Special Christmas EP Sells Out

Happy 28th Birthday, Clay!

FOND MEMORIES -- In this graphic, Amazing_CA captured one of the many special moments from Clay's appearance on the Tyra Banks Show, which re-airs on 11/29.

All Is Well ... Almost!

Special Christmas EP Sells Out

All is well -- or it soon will be! Nov. 28 dawned with two major shopping goals -- track down Clay Aiken's new EP, All Is Well - Songs for Christmas, and pick up my previously ordered oboe case at a local music store.

Funny how sometimes the best laid plans end up taking a hike. I had checked and double-checked with Wal-Mart on Monday about All Is Well. The Greensboro store knew about the EP; from what I have read on the boards, that's an improvement over many establishments in some areas of the country. Our electronics personnel planned to put AIW in the bins at 12:01 a.m. Unfortunately, I decided not to make a midnight run.

Wrong move! AIW sold out overnight, but I was told to check back Tuesday afternoon regarding a replacement order. Nothing all day, though each person answering the phone seemed to think another order would be coming soon. That is, until my last phone call at 5 p.m. when I was informed they really don't know IF or WHEN. Somehow, I had already figured that out.

Fans Compare Shopping Adventures

Throughout Clay Cyberspace on Tuesday, fans shared their shopping successes and woes concerning no and low stock of the Wal-Mart exclusive release. The EP contains four beautiful Christmas songs: All Is Well, Christmas Waltz, O Come O Come Emmanuel, and My Grownup Christmas List.

For those fortunate enough to locate the EP, purchases have run the gamut -- from locating disks in a box in a store's garden section to finding them spotlighted in the electronics end caps where an exclusive belongs.

Before leaving for the music store, I posted my "coulda, shoulda, woulda" tale at two CA message boards. By the time I completed errands, there were PMs from fans in Georgia, North Carolina, and California offering to share.

'All Is Well' Graphic by Claystruck

The most amusing episode of my AIW search occurred when Jasper Bonaparte, the grandfather of one of my violin students, called to change Tuesday's lesson. A dental appointment was playing havoc with our schedule, so we set a makeup time for Wednesday. We were hanging up when Mr. "B" added, "Unless we get there today!"

I told Mr. "B" I was probably heading to Wal-Mart since (a) he was canceling and (b) this is group week for the day's other students. Lo and behold, Granddaddy was at that very moment sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot. After I described the EP's four tracks, he went into the store to check on the possible second delivery for both of us!

Sadly, no All Is Well --but, hopefully, soon! Meanwhile, many thnx to the friends who have offered to send me an extra copy if possible. Though I have listened to downloads, I can't wait to hear the actual recording; and I still hope to locate enough to include in gift packets for the musicians in my family.

Reports posted by various fans Tuesday evening imply that a big promotional splash focusing on all Clay's CDs is planned by Wal-Mart for this weekend, complete with advertisement in a Sunday flyer. Hopefully, that means large numbers of EPs in the stores because everyone should hear this man sing these selections.

Meanwhile, it's back to the drawing board and my redial button to Wal-Mart's electronics department. You can bet I will be first on the pre-order roster next time around!

PHOTO INTERMISSION: Featured in this clickable interlude are creations by five talented visual artists -- Amazing_CA (1); Claysmelody (2); ABeautifulMind (3); Katt45 (4); and Ambassador of Love (5).

Clay Named Best AI Singer

The music blog Steel Kaleidoscopes this week named Clay Aiken the #1 singer to ever grace the American Idol stage. In fact, three of the top 10 are North Carolinians. Here is the Kaleidoscope take:

Talent is never in short supply on "American Idol," but the true talent doesn't always win.

In the first five seasons of "American Idol," three of the five winners deserve to make the All-Time Top 10 American Idol list. Two of the winners -- Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks -- don't even crack the Top 10.

Of all the singers who have graced the Kodak Theatre stage in the last five seasons, these are the best of the best:

10. Tamyra Gray
9. Carrie Underwood
8. Kimberley Locke
7. Bo Bice
6. Katharine McPhee
5. LaToya London
4. Chris Daughtry
3. Fantasia Barrino
2. Kelly Clarkson

1. Clay Aiken -- The best singer to ever stand in front of Randy, Paula and Simon, period. Aiken's unique voice is unmatched. Invited back as a wildcard, Aiken wowed America with his version of Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and never faltered thereafter. Week after week he towered above the competition, but somehow lost to Studdard in the Season 2 finale. He was one of three contestants never to appear in the bottom 3 (Clarkson and Underwood are the others). What makes Aiken No. 1 is that he's an original. Simply put, there are no comparisons.

No argument here!

