sanura: (Default)
( May. 5th, 2014 09:22 am)
I haven't been this thoroughly busy in awhile. It's weird; there are two important things way behind deadline here at dayjob, plus out in the world I've been asked to do a bunch of things I'm not usually professionally known for. In the past two months, I have been:
- paid for two choral arrangements
- paid to act
- commissioned to design a logo
- tapped for a concert series with a 4-person paid ensemble
- asked to learn choreography for a paid gig

And now it's nearly concert week for the chamber choir, and concert week for the Hildegard Consort, and there's a bit of a crunch. Plus dayjob crunching. Plus, Saturday night was Stephanie's wedding, which, while delightful (and oddly good for my self-esteem; while I was feeling particularly fat, many, many people went out of their way to enthusiastically compliment me in my favorite green silk dress, including the bride), was an hour's drive to Galveston and an hour's drive back, all while Kyra was here.

Speaking of which, Kyra was here! It was really excellent to see her. We didn't have all that much time together, due to aforementioned crunch and wedding, plus she had an audition and other friends to see, but we got to hang out and I got to foist my current musical obsessions on her as I do in my inept ritual of friendship, and I may have introduced her to the demon timesucker that is Picture 2048. Particularly the Hiddles Sexual Tension one. And we recorded! There are now violin tracks on Backstage of the Universe! I am so excited! It's so good to know good musicians who like you enough to do you recording favors. And also come and stay at your house.

It was a bizarrely pleasant and trafficless drive to the airport despite the hour on Sunday morning, and then the drive back was nearly idyllic, with King Washington turned up and the windows down and the hours before church call stretching out before me. I got several logo design concepts out on my tablet, which I haven't used in years; my work computer has a full trial of Photoshop, so it's extra-easy to just churn out ideas. I sent them off to Tony for his and his group's consideration, and traipsed off to church, which was uncomfortably crowded in the choir stalls, as we were all stuffed into one side of the chancel, but it was over quickly.

I spent too much of Sunday afternoon doing one of the overdue dayjob tasks, but at least I was outside for a lot of it, in the gorgeous (and bizarrely not overhot) sunlight. And then was a double-booked pair of rehearsals: one for Hildegard Consort, one of only two we get before the first show (the other one's tomorrow), and one for the thrown-together workshop PIVO's doing with Yumiko (apparently I was volunteered to sing tenor in my absence. That's what I like to hear).

Hildegard was extremely pleasant in some ways. We're doing a really excessive plethora of settings of the Anglican Burial Sentences: Croft, Morley, Tomkins, Purcell, and a Boyce setting that isn't on Youtube, so we can only assume it's rarely performed and we may be giving it its Houston premiere. It's been awhile since I sang Renaissance music one-on-a-part with extremely excellent and ensemble-oriented singers who knew the music well enough that I was basically the one holding the rehearsal back with my occasional reading stumbles. It's great fun, but I was already very tired due to lack of sleep and stress and the lateness of the hour, so my breath control was nearly nonexistent, and that makes Renaissance music even more tiring, so it was an avalanche of tiredness and intercostal fatigue.

And then it was on to Paul's place for the last 40 minutes of a PIVO rehearsal of vocal jazz I knew pretty well, with less-skilled singers (except Laura) and less-tiring rep, but more of a mental effort for me (part-switching all over the place including within a song). It was fun, but I was tired. There was some leftover food, though, and I hadn't eaten since church, and the company was good; I ended up hanging around and talking to Laura and Paul for another hour or so.

I'm still tired today, and I think some of my difficulties in the Hildegard rehearsal may be due to what I perceive now is kind of a sore throat. Which needs sleep to recover. But I have to do all these things. But also in order to do the things I have to sleep.

Well, we'll see. Lots to do, lots to sleep.
sanura: (Default)
( Apr. 11th, 2014 02:17 am)
Well, that was magical.

