living out the truth that they claim to believe.”

Tempting Fate in a City Near You? 

Since my private viewing party a few months ago, I’ve heard rumors that Tempting Fate will be on a U.S. tour in the fall. It started in Atlanta at Georgia Tech over Labor Day weekend. I’m hoping and praying it comes to Seattle or a city near you. For more information about the U.S. tour or to set up a special viewing at your church, contact info@kevstelgroup.com.

If you can’t attend one of these events, be sure to rent or purchase the movie on Amazon or other streaming movie site.  Pedro’s music and other beautiful music from the movie is also available on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and other music sites.

Joy to the World, Not Just Another Christmas Carol

Did you grow up listening to Christmas music in your home? Does the sound of one of your favorite Christmas carols bring a smile to your face and revive the sights and smells of Christmases past in your mind?

Christmas carolsFa, la, la

Go ahead. No one’s watching (hopefully).  Let’s sing…

Away in a manger no crib for his bed…

Silent night, holy night…

Joy to the World the Lord has come…

I imagine with just a short pause after reading the start of each of those Christmas carols that you could sing the next line to that song, and probably the first verse or the whole song. At least I hope you can.

Did you know that “Joy to the World” was not originally written for Christmas?  It was written by Isaac Watts, a British hymn writer, and first published in 1719.  The song is based on Psalm 98 (verses 4-8) with an intended reference to the Second Coming of Christ, not his first:

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

Let the sea roar and all it contains,
The world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy.

I didn’t realize this myself until I traveled to Spain last fall and heard it in a new context.

Going to Church in Spain

I’ve had the privilege of attending several church services in Spain—most of them in a Catholic setting. One particular Mass stands out though.  It was on Columbus Day, Sunday, October 12, 2014.

I was with my friend and hostess Rosa, Pedro’s mother. We attended the Columbus Day parade in downtown Madrid and then walked to Mass at the Parish of Our Lady of Conception (Parroquia Concepcion de Nuestra Señora).

Our Lady of Conception, Madrid

Our Lady of Conception, Madrid (Parroquia Concepcion de Nuestra Señora)

It was not my first time at this church. Rosa and I attended a Sunday Mass there the year before too, on my first Sunday in Spain.  I had gone to a weekday Mass at a neighborhood church and also visited a few other churches by then, as well as the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, a massive Gothic cathedral from the 13th century.  I had never seen anything like the Toledo Cathedral (below) in my life.

Gothic front facade of the Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo

Gothic front facade of the Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo

Our Lady of Conception in Madrid was nowhere near as grand, but as I’ve come to expect, most Catholic churches in Spain are lined with beautiful religious statues and opulent altars. From my uneducated and American perspective, most of these churches look like what I would’ve considered a cathedral.

Singing in Spain

When I attended Mass my first trip to Spain (in the summer of 2013), the churches did not have any choirs or singing—only limited organ music. I was told it was due to the heat.  (Churches are not air-conditioned in Spain.)

On this day (Columbus Day 2014) with Rosa by my side, I was surprised when I noticed a choir singing at the start of Mass. Even though the song was sung in Spanish, the music sounded familiar.  It took me a few lines, humming the tune to myself, before I recognized the song and could put English words to it.  It was “Joy to the World!”

I’d never heard that song sung outside of a Christmas setting. It gave me a new love for the song.

While I couldn’t sing the Spanish words (no hymnal and no projection of the words on a screen), I could sing it silently in my mind in English. It was glorious to hear a favorite Christmas song being sung in this grand church, echoing through the high arched-ceilings, stained glass, and religious statues.

It sounded like the voices of angels. They really were heralding Jesus and singing His praises joyfully to the world.

Take a listen to this Christmas favorite sung in Spanish and see if you agree.  As you listen, picture yourself inside this lovely church too (interior images below).

 Al Mundo Paz (Joy to the World)

Not Just Another Christmas Carol

I once heard it said in church that singing Christian hymns and songs of worship is like praying twice. Stripped of my ability to audibly sing “Joy to the World” in my native tongue, it was like praying it in my mind—and praising Him in my heart.

According to Wikipedia, as of the late 20th century, “Joy to the World” was the most published Christmas hymn in North America.  But now you know, as do I, that it isn’t just another Christmas carol.

Here are the lyrics to read or sing, in this new context of glorifying Christ’s Second Coming instead of His first over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem.

Joy to the World
By Isaac Watts

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her king;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders, wonders, of his love.

