Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Also, in a follow-up to the previous post about Alagna, he has now mounted his own production of Aida. Details here. He's also threatening to sue La Scala if they don't take him back? How do those two things jive? He's also blaming "low blood sugar" for his behavior? Riiiiight.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Not only stormed off stage, but stormed off stage in the middle of a duet, leaving his poor partner, Violeta Urmana, stuck on stage without him. His understudy rushed on, a few minutes later, wearing jeans, and with no time to warm up carried on with the show. Of such things are careers made.
Although one audience member said to me on the way out, "You know, there was a lot of modern music on that concert. Not everybody likes that. I think it should be more 50-50 with the old and the new. And you know, not everyone in your audience speaks Latin. (Well, yes, that's why we included a full translation of all texts in the program.) You should have more English tunes." And I want it on record that I, being the extraordinarily tactful Operations Manager that I am, refrained from rolling my eyes and saying, "Whatever, lady." I think I just sort of hemmed and hummed in a thoughtful and non-committal way at her.
Luckily, most of the audience was happy to hear a carefully thought out and exquisitely rendered program of Messaien, Britten, Poulenc, Tavener, and Bach. Have I mentioned how relieved and proud and lucky I feel to have landed a job with such an extremely good chorus? This weekend strengthened my inital resolve to sit in on some rehearsals and figure out how they put that wonderful sound together.
And THEN, tonight, the day after this three-day weekend run of Cecilia concerts, was the Winchester High School first ever Winter Choral Concert! It was an hour of all-singing, and it went extremely well, and I am quite proud and relieved! My kids all did great, and on several occasions they surprised me with how well they sounded - sometimes things really blossom in performance! When I walked off stage after the last song I conducted, I completely understood how people end up staying teaching in a high school for twenty or thirty years. I'm also excited to pick out new repertoire for the spring.
For weeks, my goal has simply been to get past these four days. Now that they're over, I'm not really sure what to do with myself. Perhaps clean my apartment. Or correct all those theory packets that are waiting for me. Or buy Christmas presents.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I also have another concert announcement! Half of my 9-5 job time is spent being the Operations Manager for The Boston Cecilia, a really excellent choir in Brookline. We have three concerts coming up this week, on Dec. 8 at 8 pm, Dec. 9 at 8 pm, and Dec. 10 at 3 pm. The Friday concert is downtown at Church of the Advent (in the Back Bay) and the Saturday and Sunday concerts are at All Saints Parish in Brookline. More information can be found here.
As Operations Manager, I'm in charge of finding ushers. We're all set for Friday and Saturday (although if you really want to come, we could always use one more) but I need several more ushers for Sunday. You show up at 1:45, hand out programs, and then you get to listen to the concert for free! It's going to be a really splendid concert, with Poulenc and Messiaen and Tavener and Britten (oh, my!) Please let me know if you'd be interested in ushering. Also feel free to point musically-minded friends towards this post, especially if they're free on Sunday!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
I have a concert this weekend! Two, in fact - please come to one of them!
Cappella Clausura is one of the choirs I joined in September. I am really excited about being part of this group, because my fellow singers have some great voices, and the conductor really knows her stuff. It's an all-women's ensemble in Boston (Newton, actually) that specializes in music written by women, and specifically by women who were in cloisters, or "clausurae". However, this concert will not only feature music by Vizzana and Aleotti, two nuns from the sixteenth century, but also some music by Patricia Van Ness, a contemporary composer from our area. (One of the pieces we will perform was written for Peter Sykes and the First Church in Cambridge, MA.)
Whenever one hears that a concert will specialize in music by a minority, in this case women, one tends to wonder, "Am I going to hear really good music that I haven't heard before because women faced such prejudice? Or am I going to hear not particularly good music that people are trying to perform in an effort to be politically correct?" I can assure you that this concert falls squarely in the former category. I knew none of the composers on our concert before we started rehearsals (except for Van Ness) and that's a crying shame, because this music is just as good as the music written by men from the Renaissance and early Baroque that I've performed all my life. And one set of madrigals we're performing was written by a sixteen-year-old! Mozart was far more boring at sixteen than Aleotti (and set far less passionate texts!) So come and hear some new music that's centuries old.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 18th at 8:00 PM
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 19th at 4: 00 PM
SATURDAY at Episcopal Parish of the Messiah
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations or call 617-964-6609,
call 617-524-3354 for tickets
Directions to both places can be found here.
I hope to see you there!
Sunday, November 12, 2006
On Monday night I came down with a fever and severe sore throat, and I have been struggling to get well ever since. I missed 3 days of school, which is extremely frustrating, especially in a 4-day week (thanks to Veteran's Day) and spent 4 days in bed. On Saturday I returned to the world of the busy, and don't feel as sick anymore, but unfortunately I now have a big old case of laryngitis. My voice sounds quite odd, and I'm not sure how I'm going to control a classroom tomorrow. One trick I'm going to try is writing common phrases, such as "Turn to page (list of numbers)" and "Be quiet NOW!" on the board, and pointing to them when appropriate.
I'm doing my best to get better as fast as possible, especially since I have an important set of concerts coming up next weekend. Here is all the advice I've gotten so far, much of it from singing friends. Got anything to add?
If you have pharyngitis (the part of your throat at the back of your mouth) use a numbing throat spray, gargle warm salt water, or try a Neti Pot, which helps take care of the post-nasal drip problem. Most of the suggestions below will also help.
If you have laryngitis (the sign of laryngitis is a low, scratchy, breathy voice, sometimes a complete loss of voice) then do any and all of the following:
- Vocal rest, vocal rest, vocal rest. No speaking, no singing, and definitely no whispering. Humming or speaking gently is permissible, but silence is better.
