Not Ready For My Close Up

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I heard a great story today.  A client came in with some 16mm film to be transferred and after we conducted the transaction, we got to talking. Some of our stories seemed to share certain elements and before you know it I was showing her one of the video editing jobs I had done in the recent past. The soundtrack I used was taken from an Andrea Bocelli album and my client smiled as she recalled her memory.

It was in the 90s and Bocelli was giving a concert in Madison Square Garden. My client, who lived in NY at the time and was a big fan, was able to score two tickets… up in the nosebleed section. In fact, there was no seat situated further away from the stage which from her vantage point looked about the size of a postage stamp.

As they were settling in, a woman came up to her and asked if she would like to swap seats. In typical New York fashion, she retorted, “How much further away do you want me to go? Out in the parking lot?” The woman quickly put her mind at ease. “No,” she said, “I just have these two extra seats that I need filled.” My client figured they couldn’t be any worse than the ones she paid for so she took her up on the offer.  A few minutes later they found themselves in the orchestra, third row center sitting amidst A list celebrities. They had better seats than Donald Trump who sat two rows behind them. Turns out the woman who offered them worked for Bolla Wines who was the concert’s sponsor and they had some extra comp seats up close and she didn’t want them to go unused.

As she told the story, I couldn’t help but notice that it was as if she was experiencing it all over again. That’s the power of the past remembered. What a great memory.

Unfortunately, the only story I had that was similar was back when Orlando was home to the Solar Bears, an ice hockey franchise.  I got seats in the balcony and was prepared to root the home team on from a birds eye view when we got randomly selected for a seat upgrade. Instead of being perched and viewing the game from above where we could watch the entire ice and see the plays and patterns develop before our eyes, we were escorted to the ground floor behind the glass where we sat in wingback chairs and given champagne glasses but, to be honest, the view was terrible. The only part of the game we could see was when a player crosschecked an opponent into the glass right in front of us. And we really didn’t need or particularly want to see that up close.

It turns out that not every upgrade is a good one. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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The Queen is dead. Long live the queen.

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Aretha Franklin impacted so many people with her music… my wife included. Her gospel leanings infused with an energetic pop style led many people to appreciate and applaud her vocals. And with so many iconic songs, Aretha’s sound absolutely electrified a gender; a generation… indeed, an entire world.

As a tribute to this remarkable artist, here are a few memories to hold onto –  a collection of some of her most iconic hits:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Aretha’s reinvention of this Otis Redding song became an anthem of empowerment and basic human rights.

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – Her performance during songwriter/performer Carole King’s Kennedy Center honors brought the house down and brought a president to tears.

Chain of Fools – Another song intended for Otis Redding, it appears on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

Think – written by Aretha Franklin, it was showcased in the movie Blues Brothers.

I Say A Little Prayer – This was already a Dionne Warwick hit when a record producer heard Franklin and studio musicians playing around with it during a break in the studio. He had them record it and in just one take, they captured what was to become one of Aretha’s most popular songs.

Freeway of Love – Another Grammy award winning hit from Aretha featuring a killer saxophone solo from Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) – This duet with George Michael was to be Aretha’s biggest hit in the UK.

Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) – Originally written by Stevie Wonder in 1967, he sat on it for ten years. Aretha turned it into a hit in 1973. Stevie released his own version four years later.

Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul. R.I.P.

Tap Tap Tap… Tap Tap Tap

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You just never know who is going to walk into the studio on any given day.  Yesterday it was a delightful young lady of 84 who just wanted a DVD of one of her tap dancing performances to be copied.  But this was not just any transfer of an old performance of years gone by. This was a recording of a recent show. As a matter of fact, at 84, she is still teaching tap to anyone who would like to learn.

I had to ask, since I’ve been an admirer of tap dancers for some time, who her favorite all time tap dancer was.  I was expecting the usual suspects.  Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller, etc… Her reply was instant and a bit of a surprise. Without missing a beat she blurted out, Dan Dailey.

