Monday, February 23, 2015

Hope everyone has begun a HOLY LENTEN SEASON thus far. Salutations from our blessed home to you & yours. Yep, it certainly has been awhile since our last blogging, we'd say around Advent of 2014 right? Nonetheless, we're back to continue this ongoing pursuit of venting our frustrations, concerns & hopes of all musicians caught up in the realm we like to call: Providing Music for the Mass(es)!
But before we get into our latest topic/adventure, we'd like to take a little time to reflect on this time of year we as Catholics call Lent. 40 days to look back & repeat the words of St. John the Baptist cried out in the desert: "REPENT! REPENT! FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND!" We understand that it's hard to sometimes walk the straight & narrow, but with God, nothing is impossible. He always with us, as we in turn should always be with Him. Even if it means being falsely accused, incarcerated, beaten 'til bloody, forced to carry a heavy cross, nailed to a cross, only to suffer & die. If you think we are overstating ourselves, just take a look around you & see all the persecution against Christians starting from the most innocents of all by means of abortion. With that said, let us not take for granted that we live in a society that is safe because we're not. Only through the intercession of all the angels & saints, prayers to our holy Mother of God & to God Himself can evil be defeated as death was conquered over 2000 years ago.
Now our topic simply entitled: "DON'T SHOW UP" Judy Rocha (singer/keyboardist/arranger for the contemporary music group caeli) engages primarily in providing music for weddings, XVneras, funerals & on occasion, rosary/vigils. Recently she received a phone call from one of a plethora of mortuaries she is contracted by to provide the music during the recitation of the rosary plus the funeral Mass the following morning. Turns out the funeral was for the mother of (church musician) friend of ours from many years ago. *NOTE: Judy unknowingly at the time had just played the funeral Mass for the father of, let's see we'll just call him Demasiado (translation: too much, in excess). Eventually it was Demasiado's sister who paid & made all the arrangements for both rosary/wake & Mass. She also was the person who spoke with Judy for song choice & order.
On the day of the the wake, mere hours prior to the "gig" Judy receives a voice mail from Demasiado insisting that she call him back immediately. Unaware to him, he didn't hang up so Judy heard his voice along with other family members in the background raising hell because Demasiado was not going to be allowed to sing but maybe 1 or 2 songs. He wouldn't have it. Then she gets a call from his sister (the POA, Power of Attorney person) saying not to listen to what anybody else says & for Judy just to "do her job". 2 minutes after that, Demasiado calls & speaks with Judy & says: "don't show up". After a lengthy conversation (all the while Judy politely asking him to please understand the position she is in) explaining she was hired by the mortuary so her being the professional she is could, without the proper authority just not show up. She told him that he needed to have the mortuary counselor or his sister call her to cancel the music, to which there was a dead silence (no pun intended) & he finally mumbled, not okay but instead said: "we'll see".
We arrived early as was suggested by the counselor (who of course left early to avoid any confrontation) & there was Demasiado in all of his glory performing with a huge sound system, electric guitar with amp & a rhythm box cranking out praise & worship songs to please his following that were in attendance. *NOTE: You know from our previous blogs how we feel about tuning & sing off key, well here was no exception. The rosary was scheduled for 7pm, it was approximately 6:50pm & per the funeral director request asked Demasiado to please stop playing to allow us to move in & set up to which his answer was simply "No I'm not moving. I'm going to play everything tonight. All night."
Finally, after the director (who has known Demasiado for quite some time as well) told him as a "friend" could you please let Mrs. Judy play, my job is on the line. So he finally gave in & as we were setting up, he walked over to try to explain why he did what he did, we simply said we're just here to do what we're here to do, our job,  to be professional about it & certainly try to be humble & Christian-like. We don't think he quite got the subtle advice. Until next time, God bless.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Well, well, well. It certainly has been a long time (not that many or should we say any people have noticed) since we've blog-ed-ed anything. We do hope that by the grace of God you & yours are in the best of health, love & peace, as for us, well I guess we could say things could be worse but we won't because whatever God throws at us, is what it is & all thanx be to Him.