- Suck on lozenges. Don't use lozenges with menthol, as these will dry out your throat. Chewing gum also has the same positive effect, since, as my mother informs me, "Saliva has the proper ph to kill viruses and bacteria (and also acts as an antacid in the stomach.)"
- Don't take blood-thinning medications like ibuprofin or aspirin--stick to tylenol. It is good to take tylenol, however, as this will make swallowing less painful and make you more likely to...
- Drink lots of fluids. Juice, water, etc.
- Drink slippery elm-bark tea.
- Drink tea with honey.
- Eat soup! Chicken noodle soup is always good.
- Fill a sink with hot water, put your face down next to it, and put a towel over your head. Stay like that for as long as you can stand - breathing in the steam will help your throat.
- Use a humidifier.
- Finally, my mother recommends gargling with H2O2 (2 parts to 1 part water) but since you can't swallow this, it makes me nervous, as I lack proper gargling skills.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Which is all the more reason for you to come and see it! I especially recommend this concert to people interested in new music, since we will be premiering a piece by Elliott Gyger (which is, frankly, a bear) and also singing a piece by Julian Wachner. The program is filled out with Duruflé's Requiem. There is one concert this Sunday, in West Roxbury (and please let me know if you decide to come to that one, since I need a ride back to the land of the MBTA afterwards) and one concert next Sunday, in Harvard Square. And, if you need additional motivation, I'll be part of a solo sextet in the Gyger piece. Here are the details!
Sunday, November 5, 2006 at 3:00pm at Holy Name Parish, 1689 Centre Street, West Roxbury, MA
Sunday, November 12, 2006 at 3:30pm at Saint Paul Church, Corner of Bow and Arrow Streets, Harvard Square, Cambridge
JENNIFER LESTER, conductor
HEINRICH CHRISTENSEN, organ
MARTIN NEAR, countertenor
TIM MACRI, flute
DURUFLE Requiem (with instrumentalists)
GYGER Temptation in the Desert
WACHNER At the Lighting of the Lamps
Suggested Donation $15 adults/$10 students & seniors
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Thanks to Christianne at Singin' in the Lane for the link!
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Once every day, if everyone in the whole class raises their hand, I have to stop what I'm doing and go through the names of one of the rows or sections of the choir. If I get someone's first or last name wrong, or mispronounce it, I have to give them a piece of candy. This means I have been going around all day with a bunch of Werther's Originals in my pocket. I am giving away less and less candy as time passes, but I still have visions of the town dentist storming into my classroom, yelling, "What are you doing to my patients?" At least I'll be able to respond, "But they're sugar-free Werther's!" (They are. It was the only kind I could find in the grocery store, and then it occurred to me that this was a good thing.)
In other news, I biked to the high school for the first time yesterday. It felt good to be a bike commuter again, and it's only a 25-minute ride, meaning it's one of the fastest ways to get to work. Of course, I forgot that it was Friday, and Friday is the day I collect my students' music theory packets to take home and grade...meaning I had a stack of paper about 2/3 of a foot high that I had to figure out how to fit into my bike bag. Speaking of which, I should probably go do some grading.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
A girl that I didn't know came into class, and a couple of the students told me she was a French exchange student and was going to sit in on class. The beginning of class tends to be total pandemonium, so I was like, "Fine, whatever, can someone make sure we have a chair?" And then I didn't think about it. So 20 minutes into class, she raises her hand and says, "Je mange?" And I said, "Um, you didn't have lunch yet? Who's she partnered with? Who's her host?" And someone raised their hand, but said they hadn't eaten lunch together, and the French exchange students just basically did whatever they wanted and went wherever they wanted. Which seemed strange, but I said, "Well, OK, this is second lunch, so I suppose you'd better go. Bye." And she left.
I proceeded to try and get on with rehearsal, but the whole class (it's 42 kids) was cracking up, and it was little pockets all over the class, not localized, and I was starting to wonder what I'd missed, and so I said, "OK, guys, what's so funny?" And it turned out that she wasn't an exchange student at all, but just someone's friend who wanted to sit in on chorus before she went to lunch. They told me she was an exchange student as a joke, and didn't expect me to believe it. One girl said, "Don't tell me you actually believed that awful French accent!" I have a feeling they are not going to let me live this down. I did tell them the story of two friends (twins) who swapped places in their college classes on April 1st and fooled their professors.
When I told my boss, the full-time choral director at the high school, she said, "Oh, they're playing tricks on you? That means they're starting to like you!" I'm not sure this makes an entirely huge amount of sense from where I'm sitting but I can hope!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I have two part-time jobs now, one at Winchester High School as a part-time chorus teacher, and the other at the Boston Cecilia as their operations manager. Last week was the first week that I juggled both, and it was very busy! I'm also doing a good deal of singing. I'm most excited about Cappella Clausura and Schola Cantorum. (I could not find a webpage for the Schola Cantorum, but information about the group's director, Fred Jodry, is here.)
Schola Cantorum is a group I feel very lucky to be singing with. For those of you who heard the Westminster Kantorei, the group is very similar to that one, in size and repertoire and performance level. I highly, highly recommend coming to all concerts, and the first set is this weekend! Because I had committed to a recording gig for another choir before joining the group, I will not be at the first concert on Friday (ouch) but here is the information for all three concerts this weekend.
Friday, October 20
Schola Cantorum (Jodry, dir):
Schütz Cantiones Sacrae, Schein,
Buxtehude, ancestors of JS Bach.
St Peter's Church,
320 Boston Post Rd, Weston MA.
Saturday, October 21
Schola Cantorum (Jodry, dir):
Schütz Cantiones Sacrae, Schein,
Buxtehude, ancrestors of JS Bach.
St Paul's Church, Pawtucket RI.
Sunday, October 22
Schola Cantorum (Jodry, dir):
Schütz Cantiones Sacrae, Schein,
Buxtehude, ancestors of JS Bach.