Andrew and I got to Stubb's heinously early, even after we got halfway there and had to go back for my ticket. We definitely wanted enough time for him to eat, cause he was starving, but I am viciously paranoid about anything with the vaguest possibility of interfering with a Crash Kings concert, so he got the menu and ate at the bar. Luckily we had forever to wait around, so we sat at the weird little folding table on the patio and talked till it turned out that was the merch table and the openers asked if we were the official people cause they needed to set up their merch. They insisted we didn't need to move, though, and stood around chatting for awhile. King Washington are nice boys.

We sort of drifted inside in anticipation of the doors opening and got our wristbands before they let anybody in, because we'd been there for an hour and a half. So we sat on the stage in front of Tony's piano, hanging around to wait, and, lo! While he was setting up, my favorite Crash Kings roadie recognized me, greeted me enthusiastically, and said "don't tell anyone". He knew I was the transcription person, and later he told me Tony had been looking forward to seeing the new ones. So that was gratifying.

In addition to being eminently pleasant to talk to, once the doors opened and everybody took a place on the floor, it became apparent that King Washington are killer musicians. By the end of the first song I had resolved to get the album they had on sale on that table, and none of the following songs disappointed either. They're hugely excellent at vocal harmony, more than just the two-part stuff that Crash Kings feature between Mike and Tony, because both guitarists and the bassist all sing, and they use it almost all the time. I'm a sucker for good vocal harmony, but their songs are also put together very well, vaguely 60s but with a significant amount of unexpected progressions, which I'm also a sucker for, and they don't suck at their instruments either. They also do an adorable faux-echo trick on a couple songs, repeating the last syllable and backing up from the mics. That won me over completely.

And then it was time for our boys. Sometimes when Tony thanks the crowd for being awesome, it's politeness; sometimes he calls them out on their apathy, so this time when he climbed up to his piano and grinned and professed amazement at how the crowd knew how to make a band feel at home, and he wished he could just be here, I don't think it was feigned. The crowd really was great.

As was the show. There is really nothing like the slow-sunrise smile of a performer who realizes nearly everyone in the audience is singing along with him. And there's nothing like his nearly incredulous grin of recognition when he realizes you're in your accustomed spot.

I headbanged so hard it hurt, and was far enough out of breath sometimes that I couldn't even sing properly. I wasn't really keeping track of what went in what order, only that they rocked harder than I'd ever seen them. A lot of that has to do with the material from the second album, naturally, which is less piano-bass and more synthy clav wonderland, but there was enough ingrained amazement I didn't trust myself to remember what happened when.

Tony posted the set list on Twitter later, which is handy, because I think I borked my camera when it jumped out of my pocket, so I only got two tiny clips recorded before it would no longer turn on, and sometimes I use it to keep track of what they played. Luckily, I didn't have to here:

There were a couple of banter/patter moments where Tony established a pretty good relationship with the crowd; he decided that there were an awful lot of pretty girls in the audience, and Austin guys are lucky. Awhile later, Mike told him he was digging himself into a hole when he got to the end of the first runthrough set and thanked us all for flying on Crash Kings airlines with them and made a Malaysia joke. It was probably true. In another moment, near the end, he made a little announcement about how a fan had flown in from Salt Lake to see them for her birthday, and he played her Happy Birthday in an adorably loungy jazz style. It was absurdly cute.

Spectacularly Reckless, a new song I had never heard in my life, is GORGEOUS. I LOVE IT. Even catchier than most of the second album, I was singing along by the second chorus, and I cannot wait to have a recording of it. Tony was talking after the show and apparently they're going right back into the studio when they finish the tour, to start on the third album. Perfect. I want it. I just get so excited.

A few days ago, while I was still vibrating with anticipation about seeing this show, I was trawling Youtube for live videos of the second album, and I noticed something. There were at least clips of almost everything but White Wolf. So I tweeted Tony to ask if they ever played it live, and he answered "yeah we do. Maybe in Austin". Turns out, they had never played it on tour before. So they played White Wolf specifically because I had asked about it, and Tony pointed at me at the end and said "that's for you".

