B A R R Y B R A K E . C O M



things i did in 09.
a moustache-twisting journal of the few things in my life worth mentioning

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the silver gig.
my 25th anniversary CD

sacred harp suite.
meditations on a classic american songbook

50 days, 50 songs: a musical feast

the jazz protagonists.
the award-winning jazz band i'm privileged to be in

a man, a woman, no plan.
beautiful days in the mountains of panama


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moved into eleanor house

After a year of many moves and many houses (and most possessions in storage), we came to rest. Our house is exactly what we'd been hoping for: tall ceilings, creaky wood floors, plenty of space, and in a delightful historic neighborhood with several friends up and down the street. One especially provided some fun, because I ...


made music with the Mikes

Mike Brannon, guitarist, composer, lighting designer, and polymath, lives just a few doors down. After helping us move in, he had me over on most Tuesdays to get with a revolving cast of musicians (always including drummer Michael Bahan), to play, write, joke, drink coffee, and play some more. 45-minute-long opuses became the rule rather than the exception: a welcome respite from our short-attention-span world, and a weekly mini-summer-camp of creativity and fellowship. Can't wait to do it again.


mixed and produced music for zac courtney

Zac, a percussion guru who writes pieces for percussion ensembles and markets them to schools and colleges, invited me to join the fun. He recorded toms, cymbals, shakers, snares, and other goodies in Beijing; his bassist recorded parts in London; and I added piano, marimba, and glockenspiel in San Antonio, then mixed them all together, taming the parts into workable wholes, and sent them back to Beijing, where he put them on his website to market to Australians and Americans. Zac writes more musically than most percussion ensemble composers, and I had a blast with his impish, clever, melodic, funky works. Hope there's more to come. Zac's site


did the epiphany project

I celebrated the fifty days of Epiphany 2009 by posting a new piece of music every day. Jazz, classical, pop, ballads, folk, instrumentals, vocals, my own compositions, others' compositions. I played pianos, electronic keyboards, computers, guitars, and basses; I even sang several numbers. (There were guest artists too: Darren and Greg from the Jazz Protagonists, an unforgettable solo by trumpeter Tim Cates, and backup vocals by my wife and her parents.) Then I put them together with images and posted the videos: in all, right around four hours of music. I still love scrolling down the Epiphany page and seeing all the pictures there, like a full candy jar of my favorite musical moments. More


said goodbye to CHCC

Christ Church in the Hill Country was a church plant; the bishop decided that the plant wasn't taking root, and that was that. Our farewell service was sad, but also a celebration of time well spent in God's service, doing (I believe) exactly what He put us there to do. The result was a connection with foster kids that lingers to this day, and the binding together of friendships and partnerships that will linger forever. I don't think they'll ever know what this church meant to me: artistic and musical and religious freedom, every week; a loving family of people; an atmosphere that honored tradition and welcomed innovation, recognizing that the two are linked and always live in the same home.


celebrated 2000 days of marriage

It seems like Catherine and I just got married. But just after our (can you believe it?) fifth anniversary we passed the 2k day mark. How many days will I spend with this remarkable, beautiful, brainy, hilarious, gentle, and true companion? No man knows, but the wisest men will envy every one.


drank midas's beer

The story goes that researchers found the tomb of the man believed to be the historical King Midas (no more of a gold-conjurer than Vlad Drakul was a vampire). They found 2700-year-old vats of what they assumed was wine, but on chemical analysis turned out to be beer, flavored with grapes, honey, and saffron. The enterprising brewers at Dogfish Head rose to the challenge. The result, when you can get it, beguiles.


played my silver gig

It's been 25 years since I first gigged regularly, at the Gunter Hotel in downtown San Antonio, as a high school kid. Something drove me to get that gig, and that something has been driving me ever since. Like few people I know, I can say that music is my sole career. It's been a blast. So, one night in 2009, I invited my friends (including singers Sheila Truscott, Loretta Cormier, and Ken Slavin) to join me in the historic Josephine Theater, and I sat down at the piano and did what I love best. Couldn't've asked for a better night. More about it, and how to get the CD


played the ellington/strayhorn nutcracker

A couple of impresarios got the brilliant idea to put on a show: Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, as arranged by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn in 1960. They put together an ensemble with the best players in the region, conducted by trombonist/director Freddie Mendoza, to perform the thing right at the outset of the Christmas season. Boy, did it cook. The Express-News named it one of the top ten concerts of 2009.


