Sunday, December 25, 2011

Clay Aiken Serenades Christmas Greetings

Graphic by Cotton

Wishing all a joyous Christmas!
Recommended Playlist: 'Merry Christmas With Love' by Clay Aiken

Merry Christmas to all who may dwell here
Merry Christmas if even just one
May the joy of the season surround you
Merry Christmas with love!

MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE: Clay Aiken sings MCWL during the 2005 Joyful Noise Concert in Denver. View video by Scarlett full screen at YouTube.

If "Merry Christmas With Love" is not filling your holiday airwaves, the solution is a click away with mp3 downloads at Amazon and other online outlets. Fan club members can link to Clay's musical holiday greeting here.

MCWL Playlist

Merry Christmas With Love
Mary, Did You Know
Hark the Herald Angels Sing/O Come All Ye Faithful
O, Holy Night
Don't Save It All for Christmas Day
Joy to the World
Sleigh Ride
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Silent Night
The Christmas Song
Winter Wonderland
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

The clickable graphics below are by Fountaindawg, 1, 3; Cotton, 2; Lindylo, 4, and AmazingCA, 5. Photographers include Curtis Brown, 1, 3; zippy888, 4, and toni7babe, 5.

A special thank you to all who visit the Carolina blog throughout the year. I always enjoy hearing from you and appreciate your props for the talented visual artists featured here.

With visuals and music from Jacquie Lawson, I wish you and yours peace, love, and all the wonder of the holiday season in this Shining Star card! Note there's a puzzle option when your day winds down. *g*

Christmas signature by Linda

Monday, December 19, 2011

Clay Aiken Fans Celebrate Season with New Single

Clay Aiken to release BBML single at midnight.
Double clickable graphic by Fountaindawg, photo by Curtis Brown.

Bring Back My Love

Fans Count Down to New Single

Only a few more hours to Clay Aiken's much-anticipated new single!

"Bring Back My Love," will be released for digital download at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday on Amazon, iTunes, and CD Universe. And fans cannot wait!

iTunes Hot New Singles Banner

As the zero hour ticked closer, many fans played the song non-stop on the the Mediabase Player on the Music Info Systems site. You may be prompted to download a plug-in for your browser. These links should help: Firefox and Mediabase Settings.

BBML cap links to Mediabase Player.

Bring Back My Love - Clay Aiken (lyrics)

When I was young

Love was a lonely lullaby
Then there was you
I saw my future in your eyes
And I threw you away
I was wrong
When all is said and done,
Then I'm gonna bring back my love to you
Gonna show you what love can do
Believe me, just give me time
Cause I'm gonna to bring back my love to you
And we'll lay down like lovers do
Oh, my darling, say you'll be mine

Spending my time building my castles in the sand
I was a fool letting you fall right through my hands
Tonight, please let me hold you in my arms
And lie here safe from harm

Cause I'm gonna bring back my love to you
Gonna show you what love can do
Oh, my darling, say you'll be mine

All that I ever wanted
All that I ever needed
Was your love
Cause your love carries me

Cause I'm gonna bring back my love to you
Gonna show you what love can do
Oh, believe me, just give me time
Cause I'm gonna bring back my love to you
And we'll lay down like lovers do
Oh, my darling, say you'll be mine
Oh, my darling, say you'll be mine

Always with the voice at the forefront, the song starts with piano alone, proceeds to vocals and piano. Strings, horns, and percussion are added at various points.

Double clickable Christmas graphic by Fountaindawg.

Champions Gala 'Stays in Raleigh'

While I was playing oboe in Jamestown United Methodist Church Lessons and Carols Christmas Cantata rehearsals/performances on Dec. 10-11, many Clay Aiken fans converged on Raleigh for the National Inclusion Project's annual Champions Gala.

Most of the events -- VIP reception; silent and Dutch auctions; luncheon; Clay's special performance of pop hits, holiday music, and the premiere of BBML -- were off limits to cameras this year.

Honorees included Walgreens (corporate), Kevin Connolly, 24, photographer and professional skier born without legs; and Chris Burke, whose Down Syndrome has not impaired his acting career. Read the bios/credentials of these champions of inclusion at the Foundation's website.