In my age group, Dailey was not all that well known as a tap dancer… to be frank, he probably wasn’t all that well known at all.  I remember seeing him in a 60s sitcom called The Governor and JJ in which he starred with Julie Sommars. It only lasted a few seasons. But, as it turns out, he was quite a hoofer in his younger days.

After bouncing about MGM in a few modest parts, his big break came after he returned from WWII and was allowed to sign a contract with 20th Century Fox. They paired him with their biggest female star, Betty Grable, in the musical Mother Wore Tights. He would eventually co-star with her in two other films. He had another big hit with Give My Regards to Broadway which boasted an all-star lineup. He then had a string of semi-successful films but the film I remember him in most was a sports biopic where he played Dizzy Dean in The Pride of St Louis.

If you still can’t quite place him, here’s a snippet of a musical number from It’s Always Fair Weather with Dailey, Gene Kelly and Michael Kidd as soldiers returning home from the war.  (Dailey is the tall lanky fellow.)

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Gone Too Soon

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Our clients will often compliment us on our customer service and the friendly atmosphere that infuses our studio. What they don’t seem to understand is that whatever “vibe” they are getting from our studio most often originates from them.  We genuinely love hearing the stories of our customers… both the experiences they’ve had and the memories they’ve accumulated. The more open and animated they are in telling them, the more excited we get in hearing them. Our “customer service” mindset is firmly based in a curiosity and interest in the lives of the people who cross our threshold. We are honored that they have selected us to help preserve the memories they have made.

This past week, we have been particularly touched in getting to know one of our clients – the wife and partner of a true country music star who has sadly departed this earth. We have been helping her prepare an edited compilation of his many television appearances to be used in a memorial service. While the situation that brought us together is a sad one, learning of her husband’s life and legacy has been joyful.

I don’t profess to know what mystical element propels performers into the rarified stratosphere of super-stardom. It can’t just be talent because, if it were, this gentleman would have topped any A-list. He certainly spent decades performing with many who were considered to be the best of the best.  His winning personality coupled with a remarkable musical talent allowed Ronnie Prophet to carve out a place in the country music ethos. He has left a legacy that will not be soon forgotten.

I did not have the pleasure of ever meeting the man. But after meeting his wife and hearing of the life he lived – both on and off the stage – I feel a genuine loss in having missed that opportunity. I look forward to rectifying that loss in the next life.

Rest in Peace, Ronnie Prophet.


Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

My Favorite Fathers’ Day Song

I came across this song when I was looking to pay tribute to my own dad. Here’s the short video I posted online last year.

The song, My Dad, was sung by Paul Peterson who played Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show. It reached #6 on the Billboard charts.

The song was written by Barry Mann after the death of his own father. Mann and his wife, Cynthia Weil were among the most prolific songwriters of their day having penned such hits as “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Somewhere Out There,” and my personal favorite “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp Bomp Bomp?)

A few years later, the song was covered by none other than Davy Jones of The Monkees. Now I’m a big Monkees fan but the only rendition of this particular song that I want to hear is Petersen’s. Maybe it is because when it was first broadcast on his TV sitcom, with his character singing this song to his TV dad played by Carl Betz, it was such an emotionally powerful and personal statement that the song just seems to belong to them.

If you’ve never seen it, I’ve posted it below.

To all the dads out there… thank you. You know why.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Music To My Ears

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Usually, when I am transferring a homemade audio tape of a musician or band, I don’t pay much attention to the sounds coming from the speakers. No offense intended but the quality of self-recorded performances from garage bands or shower singers typically leave more than a little something to be desired. It is usually better to listen from afar… like in another room. Such is not the case these days.  Because it’s not every day a world class pianist walks into the studio.

Tzimon Barto is something of a Renaissance man. He speaks seven languages, is a published novelist, reads ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin, studies philosophy, writes poetry, and, oh yes… he plays the beauty of Schubert and Chopin while possessing the physique of Schwarzenegger or Stallone.

