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  • Writer's pictureSt. Joseph Parish

Practicing to be Paul XIV (9/13)

“Learn the Golden Rule days…reading and writing and ‘rithmetic…” I hear a song in this somewhere…

Yup, as we all know, it is back to school time. I went back on Wednesday to meet up with a new student, Raymond ChakMing, from Singapore. He and I were supposed to room together, but things didn’t work out that way. I did find a great place for him, and at the same time, TWO parishes opened up for me to help out here, so I am going to split my time between the two, Saint Barbara in Woburn, and St Francis of Assisi, in Medford, where I have a paying choir job, as bass section leader. Really nice places, cool pastors, and best of all…FREE ROOM AND BOARD!!!!!! It is like getting paid to live here as I am also helping out on weekends and occasionally during the week. Even if I don’t get paid for those, when Tuesday rehearsals start up I will be getting $150 a week (minus takes of course) so that’s a good thing.

Raymond is a very interesting person. He has already studied here in the US, in North Texas, so he is accustomed to our culture, or a version of our culture. His English is quite good as well, so talking to him is not too much of a challenge. I do have to be careful not to talk too quickly, though, so that will be good for me. He is here for Collaborative Piano, that is, being an accompanist and coach, for both vocalists and instrumentalists. He has also studied harpsichord. Curious, that. We had a good time walking around Harvard Square. We stopped in the Harvard Coop and went to the coffee shop upstairs, which I found out is a Starbucks place. There are THREE more of them within shouting distance, almost literally. How they can all make any kind of business is beyond me, but that isn’t my problem.

I met up with a number of the folks from last year, of course, and we had a great time reconnecting, talking about the summer’s activities and all. I introduced Raymond to all of them as well, just so he can at least have a few familiar faces around. It felt so good to be back at school! I felt rejuvenated, alive again! Walking around the halls, saying hello to the teachers and staff, oy, what a happy mood I was in! I am considering making a change in my schedule already.I signed up to audit Aria and Monologue, and I think I am going to drop that, as I also signed up for a new offering from the Composition/Modern American Music department. I’ll have to see what is going to be up with that course. Also, I have to remember that I am to be working on my graduation recital music! I sent that out to you all last semester. It’s a long list with a few extra pieces built-in just in case I need to drop something. One never knows, eh?

Okay…so I lied a little bit. It is now the middle of the second week of classes. Only one class to be in for the first time, Art Song, and already I can tell that this is going to be one heck of a year.

Newbies…what a mix!! Last year we were the largest first year class ever, this year outnumbers us by about 10 or so. There are 150 newbies from all over the globe, literally. One thing has not changed, Mandarin is still the best second language to have here. Jumping Christmas trees….and I still would love to know how any of our students heard about Longy and why they chose to come here. Some, at least what I consider amazing stats from the vocal people…I am still the only real bass, we have 4 or 5 baritone/basses, a few tenors and, get ready for this FIVE countertenors. That’s correct….FIVE countertenors. This is almost unheard of. Four of them are in the early music program and the other is in the opera program. I heard him sing on Monday and what a voice! Lots of power, good projection, solid solid voice and all that good stuff. The other four I heard on Monday in the Dowland class, and they have a great sound as well. Totally different from the other guy (his name is Eric) but solid sound. We worked on a song, whose name escapes me at the moment, but to hear the other parts doubled between countertenors and women was amazing. Our first assignments in that class are to determine what we are each going to work on for a solo song, how we are going to perform it, that is what instrumental or other vocal forces we are going to use, and what our written project is going to be. In one of the books we are going to be using for music, John Dowland’s A Pilgrim’s Solace, there are some sacred songs, so I am going to look at them, check out the texts, what are the possible sources of inspiration, when they would have been performed, etc. It will require a fair bit of research, but I love doing that kind of stuff, being somewhat of a curious person by nature. This is a different way of saying that I am nosy! Yeah, it is so true.

So, to give a bit of a run down of classes, just so you can see how I am going to be getting myself into trouble this semester….

