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( Dec. 6th, 2016 11:30 pm)
I was just telling my mom the other day, in anticipation of bringing two nonmusician friends and an aunt who has sung in church choirs to the Symphony Christmas Pops she got us comps for, that "music getting me into the Christmas spirit" is not really an attribute that I contain at this point in my life. She agreed. It's a bit of a job. I've been doing it for over ten years. Maybe fifteen. Not that I didn't enjoy the symphony concert, or bringing my friends to it, or hearing Jessica and Santino Fontana; I did. I liked the new pops conductor, and approved of both his conducting and his charisma, though I was sorry to see Krajewski go. It's just not really in me to hear Christmas music without analyzing and/or comparing it to my fairly extensive experience.

Tonight I heard the King's Singers' Christmas show. I actually skipped a concert-week pre-dress-rehearsal to go.

It's not that I forget what it's like, though of course the experience is never as immediate in memory. I just can't continually reexperience the memory. There is nothing like knowing what you are doing, to a fairly high degree, and watching people do it who are pretty nearly the best in the world at it. All these things, that you know are hard, you know exactly how hard, from personal experience, and they're executed flawlessly, or with tiny, generally-imperceptible flaws you know the difficulty of masking and have known yourself to share, and you never have to worry that the pitfalls you know are in the music or the text will catch them, and you never have to worry that they won't make it to the end of the phrase, and you never have to worry that the cold you can tell someone is nursing will overcome their balance in the mix, and every other bar there is a feat of ensemble or individual musicality of a depth to make you sigh and slouch in your chair with sheer relief of musical tension, except that you know more moments are coming, the entire performance is made of them, and if you move you might miss one.

It's not that it's Christmas music, though I do think the 2006 Christmas album is among their best ever, and I am therefore sentimentally attached to every piece of repertoire on it (three of which they did tonight). But the commitment of performers to the premise of any performance will improve my relationship to it, whatever it is. And there is an awful lot of high-quality concentration of arrangers, composers, and poets on the subject. I do feel more Christmasy now. But I feel even more King's Singersy, which is an even rarer and more special occasion.

They stayed after the show to greet and chat, and were immensely sweet and gracious as usual. We introduced ourselves to the new soprano. My mom grabbed a Typical Parent Embarrassment opportunity with both hands, in the middle of explaining we were summer school attendees, when she realized she had literally said we were "camp followers", to say, you know, if she had the chance... Hopefully Pat will not hold it against us. I am not sure he knew how to react. Julian, whom we'd met in Dallas, has grown into the tenor spot admirably, and was sweetly shy when I told him so. Johnny, Tim, Gabbitas, and Bruiser were all appropriately excited for me when I pointed the overleaf to them. Because, look:




As I said to them, "feel free to scribble on yourself. That's you... and this is me." Bruiser and Johnny in particular were excited that it was this coming weekend, and asked me to point myself out despite the tiny size of the choir in the photo, and asked what the rep was. They were appropriately enthusiastic for Ceremony of Carols, and I told them a little bit about Dominick to explain the premiere of his men's Verbum Caro Factum Est.

They are sweet as I remember them, and even sweeter Tim, whose new kid has perhaps mellowed him a little bit (and given him something to talk about with my mom). It makes a difference in the performance, when the guy at the end throwing faces at you thanks you after the show for being there to throw faces at. One more exemplar of my heroes being real humans and that making them even better heroes.

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( Dec. 9th, 2013 10:54 pm)
LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE AMAZINGS

First: my cats were asleep in the trash can when I got home:


And then it was King's Singers time. We bundled up for the stupid cold and trekked off to Rice, because my school has the best venue in town for chamber music, and a bunch of our friends were there, including the composer whose DMA recital I did, and he gave me a lovely cd of the recording we'd done, with a lovely note to me on it. And Roger and Debbie were there! We caught up a bit.

And we sat down in our second-row seats and vibrated with excitement, because these are our heroes! This is not a common experience! Basically this is my religion, and these are my saints. So I was particularly irritated by the small child directly behind me reading a book with a crinkly plastic book cover and making no attempt whatsoever to keep it from crinkling. It was like someone unwrapping a hard candy constantly for 45 minutes. I did the dirty look thing, polite request thing between pieces, more dirty looks and eventually the mom took the book away, but I have to admit it did affect my experience of the first half of the show. I am pretty detail-oriented about this kind of performance, and having unpredictable aural static like that keeps me from sinking totally into the phenomenon.