Lindsey Chapel, Emmanuel Church,
15 Newbury St, Boston.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Since then, I have gotten an apartment - not the slightly-too-expensive one I was worrying about, but a very reasonably-priced and spacious place in Cambridge, MA with three other people. Unpacking is proceeding slowly and fitfully.
I'll be substitute-teaching music at a private middle school in September, and school starts tomorrow with a day of teacher meetings. Then all the kids show up on Thursday! I don't actually start teaching classes until next Tuesday, however - everything until then is various sorts of orientation.
And today I just found out that one of the jobs I was really crossing my fingers for - the general manager of the Cantata Singers - was taken. (I say they need to take down the job announcement on their website since it's no longer open.) I found out in a rather abrupt way - I was interested in auditioning for them as well as working for them, but I didn't want to hurt my chances of getting the job by trying out if they didn't want their manager to sing. So I called the office, and was starting into my lengthy explanation of my predicament, but I didn't get beyond, "So, you have an opening for a general manager position -" before the woman on the other end said, "Oh, yes, that's been filled." So. Right. At any rate, I can now audition for them in an uncomplicated manner. I really hope I get in - I hear good things, and they have some overlap with Emmanuel Music, which is the best choral group in the city.
So, currently I'm trying out for Cappella Clausura and the Oriana Singers tomorrow evening, the Cantata Singers on Sunday, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus on Sept. 20. If I get my act together, I'll make a recording and send it to the Handel & Haydn Society as well, but luckily that's not due until mid-October. I'm also debating whether or not to audition for Boston Cecilia, but I'm thinking now that I don't need to. And I also have an interview for an arts management position I'd really love this coming Thursday, so keep your fingers crossed for me on that one!
If anyone is wondering where I'm getting all my information on Boston choral groups, the Boston Choral Consortium (www.bostonsings.org) is an invaluable resource. It's not quite comprehensive, but it's pretty damn close. They're having odd trouble with their website this week (a bad week to have trouble for a choral website!) but hopefully they'll be back up soon.
Monday, August 21, 2006
This is all made harder by the fact that I feel that I got this degree, and now I somehow am not managing to do anything with it. It's very hard not to feel that the only explanation is that I haven't tried hard enough. I have classmates with music jobs (in fact, I can't think of someone in the program with me that doesn't have a music job) but here I am wondering if I should go back into tech support to pay off student loans. This feeling of "failing to be a musician" is common, I know - I've talked with friends about it - but that doesn't make it particularly easier to handle.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
London's Proms are in full swing! You can listen to the concerts online, if you wish.
Outside London's Royal Festival Hall, a "virtual orchestra" has been put together.
Farinelli's body is exhumed. Yuck. (Farinelli was one of the most famous castratos in the history of the world.)
Wynton Marsalis is going to write an opera for the New York Met.
The Tehran Symphony Orchestra goes on tour in Germany.
It's not news, but if you missed the articles about U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, a Xhosa version of Carmen, the film won rave reviews and quite a lot of press last year. (I was trying and mostly failing to find news that was not in the US or Europe.)
And finally (and sadly) Elisabeth Schwarzkopf passed away on August 3.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
One of the things that I faced up to at Westminster was how important image is. I think singers have to deal with the importance of presentation and body image more than any other type of musician, so as a school, it was a very clothing-conscious place. (I've never seen so many high-heeled shoes in my life. Did you know they make high-heeled flip-flops now? I'm not kidding!) And the importance of image is especially relevant for conductors - after all, people are staring at you for hours during a rehearsal. Your entire job is visual - while the music is going, it's the only available method of communication. It may seem obvious that therefore one's appearance plays a huge role in how musicians respond to you, but it is an idea that I've only grudgingly accepted. However, when faced with the prospect of a roomful of middle-schoolers, I am going to take every advantage I can get, and looking like I mean business will definitely help!
Friday, August 18, 2006
Today, my friend JL taught me to play the organ. It was fun! I learned that I have no business doing anything with the pedals anytime soon. Also, my feet are much larger than I thought. Then I had a more-than-four hour meeting with the teacher I'm substituting for at the private school in September. She is wicked helpful and super-organized, with lesson plans for every day. Whew! Then I cooked some pasta primavera. It was yummy! It was the best day ever!
Tomorrow I go shopping, so I look all cool for school! Yay!
Thursday, August 17, 2006
What's the definition of an alto?
A soprano who can sightread.
Hey, it's funny because it's true! (There was no other reason for me to end up in the alto section in 3rd grade.)
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Luckily, I have something to report! I got offered a job today, and I took it. It's a temporary substitute-teaching job at a private school in Cambridge, and I'll be teaching middle-school music for the month of September. The school has a good reputation, the classes are small, there's tons of administrative support, there are complete syllabi for me to follow, and the compensation is generous. It's a great gig. This doesn't mean I'm not still somewhat terrified of jumping in and teaching middle-school full-time for a month, but I think I'll survive. What happens after that is still unknown, but at least I'll have income for one month, and you know I'm going to learn something.
Friday, August 04, 2006
However, at last I have something to report! Last night, I was in a car that caught on fire!
Yesterday I went to a recording session in Philadelphia with fellow singers AN and LLJ. Dr. Jordan is recording some pieces for the publishing company he's associated with. I believe this is so they can provide recordings to prospective music-buyers, but I'm not entirely sure - all I know is, I learn my part, I show up, I sing, I get money. Pretty sweet. The group is called Anam Cara, and was formed for this recording session, but Dr. Jordan's so pleased with the sound that he wants to try and do other gigs in the future.
We took LLJ's car, which is actually her roommate's Aunt Betty's car. Her roommate is in Turkey. She was given the car by her Aunt Betty two years ago, who promised it was in perfect condition, but neglected to mention the bullet holes in the passenger-side door. I merely provide all this as background, and to prove that this is a car that appears to attract excitement.
