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  • Writer's pictureSt. Joseph Parish

Practicing To Be Paul IX (1/12) – My Grades Are In!

Grades came in today….I GOT A THREE POINT FIVE!!!!! Yes,ladies and gentlemen, a 3.5 for this old curmudgeon. Well, curmudgeon anyway. I was thrilled, as you may be able to tell. I suppose like all students waiting for grades, I was a bit concerned about one or another of my courses. Actually, it was the grade for Basic Diction. I got a 3.0 for that one. All the others were B+ and up. Now that I know what it takes to get this, I know what I have to do to up things a bit. More work, obviously, more elbow grease, more practice time..more…..just more! And,as I have been saying right along, I really am having fun!

The week that my “exams” finished, I was hired by a church to be the bass section leader. I may have written about this before. Well, it is turning out to be quite curious indeed. When I sent Oksana my musical resume, she was really worried that I wouldn’t want to sing with them. Well, like I told her, this is a church choir, not a real performance group, so whatever we do is what we do. I have to hand it to them, they really are rising to the occasion. Two Sundays ago Oksana sneakily had us sing a verse of a very nice piece at Communion a capella, and when she came back in with the organ accompaniment they were spot on in tune! Very impressive for a church choir. As it turns out, she has been working there for three years and has steadily been upping the ante on what they do. I’ve spoken to and listened to a couple of choir members and they love what she is doing with them. And they really like her on top of it all, so as you can tell, they will do anything for her because she makes them believe that they CAN do it. For Christmas Midnight Mass (which was actually at midnight!) we did the choral part of O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion from Handel’s Messiah, and they did a pretty good job of it. We are currently working on a couple of nice pieces my Michael Joncas and another person, much in the style of John Rutter. Nice stuff, over all.

Classes this semester are already turning out to be a challenge…in a good way! Department Seminar is what it is…perform something from memory from one’s repertoire and be prepared to be coached IN DETAIL for about 15 or so minutes. It is amazing what can happen in what seems on the outside to be such a short time. When one is in the hot seat, it is a lifetime or three.

Musicianship for singers right now the challenge for this is trying to discover the room it is going to be in! I picked up my schedule and most of my classes have room umber assigned to them. This is one of 2 exceptions. I am hoping that he (I think it is a “he,” as this person is Japanese and I don’t know how to tell gender by names. For example, one of my classmates is from Japan, and the name is Masafumi……male or female? Well, it is male.Who knew!?!?! So,this class is supposed to be about the essentials of good musicianship including counting, I am going to presume sight-reading skills, some solfege, and who knows.

Diction is also one of those “It is what it is.” We are going to be starting with German. Ick. Since we sing a piece in this language, I am going to resurrect the Schwanengesang pieces that I worked on in ’05 when I started this whole project of voice lessons. Maybe Doppelganger or Am See or Die Stadt….I’m not sure which one yet. Also we need one for the finals. Then we will be working on English, so I will do the Britten stuff that I know fairly well, settings of Folk Songs like O Waly Waly, Ash Grove, and there is always Greensleeves.

IF I do audit the Bach project, Cantata #4, Christ Lag in Todesbanden, that will be my only class on Wednesday. Having the chance for a totally free day in the middle of the week……VERY tempting.

EEP this semester is finalizing my project with a mentor and putting it out there for the public. Since I already know what I want to do, who I want for my mentor, I need right now to start to craft the text for the presentations. Since I was never quite able to be “paper trained” for preaching this should be a real adventure!

Art Song Repertoire is going to be more than interesting! Not only are we going to be doing Italian, like I thought, but we will also be working on Spanish, Russian, and other Eastern European languages! Holy catfish…..I’ve already sung in Russian, Ukrainian and Old Church Slavonic for the Byzantine Liturgy, so that is sort of covered, and I speak Spanish fairly well and have sung in it a number of times so that shouldn’t be much of a problem, he says with much bravado he almost feels, AND, not only that but, the organist/choir director where I am singing is from Moscow!! So good for me, right? I also took the liberty of sticking my foot in it but good in this class. I wrote to the 2 prof’s who are heading this up about my linguistic experience here, and received a nice reply about how this will indeed help in assigning pieces (what the heck did I do that for??) and I might be called on to double-check translations. So you see, this is proof positive that wisdom does NOT necessarily come with age, because by now I should know better than to do this sort of thing. Oy….

Brahms Sing Cycles I have practically speaking NO experience with this, so this is going to be one of those “from the ground up” kinds of classes. I emailed Jane Struss about this and she suggested a cycle for me to look at with my voice teacher.

Aside from voice lesson I think this pretty much covers the coming semester.

Other niceties: well, I was able to go to my brother’s house for Christmas Day dinner, and had to leave early because I was sick to my stomach. What happened was this… last exam was Tuesday, 18 December, and my first rehearsal with St Francis choir was Monday, 17 December, so it was a constant run on nervous energy and adrenaline for about two weeks solid. That takes a toll. It all came crashing down on my wee little naked noggin at my brother’s house. mI did something I NEVER do what I am visiting…I fell asleep. And I mean sound asleep. In the middle of a conversation. With our sister’s mother-in-law. Thankfully she found it amusing. What I woke up, startled at what I had done she very energetically said, “Good morning, sleepy head!” I hate people who are chipper first thing int he morning, even if it’s at 4 in the afternoon. I was really sick to my stomach so I had to beg off dinner and come back. I was given a “doggie bag” to take home to eat, which was really nice. New Year’s Day I went to a friend of a friend’s open house. We had to leave after 2 hours because I was starting to have an anxiety attack because of my agoraphobia (can’t deal with crowds). My friend Chris looked at me in the middle of a conversation and asked me if I wanted to get going as I looked like I was a bit overwhelmed. Oh yeah, take that one to the bank! So we left sooner, I think, than he really wanted to.

December 21…the world didn’t end (Thank you Captain Obvious). Darned. That means I have to repay my student loans!!! Crap! But I will be able to continue my classes. Good! So it all evens out in the end. Our little household here continues to go along very nicely, we still like each other, talk nice when we are together, and all that good stuff. Winter continues to elude us here in Eastern Mass. My friends in Franklin County got hammered with 12 to 18 inches of snow, and we got ALMOST 2 inches. Most of it melted almost right away because, believe it or not, the ground really hasn’t frozen up really solid. When you get right down to it, it is not that surprising since cities are heat sinks, and I am in Greater Boston, there isn’t a whole lot of green space and a there is a whole lot of asphalt, etc. So…..right now we have NO snow, LOTS of rain (which I find obnoxious as all get out) and street construction is still ongoing…IN JANUARY if you please. I’m telling you, it might just as well be April.

So right now that’s all there is. Just more and more of the same, and looking forward to classes starting up again next week. I can’t wait for Spring to get here! It might as well since Winter doesn’t seem to be very interested in showing up. Yet.


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