And if you haven’t heard it, here’s a re-mix of the song by Chris Tomlin called “Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy).”  May your Christmas and New Year be filled with unspeakable joy!

Hidden in Plain Sight at the Gum Wall in Seattle

Any tourist trip to Seattle isn’t complete without a visit to Pike’s Place Market, a few blocks east of the famous Elliott Bay waterfront.  Hidden on the lower level of the Market on Post Alley is a quirky tourist attraction called the Market Theater Gum Wall.  It’s been in the news this week because for the first time in 20 years, the wall underwent a steam cleaning and removal of the estimated 1 million wads of used chewing gum.

Gum Wall

A small portion of the gum wall, measuring 50 feet long and up to 15 feet high.

In 2009 this gum wall was named one of the top five unhygienic sites in the world, second to the Blarney Stone in Ireland.   Another little known fact is that a similar and older gum wall, Bubblegum Alley, exists in San Luis Obispo, California.

But don’t worry!  When the maintenance is complete, tourists and passersby can once again leave their sticky legacy on the city.

Hidden in Plain Sight

What you probably haven’t heard about is the secret treasure known as a geocache that was hidden in plain sight on the gum wall.

But what is a geocache?

Geocaching is a treasure hunt that uses GPS-enabled devices to track the specific GPS coordinates of hidden containers, or geocaches, throughout the world.  Presently, there are 2,744,212 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide.

The geocache at the gum wall, named “Double Bubble Toil & Trouble,” was a very popular hunt for geocachers.  The online record for this geocache indicates that over 2,800 geocachers logged a visit at this cache since it was hidden in 2010.  Of that number over 25% of the geocachers could not find the cache.  I was one of those, logging the dreaded frown smiley face or DNF (Did Not Find) on my geocaching record.

Where is the geocache?

Can you spot the geocache at this Seattle landmark?

Although I hate to log a ‘DNF’ during my geocaching adventures, this day still holds pleasant memories for me.  It was thanks to Pedro, our host son from Spain, that I decided to search for this geocache.  As a long-time Seattle area resident, I didn’t even know about the gum wall until we started geocaching in 2010.

On the Hunt for Hidden Treasure

The first year Pedro was in our home, one of the student field trips was to Pike’s Place Market and the gum wall.  Days earlier Pedro went out on his first geocaching adventure with my family.  He was hooked.  Unfortunately we didn’t find out about the geocache at the gum wall until after the field trip.

Pedro at the gum wall, July 2010.

Pedro leaves his gum legacy at this famous Seattle landmark, unaware of the hidden treasure camouflaged on the wall.

When Pedro returned to Seattle the next summer, he was eager to find lots of geocaches, and to surpass my husband’s count of geocaches.  It was a good-natured competition to see who had the most caches by the end of his visit.  Pedro made a gallant try but couldn’t catch up.  He found over 50 caches in four weeks scattered throughout Washington and Oregon.

Back to the day of this hunt…

The day was memorable because it was the day that I took Pedro to The Piano Studio for his recording rehearsal.  We met Martin Buff, the studio owner, and Pedro spent some time getting his fingers used to the 9-foot Steinway Grand Piano.  His actual recording date was a few days later.  What a priceless memory watching this young man’s dreams come true.  Pedro has since gone on to compose music for short and full-feature films like Tempting Fate.

Pedro practicing at The Piano Studio in Seattle.

Pedro practicing at The Piano Studio in Seattle, June 2011.

After a short rehearsal, we headed into downtown Seattle to geocache.  We found a few geocaches along the waterfront and then went to Pike’s Place Market.  Our goal: to find, or to log a smiley (that’s geocaching lingo) at “Double Bubble Toil & Trouble.”

We were surprised when we arrived at Post Alley and found a photography class set up taking photographs of the wheat paste art on the walls opposite the gum wall.  We walked past the students and tried to use our geocaching stealth and ‘geosense’ to search for the hidden cache on the gum wall.

Hints are provided on the online listing for this geocache, but sadly it didn’t help us spot the camouflaged container that measured about an inch in diameter.   GPS coordinates are fairly accurate most of the time, but with that small of a container and the large brick wall covered with gum, it felt like an impossible task.  Besides, even with gloves on, we really didn’t want to search that closely!

We ended our memorable day with dinner at the waterfront, watching the ferries on Elliott Bay, and planning our next adventure—recording Pedro’s first CD at The Piano Studio.

Photography students near the gum wall.

Photography students near the gum wall.

