Monthly Archives: September 2012

Sunday evening rumblings and musings

I’m listening this evening to a newish recording of music by Herbert Howells, sung with exquisite refinement by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, under the direction of  Stephen Layton.  This is awfully good stuff.

[Here is a review on another blog:  *****CD Review • Howells Requiem • Choir of Trinity College Cambridge • Stephen Layton • Few conductors do Howells as well as Mr Layton. He has given himself every opportunity, mind, to produce perfect results: beautiful acoustics in Lincoln and Ely Cathedrals; brilliant choir of male and female undergraduates from Trinity College Cambridge; choice repertoire – how light the divided girls at the beginning of the Gloucester Magnificat and how gloriously the tutti inflates the arching phrase of that item’s main theme. Perfect results he certainly does produce. The St Paul’s Service is as fresh as the Gloucester. The JF Kennedy funeral anthem Take Him Earth for Cherishing is deeply, democratically moving in its unisons which give way to the most finely calculated chords as only Howells writes. The Requiem veers powerfully between the simplicity of its psalm settings and the drama of the opening and closing movements. Speeds throughout the disc have weight and momentum; diction is so good that some aitches come out whistled, so the She hath put down the mighty and God is female for once. The one turn-off is final hymn which sounds too much like Songs of Praise although it does give the sleeve note writer the chance to rehearse the anecdote of Howells composing the tune before he had finished breakfast one morning.]

I seem to be somewhat bi-polar in my listening these days.  I’ll spend days immersing myself in Sibelius, then in Elgar, then in Broadway show tunes, then in solo vocal literature, then in Howells, then in Anglican chant and hymn tunes.  At least I’m consistent – Broadway, Britain, bundled up snowy tunes from Finland . . . .

My diary shows me this evening at a supper club in South City with friends, but I’m just not feeling well.  This ear thing is really troubling.  All the sleeping may be helping, but I’m downright frustrated.

So I’m home tonight, working a bit on emails, running a load of laundry, looking ahead in the diary to a very busy October, prepping for a meeting tomorrow morning with my Provost.  Dinner was some ham salad, some pineapple, and a piece of gooey butter cake (too rich for me, believe it or not, but so tempting).

 

Ear

Well, this darn ear infection isn’t going away easily. I suppose one moral of this story is that I should actually go to the doctor earlier rather than later, but when the pain starts on a Friday afternoon, what is one to do?  I’ve cancelled two volunteer commitments in the past two days, and am about to cancel a third.  I slept two extra daytime hours yesterday, and managed a 150-minute nap (with Samson, who was snuggled right beside me) after church today.  Church may be the only thing I do today.

Ugh.

Market & apple butter

The house is scented with tantalizing whiffs of cinnamon and cooking apples right now.  Nine cups of apple pulp, four cups of sugar, 1/4 cup of Ceylon cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of white vinegar are in their third hour in the oven.  Apple butter will soon be in jars for the winter months.

This is my last Saturday at home until November, so with apples scarce this year, the apple butter-ing is now or never this year.

I took Samson the Feist to the groomer this morning, and then made my way to Soulard market.  The pre-9 a.m. crowd is definitely a mixed one, with few families and gay couples, and more older folks and internationals.  Languages were abundant this morning.  I picked out French, at least two Middle Eastern languages, Chinese, Japanese, Russian or Ukranian, Spanish, and a couple of other languages that were likely Slavic, based on the appearance of the people.  Soulard Market felt very cosmopolitan at this hour!

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Samson is now home.  Recycling is in the bins in the alley.  Silence is pervading the house, save for Sam’s quiet snoring and the rattle of my typing on this computer.  My hearing comes and goes in the right ear, but at least I have no pain.  I also, thanks to drainage of seasonal allergies, have no voice today.  I do hope it’s back in the morning, as we have a big day at church tomorrow.

 

Life has loveliness to sell

One of the loveliest poems ever written is Sara Teasdale’s “Barter,” with the opening line “Life has loveliness to sell.”

I’ve programmed a choral setting several times over the years, but no performance has ever equaled the first time I heard it.

I was in San Antonio at the 1993 convention of the American Choral Directors Association.  The Indianapolis Children’s Choir took the stage, Henry Leck at the helm.  About five or six numbers into their set, they sang a setting of this by the Indianapolis composer James Mulholland.  At the conclusion of that magnificent final suspension, the place exploded.  Applause went on and on.  I was in tears.  Many of my colleagues in the audience were as well.

Rarely have music and poetry so kissed each other with tenderness and elegant result.

This weekend, I discovered my CD of the Indianapolis group’s “Acclaimed Performances.”  And tonight, just before leaving my desk, I listened again to something I first hear nearly 20 years ago.  The magic was still there.

God bless Henry and James, and all those children who are now 30-something adults.

Here’s a video of the piece, as performed by the 2005 New Mexico MEA All-State Treble Choir, with my colleague Lori West at the helm:

And for good measure in honor of James Mulholland, here’s a recording of me leading the Ball State University Chamber Choir 2004 in his “A red, red rose,” arguably his best-known choral work.