2007   SEPTEMBER 5   #248

Fr. Basil Frison - Happy Birthday (Tape 19)

1 Introduction/Campanas de la aldea (8:07)
2 Happy Birthday (1:24)
3 Torre Bermeja (8:27)
4 Viva Navarra (9:32)
5 Nearer My God to Thee (2:59)
6 Caprice Español (12:38)
7 Al son de campaneros (7:40)
8 Marching Home (3:14)
9 The Prayer of St. Francis (4:34)

Four years ago, I contributed Fr. Basil Frison's A Gondola in Venice to the 365 Days Project. Little did I know at the time that he had died the previous year.

After the track made its debut, I began an on again/off again (mostly off) search for more of Fr. Frison's work. In addition to finding his spoken introductions charming and his performances amusing, I knew he must've composed more music than the two originals on the tape I had, and wondered what they might sound like if played on a better-tuned piano. My mother knew someone who worked at his church, and asked her to send us any more tapes of his that might be found. Over the next several months four more cassettes arrived in the mail—a trio of organ music (unfortunately sans introductions), Welcome Holy Spirit, Grateful and Joyful and Prayerfully, and the cassette presented here. Not only does Fr. Frison play the piano on it, but the guitar. And, best of all, he sings.

An envelope was found containing the typed text and contents of the initial cassette given to my mother, the one I referred to in 2003 as "Live at Rancho Dominguez." Scrutiny of the scrawled title proved it to be named, simply, Piano. (I've been meaning to correct those notes.) At one point I also had a copy of Fr. Frison's Curriculum Vitae, but I lost it. That means I had to do some research to find out when he was born and died, and that I can't provide a photo of him. Yet. But in researching, I discovered that these cassettes were not all Fr. Frison left the world. He was also the author of many books on Catholicism, particularly marriage, at least some of which can actually be found on Amazon.com. So he's not as obscure as I once thought.

Unfortunately, I have no idea if any of his scores have been found. I doubt they've be thrown away, though... At least not on purpose.

The first three cassettes are numbered Tapes 1, 2 and 3, so they are apparently the first recordings Fr. Frison made. Happy Birthday is numbered Tape 19. That means, in addition to Piano, my copy of which is unnumbered, there are or were at least fourteen other Frison tapes in existence. "Marching Home" was written to commemorate the end of the Persian Gulf War, most likely dating Happy Birthday to 1991 (and making the piece a potential new peace march ditty). As Fr. Frison gave my mother a copy of Piano during the late `90s, it's quite possible that it was a later recording, and that he recorded more than fifteen other tapes. Who knows how many pieces of music he composed?

Fr. Frison was born on this day in 1912. Some of you will recognize that date as the same day John Cage was born. So let us celebrate their lives and musics, and imagine the racket they might be making today in Heaven.

- Contributed by: Andrew Lander

Images: Cassette

Media: Cassette tape
Album: Happy Birthday
Catalog: Tape 19
Date: Circa 1991