November Happenings

Early in the month, we took the girls to see Portuguese Fado singer Mariza. This is the second time B, K, and I have seen her perform here in Seattle, and we found that Mariza’s style and substance has evolved.

This interview  partially explains her evolution to include quieter, intensely emotional songs. I was strongly reminded of Jacques Brel, whose “songs were written not to be sung but to be performed. He delivered them with such pained and profound emotion that he, famously, ended each concert dripping with sweat.” Fado expresses disquiet, longing, loss, and as sung by Mariza, it was a prescient expression of many of us in late November.

20161112_193953K won her category at the Puget Sound chapter Fall competition of NATS! We are so proud of her.

2016-11-17-19-00-2013 years old! A. recently read or heard about the concoction called Ambrosia Salad, and asked for that instead of birthday cake. 🙂

2016-11-20-13-16-15Opening gifts at his party here.

2016-11-24-09-35-01This year’s Turkey Trot was sloshy, muddy, rainy, and cold but our times were better than last year! S continues to be an encouraging and inspiring personal trainer–I’m so grateful for her positive attitude.

2016-11-24-14-02-45Peaceful, quiet, calm Thanksgiving afternoon with the nuclear family, including Tasha.

2016-11-24-14-00-34

Everyone (but Tasha dog) soaking up the beauty at the Bloedel Reserve.

2016-11-25-12-35-01

2016-11-25-12-47-09

2016-11-25-12-47-32Gratitude when I wake, gratitude as I eat, gratitude as I walk, read, talk, write, ruminate, run, sleep. This is the way.

 

 

Identity

Personal identity: a concept worth investigating in nearly every work of literature and art.

The etymology of the word is an interesting angle; identity (from Latin idem) means “the same”, so I suppose maintaining the same characteristics over time gives us our identity.

The Picture of Dorian Gray raises the issue of exerting influence over others’ identities and being open to influence. K’s character, Sibyl Vane, undergoes a radical shift in her personal identity–from actress/chanteuse to beloved and lover of Dorian. This is the important take-away: In the first identity, she is an independent agent. In the second, she is dependent on someone else to help her maintain that identity. Therein lies the tragedy.

Look: K on the cover! The article inside neglects to mention Scott Breitbarth, the musical director and choreographer for the show, so this is my shout-out to the brilliant work he’s done!

2016-10-30-09-57-21We went to the 5th Avenue’s production of Man of La Mancha last night, and this was the question the play raised for me:

How does a person’s commitment to their personal identity play out for tragedy or triumph?

A truth about life: change is all there ever is. So does someone inflexible in their personal identity suffer? Similarly, does someone too malleable or changeable suffer?

Man of LaMancha reminded me of 1984, which I’m re-reading right now. The scene with the Knight of the Mirrors who disabuses Quixote of his illusions is strikingly similar to the later O’Brien scenes with Winston Smith. Smith, who looks in a mirror and has a difficult time coming to terms with the person he is, or was, or will be.

 

 

Opera Workshop

Earlier this month K participated in an opera workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. She stayed in an on-campus dorm room at PLU for her 10-day experience, a taste of college living and an opportunity to learn from inspiring PLU faculty members and radiant professional singers along with other high school, undergraduate, and adult opera singers.

2016-07-14 12.05.57The day I dropped her off: K’s getting her bearings, standing in PLU’s music building under the Chihuly rose installations.

2016-07-23 15.46.52A week and a half later, the singers had honed their parts for Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, and various opera scenes for a best-of-opera variety evening performance.  Hansel and Gretel was in the early afternoon, and then the opera scenes were performed in the evening. K’s wonderful teacher M came with for the day.

2016-07-23 15.47.04Nana’s visit coincided with K’s performance. 🙂

2016-07-23 20.44.52K’s opera scene was the Flower duet from Lakmé. It’s one of the most beautiful arias of any opera; after hearing K sing the mezzo-soprano part so incredibly beautifully on stage, it’s become my favorite.

