Friday, March 25, 2005

Amusing bookstore exchange

Today is Good Friday, so Westminster has no classes or rehearsals. This is more due to practical considerations rather than religious ones - so many students work in churches that classes would be practically empty. So, since I had the day off, I woke up a little later, worked on Gesualdo and Berlioz, and then walked to the YMCA, where Rider students can get in free (Westminster has no gym.) SJ is my normal lifting partner, but (since she works in the church) she's busy today. Since we only went to the gym once this week, I thought I'd go on my own.

Well, guess what the C in YMCA stands for? They also are closed on Good Friday. Should have seen that one coming. Oh, well.

On my way home, I passed Micawber Books, which always has a bin of $1 books outside. I found one I wanted, which necessitated going inside, which necessitated going past the "discount fiction" table, which ended with me picking up The Return of Merlin by Deepak Chopra. I was buying these two when the clerk said, "You know, we have another table of $1 books right over there." I lifted both hands as if he was holding me up, and said, "Don't do that to me! You must work with a lot of book addicts, you know that's not a very nice thing to do!" (I tend to get a little defensive in bookstores, b/c I'm perpetually so close to walking out w/ 20 books.) He just chuckled.

There was a pause.

"You know, there's an Ursula LeGuin book over there."
"There is? Which one?"

He walked me over to the table and pointed at The Wind's Twelve Quarters.

"I'm saved! I have that one!" I said.

And I escaped with only two books (one of which is not even for me.)

I was pretty impressed that he pegged me for a LeGuin fan that fast, though.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


The special:
Several weeks ago (in February, to be precise) I assembled a chorus and premiered a piece of a Westminster composer, AD. It was an excellent piece, with a Shakespeare text and a rock-piano accompaniment. She entered that piece in a competition, and today found out that she won first place! The New York Treble Singers will perform (not premiere, baby, b/c that was me!) it on April 3 - I'm hoping to attend the concert, but it means I have to reschedule rehearsal.

Do I know how to pick 'em, or what? :)

The mundane:
It was a good day for mail today. Normally I don't like mail, b/c it's just more paper to deal with, but today brought goodies. My CD of the Berlioz Damnation of Faust arrived today, and I went through the chorus parts with my score. I have to learn it on my own, b/c while I'll be performing it with Symphonic Choir and the New York Philharmonic next week, I've been rehearsing with the other division of Symphonic Choir. I think I'll be OK, but the French is really tricky. Luckily, Romantic notions do not allow for women to be part of soldiers' choruses, students' choruses, or demons' choruses, so that happily subtracts from the large swathes of French I have to learn.

I also received a beautiful wedding invitation (alas, for a wedding I doubt I'll be able to attend), a bunch of free sample octavos (single pieces of music) for women's chorus that I signed up for at the ACDA convention, and a job posting announcement for a community chorus in Philly. I think I may apply. If I knew I wouldn't get the job, I would definitely apply for the experience, but I'll have to talk to DM about whether or not he thinks it's feasible if I was chosen. It is only one rehearsal a week. It'd be a great opportunity, but it might mean committing to staying in the Philadelphia area after graduation. I'd also probably have to sign up for Zipcar. *plotplanplotplan*

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Spring Break

Ah Spring Break, where art thou gone, and wherefore must thou pass so quickly?

I've been looking forward to my spring break trip to New Mexico to visit HQ, who moved there to work at Los Alamos at the same time that I moved to Princeton. MW and HH arranged to fly out from Boston at the same time, so we had a four-way reunion. We all trained together in taekwondo in Boston, hence the connection. After looking forward to it all semester, it's suddenly in the past! I shall have to begin looking forward to CC's wedding in Paris now - that at least is far enough away that I shall get a good deal of anticipation out of it.

Saturday night I stayed at a hostel in Philly b/c my plane left early, and the trains from Princeton don't run at 4 am. Word to the wise: if you are staying in a room w/ 20 other people, and you have to get up at 5 am, and you can't turn on the lights, and it's dark outside, bring a flashlight. I had to pack by feel, groping around on the floor. I flew out on Sunday to Albuquerque - all 3 of them met me there, and drove me the hour and a half back to Los Alamos. I got showered, and the others went to the grocery store and cooked for a little dinner party in the evening, where I met people from HQ's New Mexico taekwondo school. They were all very charming, and I got a good salad dressing recipe out of the encounter as well.

Sunday night Los Alamos got the heaviest snowfall it has had all year. The labs were closed on Monday, so HQ stayed home with us instead of going to work in the morning. We hung out, and talked, and watched TV and movies. We went out to eat lunch at a Thai restaurant, and went out to eat dinner at the home of the owner and head instructor at HQ's taekwondo school. That was interesting - we talked about martial arts and his history, and he showed us some knife defense techniques and we watched some videos of belt tests. Tuesday we woke up to twice as much snow as Monday, and the labs were again closed. This was the day we all trekked out to the gym. We did some wrestling, and weight-lifting, and forms, and I practiced my punching and sparring with MW. I foolishly tried to keep up with HH in weight-lifting, and for the rest of the trip my legs were sore. That night HQ made us yummy things with chicken and chickpeas.