Clack of Sunday morning's NIP Volunteer Round Table discussion can be viewed at the Ginger Scarlett Channel on YouTube. Videos 1, 2, and 3 cover the mission and scope of the NIP's inclusive programs and fundraisers; Let's All PLAY camps; proactive, creative ways to organize benefits.

Special thanks to
Scarlett for providing video of these sessions.

Recaps of the weekend have been devoured throughout Clay Cyberspace, and those in attendance are still talking about the 2011 event. I especially like this Not.Just.Us quote shared by
I had the pleasure of seeing you at the foundation fundraiser hosted by Clay Aiken last weekend. I went kicking and screaming, but I gotta admit ... the dude can sing.

I have never seen fans like that in my life. They remind me of small crowd versions of the Beatles and Elvis. I was told that lunch with Clay Aiken went for $58,000. Clearly I should not have ducked chorus in high school.

P.S. Luncheon a Very Special Treat

For me, a very special highlight of Gala Weekend was the luncheon six of us shared in Greensboro Sunday afternoon.

Five participants traveled from Raleigh while I packed up my oboe to meet them at Mimi's Restaurant in the Friendly Shopping Center. The hour wait was no problem as some of us were meeting for the first time.

What a treat to finally meet
Aspiegirl and her roommate Maria, both of whom I have known online for years. I also met for the first time Triad neighbors georgiesmybaby and FearofH2O.

Being with
Scarlett is always special. After the Ohioans departed for their 11-hour return trip and the Triad folks headed home, Scarlett and I visited, picked up some sushi for her, and eventually rented a car for her return to Raleigh and very early flight the next morning.

It's been quite a week!

Double clickable cap of Christie Cookie site to enlarge.

Christie Cookie Site Features NIP

The National Inclusion Project has been the featured charity in Christie Cookies' 'Chippin' in for Kids' program for November and December 2011. Scroll on the left sidebar or the Charity of the Month.

Each time a cookie tin is purchased, Christie Cookies donates 22% of the price back to the charity. At the same time, the cookie site is spreading the word about inclusion:

Inclusion is giving people their rightful opportunity to participate. Since the National Inclusion Project began, they have made a real impace by ensuring that children nationwide can experience all of life."

Read more information at National Inclusion

Piano, Violin Students Perform

No doubt, last week was one of the busiest of the year as my violin and piano students also performed holiday music/semester literature at Wesleyan Christian Academy on Thursday afternoon. No wonder the Carolina blog has sat so long without an update!

Hats off to Erica Freeman, Kayla Davidson, and Haley Pierce, pianists; and violinists Jenni Harrell, Raegan Isenhour, Sara Beth Bulla, and Tatum Davis for their solos, duets, and ensembles during the first performance.

Double duty in a church Nativity scene rearranged the second program, so the string ensemble performed the opening four numbers with Tatum present and closed the program with one violinist dancing in King Herod's court elsewhere.

'King Herod' Claims Violinist

The violin ensemble at the second recital included Ora Fulp, Erica Justice, Sara Beth, and Tatum. A fifth member was home sick with the flu.

Pianists Miranda Rivera, Mitch Rivera, Jeremy Fulp, and Caleb Hernandez presented a varied program. In addition to the holiday selections, Caleb performed three new compositions whose current "working titles" are "Irish," "Winter," and "Old."

The importance of the holiday goody bags was never more pronounced as this year. Between performances, Tatum and her mom microwaved her bag's popcorn to sustain them through the Nativity gig.

Hopefully, all my students are still sharing their holiday music, as well as the goodies!

Christmastime is Here when Clay sings carols.
Double clickable graphic by Fountaindawg, photos by NickiKiwi.

Clay Synonymous with Christmas

No one sings Christmas music like Clay Aiken, and Claymatron provided just the post to describe what I mean. Here is her story:
I just returned from doing some Christmas shopping, and my first stop was the Hallmark card shop in our local mall. I was perusing some cards when I suddenly realized the Christmas carol I heard was being sung by Clay. I turned around and loudly declared, "OMG, that's Clay Aiken! Is that the radio?"