Just to bring you up to par with our going ons, since our last post, let us see it's been over a year.....other than Roger battling with an ongoing disability, being laid off of his job (after 36 years) & trying different options to help stay afloat ('cos Gov'ment cheese just ain't working out for us), everything is just "peachy". God IS good. All the time. He closes doors but opens others & our faith has yet to deplete (as did Roger's disability funds) so we're surviving with His grace & mercy of course. Oh & did we mention that our littlest granddaughter Bonnie Marie will be 18 months next month? Such a sweetie.
*Before we continue with our venting, on a sad note, our good friend Ivan Madrigal (bass player, vocalist, our favorite sound engineer) has had a terrible set back happen to him last Saturday, May 10th. His love, his better half, his wife of 16 years passed away of cancer. Thing is, it happened all so suddenly as cancer sometimes does. Please pray for her reposed soul & also for Ivan, his & her respective families. May God lead her to His promised land with all the angels & saints. Amen.
Now down to the nitty, gritty. However, this time around we're going from venting to praising. Always give credit where credit is due. Last month caeli was asked to provide music for the Confirmation Mass at Resurrection Church in Los Angeles, CA. Monsignor Moretta has asked us to come back year after year for the last 6 / 7 years, we're honored & humbled to do so. This gig usually entails rehearsing with the confirmandi a week before & the Sunday before as Confirmation has been scheduled to fall on Mondays. So, the Sunday prior (Divine Mercy Sunday) we got to the church early so we proceeded to set up because regular Sunday Mass was at 6pm. We decided to attend Mass while there waiting for the rehearsal, with a chance to receive our Lord in Holy Communion on this Divine Mercy Sunday. While we were setting up, the 6pm Mass choir started to trickle in & set up themselves. Monsignor had forewarned them to make an effort to hurry out of there because of the rehearsal afterwards. For the most part they were good sports about it (except for 1 or 2 mad dog-ers). Now, we'll to t...r...y to make a long story short (wish us luck), the keyboardist shows up & starts his set up & prep. Their sound peeps show up, connecting cables, speakers & stuff. Choir members, mainly female were trickling in, one after another, after another, after...(well, you get the picture). Before we knew it there were about 20 to 25 members & almost each of them had their own mic (Yikes!). We thought to ourselves, oh brother maybe we should step outside for an hour long coffee break. After hearing so many bad "volunteer choirs", you tend to assume that every one of them is a carbon copy of everyone else. In this case, not so. For the most part, the keyboardist was playing the riffs & melodies, bass & drum machine while a few other members played guitars. As we,ve said in the past, TUNING IS ESSENTIAL PEOPLE! A couple of guitar were off but with that said & some cheesy stops, the accompaniment wasn't all that bad. However, in the vocal department, we have to give "cudos" to the director & members (all volunteers) for the exceptional job the did. Not only did they take on the job of a choir, but to our understanding, the also head the task of a family prayer group that just had given a retreat in the parish hall which started the Friday before. I believe the title of their group is "Grupo Jesus y Maria". Again, hats off in recognition to these people for being God's hands bringing others to know, through prayer & SONG, God's true love & mercy. So you see, not all of our blogs are to rant & vent, Until next time, stay well, stay blessed & stay with God!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Greetings. Happy 2013. Yeah it's been since November that we've posted anything. Busy you might ask? As always, an understatement. To recap:

As you may recall, we were asked to perform at the Guadalupana event/Mass on December 9th, 2012 at the E.L.A. College Stadium come rain or shine. For the most part, rain wasn't so much of a factor as much as the program change was. We, along with several other catholic artists were scheduled to perform at the Pre-Liturgy segment. Sound check went well. As far as we could see, all was on schedule time wise, thanks to the stage manager; Irene Benavidez (Cudos to her infact, she had never done anything like that before & to be honest, was quite impressive). She confronted Msgr. Moretta and asked if "we could start", he said, "no, let's wait until the stadium fills up some more". Awhile later, she asked Msgr. again, "could we start the pre-lit?" Again Fr. said "no. not yet. I'd hate for people to miss the beginning". Then, a few minutes later Msgr. comes back to Irene and says "Archbishop Gomez wants to start the Mass in less than 10 minutes". Of course that meant the pre-lit just suddenly changed into a post-lit. We played along with Mariachi Voz de Ameriica for the Mass, plus the 1st communion song & the meditational song as well. Both songs were a hit with the audience. (Communion song: Las Apariciones Guadalupanas & meditational song: Hoy He Vuelto), By the time the "post-lit" came around, not only did it start to rain as people left the stadium, but the 1st act was totally drowned out by the LOUD drumming & instrumentation of all the danza, Azteca & machachines groups that flooded the football field. Thank God caeli was able to put in their 2 cents during the Mass giving the audience a chance to listen to what we presented.

