Saturday night was one of the best evenings of my life. My husband and I celebrated Valentine’s Day early. He bought me flowers, we dressed up and went to a fancy restaurant, and then we went to hear Renee Fleming live in concert. Now, in case you don’t know, Renee Fleming is a goddess, and my favourite (living) Soprano (my favourite Soprano of the past is Maria Callas, if you were wondering). Renee is first and foremost an opera singer, but she has also branched out into some other genres such as Jazz and Indie. You probably know her best from the soundtrack of the Lord of the Rings.
Her concert performance was breathtakingly gorgeous. She was a goddess, but at the same time so human. After the concert she came out to meet her fans, take pictures, and sign autographs, and guys, I met Renee Fleming!!
She kindly signed her autobiography for me and smiled for a picture. I told her she was an inspiration, and she said, “You’re a singer.” Guys, Renee Fleming called me a singer (granted there was a tiny bit of a question mark in there). That makes it official: I’m a singer (I told her, yes, I was).
In the words of Anne Shirley, this marks an epoch in my life.
2 years ago I bought a lovely upright piano. It had a lovely tone and I loved playing it. But when I moved to my apartment we weren’t able to get it up the stairs. So I very sadly gave it to a friend.
I looked and looked for a lightweight keyboard, but I couldn’t find one that I actually liked. Fast forward to this past Monday, when I checked Craigslist on a whim, and there it was: my piano. I contacted the seller and we set an appointment to meet. He was lovely, the piano was even lovelier, and we quickly settled on a price.
Off I scurried to get money and some blankets so I could transport my piano (My Piano!!!) safely. The seller showed me how to take the keyboard off the attached stand and helped to load it in the car (there was a moment in there where I accidentally dropped a piece of the stand because I was trying to be careful. If I had just done the normal thing and set it on the ground we wouldn’t have had a problem. C’est la vie) and then I was off with my piano! Hooray!
On Friday night and Saturday morning of last week the music students at my studio performed in several student recitals. They had been working on their music for weeks and months. Time that could have been spent playing or hanging out with friends was spent reviewing songs over and over and over again.
I couldn’t be more proud of them. They worked so hard. They were courageous to stand in front of a crowd of people and make music. They make me proud to be a music teacher.
Ok, so now that I’ve talked about how Christmas is not about stuff, here are some of the things I received from friends and family. It was a good Christmas.
My mom gave me a gift card so I could buy exactly what yarn I wanted.
Also, this, which she picked out for me. My mother knows me well. Thank you, mom.
My littlest sister, whom I taught how to knit, came full circle by knitting me a hat. The best part – she needed help to finish it, so I was given an unfinished project. My knitterly heart was ecstatic!
My sister the artist made me an Evenstar pendent based on the Lord of the Rings.
A good friend gave me this. I am so excited to add it to my tree.
This is from my lovely boss at the music studio: Thank you for a wonderful year of teaching!
And the Piece de Resistance: Look what my wonderful boyfriend gave me! He picked it out himself and I love it so much! ❤ ❤
One of the unalterable truths about life is that things do not always go the way we want them to.
This past Friday evening the studio where I teach voice put on a Christmas recital. I sang in it, and some of my students sang. It’s funny how you get more nervous about your students’ performances than your own. You want them to go so well and be such a good experience for them. This was not.
My first student is such a dear. She reminds me of myself in a lot of ways. Unfortunately I had thoughtlessly placed the microphone in the wrong spot and when she got up to sing she got a huge amount of feedback. It jangled her nerves so badly that she cried later. I was so proud of her for going on with the performance. I don’t know if I would have been so brave at her age.
My second student did fabulously, bless her, but then my third had microphone issues, and could barely be heard.
What do you do when life doesn’t go as planned? How do you help a little person learn to pick up the pieces and go on? Sometimes being a teacher is really hard. Because I’m not just teaching voice. I’m teaching these kids about life, about how to be themselves and be proud of that, and about how to be a better person. And sometimes teachers have to teach things we’re still learning ourselves.