The ladies behind the counter looked at each other, smiled, and said, "Nope, it's our own CD; he's our favorite!" I told them I am a fan, and they told me they play it every day throughout the holidays. And they always get the nicest compliments from their customers when they do.

I'm not surprised. I stayed and bought three more cards than I intended and then browsed the entire shop until I heard "What Are You Doing New Years Eve?" It's the first time I've felt "Christmasy" this year!

NIP Lends NHHS Band a Hand

If you read my message board/Facebook posts, you know the Inclusion Project is helping the New Hanover High School Band, my Alma mater, and several other charities during the December Pepsi Refresh.

After receiving an urgent email from my brother Chuck one week into the campaign, our NIP crew started advising NHHS and other novice groups with what we have learned in past Pepsi drives.

Two weeks later, they are novices no more. Now we are taking notes from these energetic, creative gals -- Dana Ward (NHHHS Band, #9 in $25k), Crys Worley (AL Skate. #6 in $50k), Jennifer Rice (Ravenna Parks/Recreation, #14 in $50k), and on and on!

Many thnx to all who are utilizing the NIP Voting Widget links in this blog's sidebar. Even my music students are committed to daily texts as we support these groups for the next 10 days.

Wishing you and yours a very special holiday season!

Signature by Linda

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Clay Aiken's Pipes Shine, Portray Benefit Message

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS - Clay Aiken performed "My Grown Up Christmas List" during the True Colors benefit concert Sunday. View video by bigappleforclay full screen at YouTube.

Pipes, Calendar Peaks, Pepsi P.S.

'MGUCL' Defines Benefit Purpose

Clay Aiken's incredible pipes, a simple keyboard accompaniment, and the sublimely relevant "My Grown Up Christmas List" epitomized the purpose of Sunday's benefit concert for LGBT homeless youth in the New York City's Beacon Theatre.

For many, the North Carolinian's exquisitely nuanced vocals were the performance highlight of the Cyndi Lauper & Friends Home for the Holidays Concert last weekend.

Clay was accompanied by pianist-arranger Ben Cohn.

Double clickable graphic by Fountaindawg. Photos by Scarlett.

The evening also featured musical and comedy routines by the host, Norah Jones, Amy Lee, Cassandra Wilson, Rosie O'Donnell, Wanda Sykes, Jon Secada, Carson Kressley, Chely Wright, Skylar Grey, Vanessa Carlton, Angelique Kidjo, Harvey Fierstein, Deluka, Debbie Harry, Alan Cumming, and Randy Fenol.

Below are two clickable photos by Scarlett from Sunday's concert and the widescreen graphic by Fountaindawg. View the photographer's True Colors Home for the Holidays collection here.

2012 Calendars Top Past Record

A total of 129 Clay Aiken Calendars (58 desk and 71 wall) were ordered by fans this season, breaking previous sales records. Proceeds from the calendars, which have been shipped, will be donated to the National Inclusion Project.

Produced annually by
Rosaratana with photos by toni7babe, the 2012 calendar features images predominately from the 2011 Tried & True Tour and is again being published in desk and wall versions.

Hippoga, also part of the 2012 team, helped select the photos and coordinated the inclusion of 20 calendars in the silent auction for the Champions Gala, this weekend's annual event of the National Inclusion Project in Raleigh, NC.

Below are clickables of the wall and desk calendar covers:

Printed on premium glossy card stock, the calendars can still be ordered through Rosaratana with delivery after Christmas. Costs are $12 for the desk size (8.27" x 3.74") and $25 for the wall version (11" x 8.5").

To place calendar orders, Paypal or email Rosa at Checks are accepted, and she will email you the address. Process time between orders received to calendars printed and shipped is approximately 3-4 weeks.

"I’m thankful to everyone for the support they have given to the NIP every year," said Rosaratana, coordinator of the annual project.

The 2011 calendar project generated a foundation donation of $965.62 through sales plus an additional $650 in Gala auctions.