Born Johnny Barto Smith Jr. in Eustis FL, he was given the name Tzimon by famed Julliard instructor Adele Marcus with whom he studied. She later claimed she was joking about the name change in response to his concern that Johnny Smith might be too plain a name for a classical pianist.  But the name stuck and is now known around the world.

He first started studying the piano at the age of 5 under the instruction of his grandmother. His studies continued at Rollins College, the Brevard Music Center and, as stated earlier, Julliard. Since then, he has performed with nearly every major international orchestra including the New York Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker, the London Philharmonic and the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo.

If you’re unable to stop by the studio to hear some of this brilliant artist which will be our background music during the next few days while I transfer his tapes, here’s a video of him performing Mozart’s Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in A major with the SWR Symphonieorchester.


Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

The Music Machine

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If I have said it once, I’ve said it countless times… memories make the best gifts ever. I was reminded today that I have actually been gifting memories longer than I’ve been in the memory business.

Way back, when my son first got married and entered into the Coast Guard… while he was going through his initial training at Cape May NJ, our daughter-in-law, who was carrying our first granddaughter to be, stayed with us. While she was there, probably thinking about the things she wanted to share with her expected child, she mentioned that there was a children’s record that she listened to all the time when she was growing up but she didn’t know what had happened to it.

It was called The Music Machine. After a little online research, I was able to find the CD of it (both vol.1 and vol. 2) and purchased them for her. To be honest, I had never heard of it before but hearing her talk about it let me know what an important part of her childhood it was to her.  Seeing her reaction as she opened the package made me a solid believer that gifting a memory, when you can pull it off, is the best gift you can ever give.

Those CDs became staples in her audio collection and she played them repeatedly on road trips she spent with her daughters. 

Here’s a little about Music Machine:

Recorded and released in 1977, Music Machine (AKA The Music Machine: The Fruit of the Spirit or Music Machine: A Musical Adventure Teaching the Fruit of the Spirit to All Ages) (1977) is a Christian children’s album by Candle. It is set in Agapeland, and teaches children about the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It features the characters Stevie and Nancy. It spawned a series of spin-off Music Machine albums, books, a video game and Music Machine movies too.

If you, like me, had never heard of it before, here’s a sample of the kind of songs that were featured on the album:

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

A Day for Dad

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A quick check of the calendar tells me that there’s just a little over 2 weeks until Fathers’ Day. There is still plenty of time to prepare that one of a kind video gift that will show dear old dad just how much he means to you.  Here’s a quick reblog of a post that originally appeared at The Art of Manliness that explains how Fathers’ Day came into being.

The History of Father’s Day in the United States

There are two stories of when the first Father’s Day was celebrated. According to some accounts, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Washington state on June 19, 1910. A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd came up with the idea of honoring and celebrating her father while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at church in 1909. She felt as though mothers were getting all the acclaim while fathers were equally deserving of a day of praise (She would probably be displeased that Mother’s Day still gets the lion’s share of attention).

Sonora’s dad was quite a man. William Smart, a veteran of the Civil War, was left a widower when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. He went on to raise the six children by himself on their small farm in Washington. To show her appreciation for all the hard work and love William gave to her and her siblings, Sonora thought there should be a day to pay homage to him and other dads like him. She initially suggested June 5th, the anniversary of her father’s death to be the designated day to celebrate Father’s Day, but due to some bad planning, the celebration in Spokane, Washington was deferred to the third Sunday in June.

The other story of the first Father’s Day in America happened all the way on the other side of the country in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton suggested to the minister of the local Methodist church that they hold services to celebrate fathers after a deadly mine explosion killed 361 men.

While Father’s Day was celebrated locally in several communities across the country, unofficial support to make the celebration a national holiday began almost immediately. William Jennings Bryant was one of its staunchest proponents. In 1924, President Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge recommended that Father’s Day become a national holiday. But no official action was taken.