Restoration of the Hidden Landmark

So what’s next for “Double Bubble Toil & Trouble?”  The geocache listing has temporarily been disabled.  The owner of the cache reported that a physical cache container will be replaced after the wall is cleaned and re-gummification begins.

Since I didn’t find the geocache before, I think this gum wall cleaning is good news for me.  The sooner I return on the hunt for this geocache, the better my odds of finding it.  And then I can turn my DNF to an “I FOUND IT” smiley.  🙂

For more information or to get started on your own geocaching adventures, visit geocaching.com.

God Knows the Desires of our Heart

It was siesta time on Day 29 of my 42-day pilgrimage through Spain in 2013. This was my 5th day in Sóller, near the northwest coast of Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands of Spain. I was sitting poolside at the summer home of my gracious hosts, the parents of Pedro González Arbona, who we met in an exchange program three years prior.

The day was hot—just like the preceding days. I was still not used to the Spanish heat. Sóller was only slightly cooler than Madrid. It was in the mid-90s; and there was no air conditioning. When we left Madrid the week before, I was expecting cool island breezes and relief from the heat. There was no such luck. I adapted as best as I could, and relished the mid-day siesta to take a bite out of the heat.

The view from my bedroom window in Sóller.

The view from the writing desk in my bedroom in Sóller.

Siesta Time in Sóller

After the mid-day meal which was typically served at 2 PM, the family would turn to siesta mode. Some would take a nap, or others would read or relax by the pool. It was a deliberate time of restfulness and solitude.

Most days I would be in my room with the ceiling fan on, either typing away on my laptop trying to catch up on my writing, or sprawled out on my bed catching a few zzzzz. Traveling away from home without the benefit of an American companion, I considered both an investment in my emotional and physical health.

On this day, I relinquished my writing and my napping to another restful activity. I sat in the shade reading the script to Pedro’s most recent film. It was the script to Tempting Fate, the movie that is now showing across Africa with his music wafting through the theaters.

As I sat there reading with the sound of running water filling the pool in the background, all I kept reflecting on was how God really does know the desires of our heart. I’d love to be able to say that was because of the idyllic setting I was in, or the generosity of my family back home, or my Spanish host family. I had many of those moments in my 6 weeks of living with Pedro’s family.

A Holy Plot Twist

No, on this day it was the content of what I was reading that gave me goosebumps and lit the fire of the Holy Spirit within me. The script was ‘hot off the press’ so to speak. Pedro received it electronically and had a copy made at the print shop in town. He had already made his first pass through the script and had ideas running through his mind on the scenes and music.   I was honored to be the next to read it—mostly because I was his manager, but also because I was one of the few family members who could read English.  (His previous scripts were in Spanish and difficult for me to read.)

I knew very little about the story, and so I eagerly read it. The story opened with a bank robbery scene, lots of gun fire, and the death of a police officer. That didn’t sound like my type of movie.

Immediately following that, the story turned to a scene at a church with African worship music being sung. The sudden shift caught me off-guard and peaked my interest. As I read further and further into the script, I was enthralled with the story, and excited to read how this tale of two Nigerian brothers, one with deep faith fighting for his life against cancer, and the other steeped in a life of crime and drugs, would end.

I was not disappointed. It had a powerful message of redemption and forgiveness. Here’s one piece of great dialogue:

“God owes you no explanation, son. He looks out for you and gives you what is best for you. The important question is not why, but what happens next? And trust me, for those that trust God their next chapters are always better than the former chapters.”

Scenes from the movie Tempting Fate.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read some of these scenes that challenged the characters in the movie, and would certainly resonate with audiences.

At one point, when I was nearing the end of the script, Pedro asked me what I thought of it. I had a hard time containing my excitement, but told him he would have to wait until I was finished reading. “Only a few more pages,” I told him. “And then we can talk about it.”

“Are you looking for the scenes with music in it?”

“No,” I confessed.

“You are a bad manager,” he teased. I didn’t mind. I was too overwhelmed with the sudden shift in the focus of my trip.

“The first of many more scripts for you to read,” he continued jokingly. But I didn’t take his musical talent or potential success in jest.

God Knows The Desires of our Hearts

God was not only giving me the desires of my heart with this trip of a lifetime, the Lord was giving Pedro the desires of his heart. Pedro dreamed of composing film scores since he was ten years old. Now at the age of 20, he was composing for his first full-feature American film!

A few days earlier, my daily devotional was based on Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” After reading the script of this faith-based movie, I had a teachable moment with Pedro about that scripture and how the Lord’s favor was on his music. He wasn’t sold on the idea that God would really have any interest in his musical success. There were much more pressing things for God to have His attention on like poverty and worldwide issues.  But I begged to differ.

Psalm 37.4

I expressed to him how I believed it was not a coincidence that he had landed this contract at this very point in time. I had been praying for his music to be used by God since the day I found out he was a composer. The script pointed people to God’s love and forgiveness, so his music would do the same. I saw it as an incredible blessing and confirmation that his music really was meant for the big screen.

Since Pedro came into my life five years ago, the Lord has given me many desires of my heart: the friendship of this family across the world, being the benefactor of Pedro’s music, and giving me a mid-life career change into writing (my long lost passion from college).

It’s not because God is like a genie, or I prayed for earthly success or rewards. It is because of my faith shift that started with a deeper and truer relationship with the Lord, and as the scripture says, delighting in Him.

So what about the Movie?

The Lord’s favor is on Tempting Fate too—the movie, the cast and the crew as it plays in theaters across Nigeria and Ghana. It premiered at #3 in the Box Office last week and is getting lots of positive reviews. Nollywood is all a twitter about this Hollywood/Nollywood collaboration.

My prayers continue for this movie and its message. I applaud KevStel Group for producing this film and following their dreams and desires of their hearts to bring quality faith-based entertainment to the big screen.

What about you? Are you delighting in the Lord? Where is He giving you the desires of your heart?

Sneak Peek & Rave Reviews for Tempting Fate Soundtrack

It’s been many months since I last wrote about Pedro’s movie composing and the status of Tempting Fate, his first full-feature American film.  It’s hard to believe that we celebrated the 4th of July last year at the VIP screening of the movie in Houston.

On the red carpet at the Tempting Fate premiere, July 4, 2014, Houston, TX.

On the red carpet at the Tempting Fate premiere, July 4, 2014, Houston, TX.

One year later, the film’s stars and key production crew have just arrived in Lagos, Nigeria for another very important premiere of this Christian movie (Friday, July 10, 2015).  Although Pedro is not able to attend, we are no less interested in what is going on with this faith-based film across the world.

We are counting down the days to its release across Nigeria (July 17) and Ghana (July 24). Only 9 days to go as of today’s publishing of this post.  Momentum is building as positive media reviews are spreading across Nigeria.

To date, the official movie trailer has over 30,000 views on youtube.com.

 

What is the significance of the release of this movie in Africa?   Stay tuned for my next update on the movie and an exclusive interview with Dan Davies, co-star of Tempting Fate, for more behind the scenes information.*

For now, let’s talk music…

Post Screening Promotion

The first music related production after the Houston premiere was the filming and release of a music video for the Tempting Fate theme song.  This video was shot in LA, starring Andrew Onochie, who portrays Edu in the movie, and actress and singer Jacobed Melgarejo.  The song is a blend of Igbo (Nigerian), English, and Spanish worship with words that echo the message of redemption and forgiveness, the overarching theme of the movie.

 

Over the past year, we’ve watched and patiently waited while the movie made its rounds through some very prestigious film festivals.  Tempting Fate was chosen to premiere at the Indie Fest USA International Film Festival last fall in Orange County, CA and also at the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in Hollywood, CA earlier this year.  Rave reviews were shared by audiences at both festivals.

PAFF program information, February 2015.

PAFF program information, February 2015.

Release of the Movie Soundtrack

The movie soundtrack (available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc.) was released worldwide on February 12, 2015.  In order to create the cross-cultural mix of music for the Nollywood (Nigeria)/Hollywood (US) film collaboration three composers were used on the project:  Daniel Berg, Folorunso Obilana, and Pedro González Arbona.

Click image to sample soundtrack or purchase on Amazon.

Click image to sample soundtrack or purchase on Amazon.

The emotions in Tempting Fate music comes from real life’s rough ends and plundering experiences of Ugo and Edu as they journey from love and betrayal to forgiveness and loneliness. This is a story of two brothers, one of deep faith and the other buried in a life of crime. They had their worlds torn apart when the wrong one goes to jail and the other commits an unforgivable act. This music is a collection of compositions from Spain, USA and Africa. These songs are sent from above; they pierce directly into the heart.  (Album notes from CD Baby site.)

The African songs with singing, including the “Tempting Fate” main theme song used in the music video, were composed by Folorunso Obilana.  Daniel Berg’s music is purely orchestral.  Pedro’s music is a combination of orchestral and African instrumental with some melodic voice additions.