The air-conditioning in the car was broken, so I spent one and a half hours yesterday in that heat in a non-air-conditioned car. Which wasn't fun. The drivers (AN and LLJ took turns) noticed that the transmission was acting funny, but we didn't worry about it. We did the recording session, went out for food afterwards, and headed home at probably around 11:30 pm.
When we got back into Princeton, LLJ noticed that she smelled smoke. I did too, but AN didn't, and we both (being rather blase persons) told LLJ not to worry about it. However, about a mile away from my house, LLJ saw smoke as well as smelled it, and pulled the car over. At this point, I think AN and I both a little annoyed, because hey, we were only a mile away from my house, right? How bad could it really be? However, I opened my door to get out, and that's when I saw flickering orange light coming out from under the bottom of the car. This rather changed my attitude. "Flames! Flames! Get out, guys, now!" I said. We all scrambled out, and stood about 10 feet away, and watched as the flames (which were coming from under the chassis, right under the driver's foot-well) died out over the course of about 5 minutes. LLJ during this time was placing a call to 911, with the pithy message, "Hello, my car's on fire." It must have been a slow night in Princeton, because we ranked 3 police cars and a fire truck.
The firemen all clustered around and helpful advice and various possible explanations were provided mainly by one fireman in flip-flops, boxers, a tank-top, and a big fire-hat. Everyone else was in full fire-gear. We tried to come up with hypotheses for this variation in dress code on the way home, and concluded that the car-fire-expert must have been asleep at the time of the call. They sprayed water on it to cool it down, and told LLJ to leave it there, call the police station in the morning to make sure she wouldn't get ticketed, and have it towed in the morning as well. Then all three of us walked the mile home to my house. AN had already planned to stay over, and LLJ stayed as well because she had no way to get home.
The moral of this story is that if you smell something burning, maybe there's something really wrong with your car, and if you smell something burning and see smoke, then you should probably get out of your car in fairly short order.
The last thing we did before bed was leave a message on the CarTalk voicemail system. If those producers don't choose LLJ to be on the next CarTalk show, they're crazy.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
But whether you know something about ukeleles and the depth of musicianship of the people who play them or not, I suggest you watch this video. I've certainly never seen anything like it before.
A little poking around the comments on the video reveals that the guy's name is Jake Shimabukuro, and his website is here.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
So, time to turn to the internet for help! Here are my resumes - here's the education-oriented one, and here's the conducting-oriented one. If you know of any openings, please let me know, and if you feel like flinging my resume out into the world, please feel more than free to do so. (I wonder if anyone has ever had idea of putting resumes in bottles and flinging them into the surf as part of a job hunt. Couldn't hurt, right?)
Thursday, June 15, 2006
"Well," I thought to myself, "that's probably too extreme. I mean, I'll see it, because I feel like I should, and maybe I'll learn a few new facts, but hey, I'm a liberal, and I took science in college, and I pretty much know what's going on, right?"
Well, I saw the movie tonight, and I have to completely agree with Roger Ebert. Everyone I know should see this film, and if I don't know you, then it's even more important that you go see it, because I'm less likely to talk to you about it. Some of the pictures are shocking, especially with regards to disappearing glaciers and projected rising water levels, and there are many interesting interconnections that I had no idea about. Berkshire folks, did you know that your caterpillar invasion this past May can be linked to global warning? Gore specifically mentions soaring caterpillar populations in the movie, albeit briefly.
Although it does resemble a PowerPoint presentation, it is never boring - the pace is clear and thorough but swift. Best of all, it doesn't just predict gloom and doom - Gore gives concrete suggestions about what we can do at the end of the movie, which can also be found at the movie's website. So what are you waiting for? Find out where it's playing, and go see it - now!
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
The last week is somewhat blurry, consisting mostly of Last Performances of things, most notably Dr. Flummerfelt's second Last Westminster Choir Concert. (See my remarks on the first one here.) This was an occasion of much weepiness among most of the choir, but perhaps heartlessly, my feelings were triumph and relief that I had finally graduated and was actually done, since it was our last performance at the festival. It was a pretty hard year, after all, on a number of fronts - it's sad to leave, but it's nice to be done!
Two performances during the last week deserve special mention. The first was the orchestral concert of Beethoven's 5th. This was really super - the Spoleto Festival Orchestra possessed an incredibly deep, rich, and powerful sound. No matter how big and thunderous the crescendos got (and Emmanuel Villaume conducts a very romantic Beethoven!) I still had the feeling that the orchestra could have kept going. And despite this powerful sound, the orchestra also had great ensemble and was very deft and maneuverable. I was all kinds of impressed and delighted at the performance. Special kudos to the winds, especially the first oboe, who were practically flawless, and the horns, for getting a wonderfully aggressive, brassy sound in the exposed section in the first movement.
The second performance was the Sara Baras Ballet Flamenco, which was beautiful and exciting and rhythmic and stunning. If she comes to your town, go see her. I want to take flamenco lessons now. And those dresses have got to be the most beautiful garments I have ever seen.
The chamber music also deserves a special shout-out, of course, as does its host, Charles Wadsworth. I believe I ended up seeing three of the chamber music concerts this year. Although all the chamber musicians were fabulous, I think my favorite performer was Jeremy Denk - he had such an expressive touch on the piano, and was so connected to the other performers, and phrased things so conversationally, it was a real delight to hear him perform.
It was a good month, and the performances were, I think, the best part of it, but I'm so glad to be home. I had reached the saturation point by the time it was over, and it's nice to finally have some time to process the past year...and figure out what I'm going to be doing for the next one!
