26 years of piano have lead up to today

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Baby grand.jpg
26 years ago, I purchased this baby grand piano for the purpose of hacking it into a computer-controlled player grand piano. Before I could begin that project, however, I married the lovely Kathleen Mullen, who promptly put a stop to the notion of piano hacking, saying that we would need that piano someday for our children to play.

I'm glad I listened to Kathy, as all four of our daughters grew up plunking or playing that piano in one form or another. I believe that having that piano in the center of our home provided endless opportunity to satisfy musical curiosity and encourage musical skill in my children. I never tire of my daughters playing the piano, and I appreciate the special relationship that I have with Wendy as she will often play hymns or other songs to encourage me when I am in my office.

I am so very thankful for the many teachers who played a part in Wendy's musical education along the way. Each gave of themselves as they invested in Wendy and encouraged her along the way. Some even volunteered to do so. All made a tremendous impact on Wendy.

Tonight, we will celebrate the culmination of four years of study in Music as Wendy presents her senior piano recital. Soon, she'll graduate from The Master's College with a Bachelor of Music in worship music ministry and a Bachelor of Arts in music and communication. I am so proud of our Wendy, for her focus and determination and for the lovely woman she's become.

Wendy piano recital.jpg
Not pictured: about 120 people in the audience.

If I may brag for a moment...

Saturday, February 28th, 2015
The Light Princess premier small.jpg
That's Amy in the pink dress in front of the symphony orchestra last night. She's narrating George MacDonald's classic story of The Light Princess, which she adapted into a narrative performance accompanied by a complete orchestral score, all written by her.

She also designed and commissioned the paintings on the screens so they could be displayed while she presents this work. It was very well received, and 700-800 people attended the world premier of The Light Princess.

Not to brag, but Kathy and I obviously have the most talented and hard-working daughters in the world.

For more highlights from the concert, you can check out Amy's blog here.

And a couple more pictures for good measure:

Amy light princess headshot small.jpg

Amy light princess headshot FB.jpg
One of the personal projects that has taken quite a bit of my time lately has been helping our symphony orchestra prepare for their mid-winter family concert.

This year, the all of the music including the featured work, The Light Princess" was written by my daughter, Amy, who is a music composition major at The Master's College.

Amy has been working for years on the arrangements for this concert which is called "Tunes, Tales, and Truths." The concert will feature the World Premier of “The Light Princess,” an adaptation of George MacDonald's beloved fairy-tale into orchestral music and narration.

The concert will also include a sweeping suite of original music: pirate legends, great awakenings, swinging jazz, and powerful tales of redemption and new life.

T3 poster - painting with title text

See that painting above? That's an original painting -- one of 10 -- that Amy commissioned for the concert. Working with the artist, Jay Wegter, Amy designed the theme and sketch for each piece of art which Jay then masterfully painted. These will be presented on giant screens during the concert. After the concert, the original score and the 10 paintings will be available in the lobby for closer inspection.

Continue Reading "Of Tunes, Tales and Truths -- and The Light Princess" »

Phantom of the Floppera

Thursday, February 10th, 2011
It's been a long time since I have used my soldering iron to build circuits but I found this inspiring, technically and musically. This guy built a MIDI controller that drives teh stepper motors in 4 flopy disc drives to make music. Be sure to watch to the 2:30 mark for a special surprise.

The Mack Sisters Handbell Debut at Bellfest 2010

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

This summer, Amy & Wendy decided to prepare a special piece to perform at the Master's College annual Bellfest and chose the song "O Holy Night". While they have been ringing bells for a long time, this was Emily and Kelly's first time to ring handbells and they were very eager to learn. The girls had a lot of fun practicing together and filling the house with music and were able to pull it off. It was amazing to see how quickly the piece came together and how smoothy it went.

After an audition, the girls were invited to perform in the Master's college Bellfest and everyone enjoyed it!

The girls enjoyed playing this song on the handbells and the four of them look forward to performing together again.

Andantino - The Fellowship of the Ring

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

This year, Amy & Wendy have the opportunity to experience small ensemble ringing through through a new group: The Fellowship of the Ring. They started this trio last year with their friend Morgan Ruthardt and enjoyed it so much that they decided to continue the ensemble this semester. At the beginning of the semester, the three of them made the decision that the trio would only play music that was either written or arranged by someone in the ensemble, allowing them the freedom to play whatever song they wanted in whatever way they chose to play it. Because all either music majors or music lovers, writing their own music has helped them grow in their musical abilities. It has also given them a better understanding of the pieces they are playing (how they work and fit together) as well as a lot of fun.

