It’s been an uneventful week and I wasn’t entirely sure what topic would make for a good post. Maybe this time I should celebrate the mundane.
The church I where I sing is undergoing extensive renovations. The building will be magnificent when complete, but for the moment we’re celebrating the services in the parish hall. The parish is known for its excellent music. Singing there is the only real reason I’ve got for attending. The sanctuary has pristine acoustics. The parish hall can be euphemistically described as “comfy.” There are no hard surfaces and any sound is swallowed. Construction is delayed a bit and now we’re not likely to be back in the sanctuary until after Easter.
Our director has used this as an opportunity to be creative, selecting anthems that sound lovely sung with a piano or a cappella. The organ isn’t an option so he doesn’t lament. I admit that I’d be prone to griping in similar circumstances. I’m not the director, I don’t have to worry about the music, and I’m fine with both things. Credit it to my Lenten maturity. Ha!
Today I’m thankful for occasional chances to live slowly.
Today is Ash Wednesday. I’m ambivalent toward formal religion and lean agnostic. Even so, I sing in the choir of a local Anglican church. Singing is like breathing to me. I need both to live. I attend most Sundays because we sing at set points through the entire service. I don’t believe in the metaphysical aspects but I still find beauty in the rituals, and consider “seeking justice and loving mercy” a worthy idea.
I honestly love the liturgical calendar. I’m struck by the idea that every day is a feast honoring someone. Every day becomes a celebration. Dividing the year into various “-tides” that reflect the cycle of seasons feels far less artificial to me than worrying about quarterly goals. I don’t suffer from misguided nostalgia in thinking the past was “purer” because survival required so much more effort. I do wonder whether we’ve compartmentalized and subdivided our lives so much as to be pointless.
I don’t sacrifice anything for Lent. That would mean abiding by proscriptions I just don’t believe. I do try to use the season to live an examined life. I don’t have any grand final insights. I write what I see. I probably won’t be an objectively better person by Easter but I will be reminded that what I do has consequences for good or ill. I don’t think knowing that is ever a bad thing.
Today I’m thankful for fancy French desserts.
After choir rehearsal most weeks a group goes to a local French restaurant. I can’t often go as I wake ludicrously early for work, and I just get home too late if I go with them. This week I was finally able to join them. The restaurant has an extensive selection of alcohol so most of my fellow singers ask for lager or wine. I don’t consume alcohol but I don’t want to sit and appear bored. I’ve learned that desserts are a workable option. They’re small, relatively inexpensive and can be nursed for as long it takes the rest of our party to finish their wine.
This week the option was chocolate pot de crème. It was wonderful. The custardy bit (I’m not fluent in culinary French so am probably not using the correct terms) was dense and just a little bitter to balance out the cream. It was deliciously rich so the small portion was more than enough. I enjoyed making my mouth happy while spending time with people I like. It was a pleasant evening.
Today I’m thankful for “Jupiter” from The Planets by Gustav Holst.
The university choir I sang in collaborated with the local symphony to perform The Planets in concert. There is a choral part in “Neptune” which is what we sang. Holst wrote the suite during World War I. The first “Neptune” chorus was recruited from a local girls’ school.
There are movements for each planet that astronomers knew about at the time. Pluto wasn’t discovered until the 1930s, and its planetary status is still debated (planet, forever!). The movements in the suite are not in astronomical order. Being pedantic, this annoys me. Each movement is intended to convey the astrological, rather than astronomical, aspects associated with its planet. Mars almost won my heart with a massive kettle drum chorus. Then, I heard the middle string section of Jupiter. I got teary and have adored it ever since. My favorite part starts around 3:07. I have no rights to the music or video.
Today I’m thankful for choir.
I’ve been singing since I was five. I have a good, strong voice and can sing a lot of different styles. I learn quickly by ear and can harmonize pretty much instantly. To go with that, I can’t read music at all. Like, if my life depended on sight reading something I would die. I keep up because I’ve got a good ear.
Singing crazy hard music with a bunch of people who can really, really sing is an accomplishment. We have to listen, and function as multiple sections of one organism. It all has to coordinate. If my section screws up our arpeggios we leave another section out to dry. Actually, it requires a measure of trust, that the other people have learned their stuff and won’t make the rest sound crappy. When everything works we produce a massive sound that audiences enjoy and make the effort to come and hear. It’s pretty cool.