Saturday, October 31, 2009

Progress!

Great voice lesson today!!! I warmed up beforehand, like I usually do, but instead of warming up in the car up to the time of the lesson, I warmed up at home and was pretty much silent in the car for the 15 minute drive. Did that make a difference? One of the many questions I have about warming up... that could be its own blog entry.

So we did all these vocal exercises up and down the scale and I was in great voice. Then we did Batti Batti and my teacher was impressed!! She said I sounded really really nice. She jokes that I'm the poster child for a good voice student, because all her other students are teenagers and they don't pick up the music or practice in between lessons. Yeah well when I was a teenager, whenever I sang my two older brothers would tell me to shut up and that my voice stinks. So I can imagine some of them might be in a similar situation that makes them self-conscious. Hell they're teenagers - everything makes them self-conscious. Plus I pay for my lessons... but that's not why I practice. It's the "I don't give a crap what you think" attitude about people overhearing me practice. And as I've said before, my neighbors have all heard me. And I love singing, and I want to sound better and to learn more more more!!! THAT'S the real reason I practice - because I WANT to! I can't NOT sing. Hokey hokey hokey I know. Anyway she gave me some exercises to do for a few of the tricky spots in Batti Batti - the "ah" sound at a certain note is coming out sort of strained, so she reminded me to keep what she calls a "dumb jaw," a wide open mouth to create vertical space. For myself, I also think it forward, sort of up and out, and I have to remember to use my low breath. The more I practice, the more easily I can fit it all together. So I was really pleased at the end of the lesson.

Alex started his lesson today too. He's getting a 30 minute private lesson which will mostly be a piano lesson but will include a lot of music theory appropriate for his current musical knowledge and skill. His teacher is excited because he picks it up so quickly. She said he really fits best in-between the levels of the group classes, so private lessons are perfect for him.

I'm thinking that if he's learning some piano, we really ought to pick up an electric keyboard for him to practice on. But do I need to get one with piano action keys? They're so much more expensive, and who knows if he'll continue with it.

I've decided that I will save the warming-up questions for another post, as it is now 12:01 am and although daylight savings time means an extra hour of sleep for most people, young children aren't clued into that. But the good news is, he'll go to sleep at 6:30 tomorrow night.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tamales are Calling for Me

You should hear Alex sing Art is Calling for Me. He's a pro. I just hope it doesn't get him harassed by his peers as he gets older.

His latest and greatest, in my opinion, was yesterday, when he was singing Una Voce Poco Fa, but instead of "e cento trappole" he was singing, "Cecilia Bartoli." I asked him about that... apparently he thought those were the words. Husband, of course, knows that they're not, which is why HE sings, "a chinchilla barfed on me" in that spot. Charming, no?

The conservatory has been able to arrange private lessons for Alex with his former teacher. He starts tomorrow. I'm so happy! He's happy about it too. I wonder what she'll do with him.

So it's all working out. Since his lesson will be 30 minutes to my 45, Husband will have to take them. Then they'll go to the farmer's market where, besides fresh produce and local meat, this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican grocery store sells fresh tamales from a big container in the back. No doubt someone is up at 3am making these to sell every Saturday at $1.50 each. You unwrap those babies to find chicken or pork with red, green or mole sauce, surrounded by corn meal. Spicy enough to burn but not so spicy that they ruin your day. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. My only fear is that the health department will one day realize what's going on and will shut them down. Until then...Saturday's lunch AND dinner taken are care of each week.

Now I'm so distracted by the thought of those tamales that I can't write any more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First of Three

There are three Carmens going on over the next several months. Well there are probably a lot more, but for this blog's sake, there are three. The first doesn't really affect me, except that I have friends in Madison, opera lovers, who, if they can get a babysitter, will try to make it to Madison Opera's production. Here's an interview with that cast:



My Carmen #2: My local opera co. If I'm not supering I'll go see it.
And Carmen #3: January at the Met.

And as usual, the YouTube box won't fit in my screen no matter how I format it, so click over to youtube if you want to see all of everyone's head.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Saturday!

Two types of singing on Saturday.

Morning: Voice lesson. Of course, the mere presence of my face in front of the computer screen, fingers poised over the keyboard, has made me forget what I wanted to write about the lesson.
Um, we went over Gretchen, she insisted that I didn't sound screechy, I told her I wanted to attack Batti Batti, she gave me the CD accompaniment for Art is Calling to Me, and in between and mostly before all that we did a bunch of different vocal exercises, including some new ones. She said that eventually we'll speed them up, but for now I should practice them slow and work through the break, etc.

