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  • Writer's pictureSt. Joseph Parish

Practicing to be Paul, Vol. II

Here’s Fr. Paul’s first email from School.“All these kids!!!” was heard to be muttered from time to time by yours truly. And all that energy, too, all of it wasted on these little kids who have no idea what to do with it. Okay,maybe they do, but still! Tuesday began the process, and what a process. I forgot, of course it has been 30 plus years since I was a new student, how deadly it could be. Luckily it wasn’t. It was long,though. The morning session started with a mini-recital/concert by a baritone who did the “Catalogo” from Don Giovanni, and a very good job it was,too. Except for the two times when his voice cracked. Yeah, and yours truly was the only one who had to just about keep a white knuckle death grip on his mouth and nose so as not to guffaw. Nice job the kid did, too. He was a very good actor as well as singer, and really hammed up the comment, “e in espana mil e tre (and is Spain, one thousand and three).” Then we had cello and piano piece by some famous composer I don’t remember who. The gal played extremely well…let me see, it was an adagio and allegro….anyway, she got a rousing applause, and then the presentations began. First we heard from our president Karen Zorg. Yup, that’s really her name. Cool lady. She told us all about the marriage of Longy with Bard College in Annondale-on-Hudson, NY and how important it is for both schools, the new opportunities that come as a result. These opportunities include working with the LA Symphony, a charter school in LA, one in the Bronx, a new campus for both schools in Berlin…the one in Germany, not CT or NH, a new collaboration with a concert series in Boston as well as a new competition called “Young Voices” (guess that leaves me out!) and some other things as well that I don’t recall because that was Tuesday and this is Saturday. We had some kind of presentations from our Dean of Students Weyman Chin, and I think a couple of other people, then the closing concert/recital for the first session of the “Convocation.” This was first, voice (Soprano) and guitar, three of the Five Quiet Songs by…some cool composer, and then a very jazzy piece called “Brian’s Boogie” (or bounce, or some other thing like that) for clarinet and electric guitar. At the beginning and end the guitarist had to put a credit/debit card between the strings which made a very effective mute, and when he pulled it out at the end he made it strum the strings. These also got a very rousing applause. We had a 15 or 20 minute break, and then session two when we were introduced to a bunch of people who run the place. Most of these were introduced and then left the stage in  a group, which was okay. Then lunch, which was free pizza. Oy vey… everywhere! This is one of my trigger foods so I took a couple of pieces and then went outside. I walked around for a bit, just enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, ran into Elijah, who I met and befriended (sort of) at auditions. He was talking with one of the profs, Dana Maiben (early strings and recorders) who walk up to me and said, “Oh by the way, if you can fit it in your schedule you should join my 17th century choral because we’re doing mostly Monteverdi and you’re a bass so if you join we can do five part stuff.” (it looks like this “Oh by the way” is going to haunt me everywhere now!!) Oh, and I don’t remember your name because I’m terrible with names.” So I says to her I says, “Hi, my name is Paul, I’m not in the early music program so I don’t know if I can join your class but if I can I will thank you Dana Maiben.” And yes, I did it all in one breath and run on sentence like that. We all had a good laugh after that and continued to chat. I was really tempted to tell her that I couldn’t because I wasn’t accepted in the Early Music program because of my sight reading problems but I didn’t because I’m just that nice. Okay, well maybe I’m not REALLY that nice, but I am going to see if there is a time when I can throw that casually into a conversation. I can be so mean sometimes. heeheehee. After lunch was some more stuff from different staff, and then the tours of the extensive campus, both buildings. The different groups kept running into each other because there were so many of us. Quick digression: there are 115 new students, the largest new group ever at Longy, 15 are undergraduates and the rest graduates, the total age range goes from 18 to 59 (that’s me of course) and we come from Japan, Korea, Shanghai, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the lower 48 and one student (baritone) from Alaska! We are a very interesting group. Back to the tours….the group I was in also included the gal from Sri Lanka, Tehanni, who I know from song seminar!! When I called her and she recognized me we reached out and hugged each other and carried on a little bit. For some known reason the other students looked at us funny. Can’t imagine why…..