The two encores not included on this setlist (and boy did the crowd require an encore; we were chanting "one more" for what seemed like several minutes after the boys left the stage) were My Love, which was sweetly touching, especially since it was at the end of a long show and the low notes were pretty iffy in Tony's voice, and Saving Grace, which numerous people in the crowd had been yelling for intermittently throughout the show between songs (Tony mock-sternly informed them that requests were not open at this time). But then after the first encore, I heard the familiar progression rumble that I knew from hearing them do it live before, and just exploded with glee. They hammered the opening bars, and then, on the first verse, which opens "Take my hand", he did his usual mic-grab and step-touch, and looked down at me and reached out for my hand. So of course I gave it to him. I sang so loud and bounced so hard I couldn't breathe, and couldn't sing, and clung to the stage as we all mellowed out during the buildup to the chorus.

I was so tired when they finally left the stage for the last time, I just went out to the merch table and sat down on the ground in a corner. Then I realized I hadn't yet bought the King Washington album, so I took care of that and chatted with the guitarist for awhile, learning that this was their second album (they sold out of the first one, but it was on iTunes). I really, really liked their music and hope to see them live again.

While waiting for the crowd around Tony to thin, I hung out with tour manager who had recognized me, and he asked to see the transcriptions and marveled at them for a bit, explaining how Tony knew I'd be there and was really looking forward to seeing them. He showed me the new shirt, which of course I bought despite wanting one of the new tank tops (they were sold out, and I prefer to buy merch at shows rather than off the online store). Andrew was saying how he felt a bit special because we were authorized to hang around after everybody was gone, as the tour manager knew Tony would want to talk to me. There was a hilarious interlude where about four groupies attempted to go off with Mike (who was very drunk), and then a couple got very upset when he sort of sidestepped them.

Finally, nearly everyone but the crew and the staff and the bands and a couple of really old friends of Tony's were gone. The closing staff, one guy in particular, were getting really grouchy, but there was Tony, beaming to see me, as I told him I had something for him, as well as some questions. So I gave Tony the transcriptions. He grinned really wide when he saw the title of Hesitate and looked through it, and thought for sure I had done both Raincoat and 14 Arms before, but I told him all I had left to do from the first album was You Got Me, because I wasn't sure what to do with the end, and I did 14 Arms specifically because he'd told me he'd wanted to see what it looked like. He told me he still had all of the transcriptions I'd given him, and he looked through the new ones a bit and answered my questions about the changes in the bridge and the inversions in Raincoat to the best of his ability, though he remarked that he doesn't read music much anymore, and he'd really like to get to a piano to give these a good looking over. So I told him I'd love it if he would, and he said he'd send me corrections if he could figure out how to specify where/what to change, and I reminded him there were bar numbers on the sheets. I didn't want to ruin his life or anything, but I'd really appreciate it if he could send me changes, and he said it was his honor. I told him I keep doing these things because he keeps writing stuff I love and just can't leave alone.

I even told him I might do Wednesday on my gig in a couple weeks, and he said, "good for you" and seemed really pleased. I told him I'm a bit terrified, which he thought was understandable, and I was excited but I don't know how to do a rock show, really, as I've never done one of just my own stuff. He reassuringly said he was that way at first and then you try it and you stop being terrified, and it was just utterly fantastic to talk to him about it.

They were loading out during the entire conversation, and the venue staff were getting more and more grouchy, and by the end of our conversation they were literally kicking even the band out, so I bid the boys goodbye and split, and Andrew and I drove home in something of a daze.

Everything hurts now, but that may well be the best show I've ever been to. It was really nothing short of magical, but magic like it's portrayed in magical realism, the kind where everything seems normal and nobody acknowledges the wonder because it's very strange but it's part of life.

I hope there's another show soon.

I hope my own show goes well.

sanura: (Default)
( Apr. 3rd, 2014 10:22 am)
We're nearly through with conference week, here at Dayjob. I'm unreasonably exhausted by it; I didn't even have to organize it, or move heavy things!

Meanwhile, I can play a round of 2048 between proofing new book editions. Or worry a little bit about my show, or transcriptions for Crash Kings, though thankfully I've finished both Harry (extremely well-received; several people came up to me and told me how much they loved it, in addition to the general enthusiasm for singing it) and Help, which we have not yet rehearsed, as Monday's rehearsal was mostly spent on the photoshoot for the new brochure. Seems like a waste, especially since we have so few rehearsals before the gala, but I'm sure we'll be fine anyway. Even if there is some choralography. Which induces a heavy but tolerant sigh from me; Lauren's choreographing it, so she knows enough about the capabilities of an unenthusiastic set of choir-dancers not to overdo it nor to make it look dumb.