K’s duet partner was a fantastically talented coloratura soprano and a terrific person for K to work closely with.

2016-07-23 15.44.17We were all so proud of K and happy that her experience was such a great one!

Wrapping up

2016-06-04 15.31.26

A. did so well in his recital yesterday! He’s starting to make peace with feeling nervous and performing anyway.

Sophie at banquet June 2016

At the BHS sailing banquet: S. telling a story about her most memorable moment of the sailing season–during one regatta, the wind completely died down. All the sailors in the competition paddled their way towards each other, made a raft of the boats, and drifted around together.

Today’s Baccalaureate program for/by graduating seniors was so well-attended that we had to scramble to find enough chairs for all the students, let alone their family members.

We have a week and a half of school left in the year, and summer weather is already here!

 

Music, sailing, books

Through two shut doors, I can hear K warming up her voice. Tasha is in my room with me, resting her head on her paws, opening her eyes for a second whenever S hits a computer key louder than usual. S is stretched out on my floor, working on her homework, with Mozart’s “Lacrimosa” playing softly from her laptop.

S has only rarely been home before 6:30 p.m. since mid-March, but sailing is winding down for the season. It’ll be nice to see her more–many weekends the sailors leave for their regatta straight from school on Friday and don’t return until Sunday evening.

2016-05-22 16.52.13S’s on the far left in this lineup of some of the girls on the BHS sailing team. B spent Saturday and Sunday with the team at their last regatta of the year in Anacortes and came home with some pictures.

100_9873

A had a piano examination on Sunday, which spurred a terrific conversation between K and A afterwards when he told her about the strange and terrible stage fright he experienced for the first time, sweaty fingers slipping on the keys, a rushing in his ears during the ear training playback.

She reassured him and told him validating things about performing despite the nerves. 

I started a few new books during my quiet weekend. I’ve been making more time to tell my students about what I read for the sheer love of it as well as what I read because it’s informative or necessary.

It turns out I really like reading memoirs by neurotic people. (Running with Scissors, An Unquiet Mind, etc.) Susanna Kaysen’s Cambridge is proving to be a gently humorous, captivating vision of an eight-year-old’s world.

I’m reading another in this sub-genre (but not for long–it’s just a slip of a book): Carlyle’s House and Other Sketches by Virginia Woolf.

 

 

Spring Break 2016

K turned 18!

2016-04-09 18.41.38

Here we are on our way to hear Stile Antico, a UK vocal ensemble specializing in Renaissance music. It was luminous, rich, precise, enchanting; deserving of every laudatory review I’d seen beforehand. The group comes from Cambridge and Oxford; having begun their training in the choral programs there, the 12 singers perform with no accompaniment and no director. The program focused on the music of Shakespeare’s era–very little Shakespearean text was contemporaneously set to music, so the singers wove spoken-word history lessons on William Byrd, the death of Prince Henry Stuart and the subsequent flood of music composed in requiem, and other items of interest in between their numbers.

102_9746

A. created a hidden fairy house in the wild corner of the back yard.

All three kids had dog-sitting or dog-walking jobs during spring break.

I took Tolstoy to heart:  “Rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.”

 

So proud!

Last night, K won her category (female, junior year in high school, classical) in the Puget Sound chapter competition for NATS.

NATS: The National Association of Teachers of Singing, with members in the U.S. and in more than 30 other countries.

Today, she sang in the honors recital held at Seattle Pacific University.

2016-03-12 15.07.28

She sang Marcello’s “Quella Fiamma”, “Strings in the Earth and Air” (music by Samuel Barber, text by James Joyce), and Debussy’s “Nuit d’étoiles”.

“Your eyes like the stars”

You’re looking at the only student from Bainbridge High School to compete in Washington’s vocal Solo and Ensemble competition. Here she is before going into Bremerton High School’s main auditorium to sing Debussy’s “Nuit d’étoiles” and “Quella Fiamma” by Marcello. Interesting fact about “Nuit d’étoiles”: It was Debussy’s first published work, which he wrote when he was only 18.