Evening: Costume party with karaoke!!

Here I am with Husband:



Can you guess my costume?

And karaoke!! No, I did not get up there and show off with some high soprano song. Oh no. There were plenty of "singers" there doing that. I never planned on it. Instead I chose "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." It was LOWWWWWW. And I rocked it. Look!



There was a guy there who is a singer and sings baritone with a local chorale group. Gave him the Opera Project info. And I sang backup when he sang Monster Mash.

Of course "I Will Survive" was on the list, so I grabbed the mic and called all the women in the room to the stage for a mandatory ensemble performance. They didn't know what they were singing until they got there. Sadly no one caught it on video, but here's a photo:



That's me in the middle with my hands at my breast, being dramatic. You can't just stand there and sing - you have to LIVE it!

Cutting Costs

Shirts can be expensive. Opera companies do what they can to cut expenses. Sometimes that means, no shirt.



Edited to add:
Dang that was quick. Up and down in a day. I wonder... no, not going there.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

By Request

Alex just asked me to sing Una Donna and then Vedrai Carino. Haven't sung VC in a long time. Wow! I sang it the best I ever have. I impressed myself. Notes that before had seemed difficult or sounded screechy to me were easy and sounded nice, natural. I could feel the difference in how I'm now able to control my breath, relax my jaw and open. And a section that before I could never seem to get right just came out correctly. I heard myself singing it - it felt right and it sounded right. If I thought about it I would've lost it so I didn't think, I just sang.

Maybe the key for me is to have the listener bounce on a mini-trampoline while I'm singing. Oh and of course to put things away for a while to let my brain process them.

Friday, October 23, 2009

MishMosh

While away from the computer I can't even tell you how often I've thought, "Oh, I should blog about that." And now, while I'm sitting here, blank box in front of me, it all has flown. Of course. So instead, here's a mish mosh.

I've sent an email to the person who will be accompanying the recital of November 21. Haven't heard back... so I'll probably have to call. I'd so much rather email. Calling is so... personal. I have to interact without a chance to edit and revise. But I have to get the sheet music to her so I guess I'll have to initiate vocal contact.

Better TV still hasn't "activated" the Nathan Gunn interview. I even went and joined the site, thinking that it would make a difference, or that perhaps that would give me access to some part of the website where I could ask a question. No such luck. Perhaps eventually someone will figure it out and fix it.

I heard from the head of the early childhood education department at Westminster. She was in contact with Alex's music teacher from last year. The teacher is willing to give Alex private lessons, so now we just have to figure out the particulars. They are so accommodating. They really want to find a way to let him continue his musical studies. The head of the department taught Alex for a semester and recalls that he was very good at maintaining rhythm and picking up melodies, and that he has a beautiful singing voice. We all agree that he's not quite ready for their Choral Readiness class, offered to kids his age, due to his particular challenges. She said that he might benefit from piano lessons, as it would help improve his fine motor skills while also teaching music theory. We don't have a piano at home, but I'm sure we could pick up an electric keyboard, and if we're willing to shell out some $ we can get one with piano action on the keys. And his teacher is also a piano teacher. So it's all working out.

For last month's recital with the Opera Project, 3 or 4 people canceled last-minute due to illness. So on Saturday the guy in charge asked everyone for a backup aria, just in case. When I spoke with him this week to get the contact info for the accompanist, I told him that he could call me he runs into the same situation tomorrow. I hope they don't mind if I show up in costume... I'll be all warmed up from karaoke. He seemed to think I was involved in some sort of performance. We have been practicing all week, so I guess maybe I am. Sort of.

....

Just finished tucking Alex into bed. Every night I read a story and sing "Goodnight My Someone." Sometimes he sings along. Tonight he sang along and for the final note he sang it a third higher. On his own. No prompting from me. Wow. Of course, I couldn't get him to do it again. I think that was partly because of the words - what does he know of terms thirds or harmony? He just knew that it sounded cool. He continues to impress and amaze me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Strength

The rehearsals at work have begun for this year's annual holiday concert. We're doing most of the same songs as last year, which is good because I haven't been able to make all the rehearsals. But I finally made it to one today.