Meanwhile, I want to get at least Hesitate and one of the 3 remaining songs from the first album transcribed before the Crash Kings show on the 10th. It's been two years, and though I have kept in practice transcribing stuff, and even gotten to do it professionally, I want to keep in the habit of bringing sheet music to Crash Kings. They pretty much started me off on two very important paths: transcribing in general, for pay and for fun, and singing and playing my own songs. Meeting Tony and nerding out about music made me realize that despite their glory on the stage, that kind of skill isn't unattainable: they're real, and I am real, and I could do that, too. I have my first public exhibition of that fact on April 27.

Speaking of which, I had a rehearsal with Stephen on Sunday afternoon, and I don't think it's going to suck. I'm still keeping up a runthrough every day, because I can just imagine that horrible blankness of forgetting how the chords go and being stuck, maybe having to start over, maybe never finishing. I can handle forgetting words, but if I'm in control of the harmonic world and it grinds to a halt, there's no good way to recover. It's happened to me in public before, but I can also reassure myself that I have sung all and played most of these songs in public before, and I haven't choked on them.

Similarly, I think I'll be okay with the monologue/mantra of the Easter In Memory Of Her performance in a few weeks. I did it fine last year, and this time I don't have to learn a new monologue, just remember the same one. Maybe I can force the right state of mind this time and actually shed a few tears, instead of just acting them. In any case, I think it'll go well; I made enough people cry last time that I know it'll be fine even if I do the same thing.

So I'm looking forward to the chamber choir gala, despite my discomfort with fundraising events in general, because I think my arrangement is pretty good and everybody seems to like it. I'm looking forward to the Crash Kings show, because Crash Kings literally changed my life, I want to make them a transcription they like so that they know that, and I know I'm good at transcription. I'm looking forward to Easter In Memory of Her, because I'm sick of not being onstage and I did all right last year and there's nothing new about it. I'm looking forward to my show at Warehouse Live, because SHOW. OF MY OWN STUFF.

I hope enough people buy tickets.
sanura: (Default)
( Mar. 24th, 2014 09:07 am)
Having two weeks of from chamber choir in the middle of the season is a strange feeling, but I needed the time to put together the arrangements. Arrangement. One. I finished the I'm Just Wild About Harry arrangement, and I think it's thoroughly adequate, though we'll see tonight at rehearsal.

I was going to perhaps pull an all-nighter to finish the arrangement of Help that chamber choir has also asked for, but lo, a reprieve! I asked the director for another week to work on it, because yeah, it's all down, but I'm not happy with it and I think I could do better. And he said yes, because it's not like we don't have enough to do in one rehearsal tonight, what with the gala music and the Brahms Liebeslieder and all the Yumiko Beatles arrangements (to which I am looking immensely forward). So I have time to make it not suck quite as much as it currently sucks.

The main thing that I spent a couple hours freaking out about last night, though, was the soloish show I finally accepted from MyAfton, which has booking agents who apparently trawl SoundCloud looking for likely artists, because that's where mine found me. She kept offering me shows after I signed up for the service, for about a year, and I've come to acknowledge that Reggie and Andrew probably won't play with me until the stars align, so I accepted the show anyway when she said I could do it by myself. I asked if I could bring a drummer, and she encouraged it, so Stephen's agreed to help me, because the thought of bopping around on the Warehouse Live Studio Room stage by myself is a terrifying prospect.

After taking inventory of the songs I can pull of with just me and a drummer, I'm almost sure I can put together a half-hour set. I will be practicing basically every day till April 27th in order to make it happen, though, because this is really not my forte. I want Reggie to be playing. But I will do it. If I put it in terms of my master's recital, except with an iffier audience, I can comprehend the reality and accept that it's possible. So. Making Archive, Rain, Blindsided, Air Travel Blessing (eek! I have to relearn the chords!) on the piano for my own stuff, Wednesday for a cover, and a couple Beatles covers on the mandolin as well as maybe A Certainty (which is short, but funny, so.) and possibly learning to play What I Wouldn't Do for You on the piano instead of relying on somebody else to play it on the bass... or maybe adapting it to the mandolin?

