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Catharsis

Sometimes you don't realize how much you've missed something until you bring it back. It has really been years since I've been actively studying the piano, but I kept it up on some level through most of that time. For the last few months, I haven't even had the keyboard set up in my apartment, and I haven't played at all. A few weeks ago when I was visiting my parents, I just felt drawn to the piano and played mostly Chopin and Schumann for hours. Just yesterday, I finally motivated myself to go through a corner of the stuff in our common space, (almost none of which is even mine), and make a space for my keyboard and amp. I played maybe 10 pieces out of Bach's well-tempered clavier as soon as it was set up. Today, I didn't even get home after choir practice until after 11, but within 10 or 15 minutes of arriving I was at the keyboard. (Nice thing about keyboards, I can plug in headphones and play at any time of the day or night.) I started by reading through a few more preludes and fugues from the Bach book, but eventually I just stopped READING music to just create my own. I sat there and played whatever came to my head, and it was a huge release of emotions that I...really needed to release. Even when I was playing regularly, I haven't played with no particular idea of WHAT I would play since my jazz piano lessons back in high school. And I tended to do it when my parents weren't around, because improvising like that is sort of like baring your soul, and even though a lot of it comes out sounding way better than you'd expect, I can be really bashful about letting anyone hear it. But when I have so many feelings running through me, I just wonder how (and why) I've done without this for so long.

I think I'm going to be playing a lot more piano in the near future.

To everything, turn, turn, turn...

Hey everyone! Yet again, I haven't updated in ages. Ages that grow longer all the time. But I thought I'd finally catch you all up, while I'm here waiting around at the Portland (ME) train/bus station. In lieu of the traditional retrospective New Years' entry, I'll just update you on the 4 months or so that you've heard nothing about, if you're relying on this journal still for info about me.

So, my last update was on August 24, about plans to visit NYC in September. I made that trip and had fun seeing friends, as well as singing with a small professional choir at the 5th ave synagogue for Selichot, where I'm unofficially invited to return next year. Singing went very well. I stayed with Suz and Graeme, and visited Dave, Ilya, and possibly others who have slipped my mind at the current moment.

I sang a couple weeks later in Williamantic, CT, where I'm cantorial soloist for the high holy days. I felt nervous and underprepared when I arrived, but after an intimidating first service, it only was and felt easier for the coming ones. So much repetition of the same music from service to service, and fewer new things each day. I got some constructive criticism from the rabbi, primarily regarding the silent/independent prayer parts of the service, which are relatively unfamiliar to me as a reform Jew. Which parts and paragraphs do I start leading, how long do I continue before trailing off into independent bits, and when and where do I pick up the concluding phrases? It may seem odd when there are all these big, intricate cantorial prayers that the little in-between bits and pieces would challenge me most, but that's where I had the most trouble. Having lead all of these things at least once, though, I'm confident that I will be able to repeat and improve it for the coming year. My contract from last year had my return built in, stating that I'd come back and lead again unless either party gave notice prior to February that they planned to find someone/where else. I heard nothing but compliments from the congregation and the temple leadership, and everyone seemed eager to have me back, so I don't expect to hear anything different in the next month.

The day after I returned from Yom Kippur in CT, in late September, I started my new job at Red Oak after school program, part of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center. With my partner group leader, Cindy, who had started only a week before me, I planned and managed activities and watched over a group of 20 first and second graders. 20 hours a week, with benefits, requiring neither evenings nor weekends and perfect for supporting erratic musical work financially without getting in the way of the required time. It was trying at times, but fun, and I really loved my kids. And, as I found out when I was laid off a couple months later, they loved me too. I was laid off purely because I was last hired -- parents were laid off, pulled kids out to save money, and fewer students meant there wasn't enough income for the organization to maintain my position. We asked the kids to make something -- anything -- for me on my last regular day, and provided them with art supplies. I was touched by the things they made, and the tremendous affection they showed me once it was announced I would be leaving. I was touched particularly by the one student who gave me the hardest time, who I would have sworn hated me, but who, when it came time for these last impressions, wrote "I love you" on the card she made for me on my last day. It's amazing what an impression I made in just two months, but I was once again searching for jobs.

I was substituting most of the day New Year's eve at Red Oak, before singing in the evening at All-Saints. While I was there, the director told me of an opening, in a similar position to the one I had been laid off from. Actually, the same position by title, though I'd be working with kids a year or two older this time. At the time, it was probable they'd offer it to me if I wanted it, and since then it has all been confirmed, and I'll start Monday, Jan. 11.

Attention NYC folks!

I will be in your area Sept. 10-12 (Thursday-Saturday), for a Selichot gig at the 5th ave synagogue. Possibly for a day or two on either end, depending on availability of folks who want to see me, and housing. If you're in or near NYC and would like to catch up or spend a few hours together, let me know. If you can host me for the days I'm there (or some of the days I'm there), even better. I'm still looking for a place to stay, and I'm not terribly picky. A couch would be great, or I'm fine sleeping on the floor in my sleeping bag if that's what's available. Looking forward to seeing some of you soon! :-)

Hi!

Wow, I think this is the longest I've gone without updating this journal since I created it. So much has happened.

I've been recently to Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, which was great fun (although the tremendous rain/mud was not the most exciting part.) Got to see lots of friends, and stayed with my Aunt Nancy who lives near there in NY. Tons of dancing and good music, and I had to restrain myself from buying any of the cool stuff in the shops that I can't actually afford.