(he says trying his best to look innocent while being guilty as mortal sin). At the end of the tour we had some spare time so we sat on the lawn in front of the main building, Kibriskie House, and went around the circle giving our name and educational background. When it was my turn I began with, “My first undergraduate degree was from 1975 and no, I don’t want you to say you weren’t even born yet or I am going to hurt you real bad.” That got a good laugh. So I told them about my degrees and all that good stuff. Then we had a general chit chat time and got our tour guide Samantha to tell us about some of her classes, which were her favorites and why, etc. Then was the session, about 90 minutes or more, about registration and all. By the time that was done my ears and brain were tired. Then was a free supper (6 inch grinders) and Tehanni and I had a chance to catch up some more. It was so nice to have a chance to talk to someone from home, as it were. For both of us I’m sure. Wednesday was registration, and the chance to get to meet folks from the same program. We all also discovered that since I am a diploma program and not the MM, I DON’T have to take the history and written and listening theory exams and classes. Hurray for my side!! Then was the session for registration. General points for all first, undergrads and grads, and then specifics about which courses we have to take. Oh, before that we had to do the “This is me” thing again. This also was fun because it was all the voice majors. All the women are sopranos, lyric, dramatic, and whatever all else there are, NO mezzos or altos; among the men, there is one countertenor, 3 tenors, 3 baritones and I am the only bass.Curious, very curious indeed. Of course, I may be the only one who is OLD enough to be a bass!! Not really, its just curious to me that there is this kind of distribution. I would have expected a more even spread of voices among the men, and at least a few of the women to be altos, not all 20 or so being sopranos! So, on we go….. Thursday was all about finances (and the theory exams for the undergrads and MM people). The afternoon we had a session for each of the different federal loans types (Stafford and GradPlus) as well as a really good session with someone about how to manage money more successfully. The best part of this was that Sabrina, the woman who made the presentation, said that she had good info about this stuff because she made all the mistakes first. She was VERY animated and interesting. She invited audience participation and as a result a whole lot more info came around. After all this the other kids had to go to the history exam.Heeheehee….and I didn’t. I did drop by the office of Student Affairs to drop off a couple of forms and had a chance to chat with the dean and the assistant. As we were talking I kept talking about “The kids.” When I finally stopped for air, Alex (the Dean) said that I should really be calling them fellow students or some such thing. I looked at him and said, “Alex, when you are my age and that much older than they are, you will call them “the kids,” too.” We had a good laugh over that. Friday was the meeting with Dean Moylan, the registrar, and then the diction placement “auditions.” One piece in French, which was no problem of course, and one in German. Well, the less said the better. Not that it was a disaster, but let’s face it, I do NOT sound like a native German speaker no matter how hard I try. SO I am in basic diction. Before I forget yet again (this is being inserted as I am almost done writing this missive…) as I was singing along and having a good time, I suddenly noticed that a couple of the auditors were lip synching along with me!! I mean really, who do they think they are,Milli Vanilli!?!?!? (thank you Lenny for reminding me about them). I will add that these two women in particular looked really pleased as I was singing about the cradles and all, whether or nto they were falling down with the tree branches.  