Anyway, I think I have half an hour. Blargle. Ack.

Meanwhile, tonight comes the Harry arrangement.

sanura: (Default)
( Dec. 9th, 2013 10:54 pm)

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.

sanura: (Default)
( Oct. 15th, 2013 11:13 pm)

That was the first rehearsal of an arrangement of mine of a piece I didn't previously know, for players with the majority of whom I was unacquainted. Sonja asked me to arrange Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins for oboe, violin, cello, percussion, piano, her, and male chorus.

There were only about 6 bars missing from the instrumentalists' part here and there and a couple of missing accidentals. I was intimidated beyond belief, as all the instrumentalists were Symphony players, and the singers were all from the chamber choir, so while I am embarrassed about the dropped bars it was not a disaster and I sent out fixed parts immediately, and it otherwise went well. I do love the piece. And none of the few actual arranging decisions I had to make seemed inappropriate. Yay. Landmark?

Now I need to write a show.
sanura: (Default)
( Jun. 17th, 2013 10:43 pm)
Andrew is home from the Ukraine and my song-planning mind is buzzing with potential. Also it's nice to have him back. It's both weird and totally normal; he was gone for two years, but I was awfully accustomed to collaborating with him in high school. Sort of like Reggie.

So he came over this evening. We fed him Dan's potato salad and half a sausage and listened to his stories about Nikolayev to start with. He brought me a present; our shared love of green rocks instigated an awesome gift of moldovite, and our shared love of interesting coins brought me some really cool kopiyok, some of which have some amazing sickle-and-hammer propaganda on them.

Once Reggie arrived, we ran recordings of the extant band rep and talked through it. We made some serious plans, in order of priority:
Cello fills on Genocide
Universe strings (harp?)
Pizz & pads on Summertime
(Bryan Mayqesue fills on I Fall Down?)
Pads/fills on Turning Around
Houston Heat May solos (Peter? or Andrew)
Write Summertime string parts besides pizz & pads
Rain string adaptation: violins-->cello
Disappear walking bass
Runaway single cello line
cello choir Intermission?

for me, exclusively:
rewrite Encouragement
rewrite Fall, Fly, Sing
record vocal counterpoint on Alchemy

So that should keep us busy.
We're going to be so awesome.
sanura: (Default)
( Apr. 20th, 2013 01:20 am)
It's been a high-octane couple of workdays with the Connexions conference and the PLS conference both coming up next week. I even had to go to a meeting today, to determine what bits of that I could help with. It's kind of a big deal to be pulled off what I'm doing to go to a meeting, too, since I'm fixing the last edits for the NonMajors Biology book, which is past its deadline (I think).

Dan showed me a couple drafts of a new little video for marketing or promotion or just spreading the word that we exist, and I have to admit, it's pretty good. Though I pointed out some comma splicing and some SV disagreement. But the concept and the execution are admirable, and the little I-V-vi-IV ostinato it reels through with changing texture and dynamic is quite catchy and inspiring. I like it a lot.

For the first time in awhile tonight, I got to go to Reggie's to record. He has a new tiny cat given (rather inappropriately and awkwardly) to him by a guy who really wants to be his boyfriend. The cat's adorable, can't be over 6 weeks, and a hyper little ball of interference and destruction. His name is Freddie. He does have a last name, but in the interest of retaining some semblance of dignity, I will not divulge it here.

So, we thought earlier that our band name might be Houston, following in the grand tradition of bands like Boston, Chicago, Kansas, The United States of America, and Europe. But we aren’t sure it gives the right impression, and it makes us sound full of ourselves. And we like Vivat & Hail better. While not everyone may be able to pronounce it or know what it means, that doesn’t seem like much of a deterrence for a band name, and it sounds cooler and reflects our musical lineage rather than just our initial location.