I've enjoyed watching this handbell ensemble and I look forward to their next performance.

Church Ragtime? Why not?

Saturday, October 24th, 2009
My daughter, Amy, is learning how to arrange music on the computer. She came to me in frustration about a score she's been working on, so I challenged her to do something different.

Amy loves to accompany the children at church and she loves the Ragtime piano music at Disneyland. (You can see where this is going...) Thirty minutes later she returned with a church ragtime score.

I'm proud of her. I'm just not sure our music pastor will play it in church though... Perhaps for a Sunday Ice Cream social.

How Can I Keep from Singing Your Praise?

Sunday, December 16th, 2007
If you have ever had the experience of associating a positive experience at an event with a particular song or type of music, you'll know what I'm referring to in this post.

Last month, when I went to Manila to deliver the Beyond-Planning: eProductivity conference, I also attended church services at the Cathedral of Praise. Since my conference was during the week, I had the opportunity to attend several services at each weekend.

While some of the worship experience was new for me, we worship the same God and read from the same Bible. One of the worship songs that I heard at each service was called "How can I keep from singing your praise" by songwriter Chris Tomlin. What a beautiful song of expression of love and worship for our creator.

It's become a powerful worship song for me, as well as a sweet reminder of my time of fellowship with the dear people at COP.

I was unfamiliar with this song or songwriter, but it turns out that we sing many of Chris Tomlin's songs in our worship service, too.  Chris has an amazing gift for capturing the essence in true worship in his songs. For me, Chris' songs create a sense of awe and wonder and they add to my personal worship experience.

When I returned to the states, I went to iTunes store and purchased this song and four additional worship songs by Chris.

      How Great is Our God
      Made to Worship
      How Can I Keep from Singing
      Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

These are now on my iPod for my morning quiet (well, not so quiet) time.

Continue Reading "How Can I Keep from Singing Your Praise?" »

Musings on jet lag, conf prep, and favorite hymns

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007
I crashed hard last night at about 7:30 PM local time. Now, it's 3:43 AM local time and I'm wide awake. I'd rather be on this side of jet lag. Anyway, I enjoyed a nice quiet time, reading my Bible and listening to my favorite hymns and worship songs in my hotel room. I'm normally a late night person, and while getting up early for a quiet time has long been a desire of mine, it does not happen as often as I would like. So, I'm thankful for opportunities like these when I actually get up before the clock sounds.

Focusing on the outcome
This conference has required so much work and preparation that's easy to forget the purpose of the conference itself and focus on mechanics and delivery. The purpose of this conference is about helping people. I desire to be a part of that process, by sharing some of what I have learned in the past 25 years in business with the hope that others will find some of it useful and learn from it, too. I'm really excited about the vision that Pastor Sumrall has for these conferences that he does each year to help the people of Manila and I'm honored to be invited to be this year's featured speaker. It's an awesome responsibility and opportunity.

Continue Reading "Musings on jet lag, conf prep, and favorite hymns" »
This weekend, Amy and Wendy were invited to participate in Bellfest 2007 at The Master's College.  Christine Anderson taught a bell class for small groups, ensembles, and solos.  Amy and Wendy prepared a beautiful piece to share at the concert at the end of the day. (Click on the image to watch the video)

What's amazing is that the girls accomplished this using two inexpensive sets of children's bells. If you've ever seen or rung one of these bells - where the clapper can go in any direction - you will know how hard it is to get one of these bells to ring only once or on queue. Amy and Wendy perfected a technique that allowed them to do this well, and they were an inspiration to everyone present.  I'm very proud of them..

I'm also very appreciative of Mrs. Anderson for her kindness and invitation and inspiration to my children.

You can visit Christine Anderson's web site at Voices in Bronze
To kick off the 2007 summer staff meeting at The David Allen Company, David chartered a motorcoach to take us all to see the new J. Paul Getty museum. One of his clients works at the Getty and invited David and Co. for a private tour of the museum. That was fun in and of itself. Inside the lobby of the museum, I was delighted to see Tim Hawkinson's Uberorgan.