While the official CD soundtrack has 12 songs, there is much more music in the film, most of those songs were composed by Pedro.  After seeing the movie at the premiere in Houston last summer, more music changes were made to the final cut.

As is common in scoring for films, the composer doesn’t have a lot of input in the final cut of the movie.  Even highly sought after Academy Award winning composers like Hans Zimmer have to swallow their pride when it comes to which music is used in their movies.  Pedro composed over 80 minutes of music, but only a small fraction of that ended up in the movie or on the soundtrack.  Pedro released some of that music on his latest CD, Memories.

An Exclusive Music Sneak Peek

One such song not on the CD, but in the movie is “Brothers.”  This song is used in one of the first scenes in the movie where the two main actors, Nigerian brothers, Edu and Ugo, are revealing to the audience the nature of their brotherly relationship and love.  It is a beautiful song that I was privy to watch Pedro compose while in Madrid in July 2013.

Pedro walked me through the composing process as he created this song.  It was a very educational and magical moment to witness his creativity in action.  The song went through a few revisions before settling on the version now in the movie.  Since I work with Pedro, he gave me exclusive permission to share this song with my readers by clicking the ‘play’ button below.

 “Brothers” from “Tempting Fate”  © 2015 Pedro González Arbona.

One final music related note, last week during the media showing in Nigeria, the overriding comment was “not a dry eye in the house.”  I won’t give away the ending of the movie, but suffice it to say that Pedro’s final song, “Requiem,” combined with the superb on-screen acting, gives the movie a lasting final impression.  Memorable, moving, and touching, even for a crowd of seasoned movie critics.  Listen for yourself and see if you agree.

“Requiem” from “Tempting Fate”  © 2015 Pedro González Arbona.

Other reviewers commented on how the music strikes people as uniquely different.  The music fits perfectly with the storyline and with the film.  It fosters, helps, and propels the story along.

Praying for Success

Tempting Fate is the directorial debut of Nigerian born Kevin Nwankwor.  The mission of KevStel Group, Kevin’s Atlanta based production company, is to produce uplifting, Christian, and faith-based film and television projects.

How can you help support this independent Christian movie outside of Nigeria?  One way is to purchase the soundtrack. Another is by praying for its success. Nigeria is just the first stop for this movie with global appeal.  With the premiere only days away, prayer is critical to the successful outreach of this film.

TF Nigeria PremiereThe message of this movie is truly inspiring.  If people get behind this movie and pray for it, there will be more films like this available for viewing. So please join me and others around the world who are praying for this movie.

It’s not a coincidence that Pedro is associated with this inspirational faith-based movie.  His music has been bathed in prayers since we met five years ago.  It’s been a long road: from the antique and gutted out player piano in our home in the suburbs of Seattle, to his studio in the heart of Spain, and now to theaters across Africa.  We are proud to be associated with this first class independent film.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Tempting Fate!  May the message of this movie resonate with viewers in Nigeria and beyond.  May your dreams for this film exceed your every expectation.

*Special thanks to Dan Davies, who portrays Scorpion in Tempting Fate, for contributing to the content of this post.

Memories: A Musical Adventure by Pedro González Arbona

If you found your way to this post you must be a fan of the music of Pedro González Arbona, or film music in general.  In my last post about Pedro’s latest CD, Memories, I gave my readers a glimpse into the making of his CD.  In this post, I am taking you on a musical adventure of the sound, movement, and artistic beauty that these songs entail.  (Click on any of the song names in this post to sample or purchase the song through Amazon.)

Memories CD Cover

Memories: A Musical Adventure

Have you ever noticed when you watch the beginning of a film how the music fills the theater as the name of the movie, main actors, director and key production personnel appear on the screen?  It is a glimpse into the music to come.  Often it is blending of some of the songs for that movie, or maybe a medley like an overture in a musical.

Memories starts in the same way with track 1, aptly named “Opening Titles.”  It is a large and extravagant piece that showcases Pedro’s musical talent and ability to draw the audience into the songs (or scenes) that follow.

Track 2 is one of Pedro’s most beautiful compositions, “The Great Beauty.”  What can I say about a song whose title sums up the music that it portrays?  Delicate, soothing, and distinctive notes from the piano, oboe, harp, and building up to the addition of some mellow horns.  Yes, it is a great beauty! (Select the song title on the media player on the right sidebar to hear this song in full.)

I first heard this beauty a few months before the screening of Pedro’s new movie, Tempting Fate.  I was already privy to his submitted work on the Tempting Fate soundtrack.  This piece seemed to take his work to an even higher level.  Yes, his work is (was) destined for the big screen.

