Christmas music that doesn’t suck #5: Ceremony of Carols

December 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm (Music) (, , )

There are a few “classical classics” of the holiday season, such as Messiah and Wachet auf. For “modern classical classics” we turn to Benjamin Britten.

Ceremony of Carols is popular not only because the tunes are lovely, but because it’s written for treble choir, which usually means kids, which means lots of parents have been dragged to see this. Also, it’s accompanied by harp, so you don’t have to pay a whole orchestra. It has my seal of approval because I have a weakness for antique English texts, with their charming spellings and all.

I’d say the most-loved movement is the lullaby, Balulalow.

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Christmas music that doesn’t suck #4: PĂ©rotin

December 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuvvvvv this kind of music. 12th century, early polyphony, sounds so otherworldly to our ears, but so awesome. Viderunt omnes is a Christmas Day gradual. If you’re never heard this kind of music, do not neglect to hit play.


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Christmas music that doesn’t suck #3: Holst

December 12, 2011 at 1:15 am (Music) (, , )

Sorry, I’ve been caught up with final papers and missed the last entry. I’m back. 2 papers down, 3 to go!

Tonight’s entry is Gustav Holst. In my Boston days, I sung his “4 Songs for Voice and Violin” at my farewell recital (before moving to France, not before retiring). Fortunately the recital was recorded, and when I rediscovered the recording years later, I decided that it was most excellent.

This is from 2002. 9 years ago!!! It’s the most “Christmas-y” of the lot, but some of the others are quite likeable, so I encourage you to explore the set.

(Incidentally, this track and the others in the set are currently free downloads. Get ’em before I change my mind!)

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Christmas Music that Doesn’t Suck #2: Wachet auf

December 10, 2011 at 1:43 am (Uncategorized)

My second installment of Christmas Music that doesn’t suck is a little complicated. I wanted it to be Bach’s Wachet Auf. But it’s a larger work, a whole cantata, with different movements, and it was hard to choose which one to feature. All though that annoyingly catchy little ditty you often hear as an organ prelude is pretty iconic, I think we’ll save that for later. Let’s start with the chorale itself. Churchgoers might recognize this as “Sleepers wake, a voice is sounding.”

To me, Wachet auf is THE iconic Advent piece, as Messiah (part 1) is to Christmas. I wish it were more familiar to the public at large, and not just classical musicians and Germans.

I would also like to state that it’s really fun to sing “ee-o ee-o” anywhere outside of Old MacDonald had a Farm.

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Christmas Music that doesn’t Suck #1: Sweelinck Hodie

December 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm (Music) (, , , , )

You know what’s great about Christmas? It’s the one time of year that you can totally listen to classical music and it’s totally normal. Nobody looks at you funny, nobody complains that your favorite radio station is putting them to sleep, nobody claims you’re killing the party. We classical music lovers are fortunate that hits like Handel’s Messiah have stayed in the standard popular repertoire.

However, we are still subjected 90% of the time to this god-awful holiday pop drivel. You can’t shop or sip your coffee without being subjected to slimey renditions of “Baby it’s cold outside” or “Santa baby” or that whatever that crap Mariah Carey is singing is. Why, when we have centuries upon centuries of amazing works of music, do we subject ourselves to this sludge?

And the thing is, I’m not a classical music snob at all. Anyone who’s read this blog probably knows I’m in a rock band and have recorded an album. But I’m calling it like I see it. This adult contemporary Christmas stuff is awful, and we don’t have to take it. At least, not when we have control of the stereo.

From now until Christmas, I’m going to post Christmas music that does not suck. I’ll try to do it every day, ’cause I’ve been in absentia with blogging pretty much since I moved, and need to get caught up.

Most of it will be classical, and probably a lot that I’m singing in one of the many Christmas concerts and services I’ll be involved with this year, as well as previous years.

On with the show:

My first selection is Sweelinck’s “Hodie Christus natus est.” “Today Christ is born.”

This is late Renaissance music by a Dutch guy.

Why do I love this piece? It changes so fast. Tempo, meter, color, texture. It’s enough to make you seasick. I love that kind of stuff.

