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.
Since one of my performance site visits on Wednesday was only one subway stop away from Schönbrunn, I went out to the palace to spend some time with the sleighs (!) and carriages.
Look at the detail on this mid-1800s funeral carriage:
And some random other photos:
I woke on Friday morning to the iPad NOAA warning about extreme temperatures at Rienosslsgasse 3 in Vienna.
Fortunately, I was home in Saint Louis with moderate weather, but more humidity.
At some point my iPad will figure out that I’m in the USA. I certainly know that I am! Witness:
- Iced tea!! I went for three weeks without it.
- Taco Bell. I went for 3.5 weeks without it.
- Airport staffs who are not multilingual (except in Spanish). Such a change from Europe.
- Air-conditioning everywhere.
- Cellular service everywhere without having to think of turning the phone on and off.
- A fridge and a freezer. (Small fridge only, with no freezer, in Vienna.)
- Loudness. Americans just talk so damn loudly.
- Diet Pepsi! I went for 3.5 weeks without it.
But as my friend Alice said on Facebook last evening, she has little compassion for the slight frustrations, given what I was able to see and do. And I expect no boo-hoos for the cultural differences and the weariness because of the seeing and doing.
And DO I did.
The research grant proposed outcomes are essentially complete. The draft report is 75% there, with some details and nuance to ponder and finesse. In other words, I accomplished the stated goals. The grant outcome was successful. Now we move to implementation.
Along the way, I was a tourist nearly every day — in fact, save for last Sunday, every single day of the sojourn in Europe.
What did I not do? Well, I skipped the Salzburg and Venice/Dolomites excursions because I just was not feeling well. Summer allergies are, I’m told, quite severe in Vienna this year. I did not make it to all the art museums I would have wished, and since concert season was over, I attended only two musical performances.
What DID I do?
Enough art to keep me happy for months. Less-frequented locales such as the Snow Globe Museum, the Freud Museum, the Schnapps Museum, the Imperial Crypt, and the old Jewish cemetery at Zentral Friedhof. Anglican Church services in Florence and Vienna. Florence. Choral concert by a British choir at the British Embassy Church. A cruise on the Danube. Cooking class. Visited Mahler’s grave. Walked in the steps of Mozart and Beethoven and Schubert and Haydn and so many others. Melk Abbey. Heurigerabend. Organ recital at the Jesuit Church. Churches and parks and the Naschmarkt and gelato and beer and bubbly and schnitzel and . . . well, the whole five-senses experience indeed.
And I kept up with the daily office work. My email inbox is only marginally more crowded now than it was when I left, and no decisions have been punted to next week.
Now home for a few days, and with days off this weekend with few obligations, I can rest and recharge before the onslaught of the run-up to August 20 when contracts begin.
And I can love on Auggie, who apparently did indeed miss me.
Of all the pleasures of travel, returning home is the greatest joy.
From my one-night stay at the Hilton Stadtpark prior to leaving Wien:
The Habsburg rulers from many previous centuries are all buried in the same vault at the Capuchin Church in Vienna.
On Tuesday, I visited the site. Empress Maria Theresa’s tomb is the most grand and glorious, of course.
And compare the crown in the hand of death with the Holy Roman Empire crown:
And while not the last of the line, certainly the last of the great ones:
I leave on Thursday. My flight from Vienna is at 0015 hours USA body time. This will be a long day, but not the longest I’ve ever had.
My morning included work and tourism, and then a return to the flat to pack.
I said goodbye to Rienoβlsgasse 3 at about 3 p.m., and took a taxi to the Hilton, where I will spend my last night. And then I checked my large bag — 21 kilos on the nose, so I had about 2.2 pounds to spare!
Thursday, well before dawn, I’ll walk across the street to the CAT and take the 5.37 a.m. train to the airport. Copenhagen >> Newark >> Saint Louis is the itinerary, with STL expected around 4.30 p.m.
Lord, in your mercy, may the flights be on time!
My last look at the flat:
A selfie before departing (with three-day growth of beard):
And one last bag of paprika chips:
Tuesday, July 24.
I arrived in Europe three weeks ago this morning. And just a few minutes ago, I checked in for my return to USA on Thursday.
At coffee with J.P. this morning, we were talking about that inevitable sense we get when traveling on longer journeys — no matter the length of the trip, at some point two or three days prior to the end of the journey, the mind turns homeward and we are just ready to do.
So it is today.
I am also keenly aware that the only in-person non-work and non-transactional interchanges I’ve had with people in three weeks have been with J.P. and Sylvie. This lack of communication, and the long stretches of silence, have worn on me a bit, as I now understand.
So I’m down to the last 36 hours, and making the most of it!
The Snow Globe Museum is a cute but brief little visit. I added it to my itinerary after reading one of my guidebooks. Apparently snowglobes were invented here in Vienna, and the company is now under its fourth generation of family leadership. The museum shows old tools and equipment, and samples of some special snowglobes that were one-offs or limited runs.
Also Tuesday, the Schubert birth house, and the church where he wrote his first masses.
Schubert was one of more than a dozen children. He was a prodigy indeed. The house where he wrote “Erlkönig” was at some point recently a porn shop, but is no longer!
Also from Tuesday:
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Johannes Honigschnabl. More on him in a later post.
Zentral Friedhof. Developed by the Viennese city government in the last third of the 19th century. A land mass half the size of Zurich. And a dead population larger than the current population of Vienna.
The old Jewish section of the cemetery was established in 1863, with more than 70K burials by the time Austria was occupied by the Third Reich. Graves were desecrated on Kristallnacht.
I’ve read various sources that note that the Jewish tradition does not decorate graves the way people in my faith tradition might do. But the Jewish tradition does tend the graves to keep them tidy.
So on Sunday, I took a sobering walk through a cemetery where no one tends the graves. At all.
Viennese Jews were deported during World War II, and most did not return. No one is left to tend these graves from the 1800s.
As you can easily see from the panoramic photo, the Jewish section (to the left) is not as tidy as the Protestant section on the other side of the road.
But here’s a lovely idea: watering cans for a deposit, just like grocery carts at Aldi!
By the way, the Wikipedia entry about Central Cemetery is fascinating read!
Well, after three weeks abroad, my energy is flagging and my stamina is waning.
Sunday was another big walking day, with more than 13K steps.
And the temperature Monday is just bloody hot. (The next two days are going to be worse.)
After skipping my Salzburg trip on Monday, and doing only two museum visits of shorter duration, I gave up. By 5 p.m. I was napping!
The morning on Monday was spent catching up on emails and writing four pages of a preliminary draft about the results of the curriculum work here in Vienna. I should have museumed in the morning, then written in the afternoon!
But, truth be told, I am ready to go home. My mind is starting to disengage, and my spirit is focused on wrapping up.