Oh, also they really lean on IPA (The International Phonetic Alphabet) which I have never used. I don’t see the sense of it either.I mean really,if you are going to take classes in the language and learn how to pronounce it properly with the appropriate alphabet, why go through the bother of yet one MORE alphabet to confuse you. No texts are written in the damned thing, so……. At this point I can read the Latin alphabet with its various permutations for Western European languages, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew. I really need one more alphabet????? Give me strength. Oh…one more thing about the diction stuff, after I did mine, I waited around for the women after me and we chatted for a little bit. Leslie and I walked out together and we chatted with her voice teacher, one of the auditors. The three of us had a very nice chat, and then she turned to me and told me that I have a very nice voice, a very expressive voice. That pleased me greatly, let me tell you. So then she and I talked about lessons and  voices. I told her that I really love Early Music, but my voice really has taken a shine to the art song world. She looked at me seriously, pointed to my throat and said, “And you must listen to this.” Wow, thought I. I guess I got told! Nicely to be sure, but I got told nonetheless. I felt really good about the things that Catherine and I have done in lessons (since we started in 2005). All that work has really paid off. My teacher is going to be Robert Honeysucker, who is a tenor, he is in his early 70’s, and can still easily and powerfully hit high b-flats. For those of you who don’t know exactly what that means, he’s as old as Methuselah and can still hit the high stuff that Pavarotti was noted for. Yeah. Cool stuff. He also has done a lot of work with low (men’s) voices, so that should be interesting. I will be meeting with him tomorrow, Sunday between 1 and 2 p.m., and bringing some things that Catherine and I have done, since he needs to assess what I have for a voice and potential, I presume. Makes sense. So I will bring the things I did for the farewell concert, the Faure, Britten and Schubert. Hopefully I won’t fall apart in the middle of things because of nerves. Seriously, I think if I could easily do the diction I won’t have any too much trouble with this assessment session. So…where was I ……oh yeah….the assessment session with my Honeysucker ….sorry, I mean teacher, Mr. Honeysucker….I’m sure it will go well. I intend to approach it as having a good time, serious, but good. My landlady, Marcia, continues to be….well…..a nice lady, to be sure, but a real Jewish mother! Every day I come to DD to have breakfast because I am NOT a morning person, and I know that if she was there in the kitchen at the same she would want to talk. Ick. No thanks. At the DD I bring my laptop, do email, some look ups, drink coffee, eat breakfast stuff and don’t have to talk to ANYONE!!! Oy vey…..It’s also fun to watch the people who come in. I only wish I spoke or at least understood Brazilian Portuguese so that I could eavesdrop, I mean chat with some of the folks. Yeah…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…chat with them.  Ah yes, the courses I’ll be taking. Because I don’t have to take theory or music history or a couple of the other technical courses I have a relatively light load:Lessons (2.5 credits) standard for everyone of course:Seminar (.5 credit) again, everyone takes it:Opera workshop (1 credit) because I know nothing about this repertoire:Art Song (1 credit) because I want to and I have to:17th Century concerted vocal music Mostly Monteverdi (1 credit) because Dana Maiben asked me to:Experiential Education Program (aka EEP) (1 credit) again, everyone has to take this, and more on this in a bit:and Basic Diction (1 credit) because I need to. About the EEP; it is a 1 year/2 semester course. The first semester, with the help of a mentor/guide or whatever this person is called, one constructs a program that is to be performed/executed in the second semester. It is to be about an hour long, or so, and its purpose is to reach out to the community, and bring some kind of musical experience to the community at large. Those to whom I have spoken about this heard me tell of one guy who did a classical piano concert (I presume narrated) in the local jails and prisons. It turned out to be a big hit with the inmates! Since I heard about this course, I’ve tossed around two major ideas: From Sacred to Silly/Salacious, or, Hymn Tunes from Folk Tunes. Both of them have some good potential I think. We’ll see. I guess that’s it for now. Friday night after all was done “the students” along with members of the faculty and staff went on a boat tour of Boston Harbor. I’m sure they had a wonderful time. I just wanted to go home and relax. The idea of being on a boat with all those people and my agoraphobia kicking in did NOT appeal to me at all. Its been difficult enough from time to time being on a crowded bus! Better than driving, but……since its only about a mile and half or so, I may start walking home, just to have a chance to relax and enjoy time to think. We’ll see. Again, I think that’s about it for now. I’ll no doubt write again in a week or so to let you all know how things are going. It should be interesting to see hwo things unfold with me and “the kids” I mean the other students.  If one of the little twerps calls Pops or Gramps I’ll smack him/her into next week! TTFN Paul

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