One of the songs we're doing is Mao Tsur, in 4 part harmony - soprano, alto, tenor and bass. (I can't find a version I like to link to, so if you don't know it, sorry.) So the director asks the group, "Who's singing soprano?" and every woman in the room raises their hand. So the woman who is also playing piano for us (and is probably one of the most talented musicians I know, more on that in a moment) says she'll do alto, and then they ask if I'll do alto because they need strong singers to carry the line. I almost looked behind me to see if they were talking to someone else. I did say I'll sing whatever part they need, but ... I don't feel like a strong singer. I'm a strong singer when I know the part. Usually. The alto part is not only very different from the melody, it's also all off, tempo-wise. I don't know the musical term but it sort of repeats the line after the melody - or in the middle - not exactly on the measure. Then it skips words to catch up. I wasn't feeling so strong about it... and we went over that alto line like 5 times and I still wasn't confident. The woman who plays piano said she couldn't sing and play at the same time. Correction - she said she couldn't sing that alto line and play the piece at the same time. I was surprised. She's that type of talented person who will look at a new piece of music and say, "Wait a sec... ok..." and then just play it. She can play anything on the piano. She has a beautiful singing voice. She probably plays other instruments too. She has two musically talented children. She studied music in school. Her family goes to music "camp" over the summer. So all I could think was, "I better make sure I'm standing near her when we sing this so I can follow along..." She's the strong singer who will be carrying the line ... not me. I will be the strong follower.

It was kind of fun to learn it though. I used to learn harmonies all the time. I'm out of practice. I'm really out of practice. And it's low. Is alto lower than mezzo even? Maybe. The low notes are low. When the notes went up on the staff it was like a drink of water - I felt relief, it was comfortable. So it's a challenge. I may not be the strong singer they think I am, but I guess I can give it a shot.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Six Hands

I feel I don't warrant all the congratulations I'm getting about that pseudo-audition. I mean, the guy told me beforehand that he just needed to hear me sing and then they'd put me in the program. Of course he could have said no, sorry, we don't want you, but I sort of got the feeling that anyone who could carry a tune could get in. If that's the case, do I really deserve all the congratulations and so on? On one hand, I never would have had the nerve to approach the guy if I didn't think I could sing through an aria in a halfway acceptable manner. On the other hand, it seems like anyone who can sing through an aria can sing with the group. On the third hand (break out the octopus, there will be lots of hands here), the other singers are "real." They have that super loud operatic sound. They're former opera singers and/or opera students in music school. And technically I think the part of the group I am with is called the Classical Singer Network, even though the recitals are all one event and everyone performs.

Ok, on the fourth hand... I did get up and sing. For someone in charge. Someone with the power to say, "Thanks but no thanks." I don't remember if I reported this in the last entry, but just before I began he asked how I was and I replied, "Nervous." "Good," he replied, "You should be." Then we began. So that's good. I mean, I did treat it like an audition. So it's good experience, even if was practically guaranteed to be successful. On the fifth hand, good experience for what? It's not like I can compete with opera students, ever. They are in a totally different league. This may be it for me. On the sixth hand, I shouldn't cut myself out of the game here. It's just the beginning, right? A few years of performance experience with this group while I continue to study and who knows what I'll be ready for.

I've come so far already. Should I be content with where I am? Because I'm not. I want to improve, gain confidence, get better, be pleased with my sound. I can certainly achieve the first three, and the fourth comes and goes depending on my mood. (meaning, check the calendar.)

Bottom line: No matter how "guaranteed" the spot with the group was, it's all good. And it can only get better.

Only six hands. I guess that leaves the octopus free to type with the two remaining tentacles.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cute!

Yes!! That's what the guy in charge of the Opera Project said about my audition. "That was really cute. So is that what you'll be singing at our next performance?"

YEAH!!!!!