Clay Ranked #12 in Lycos 50

According to the Lycos Top 50 column for the week ending Nov. 25, Clay notched the #12 spot:

12 Clay Aiken
Filled Reege's Shoes (nc) 12 179

Clay Aiken, holding strong at #12, also found himself at the center of some minor controversy last week when he filled in for Regis Philbin on "Live with Regis and Kelly," where he didn't exactly hit it off with Kelly Ripa. During an interview, Aiken jokingly covered Ripa's mouth with his hand, which upset Kelly. Later, on "The View," Rosie O'Donnell insisted that Kelly's reaction was homophobic. Ironically, Rosie's attempt to defend Clay flies in the face of his assertion that he does not want to talk about his sexuality. Way to stick your foot in your mouth there, Ro. And while I am not a huge fan of being touched by people I do not know very well, a bit too much has been made out of this incident. It is high drama worthy of the sixth grade lunch line.

The Lycos 50 Elite proclaims Clay Mania is showing no signs of diminishing. Clay has been on the Lycos 50 chart for 179 consecutive weeks:

Clay Aiken (High: #1, Streak: 5/03 to present) -- American Idol's most popular runner-up first appeared on our list just one week after he "lost" to Ruben Studdard. He first reached the number one spot in March 2004 when his biological father passed away. Clay is the most searched American Idol contestant on Lycos, and Clay Mania shows no signs of diminishing.

We could have told them that. In fact, fans searching with Lycos are doing just that!

Screen Cap of Tyra Banks and Clay Aiken -- Gerwhisp

Claymates Show Tyra Some Love

Claymates of all variations (Claymaniacs, Clayasians, Clayfrican-Americans, etc.) have logged countless appreciative comments at the Tyra Banks web site about our singer's appearance last week. You can add yours HERE.

For anyone missing the Clay-Tyra Show the first time around or for those who would like to see it again, the episode re-airs at 11 p.m. EST Wednesday (11/29) on the OXYGEN Channel.

Have a great week, Clay Nation. Hope All Is Well for everyone -- SOON!


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Clan Remembers Our Father

CAROLINA MOON -- ABeautifulMind created this lovely animated graphic months ago. The song was one of my father's favorites.

In Honor of Papa Mac

Clan Remembers Our Father

Every year as the calendar pauses on November 24, members of the McDonald clan commemorate the anniversary of our father's birth. "Albert" to his siblings, my father was "Mac" to Mother and friends, "Daddy" to his three children, and "Papa Mac" to his grandchildren, three of whom he knew before his death in 1980.

Born into a large eastern North Carolina family that eventually included six sisters and a brother, he was the fourth child and the oldest son. Daddy had aspirations of becoming a pharmacist, but he interrupted night classes to send his younger brother to college and never made it back. An insurance salesman and later a superintendent, he was well-known for his gift of gab, gentlemanly manners, and extraordinary ability for training successful new agents. To his family, he was a loving husband, father, grandfather.

Our parents met when she, a young vocal music teacher in Roanoke Rapids, became ill and he, a resident in the same boarding house, made several visits with prescriptions and other remedies to help cure her bug. They became a couple and married a few years later. Eventually, the family was completed with two daughters and a son.

Parents as Newlyweds

Daddy Sang Tenor

We moved from High Point to Granite Quarry to Spartanburg, SC, and finally to Wilmington as my father's positions changed within the insurance business. In Granite Quarry, my mother was choral director for the small Lutheran church across the street from our house; and our father, who had no formal musical training but a beautiful voice, was one of her lead tenors.

Be kind to your web-footed friend
For the duck may be somebody's mother,
Be kind to your friends in the swamp
Where the weather is cold and damp.

Now you may think that this is the end ...

[Spoken] Well it is ...

No one in our immediate family can hear the above song without thinking of Papa Mac. He delighted in nonchalantly springing that little ditty with its surprise ending on unsuspecting souls anywhere anytime.

Our father loved to dance, and he and Mother could cut a rug in their day. My sister, brother, and I all remember standing on Daddy's feet and being waltzed up and down the hall of our small duplex multiple sweeps at a time. Later, he was also the favorite dancing partner of his three granddaughters, dipping and twirling them about the room.

During a visit to Nashville in the 1970s, all the adults were out on the town where my husband was playing drums in a local club. Sis asked Daddy to join her, and they were a big hit bebopping and jitterbugging around the dance floor.

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable interlude features graphics whose message or content remind me of my father. Visual artists include Claystruck (1); Gerwhisp screen cap from the Tyra Banks Show (2); Cindilu2 (3); Clayquebec1, photo by Butterflyshine (4); and Amazing_CA, photo by KarenEh (5).

Collard Greens a Daily Staple

The son and brother of some amazing southern cooks, our father enjoyed good food and often made the statement, "I don't know if I eat to live or live to eat." Collards (I think we had them everyday!), butter beans, chicken pot pie, eastern NC barbeque, and fresh seafood were among his favorites.