Tim Hawkinson's UberOrgan at the J. Paul Getty MuseumTim Hawkinson's UberOrgan at The J. Paul Getty MuseumPaul Garth beats the heat at the J. Paul Getty Museum

Unfortunately, the organ was out of service, so we did not make as much noise as the title of this post would imply. I did manage to find this video on YouTube to give you an idea of what we did not hear:

Continue Reading "GTD Summer Camp: Making noise at The Getty Museum" »
Andre Rieu and his little guest 3yr old Akim.

Recorded live with Johann Strauss Orchestra in the Nederlands.

Making Music in the Digital Sandbox

Monday, July 11th, 2005
What's a day in the sandbox without music? As part of our office tour, Michael Sampson spotted the contraption in the center of my office - a collection of pipes, wires, and cables. When he asked what it was, I decided to show him; rather, I decided to play it for him.

Listen along for a digital-to-analog treat, live from my Digital Sandbox

Making Music in the Digital Sandbox

Eric Mack On-line - June 16, (3 min 26 sec) MP3 1.7 MB

Joe’s Cool Colored Coat

Saturday, May 1st, 2004
Remember Joe?  The second to youngest of 12 brothers, who captured his father's heart and got a cool jacket to show for it?  Joe's brothers became jealous, betrayed him, and took their revenge upon him, along with his new jacket.  Joe rises above his situation, is noticed by the big boss, finds himself second in command over everything, and preserves his family line. This story has it all: Love, generosity, dreams, jealousy, treachery, revenge, loyalty, flirting, deceit, despair, more dreams, hope, prophecy, wisdom, leadership, grovelling, compassion, and reunion.

I don't want to give away the plot, but that's a good brief summary; It's remained a popular story for thousands of years.

If you have been following our family web site, then you know that this is one of our favorite Bible stories. Tonight, we were again privileged to enjoy this story in musical form at a performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, performed by the Bakersfield Music Theater.

Image:Joe´s Cool Colored Coat

After the performance, we had the opportunity to go backstage to meet the cast.  The girls had their pictures taken with Joseph (Jason D. McClain) and Pharaoh (Kevin Trueblood).  Both were delighted to meet the four girls and were kind enough to pose for photos. Emily and Kelly wore the Technicolor Dream Coats that Mommy made for Amy and Wendy when they were little.

Image:Joe´s Cool Colored CoatImage:Joe´s Cool Colored Coat

I have seen this musical many times across North America from Toronto to California; however, this particular performance had the most energetic choreography that we have ever seen in a production of Joseph. Our family had a hard time staying still in our seats when the brothers celebrated their dastardly deed and when Isaachar (Frank Sierra) led us in the "Benjamin Calypso."

Find this interesting? You can read the real story on-line:
Joseph's Dreams - Joseph and Potiphar's Wife - Interpreting Dreams
The Rise to Power - Joseph’s Brothers take a Trip - Return of the Brothers
The Final Test - The Reconciliation - The Relocation - Wise Administration

Music & Speech

Sunday, July 13th, 2003
Today, Kathy and I are in Ontario, California, participating in a Home Education Conference.  (CHEA)  We attended fascinating presentation, entitled, "The Profound Effects of Music on Life," by Andrew Pudewa.  In his presentation, Pudewa describes in detail, the beneficial as well as potentially detrimental effects which various types of music have on living things, namely children.  I bought the tape series.  I'll try to find a link to the program. His current web site, does not yet have it listed.

Music to my ears

Monday, June 16th, 2003
Tonight, the girls and I purchased a console organ for Kathy's birthday.  The deal was too good to pass up:  The organist of the local church passed away a few years ago, and her husband decided to sell her console organ along with her entire music library -- all for $300.  I had known the woman and her husband from my time serving at the church many years ago, and she was very fond of Amy & Wendy.  Kathy and I discussed the organ and she said that she would like to have it for the girls to learn to play, but that it should be presented as "Mom's organ."  
Image:Music to my ears
All I needed to do now, was to convince my children that it would be worth "borrowing" $300 from our savings towards a future trip to Disneyland to buy the organ.  They were unimpressed with the idea.  I finally convinced Amy and Wendy to  go with me to check out the organ -- just to "look" at it.  Well, they came along, arms folded, unsure of the wisdom of this purchase vs the potential future fun of going to Disneyland at the end of the year.  The elderly man who owned the organ told us all about it; the girls remained unconvinced.  Then he offered to allow them to "test" the organ themselves; they sat down, and played a duet of "heart and soul."  Moments later, it was all over; we were the proud owners of a console organ.  (I will spare you the details of all I learned about how [not] to move an organ.)