Monday is the busiest day. At 10 it is department seminar, which you may recall from last year is just a kind of master class session where we sing for the teacher, are given hints on how to make it better, etc. At 12:30 is the Dowland class, called A Musicall Banquet, since it is centered around Robert Dowland’s book called, A Musicall Banquet. And that spelling is the way it is spelled on the cover of the book. Remember, there was no standard for spelling back then. Then at 2 p.m. I have Aria and Monologue. Curiously enough, we are being encouraged to sing a little bit of everything in that class! It is Donna Roll’s contention that the more versatile one is, the better the chances of being hired. Of course!

Tuesday I have no classes, but I do have church choir practice. We already are starting our Christmas music, and the first thing we did is called “Goin’ to Bethlehem” a piece done in the style of a Negro Spiritual. And there we are, white like wonder bread…and we did a fairly good job of it! Too funny for words.

Wednesday I have Jazz Improvisation class at 11, then Aria and Monologue at 1:30. As you can see, these two days, Monday and Wednesday, are a real study in contrasts! The Jazz Improv is a half hour, one-on-one with the teacher, Peter Cassino. I haven’t looked him up on Google yet, but I intend to. Our first session was working on basics, and we had a good time. I came to the conclusion that I am going to have to buy an IPad to be able to use the software that will be most helpful in this class. Oy…..and my voice lesson, again this year with Bob Honeysucker, is at 4 p.m. We did a review of one of my pieces and it was horrible!

Thursday I have nothing but time…again!

Friday the only class I have is Art Song. This semester we are doing American and English (as in the Queen’s English). Some of us, including me, have already been assigned both songs, but we have no scores and no pianist assigned as of yet. And class is Friday, tomorrow! Oh yeah….thankfully we will only be discussing the poetry in some of the songs, one of mine is included.

I have yet to be assigned the Vocal Chamber ensemble group I am going to be with, and I am hoping to keep everything on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That leaves me Tuesday and Thursday all free and clear for practice time (can I do 2 hours?) and whatever all else comes along.

Saturday I am going to be auditioning for the Oriana Consort. They are a mostly a capella group, with hire-when-necessary instrumentalists. The big piece they are going to be doing for the holiday concert is the Bach Magnificat in D. I already know the bass solo (kind of) in this as I was thinking of learning it for an audition somewhere. The audition consists of: sight singing with several members of the chorus (quartet or double quartet I don’t recall), a solo piece of one’s own choosing (O Isis und Osiris, Mozart’s the Magic Flute) and then a difficult piece that I will be getting sometime today, have to learn by Saturday at 1:30, my audition time. So, with all the other things I am involved in, why am I doing this? For chuckles. Just to see what I can do. If I DO get in, it will be a heck of a shocker. So, what will I do if I am successful? Well, after I get over the shock, I’ll join and see where it leads! What else??

There are probably a few other things that I would like to tell you about, but the escape me at this time…OH WAIT!!

I don’t know if you recall that last spring or so I auditioned for Calliope, and got in. This performance was last Saturday, and it went fairly well. Overall, it went really well, actually, but the bass soloist, for whom I was the understudy, was not on top of his game. His voice cracked a number of times, and not even on very high notes. I was discouraged for completely selfish reasons. Naturally I thought I could have done a better job. That’s the way we musicians are. The next project, for which we will be starting rehearsals in November some time, is a two-act comic opera by Antonin Dvorak called, in English, The Cunning Peasant. In Czech, it is Selma sedlak, but we will be doing it in German, so we will be calling it Der Bauern ein schelmich (? Not sure about this last word). I have the role of martin, the father of one of the women who is a trouble maker. It is, what I consider a typical opera story…the women of several couples are convinced that their men are cheating, which they are, so they dress like each other to catch them, which they do….”and they all live happily ever after.” The music is really cool, has a lot of folk influence, or it sounds like it, and I don’t think it will be too hard to learn. I just hope I don’t end up eating my words!

Now I think that’s it. I hope everyone had a fairly good summer, that you are all healthy, and looking forward to a good fall.

See you around and about!


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