Long before anyone in the family was awake on weekday mornings, he cooked his breakfast of eggs and sausage or bacon, leaving some of the meat for us sleepyheads. His own special fare on Sunday mornings was fried salt herring. Even while he was undergoing chemotherapy during his battle with lung cancer, Daddy did not miss breakfast. None of this phased his lifelong sleek physique.

Our father never met a stranger, and he loved to talk, probably one of the reasons he was such a good insurance salesman. On weekend fishing trips to nearby Wrightsville or Carolina, he left the rod 'n reel stuff to others while he hiked up and down the beach interacting with new friends.

'You Can't Fool Education'

"You can't fool education" and "THINK" were two of his favorite sayings, the latter preserved on a plaque that now hangs in my brother's home. Daddy could not abide incorrectly spoken English. Though he never embarrassed the wrongdoer, we knew that a double negative or an ill-chosen subject-verb combo like "it don't" sent him into orbit and later would have him muttering his mantra: "You can't fool education."

He could talk his way out of anything. Once when the family was searching for the home of a deceased uncle, Daddy decided he had arrived at the correct house because of the abundance of cars on the street. Food was being served, and our parents were visiting those all around them when it became obvious this was a post nuptial get-together and not a funeral gathering. Graciously, our father apologized, but secured directions for the correct address before leaving.

During our college years, Daddy drove 2-3 hours to our campus every other Saturday to bring his daughters home for weekend visits. On Sunday, he completed the long, two-way trek again.

Father of the Bride

Good Laugh Always on Tap

Our father reveled in a good laugh, even when the joke was on him. Almost every summer when my Carolina family visited us in Texas, something comical inevitably happened with Daddy at the center of things. No one ever let him forget that just after he turned on the air-conditioner in our sweltering West Texas heat, the unit stopped running altogether.

A creature of habit, Daddy for years checked on everyone in the middle of the night before getting himself a drink of water. The sleeping household rarely knew when he made his nocturnal rounds, except for the time he was searching for a light switch in our Lubbock, TX, kitchen and turned on the disposal instead. We all were awake then!

I inherited my love for sports from my father, and we regularly listened to football and basketball games on the radio for years before our family bought into television. Since I am a die-hard Carolina fan and Daddy was a loyal Duke supporter, we were occasionally on opposite sides. I imagine he would get a laugh out of the fact that I put this blog on hold long enough to watch the Carolina-Tennessee basketball game this evening. In fact, this weekend marks the traditional, season-ending Carolina-Duke football game.

Daddy never knew Clay Aiken, but he would have loved the voice and heart of this North Carolinian his daughter admires. Like my mother before her death in 2005, Daddy would have been a devoted fan, a regular Clay Dawg.

Happy Birthday, Papa Mac!

Wal-Mart To Release 'All Is Well' Tuesday


11/26: Good Morning America Weekend (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)
11/28: Release of All Is Well - Songs for Christmas (Wal-Mart)
11/29: Tyra Banks Show (OXYGEN) - Repeat
11/24-12/31: Songs of Praise for Christmas, DIRECTV Channel 103 (Silver Bells), various times
12/1 - 12/23: Christmas Symphony Tour
12/14: A Clay Aiken Christmas, Bravo, 9 p.m. EST
12/15: ACAC, Bravo, 12 a.m. EST
12/17: ACAC, Bravo, 10:30 a.m. EST
12/22: Megan Mullally Show (SB duet with Megan)
12/26: Tyra Banks Show (MDYK)
12/26: Days of Our Lives (Performance: EIH and OHN)
TBA: Live with Regis & Kelly (MDYK)

Have a great weekend, Clay Nation!


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Fans Celebrate Thanksgiving

HAPPY THANKSGIVING -- ABeautifulMind created this lovely graphic especially for this week. May your heart sing with thanks!

Clay Appearances Coast to Coast

Fans Celebrate Thanksgiving

With Clay Aiken making four left and right coast appearances in six days, this week feels like an exciting mix of Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one.

Three of Clay's four appearances are of the nationally-televised variety. Even without media, in this digital age of instantaneous sound and image paraphernalia, visual and audio reports are mere minutes away.

The week began Friday with Clay's co-hosting debut as Kelly Ripa's sidekick on Live with Regis and Kelly, followed by Saturday night's illumination of the UNICEF Christmas Snowflake on the corner of 57th Street and 5th Avenue in New York City.

Viewers of Live have been writing reviews all weekend about Friday's episode at TV.com. Friday's show currently has a rating of 9.9/10, and the forum discussion on the same site contains many favorable comments about Clay's subbing for Regis.

Next on fan calendars are Clay's presentation duties at the American Music Awards Show in Los Angeles Tuesday and Wednesday's much-anticipated airing of his hour with Tyra Banks.

Ambassador Illuminates Snowflake

Introduced as "passionate, dedicated, and unwavering in his belief that every child deserves a childhood," Clay, a UNICEF Special Ambassador since 2004, helped kick off the season of giving at Saturday evening's snowflake ceremony.