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Monday before the Mass I went to the Intermezzo V concert in the afternoon. In addition to great singing, all three performers were incredibly attractive. (Two were stars in Don Giovanni, and one was the tenor from Romeo et Juliette.) I kept wondering all through the performance about why there were not legions of screaming adolescent girls at the front of the stage. What's wrong with this culture? Meltingly beautiful voices, stunningly attractive singers, intense delivery, charismatic presentation...what more do you need, really?
Tuesday was rehearsing all day and then the last Don Giovanni in the evening (to which my parents came.) It was fun, but exhausting - there were a lot of performances, and I'm not too sorry it's over.
Today was more rehearsing, lunch with my parents, and then the first Westminster Choir concert, which I think went very well. It was so wonderful, after the past year (which was very hard for the choir) to finally feel like we had arrived - I think everyone on stage felt like they were part of, and deserved to be part of, the tradition of excellence that has always been associated with the Westminster Choir. My one regret, watching the standing ovation, was that two people who had been in the choir all year weren't there - one bass couldn't come to the festival because he had a prior engagement, and another had to go home sick about a week ago. I wished they had been there.
And then there was a long and excellent dinner with my parents and my cousin Dee, full of the kinds of wide-ranging conversation that is sometimes lacking in a group of predominantly undergraduate singers. And now I'll go put my last loads of Spoleto laundry in the dryer, and watch some Angel with my suitemates!
Monday, June 05, 2006
At any rate, it's very hard to continually turn people down when they ask if you want to go out to dinner. It feels rude. After all, when your suite says, "Hey, we're all going out for dinner! Please come!" it's hard to say no. It's also hard to turn down the prospect of Charleston cuisine, which is not to be sneezed at, and much more appealing than Easy Mac in the microwave at the dorm. And I have to admit, I'm a foodie! With places like Meritäge, Blossom, and the Hominy Grill right around the corner, it's hard to be fiscally responsible.
Then there's the fact that being in a city for a working vacation means you're tempted to visit all the little stores you might not see again, like The Brass Pirate...and there's the festival arts and crafts fair...and then there's just establishments you grow fond of, and want to support, like the Kudu Cafe.
So far I've managed better than last year, although I did visit the library book sale yesterday (library book sales are THE best thing ever) and also bought a skirt and a couple of shirts at the cheap clothing shop down the street. Speaking of clothing, Don Giovanni was interesting last night because my corset split a seam up the back right after I bounced on-stage. Since our outfits are entirely silk, people are getting used to having their pants rip, but I think this was the first time someone ripped a corset. It was probably because I waited too long to put it on (well, wouldn't you?) and it had to be laced up too quickly. Luckily it stayed on, and I kept my over-shirt on over it, but it makes it hard to concentrate on your job when you're wondering whether or not your clothes are going to fall off. Carrie the costumer said that clothes can tell when the end of a run is coming up and start to fall apart - since there's only one more performance of Don Giovanni, I guess that fits the trend.
Tonight is Mozart's Great Mass in C with Dr. Flummerfelt. We had the final dress rehearsal this morning, and it looks like it'll be an amazing concert. Here's hoping nobody rips anything.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
This evening was a difficult decision, since it was the only day I could see both Mahler's 5th and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane dance company. I decided to go for the Bill T. Jones Blind Date, since, as many people said, I will probably get the chance to hear some Mahler in the future. While I'm not sorry I did, this is mainly because I would have been eternally wondering what I had missed.
First of all, we saw Mike Daisey outside the performance. This is the monologist that I loved so much at last year's Spoleto, and unfortunately will not get to see this year, since I'm performing every night he's performing. Secondly, he was wearing my Schrödinger's Cat shirt! Everyone in the choir who saw him said, "Hey, he's wearing your shirt! Go talk to him!" I felt kind of star-struck, but after some of the other choir members went over and told him they knew someone with his shirt, I kind of had to go over and introduce myself. He was really nice, and we had a brief geek-bonding moment. I'm now even more disappointed I can't go to any of his performances.
Anyways, then came the dance performance. It was kind of interesting, but I have to say that on the whole, I wouldn't recommend it. The performance involved lots of multi-media - lots of screens with different things on them, and two live singers, and some of the dancers speaking or singing, and words scrolling down or pictures phasing in and out of each other. The movement itself was great - it had a distinctive style, and was beautiful to watch, and the dancers were enormously accomplished. There were some very effective moments, such as when individual dancers told stories on the video, while at the same time they were dancing in real time.
However, it was very political, and the politics was not very well done. I was continually wondering, "What is the point of this? What is your message?" And while I do tend to want lots of explanation and clear-cut communication in my performances, I really feel that my confusion and impatience were a failing of the performance rather than a manifestation of my preferences. I got that war is bad; there was also the message that people who join the military are "sitting ducks" who just do what they're told and don't know what they're getting into; there was also a very ill-defined message that religion can lead to war, and some other negative messages concerning religion, although I'm not sure what they were. There was a rather mocking section where statistics about terrorist attacks and natural disasters were recited, interspersed with "Praise the Lord!" and "Hallelujah!" and the whole effect was sarcastic, and sort of mean-spirited without any point. There was an interesting point at the beginning about the ways in which the pure love of country that is patriotism can be manipulated into a tool of war, but that idea wasn't developed later on. All in all, the whole point of the piece was political, but not specific, or complex, or well-thought-out. I agree that the war in Iraq is not a good thing, but I didn't agree with some of the other messages - I thought they were disrespectful, especially the religious stuff. And at the same time as not agreeing with all of the message, I also didn't agree with how it was presented. Also, after a while, not knowing exactly what the piece was trying to say got old. If I don't get your message, that doesn't necessarily mean it's really deep - it might just be badly assembled, or not make sense to begin with. However, it certainly led to a lot of dialogue within the choir - people had a variety of reactions, and did a good deal of talking about them.