Let me know how you like it!


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Software companies should give free licenses to the unemployed

October 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

As I sit here, between jobs, trying to teach myself new skills, gawking at prices for Adobe Creative Suite that are so beyond my means it’s pathetic, I realized that software companies can help fix the economy.

What if Microsoft, Adobe, and other makers of “office” or “business” software gave away free licenses to the unemployed masses?

The job-seekers would be able to use their down-time training themselves, preparing themselves to re-enter the workforce with valuable new skills.

The employers would have a new pool of highly-trained, more efficient candidates. They would be more eager to hire someone they didn’t have to spend money training.

The software companies would get fabulous media coverage, being pronounced heroes who are making a selfless move to save the economy. Plus, with more people familiar with their programs, they would sharpen their edge against competitors. The more people who are used to InDesign, the less likely companies are to adopt Quark. And best of all, once those unemployed masses are employed, they will be in the market as paying customers for upgrades and new products.

As a musician, I always advise against illegal file sharing, and I’ve always felt that “Give it away for free because they’re just going to steal it anyway” is a slow-acting poison on our industry. So it would be hypocritical of me to pull that line on these corporations. But I just have to say– if people ARE going to steal it anyways, wouldn’t you rather be a hero for helping the unemployed than a victim of piracy?

Oh, and maybe a discount for the underemployed. A lot of us who need this kind of software are the freelancer types anyways!

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I moved to Chicago

September 11, 2011 at 10:31 pm (Uncategorized)

So I pulled an all-nighter after my going away show in order to be ready for when my dad came to get me. I didn’t have any furniture to necessitate a UHaul, but I had too much stuff to fly, so my dad came to pick me up in a small SUV.

I was totally not ready at all. Obviously, things had been crazy. There was the hurricane and the show being cancelled and rescheduled, and me trying to fit in as much day jobbing as I could. Plus I spent a lot of my packing time “organizing,” like compiling my notes on 3 or 4 volumes of the Guide to Literary Agents into a database so I wouldn’t have to bring the books back to Chicago.

But I had promised my mom up and down I was going to be ready when my dad got here. And we were planning on doing the whole trip in one swoop, so I knew we didn’t have a lot of time to screw around.

I can’t say I was fully functional the whole night. I was really drunk, first off. I don’t usually get very drunk, but like I said in the last post, I had felt compelled to place my no-shots policy on hold because of the occasion, and there was a LOT of free tequila. So I spent much of the night drunk/hungover/sleepy. But the rest of it I spent packing.

I still wasn’t 100% done by the time my dad was supposed to pick me up. I also wasn’t 100% sure if I had anyone coming to help or not. I’d had two friends say they’d try to make it, but they had been drunk at the time so I wasn’t sure if they meant it. Turns out they did. So my friend Ellen came over and helped me prepare things for my dad’s arrival, and my friend Dan got there around the same time as my dad.

I put everybody to work and somehow we managed to get everything moving smoothly, with no stalls. Mostly my Dad scientifically loaded up the car, Ellen and Dan carted stuff outside and around the corner to where it was parked, and I packed stuff up inside. I felt bad that my friends were doing the heavy lifting, but organizationally that was the best way to do it.

Ellen had to go to work, so Dan helped me finish up. Even after we were just finishing stuff inside the apartment, we had my Dad stay and watch the car. I don’t live in a bad neighborhood, but considering that the whole block had just seen us load all that stuff into the car, I didn’t want to tempt anyone.

We strapped my pole to the roof, with my Peruvian rug wrapped around it. It actually looked totally inconspicuous next to the rooftop box. Whatever those things are called.

The most irksome thing about the day is that my dad would not let us break for lunch. He spent most of the day standing out by the car while we busted our asses, and he wouldn’t even agree to me ordering us a pizza to eat while we worked, because he wanted to get a move on. I felt sooooo bad because we were working for 4 hours straight and my poor neighbor got sucked into it and I couldn’t even buy him lunch. So I opened a tab for him at Cafe Amrita to enjoy a sandwich and a couple glasses of wine after we left. I also got everyone iced coffee, which helped. I mean, we were wiped. I had pulled an all-nighter and Dan had been moving my shit for 4 hours.