"UNICEF has saved more children's lives around the world than any other humanitarian organization," he said. "We can never forget that the holiday season is a season of giving and there's probably no better way to change the world and promote peace than to improve the lives of children, so please keep UNICEF in your minds this holiday season."

Cheered by an audience of fans and interested onlookers, Clay helped flip the lever to light the 28-foot, 3,300-pound chandelier that boasts a total of 16,000 Bacharat crystals. He also encouraged the audience to support the humanitarian organization by sending UNICEF greeting cards this season. These can be viewed at at UNICEF and Pier 1 Imports.

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable intermission features graphics and photos by several talented CA fans, including Clayquebec1 with photo by Irishbookgal (1); Butterflyshine, photos, (2, 4); Starhorse_Dad, photo, (3); and Ambassador of Love (5).

Harris Teeter Bypasses Clay Cyberspace

My grocery shopping routine is usually a major run -- and pretty good cardio workout --through a large Harris Teeter once or twice monthly with fill-in stops at a neighborhood market as needed. You can imagine the thunderbolt I received when, on the final leg of Saturday errands, I nonchalantly turned into a totally empty grocery store parking lot.

Of course, everyone in the Friendly shopping area is well aware that for months a new store has been under construction on nearby property; but how in the world did I miss the grand opening 10 WHOLE DAYS earlier? Perhaps the fact that I don't subscribe to the newspaper or -- more likely -- that most of my online time is spent keeping up with my favorite singer -- hmmmm!

Since this incident is a byproduct of my CA fan life, I want to introduce you to this extraordinary new establishment. In a daze, I entered through central, sliding doors, immediately abandoning plans for a quick jaunt down favorite, accustomed aisles. Everything about the place is cutting edge, new, and totally different, beginning with lighter, manageable shopping carts.

When I returned home, I backtracked online to read about the 11/8 store opening at the News-Record site:

GREENSBORO — Let's make one thing clear from the get-go: This is not a grocery store. Call it a temple. A museum. A labyrinth. But don't pretend it's just the corner market.

Colossal Store Changes

We are talking 72,000 square feet of retail, nearly 300 employees, at least eight chefs, 12 aisles (I could have sworn there were 20!), 24 checkouts, the company's largest seafood case anywhere, a wine gallery boasting 600 varieties and some impressive real estate, and a food bar with six soups, Asian food, hot meals, fresh pasta, as well as typical and atypical salad ingredients.

I was so busy locating items on my shopping list that I didn't even broach the huge prepared/deli foods section where chefs cook a meal or a main dish while you wait. There are menus and recipes for programs like "your wellness," the grocer's guide to healthier eating, among others.

Just out of curiosity, next visit I plan to peruse the kingdom of the eight chefs, as well as try to get a handle on the store's terrain. That and buying the Cornish game hens I totally forgot this past weekend!

'Clay Loving Some Chocolate' with Tyra

Tyra: 'A Favorite Interview'

Tyra + Clay = Chemistry

In addition to a promo for Wednesday, the Tyra Banks Show is featuring an online hour-minute-second "Countdown to Clay." Definitely a new Claymate in the house!

Fans can write reviews about the "Clay-Tyra" episode at TV.com HERE.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Week, Clay Nation!


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Clay Aiken Talk Show Natural

TALK SHOW DEBUT -- Clay Aiken was impressive as he shared hosting duties with Kelly Ripa on "Live with Regis & Kelly" Friday. Screen cap by Gerwhisp.

Co-Hosting Debut on 'Live'

Clay Aiken Talk Show Natural

Sharing co-hosting duties and spirited repartee with Kelly Ripa on Live with Regis & Kelly Friday, Clay Aiken proved he is a talk show natural -- intelligent, funny, chatty, charming, and well-prepared on the topics of the day. Besides trading snarky remarks with Kelly that came across as entertaining and amusing, Clay showed he is a very good listener, an attribute of only the best of hosts.

The audience of 152 was all his, as enthusiastic Claymates made known from the beginning. Still controllable though, as Clay performed a simple cut-off "a la Megan Mullally Show" in the opening minutes. At one point, Kelly suggested that she was going to throw out this crowd and bring in her fans, to which Clay grinned, "All 15 of them?"

There were great plugs for Clay's Christmas tour with eastern US symphonies, as well as his new CD, A Thousand Different Ways, from which he sang "A Thousand Days." Following the show, Clay taped a Christmas song ("Mary Did You Know") for Live and one for Good Morning America ("O Come, Emmanuel").

CLICKABLE CAPS -- These five screen caps by Gerwhisp from Friday's Live with Regis & Kelly show Clay as co-host and performer, singing "A Thousand Days," chatting with Kelly Ripa, and dancing with Katrina Smirnoff, runner-up on this week's Dancing with the Stars finale.