It was so weird. I couldn't find the place at first. It was in a church, but not in the chapel. Someone in the chapel gave me directions that brought me almost to the right place, but I still had to wander a bit to find where I was supposed to be. When I got there I was the first one there other than the Head Honcho and the accompanist. They were so nice. They asked if I brought my music, I showed it to the pianist and she was all excited because she's currently accompanying a performance of Cosi somewhere else. So then I just took my coat off and suddenly I was singing. I mean, I don't know what else I expected. That's what you do, right? And I nailed every high note. Like, nicely. I was standing about 10 feet from the Head Honcho dude. He was looking right at me of course, and nodding, and I was doing my best to look at a spot just over his head. I actually laughed at one point because the prerecorded accompaniment I have is super fast, and I forgot to slow down for the last , "Col posso e voglio..." and then I laughed but of course kept on going. When I was done, after he said the cute thing, he said, "It's fine to laugh in the middle but make sure you have enough breath to finish the line." Ha! I didn't MEAN to laugh! It just happened. I suppose that's better than crying. And the moment I finished I was thinking that I could have done so much better. But I was so happy that I hit every high note, and I hit it well. No screeching, no cracking, just a nice clear sound. But still I felt like saying, "Wait! Let me do it again, I swear I can do it better!"

I hung out a little longer to meet some of the other singers. Then when they sang I was totally intimidated. They're either opera students or former professional singers who didn't continue pursuing a career, so they all have that huge sound. As they sang, I shrank smaller and smaller into my seat. And that wasn't easy considering we were in a preschool classroom and everything was miniature.

Here's the poster:




I have that karaoke Halloween party on the 24th so he's putting me into the program for November 21st.

I can hardly believe it. I'm singing with an opera group. People will pay to come. It's amazing! I did it! I studied and here I am, singing for real. It seems unreal!

On my way home I called my mom. I asked, "Wouldn't your father be proud?" She was like, "Oh yes! So wonderfully proud! As would your aunt!" so I said, "And what about my mother?" and she said that she too was very proud. So I had to fish for it, but I got it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Inspiration Revelation

I was just thinking about tomorrow's audition, and specifically about how every day on Facebook I see status updates from my Real Opera Singer friends about what show number they're on, what stage (pun!) of rehearsal they're in and so on. And I just realized that having worked with all those talented singers and seeing all their status updates is really inspiring! I know that they've all been at it for years, starting in college if not before, working their butts off, and I've been at it part-time for under 3 years. So by inspiration I don't mean that I feel like I can be where they are without the all the hard work. I am not delusional. (Not about that at least...) But they do inspire me to do my best. It even helps sometimes to imagine that some of them are there in the room, like I want them to be proud of me or something. Not exactly... but sort of. Maybe I just want to prove something, but not in any sort of mean way. I was the silent shy super who brought gummy worms and puzzle books to the green room. Well, not so silent, and not really that shy. But I did bring gummy worms and puzzle books. And now, holy crap, I'm singing. Not like they do of course. Like I do. Well enough to stand up in front of others and perform. Who ever woulda thunk?

I'm babbling. I'm exhausted. I'm singing tomorrow. I'm making much more a big deal out of it then the guy with whom I spoke on the phone did. He said that "everyone and their sister" will show up to sing. At the same time, he said "I just need to hear you sing, then we can put you on the program for the next performance." That's casual. I mean, he hasn't heard me sing. Isn't it premature to say he'll put me on the program? What if I completely screw up, forget the words, crack on half the notes, go sharp (rather than flat, which isn't usually a problem for me) or say or do something stupid. Like, what if I go to the bathroom there and part of my skirt is tucked into my panty hose. That would be embarrassing. Wardrobe/brain failure. What if, what if, what if. It'll be fine, I'll be fine, it's not that big a deal. I just don't want to assume anything, no matter what he told me, because we all know what happens when you assume. I've been through that myself this past year and look where it got me. Ok it didn't get or unget me anywhere. But I did go through it and we all ended up looking like asses. Or, as one of my friends calls her cat when he does something stupid, we all ended up looking like ass-clowns. Not sure what it means but it's funny. And back to the subject, I love to perform. I get such a rush. Even if the "performance" is an audition in a church daycare room. The real performances are downstairs in the chapel. So even if I don't get into the program, I'm hoping to have fun no matter what.

