Saturday, September 17, 2016

What I Did Last Summer

This summer I took upon myself the climbing of a metaphorical mountain.  Climbing real mountains doesn't appeal to me so much as tackling artistic monuments, even if, as an amateur, it is only to breathe its rarefied air for a moment. 

My goal was to reach the summit of Chopin's Nocturne Opus 48 No. 1, demanding stamina and technique that would be enormously challenging. Well, all I wanted to do was at least try to get a glimpse at its majesty. It is described by some as the greatest and noblest of the nocturnes.

Base Camp

Spent a long time here getting my bearings and gathering prayer flags of those who had gone before me.

It's a musical mountain of crashing chords and sublime sonority, of textural treasures that traverse from high to low in an instant.

Necessary equipment for getting to the summit:   a clock... a metronome....

.... a keepsake photo showing my first attempts at scaling the heights.....

My pack-horse?   A leather padded and adjustable bench built for comfort and endurance that carried my weight through the arduous climb.

Crampons for footholds?   The brass pedals helped with shaping nuances as only Chopin could imagine.

My sherpa?  None other than longtime expert guide Kathi Kurtzman.

Listen to how a great artist such as Valentina Lititsa interprets the piece.  Perhaps in another incarnation, I can play like her!

Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Paris, France

Chopin died too young at the age of 39.  Here, at his grave, daily visitors from all over the world bear witness to his ability to plumb our deepest emotions through his heavenly music. Lucky for me to share his birthday and  for him to be born again every time I play his music! Happily, there are many more musical masterpieces of his to muster!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Notes from Flanders: Voice Lessons

Notes from Flanders: Voice Lessons: So the song I'm singing now is a song of spring. Like a bird, I can attempt to slide up and down the scale, or chirp the same note ...

Voice Lessons

So the song I'm singing now is a song of spring. Like a bird, I can attempt to slide up and down the scale, or chirp the same note on consecutive phrases.  What tune might this be, you would ask? None other than "Mi chiamano Mimi" from La Boheme by Puccini. Specifically, the lyrics midway are:

guardo sui tetti e in cielo;
ma quando vien lo sgelo il primo sole e mio
il primo bacio dell'aprile e mio!
il primo sole e mio!

I look over the roofs and into the sky,
but when comes the thaw the first sun is mine
the first kiss of April is mine!
the first sun is mine!

Sounds a little like me, me, and mine, but I guess that's why they call her Mimi.  Still, I like the poetic concept.  The birds now are greeting the dawn an hour in advance with their songs, and I've spotted many a one singing their little hearts out perched on the highest branch of a tree. Their repertoires are complex and gloriously uplifting, and like a opera, generally about love and boundaries.

Not content to be a passive listener to these arias,  a few years ago I thought I would give it a go of trying it out myself.  The idea of finding my authentic voice was appealing, as it was with my first cry when born. Unfortunately, this primordial pleasure is frequently corrupted by self-consciousness and shame as one leaves childhood behind. 

Taking time to twitter is as vital to one's soul as any art.  The ultimate in luxury is a private voice lesson, when your very own teacher focuses exclusively on your vocal folds as if under a microscope. With a piano accompaniment,  a beautiful melody, and personal participation, where is there more bliss?

Listen in to a talented soprano being coached "Mi chiamano Mimi" by Maria Callas:

Great singers make it seem effortless, and my operatic career will have to wait for another reincarnation. Still, I fantasize about groups of friends sharing song together as was common years ago for entertainment, simply for the fun of it. As a true amateur (translates as lover), I do it for love rather than for money.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Petition For Postmen

After a nice respite from the rain Fourth of July weekend, we are now experiencing one more hurricane caliber storm.  The poor postman requires a new wardrobe in addition to the summer shorts and pith helmet already in circulation.  I am proposing the following attire in response to the extremely wet conditions that they have had to endure for the past few weeks:

Blue swimming trunks with requisite black stripe.

Adult size blue floaties.

Blue flippers.
 Flip flops optional. Goggle issues are in the works  and will be available shortly.

Friday, July 3, 2015

More Showers Expected Today

After the wettest June on record in our small geographical area of the world, it seems redundant to step into the small glass box in my home and turn on the shower in order to get wet.  Would it not make more sense, in terms of saving water, to simply step outside with my soap and shampoo?

The latest storm was a real drencher with sheets of side-way shower jets hard enough to take the skin off your back.  If you wanted a real pelting, you could stay out for the cold sequence of hail to pummel the knots of your neck. And another bonus of those marble-sized pellets would be to simply hold out a glass to collect for a post-immersion cocktail. 

This tedious weather reminds me of a slogan from years ago during a drought that encouraged the population to save water.  The government slogan "Shower With a Friend" was one suggestion. More recently, "Pee In the Shower" (instead of the toilet) was popular and highly promoted in Brazil, but that's for another story.

The smart thing to do would be to develop and invest in residential rooftop reservoirs.  Seems crazy to drain water from the Mississippi, treat it in facilities, and charge for it!  Certainly no need for irrigation sprinklers right now.  If anything, my garden is drenched by my overflowing pond, in addition to the overhead daily downpours.

Takes me back to a fun and fond memory many years ago of bobbing around the British Virgin Islands; bare boating with some friends while crisscrossing from island to island.  As anyone knows, fresh water on board ship is a valuable commodity, and not to be wasted on long and luxurious showers.  One must rinse off the salt water residue quickly and not linger or languor.

One particular alcohol-fueled night on deck was most unforgettable. After dinner and while enjoying cocktails, a huge head of dark clouds developed on the horizon.  Watching a storm from a distance is like watching an action thriller, but watch out, it's on you before you know it!  We all retired to the cabin to continue our partying, when one particularly astute mate, Susan, had a eureka moment and yelled "Shampoo!"  Not a one of us hesitated to comprehend the brilliance of this exhortation, and all hands were immediately on deck. Clothing was shed as shampoo was administered lavishly, and it was overboard for a thorough rinse, and then on board again for a final rinse with rain. I have to admit, all inhibitions were literally cast aside due to the deprivations we had become so used to over two weeks time. 

The deluge subsided, and we retired, once again below deck to pick up our party where we had left off.  And then...once again, the gentle drops above turned to a full wash cycle.  Susan didn't miss her cue in hollering "Cream Rinse!".  Crew and captain mustered once more to the deck so as to complete a very satisfying outdoor salon session.

So what I would like to suggest, is to make the most of this misery, and take the plunge so to speak.  It could be a fun neighborhood experience; one could also throw in washing the car, the dog, or even the laundry while we're at it! And the streets and sewers will be squeaky clean and fresh smelling to boot. Ahoy, mateys, it's a brave new world!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Cleaning

Today was a fulfilling day of filling bookshelves starved for attention.  Here were built-in bookcases put in by the client, but sorely underutilized for their purpose in life! My homework for the clients was to corral all things of interest.  There was no dearth of great hardbound books, what with both clients being teachers.


When I asked the client if she happened to have any rocks, to my amazement, she showed me several nice specimens from her grandmother - a real treasure trove!  There were also some fabulous ashtrays from the 50's.

Leather bound books were rescued from the basement, and curious objects that hadn't seen the light of day in years were dusted and washed.  There wasn't a single thing purchased to make these shelves come to life!

After - left side

There are no rules really in regards to bookshelves;  each instance may present varying factors to consider.  Here, I chose to intersperse the books with the clients' personal possessions, instead of wall to wall books.  As I was taught by a librarian, the books are brought flush with the front of the shelves. 

After - right side

The now smiling shelves are ready to welcome the new furnishings yet to arrive.  A fresh  spring look for  dear old friends!