New Hanover High School Band on Parade.

Pepsi Campaign Still in Progress

About 15 minutes before I left to teach Monday's lineup of music lessons, I received an email from my brother Chuck in Wilmington: "Yo! How about another Pepsi Refresh?"

Turns out our Alma mater, the New Hanover High School Band, is in the running for a $25,000 grant.

Having applied for the competition since June 2010, the band finally gained entry into the December 2011 campaign. A quick glance at the
NHHS Pepsi Page and the band website on Monday and I knew these folks were in dire need of a crash course.

NIP Team To the Rescue

In four days, countless NIP supporters and charities with whom the foundation has partnered have come back from a long-awaited "Pepsi-less" existence and not only educated the NHHS coordinator, Dana Ward, and her troops but also introduced the novice team to possible causes for forming reciprocal alliances.

This is a sharp team, now fully functioning thanks to Royalle, who literally compiled a Pepsi Syllabus Monday afternoon. Countless NIP supporters and previous NIP partners are also helping the fledgling group.

On Monday, the NHHS Band was ranked in the 40's for the $25k grant. At "press time," they had marched to #20 with a Top 15 goal set for midnight Dec. 31. Please revive your voting techniques, use the Thank You/NC Widget in the sidebar, and help this group and the other causes listed.

Maximize: Vote 5 Charities 3 Ways

Most people reading the Carolina blog can't help but know the drill: Vote 3 ways for five charities daily: via a Pepsi ID (register if you haven't already), a Facebook ID, and a daily text of 110575 to 73774 (PEPSI).

Voting instructions and suggested comments are in the VOTE panel of the sidebar widget.

Next Time: Gala, Holiday Concerts

Almost every Clay Aiken fan I know is headed to Raleigh for this weekend's National Inclusion Project Champions Gala. I'll be playing oboe at Jamestown United Methodist Church Saturday/Sunday and planning student holiday concerts ... but more on all that next time!

Have a wonderful weekend, Clay Nation! Thank you for joining the NHHS Band and other NIP partners still vying for Pepsi funds!


Sunday, December 04, 2011

Clay Aiken Fans Applaud Broadway Benefit, Pepsi Win

HAPPY HOLIDAYS - Clay Aiken will join a huge cast performing in a holiday benefit at New York City's Beacon Theatre Sunday night. Double clickable graphic by Fountaindawg with photo by Curtis Brown.

NIP Votes for Pepsi Partners

Fans Celebrate Holiday Concert

Clay Aiken returns to Broadway Sunday evening for a special performance in the Cyndi Lauper & Friends: Home for the Holidays Concert at the Beacon Theatre.

Presented by Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Fund, the 8 p.m. benefit will help raise awareness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth homelessness. Tickets are priced $35 - $500. For more information, visit the Beacon Theatre website.
"When I first learned that up to 40 percent of all homeless youth in this country identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, I was shocked and saddened," said Lauper, co-founder of the True Colors Fund.

"For far too long homeless youth have not received the attention, resources and funding necessary to bring an end to this epidemic. My hope is that through this inspiring evening of music and comedy we can raise awareness and much needed funds to help these young people."

In addition to Clay, the Beacon Theatre benefit concert will feature the talents of Lauper, Norah Jones, Lou Reed, Rosie O'Donnell, Carson Kressley, Amy Lee, Chely, Wright, Skylar Grey, Vanessa Carlton, Angelique Kidjo, Harvey Fierstein, Deluka, Debbie Harry, Alan Cumming, and Cassandra Wilson.

Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Fund is sponsoring the benefit concert.

NIP Celebrates $50k Grant Win

After securing a $50k Pepsi Refresh grant last month, National Inclusion Project supporters are voting for December participants who supported the foundation in November's successful drive.

Links and text numbers for the supporting charities, along with several causes from North Carolina, are located on the ABC panels of the above widget and the vertical version situated in the Carolina sidebar. Both were created by

The VOTE panel contains two sample comments to post on the charity's Pepsi page following your daily ballot.

Below are double clickables of
Fountaindawg's opening graphic. The second is a widescreen version.

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!