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  • Writer's pictureSt. Joseph Parish

Practicing To Be Paul VII (11/27)

Excuse me for shouting, but its true. All of a sudden, it seems, the end of the semester has arrived, the student concerts are stacking up like cordwood, and we are all going nuts!! In the midst of all this, on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, we buried one of my uncles. I know, that’s a heck of a thing. He is the last of, who we cousins called the “Cool American Uncles.” He was one who treated us kids like real people. He talked with us, played with us, just was a real mensch to us as we were growing up. He, my Dad and Uncle Leonard. There were a couple in Canada as well, and there is only one left up there. For reference, my mother was the second of 10, so there were PLENTY of uncles to go around. When I was at the Wake on Wednesday, I was standing there with two of my cousins, Barbara (Uncle Leonard and Aunty Doris [1st of 10]) and Lizabeth (Uncle Louie [4th of 10] and Aunty Pat) and Lizabeth suddenly realized that we, the 27 or so cousins, are now taking over the place of our uncles and aunts. Yeah..Captain Obvious there. So there you go….not for the first time has our holiday season started on a maudlin, well maybe not MAUDLIN exactly, but started with a bit of a damper on it.

But on to better things……

Thanksgiving found me staying here in town. I made the Thanksgiving dinner for my housemates Merih (from Turkey) and Ricardo (From San Antonio, TX), Maggie (landlady) and her friend from China Susan. Susan is visiting this country because she is interested in Maggie’s educational program called Learning to Learn. It is really cool, aimed principally at minority/poverty schools, and is very successful in the areas where it has been tested or implemented. So what did we have…..Turkey (14.25 pounds), meat stuffing, rice stuffing, cranberry/apple sauce, whipped sweet potatoes, carrots, white potatoes, a mix of veggies that were sauteed that included snow peas, red, yellow and orange sweet peppers, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and a few other things I don’t recall, salad, and for dessert a choice of blueberry, apple and pecan pies. Just a quick little something I whipped up. Realistically, it took me 4 and a half hours from start to finish. The only thing that was NOT prepared at home were the pies.

A quick note about the cranberry/apple sauce. I was on my way home Wednesday night when I suddenly realized that I did not get any regular jellied cranberry sauce. This was okay with me since I find it way too sugary anyway. I had bought 2 small containers of cranberries and had three apples in the fridge, so I cut up the apples, tossed in the cranberries, added a bit of water so it wouldn’t scorch, and was about to add the candied ginger when I realized that, you guessed it, I didn’t have any!! Oh yeah….I was also going to add a bit of lemon, but didn’t have any of that either. I do, however, really enjoy ginger and lemon tea, so I took two tea bags of lemon/ginger tea, and two tea bags of ginger tea, tied the strings together and threw them in. For the most part it worked out fine. For the most part…did you notice that? Yeah….one of the tea bags burst like an over ripe melon. When it was all done, and I had added the sugar I need to make it just right, I fished out the strings, and only THREE bags came out., So I kept trawling for the fourth and all I kept finding was this weird 2 inch long something or other. About the fourth time it came up I suddenly realized that THIS was the tea bag, or what was left of it. I can hear the hysterics in the background….yup, it really happened, I am not making this up. So be careful if you ever decide to do something like this. Make sure those bags are well sealed, or make a very concentrated couple of cups of tea and add that liquid to the pan.

The meal was great, low key, and we are still eating some of the leftovers today, Monday. With the bones from the bird, and some pre-made broth and a bit of extra water, I made some soup broth and froze it in small containers. It is going to be great.


This week I am in two concerts. Both of them take place at 8 p.m. in Pickman Concert Hall, 27 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA.

Tuesday, November 27 is the Music Concert in Pickman Hall, 27 Garden Street. There are two student composers who invited a number of us singers to be a part of this. For some reason not many of the folks want to be a part of this. I can kind of understand this, but only kind of. Granted it is crunch time, and so our time is precious. BUT, it is also a time for us to support one another in all kinds of our efforts, no matter what. So, I am in Golden String  and Abiogenesis. Please don’t ask, I have no idea. If there are any die-hard musicians out there who want a copy, I’ll ask Jered and Michael if I can scan and send the music.

Friday, November 30 is the class concert for 17th Century Concerted Vocal Music (mostly Monteverdi). In fact, only a few things that we are doing are by Monteverdi. Here is the proposed concert:

Tota pulchra es Rognoni Taeggio

Angelus Frescobaldi

Sinfonia Salamon Rossi

Elohim Rossi

Beatus Vir Monteverdi

Sonata Paolo Cima

Ave Maris Stella Monteverdi* (proposed: see attachments)