The good thing is I’d already gotten my security deposit back, so I didn’t have to be paranoid about cleaning. I mean I totally cleaned, but anyone who’s moved out of an apartment knows how it is.

One of the most fun parts about the day was leaving a lot of my nicer stuff and stuff I hadn’t been able to sell at the curbside, and seeing how long it took for someone to take it. We gave away a fan, a framed poster of Opera Companies of the World, a hula hoop, a stool– almost everything we left out there was gone within an hour. I was so happy at the approval that goes with people thinking your stuff is good enough to take up space in their tiny Manhattan apartments.:)

We pulled out and my dad still didn’t want to get food ’til we were almost out of NJ and I was sooooo hungry!! And tired!!

Whiskey was fine with being in the car. I’d accustomed him to his carrier, and had him in a harness in case he wanted to go out. After driving awhile I let him sit on my lap, and he ended up sleeping in my lap almost the entire trip. Oh, he got up and was frisky a couple times, and even had to be put back in the carrier once, but mostly he was perfect.

I started regretting my move when we stopped at a pizza hut express at a truck stop and my dad wanted to say grace together. And not like a rote grace, like he wanted to pray with me. Ick ick ick. My parents are really conservative Christians and they can’t accept that I don’t follow their religion. It was even worse when I declined and he tried to use it as “an opportunity for dialogue about Christ,” but fortunately it didn’t last and he didn’t try it again. The one thing holding me back from wanting to come back here is my parents being pushy and creepy about their religion.

I thought the car ride would be insanely boring because it was too dark to read, the iPhone charger didn’t work, and we didn’t have a cable for the iPod. But they have XM Radio and Lucia with Sutherland was JUST starting on the Met channel. Lucia is good opera to pass the time because there’s something exciting in every act. Not too many dull moments. So that took up my attention for a few hours. After that it was really boring, I mostly just sat there and petted my cat.

I couldn’t really sleep in the car. I kept nodding off but only for a few seconds, so it was the kind of nodding off that makes time pass 4x as slowly. The last 2 hours were torture!

So we did the whole trip in I think 13 hours, plus the time zone change, so we got to Glen Ellyn after 6am. I had been planning on eating something and spending some time getting Whiskey settled, but I was so tired I pretty much went right to bed. Whiskey was having fun walking around smelling everything anyways.

I woke up at 1pm covered in sweat. It was HOT!!! I hadn’t realized when we got in that it was going to be over 90 degrees that day, and I have an attic bedroom. So I took a cold shower to wake up and went downstairs, where no one had seen Whiskey all day. I know how cats are, so I figured he must be hiding. My sister has a dog who’s living here, so I figured the cat saw the dog and found a good place to hide before the dog saw him, and fell asleep there.

I walked around the house calling his name in the tone of voice that I always use when I call him. ‘Cause he comes when I call. Isn’t that cool?? But I didn’t even hear the jingle of his bell. So we looked under all the furniture and in all the fold-out furniture, and nothing. All the other doors in the house were closed. I called my mom, who was working at her resale shop, and she hadn’t seen the cat all day either. But a moment later she texted back that the basement door had been open when she woke up. (My brother Dan has OCD stuff and tends to walk around and close all the doors.) Sure enough, it was closed, and when I went downstairs, Whiskey came running out.

So of course the first thing when I come upstairs is the dog starts freaking out. (He sleeps in my parents’ room with the door shut, so he hadn’t been out when we arrived.) Whiskey was in my lap and handled it really well, but I could feel that he was shaking. The only other time I’d seen him shake was his first time at the vet when they stuck a thermometer up his little kitty butt. So I made the dog go outside for awhile so Whiskey could calm down, then after awhile we let him in on the leash, and then after they’d gotten used to being in the same room we let him go. It actually went really well. They’ve been playing together ever since!

