a little something extra

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sabbath: Afternoon

Perfect poetic justice, blogging about this chapter on a Sunday afternoon. It's a gorgeous day in my beachside city. We came out from under a pretty crushing heat wave a couple of days ago, so while it's sunny (It. Is. Always. Sunny.) the temperature is comfortable, and there's a breeze. When i walked out to my car this morning, parked near the ocean, the sailors were out in force.

Muller is winding down. There's only one more, short chapter after this one. And this one consists almost entirely of one-paragraph descriptions of the Sabbath afternoon practices of different people he knows. Some are more literal -- taking the afternoon of the traditional sabbath day to write letters, or make phone calls. Others are not confined to the afternoon or to a single designated day -- one story involved the spouse of a political candidate who escaped the stress and pressure of campaigning by taking long walks; another described a person's practice of playing the flute for an hour or more every day.

To an extent I can see how these practices promote rest and restoration for a busy time ahead.

But my Sunday afternoon challenge tends to be different. What I need is company. As a person who lives alone, I find it perpetually difficult to get enough contact with other people to sustain me. And the attempt requires more extroversion that I am naturally given, so answering that need may actually be an anti-Sabbath practice -- it drains more energy than it renews. What to do?

Today has represented a particularly potent edition of that challenge. I've fought it with phone calls and time spent online. I am also not above a little retail therapy -- I decided to buy, and paid for, an addition to my wardrobe of opening-night options. (I found it on eBay, Mom, so no, I didn't pay [shudder] retail!)

I'm trying not to fight it by distracting myself with work, a tendency I have really worked to change in recent years. But if I'm still lonesome this evening, I have the option to go down to the theatre and watch the third preview of the show I'm currently working on. I attended previews the last two nights, and they don't strictly need me tonight.

Last Sunday, by contrast, was full of social plans. After church I dashed up to Pasadena (note to self: during the next triple-digit heat wave, avoid Pasadena -- it was an oven) and had lunch with Dear Friend #1. Then I attended a matinee of a play, after which I met Dear Friend #2 for drinks and nibbles that lasted into the evening. Having every Sabbath afternoon be like that would be prohibitively expensive. But it wouldn't be lonely.

It also helps to make social plans for later. I'm solidifying plans with a friend to come down next Saturday, and I'm having two other couples over for dinner the following Friday. Knowing that awaits in the future also helps stave off loneliness in the present.

And what's interesting is, I don't have trouble being alone. I just have a surfeit of opportunity to exercise those skills. I need a better balance, and that is [expletive deleted] difficult to come by in this stage of my life.

Links to Tripp's and Cristopher's posts will appear here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

RPE complete

What do Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Isaac Stern and I all have in common?

We have now all played the Hollywood Bowl. :-)

Last night's performance of Boris Godunov seems to have gone well. The L.A. Times review is mixed -- and this reviewer almost always finds something nasty to say about Pacific Chorale, so no surprise -- but the audience seemed to have a good time.

I will confess, I'm looking forward to preparing music in an easier language than Russian. Next up is a program of Italian composers in November, so I expect it will be Latin and Italian texts, both refreshingly easy.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sabbath: Morning

When people of Christian background or persuasion think about the Sabbath, most of them tend to think of Sunday morning. It's the traditional time for group worship services, often followed by a special meal with family and friends.

As a person who stayed as far as possible from churches for about half my life, I rarely thought about Sunday morning as the Sabbath. When I was in graduate school, I did try to keep Sunday free from meetings or rehearsal commitments (usually a losing battle), but that had more to do with fighting physical fatigue and trying to defend time to keep up with my academic workload than it did with any spiritual impulse.

It still, frankly, bugs me that I go to church. I don't know whether or how I'll resolve that. But that's not really what this chapter is about.

With this chapter, Muller recommends and recounts different ways that people can use morning time to practice the Sabbath. He describes individual and family traditions ranging from verbal prayer to meditation to outdoor athletics to the "slotha yoga" he referred to in an earlier chapter.

There's nothing in the chapter that is especially revolutionary when taken on its own. What makes Muller's approach somewhat innovative is how broadly he answers the implied question "How can one celebrate or establish Sabbath in the morning?" Many people's answer would be "Go to church." Full stop. Muller brings much greater breadth of mind than that.

For me, the best way to ruin my day is to make me rush in the morning. Now, I tend to be on time for things. Since I'm singing in the choir at the Church of What's Happenin' Now, Northern Outpost, that means I need to be in the building by 9:30. So I let my alarm go off as early on Sundays as I do during the week, and that gives me time to arise somewhat slowly and gently, shower and dress, make a real breakfast (legacy from my father, who worked his way through college as a short-order cook and later established the practice of Sunday morning breakfast for my family, including the dog, who ate eggs and bacon with the rest of us) and clean up before I have to leave.

I wouldn't strictly count any of that as Sabbath in the spiritual or theistic sense. But it's damned healthy for me, whatever label you paste over it. And by the time the 10:00 service begins, I am alert and focused for whatever message that service may bring, and usually ready to pay good, loving attention to the people in the congregation.

I also think it helps to live someplace that is so remarkably beautiful in the morning. If I have the time and inclination, I can walk two blocks south from my apartment building and stand on the bluff overlooking the beach and the Pacific, passing gorgeous flower gardens and noting the neighborhood Buddhist monastery that stands on the corner by the ocean. (It used to be an RCC facility -- they still have a "Virgin Mary in the grotto" on the lawn.) And it is always sunny. It. Is. Always. Sunny. Just try to be grumpy in the morning after walking a couple of blocks in the cool, clear sunlight.

Thus endeth the Sabbath rambling for this week. Links here to Cristopher's and Tripp's posts, if and when.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Russian Peasant Extravaganza

Hereafter, the RPE.

The L.A. Philharmonic plays its summer season at the Hollywood Bowl -- which, as has been pointed out to me, was historic before the sports industry started calling playoff or championship games "bowls." To close this summer, they programmed a concert presentation of the opera Boris Godunov. Yes. The whole opera.

Since the group from the Pacific Chorale did such a good job with the "Alexander Nevsky" film score last spring, the Phil has rented us again -- this time more of us, about half of the Chorale's total forces. So for the past two weeks, 80 of us have labored mightily to learn the choral part of Godunov -- happily not too extensive and not very difficult musically, which freed us to apply all available brain cells to the fiendishly challenging Russian text.

This past Wednesday, at our most recent rehearsal, the singers started to get on top of the text. A few times, and more and more as the rehearsal went on, we were able to peel our eyes up off the page, start taking cues from the conductor, and sing as a group. Which is always a great feeling -- it's a large part of what I do this for.

A former boss of mine used to distinguish between feeling like you're driving the bus, and feeling like you're being dragged behind the bus. We had been dragged for several rehearsals, but this most recent one saw us taking some moments in the driver's seat.

The next rehearsal is tomorrow evening, even though it's a holiday. We'll troop up to Disney Hall to rehearse with our piano accompanist and the conductor who will lead the performance.
Here's hoping we remain in the driver's seat for that rehearsal.

We get together with the orchestra on Wednesday morning, rehearse with them and presumably with the opera soloists on Thursday morning, then perform Thursday night.

I'm thinking about what to do with Thursday afternoon, when I'll be up in L.A. with a few hours to spend. Maybe the L.A. County Museum of Art? or the Museum of Contemporary Art? or maybe I'll schedule another visit to M* and H* and see how baby G* is getting along -- they live right in the same neighborhood where the Bowl is located.