But still! What a phenomenon it was! Lassus Magnificat and Byrd Vigilate, the two more Lassus: Beata Viscera and Resonet in Laudibus. All of the depth and breadth of the Renaissance. Especially the English Renaissance. Ye gods. Augh.

And then a set of three contemporary settings, including the Clements arrangement of Gabriel's Message that kills me every time, and a new arrangement by our boy Gabbitas of Mary's Lullaby which was stunningly gorgeous and of course ludicrously sensitively performed, and the the Bo Holten Nowell Sing We that I knew from the 2003 Christmas album over which I have obsessed since it came out. That nonsense will burn your brain with its laser precision and emotional clarity.

And then three Howells pieces: Here is the Little Door, A Spotless Rose, and Sing Lullaby, all of which were to die for, particularly the last. I can't believe musicianship of this caliber exists. I want it. I want to be it.

The last thing on the first set was the Poulenc set of 4 WWI songs, Un Soir de Neige, which was tragic and whimsical and harmonically diabolical in the manner of all Poulenc.

The second half started off with five Catalonian carols: La Filadora, which was adorable, El Niño Querido, which was sweet, Claro Abril Resplandecio, which was gorgeous, Villançico Catalan, which I knew from the other Christmas album, and an unforgivably charismatic medley of 3 carols (La Pastoreta, Maria Rosa, and La Caterineta), which Johnny introduced with hilarious aplomb. Bruiser had some heart-stealing solos in the Spanish and Catalán pieces; his voice just breaks me like a hug after a month alone. So gentle, so friendly, so gracious and effortless.

He had some nice spotlit moments in the close-harmony carols they ended with, too. They started out with the L'Estrange arrangement of Let It Snow, which is far better live than recorded, as you can differentiate the parts visually and the cleverness of the arrangement is more apparent.
They did their McCarthy arrangement of Little Drummer Boy that is so percussive and yet so gentle, the only version of that carol I actually like. There were gorgeous carols galore, with Johnny making faces at us the whole time, and then they ended with the Gordon Langford Jingle Bells, after admonishing us that we'd know it and if we felt moved to sing, please don't. Such dry charm. The inevitable encore was a rather relaxed, contemplative Christmas Song, and the audience was on its feet for both exits. Bruiser and Paul both nodded at me on the way out, and Johnny practically stared me down.

We got a decent talk with each of them in the lobby; Tim seemed glad to see us and confided about a cold he'd picked up in the unplanned LAX layover. Paul was gracious and wry when I reminded him I'd been in high school the first time I saw him come round Houston. We got hugs and air kisses from David, who was very sweet and enthusiastic, and the same and quite a long conversation each from Bruiser, who is an utter delight, and Johnny, who is so easy to talk to and who felt weird signing stuff for us and who projected a lot of his performance straight at us but not too much because he was trying not to make it weird :D We missed Gabbitas on the lobby cycle, so we waited around till everyone was gone and the boys came back from changing, and he completed our set of hellos and autographs. Bruiser took every opportunity to hug us, and he and Johnny were really very friendly and assured us they'd see us in February when they came through Nacogdoches with the Great American Songbook tour, which Johnny did want to hear feedback on regarding the comparison between the recorded and live versions of the rep. They are all such sweet boys.

And we had better see them in February, because if the L'Estrange arrangements of that album are as much better live as the L'Estrange Christmas arrangement we heard tonight, it'll be a whole different proposition to listen to it.

Meanwhile, I have encountered my musical saints once again, and the boys who are just boys who are grateful to be living the life, and it is good.

As I explained at length tonight to the kind elderly couple who engaged me in conversation at the reception of tonight's concert, the King's Singers are my musical idols. They have been since I was old enough to know what music was. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the purple couch in the living room in Massachusetts, looking at the purply-swirly carpet, listening to Michelle off The Beatles Connection and learning the French phonetically with no idea what it was. I learned those Beatles songs, every single one of the ones on that album, as a cappella pieces before I ever heard the originals.