The most dramatic bit happened at the end, after the bows, while the lights were coming up. As the applause was becoming scattered, and people were leaving, somebody in the balcony shouted out, "Boo!" Bill T. Jones immediately bounced out on stage, and yelled, "Who said that! Who said that!" I will now relay an approximate transcription of the interchange (which I believe was not planted, but in fact spontaneous, and with an actual audience member):
Bill T.: Who said that? Come down here, out of the dark!
Booer: I don't want to!
Bill T.: What's your problem? Use words! What are you booing?
Booer: I thought it was a cliche, badly disguised as third-rate art.
Bill T.: I think you're wrong! I think your gut disagrees with my message, and that's what you're responding to!
Booer: Well, you're right. That's it. I do disagree with your message!
Bill T.: Well, if you don't criticize my art, I won't criticize your politics!
(It was actually longer than that, with a bit more hot air, and more wordy, but I'm pretty sure the booer's criticism and Bill T.'s last line are accurate.)
I mean, what the hell? First of all, of course people can criticize your art! Secondly, you are criticizing the guy's politics, starting with the fact that you just put on a performance with a very strong (if vague) political point-of-view that was critical of some other political points of view. It just seemed hypocritical in the extreme, and put the whole performance in a different light. However, it sure was dramatic and exciting!
It was an interesting experience, so I'm glad I went - but I'm also glad it was free!
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
In the evening I went out to dinner with a few friends, and picked up some of the world's best pralines at a candy shop on the way. I never had pralines before - I had no idea I liked them. But these are amazing, and I think I've found a new food obsession! We also saw the artistic director of the chamber music program having dinner in the same restaurant, so we sent him a drink, and he came over and talked to us for a bit. I'd never sent someone a drink before, but it's fun! Now I'll have to actually get to some of the chamber music performances, or I'll feel guilty. The difficulty is getting myself to a performance at 11 am, which is when the chamber music is. That may not sound like much, but when your opera gets done at 11:30, and you get home at midnight, and nobody goes to bed for at least an hour, it can be difficult to get up before noon.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Today was our first day off since the Festival started, meaning we finally had time to attend some of the other shows. (As a Spoleto Festival member, I can show my badge and get in free to any show that's not sold-out.) In the afternoon I saw the Paul Taylor dance company, which was just fabulous. It was beautiful, and one of my favorite things about it was that there was so much joy in some of the pieces. Often it feels like artists feel compelled to only present dark things, but the first piece of choreography especially, set to Handel, was just pure happiness. And the second piece, set to early American jazz, was very funny, with incredibly original ways of moving. I enjoyed the abstract pieces the most, because that was where I felt the choreography really explored shapes and new ways of moving.
In the evening I went with some other Westminster Choir folks to try and see Tristan and Yseult. Owing to being sold out, and some confusion with the ushers, we didn't get to see the first ten or fifteen minutes, but after my friend AG approached the house manager again to see if we could stand in the back, we finally got in. I was sorry to miss the beginning, but glad I decided to stick around and watch it anyways. It was wacky and funny and odd in parts, but it achieved some really heart-rending moments, and the whole show was original and well-done.
Tomorrow is one of the longest days we'll have - rehearsal at 10, call for opera at 1 pm, with the performance at 2, and then call for a different opera at 7:30 and performance at 8. Luckily there's another free day afterwards, which means more shows! I'm either in an opera or planning on watching a show every single night until we go home. Who knows when I'll be able to come back again, after all.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Last night was the preview performance of Don Giovanni (which just means it was a performance before the official opening of the festival) and tonight the festival really gets swinging with the first performance of Romeo et Juliette. This entire past week has been piles of dress rehearsals for both shows - there's always a piano dress/tech and two orchestra dresses for each show. It's exciting that we're finally into performances, because those are much more exciting - having an audience can really transform a performance.
Doing both operas really eats up time - Don Giovanni has seven performances, and Romeo et Juliette has 4, which means that there are very few days off (or more importantly, evenings off) to go see other performances. All performers in the festival get free admission to any performance they want, as long as it's not sold out, and since there are so many performances, very few things are sold out. One of my favorite performers last year, Mike Daisey, is coming back, but I sadly won't be able to see any of his performances as I have performances at all the same times.
The make-up and wig call is in half an hour, so I'll sign off here. (I am wearing a black wig. I look rather like a wax-work person in it, since I'm so pale.) It's hard to know what else to say about the festival - give me help. What should I post about?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Luckily I have tomorrow for laundry - it's our first day off! Also for trying to find an optometrist, so I can get contacts - splashing water plus glasses do not combine to create the best vision.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The Westminster Choir has been a part of Spoleto Festival USA since the festival's founding in 1977. We serve as the opera choir for all the operas at the festival - last year there were three, this year there are two, Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and Mozart's Don Giovanni. The chorus for the Mozart is smaller, only using half the choir, and the full choir is in the Gounod. I am in the half of the choir that is performing in both. In addition, there is one performance of Mozart's Mass in C and two performances of the choir performing shorter works accompanied only with piano (a Bach motet, some of the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes, Barber's Reincarnations, etc.) We have two weeks of rehearsal before the festival to get the two operas staged - it's been three days, and they are almost entirely staged already - only a few scenes remain in each to really nail down. A good thing, too, because we begin orchestra rehearsals on both sets tomorrow.
Physically, staging is fairly exhausting (especially the Mozart, which involves sprinting around an auditorium in bare feet.) Mentally, being at Spoleto is more restful than being in school - after all, I only have to be where people tell me, and then do what other people tell me once I'm there. However, physical exhaustion alone can be overwhelming, and my wig fitting tomorrow is at 9:30 am (yes, I will be wearing a wig for the Gounod!) so it's off to bed for me.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Once planes were allowed to land and we were allowed to load the bus and leave, we reached our temporary lodgings with no further adventures, but since it was sheeting down rain, very very wet. We're staying in the dorms of the College of Charleston, which are fairly nice - two to a room, with bathroom included, and two rooms to a suite, which has a mini-kitchen and a little area for a couch and TV.
