a little something extra

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the last Sabbath post

It's been a long time. The Sabbath book has gotten buried in the pile on my desk, been unearthed again, fallen off the desk a couple of times... I would say it's definitely time to put this project to bed.

Muller's final chapter is called "Leaving Sabbath Time." In it, he refers to the ritual conclusion of the Jewish sabbath, a ceremony called Havdalah. At Havdalah, a cup of spices is passed around whatever group or family is gathered. The spices serve to perfume the air, what Muller refers to as the "fragrance of rest." Since our sense of smell is so closely tied to our emotions, it's wise to use aroma to trigger and connect with feelings.

Here, the intended effect of the ritual and the fragrance is to create a smooth path down which one can figuratively walk, emerging from the protected time of sabbath into the working week. As the fragrance lingers, so does the physical and emotional sensation of rest that we can carry into our working days.

As many of you know, there were big wildfires this past week in southern California. None of them were near where I lived, but I could see the smoke and smell it at my workplace. Monday was terrible -- extremely hot and dry from the Santana winds, a bad day to have to live in a sensitive skin -- but Tuesday and Wednesday were really the worst times for the smoke. I sneezed and coughed in my office all day long, and my voice was gravelly and awful.

Thursday I had taken the day off, making up some time I had spent at work the previous weekend. That day the desert winds had tapered down and the air was noticeably clearer. And every once in a while, in my apartment two blocks from the beach, I was able to smell the salt of the sea again instead of just smelling smoke.

Now it's near the end of the weekend and the salt fragrance hangs readily in the air. It will be some time yet before our atmosphere is really clear, but our eyes are no longer smarting, and leaving the windows open no longer invites Dust Bowl-sized drifts to form in the corners of the sills.

It would be really nice to have time for a Sabbath nap this afternoon. But I have a commitment in the evening, and a ton of music prep to do before that. So I think it's time to eat something before I sit down at the (musical) keyboard and get to work, while the salty air washes around me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

flowers from the sky!

Tonight and tomorrow, singers from the choir of the Church of What's Happenin' Now, Northern Outpost are doing a little "evening at pops" type of concert. There are a couple of big choral numbers that involve everyone -- the finale from Sunday in the Park with George and the title song from Oklahoma! There are also some small ensembles from quintet to octet size, a duet or two, and several solos. It's all really for fun, but it's also a fund-raiser for the congregation's arts program -- the only person getting paid is the accompanist, who is worth every penny and many more pennies besides.

A couple of folks in the choir encouraged, nudged, prodded and asked me what I was going to do. And I dithered and worried for a good long time. Finally I realized that I was just scared about letting these folks know me more and get closer to me, and that that was stupid and uncalled for.

Ergo, I pulled up one of the maxims by which I live my life:
This alarms me! Therefore I must DO it!

[Disclaimer: this maxim only gets applied to things that are legal and not too terribly dangerous.]

So I prepared a solo, a piece from the musical Wicked called "I'm Not That Girl," and put it in the program. We ran through most of the program last night during the choir's ordinary rehearsal time, moving from the sanctuary where we practiced the piece we will sing in the service this Sunday and going to the room where the cabaret is being held. It's a nice big space with a gallery that runs around three sides.

My song is on the second half of the program, after I've done a small ensemble and one of the big choral works, so I'm nice and comfortable in the room and warmed up. But last night we rehearsed out of order, so I was not so much nice and comfortable. However, some of the other singers were around to be a proto-audience, which was helpful.

So tonight, we had a nice crowd for the first performance, and things went well. I was pretty happy with how the solo turned out, and at the end I acknowledged the friendly applause with a little bow.

Then, WHUMP! A wrapped bouquet of yellow lilies, little white mums and evergreen landed on the floor in front of me -- surprising me and the people in the front row of the audience in about equal measure.

I found out afterwards, it was one of the other singers who had stayed last night to rehearse, who had decided that the song and the performance merited this. So he snuck up to the gallery and waited there, then tossed the flowers down. What a sweet gesture! Then he did it again for the next singer, a guy who performed "All I Need is the Girl" from Gypsy. So he's an equal-opportunity flower-thrower.

I got to thank him for the lovely gesture after the show was over. And tomorrow night, I've recruited a couple of other singers to wait with me up in the gallery, to toss down roses when he does his solo in the first half of the program.

What can I tell you? Paybacks are hell... :-)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

on the plane of aspiration

I'm on the roster to sing the Mozart Requiem with the Pacific Symphony later this fall. We get very little rehearsal time for this piece, so everybody on the roster is expected to be competent with the notes, rhythms and texts before our first get-together.

I sang in a workshop of the Requiem with Maestro Robert Shaw back when I was still an undergrad. We had to purchase our scores for that workshop, and I still have mine. So last week I bought a CD of the Requiem and dug out my score to begin my homework.

When I reached the last page of the score, I discovered that on the blank facing page I had written down a handful of quotable quotes that Maestro Shaw dropped on us that day. Since many of my small group of readers are or have been singers, and Ben and Wanda sang with Shaw before he died, I thought you might enjoy reading them. Here they are...

God loves right notes.

The conductor is just a necessary evil.

Some quarter notes are longer than others.

Melodies are notes looking for a place to rest... consequently one sings their energy quality.

If we had three legs, our marches would be waltzes.

It'll hurt your voice, but it'll be great for your mind.

Make the diminuendo especially contagious... like a terrible disease.

Great music meets great text on the plane of aspiration.

The function of music is to make time meaningful.

The page is dated October 20, 1990. Eeep.