Memories CD back cover

There are several other songs on this CD that are soft songs that would accompany slow or romantic movie scenes.  Some songs may lend themselves to a sad scene with strings accentuating the mood.

Which mood is really up to the listener.  They are all magical.  Included in this variety are “Memories,” “Dreams,” “The Crime,” “Ordinary Lives” (listen on the music player in the right sidebar), “Green View,” “Autumn,” and “Learning from Life.”

Memories contains several songs geared more on the dramatic side.  “Chaos” sounds like a scene right out of a drama or suspense film.  Riveting music that builds and takes you along with the action, glued to the music and the movie, awaiting the finale.

Another large song is “Flying.”  This song reminds me of a patriotic piece or something maybe in a war movie.  It takes me back to movies from years ago.  I can envision an old black and white movie playing as the victory is won in a waging battle.

Epic” is a song meant for a dramatic or suspenseful scene as the music builds.  The music (and the scene) end with a slow fade.  If action movies are your favorite genre, then “Action Theme” will be the song for you.  This song was used by KevStel, producer of Tempting Fate, in a short trailer alert for the movie, but was not on the soundtrack released in February 2015.  Watch the video below to check out how they used this dramatic music.

The last song on the CD is a sentimental favorite of mine, “Kalinda.”  This is Pedro’s first song that was composed for a movie.  It dates back to February 2013 when he first started to experiment with adding strings and other instruments to his piano compositions.  It was used as the trailer music for Thirst for Love, a Spanish short film directed by Chani Bas.  Check out the video below to watch the trailer and listen to “Kalinda.”

Hear it for Yourself

Memories is really music for the movie that is yet to be written.  It is from the movie in Pedro’s mind.  In time, some of these songs may accompany a movie in a theater near you.  Until then, please support Pedro’s music dreams by purchasing his CD, reviewing the music online, and liking his professional Facebook page, Pedro González Arbona, composer.

Want a copy for yourself?  Here’s the purchase links and methods to listen to his music:

Digital Downloads

Streaming

Or purchase the physical CD through my site.

For more information about Pedro González Arbona and his music, visit pgarbona.com.  Stay tuned for more updates on Pedro’s musical career and breaking news about the premiere of Tempting Fate across Nigeria and Ghana in July.

Making “Memories,” a CD by Pedro González Arbona

My desk and my mind are cleared of the clutter and busyness of life.  The most amazing music is engulfing me, stirring my senses, and begging me to share its beauty and my joy with the world.

What am I listening too?  It is the new CD by my favorite musical protégé and composer, Pedro González ArbonaMemories is Pedro’s latest foray into the music and film scoring business.

Memories CD Cover

Pedro’s Musical Background   

In the three years since Introducing Pedro González Arbona, his debut album, was released, Pedro’s music has grown by leaps and bounds.  His first album was a collection of his earliest solo piano compositions performed on a Steinway Concert grand piano in a recording studio in Seattle.  It was a gift for his 18th birthday while visiting from Madrid.  It was a monumental day for us both.

I’ve written a lot about Pedro’s love for music and how it was nurtured and inspired at an early age by cinema.  Now his work has matured and blossomed into full orchestral music that rivals the likes of other famous film composers that he admires, like John Williams (Star Wars), Hans Zimmer (most recently Interstellar), and Alexandre Desplat, winner for Best Original Score for The Grand Budapest Hotel at this year’s Academy Awards.

I don’t say this to boast, although it is hard for me to be impartial.  I say this because, at Pedro’s request, I’ve been immersing myself in various film scores over these last few years as well.  I hear the similarities and have been captivated by Pedro’s music.  Not just listening to it, but also as I witnessed it on the big screen at the VIP screening of his movie Tempting Fate, last July in Houston.

Pedro knows music!

Making Memories, the CD

While I was in Madrid last fall, Pedro and I met over dinner one night to discuss his next CD project. On another night in Madrid, he played one of his newest songs for me, “Opening Titles.”   He was fully engaged in the music, as if conducting the orchestra with an invisible baton.  This was Pedro’s first orchestrated piece, complete with pages and pages of sheet music.  Watching his delight in the final cut of this piece, and immersing myself in the music, was one of my best memories while on this trip to Spain.

Sheet music

A proud moment in Madrid: “Opening Titles” plays through Pedro’s sound system as he reviews the sheet music.