Wednesday we went to a spa near Santa Fe, and sat outside in a steaming hottub and watched the snow fall off trees, occasionally onto us. Then we went to eat and shop in Santa Fe, regrettably for a short period of time. I like cheesy touristy clusters of little shops, I can't help it. I got a few presents, and also got a blanket, since I'm worried about having enough blankets when I have visitors later this month. Then we went together to work out at HQ's taekwondo school. I liked it - they really gave us a good workout! I did fine until the sparring, which was dreadful. Understandable, since I haven't worked out seriously for a year and a half. But sad. I believe the altitude also had something to do with it, since in my second match I suddenly felt as if I couldn't move - my body simply stopped fighting. Generally I'll get slower if I'm tired or out-of-shape, but this was a new experience. MW had my back, though, and told everyone I hadn't been training for a year, so hopefully their poor opinion was mitigated.

We went out for a beer afterwards, and then it was back to pack. Thursday was entirely occupied by travel, broken for a brief dinner with old Williams friends in Philadelphia. I got home at 1 am.

Friday I did my taxes and cleaned the kitchen. Today I ran a few errands, did some cleaning, and met a prospective roommate for next year. I have still not made much of a dent in the pile of schoolwork waiting. All I have to do this week is get through 4 days - we have Good Friday off, presumably b/c so many students work in churches, and next week is Ensemble Week for Berlioz Damnation of Faust, meaning there's no classes. There will, however, be work for me - I haven't even looked at the Berlioz yet. I'm allowed to sing with them although I'm not in that division of Symphonic, b/c I'm a conducting student, but I have to learn the music on my own. Luckily it's very male-dominated - hurrah for stereotypical portrayals of soldiers and demons!

One of the errands I ran was to stop by the Princeton Record Exchange to see if I could get a recording of Damnation of Faust to help me learn it. I didn't find that...but as I always do there, I found a number of good bargains. So I am now the owner of:

Mozart's entire Le nozze de Figaro (w/ Fischer-Dieskau, and Barenboim conducting)
Charpentier, 2 oratorios, w/ Les Arts Florissants
A Palestrina mass and a Victoria mass (and the motets they're based on), by the Choir of King's College
Prokofiev - Alexander Nevsky, and Lieutenant Kije
And, for less than $2, 2 cantatas by 2 composers I've never heard of before, Janis Kalnins and Alfreds Kalnins

All this, 6 cds total, for under $30. I have become quite spendthrift where CDs are concerned this year...but I justify it by claiming it as my responsibility. After all, learning the repertoire is one of the keys to being a good conductor!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

February was crazy, and so is March

This post is only being posted because someone was kind enough to comment on my last post, and I wish to reward my gentle readers with more to read.

In fact, I have no business doing anything other than preparing for a masterclass this evening with Dr. Flummerfelt. The conducting students have 3 masterclasses a semester with him, and I get horribly nervous every time. We have half an hour to teach a piece to the people there, and then Dr. Flummerfelt comments on our conducting, preparation, and rehearsal. I'm sure I'll survive, but I wish it was over. It's like auditioning all over again.

Last night I was in a concert by a Westminster composer. It's rare to have concerts that are a conglomeration of different people - everyone just holds their own concerts. It's required for junior performance majors, all seniors, and all second-year graduate students. So this concert was the senior recital of one of the composers. We performed a mass that he wrote. It went quite well, I think. Last Tuesday the alto soloist got sick and so I was asked to fill in at the last moment. I sang the Credo, which was a solo quartet, and a short chant-like solo in the Gloria. The quartet stuff was fine, but man, did I get nervous for the solo part. I'd forgotten how nervous I get when singing solos. (Unless, of course, I'm in a G&S costume.) However, it went fine.

Yesterday I also went to the gym for the first time in ages with SJ. It's been a long time since I did any weight-lifting, and I'd forgotten how much I miss it. Ostensibly we're doing this b/c we both recently aquired strapless dresses (her wedding dress, my Kantorei dress) and want to look good in them, but really I just need to exercise. It was the day of the concert, and I was a nervous wreck, and it was really amazing how much doing something physical helped to calm me down. I've learned that lesson before, but I keep forgetting to find time to do something active when I'm stressed. We have a schedule together, though, so that should help me stick to it!

A week ago Friday we also had the Westminster Choir concert with Stefan Parkman, who conducts the Swedish Radio Choir among other things. That was fantastic. He's a great conductor, and a great rehearser as well. He did a lot of talking during the concert, which normally I don't like, but he was so charming and charismatic that we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. I enjoyed the repertoire, too. I need to look further into current Scandinavian composers.

The women's choir is also going well (even if we don't have a name yet!) I have six singers, and while ideally I need more, I find myself unwilling to do a lot of recruiting b/c the people I have are extremely good. I'd really like to bring it up to 8, though, so perhaps after spring break I will post some more posters. We're doing a hodge-podge of stuff, from Hildegard to 3 pieces by 2 Westminster composers. Rehearsal is today, right before the masterclass. So I have a lot of work to do for this afternoon!

I am eagerly looking forward to spring break, when I can kick back in New Mexico.