Clay Impresses New, Casual Fans

Even though his mother wants him to cut his hair, general consensus around the message boards is that Clay looked fabulous. I "watched" the show with my mother-in-law 1,467.16 miles away in Odessa, TX; and she certainly concurs with the Internet fans. We conversed on every commercial break and compared notes long after the show was over. "I'm just sorry Clay didn't have the whole hour by himself," she said. A real Claymate, my MIL!

Pink Armchair viewed the show with her boss, a casual fan whose reactions were posted at the Clackhouse. With permission, some are shared here:

"Whoa! He's filled out! He looks great!"
"I can't get over how different he looks. Not wild about the hair, but he looks very mature."
"He's so funny!"
"Oooh, he's so naughty!" [the spanking exchange]
"He's such a hoot. Did she just take his lines?"
"Wow -- he's quick!"
"Mmmm .... he's pretty sexy."
"I thought you said he couldn't dance!"
"I can't believe those FEET! Look at those things. Wonder what size those are?"
"Nice song -- was that all of it?"
"He was really good. I was surprised."

Amidst all the morning's hoopla, a reporter from Raleigh's WTVD interviewed Clay backstage, the video for which can be watched here.

From new to casual to diehard -- fans are applauding Clay's first gig as a talk show co-host! Bravo, Clay!

Clay Featured on DIRECTV Series

New Entry in DIRECTV’s Successful Songs of Praise Series Features Inspirational Performances by Clay Aiken, Nicole C. Mullen, Michael W. Smith, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and the Alfred Street Choir.

The above is the sub-head for an 11/16 story about DIRECTV's Songs of Praise for Christmas. According to the article, DIRECTV is "excited to have singing phenomenon Clay Aiken" on the Christmas special's roster.

Songs of Praise for Christmas will take viewers on a musical journey through the story of Christmas. DIRECTV subscribers will be treated to Clay Aiken’s rendition of "Silver Bells," Nicole C. Mullen’s performance of "O Come O Come Emmanuel," and Michael W. Smith’s "Silent Night," among others.

The 90-minute special will air at various times throughout the holiday season (11/24 - 12/31) on DIRECTV.

'All Is Well' Graphic by Claystruck

Shipwreck Island's Label Prediction

Most Clay fans feel that Shipwreck Island Studios hit the nail -- i.e., the partnership of CA and RCA -- on the head in this note about the upcoming release of All Is Well. Message board camps long ago suspected a turn of events in Clay's backing by RCA and are looking forward to more favorable support with a new record label when that occurs.

Meanwhile, Shipwreck, which previously published a glowing review of ATDW, provided its readership with this report about
All Is Well:

Clay Aiken - All Is Well (Christmas EP)

On November 28th Clay Aiken will release his 2nd Christmas disc of his career. This disc will be exclusively released through Wal-Mart and will feature the songs "All Is Well," "Christmas Waltz," "My Grown Up Christmas List," and "O Come O Come Emmanuel." Look for Clay to hit the road for a selected set of live concerts starting December 1st. In 2004 Clay released "Merry Christmas With Love" as well as a DVD of his special "A Clay Aiken Christmas."

This exclusive Wal-Mart EP may signal the end of Aiken & RCA Records as there's talk that his contract runs out with this release. The promotion by RCA this year for Clay's recently release has been slim to none so it makes perfect sense for him to shop his material elsewhere if he so chooses. Look for Clay to go out on tour in '07 to promote his music.

As if on cue, not long after Clay's appearance on Live today, ATDW jumped from #179 to #111 and into the 18th slot in Amazon's Movers & Shakers, somewhat proving Shipwreck's point about promotion.

Tyra Banks and Clay Aiken - Photo by Dan Steinberg

Thanksgiving Arrives Early for Claymates

Thanksgiving promises to come a day early for Clay fans with the much-anticipated airing of our singer's appearance on the Tyra Banks Show Wednesday, 11/22.

According to the promos, Clay will get another taste of hosting duties, complete with his own personalized cue cards, during his guest appearance on Tyra's show. Taped weeks ago, our singer will discuss his hair, his new album, meet his biggest fan, sing ATD, and dance with Tyra.

For a sneak preview, click on CLAY at Tyra's web site.

Tyra + Clay= Amazing Chemistry


11/18: Clay Illuminates UNICEF Snowflake, 6:30 p.m. EST, New York City
11/21: American Music Awards: Presenter
11/22: Tyra Banks Show
11/28: Release of All Is Well - Songs for Christmas
11/24-12/31: Songs of Praise for Christmas, DIRECTV Channel 103 (Silver Bells), various times
12/1 - 12/23: Christmas Symphony Tour
12/14: A Clay Aiken Christmas, Bravo, 9 p.m. EST
12/15: ACAC, Bravo, 12 a.m. EST
12/17: ACAC, Bravo, 10:30 a.m. EST
12/22: Megan Mullally Show (SB duet with Megan)
12/26: Tyra Banks Show (MDYK)
12/26: Days of Our Lives (Performance: EIH and OHN)
TBA: Good Morning America (MDYK or Emmanuel)
TBA: Live with Regis & Kelly (MDYK)

Have a great weekend, Clay Nation!


