Click on any photo for the full version! Happy end of year!!
Greetings to friends and family around the world. I write on the day of the winter solstice, and note with sadness that this world seems particularly darker than it did a year ago. I pray for light and truth to again be kindled in the hearts of those who lead, and who alone can set to the tone for this world.
May it be so.
Even with the death of my father in the waning days of 2017, my own 2018 has been significantly brighter than national and international news might allow!
Winter. A solo cabaret act. Loads of teaching and concert-going and the robust time of the year at the office. A quiet winter without any significant travel except for a quick trip to Naples, Florida to see Spencer go on as Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I.
Spring. Begins with a trip to Moscow to discuss collaborations. Attend a concert in Tchaikowsky Hall. Tourist for full, long day in Moscow. Holy Week in London, with services at St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey. My former student sings Gerontius at King’s College Cambridge. Wrap up the school year with a sizable graduating class. Pack up and finish work on my father’s estate. A week in NYC, and confirmation of a budding relationship. Solo/ensemble contest brings solid results. Senior recitals with three voice students. Attend the Tony Awards. Celebrated the completion of 10 years at Webster University.
Summer. Begins with a week in Lincoln at a conference. Then to Vienna on the Messing Faculty Award for three weeks of research and curriculum development. Side trips to Stockholm and Florence. Allergies abound in Vienna! Wept copious tears at the sight of Michelangelo’s David. Start the new school year with days of meetings, and a robust new-student class. Yufei visits Saint Louis. Start work with Variety Children’s Choruses as the new conductor. Celebrate my 57th birthday with a day of museum visits in Vienna, and a screening of The Third Man at a kino.
Autumn. Auggie turns 8. Sabbatical begins in mid-October. Accept a gig with Circus Harmony as composer and music director for the big January show. Start traveling immediately. Chicago with Yufei. Toronto and Niagara Falls with my nephew Luke. Washington, D.C. (pandas!!) and NYC with Yufei. Chicago again. And Christmas at home in Lee’s Summit with my sisters. Attend multiple Circus Harmony classes and practices. Conduct a holiday concert with the Variety Children’s Choruses. Attend Joffrey Ballet and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Over the course of the year I’ve witnessed powerful live concert performances. Viewed some of the world’s greatest artworks. Learned more about cooking. Kept up the slow renovations on a 100+ year-old home. Enjoyed some stunning meals (Stockholm, Vienna, Chicago, NYC all were gastro-delight locations). Worshipped in grand and beautiful spaces. Composed some decent music. Shot loads and loads of photos (I’m starting to understand light much better). Whipped up homemade plum jam and blood orange marmalade. Taken various architectural tours. Read more books than the year before, and also a big chunk of the Bible. Extended my cufflink-buying spree with a dozen new pairs. Imparted lessons about singing, and about life, with students. Loved on my dog. Caught up with friends in far-flung places. Bought more new eyeglasses. Fallen in love.
Not a bad year indeed.
May 2019 bring us comfort and joy and challenges that we can together address.
The tower formerly known as Sears, site of Yufei’s recent dancing and my recent terror. Notice the LEDGE windows way up high.
I made my first-ever rides north on the Metra on Sunday. Out to Arlington Heights; in from Wilmette.
Illinois, from a United flight back to Saint Louis. Monday’s weather was perfect for flying.
Sabbatical has finally begun.
Well . . . sabbatical has finally begun in that the big curriculum project is now off my desk and on to its next step, and my flurry of travels is over for a few days, and the NASM training is complete, and so on.
Circus Harmony! Having attended several practice sessions, I now have a stronger sense of what the musical needs are this year — and of how much music I’m actually going to need to compose. So that project starts immediately.
Here’s some of Circus Harmony, last year:
And Variety! Our concert is less than two weeks away.
And this year’s Christmas carol, which I think is going to be a New Year carol instead.
And the ongoing tasks of cleaning and purging and reclaiming corners of my home. And forging new relationships. And some visits to the Saint Louis Art Museum, including one yesterday.
Today? Lunch with my priest. A voice lesson. And extra rehearsal with the Variety kids.
But first, a Vienna meeting at Webster, and finishing the admit letters from last Friday. (The Webster work never stops.)
Since the building was very close to a Metro stop, I made three visits to the National Portrait Gallery during my recent D.C. trip.
And Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural ball was held in this room:
From the third-floor Twentieth Century Americans exhibit, these performers caught my eye:
And of course I couldn’t miss the new portrait of Michelle Obama!
From last week in NYC:
Since my conference hotel in D.C. last week was an easy (uphill) walk to the National Zoo, I took some time to see the panda bears.
The male and female adults were in separate enclosures, and one of the three Washington-born panda cubs was on display in his indoor enclosure.
Bei Bei the cub was adorable, and playful too!
On my last day in Washington, D.C. last week, I visited two places that have long been on my list — Dumbarton House and Dumbarton Oaks.
These two estates, vastly different from each other, take their names from a grant of land made by Queen Anne in 1702.
Dumbarton House is a Georgian estate home sitting on the eastern edge of Georgetown. Visitors can gain a sense of what privilege was like in the early 1800s in the mid-Atlantic states.
Dumbarton Oaks is known variously for its collection of Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and European art works; for its extensive and impressive garden; for being the site of some of the talks that led to the establishment of the United Nations; and for Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks concerto. Of interest to me was the Steinway D grand piano, with signed photos of masters who played in that massive music room — Stravinsky, Isaac Stern, Nadia Boulanger.
In all of my NYC trips, I have never gone to the Guggenheim. My continued attempts to go, only to find them closed, have become a private joke.
A few of the museum’s permanent collection works were on display as well: