hello! I have just been in Paris. now I am in köln, blogging from my iPhone. I won’t have my computer til I go back to Berlin in a few days, so I thought I’d fill you in on Paris before it’s old news.
Paris rules. I need to go there more often. I know I was very happy to leave it when I moved away in 2004, but even then I knew it was a better place to visit than to live, when one can’t afford to live well. and it’s a wonderful, wonderful place to visit!!
a little drama because I had no place to stay. I thought I’d never be without a bed in Paris, but I guess I was wrong. not only have many friends moved away, but others were out of town or already hosting guests. so I asked around and ended up with one of philine’s friends, an American lawyer & dancer who’d been in Paris for 20 years. he had a wonderful apartment up in le blanc mesnil, which is a subrub to the north, on your way to Charles DeGaulle. he was a wonderful host, especially to a stranger!
I flew into orly, which is on the opposite side of ile-de-France, unfortunately, and the train ticket to the north suburbs was so expensive that I opted instead for an all-day ile-de-France ticket, so I could jet around on the metro more than I usually budget for.
I had woken up early and by the time I got settled at my host’s place in the boonies, I had a raging caffeine-withdrawl headache, so I went straight to st michel and sat in a cafe with a cafe crème and my notebook and wrote in French to myself. and once I was done there, I headed straight to my favorite store, des filles a la vanille.
actually, there are two branches close together in the Latin quarter, the one I prefer was “back in 5 minutes” and the other was maddeningly packed with tourists, so I eventually waited it out and got into the one I wanted. it has a larger selection, and the saleslady, while slightly pushy, is very talented at what she does. last time I was in Paris, a few years ago, I tried on like every dress in the store, and she just pulled something out that looked really lame on the hanger and was like- this will look great on you, trust me. and she was right and to this day it’s one of my favorite outfits. so we went through the same story this time and I got a dress and I’m sure you’ll see it soon.
I spent the rest of business hours at my 2nd favorite store, jennyfer- the big one at place d’italie. I didn’t go quite as nuts shopping there as I usually do- partially budget and partially packing restraints- but I got some wonderful little things that make me smile. sadly they no longer have a separate underwear shop across the corridor. also closed, unless I just couldn’t find it, was my fave jewelry place, reserve naturelle. though now that I think about it it might have been closed last time I was here. on the other hand, I can never find that place, it blends into the hustle and bustle of rue de Rennes too easily.
i had a fabulous wonderful penne ai quattro formaggi at place d’italie that i am still thinking about, then I walked around the mairie a little and decided I was too tired and my feet too sore to head to the Kata Bar. so I headed back and called my friend for her birthday and slept really really hard!
the next day I woke up later than planned, but still got to enjoy a good cafe over rive gauche and do a little fruitless shopping before heading over to the American cathedral. somebody I didn’t know was getting married and the choir was singing, so I volunteered to join them, just for old times’ sake. the music was good, more French stuff than usual, though the choir was in reduced numbers so I didn’t get to catch up with as many people as I’d hoped.
I had been carrying my stuff around with me all day as I’d be moving to my friend nancy’s apartment that night. she hadn’t been available the night before as she was just getting in from new York herself. they have an amazing apartment right next to the Eiffel tower. so we headed there after the wedding reception in the cathedral garden (it was way too cold but we all stuck it out with the help of some champagne), I used her computer to book a hostel in Köln (I had been holding out for some help on Couchsurfing.com but nothing came through), and she took me out to dinner at a very nice French restaurant, the kind i’d never go to on my own.
my trainto köln was way to early, but me voilà, back to speaking German. I was actually surprised how easy French is for me after struggling with German all month. I shouldn’t be surprised- two years in France vs. two weeks in Germany- mostly on a comprehension level. when people speak French to me or to each other, I get it without thinking. German it’s still a little panicky.
that’s all for now, talk to you soon!
I’m on the M60 to LaGuardia- heading to Chicago and then Indianapolis for some post-holiday family time. What a day to fly- full of pouring rain, damp chill, and “wintery mix”- the most dreaded words in natural disaster-free area meteorology. To top it off, I’m flying standby, thanks to a relative in the airline industry- which, by the way, is neither free nor all it’s cracked up to be. Last time I did it I missed Christmas with my family after being at the airport all day because they couldn’t fit me in. But tix to Chicago were ridic expensive so I decided to try this again.
I was going to fly yesterday til I realized I had to sing an epiphany service at church.
I had one problem at the service, and you’ll never guess what it was.
I’d pulled a pec muscle the day before.
I know- only me. And it’s not the first time. I can’t even begin to explain mechanics of the complicated and creative way in which I hurt myself- suffice to say I was attempting an acrobatic stunt. At home, not in class.
How does this affect singing, you ask? Well if it were opera it wouldn’t have, but in a choral setting it was debilitating. The problem was that I couldn’t hold my music.
I first realized this when I was practicing after a trip to pedelson’s to get some scores. Pedelson’s, btw, failed me, so I had to trek over to Juilliard- but they had a very nice “yellow sticker sale'” with some intriguing markdowns. Lots of G&S, and I resisted buying cendrillon- marked down from $100 to $66- so that’s still there, snap it up before I change my mind!!!
So I’m home practicing with my new Sorcerer score in my left hand, where it belongs. Why do right-handed singers hold their music in their left hands? A few reasons. 1st off, from where sopranos are normally positioned in the chorus, the conductor is to your left, so it’s easier to see him. Secondly, any good musician will be marking her score with a pencil, so if you’re right- handed, your left is for holding and your right is for writing and turning pages.