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Clay Aiken, Heels Featured

CONGRATULATIONS to CLAY, who was presented the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award by UNC-Charlotte's Alumni Association Saturday night. Story below!

CREATIVE COMBO -- Claystuck's stunning design features the symphony tour photo and a promo screen cap for Clay Aiken's new CD, "A Thousand Different Ways."

November Calendar Check

Clay Aiken, Heels Featured

Accompanied by cooler temperatures and picturesque autumn scenery, this season's trek through November finds some of my favorite activities occupying the calendar -- Clay Aiken appearances, Carolina basketball, and quickie gourmet recipes.

This Friday -- 11/17 -- Clay will visit Live with Regis & Kelly to co-host with Kelly and perform "A Thousand Days" from his new CD, A Thousand Different Ways. CA fans look forward to this week's appearance during which our singer will dip his toe into the talk show stream that is apparently one of his dreams.

Many fans from the New York City area are planning to be in the R&K audience, and several will be present Saturday, 11/18, for the UNICEF Snowflake lighting at the intersection of 57th and 5th Avenue.

UNICEF Snowflake

Designed by Ingo Maurer with 16,000 Baccarat crystal prisms, the special snowflake will be illuminated by Clay, a UNICEF Ambassador, at 6:30 p.m. EST, officially kicking off the holiday season.

Simultaneously, the city of Beverly Hills, CA, will conduct a lighting ceremony with 20 Baccarat crystal chandeliers at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. Info on the California ceremony can be read here.

The UNICEF Snowflake is the centerpiece of an ambitious campaign to raise millions of dollars in support of health, nutrition, education, and protection for children in developing countries. For more information, see the UNICEF website.

That's just this week. Other November happenings are listed on a calendar below.

Articles Offer ATDW Insight

A variety of print/online articles about Clay and his new CD emerged this week, some halfway around the world. Aiken's Not Breakin' appeared in the Singapore News Today on 11/11. The full interview by Juliana June Rasul can be read in the clickable below or at Today Online.

Clickable Singapore Article

This excerpt furnishes insight from Clay about the selection of the ATDW cover songs:

"I was a little apprehensive because as a brand new singer, it's risky to pretend you can sing other people's songs," Aiken admitted.

In the end, he and album producer Jaymes Foster were intent on "changing up the tunes and doing something special with each one of them".

"We weren't trying to be competitive or anything, but we did want to do things a little differently," Aiken said.

Most of the songs are reminiscent of the kind of power ballads the singer specialised in during his stint on Idol: Foreigner's I Want To Know What Love Is is given the Aiken treatment, as is Bryan Adams' Everything I Do (I Do It For You), which received the thumbs-up from Adams himself.

"Yeah, I got some email from Adams as well as Diane Warren, who said they enjoyed my take on their songs," Aiken said with a laugh."I'm fine with being the guy who sings the songs that everybody likes. Now, that's different."

Songwriters Compliment Arrangements

In an 11/10 interview with Christina Fuoco in in Live Daily, Clay shared some of the comments he has received from songwriters whose work is included on ATDW:

"A number of the songwriters have been pleased with what we came up with," he said. "Diane Warren is usually quite picky about the way her songs are performed and she had only great things to say about 'Because You Loved Me' and 'When I See You Smile.' Richard Page [of Mr. Mister] was very complimentary of 'Broken Wings.' He actually said that he never really thought he would be able to appreciate a cover of one of his songs, but that he was impressed with what we did. Bryan Adams was complimentary as well."

For "Broken Wings," Aiken includes an original poem spoken by Erin Taylor. He said he did so because he wanted "to do something ethereal with one of the songs."

"'Broken Wings' lent itself to that type of production more than anything else. I was going to simply have a friend of mine read the lyrics to the song in the background. But she was in the studio with us while we were recording and came up with this amazing poem that really related the message of the song in a whole new way, so we decided to use it."

PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable interlude features the talents of six visual artists: Amazing_CA (1, 5); Ambassador of Love (2); Clayquebec1 (3); and Claystruck (4). Photographers represented include KarenEh (1, 2) and Galrow (5).

Clay Receives Outstanding Young Alumnus Award

Clay Aiken was presented the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award by UNC-Charlotte's Alumni Association at a banquet Saturday night. Today's press release about this year's five honorees can be read here. Below is Clay's portion:

Singer Clay Aiken received the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. While he is famous around the world as the first runner-up in “American Idol,” Aiken also has used his degree in special education from UNC Charlotte. He graduated with a B.A in special education in 2003.

He founded the Bubel-Aiken Foundation, which supports the integration of children with disabilities into the life environment of their non-disabled peers through summer camps and other initiatives.