La Monteverde Merula

Canzon 12, a doi tenore Bartolomeo

Canzon 6 L’alcenagina Banchieri

Scherzo GC Monteverdi

E ben ragion Caimo

Toccata Frescobaldi

Ancor che col partire Cipriano

Divisions on Ancor Rognoni

Zefiro torna Monteverdi

Romanesca Frescobaldi

Torna il zefiro D’India

Quel Squardo Monteverdi

Pur ti miro Monteverdi

Sonata 10 from bk 2 Castello

Volgendo Monteverdi

In fact, I think the only change so far has been to switch around a couple of items in the second half. All of us in the class, well, 10 of the 12 of us (NOT the two violin players) have a program notes assignment for this. Mine was the settings of the sacred texts. Dana, our teacher, tried to convince me to sing the Seneca soliloquy from Poppea, but I declined. Evidently a number of folks were disappointed. She was ripping mad, but like I told her, (1) I am not an Early Music major, so this is not about me; (2) I was there to be the bass for the choir stuff; (3) I need to (want to) support the kids who ARE Early Music majors and who are doing this as, quite possibly, a career; (4) I have several other opportunities to do solo work, i.e., Art Song class, Opera Workshop class, Diction class, Vocal Seminar (I think).Even if not the last, the others are plenty enough for me. Let the kids really enjoy this. Besides, if next semester’s program works out right, I will bein the Bach Cantata class, and we are going to be doing his Easter Cantata, which starts, or features, #4, Christ Lag in Todesbanden. This one has a great bass solo in it, and I will be MORE than willing to really polish that up for performance!

Friday December 14 during class time we will have the Art Song class concert. I will be doing Francis Poulenc’s Chanson a Boire, from the Chansons Gaillard (Ribald Songs). It is great, and loads of fun. Unlike the other songs, which are mostly love songs, this one is about some workers who lament the foolishness of the Egyptian and Syrian kings who wanted their bodies embalmed (mummified). The text is,in translation:

The kings of Egypt and Syria wanted to have their bodies embalmed so that they would last longer after death.

What folly (foolishness)!

Let us embalm ourselves now, we must drink and drink some more.

Let us drink our lives away so that we can embalm ourselves.

This embalming is sweet.

The kings of Egypt and Syria wanted to have their bodies embalmed so that they would last longer after death.

The musical setting begins with seven, I believe it is, measures of introduction, sounding like something between a drunken camel walking, and solemn something or another.

Tuesday December 18 I believe is the date for our Opera Workshop Class concert. We are going to be staging a number of scenes from operas by Handel,  Monteverdi, Mozart, Menotti and a bunch of other famous dead white guys whose names I don’t recall. This promised to be really cool. As I have mentioned before, I am in Menotti’s The Medium, the seance scene from near the beginning of the work. Really cool, really weird. It is on YouTube. There is an excellent production by Columbia U, who had commissioned the work in 1940’s. The whole opera is only an hour or so long, 2 acts (or scenes) and loads of emotional baggage. There are very few performers in it: Baba (also known as Madame Flora), Mr and Mrs Gobineau, Mrs Nolan, Monica, and Toby, a silent role, so 5 sung roles. Just in case you can’t figure it out, I play (sing?) Mr. Gobineau.

I think that’s it for performances in which I sing.

Now to catch you up on other things going on….so I went to a concert here at school one night. I wish I had stayed home. Anyway, one of my classmates was staffing the admissions desk, and I walked up to her and I says to her I says, “Do you prefer Caroline or Carolyn.” And without losing a beat, because she is that good a musician, she looks at me and she says to me she says, “Beth.” Okey dokey…..just in case you were wondering I have NOT lost my way with words. Mind you,they look NOTHING alike. The only things they have in common are: they are both women, they both have dark brown hair and brown eyes. That’s it. Caroline has a very round head, Beth’s is narrow and rectangular; Caroline wears her hair down, and Beth almost always has it in a pony tail. Because of their head shape difference, of course, eye distance, etc. are all different. And, most importantly, Beth is more connected to her personality, and Caroline puts on airs. I would love to get behind that, but it is none of my business, I am happy to say.

So, what else…when the “perfect storm” came through a few weeks ago, a tree in our backyard was traumatized. It has three trunks, and one of them cracked off, just as I was telling my housemates about watching a giant pine tree fall over. As I finished the story we heard a loud crack and crash noise. We looked out the back window, and this limb fell down parallel to the line of the house. The only damage was to the fence between our yard and the next one. We really lucked out. Had this thing tracked a little more towards the line of houses, it would have broken windows and the porch three houses down. It sounds like a longer distance than it is. Don’t forget, the place where I live is in a line of townhouses, one room wide, two rooms deep, and three floors high. I really hate this set up. The yard in back is minuscule, hardly big enough to whirl a big dog around, about three or four steps deep and three wide. Ick. The “snow fall” we got a couple of weeks ago, Storm Athena was it called, was all of 2 or 3 inches at most, and lasted all of 24 hours, give or take.

Some time ago, I think I told you all about having auditioned for the choir at St. Paul’s Church, Harvard Square. It is the chaplaincy for Harvard U and the other colleges and universities around. They have a killer music program, as it is the home of the Boston Archdiocesan Boys Choir. Well, I was told to email the pastor about the paperwork (CORI) and other things, and I did. After a month or more I did it again, and I still have NOT heard from him. This week I plan on calling him, making an appointment and telling him just what I think of him about this. To add insult to injury, this past weekend I saw a new face in the choir! This stings. I was  going to use a different word. Those of you who know me well can easily enough imagine what word I would like to use!

This coming Christmas season, it looks like I won’t have a place to sing, so I will be able to join my family for Christmas with no problem. I am going to go to a few of the Lessons and Carols services in the area, and perhaps a few other productions. We’ll see.

Honestly, I really think this is about it! A fairly short, for me, letter this time, most likely because I’ve forgotten a few things to add to the mix.

I hope all of you had a good Thanksgiving, and that as we approach the Christmas holidays all will be well with you and your loved ones.


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