In the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, “Cinderella,” the leading lady sings a song about how wonderful the ball was. Of course, she can’t let her stepmother and sisters know that she really went, so she sings as if she were imagining what happened. How clever of her.
I had a lovely night of my own. Unlike Cinderella, it did not involve meeting Prince Charming, but I can live with that. This evening I had the pleasure of good music. I still live near my Alma Mater, and the choir that I was a part of for 2 years performed Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living. Dan Forrest is a genius, and I was privileged to study theory under him a few years ago. To hear his music come alive was an uplifting experience. I love requiems. The last few years have seen a lot of deaths in my family, and it can be so hard to grieve and to let go. A requiem lets you do that: “Grant them peace, Lord, and may eternal light shine on them.” But so many requiems focus only on the pain of loss. Forrest’s acknowledges the misery of separation, but focuses on the fact that we do not need to despair. God is a good God who in the end does give rest. But to be attain this rest you have to admit that you cannot find it yourself. Only God can give true peace.
Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
So begins the Verdi Requiem. Over 200 musicians have banded together at my university to perform this beautiful work.
A requiem is about death. Many people have written them, many more have enjoyed them, wept through them, and come out more whole. Death is a universal phenomenon. We cannot escape it. And so there will always be mourning on this earth. Several years ago my father and brother were killed in a 4-wheeling accident. As you may imagine, it has not been an easy time for my family as we have struggled to continue with our lives. But with God’s help we are moving on. I have come to realize that the pain never really goes away. You learn to live with it just like you learn to live with back pain or chronic headaches. But there is something healing about acknowledging that the pain is there and praying for it to be relieved. That is what the Verdi Requiem is to me. I am so grateful for a chance to sing this for my loved ones.
And the best part is that I know they are in heaven and that when my turn comes to die I will see them again.
You know, almost every musician who has ever lived has tried to write his own music. No matter how wonderful and glorious the works of his favourite composers, there is something – some music – inside him that just wants to get out. Now the music may not be very good, especially at first, but it is his. And that, to him, gives it great value.
Today I began the task of transcribing my ideas into Finale, a computer program specifically created for music notation. While the task can be boring and tedious it is also illuminating as I remember my creations of yesteryear. Most of them came to me in a flash and I scrambled for pencil, paper, anything to get them down before the muse left and I forgot. I had little time for rhythm and key. I told myself I would remember it. Maybe…
So wish me luck. I may uncover a jewel! Or at least be inspired to finish some of my projects.
This week was busy. Between opera, Valentines day, and an awesome concert featuring the American Spiritual Ensemble, I think a lot of us here on campus are just plain tuckered out. Oh, but I forgot to tell you about the American Spiritual Ensemble!! The short of it: They were stinkin’ amazing!!!!!
The ASE is a group of professional vocalists – many of them opera singers – who band together to keep the Negro Spiritual alive. Founder and Director Everett McCorvey explained that the Negro Spiritual was the folk music of the African-American slaves, but that this piece of history is being lost. He founded the group several years ago, and they have since risen to international fame and acclaim. They sing spirituals, broadway pieces, and jazz in addition to the largely classical repertoires of the individual performers.
And my choir got to sing with them in 2 of their songs. Talk about amazing! Talk about an opportunity!!
To me one of the best things about getting to meet and interact with them was just to see how many of them are opera singers. It’s so easy as a college student studying voice to get discouraged and think you’ll never be able to make it in the professional music world. But these people brought hope to my heart: there really are opera singers out there!! And people really do pay them to sing 😀
Sometimes it just seems a bit too much. Then I have to echo the words to Leonard Bernstein’s song, “I hate music.”
I hate music, but I like to sing La, la, la, la, la, la, la, laaaa! But that’s not music! Not what I call MUSIC, no sir!
Music is a lot of men with a lot of tails making lots of noise like a lot of females Music is a lot of folks in a big dark hall where they really don’t want to be at all with a lot of chairs and a lot of heirs and a lot of furs and diamonds! Music is silly
I hate music…but I like to sing
And then I hear a wonderful song or symphony or concerto, and the love all comes back to me and I remember: I really do love music after all. But that would still be a fun song to sing. Just for shock value, you know?