Although we collaborated in the production of the CD, it is truly his project from start to finish.  He designed the album cover, titled the album, and naturally, composed the music.  I brought his vision to completion by working in America with our music distributor, CD Baby.  They make worldwide sales and distribution via iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other internet music sites easy for any artist.

Pedro’s album cover design (above) conjures up feelings of old time movies, before the age of digital technology, with strips of film negatives pinned to a clothesline.  Which scenes will make the final cut of the movie?  Which songs will make the final cut of the CD?

Selecting the Songs

It was a difficult process to select the final 14 songs for this CD.  The music was mostly composed over the last year during a period of prolific musical and artistic inspiration.   I received some of the songs along his composing process.  I’ve collected a large archive of his music over the past four years from his various film and internet projects or impromptu personal musical inspirations.

Some of the pieces included on the CD were composed for the Tempting Fate film, but didn’t make it to the final cut of the movie.  As I’ve come to learn, it is just part of the film composing process.  It gives Pedro the opportunity to showcase them on his CDs or use on other projects.  (The soundtrack to Tempting Fate is available on Amazon.)

Pedro also collaborated with orchestrators (credited as ‘featuring’ in the track titles) to provide the professional sound quality and feel to his music.  The final 14 songs showcase the variety of Pedro’s music composing ability.

Memories Track TitlesThe easiest way for me to describe this album is to say that even though it was not written for a specific movie or movie scenes, it is just like a soundtrack.  The songs conjure up a wide breadth of emotions that are commonly experienced in a movie:  romance, suspense, action, drama, mystery.  You’ll be hooked after the first song!  I certainly was.

So in my next post about Memories, I will take you on a behind the scenes musical adventure through his latest album.  Until then, you can preview one of my favorite songs “The Great Beauty” on Soundcloud or by selecting the song on the media player in the right sidebar on this page.

For more information about Pedro González Arbona and his music, visit pgarbona.comMemories is available for your immediate listening pleasure through any of the links below:

profileYou can show your support for this young artist’s music career by liking his page on Facebook, Pedro González Arbona, composer.

Celebrating the Sound of Music’s 50th Anniversary

The 50th anniversary of the Sound of Music was recently marked with lots of fanfare: tributes, release of a 50th Anniversary 5-disk DVD/Blu-ray collection, television programs, and special viewings of the movie in Hollywood, and across America.  I was lucky enough to attend one of the special viewings locally last weekend with some women from my church group.

SOM cast

This is not the first time I’ve written about my favorite musical and probably won’t be the last either.  It has a lot of sentimental significance to me, having first seen it as a young child in 1965, and is another connection that I have with my Spanish family.  When I told Pedro, my Spanish host son, film aficionado, and movie composer himself, that I was going to see the Sound of Music, he relayed that he and his friends wished they could also attend such an event. Unfortunately, no special viewings were planned in Spain.

Recent Media Attention

I’ve been following along with the Sound of Music media attention the past few months.  First was the Sound of Music tribute medley sung by Lady Gaga at the Academy Awards Ceremony on February 22.  Did you know that Lady Gaga practiced for six months prior to that performance so she could sing it in the same key as Julie Andrews?  They met for the first time when they embraced on stage at the Oscars.

Andrews-Lady Gaga-Oscars

Then on March 18, the ABC Television Network aired, The Untold Story of the Sound of Music.  In this program Diane Sawyer and Julie Andrews, 79, toured Salzburg, Austria and sites from the movie.  The show was a treasure trove of behind the scenes stories and Julie Andrews’ memories of filming the movie.

Photo credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Photo credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Me and 7.3 million other viewers were glued to the television set that night.  My favorite seen from the show was when Julie Andrews recreated the famous wedding march at the Salzburg Cathedral (starting at 6 minutes in the video below).

I’ve never been to Salzburg, but I have been in numerous Cathedrals in Spain in recent years.  It reminded me of those grand Cathedrals, making that scene come more alive for me than ever before.  The scenes with the Alps towering over Salzburg also reminded me of my time in the French Alps last fall.  Priceless!

Then on March 26 in Hollywood, CA, the Turner Classic Movies: TCM Film Festival kicked off when Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer reunited to introduce the opening-night screening of the Sound of Music.  They have been good friends for years, but he hadn’t embraced his role in the movie until recently.

Andrew-Plummer-TCM Festival

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, 50 years later, opening night at the TCM Film Festival.