I will, of course, post soon after to tell you all all about it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Following My Own Advice

A few entries ago I said something about identifying a problem not being enough - once you know about it, you have to do something about it. I've been trying in dribs and drabs to solve this one. Over the summer I bought running shoes and a couple of super-duper sport bras. I was running a few times a week. Then Husband's teaching schedule got all wacky - he is out of the house Mon, Tues and Wed afternoons until after 9. So much for going for a run on those days. Now, previously I was able to have Alex be my personal trainer and we'd run through the house, banging into walls. It was very motivating when I was participating in a weight-loss challenge with my friends. In two months I lost over 10 pounds. Well now I'm taking this weight thing to the next step. I've set the DVR to record my fitness boyfriend, Gilad. (Aside: Every time I say his name I think of that Star Trek episode and I think, Darmok and Gilad at Tanagra.) Yes, Gilad, and his fascination with "the thigh." But that's free, or at least, it's one of the benefits of a service I'm already paying for. So I went ahead and ordered a couple of Billy Blanks Freestyle Funk DVDs. On sale of course. But even so, once I pay for something I guilt myself into actually using it. The only challenge to overcome is getting the time to do the workout with Alex interrupting. I try to interest him in doing it along with me, but that works for about, oh, 5 minutes before he "needs" me for something. Ok so here we go. I'm determined to get back at least some of that Tiny Person I used to be.

Other advice I'm following is Alex's. He said I should sing Despina on Saturday. In spite of the questionable quality of the higher notes on the video I posted, I do feel more comfortable singing it. I have more fun singing it. And when I relax and let loose, which oddly enough I can do if strangers are watching, I have a lot of fun. I know I can hit the notes if I use proper form. And I'm hoping that the fun overcomes any technical errors I might make. Plus from the way this guy was talking, they're not that picky? And when I saw the group a few months ago, my first impression was that I would fit right in. So we'll see!

Practiced some karaoke today. My friend and I (did I mention she's coming to see Mr Gunn in Grapes of Wrath with me?) sang the duets from Grease and then we did Heart - Magic Man, B52s- Love Shack (with interruptions to prevent our children from flooding her house), she sang Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend - Or I should say, she ROCKED it, totally awesome... we did so many others... and, of course, that old standard that I know only because it's here, Polka Dots and Moonbeams. And my friend stared at me like I was a freak. Well maybe I am. It's just so comforting to actually know the words when you sing karaoke. It's hard!

Ten days til the party. But first, two days till I Sing For Others. Well, sober Others, as opposed to Others at a party where there's karaoke. And alcohol.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who Am I?

The comments about the "Which Should I Sing" video both here and on facebook made me realize that one of the reasons I was so slow to incorporate proper breathing was the whole poofed-out stomach issue. On facebook someone said that she avoids any activity that requires her to poof out her stomach any more than it already is. I can relate to that. We (women) spend so much time sucking our abs in to look thin (at least, I do) that it was against my instincts at first to unsuck, or I guess I should say, to poof out, my stomach to get the breathing thing going in order to sing correctly.

Then, of course, there is my personal issue with my weight. Before I had Alex I was down to about 120 pounds. My weight varied between 117 and 122 at that time. I was 122 when I got pregnant, 155 I think at 38 weeks, 137 or so right after I gave birth and down to 125 again at some point in the past couple of years. So how did I gain almost 20 pounds back? Stress, finishing Alex's food off his plate, not finding the time to exercise… yes, yes and yes. So who am I? Am I the Tiny Person from my life Before Child? Or am I the Chunky Middle-Aged Mom? I cringe just writing that. We are bombarded with weight-loss ads everywhere we turn. Gym memberships, magic pills, trademarked diets and miraculous fitness equipment. The message is to lose, lose, lose. I just have to figure out if I'm a Tiny Person stuck in this bigger body, or if I'm a chunky person who used to be thin. Or maybe I just have to forget about those labels and just be happy wherever I am. Yeah, good luck with that…

The next who am I question: Mezzo or Soprano? I know, I know - don't categorize yourself into a voice type. Many people are considered one voice type but sound great singing songs that are categorized in the other. Diana Damrau sings Rosina. Cecilia Bartoli sings Despina. Of course they are the best of the best and can probably sing everything backwards while standing on their heads and it'll still sound beautiful. But this post isn't about them and their wonderfulness. It's about me. It's about how sometimes the soprano stuff is too high and the mezzo stuff is too low. But sometimes I can totally rock the soprano stuff. Sometimes the mezzo stuff sounds pretty good too. But other times I crack all over it because it's in That Range. What is going on? Why can't I be consistent? I know there are, as Alex would say, a hundred-infinity-nine reasons why. But obviously it's possible to overcome a few of those reasons and produce a passable sound, a consistent sound. It's frustrating that I can do it, sometimes, but just not all the time. Professionals do it all the time. Or if not, they're good at faking it.