Or Hail & Vivat. We’re still not sure. I like it with the V first, because V is less common and I like the prosody. Well, I like them both. Reggie likes Hail & Vivat better maybe. We’ll see.

What I was going to say was that we now have the entire piano track down for a song that identifies us as Houstonian (to a point), as the title of the song is “Houston Heat”. It is a good song, guys. This one is going to rock hard.
sanura: (Default)
( Apr. 8th, 2013 11:10 pm)
1. Dan got me a new work computer and it is super fancy and it has retina display and is about twice as fast as the old one. It finished migrating last night, and I used it to do twice as much work today as I might otherwise have been able to do.

2. Chamber choir rehearsed Bohemian Rhapsody tonight and Bob had me get up to specify how to do it and he had me sing the lead from up there and they applauded me for quite awhile so apparently everyone likes it and Lynelle texted me that I was awesome tonight and she's so glad the secret of my amazingness is out. So apparently I'm amazing.

It's been a good day. Zep on the big speakers during work, Queen on the pro choir in the evening.
After last night's rehearsal I was trying not to get my hopes up because it was still not for sure and it all depended on my ability to transcribe a complex Queen piano part in the next few days and maybe arrange some guitar solos for our excellent sopranos, but I can’t just keep quiet about it because now it's ON and the terrible Bohemian Rhapsody arrangement we rehearsed Monday night is out and we're doing mine. Sonja mentioned to Bob that I had one that was better, and he emailed me before I even got home asking about it.

I thought I’d probably peaked in grad school, when the chair of the CI department asked me to pick a band to back me up and arrange the vocal backups for my favorite CI voalists. And we sang it at the Feast of Music gala fundraiser, where dinner was $1000 a plate or something. And now I'm singing it at the swank fundraiser for this internationally touring chamber choir. WHAT. Behold, the email I got when I told him the arrangement was for 4-part choir and soloist, and that I hadn't written the piano part down:
That’s great! Bruce is pretty good about filling in a general outline so you wouldn’t need to give him every note. And how would feel about being the soloist?


And then, behold, the email I received, upon sending Bob my choral skeleton version without the solo or piano part (since Schockett is a god and learned it by ear, I didn't have to transcribe it):

What you have here looks great but Bruce will need the piano part filled out somehow along with the solo line. The choral parts look ready to go.

Do you have time for this and would be it fun? I don’t want to trap you just because you mentioned something about your arrangement to Sonja. But…(no pressure) we’d all get a kick out of singing your arrangement.


I answered him with perhaps more enthusiasm than entirely wise, and he affirmed I should go for it. I was so excited my heart beat too fast and my extremities got cold and I sweated. So excited it was possibly bad for my health. I got most of the piano transcription done this evening, all the way up to the 12/8, because there are various transcriptions out there already and I don't have to do all the nitpicky piano work totally on my own, which is convenient. Especially since this is to be rehearsed next week. Man I'm gonna put in so many expression and articulation markings Bob's not gonna have a single note to make.

sanura: (Default)
( Mar. 24th, 2013 07:40 pm)
Reggie has been depressed to the point of total noncommunication for months and months. Since before Christmas. He came over last night after a few days of consistent texting about how he wants to Really Do This band. We had the traditional meal of reunion, Chipotle, and savored it greatly. We hung out for hours, watching and listening to Jamie Parker, working on my various dumb-funny songs (it's so much help to have a pianist who can just play chords when I write them down), making scratch-tracks of the various sketches he has that we don't want to lose track of, drank amazing crazy cocktails I made out of whatever we had around and vitamins, and all was as it should be. And then. We put down his vocals for Summertime/I Fall Down.

I've been obsessing over this song since we put the scratch track down nearly a year ago, and since we put down the piano demo half a year ago, and now it's a SONG that's presentable instead of an in-progress thing that needs so much more to become intelligible. GO LISTEN.

It's REALLY GOOD. I think it might be the best thing we've ever done.

Now to write the string parts.