More on what the Westminster Choir is actually doing here in Charleston tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
It went really well! We had more audience than at any previous concert (meaning double-digits!) and the group sounded really strong. There were a few bobbles, mostly because I got overly enthusiastic in the last month and added too much new repertoire, but concert as a whole was strong and solid. The sound was beautiful, and I was proud that there were many different sounds of the choir, depending on what era of repertoire we were singing. And even better, I feel like we all, me included, were energetic, extroverted, and communicative, something that after last year I knew would be my biggest challenge. I was able to look at specific singers and think, "Wow! They are really delivering the piece! I know they didn't sing like that a year ago."
I'm glad I got to do one more conducting concert after my Master Singers concert - I felt like I was able to continue applying a lot of what I learned several months ago, and continue to make progress.
So thank you to all my Roseae Feminae singers - not only was leading that choir one of the most educational things I did here, but it always reminded me that the reason I do this is not for class credit or a degree or recognition, but love of the job!
P.S. Apparently what I was complaining of in the last entry is not tennis elbow, which affects the outer side of the elbow, but golfer's elbow. This is disappointing, as it's much less fun to claim I have golfer's elbow. However, since my arm feels fine now, I suppose it's irrelevant.
Monday, May 01, 2006
However, we just had our dress rehearsal, and I am sorry to report that I am turning into that dreaded being, the over-enthusiastic conductor who runs over time. I kept them 15 minutes past the end of the rehearsal. Luckily they have not been smart enough to form a union yet, or I'd be taken out and thrashed. However, keeping people late is something I really do try not to do - I'm rather ashamed I didn't quite succeed.
Also, I'm getting tennis elbow from conducting too enthusiastically - this happened during my Master Singers concert as well. Suggestions for how to care for tennis elbow (ice? heat?) are welcome.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
In other news, I passed my orals. Classes are over in a week and a half, and graduation is the week after that. There sure is a lot to get done in that time!
Thursday, April 06, 2006
This will be my last performance with Kantorei, since I'm graduating, and it will be pretty spectacular to boot. We have period instruments (think sackbutts, cornetti, theorbo) and the dress rehearsal today was very exciting. It's an effervescent piece, and there will be some pretty good performers involved, if I do say so myself! Please come if you can!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Monday, March 27, 2006
The other major event that passed since my last post was the Westminster Choir's tour to England. This was not a particularly happy event. I did appreciate the chance to get to know the choir better, and feel that the group is a remarkably positive, energetic, and generally nice group of people. However, there were problems with the schedule, which was far too busy, and left us all exhausted and unable to fully appreciate the experience. There were also problems with the leadership. Due to these factors, our musical performance was not nearly what it could have and should have been.
This whole event brings up a very pertinent question about blogging, which is how to address negative issues. Obviously, saying bad things about people, especially personal acquaintances, can lead to problems. I know that certain of my readers who care about me get very concerned when I say anything that might offend someone. However, I also don't want to present a picture of my life, and especially my musical experiences, that is utterly skewed towards sunshine and roses. Sometimes things may be really, really hard. In the musical world, especially, I have already come into contact with a profound amount of drama and unprofessional behavior, and I'm young yet! I don't think it's to my benefit or anyone else's if I pretend those problems don't exist - I want this blog to tackle a wide variety of issues, and sometimes that will mean the problems I encounter. Another aspect of this question is that I feel society in general views musical careers through an extremely romanticized lens. Conductors, especially, are often viewed as a breed apart. One of the purposes of this blog is to chronicle the passage of one conductor in a realistic and down-to-earth manner.
Wil Wheaton (formerly Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, now a writer, actor, poker-player, and well-known blogger) addresses this question in his book Just a Geek. He chronicles the history of his blog (which is now hugely popular) and explains that in the beginning, he used it as a front, only saying positive things, and pretending things were going smoothly when they weren't. It was when he started honestly confessing that things weren't going well for him, and writing deeply about the issues that he was facing (at that time, as a struggling actor) that his blog really took root, and his readership expanded.
Obviously, being honest with the struggles one may be facing is quite different from publishing negative remarks about people, or being insulting. Every blog must find its own point of balance about such matters. I try not to write anything in an entry that I would not say to anyone who might possibly read this blog (and to me, that means anyone alive on the planet.) Sometimes, no doubt, I will cross the line. Feel free to weigh in - what do you think about being honest with negative experiences when blogging?
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
In the middle of the last week of rehearsals, the conducting faculty drop by to make sure that your chorus will be able to sing your music in concert. It is understood that you have a little rehearsal time left, but you have to get through all the pieces. With only a few mishaps, we were able to do this. I am enormously relieved.
However, these last few days are going to be a huge amount of work. If you wish to see the final product, my graduate conducting recital is on March 4 at 7 pm in Bristol Chapel on Westminster Choir Campus. Hope to see you there!
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Especially now, when I am working so hard to make my own concert come together, it was nice to sit on the audience's side for once!
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Works performed will include Handel's Dixit Dominus (quite a pyrotechnic work) and "Choice of Hercules."
Christ Church Christiana Hundred
Buck Road East
Wilmington, DE 19807
St. Peter's Church
Second and Market Streets
Lewes, DE 19958
Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church
82nd and Broadway
Manhattan, NY, NY
Monday, February 13, 2006
The first rehearsal was today. It went OK - I have some wonderful singers - but I sure do have a lot to work on in the next three weeks. At the top of my list is being more demanding, perfectionist, and assertive. I have a hard time telling people, "No, that's wrong!" It's not exactly something one is trained to do in everyday life.