Aiken also served as an Ambassador to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, UNICEF National Ambassador of Education. In September, President Bush appointed Aiken to serve on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Clay at UNC-Charlotte Banquet

Congratulations, Clay!

Tar Heels Take the Court

With exhibition games behind them, the Carolina Tar Heels, ranked #2 nationally in the AP Poll, will open the 2006-07 basketball season against Sacred Heart Tuesday night in the NIT Tip-Off in Charlotte.

Coached by Roy Williams, the Heels are led this season by sophomore forward, Tyler Hansbrough of Poplar Bluff, MO, the top vote getter on the preseason All-American team. The most decorated freshman in Carolina basketball history, this amazing young man was recently asked why he decided to return to college instead of opting for the NBA as so many do.

Tyler Hansbrough -- AP Photo

After explaining to the reporter that he wants to accomplish more with his team and individually, he simply summarized:

"I've never really known a player to spend another year with Coach Williams and get worse."

WORD -- one of my all-time favorite responses on the subject! Go, Heels!

Gourmet Meals In Minutes

Plain and simple, I think my friend Sally and I have become winos. (Just teasing!) This all started when I shared some of my favorite soup recipes in a previous (10/25) blog, and Sally said she always adds a little wine to hers.

Thanks to my niece, I have been the recipient of various wines in bottles large and small for several recent birthdays and Christmases; so I added a little to my SIMPLE SOUP for ONE -- and it really is delicious. I have even included a little wine in a lima bean-corn-black bean side dish. Again, I like the distinctive flavor.

Back in the days when I seriously used my stove and delighted in trying gourmet recipes for my family, I always prepared poultry with wine. My cooking prerequisites are now (a) "microwaveable" and (b) minimum prep time, so last night I launched a quickie gourmet chicken dish during the commercial of a movie I was watching.

The frozen chicken portion -- originally nuked with lemon juice, herbs, and spices -- was placed in a single oval serving dish, surrounded by chopped onion, yellow pepper, mushrooms, and a handful of walnut pieces. I added some garlic, Mrs. Dash Italian spice, and a little wine. At the other end of the one-dish platter, I tossed in some frozen broccoli, which no doubt benefited from a little of the wine. In the final minute, I sprinkled a handful of 2% shredded cheese on the broccoli.

VOILA -- dinner just in time for the next movie segment!

I'm off to rummage through a couple of gift bags that just may contain my new favorite ingredient, but here are some reminders for CA fans:


11/17: Live With Regis & Kelly: Co-host and Performer
11/21: American Music Awards: Presenter
11/22: Tyra Banks Show -- See Promo Here
11/28: Release of "All Is Well - Songs for Christmas" EP
12/1 - 12/23: Christmas Symphony Tour
12/26: Days of Our Lives (Performance: EIH and OHN)

Have a great week, Clay Nation!


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Trusty Oboe Could Tell Tales

A THOUSAND DAYS -- This elegant graphic by ABeautifulMind highlights one of the four new songs on Clay Aiken's CD, A Thousand Different Ways.

Our Latest Adventure

Trusty Oboe Could Tell Tales

Last Friday morning started like any other -- get dressed, soak reeds, make sure briefcase contains oboe and music needed for the weekly session with high schoolers in Davidson County.

What a shock when I opened my oboe case -- on the sofa, thank goodness! -- and the whole thing literally came unglued. Several wooden girders, particles, and splinters from the bottom of this specially-designed case popped; and the three joints of my unassembled oboe ended up on the pillows of the couch.

Thus marked the end of the line for my oboe's case, designed specifically for this instrument by its previous owner. It has served this oboe well since my college years and no telling how long before that. For Friday's sectional, the oboe stayed home, and I taught class with my flute. With Davidson County Schools out of session this week, my search for a new case received a reprieve, though I have placed an order with a local music store and hope to be back in business soon.

Remarkable Musical Journey

My oboe and its unique case have accompanied me through some amazing musical experiences. During my junior year at East Carolina University, my oboe professor helped me locate the instrument, which was being sold by John Mack, then the principal oboist of the National Symphony.

I met my future husband, a Texas percussionist stationed at Ft. Bragg, when we both played in the Florence, SC, orchestra. After our wedding, we enrolled at Texas Western College, now UT-El Paso, to complete our Music Ed degrees.

My new teacher asked if I would like to audition for the second oboe position with the El Paso Symphony later that week. I fiercely worked on my embouchure, which had literally taken the summer off while I wrote for the local newspaper and planned an August wedding.

Despite stiff competition, I won the position with the first professional orchestra of my life. Once my initial paychecks covered the steep musician's union dues, they were a welcome boost to a college couple's budget. Mr. Caro had no problem returning to his place in the percussion position.

Programmed on our first concert was Bizet's Symphony No. 1 in C Major, the second movement of which features two oboes in beautiful intertwining conversational lines. I can still remember the breathtaking thrill of this superlative orchestra's season opener and being singled out by the conductor for a bow with my teacher following the Bizet.