At least, those are my theories.
So I’m practicing, and I realize it hurts to hold my music. So I’m like, “ow, screw this” and prop it up on my dresser. Problem solved.
Until I get to church. After a few minutes of singing, my left chest is killing me. So I simply switch hands- no problem, right?
WRONG!! It was so hard trying to hold my music in my right hand. 15 years of choral singing seems to have created some sort of imbalance in my upper body. My arm and pecs were tired, I kept dropping things- I dealt with it by holding as little music as possible at once. But damn- I’m a strong girl! No wonder high school kids never look at the conductor- they haven’t developed the strength to hold their music up for that long!
It reminds me of after my surgery, the first time I went out drinking (the night the Red Sox won their last World Series), I couldn’t believe how hard it was to hold a pint in my left hand. It was heavy!
So everybody try holding their music on the oposite side and see what happens!
Last year I didn’t have a church gig, and I knew it was an anomaly. Despite the expected influx of offers of sub gigs for Christmas Eve services, I decided to go home for the holidays, because I didn’t know when I would have another chance to do so. So I went to visit my family in Chicago and booked a sub gig there- which, I might add, paid more than any of the gigs here would have. Nice.
I was right about one thing- this year I have a new church job (who knew it would take a whole year for someone to snap me up?), and was therefore hanging out around the city in order to grace Holy Apostles’ Christmas Eve service with my presence. I didn’t have anything booked for Christmas Day, though, and was passively looking. I thought I was saved when an email from a church literally two blocks from me- one I’ve subbed at on Christmas before- sent out an email looking for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day subs, and expressed my interest within moments of having received the email, but didn’t hear back. Then that night I saw a status update from a very good singer friend of mine mentioning having found church gigs for Christmas. I knew she also knew the same director, so I hoped she hadn’t got the gig out from under me- she sings at St. Bart’s, but as a sort of permanent sub/volunteer, depending on the day.
So I wrote the local church guy an email asking if we were on for Christmas Day, and he wrote back that he’d booked someone who was available for both services.
I texted my friend and asked if she was doing Christmas at the church in question, and she said yes. @&#^$*(#$&*@(#&$*(@&#$(&(@*&#(*$&@#*(&$*(@#&$@*(#$!!!!!!!!
The irony came full circle when I got an email requesting a Christmas Day sub at St. Bart’s- the church where my friend sings- and took it. So I was singing at her church and she was singing at my neighborhood church. Yes, I would have liked to reverse that, but better than nothing!
Everything was complicated by the fact that I was sick. I was at the height of a bad cold that I’d come down with that weekend, and all I wanted to do was sleep. We had a two hour rehearsal before the Holy Apostles service- 7:30 call, 9:30 carolling, and 10pm service. (It’s pretty normal to have a half hour of music before Midnight Mass, and for Midnight Mass to start at 10pm.) Normally, with my night-owl hours, this would have been an ideal schedule for me, but as it was, I’d felt the need to nap before church, and had to drag my cranky ass out of bed to make it to church in time. Luckily, they were out of grande cups at the nearest Starbucks, so I got upgraded to a HUGE ASS LATTE, and was in a much better mood by the time I got to Holy Apostles.
Once there, I was faced with an 8-piece orchestra, and choir gifts of a new anthem by the Kapellmeister and miniature bottles of Grand Marnier. I wish we’d sung through the anthem or something, because I don’t play any piano so I don’t know how it goes. It looks cool on the page, though!
Holy Apostles is such a huge time suck. I wasn’t out of there until almost midnight, bringing my church time for the evening to 4.5 hours. But it was great singing with the orchestra, which was joined at various times by organ, piano, and recorder. Our half hour music prequel was all hymns, unusually. And our main anthem was For Unto Us a Child is Born, which is one of the funnest things in the Messiah.
It was wonderful singing with the chamber orchestra, so it was a fun night. They had quite a feast for the post-service coffee hour, but as usual I rushed home- I wanted to get sleep before I had to wake up for St. Bart’s.
No go. Whether because I had napped before church, or because I was engrossed by Bible documentaries on the History Channel, I couldn’t fall asleep. I finally gave up at 7am, muttering, “That Starbucks by St. Bart’s better be open today…”
It was such a beautiful morning that I went for a little walk along Central Park before hitting the church- and yes, the Starbucks was open. “Thank God you’re open!” I exclaimed to the barista. “You’re the third person to say that,” she responded. I noted they’d been open for less than an hour.
St. Bart’s is so different from Holy Apostles. Their choir is twice the size of ours, and they sing in double-choir formation, like we did at the American Cathedral. It’s an enormous, gorgeous, ornate church- Holy Apostles is nice but it’s smaller and kind of plain. Anyways the choir is excellent, and it’s great to sing with them. I wouldn’t want it for my church job (doesn’t pay enough), but it’s nice to visit now and again. We sang an apparently famous Holst arrangement of hymns, which I’d never heard- it was weird. But cool. And a setting of In the Bleak Midwinter by Bob Chilcott, which I’d never done. It was very Rutter-ian, sounded really good done by this group in this setting. I really enjoyed it.
I went home, called my mom, ate Thai take-out, and slept for 17 hours. I was sick, and I’d pulled a Christmas all-nighter. Happy Holidays.