Am I not practicing enough? I don't want to practice too much. I need to figure out what the right amount of practice time is to help coordinate the layers I've learned so far so they become habit. I need to build my core so that I don't end up with sore abs after singing one aria.

I already use the blog as a tool to help with my vocal identity issues. I'm thinking of using it to report my body issues as well. Not in a way that takes over the spirit of the blog, but as a way of having someone out there to report to each week. I used to do cat-pic Friday. Perhaps now I'll do weigh-in (or measure-in) Friday. There's a thought.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Video Bar

See over there, to the right? ---- > There's a video bar thingee. I'm trying to link it to specific videos of Alex being operatic but there's no way to tell it what video to put there. You can put keywords up, so I used "luindriel." I imagine it'll (randomly) display videos I've posted or possibly commented on. We shall see.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Picky Choosy

Had a pretty good voice lesson yesterday. Told my teacher about next week's auditionesque thing. We picked over Una Donna and also the Tipsy Waltz. She said either would be fine. I said I would ask my readers and she was into that. So now y'all have to listen to my teacher and help me pick which one to sing.

Tipsy Waltz is mezzo, French and short.
Una Donna is soprano, Italian and long.

I was home alone all day today so I recorded them and then put them together in a "Which one?" video. Here you go. And as you listen and remember that I will continue to practice connecting to the breath, using the low abs, dropping my jaw and all that other stuff for a fuller, more rounded sound. Please post a comment with your vote. Thanks!

video

Another benefit of being home alone all day was that I could sing without being told to shut up. Uh I mean, to stop singing. I didn't really sing all day, but at one point I put on this CD I had made of the accompaniment for all the pieces I've learned and I sang through that. I also faked through Art is Calling for Me. Last week I promised my teacher I wouldn't sing it yet and we didn't have time to get to it yesterday so I was just being goofy and not really singing it. No one was here to tell me to stop and the neighbors are all too polite. Although suddenly everyone was mowing their lawn... surely a coincidence...

My teacher had to cancel next week's lesson but I'll be calling her after I sing for the group.

So let's see, particulars from yesterday's lesson ... just picky stuff about pronunciation and timing in the songs, the lippiness of French and so on. Breath, using the abs, staying grounded, the usual stuff. She says she loves seeing how far I've come and how much better things sound now. That's nice to hear. And vocal exercises to practice... uh... yeah she gave me some but of course I don't remember them at the moment. Luckily they're all on the tape... assuming, of course, that it recorded.

******
EDITING TO ADD:
No I'm not pregnant. I poof out my stomach to breathe and that adds to the fat to make it look like I'm 6 months along, but I'M NOT!!!!! !!!!!!!
Guess it's time to step up that diet and exercise regime...
******************

Thursday, October 8, 2009

From Here to There!!

Back when I supered in Traviata, the local opera company hosted party here and there for the entire company. At one such party I met a guy with whom I hit it off immediately. No, not like that! He wasn't in the chorus for Trav b/c each chorus member was in two of the three summer productions and he was in the other two. But we chatted there and on FB and I am continually trying and failing to beat him at Scrabble.

Here's why he is an inspiration.

Most of the singers in the summer program are in their 20s. Some are in their very early 20s. He was in his 30s and was still in that type of program because he started studying voice within the past 10 years or so. Well... from there, that YAP chorus, he went on to the chorus at the Lyric opera of Chicago, and from there to many other prestigious opera companies around the country. And this week... he's in the chorus for La Fille du Regiment. At San Fransisco Opera. With Juan Diego Florez and Diana Damrau. I'm plotzing here. I'm thrilled for him!! He's worked his butt off to "catch up" and has landed himself parts in all these fabulous operas. He was in my local opera company's chorus 18 months ago and now he's SHARING THE STAGE with Juan Diego Florez and Diana Damrau. I don't even have the words to express how excited and thrilled I am for him. I can't wait to hear about when he's the lead tenor in some opera for which I can barely afford balcony seats. BRAVO, Mike!!!!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Cancellation, an Un-Cancellation and a Sort-Of Audition

Woot! The person in charge of that opera group I've mentioned before called today! He wants to hear me sing and finally I can make it to the rehearsal. He kept talking about putting me in the program for the next performance ... but I'm not listening to that part of the conversation just yet. Let's get through the "hearing me sing" part. I'll post about that after it happens. Ok and probably the day or 10 before...