Man, what a thing to come back home to after five hours of church.
sanura: (Default)
( Mar. 16th, 2013 11:13 pm)
Well, the Chamber Choir trip to Dallas was a smear of thoroughly intense experiences, as choir trips are meant to be; long, oddly tiring bus rides and the sleepover aura of a hotel roommate you like and the joyous whirl of a Musica Russica booth with Rach and Tchaik books over half-off and the utterly exhausting focus of performance at a national convention twice in one day and the search for open restaurants in evening downtown Dallas and the internal groan of an 8am bus home. But it went well.

And this evening was the Walton. Well, the Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia was on the first half, and I loved what the conductor did with it, but then there was a Haydn symphony, which put me right off, so I was thoroughly primed to be overwhelmed with the glory of Walton's choral-orchestral writing, as I'd only ever sung his art songs before. Belshazzar's Feast, people. Take a little over half an hour and listen to it yourself. Just another reason to regret that I wasn't born English.

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.
A slight disregard for the big names of conducting has been a result, for me, of singing in the Houston Symphony Chorus, where sometimes the big names have big ideas and then big gaps in communication. However, I suspected he'd live up to his. He headed the choral programs at NEC and Yale, and while the choral head at NEC while I was there was a simpering governess who managed to be handholding and condescending at once with low expectations she talked up to the sky, I doubted that would be the case with a founding member of the King's Singers.

And so. It came almost to that best of situations, when I am struggling to keep up. I never did lose his thread, but there was such a thread! Everything he said, he said succinctly and without waffling or circumlocution, which was a nice change to be sure. And he said so little! It was a whirlwind rehearsal. I am properly exhausted from the surfeit of attention I paid for 3 solid hours. As I should always need to.

He was what I suspect Stephen Connolly will be when he's had as many years of experience conducting, rather than singing and workshopping. Same vast depth of expertise, same years of experience on the other side of the baton, but such control over the hive mind of a choir. Probably some of the difference there is that Stephen's choirs were young and didn't fully appreciate him, and the chamber choir is a professional ensemble, but we have our frustrating nincompoops too. Similarly frustrating in both cases were people actually talking during rehearsal, while direction was being given. Well, we know who that was. Same person who got called out for skewing the blend. And someone else refused outright to be separated totally from our voice part. What a way to advertise your unpreparedness. I can't imagine complaining audibly about not being able to do it.

But the few shadows cast on the highlit rehearsal can't abbreviate its excellence. Yes, we HAD to pay attention. Yes, we mostly did. That's what I want to do for the rest of my life. And we've got another one tomorrow.
Soooo back int he middle of last year I volunteered for a "Night of Improv" at a Chamber Choir donor's house. I wasn't sure about what it was, just that it would include Paul English. And now it's this Sunday, and I have only a vague idea of what it's about. Paul wants to wing it to some degree, give me the first half-hour and him the second and do a thing together at the end, which is fine with me, but I am only kind of an expert in improv, my master's was really a survey of perspectives from which to improvise, so my heart beats very fast and adrenaline floods me whenever I think about it being this week, and I'm going to make some notes and bring them with me.

Explain what CI degree is
studied improv from 3 perspectives:
-learning conventions of idioms (but not in super depth): (choro, early jazz, dastgah, Appalachian folk, shir, raga, gospel, medieval organum/Renaissance fauxbourdon)
--explain what dastgahs are (quartersteppable)
--demonstrate/explain what ragas are (shrutis in avaroha and aroha)
-learning parameters of evaluation for free improv (NO SOUP, texture interest, useful beginning, middle, end)
--demonstrate/explain what free is

-development of personal style: express internal, whether it be emotion or harmonic interest or melodic leading
--Place Improv
--Unat Razi? If enough choral volunteers
--"Classical"? I like heavy Russians and light French, +harmonic collaborators I like improvising in those styles
--explain about multitracking accompaniment improvs, how improv is composition
--Funnest: Carroll madrigals

Beirut 66 with Paul?
sanura: (Default)
( Jan. 5th, 2013 03:29 pm)

Archive, which I wrote in 2011, has finally got all the instruments on it. My beautiful beautiful friends, none of whom charged me what they're worth, are the chamber orchestra:

Kyra Davies, violins
Rainey Weber, viola
Brent Selby, cello
Becky Tobin, clarinet
Michael Garman, bass clarinet
Joelle Wagner, bassoon
Ben Jaber, French horn

And I sing, play piano and bass. If you feel like supporting this kind of attempt from me (and the beautiful beautiful friends who collaborated on it with me), you can pay me a dollar for a high-quality mp3 here:

Otherwise, just go listen to it on soundcloud:


sanura: (Default)
( Sep. 21st, 2012 01:28 am)
Just had my first-ever midnight gig. Also possibly my first non-classical gig not in a church.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Stephen, the guy who's been drumming on Reggie tracks recently, emailed me saying call him, he wanted to talk to me about singing in this folk-rock-gypsy band he plays in. He emailed me a couple mp3s, and I went to a rehearsal that night.

And tonight we played at Fitzgerald's, which is where I saw River City Extension.

I think it went well.
sanura: (Default)
( Aug. 10th, 2012 01:15 pm)
Such ridiculously good music has been written in the last two days, it's hard to believe. I've recorded rehearsals of several, in case the show bombs, but I doubt it will, because we're learning this stuff as well as we're writing it.

Also other good things. A storm came through around 10 last night and blew coolly through the third floor where we were rehearsing. Then it went away. It's been unreal.

Flowers in the fields, mist on the mountains, and that's not even close to infinity.
sanura: (Default)
( Mar. 16th, 2012 07:36 pm)
So, last night Laura took me to see The Bricklayer, the opera based on a short story about Iranian refugees' psychological issues wither emigration after the torture and execution of their son/brother. It seems relatively autobiographical, as it's by this Iranian-American author, Farnoosh Moshiri. I don't remember who wrote the music, though it was all right; five-or-six-piece chamber ensemble, clarinet/bass clarinet, harp, flute, cello, violin, and sometimes ney. The ney was really only used for effect, which is sad, but if you're a Western composer with no solid grasp of its traditional use and capabilities, then that's what you can do, and it was a good effect. The opera itself was quite serviceable, though my absence form the genre for the time I've been away has lowered my vibrato tolerance to nearly nothing, so almost everyone seemed unable to match pitch most of the time. However, the tenor playing the Bricklayer himself had a beautiful clear tone, and the little girl playing the granddaughter obviously didn't have operatic vibrato. So that was nice. It was a frightening story and a good exposition of the circumstances a lot of Iranians are left with, and I appreciated it and even liked it.

However, after intermission, the Persian rock stars played. Wow, man. The band is called Tehranosaurus, which is adorable, and the frontman, Fared Shafinury, did a much better job of integrating musical styles than the composer of the opera. He opened with a slightly stoned-sounding speech about fraternity and equality, with a bonus vague explanation of dastgah that I only understood because I studied Persian modal systems at NEC, and then went straight into a solo setar exploration of the given mode. It was really quite good as an elaboration of the radif, by my only-slightly-informed standards, but it was also an excellent piece of coherent and developed improvisation by Western standards. I think some reviews have used the term "jazzy", which seems misleading to me, but it was definitely Western-Ear-Accessible. He went in and out of that solo space and traded with his colleagues, playing ney and daf respectively, and in some pieces he also sang. Extremely well, again by both Persian and Western standards. He had stupendous control over the glottal shake ornament, which I think (waiting on Peter Row confirmation for this) is called taqrir. So good. I was so impressed, and so was Laura. Apparently these guys are fairly known here, because they got giant rockstar screams when they came onstage. Well-deserved.

Laura sort of kind of snuck us into the green room for the reception, which we then learned to our chagrin was invite-only. But the PR lady knows Laura, and invited her in! So I didn't feel too bad. We ate an awful lot of reception, food, though. It was so good. Pistachio-rosewater-cardamom cupcakes, tiny lamb popsicles on long bones (so tender and juicy), saffron rice, tabouli to die for, it was amazing. We were sort of waiting around for Tehranosaurus so I could glee at them, but we got more and more antsy about eating the food and not being the right people, so we skipped out right as they were coming in and being congratulated. Whatever, I'll internet-stalk them. I hope they do more live shows.