That's all I have time to say right now, but for more on this topic, see my essay in Dr. Jordan's book. Hint, hint.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
If you are only interested in reading my chapter, then I'd be happy to lend my copy to you. I also have a few extra copies sent to me by the publisher, so if you are willing to pay postage, I'd be happy to send a book to the first one or two commenters. However, you'll have to wait until my concert is over before I have time to wrap them up and walk over to the post office!
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
They were fabulous, as always. A tight-knit ensemble, but very individually expressive - real chamber music. One of the charming things about the King's Singers is that they never sound like anyone else. In the first half, where they sang some madrigals, a set by Estonian Cyrillus Kreek, and some Spanish Renaissance music, the tuning was not as impeccable as I might have liked, possibly owing to fairly new counter-tenor Robin Tyson, who doesn't yet have quite the beautiful flexibility and ease in his voice that David Hurley does. He occasionally sounded like he was pushing upwards rather than floating. But any quibbles disappeared in the second half, where the group performed two works they commissioned by Jackson Hill and Takemitsu, which were stunning, and their signature popular rep, which is just the tightest sound you can imagine.
One of the great things about the King's Singers is that they maintain a sense of humor while never sacrificing the quality of the music. They are entertainers as well as consummate musicians, one reason for their popularity. Possibly my new favorite in the group is tenor Paul Phoenix, who danced a little during the Spanish Renaissance music. Watching someone boogie down to Renaissance music gave me a warm fuzzy feeling and reminded me of my old college group the Williams Elizabethans. He also had a few stunning solos, in particular during one of the Spanish pieces called Rodrigo Martinez, and during the Beatles' Blackbird. Chris Gabbitas had a lovely baritone solo during Billy Joel's Only A Woman. Philip Lawson had only one extremely brief solo, which was sad - I would have liked to hear him highlighted more. Although I picked on Tyson earlier, he and David Hurley had a wonderful high sound together, and Stephen Connolly held down the low end of things with flair. Their encore was an Italian version of "Old MacDonald", which inspired equal parts laughter and awe - the perfect blend of their talents.
And really, David Hurley bleating "maa" like a sheep is the cutest thing I've heard all year.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
I had my hearing last Friday, and I passed, meaning the conducting faculty are satisfied with how well I know the music. However, they aren't satisfied with the expressiveness of my conducting, and made it clear I have a lot of work to do in the next month. I have my first meeting with my advisor tomorrow to address this issue.
But since I passed my hearing, the concert program is as follows:
Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich? by Schütz
La Nuit Froide et Sombre by Lassus
Waldesnacht by Brahms
Calme des Nuits by Saint-Saëns
Wedding Anthem by Britten
Village Wedding by Tavener
Cocktail by Mike Veloso
Heart, We Will Forget Him by Ashi Day
Jefferson from the Sacred Harp Hymnal
The Boatmen's Dance by Copland, arr. Fine
Good News arr. Dawson
Rhapsody of New York by Gerschwin, arr. Wright
That is, that was the concert program until I got an e-mail yesterday, informing me that Village Wedding is back-ordered, and it may not come in time for the performance. So I don't know what's going to happen with that. One idea is to go to inter-library loan and try to get 30 copies of the piece to Westminster. I'll have to call the publisher tomorrow. Stay tuned, because the drama never stops!
Monday, January 30, 2006
Sunday, January 29, 2006
All three performances went quite well. The New York Times gave us a fine review, and at the end of last night's performance Maazel turned around and gave us a hand, which was pretty nifty. It was also a special run-out because it was Prof. L's debut preparing Symphonic Choir. It was very cool watching her up there taking a bow next to Maazel.
I can't say I'll miss the bus rides to New York, or the Heavenly Ham boxed lunches and dinners, or the chorus room backstage at Lincoln Center. (The chorus room of Avery Fisher Hall is the most awful small thing you've ever seen - sticking 75 singers in there is just bedlam, and guaranteed to fray your nerves.) But I will miss Rich, our crazy stand-up-comedian bus-driver, and spontaneous little moments like singing Happy Birthday to Mozart at the end of Friday's bus ride home. And most of all I'll miss getting perform at a professional level with a major orchestra. Here's hoping it happens sometime again soon.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
If you wish for a second opinion, there is a review up at nj.com. I don't know for how long the link will be good, but enjoy reading it while it's up there!
This week is another run-out, with the Symphonic Choir joining Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic. Look into getting tickets if you're in the area - there are performances Thursday, Friday, and Saturday!
Monday, January 23, 2006
The culmination of the Masters in Choral Conducting is my recital. I have three weeks to rehearse a choir (or a choir plus several smaller groups) and put together a recital with approximately 50 minutes of music on it. The first stage of this, of course, is to decide what my repertoire will be. I had thought I had a pretty challenging bunch of repertoire lined up, and although I had made my final decisions quite late (over winter break) I thought I was pretty much done. I've moved on to working on learning all the music.
I just met with my advisor and one of the other conducting faculty, and hey presto - it appears I only have 42 minutes of music, and they feel I ought to have another piece in there. So now I get to hunt around for another piece, and also learn it in a week and a half.
For me, learning a piece involves:
Being able to sing all the parts (SATB, plus sing whatever instrumental parts there are)
Play the piano part
Being able to sing any part and play any other part on the piano, at the same time
Translate the text, and know what every word means
Pronounce the text correctly
Conduct the piece
Conduct the piece while singing any part
This isn't just me being thorough. I will be required to do all these things at my jury, which is where the faculty decide whether or not I'm ready to begin rehearsals by testing my knowledge of the music. The jury is next Friday.
The current front-runner for my new piece is Britten's Wedding Anthem, with Bartok's 4 Slovak Folk Songs also in the running. Stay tuned for further repertoire updates!