Of course the next performance is the same night as this super fabulous Halloween party one of my friends is throwing. Of course. And the babysitter I lined up for that already backed out because he's in a choir and they have a performance that night. The other babysitters I've asked are not available. I still have two more on my list before I give up.

So he was totally casual, said that if I can't make it on the 24th, the next performance will be in November, then they take a few months off and resume in March. That's fine. I'll still be singing in March.

In other news, Alex's Saturday morning music class has been canceled. However, the head of the Early Childhood Department at the conservatory suggested that we either:
  1. Switch him into her Friday afternoon class
  2. Consider music therapy with one of their specialized faculty or
  3. She'll see if his regular music teacher would consider a private lesson for him at the same time as my voice lesson.
Her Fri afternoon class won't work because the two convenient ways to get to the main campus from our house are now under construction and have very out-of-the-way detours, plus the class would let out at rush hour. Rush hour + too many detours that everyone would be taking = no thanks.

I am interested to know what the difference would be between music therapy with a special ed music person and a private lesson with his current teacher, so I'll be speaking with the department head shortly. So in a way, the cancellation could be a good thing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Here We Go

It's Monday, right? Because for some reason I feel like it's Tuesday and I've waited too long to post about Saturday's voice lesson. Not that there's a time limit or something. I mean, it's my blog. I can post whatever, whenever. In fact I'm humming that Shakira song now just because I typed those words, and now you are too. Although truth be told, I much prefer this version. Uh, you have to watch the first one to get the second one. Maybe.

Wow this post has gone in a direction I never imagined. Love that.

Right. So. Saturday morning's voice lesson. Not the best lesson I've ever had. It's all me, of course. I couldn't connect with my breath. I wasn't grounded. I couldn't get grounded. I was distracted. I couldn't focus. I was singing from my throat a lot instead of from deep down. My teacher tried all sorts of things, and eventually she had me stand in the yoga tree pose and it helped. AND it made me laugh, which is interesting considering I was singing Gretchen. But still. My brain was going off in all these different directions - Mostly stuff with Alex, stuff going on at school with him, and his music class situation STILL not being figured out. The latest is that they're going to check the ages of the 2 kids enrolled in the class a step below his, to see if they can combine the classes. Then I wonder, what time? My voice lesson is 10:15 - 11:00 to overlap with the original schedule of his 10:15-11:15 class. What if they decide to combine the classes and hold it at 9? As if that matters. I'd figure it out. I'd bring Alex to his lesson, Husband would come pick him up at the end and I'd stay for voice. I actually just came up with that solution as I typed it. But either way, nothing has been decided. So that was all swirling around, plus... plus... did I ever mention that my lesson and Alex's class are held at a satellite location of the main campus? So it's in a Catholic grammar school. All of last year I had my lesson while looking at a poster of Jesus with his arms around two young people, one girl and one boy, and there was some caption about making choices. As in, don't do it. You'd think I'd remember the caption after all those weeks, but it's the picture that sticks in my mind. So this year my lesson is in a different room. This week they must have had some sort of religious definition assignment. These little posters were taped to the board, each with a word and its definition, in different handwriting and colors. The one right in front of me had the word "gentile" in a Hebrew type of font. The definition was "The word Jewish people use for people who are not Jewish." Now, I happen to be Jewish. I'm not religious, but it's my culture. The food, the way of thinking, all of that. And seeing that poster with the style of lettering and the wording of the definition bothered me. Not because some student came up with it, but because they're teaching this separateness. We're all here in the United States. It's weird to think in this sort of "us" and "them" way. So that was also sort of nagging at me. Sort of. It actually bothered me much later in the day as I thought about what kind of prejudices are taught or passed along in private schools. Or in public schools, I guess. Plus, since I work on an English test that's taken by people all over the world, I am constantly trained on and tuned in to cultural sensitivity. My first thought, actually, was, "That'll never get past Fairness," which is a department that reviews everything that is seen by people outside the organization where I work. The thought was a reflex, but it planted the seed. So anyway, I wasn't happy with myself and my lack of connection to myself. But I soldiered on and did my best, plus as usual she taught me new vocal exercises to practice over the week. So it's never a total wash. She also gave me the music for Art is Calling to Me, but made me promise not to SING it. So all I'm doing is memorizing the words. And I'll try to do a little yoga in the morning before class, if possible. I just have to put everything out of my mind for that hour and focus on ME. Ah the guilt associated with that, I can't even begin to go into it.