Since then, my oboe and I have played in almost every imaginable setting from symphonies, church music programs, and pit orchestras to a myriad of events with a popular chamber ensemble in Nashville -- weddings, receptions, bridal shows, park concerts, as well as several performances at the Tennessee governor's mansion.

Orthodontist Determines Fate

I play the oboe today because when I was in the 5th grade, with a couple of years of clarinet under my belt, a Wilmington orthodontist nixed that instrument due to its overbite embouchure. Having taught woodwinds privately and in public schools for many years since, I know that dentists generally run about 50-50 on this point.

Mr. "Red" Dobson, my band director, was beside himself over the news that I couldn't continue the clarinet. He had tremendous respect for my mother, a junior high choral music teacher, and had great plans for me to be his principal clarinetist in the Lake Forest Junior High Band. He also was envisioning similar musical journeys for my sister and brother down the line.

The dentist's verdict came just as our six-week summer band program began. One week went by; and, sadly, I stayed home. Another week came and went. The Sunday night before the third week, Mr. Dobson called our home and excitedly proclaimed, "I've got it! You can play the oboe!" Off I went the next morning to begin studying my new instrument.

True to form, when I left for high school, Mr. Dobson asked my sister, a wonderful flautist, to play the oboe. The same with our brother a few years after that. By then, our mother knew the score and adamantly put her foot down: "Two beginning oboes are enough for any one household to endure!"

PHOTO INTERMISSION: Included in this clickable interlude are graphics from four visual artists -- Ambassador of Love (1, 3); Amazing_CA (2, 4); ABeautifulMind (5); and Galrow, photo credits for #2.

The Last Laugh

We oboists are a rare breed. Musical humorists have dubbed our instrument the ill wind no one plays well. I have never been sorry for my orthodontist's decisiveness, however. College scholarships are readily available for those who play the instrument well; and during major religious seasons, an oboist's calendar is filled with gigs and the opportunity to earn extra money.

The oboe is a woodwind instrument of the double reed family. The word "oboe" is derived from the French word hautbois, meaning "high wood." A clear and uniquely penetrating timbre gives the oboe the ability to cut through and be audible over other instruments in large ensembles. Orchestras usually tune to the principal oboist sounding an A-440. The oboe can be heard on "Everything I Have" from Clay Aiken's new CD, A Thousand Different Ways, and from the All Is Well snippets "O Come, Emmanuel" and "My Grown Up Christmas List."

Clickable Graphic by Katt45

From a distance, an oboe looks like a clarinet; and I am often complimented for my "clarinet playing." However, the oboe's "mouthpiece" is comprised of two pieces of cane bound together and attached to one end of a metal tube. The most desirable cane is grown and harvested in southern France; making/securing good reeds is one of the most difficult parts of playing the instrument. As temperamental as the weather, oboe reeds can be affected by the elements inside, as well as outside.

Oboe Has Been Around

A few months ago as I was assembling my oboe to rehearse for a church gig, a visiting minister looked at the tarnished keys and remarked, "Wow, that instrument looks like it has really been around!" I told her that yes, indeed, it has. She got the abbreviated history about my instrument, which I recently learned was made especially for the renowned Marcel Tabuteau, the most influential oboist in the United States.

Born in Compiegne, France, in 1887, Tabuteau, in 1915, was appointed principal oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he stayed until his retirement in 1954. He also taught oboe at the Curtis Institute of Music from its founding in 1924 until his retirement. Through his teaching, Tabuteau was responsible for creating the "American" or "Philadelphia" sound that is prevalent in the US today. His oboe students beget other oboists, who beget other oboists; and thus the Tabuteau tradition continues to spread in this manner.

I play a Loree, long considered the cadillac of oboes. Loree oboes are handcrafted in a Paris, France, factory from carefully selected pieces of Grenadilla wood from Mozambique which have been stored for more than five years.

An Intriguing Pedigree

During Tabuteau's lifetime, many Lorees were made to his personal specifications for him and his students, one of whom was John Mack. Though my instrument is insured for its true value, my mother only paid $400 in 1964.

A few years ago I took my horn to John Ellis, the oboe professor at the North Carolina School of the Arts and an excellent repairman. When I returned to pick it up, John informed me he would like to be first in line if I ever decide to sell the instrument.

Apparently, my oboe contains serial numbers from a very rare group of instruments made specifically for Tabuteau. I was amazed to learn this trusty old friend with tarnished keys has such an intriguing pedigree!

The Loree has enjoyed many adventures performing with me throughout the Carolinas, Texas, and Tennessee. I've always wondered what tales it could tell from its inception in France through its early years with Tabuteau and his student, John Mack, perhaps something along the lines of the movie, "The Red Violin."

Guess we'll never know, but I'm sure it would make a great blog!


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