After Falcon Ridge, I went on to the Western Wind workshop in ensemble singing. Lots of fun, and I love being able to work with such high caliber musicians. I talked about this last year, I think, and went back this year for the 5-day session. I've made a lot of connections through that, but quite a lot of them are in NYC. I'm being encouraged to move, and in the long run, perhaps I will, but it's a lot lower risk to stay in the Boston area, where I don't pay rent until I can afford it and choose to move.

I went to the Camp Encore/Coda all-year reunion this past weekend. Fewer people than I expected, but I still got to see a number of old friends and meet some new ones, and the whole place brings back happy memories from so many summers growing up. Alums from the 21st century back to the 1960s. I enjoyed it a lot. And Portland, ME was conveniently right on my way back.

For the limited bad news as well: I rear-ended someone on my way to Falcon Ridge. No one was hurt, damage to the other car was limited to the rear bumper, and mine has already been fixed (though my wallet was not happy about it). I had fun talking to the police, and then repair shop folks, in my dancing skirt. Yeah, maybe next time I'll change when I get there...

Mom and dad have been in Alaska for the past couple weeks, and I just picked them up from the airport last night. Sounds like they had a great time on their 40th-wedding-anniversary cruise, and I'm happy for them.

Employment is still the weakest link in my life these days. Choir job still exists, but takes a break over the summer, so I haven't been making anything from that recently. High holy days cantorial soloist job will earn me a nice chunk in September, but again nothing over the summer. I was doing landscaping/gardening/yardwork stuff for a while, through a connection from the church and at a pretty good pay rate, but that has gradually faded into nothing as the summer went on. I have some prospects for jobs, but no offers. Interviewed at Kolbo yesterday (iconic Brookline judaica/art store), and would love to work there. But who knows. At least, with no rent to speak of, I shouldn't have real financial difficulties once things start up again in the fall. My expenses aren't high.

So, I guess that's life. I'm having a great time socially, but not making much money to speak of. The things most likely to change, though, are the ones I want to change (employment), and life is pretty good already. So, not a bad place to be. Happy. Yay!

Really?

Our guest preacher at church this morning just compared the spirit of Red Sox nation to the spirit of God. Come on, really?

Apr. 28th, 2009

I had an amazing weekend at NEFFA, and just got back from the last dance of the 5-day Concord Contra Challenge. I am now officially "welcomed this day into the fanatical band of dancers known as contraistas". Yeah, the name doesn't do much for me either, but I can deal with being part of a fanatical band of dancers. :-) More on NEFFA later, probably.

In about 12 hours, though, I will be in Connecticut, interviewing/auditioning for a cantorial soloist position for the high holy days. I think I would do a very good job of it, and I seem to have valuable connections as well as skills for this one. Sleep would do me some good after my exhausting weekend. Wish me luck!

Apr. 2nd, 2009

I'm in process of recording Kol Nidre (one of the most famous pieces in the Jewish high holy day liturgy), for an application to a reconstructionist temple as a high holy day cantorial soloist. In process, I was looking through my "recordings of me" playlist in iTunes for another already-recorded piece or two to send out, and I noticed that the playlist has just hit 450 tracks. Granted, these aren't all solo things -- they include recordings done with choirs, bands, Elizabethans, etc., but still, that's a lot of music! I almost certainly have a few more, too, that I never remembered to add. I didn't realize how much of this music I had...

Edit: Done, and I'm actually rather impressed with how it came out (well, except that I should have used a pop filter). I think I would be a good cantor. Care to listen? Incidentally, you can also find a couple tracks off the Leeds' demo disk there as well. I'm the lead vocalist for both. No, we're not entirely settled on keeping that name, but as it's the one we had before, it seems to be the default until such time as we all agree on a different one.

Calling all Boston area singers!

Well, Boston area singers who will be around next year. The Cantata Singers are holding auditions for next year in about a month, on May 5. I may not have talked about them a whole lot here, but they are very good, and it's a great opportunity. I'm really enjoying being a part of the group. It was also highly recommended to me by a number of musicians/teachers, including Kerry back at Williams. Rehearsals are Wednesday nights in Cambridge, and (if accepted) you would very likely be asked to attend for a couple months leading up to a single concert, so it probably wouldn't be a commitment for the entire year. It is primarily unpaid, though they do pay soloists. Here's the official announcement:

Cantata Singers AuditionsCollapse )

On a related note, my band is also looking for one more (male) singer and rhythm guitarist to fill out our sound. We're looking for someone with a harder rock sort of voice, middle-ish range, and I think I'm less likely to find that on my friends list, but can't hurt to post anyway.

Well, that didn't last long...

DEFFA

I spent all day yesterday at the DownEast Folk Festival. Crazily full day, including about 4 hours driving (round trip), a couple hours of eating and/or watching performances, and 11-ish hours of dancing. So much fun, but also so exhausting. Getting back at 2:30 AM and having to be up at 7 AM to shower and go to church, after such a tiring day, is not good for my normal functioning, so I will now proceed to sleep all afternoon. Also, I think I'm moving from one dance crush to...3, I suppose, people I would have asked out by now if not for location and/or other practicality issues. Why do they all have to live in Maine? This would be easier to dismiss if I didn't think they liked me back. *sigh*