Then the next day I had another one of Those Conversations with my mother. I'm 42 years old and I still want my mother to be proud of me. She seems to be sort of mad at me for informing her that Alex is on the autism spectrum, if that makes sense. But whatever... I was telling her about the music I'm learning and asked if I could sing for her. She said ok. So I sang Gretchen. Or, I should say, I tried to. Got through the first line before she said, "So HOW OFTEN do you go?" I answered and continued, and asked her if she understands the German. She said of course not, and that she can't understand when they sing in English. So I continued. She cut me off again with a sort of loud, "Well, okay..." like she wanted to end the conversation, so I stopped. And she said, "Sounds like you have a bit of trouble there with the high notes." Thanks Mom, yes, I know. It's 10am and I'm sitting cross-legged on the couch without having warmed up at all. I asked her if she ever thought I'd one day be able to sing like this. She paused, then said, "I never thought about it." Thanks Mom. And then, hastily, "But, uh, you have a very nice voice." Thanks Mom. I could see the director's note in the script: (backpedal, try to make up for it, pretend to like it...) I mean, seriously, except for the one note in "ach, zein kuss" I thought I sounded pretty ok. So why the heck am I looking for approval from my mom? Then my dad got on the phone and said that I could come to Florida ANY TIME to sing for him. Yeah, well I haven't forgotten his, "Are you trying to break a glass? Heh heh heh," comment from last time. Last time... didn't I vow not to sing for them again? What was I thinking?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

This Post is NOT About My Voice Lesson

I will post about that later. But first, here's one of the fun things Alex and I do. Little does he know he's getting vestibular input and strengthening his core, both great therapies for SPD. He's just having fun... And so am I.



I mentioned in an earlier post that he has low muscle tone. You can see one example at about 3:30 into the video. Look at his arms and hands as he flops down. The floppy arms are a sign of poor muscle tone.

Oh and you can also see the cat going in and out of the closet that contains the litter box. Just in case you were wondering.

Thank you for reading this non-opera post. I will write all about today's voice lesson next time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

We've Been at it Again - More Beethoven's Wig

I never considered making a video of this until Alex suggested using paper plates on the rug. We moved the table and chairs out of the dining room to make our rug and paper-plate rink, and here's the result!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Art is Calling Me, And So Is Lust OopsIMean LOVE in a Pan

Aha! I have found the song I want to sing next!!! I emailed my voice teacher about it and she said it was on her list of suggestions for me!!! And that she has the music AND the CD accompaniment. The best and cutest version I could find on YouTube doesn't allow embedding, go figure, so you'll have to click here to see it. Go ahead, click. It's fun. Obviously there's a bit of improv/embellishment there that I won't be doing, but the song itself is so cute.

Those tenors, so sweet, if they made love to me, I'd be a success, THAT I DO know.

Hahahaha!

You have to watch through to the end to where she checks her watch. Hilarious! And so refreshing after focusing on poor, poor Gretchen all these months. The poor thing. Of course I'll finish and improve Gretchen at the same time that I learn how to be a prima donna donna donna, but I'm definitely ready for something light and silly, yet still vocally challenging.

I wonder if this version by Jennifer Larmore is stepped down to mezzo. I've tried ooo-ing along with other versions online, just to see if I can hit all the notes, and I'm trying to memorize the words. Not doing too much - don't want to get lectured again about doing too much to fast.

In other news, there is no other news. But here's a recipe for this ... this... this STUFF that one of my coworkers brought to the office yesterday. I'm drooling just typing this sentence.

LOVE IN A PAN

Preheat the oven to 350 o


1¼ cup sugar

2 containers (refrigerated tubes) of crescent roll dough

16 oz. cream cheese (2 normal-sized boxes)

1 stick butter/margarine

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. cinnamon


In a 9” x 13” baking pan, roll out one container of crescent rolls in the bottom of the pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat or mix 1 cup of sugar with the cream cheese and the vanilla until well blended.
Spread the cream cheese mixture over the bottom layer of crescent roll dough.

Layer the second container of crescent roll dough over the top.

Melt the butter and pour it over the top crust.

Mix the remaining ¼ cup of sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle it over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes at 360 o


Caution: This delicious mass will rise while baking. You might want to put a cookie sheet under the pan in case the love overflows.


I've already had suggestions from some people that this should be renamed Lust in a Pan, but you didn't hear that from me.