So now, we have this beautiful console organ sitting in our living room.  We have managed to play the National Anthem, Take me out to the ball game, a few hymns, and other classics.  Kathy wants to be able to play the song from Swiss Family Robinson  for the girls, and I envision myself playing Phantom of the Opera.  I have been able to figure out what the two keyboards, the bass pedals, and most of the top two rows of switches and levers do -- at least functionally -- but I am clueless on some of the other controls.  Fortunately, the organ can also be controlled by a computer through a MIDI interface, so I know I can make it work that way.  I am sure that there are books or places to get started learning, and I will start researching these shortly.

Go, Go, Go, Joseph

Saturday, August 17th, 2002
Image:Go, Go, Go, Joseph
Many years ago, our family became acquainted with the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Weber. Kathy and I  first saw Joseph at the Pantages theatre and enjoyed it so much that we took our twin daughters to see it as soon as they were potty trained and old enough to sit still long enough to watch it. My wife made Technicolor dreamcoats for Amy & Wendy to wear to the theatre. Afterwards, the girls were invited back-stage to meet Joseph and the cast. Since then, we have sort of become Joseph groupies as we have travelled to see many performances of this production across the country.

Last night, we took the family to see a student-run production of Joseph at a small theatre in Bakersfield. We had a lot of fun. This time, the older girls passed down their dreamcoats to their younger sisters so that they too could wear something special to the show.

For those you who may be unfamiliar with the story or the musical, it is a truly delightful story for all ages.

I highly recommend this musical for it's powerful performance at many levels.  I have uploaded more photos and narratives of the various shows we've seen to our family web site.

Happiest Music on Earth?

Tuesday, August 13th, 2002
Close your eyes and imagine that you are on a carousel. (Click to listen)   Hear the music?  Does it make you feel happy?  Are you there?  

Sometimes, when I get ready to study and I want to put myself into a happy mood, I hook up my calliope and play some happy music. I find that my disposition changes and the burdens of the world are lifted - as if I were a child again.   Of course sometimes I just do this because it is an excuse not to study -- which I am supposed to be doing right now. :-)

Image:Happiest Music on Earth?
Listening to music like this brings back find memories of when I was a kid. There was a man in our neighborhood who restored carousel band organs as a hobby. On Saturday mornings, he would start up his band organ and kids would come running for blocks around to sit on his lawn and wiggle to the happy music.

That experience inspired me to desire to have a band organ of my own -- until I found out how expensive they were to own and maintain. A few years ago, I began researching the idea of building one and making it computer controlled so that I would have an endless supply of MIDI files to control it with.  This has been a long project and I am certain to have many years of work still ahead of me. So far, I have completed the MIDI controlled Calliope (see above) and a MIDI controlled Glockenspiel. I am almost done with a MIDI controlled Accordion. Next, will be the rhythm section. All of this is powered  by my Oreck XL vacuum, which you can see in the above photo.

Watch a vacuum cleaner powered calliope play a patriotic greeting!
    Broadband - RealMedia 300 Kbps
    Low-Speed - RealMedia Dial-up

Here's a treat.  It's a video clip of my computer-controlled calliope powered by an 8 lb Oreck XL vacuum cleaner. The video clip is in RealMedia format and you can watch it by clicking on the link below. During the video, be sure to watch for the Mack sisters, our American Bear, the vacuum cleaner (which you can hear in the background) and the laptop computer that controls the entire performance.

* MIDI stands for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface" - a computer control system where a computer can control musical instruments, lights, or other equipment.

Tooting my own horn

Saturday, May 18th, 2002
Image:Tooting my own horn

I have just completed building my computer-controlled calliope powered by my 8 lb Oreck XL vacuum cleaner.  The video clip is in RealMedia format and you can watch it by clicking on the link below. During the video, be sure to watch for the Mack sisters, our American Bear, the vacuum cleaner (which you can hear in the background) and the laptop computer that controls the entire performance.

Watch Eric's vacuum cleaner powered calliope play a patriotic greeting!
(Click here for low-speed version)

Collecting Band Organ Parts

Wednesday, February 28th, 2001
February - My latest addition to all of my many inventions around the house is something that brings me great pleasure - I have begun collecting the needed parts to build my own band organ.