In 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson, through an executive order, designated the third Sunday in June as the official day to celebrate Father’s Day. However, it wasn’t until 1972, during the Nixon administration, that Father’s Day was officially recognized as a national holiday.

So if you’d like to put something together for your dad on his special day, bring pictures of the two of you down to the studio. We’ll set it to music and give back to you a gift your dad will always remember.

Here’s some ideas for songs you might want to consider:

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information call 352-735-8550  or visit our website.

Hi Ho, Oh No, It’s Off To School I Go.

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We have five senses. And a memory can be attached to any or all of them. Today, I was reminded of a memory through an auditory trigger which led to an olfactory memory.

An old high school buddy who I read online today mentioned a local radio station which prompted me to recall the local AM station my family listened to in the morning every…single…day…for…fifteen…years. It did have the best contact information to report on school closings due to stormy weather which is why my parents tuned into it. But it also had some very odd practices which it never wavered from. One of them was the practice of playing, at 6:30am, a military march to get their listeners awake and active and ready to face the day. Let me say, that when you’re a school-aged kid, you don’t much appreciate that style of music jarring you from your deep sleep.

And I was hit with a double whammy, because my father, as a depression era kid, refused to waste food. If the previous night’s meal was not entirely consumed, it became his breakfast the next day.  Here’s what he did. He chopped up an onion. He chopped up a green pepper. He took the leftovers of last night’s meal. And he threw them all into a skillet. It could have been lasagna, it could have been flank steak. He just fried it all up. The smell of fried green pepper and onion quickly infused the house and it…along with the oom…pah…pah beat of the morning march.. drove me straight out of the house. I could not get to school fast enough.

To think of it, I never did stick around long enough to see if my dad ever ate his concoctions. Perhaps it was all a ruse to get us kids to wake up and go to school. But, knowing him as well I did, I wasn’t about to bet against it. It worked. We survived and I got an education. And as much as I am loathe to admit it, I even developed a kind of fondness for military marches.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

One Man’s Noise Is Another Man’s Symphony

 

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Passion is a wonderful thing. It is something that can be shared and appreciated… but not always understood. I learned that recently through a client who brought in an audio tape that he wanted “cleaned up” a bit.

I was not prepared for what I heard. Noise would be putting it mildly. There was percussion, but no beat. Sounds but no melody. Have you ever heard a comedy routine where a character leaves the stage and the next sound you hear is the crash of someone tripping over a garbage can? To my ear, it was kind of like that but it lasted some 20 minutes.

When the client returned to pick up his order, I got an opportunity to learn a little more about what it was I was transferring. Turns out, it was a real and rare recording of a specific musical composition. The proper term is called “twelve tones” and is also known as dodecaphony or twelve tone serialism.

Devised by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1921, the term “denotes a system of musical composition using the twelve chromatic notes of the octave on an equal basis without dependence on a key system. The technique is central to serialism and involves the transposition and inversion of a fixed sequence of pitches.” [Wikepedia]

I know, right? Silly of me not to recognize it. But while listening to my client who obviously had a passion for the mathematical precision needed to compose and perform this particular discipline, I couldn’t help but form an appreciation for something beyond my comprehension.

Researching it a bit further, I found that this musical system has been adopted by many classical and mainstream composers including Igor Stravinsky and American composer Scott Bradley, probably best known for scoring Tom & Jerry and other cartoons.

Here’s an audio sample of a twelve tones composition by Anton Webern.

 

It’s not what I’d call a toe tapper but I’m told there’s a musical genius behind it that my audible perceptions aren’t skilled enough to recognize. Which is why I love what I do… I am continually introduced to new disciplines, artforms, and historical facts or events of which I had no previous knowledge. And I get to hear about them from people who have developed a passion for them to the point that they want to preserve the memory of it. And that is something I can definitely understand.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.