All the other Guadalupana celebrations & events we performed at went very well: A special Mass for Guadalupe Radio, Mananitas, morning & evening Masses at Holy Innocents Church in Long Beach, CA.

January 4th, 2013 the birth of our 5th grandchild (1st girl): Bonnie Marie Georgeanne. She's just darling!

February / March: Lenten season, finding new ways to grow spiritually in this Year of Faith. Not just giving up something, but also adding something like praying more, doing works of mercy, or simply creating a better relationship in our everyday walk with Jesus. Meanwhile, caeli is headed back into the studio to produce a new Spanish CD entitled: Mi Precioso Jesus (My Precious Jesus). Pray that all goes well as we put into this project, the heart & soul along with the special gift from God, with the right messages that bring us all that much closer to our Lord, His Mom & the Good News. Until next time, please keep in your prayers Pope Benedict XVI & specially for our newly chosen Papal leader whomever that might be.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, & let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen. Happy All Souls Day 2012.
Greetings. salutations & a great big HOLA from under1music studios here in the beautiful South Bay of Southern California. As you might have seen from our last post, we've been a little busy lately preparing for the upcoming Guadalupana Event/Mass at East Los Angeles College Stadium on December 2nd, 2012 with Archbishop Jose Gomez presiding. Please pray for all who volunteer, participate & plan this annual event, that all go well & also that it doesn't rain on us.
Yesterday, All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation for us Catholics, put us 7 o'clock at night, in Hacienda Heights, CA at St. John Vianny's Church. We had a pretty busy day that sort of ended up there in that city visiting relatives. We hadn't gone to Mass so we quickly found that St. John Vianny had it's last Mass of the day in Spanish, so off we went. Before entering the make shift church (their regular church was burnt down by vandalism awhile back, so their temporary church is a well built, tent revival style structure). Anyways, we went to use the restrooms & upon passing by the church we happened to catch the choir rehearsing songs & already, I could see the look in my wife's eyes as she mumbled under her breath, "this is what I was dreading". Now in previous posts I've written about volunteer choirs, especially the ones who play the Spanish Masses, but mainly about their "leadership" a.k.a. directors & how they choose to or in many cases not to help their choir members reach their potential & yet again, in Hacienda Heights for crying out loud, we've managed to bump into another repeated vent-able topic.
To make this l-o-n-g story as short as possible, in a nut shell this is my observance of what I saw & couldn't believe was happening. 1st of all, & to me most noticeable right out of the bag, their pianist. I told myself, he should be working at a Shakey's Pizza Parlor playing an upright, providing the silent movie soundtrack to a Charlie Chaplin film. Without talking about it, my daughter kinda heard the same thing & suggested a job with the Disneyland Dixieland Band. O well, like father, like daughter. My wife simply said he was too over the top for the music they chose. 2nd, the actual choir director, I believe his name is Jose. He was wearing a wireless headset mic, I said to myself, oh wow, he's gonna direct from the sound booth or something,...wrong. Next to him I notice a snare drum on a stand, 1 cymbal, wind chimes & a stick bag. Again, I said to myself, oh cool, they've got a percussionist who's gonna add a little rhythm,....wrong.