So if I've been drinking down the King's Singers' mastery since before age 5, I've been doing it for over 20 years. Simon has been singing it for over 25. He was a founding member. And he's been conducting choirs (and teaching choral conducting) ever since. It shows.

Hopefully tomorrow's concert will have less in the way of seat-of-the-pants moments. Everyone I talked to at the reception found tonight's concert exceptional. The singers all wish he could stay for more, or come back (I hypothesized that two shows was all we could afford). The chorally/conductorily educated audience members agreed, the specificity and ease of expression bring a whole new dimension to a cappella music. And the program itself which Simon picked, is faultless; everything is interesting, and there's a wide variety.

The reception was at a donor's house and included some lovely Roquefort, which induced some discussion. Those of us who like strong cheese were all for it, including Simon, who has heard that a diet regularly including ewe's cheese contributes to longer life. I'm skeptical, but I suppose it could be a factor. I'd certainly take it as an excuse to eat more cheese.
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( Jun. 25th, 2012 04:49 pm)
Little is doing really well. He's extremely dopey, but obviously very happy to be on the good drugs. His jaw looks okay, though sometimes he still coughs and sneezes from the intubation (and/or his collapsed nasal passages), and his nose has bled more than once from that, but he's feeling no pain. And he's eating! Which is also great.

I can relax a little. Man, if this is what it's like when a baby cat you picked up off the street gets hurt, I can only imagine what having a kid might be like. Ergh. No thanks.

So, the new KS album has been accompanying my workdays lately, and of course it's highly skilled and perfectly blended and sensitively performed, but also the new Drayton piece at the end is just absurdly hilarious (especially if you have any interest whatsoever in the history of the English monarchy). So I was riffling through some live KS shows on Youtube, and came across this:




Cheese on toast, Paul Phoenix, is there ever a time when you don't flirt absurdly with the camera?

Aw.
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( Jun. 14th, 2011 11:58 pm)
I carried. All the things. Down the stairs. And put them in the car. Well, I guess Brent carried one amp, the bass and the keyboard. Which, sure, was helpful. But probably didn't lessen my fatigue by much. My room is absolutely empty except for this air mattress and pillows. I even vacuumed the floor. I also vacuumed the upstairs landing and all the stairs, and scrubbed the bathroom and wiped all its surfaces. But mostly, the carrying was what killed me, when they ask. All that's left is my suitcase, my mom's, one small one left to put the blankets and air mattress in, my trash can, and the bike (it goes on top of the car).

Mama and I took the train to school after I finished packing, and when I called to ask, the audio/visual guys were nice enough to put my recital recording in my mailbox instead of leaving it in the locked office. So I have that, and I also went to get some NEC orchestral recordings from Firestone because I was thinking about the Rach Symphonic Dances after we had glee over them last night. Brent met us in Firestone and we listened to the Led Zeppelin he did on my recital, and he freaked out about how good it was. He even flailed a little. Validated!

And then it was King's Singers time. Seriously. )

Once back at the apartment, Tony selflessly heaved some knots out of my back even though I couldn't reciprocate due to straining my wrist during the travails of that day's carrying things down stairs. We ate ice cream, talked a bit, and retreated due to the lateness of the hour and the drive in the morning. But of course there was one thing left: a last Stargate session, if we could make it through. My room certainly is empty. Brent snuggled so comfortably on my conspicuously singular air mattress that he started snoring gently, halfway through the episode, and would have stayed but that I need to sleep super-soundly in order to be thoroughly awake to drive. So he bundled his quilt off with him when he left for his room.
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( Mar. 7th, 2010 04:42 pm)
And then Stephen Connolly facebook-chatted me. WHAT.
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( Feb. 8th, 2009 06:36 pm)
I painted some of my bathroom. Not done yet, but hey. It's much purpler.

I guess I haven't said anything about it yet, because it's not set in stone, but a couple of days ago I got a Facebook message from the bass of bassness, Stephen Connolly, about this. It was obviously a blanket message, but of course I filled out the application immediately and then promptly sent an email about it to my mom with the subject line "omgomgomgomgomgomg". She agrees. So, likely I will be doing that.

Then, this happened )
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( Dec. 17th, 2006 11:50 pm)
I don't know whether I mentioned the Baltic Voices cd I ordered came... thus, one more volley. )
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