2016-02-06 14.45.34

2016-02-06 15.24.51

Ahh–there’s the sparkle I love. This is after she sang with such power and beauty that it took my breath away. A rare young full lyric soprano, she’s learned to contour her voice in interesting and compelling ways and to command the stage with her presence.

Her two voice teachers are perfect fits for her and have taught her so much. The times I see K the happiest are after her twice-weekly voice lessons, when she’s gotten praise for what she’s doing well and specific feedback about what to work on.

That’s what I aim for in my teaching practice–though it’s significantly more challenging as a classroom teacher; rather than a full studio of 40 students, I have a full studio of nearly 120.

2016-01-29 15.16.19

This is what one semester’s worth of graded tests and quizzes looks like for five classes. Out of my cupboard and headed for the recycle bin!

In the edges and corners of this very full week, I’ve managed a little reading:

The Sledding Hill by Chris Crutcher (recommended to me by a colleague for use with my Eng 9 support class)–a quick YA read that touches on religious bigotry, homosexuality, censorship, death and loss, and friendship. It’s a book that invites discussion.

Dungeness by Karen Polinsky (my colleague!) This book is part history, part fictional narrative, beautifully designed and intriguingly told. It’s lyrical and profound, rich with resonant symbolism.

Music

2016-01-20 19.06.47

A’s 6th grade winter percussion performance. My favorite part of these Sakai music nights is when the teacher shows the audience how to create a specific rhythm in order to become part of the performance.

Humans like to percuss; clapping our hands, our homegrown schlagzeugs, is a “remarkably stable” cultural phenomenon.

Last week Devotchka and the Seattle Symphony played to a sold-out, rapt audience that joined in whenever we could: during “The Clockwise Witness” there was a magical moment when the audience’s clockwork clapping melted into silence like we were one gorgeous and sensitive organism.

Lead singer Nick Urata cooly pours his heart out to an audience–in complete control and completely present. That’s irresistible. You can see some of his stage presence even in his KEXP studio recording. It reminds me of what Teller has said about the role of a teacher in generating love for the subject: create astonishment and romance.

Especially in their “Undone“, you can see one source of the magic: they understand dynamics. They know how to shape every phrase.

2016-01-23 12.58.11

It’s a rainy Saturday: perfect for playing along with Devotchka (I’m making some awful sounds but it’s awfully fun).

 

The End of December

 

2015-12-21 16.40.38

The Bloedel Reserve held a lantern-lit Solstice walk; the women’s chamber choir K and I sing with stood beneath a giant cedar and sang as the procession crossed the meadow and then again as the procession exited the woods near the manor house. My favorite canon in the solstice songbook P put together is this:

Though my soul may set in darkness

It will rise in perfect light.

I have loved the stars too fondly

To be fearful of the night.

(Music attributed to Joseph Haydn and text from “The Old Astronomer” by Sarah Williams–you can hear a recording here.)

2015-12-24 09.42.08

Christmas Eve day games.

2004-07-03 16.16.29

And Christmas dinner. B’s dad made the wooden bowl holding the centerpiece. S made the individual Beef Wellingtons (out of this world). K made the kolcannon (also really delicious!).

2015-12-24 18.06.35

S’s Havisham-esque bûche de Noël, filled with whipped cream, slivered almonds, Nutella, and marzipan bugs. The best rotting log I’ve ever tasted! Look at these darling marzipan gnomes:2015-12-24 18.06.16

Two nonfiction book recommendations: How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds by John Powell and Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth by Lee Jackson. I read the first in the waiting room while K was getting her wisdom teeth out on the 22nd  (it was one of her Christmas presents). The second was a present from B and I devoured it in a couple of days–Victorian London is a fascinating subject; many reformers (including one primary figure, Lord Ashley) made gains in areas that still merit attention: the treatment of the mentally ill, the vast difference in living quarters and standards between the wealthy and the poor, overcoming political inertia to alleviate the suffering of human beings.