Mass began. (Sidebar: there were 2 altar  boys bearing lit candles & 1 altar "girl" with long hair. Well, no one really noticed, except my daughter, one of the altar boys was fiddling with his candle & somehow the altar "girl's" hair caught on fire. Like I said, if it wasn't for my daughter 1st noticing & speaking out, it would've been worse. Thank God the altar "girl" was fine. A little smelly, but fine. I have 2 words for something like that "altar boys?". Thank you Iris.) As I said Mass began & the entrance hymn they chose was Litany of the Saints, no music. You would think that the director would place as cantor the better singer, yeah, so did we. What we didn't know was by the sounds of the rest of the choir, the director's pick WAS probably the best. Overall, the song came off pretty weak for an entrance but the son's content was more important as the rest of the congregation were singing along. Getting back to Jose, soon came the Gloria. Without looking up, I asked my wife, "who is off key?" She turned & said, "the director". I said, "Wha??" Sure enough, the more he tried, whether it was unison or harmony, he just couldn't find the key. Oh sure, some spots he got lucky, but they were too far & in between. Then I heard the rat, tat, tat of the snare. The pinging of the cymbal & the occasional sound of the chimes. The patterns did not match. The playing was pretty much at random like saying: I'll hit this 5 times then the snare 17 times the bell twice & just mix it up. Again without looking up I asked my wife, "who's playing percussion?" she turned & said, "the director". I said "Wha??" OH NO HE DID ENT! Words of advice to Mr. Jose the Spanish Choir Director at St. John Vianny Church in Hacienda Heights, California: Lose the wireless headset, stop the loud singing, give up the drumming (find a real drummer), focus more on the choir sounding like,....a choir. Surround yourself with competent, seasoned musicians, not overpowering ones. Again, most parishioners are just happy to have a joyful noise, & sometimes it is noise, at Mass. But we as musicians should take pride in what we are assigned to do, especially making it presentable to our Lord. We've seen too many volunteers choirs that simply need good leadership & speaking from experience, it's hard work, but in the end, everyone benefits. So until we post again, please keep caeli & their music apostolate in your prayers, especially for our upcoming Guadalupana event. Thanx a mil!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

We know, we know, where have we been, right? Easy answer: busy. In fact so busy that we're thinking of changing our name legally to "busy". And if you probably ask around our household or friends, the word they would use probably would be, "lazy". We beg to differ, but either or, we just haven't made time to add any new blog material ,....until,....
Salutations & greetings from under1music studios located somewhere in the almost always sunny South Bay area of California. Yep it's been awhile since our last blog but you know the old saying "better late, than never". Although the phrase "better never late" might tend to please a lot of people most of the time. Nevertheless we here and ready to open today's topic.
As some of you might know, last year in December we released our latest CD entitled "La Guadalupana Reina y Madre de las Americas" (Our Lady of Guadalupe Queen & Mother of the Americas). Sales, especially around the Christmas holidays were good & it's one of those CD's that is seasonal meaning every Oct., Nov., Dec., Jan. sometimes restocking is quite in demand. Not to mention (but we are) our bilingual Christmas CD entitled "Merry Christmas / Feliz Navidad" we produced 2 years ago also might need to be restocked for sales. We self promote our recordings via St. Joseph Bookstore located at St. Peter & St. Paul Church in Wilmington, CA. The internet via our websites & And of course, word of mouth.