I was kind of incoherent for the rest of the day. My sisters came over but I was disgusting and too tired to say much. I hadn’t unpacked my clothes or toiletries yet so I was still wearing the same clothes from the move and hadn’t even brushed my teeth. As soon as I unpacked enough stuff to get cleaned up and change clothes, I felt like a million bucks.

Unfortunately I made myself a little sick. I’m not sure if it was the double-all-nighter (probably) or the sudden onslaught of too much air conditioning or throwing up the tequila too hard or what, but I had mild cold symptoms accompanying a bad sore throat. The nose stuff went away really fast but the sore throat lingered, and I’m still trying to get my voice back. Last week I was supposed to audition for the church job i MUST get and a teaching job at two of the high schools, but I had to postpone everything. It’s getting better but it’s slow going.

I am settling in here. I’m unpacked. The vaulted ceiling adapter for the pole will be here any day. I’ve been going to the gym on a guest pass. God, it felt good to be back in the gym!! Saw actually a bunch of friends from high school, some who live here and some who were visiting. My first gig with Opera on Tap Chicago will be in less than a month.

In NY I was a regular at a local cafe a few blocks from my apartment, which I haven’t been able to replace here. I can walk to Starbucks, but it’s not the same. (Plus it’s a mile each way, which is nice now that the weather is lovely, but soon it will be winter.) They were trying to sell me on getting a card so it could become a gold card, and I was like, no, that would be way too damaging to my hipster cred. But it turns out my brother had an old one he can’t use anymore, and there was $40 on it. I knew I had officially moved to the suburbs when I threw away my expired MetroCard and put a Starbucks Gold card in its place.

I hope my voice gets better this week and I can do my auditions and stuff.

Oh, school has been going well. It’s a lot of work, but that’s mostly because I’m a slow reader. I only got one graded assignment back and it was 10/10, so that boosted my ego.:)

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Going away party

September 6, 2011 at 11:58 pm (Music)

I had my going away party Tuesday. It’s a relatively good-case scenario that that happened at all. I mean, it could have been cancelled, or we could have been forced to play Sunday even though there was a hurricane and no public transportation. Thankfully, Frank saved the day and we got to play the night before I left.

Drama still happened, though. My bass player lives in one of the cities in Jersey that was insanely flooded. I texted him during the hurricane to see if his house was affected, and he said it wasn’t. Whew!

But his town kept being shown on the news with more and more water, and by Monday afternoon I realized I hadn’t heard back from him for anything, text or email. I tried calling, texting, emailing just to make sure he was there, but nothing.

The best explanation I could come up with was that he had no electricity and no way to charge his phone, and couldn’t get ahold of me. My best hope was that he would remember that we were at the Delancey and what time and show up.

I still hadn’t heard from him on the way to the show, and he wasn’t there when my other bandmates arrived. I told everyone we might have to play without him.

Frank had only booked three bands for the rescheduled show, so we were on a “relaxed” schedule, meaning there was no imperative to run remotely on time since we had more time than we needed.

I don’t know exactly when we started, but about 15 minutes before, the bass player arrived. I was talking to both my other bandmates and they looked at whoever walked in the door and made a face like they were super happy to see them, and I was trying to finish my sentence but then I turned and saw that it was Shelly, and we were all happy.

Turns out I was exactly right. He’d had no electricity, no way to charge his phone, and had been flooded in ’til that morning. His house and car weren’t affected, but he was stuck in his building. And just made it to work for the first time that day. And work also had no power. So he’d had no way to contact us or get our messages. But he showed up. Rock win.

I ran around and told everyone there that the bass player was there, and shortly after the really cool band before us with the tranny singer and the violinist finished and we set up.

Our set was really really fierce. Oh, I had this tshirt from Paris that just said “fan” on it in neon letters, and so between two of the early songs I put it on and then threw it into the audience. I think my friend Carly got it. But yeah we were awesome, everyone was happy and having a great time. It wasn’t as many people as it would have been if it had been Sunday, but it was still a good amount of people and a lively audience. Oh, and the guitar player brought his own crowd so WIN, after the last full band show where I was the only person who brought an audience even though I thought we’d agreed to split it so we came up short and didn’t get paid.