broke 200

Pounds, that is. Like most folks, I gained weight over the years, but maxed out at around 190, several years ago. For some reason, though, I gained around ten pounds in 2009. That sobered me up. Since then, I've lost those pounds, and vowed to lose at least a few more. It's not the numbers I'm particularly worried about; it's the health. Just a matter of eating a little more of this and less of that, and less of everything.


acquired a unidyne 556S

One of the iconic microphones — one of the iconic things, period — of the twentieth century. You've seen it in pictures of Ella Fitzgerald and Elvis Presley. This one is from 1952, making it one of the earliest manufactured, and it's a 556S and not just a 55S, meaning it's the deluxe line and quite rare. The original wiring and silk filter are intact, the sound is great, the old chrome positively glows.


did fiesta

Circumstances have kept Catherine and me from doing San Antonio's biggest party for the past several years. Catherine had never gotten into it, had never gone to many events even as a kid, and was never all that excited about the prospect of Really Doing Fiesta. That changed, though, when we really did it: we dressed up, we dressed down, we filled our week with events big and small, food good and great, music galore, and friends old and new.


swung with swingle

Ward Swingle is famous for his breezy transcriptions of Bach for a mixed vocal group with jazz rhythm section. Their trademark sound helped define the Sixties. (I'll always associate them with Sesame Street.) The Jazz Protagonists had been talking for a few years about doing a Swingle show for the Protag Jazz Party; this year, it became a reality, with star musicians like Joan Carroll, Faith DeBow, and our official choral coach Owen Duggan. We played to a packed house at the McNay, courtesy of the arts organization Musical Offerings. A highlight of the party: the "Air on a G string," which sounded like it belonged on "Pet Sounds." What a life this is. Listen


celebrated a 50th anniversary

My parents were married in November of 1959. They've stayed together ever since, and stayed in love. We gathered their friends — some of whom were in their wedding party — in the Menger Hotel, where they had their reception fifty years before, and celebrated their love and their legacy, two lives twisted into one like the roots of old trees. How thankful I am for the experience and example of their redemptive, grace-filled life dances: healthy argumentation, dedication to making things work, an often unstated but always present faith that the relationship will stick, a hand reaching over to take the other hand; a tender look that becomes a habit.


did chinese commercials

A studio in Beijing had me do something I'd never done here: sing vocals for commercials. Last fall they inquired about when I would return to China so I could record for them again; I said I'd be here for the time being, but would love to do projects from the other side of the world. So they zapped me sound files, I zapped them vocal files, and there was a brand-new pretty-good American English voice for Subaru, China Unicom, and a few others. Favorite request: "Still sounds too young. Can you make it more like Neil Diamond?"


witnessed a miscarriage

We got a call from Catherine's sister that her baby had died in utero, and that she was at the hospital. Forty-eight hours later, after much waiting and weeping, it was over. Chris and Ellen were models of faith and love, and an inspiration to all who watched them go through, and guide their children through, this sorrow. Though he never saw the light of day, Merce Chappell was not only named but loved, and will be remembered and held close by many.


spoke at the fwc retreat

Catherine's church family has a summer retreat every year, camp for grown-ups. They always ask for ideas for their morning sessions, so I suggested that I do a tour of the Minor Prophets — all twelve, in 45 minutes. They took me up on it (partially, one gal said, just to see if it could be accomplished), and off I went, doing something I've been gifted to do, and haven't done in way too long: speaking the truth to a loving family of listeners, getting them to laugh and think and question. I was predictably rusty, but loved every minute of preparing and delivering it, 45 minutes of a tall cold drink of water to a man on a desert journey. Hear it


impregnated my wife

We'd always figured we would wait four or five years before having kids. Well, five years passed like lightning. So we decided to begin, and within the week Catherine was pregnant — quite a surprise, given both our medical histories and the chance that it might take years. We're gonna be parents! The baby's due in July.


received a hand-tooled pen

My good friend Jason Young is not only a gifted composer/arranger but also a gifted craftsman: he's created lovely tables and cabinets, and he even built his music studio — every wire and window and drop of paint and bit of fine cabinetry. Last year, for his fortieth birthday, he gave gifts instead of receiving, and what he gave me was a superb Cocobolo hardwood pen that he hand-lathed and finished himself. It writes beautifully, besides being simply gorgeous. And it's now one of my most prized possessions.


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What a year. Dedicated to the glory of God.

so, what did you do?



12  |  11  |  10  |  09  |  08  |  07  |  06  |  05  |  04  |  03  |  02  |  01  |  2000  |  99  |  98  |  97