Another form of promotion to help in this case is performing "LIVE" at different venues and/or events (including ALL smaller, lesser gigs, even things like wedding ceremonies, prayer services, retreats, coffee shops, etc., whatever it takes). Just recently, we've been asked by Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church in Los Angeles, CA to perform songs from our lasted recording prior to a huge Guadalupana Celebration & Mass held every year at the East Los Angeles College Stadium. Now, he's asked us in the past to perform, & we have, directing a choir, performing along side the great Mariachi Voz de America & all was super & dandy, however this time around we know is going to be a whole lot different. Not only has he offered us the chance to perform but gave us permission to promote our "La Guadalupana" CD. Both on radio stations & in a plethora of LA based church announcements prior to event. Also by rendering a booth at the actual event, selling not only our CD's but maybe T-shirts as well. Sure, aside from what we have going on at under1music studio, local gigs & just plain everyday life, now we need to set aside time for a little R&R, (Rest & Relaxation, we wish) Recruiting & Rehearsals. You see when caeli records in the studio, primarily it's just us 2, my wife Judy & me, Roger. On occasion we ask our musician friends to join in & lend their talents to the different tracks (guitar, bass, etc.), but the bulk of the production rests on "caeli's" shoulders. So this means, looking up old friends (as well as new ones) to see if they would be willing to sacrifice time, travel & effort to help plan, practice & perform at a one time, nonpaying, outdoor, huge venue (in front of 10,000 peeps or more) gig in honor of our Lady of Guadalupe. We're talking 5/6 piece rhythm section (guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, percussion) brass section plus backup singers. Yep, a lot of work & sacrifice but at the same time, worth it just to get our songs of hope, faith & love in the Name of Jesus & His mother, the blessed virgin Mary out where many others can hear & hopefully be inspired & touched. Oh did we mention, there are talks of the Spanish Network Univision possibly taping the event for a televised program the following weekend? Who said God doesn't work in mysterious ways? Please, pray for us as we tackle this latest venture that God has placed in our hands & through the intercession of our Lady of Guadalupe, all we seek shall come to be in the name of her Son. Until next time, be good & stay close to God.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sometime early on last year, I (Roger) saw an Audiologist (basically an ear doctor). After going through all of the procedures, the doctor finally determined that I had nerve damage in my left ear. What started out as loss of about 70% of my hearing, along with a ringing and hissing sound turned out to be more that just tinnitus. Now I guess you could say that in my younger years, sitting behind a trap set (drum set for those of you who attend or went to Banning High), waling relentlessly, pounding away to hard rock 'n' roll tunes might have had something to do with my hearing loss. Back then, I would beg to differ, but now,...I am so totally regretful. But, I thank God for my wife Judy, who is not only a talented singer, pianist, music arranger and cook, but also because she has one of the most sensitive hearing capabilities I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Why she's so musically conscience, that if you strike a chord, she could tell you what key it is without looking at the finger positioning. Now, forget America's Got Talent, it's more like Judy Rocha's Got Talent! She has been a wonderful help especially in the studio when it comes down to mixing the tunes we've recorded. She'll catch all the levels and basically figure out what needs to be balanced, adjusted, refined and/or corrected.
The point I'm getting to if you haven't guessed yet, is vocalization and pitch control (staying in tune while you're singing for those of you who attend or went to Banning High). The last post I wrote touched on the tuning of instruments and how important it is that you do so for every performance whether it be at rehearsals with the band, performances in public (especially then) or merely just practicing on your own. STAY IN TUNE PEOPLE! Now, even more importantly, this same reasoning applies to VOCALS. With my hearing deficiency, I have good days and plenty of bad ones as well. For instance, if we're performing at Mass and I have the lead vocal on the 1st song. I start to sing and out of the corner of my eye, I can see my lovely wife Judy leaning over and loudly whispering: "YOU'RE OFF!" I pretty much back away from the mic and give up singing until I feel or should I say, until get the OK from Judy that my control is back. I do not, I repeat, I do not have a problem with someone telling me "Hey, your off key!". I will do whatever I can to correct the situation either immediately, or taking some time, or just shutting up completely. Again, I have no problem with that! Anything to save the overall performance for the band's sake.