The surprise cover song, which I don’t think I revealed to anyone outside the band, was “All Hail Me” by Veruca Salt, my current favorite band. I tried to get someone to video it for YouTube but it just didn’t happen. Here’s the actual video, though:

Creepiest thing about this video is how they have the kids lip-synching along to the lyrics. Who does that?

A lot of Veruca Salt songs are more guitar songs than vocal songs, and this more or less falls among them. The only vocally “interesting” parts are Nina’s ornamentations and harmonies. I did the Nina parts that didn’t interfere with singing the melody. Yes, that included me belting a high F out of the blue, twice, including the first note of the song. That was not easy, even for me. I had to practice that. But once I got the hang of it I nailed it every time. But the rest of the song, the melody, it took some doing to make myself sing that straightforwardly in that awkwardly high tessitura for belting. But I got the hang of that too.

Yao drew pictures of me!! She’s a sketch artist. Look what she did!!


The beers all came with a free tequila shot. I normally have a no-shot policy but it was like my special day and people kept giving me theirs, so I said after the show but then the show was over and there was a long line of people waiting to hug me and give me shots, so I got wayyy drunker than usual. But I was pulling an all-nighter anyways ’cause I had to pack so no harm no foul.

Thanks x1000000 to everyone who came!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Moving sale

August 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm (Uncategorized)

2 days before my move, I still have a few things that are too good to put in the “free stuff” box. I tried selling my bed once on Craigslist and it was a disaster. I specified that it was only the basic free frame that came with the mattress, with the mattress and boxspring, offered it ridiculously cheap, and I got countless emails asking for a picture. Um, there’s nothing to see, it’s a mattress with a frame. Duh? And then I offered it to the first guy who agreed to buy it, who then didn’t show up to pick it up on moving day, and when I called him he was like “Yeah can I come get it tomorrow at 3?” and I’m like, No? And of course it was too late to find another buyer, so we ended up leaving it on the curb to be taken, which of course it was within minutes because it was in perfect condition and all.

I am so not going through that again. If I wanna leave good stuff on the curbside for free, I can do that without the hassle of posting and emails and phone calls.

So I’ll just post everything here so I can link to it from Twitter and stuff and it’ll be all in one place.

-Air conditioner window unit. Only used 2 seasons. It’s actually a pretty nice one, as the store was sold out of cheap ones when I got it.

-“Love seat” fold-out sofa-bed. It’s from Jennifer Convertibles, and I’ve been sleeping on it every night for 4 years.

-Big sturdy bookcase. It was the most expensive one they had at Staples, so it can hold all your hardcover opera scores without collapsing.

-Adult-sized hula hoop with two instructional and workout DVD’s. One of the DVD’s hasn’t even been opened. I got them so I’d have some sort of exercise to do while I was recovering from shoulder surgery, but by the time I was healed I decided it wasn’t my thing.

I also have a bag with I think 3 tarot decks and a book that I’ve been saving to give to an acquaintance for years, but she just kept blowing me off and we never managed to get together, so they’re available.

Any of the above $20 or best offer and come get it. Just lemme know ASAP!!!

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The show will be Tuesday, people!

August 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm (Music) (, , , )

OK! We have achieved postponement! This is great!

The show will be Tuesday night at The Delancey (downstairs). Not sure yet if we have the 7:30 or 8:30 slot (I requested later), but I’ll let you know.

I am so glad Frank was able to work his magic and find something for us- something before I leave Wednesday morning.

I am also glad my bandmates are team players and were willing to cancel their plans and do this on Tuesday.

I am so glad that so far it seems most of my friends and fans are still willing to come out and play.

If the weather calms down and the trains are running, Otto’s might decide to open. If that’s the case, my bandmates and I MAY go down and do a practice set. I suspect it won’t be the whole band, just whoever’s available. I won’t put it on the calendar but I’ll announce it on Twitter and Facebook if we end up doing it.

Otherwise, I cannot wait to see you all Tuesday. It is going to be a killer show.

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