Popularity of the Sound of Music

Here’s some background and historical context behind the musical’s popularity:

  • The Sound of Music is the third highest grossing motion picture in the United States and the most successful movie musical of all time.
  • In 1966, at the 38th annual Academy Awards, the Sound of Music won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture.
  • The soundtrack to the Sound of Music peaked at Number 1 on the Billboard charts on November 13, 1965, edging out HELP! by the Beatles.
  • Salzburg has only 150,000 people live there, but attracts 6.5 million tourists annually, most in search of reliving the scenes from the movie.  (A bucket list item for me too!)

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Those numbers don’t lie.  So what’s the big deal about the Sound of Music?  Why does it resonate with so many of us?  Why does it resonate worldwide?

Here’s what I think:

The Sound of Music portrays a message of hope, sacrifice, courage, love, and faith.  It’s a movie about following your heart and standing up for what you believe.  It is interspersed with a powerful message of trusting God and His timing.  It’s the classic triumph of good over evil—with the added bonus of a love story.  Plus it’s a real-life story with songs that compel us to ‘sing once more’ (a line from the song “The Sound of Music”).

Both of the main characters had strong convictions.  Captain von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer, was loyal to his country.  However when he was ordered to serve as a military officer for the Third Reich, he and his family fled his beloved Austria, leaving their home and possessions behind.

Maria, played by Julie Andrews, brought her cheerful disposition and Christian beliefs into the von Trapp home as a governess, the 12th in a long line of successors.  She had to face her fears as she left the Abbey to follow God’s will in this new position.  She stayed true to her religious and moral convictions in caring for the children despite Captain von Trapp’s attempt to run the house like a military compound.  That meant no play time for the children.  They were to march around the grounds for recreation.  Maria brought music and laughter back to the home, and melted the Captain’s heart in the process.  She was not meant to be a nun, but her identity in Christ was strong and led her to serve in His Kingdom in other ways.

Spanish Appeal

When Pedro entered our home and our lives in the summer of 2010, music in general, and the Sound of Music specifically, was one of the ways that our friendship was bridged across cultural, language, and geographical barriers.  It was the universal language of music that connected us.  So I recently asked Pedro more about the significance of the musical to him and how it is regarded in Spain.

Pedro’s first time viewing the movie was when he was about four years old.  Due to the global popularity of the movie, his parents owned it, and he watched it at home with them.  The movie was translated into Spanish, which means that the songs were also dubbed with Spanish lyrics.  The Spanish version of the movie is Sonrisas y Lagrimas.  In English, that literally translates to Smiles and Tears.

SOM SpanishThe musical is a favorite of Spanish children.  Pedro’s nieces learned “Do Re Mi” in school.  That led to my delightful experience singing the song with them while on holiday on Mallorca, Spain with his family in the summer of 2013.

The first time Pedro saw a live performance of the Sound of Music was when we took him to the musical theater in the Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth, Washington.  It was there, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains, that he watched the musical for the first time in English.  It was a gift for his 17th birthday.

SOM Leavenworth

Naturally, Pedro’s love for movie soundtracks was also nurtured by this great movie at an early age.  That led to his playing many of the songs to the musical in our home that first summer.  Like music brought life back to Captain von Trapp, the summer of 2010 was the summer that music brought me back to life too.  I still have original recordings of Pedro’s impromptu practice sessions on the piano. (Muchas gracias, Pedro!)

Our Girls’ Night Out Movie Experience

I wish I could say that the theater was packed as my friends and I watched the special viewing of the Sound of Music.  I had expected to see a large crowd.  I think the 70 degree whether outside, a rare phenomenon for April in Seattle, had something to do with it.  Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable outing with friends.

One woman had never seen the movie before.  I asked her about her observations, as an objective viewer.  My friend was surprised to learn that it was a true story.  She also had heard some of the songs before, but now had meaning to put to them.  There were a lot of surprising twists to the movie for her, including thinking that the movie ended when the Captain and Maria wed.

Overall, it was an enjoyable movie-going experience.  Having seen the movie on the big screen last year at the Sound of Music Sing-a-Long, I think I was a bit spoiled having watched it so recently.  I wanted to sing at this event too, but that would’ve ruined the experience for everyone else.  So in that regard, it wasn’t the big sentimental teary experience that I thought I might have.

It has renewed my love for the musical again.  I’m still singing the songs around the house and in my mind because “My Favorite Things” isn’t just a song in the movie.  The Sound of Music really is one of my favorite things.

Are you a fan of the Sound of Music?  When was the first time you saw the musical?  I’d love to hear your Sound of Music memory in the comments below.

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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