However (finally arriving at this week's topic), there are more than just a hand full I'm talking hundreds, maybe thousands or so) of quote unquote bad singers out there, who are like those American Idol contestants that simply won't take no for an answer. Who think they know more that the judges. Who just haven't had anyone ever tell them: "you know, maybe you should look seriously into some vocal coaching for yourself". On occasion, as church choir directors, you come across of these types. Usually 10 times out of 10 the choir is volunteer and you don't want to discourage anyone by saying don't come back, you're making the rest of us sound really sucky. You need to find a medium, while maybe working with them on a one to one basis before or after rehearsals. Telling them if they really want to take seriously what they do that maybe some vocal coaching classes at a local community college could help. Or as we have done in the past, place them as far away as possible from any overhead microphone there might be. Should they ever come up to you and ask if they could sing "solo" at sometime, you respond with a big smile on your face and say: "You? Solo, sure, like all by yourself,....maybe at home, your shower?". I know that they are there singing along, praising God, doing what they presume is the best job that they can, with all of their hearts, but in actuality, it can bring down any performance not to mention the morale of the other members in the choir. So directors, do what you think is best, handle your situations, take them personally not lightly. Be the example and teacher, help those who need help and may not see or realize it. If they take offence, so be it, but it's all part of the bigger picture and they need to understand, comprehend, but most of all accept and in good spirits make the proper choices and/or sacrifices. Now, if the whole choir is singing in unison and off key? That my friends, is just plain unclaimed recognisability (for those of you who attend or went to Banning High, look it up). Until next time, God Bless!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Greetings & Happy quiet, hopefully back to normal 7th of July ('cos if the 4th was anything like it was at our residence, I'm talkin' war zone; peaceful quiet is good). For those of you who don't know who I am, this is Roger Rocha, CEO (Chief Executive Officer) & co-founder of under1music records recording artists, caeli along side Judy Rocha, CEEO (that would be Chief Everything Else Officer) & also co-founder of the aforementioned musical band. If you're here, it's probably because you were at the website & clicked on cmBLOG. We started this blog basically so other Catholic musicians could have a place to share their ideas, thoughts, stories,...but mainly to vent about anything that they've seen or experienced while visiting other parish choirs/bands, good or bad. Don't get me wrong, as I've said in the past, we're not perfect only God is, there is always somebody better & make sure, if you don't do anything else (here comes the segue to this week's topic) TUNE YOUR INSTRUMENTS. 
Guitar, bass, woodwinds, horns, violins any instrument that needs to be tuned before and sometimes during a performance is a must people! C'mon, if you can afford a double java chiller frappuccino with whipped cream, twice to 3 times a week, you can put aside some moola for a tuner. Even if you can't afford it, go to the piano, find middle "C" & start from there. Then at least if you hit a wrong chord or if you don't quite reach that right note, well...never mind, just tune it up please. Especially you string players (guitar, bass, cellos, etc.) when you are dealing with brand new strings, "all ears on deck". If your fellow musician is out of tune, let him know because remember, you're working together as one unit to please our Lord & the rest of the congregation. Electronic keyboards, along with acoustic pianos, can de-tune as well, although it is rare. So you're pretty much safe with your electronic keyboard being the go to for the right sound/key. Acoustic pianos, be careful. Depending on use should be tuned or at least checked every 2 years or 6000 miles, whichever comes first. Plain & simple, the expression many of you might have seen on bumper stickers or t shirts "Tune It or Die!" doesn't mean tune your instrument or if you don't you will physically die. It merely means, tune your instrument or your performance will die plus bring down the rest of your musical colleges in the process. Do us all a favor, always be aware of your instrument & those you work with, just tune 'em up. Vocals in tune? We'll save that for another day. Praise the Lord from the earth, may your music be a sweet, sweet well tuned sound in His ear. God bless you!