{really terrible playing, really excellent play}

I’ve been thinking a lot about performance, and the stressful nature of being in front of so many eyes, singing or playing or speaking – one’s heart out, vulnerable – in such a public space. It is not always easy. In fact, as I have been speaking to the many friends who have asked about my chorus time, what sticks most in my head is not the performances, but my delight in the rehearsals.

Perhaps life is a series of rehearsals. The performances – bah. You hardly notice them. Most of the time is spent on trying to get things right. And then, when you do – there. You’ve performed, without noticing. There are periods of anxiety, just before the show. There are moments of bliss, when you’re hearing your harmonies blend just so. And the music plays on…

In the tradition of the Scottish Really Terrible Orchestra, comes the Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra of the Bay Area. Hadn’t ever heard of the RTO? They’re… terrible – but they only say so, to get that out there in the beginning. They’re an example of this performance thing – they play their performances like they play their rehearsals – with zest and energy. They expect something to go wrong – and they’re okay with it.

The joy with which the Bay Area group tackle orchestral music – and bash through, learning it, is satisfying. Professional people, students, retirees – they all love playing, and they all don’t have the time or impetus to spend the hours practicing necessary, but they want to play. And so, there’s a place for them to do so. Unlike the RTO, the TACO doesn’t perform for anyone’s amusement; they simply take joy in the learning that they do. A piece which wasn’t recognizably Bach suddenly becomes. It’s like junior high band, with less pressure. More laughter. Queries of, “where are we!?” and the exhilaration of coming to the last note, all at the same time. It’s an example of the necessity and beauty of play.

That might not sound like it would work for you. No matter – it’s the joy of playing that’s the point.

Classically trained people don’t always get to have “jam sessions” where the playing and singing just go on and modulate into something fresh and new – occasionally, it happens for them. The folk chamber group (for lack of something better to call them), Lost in the Trees plays “Time Taunts Me,” in Quebec, in this video. The instrumental intervals and the vocal intervals are not necessarily a part of the song, they’re just the group… loving the song. Loving the music. You can see this through the fact that everyone gets involved — singing, shaking a percussion egg, heads tilted back, letting the music through. Though they’re filming, this isn’t a performance, as such – it’s in someone’s house. And yet, their love of the rehearsal turns the playing of the song into performance. They’re trained. They know their parts – and still, the music takes off, and brings the musicians along for the ride, one possibly a little longer than they expected to take. It’s magical.

The song is about time. Please, take some, and do something you really and truly enjoy.

The time you have is now.

{behold, I am interviewed}

There were so many times, during the writing of this novel, when I turned to a note I had written myself, and reminded myself of why I was doing this. There were so many times when my own fears of my own inadequacies in dealing with the subject matter just rose up to overwhelm me. And then I remembered – love is stronger than fear… and if all I was afraid of was exploring and reinforcing the idea that it’s okay to truly love, then I needed a reality check.

Look, it’s a little weird to be quoting myself, so please, go and read the interview. Meanwhile, think nice thoughts of me: I am home and eating avocados. And watermelon. At almost every meal.

Lafayette 78

{it was the best of times, it was the worst of times}

Getting to Iceland 4

…and for five years, Glasgow, Scotland was home.

With mixed feelings – mostly the urge to sob, cut by the urge to snicker at myself – I bid goodbye to yet another home. This one hurts more than most, but knowing I will be back helps. Like all writing is revision, all of life is change, is it not?

Meanwhile, enjoying a short break before going back to work. Yes, this means I am currently HOMELESS! Please don’t try mailing me anything – I have no address. But, that will change. Stay tuned…

{God save the — WHAT??}

The sun peeped out long enough for me to throw a load of laundry on the line and get it dried; I cooked dinner – a-z, all the way to some more-than-slightly overly-toasty coconut macaroons – and…here I was, feeling all super-successful as a hostess and Tech Boy is stuck in traffic somewhere, at ten minutes to seven, as is our guest, because it’s Jubilee Weekend.


How could I have forgotten that the Glorious Elizabeth I* has, as of this weekend, ruled the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland now for sixty years?

I am surrounded by people who are either completely uncaring of the fact that this woman has been queen for so long (D’s office is having work as usual on Monday), or a little skeptical, at best. Many Scots are an unwilling part of this somewhat united of kingdoms – while many also feel quite British and are eagerly waving flags and draping bunting and getting into the spirit of things. It’s a bit of politics I, as a guest here for five years, DO NOT GET INTO. However, I was just reading something in the paper and it said something about “pub-hall ditties about crushing the rebellious Scot,” and I said, “Wha?” and looked it up.

God Save the Queen. The “additional” anti-Jacobite verse, written in 1745:

Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May by thy mighty aid,
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
and like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.

Of course, NOBODY sings that today. People rarely sing more than the first verse of the song — and mushily at that. (One of my favorite things is to watch people sing national anthems — how many DON’T know it?? Far more than you’d think.) But it’s historical fact, this little verse, and, just as people of the Jewish faith remember that once upon a time, the phase “perfidious Jews” was in a traditional Catholic prayer for Good Friday, it’s something heavy-handed enough to leave fingerprints in minds of an historical bent.

Ah, well. History, my high school teacher always warned us, was a lie agreed upon. In some respects, the unity in “United” States is as much of a fib as the unity in “United” Kingdom. We human creatures are critical of our leaders (technically, QE I is a figurehead, not a leader – the prime minister does the heavy lifting, but still) and rightly so, very rightly so! But sometimes, we are also a difficult, cranky group, at best.

Ah, well. It is the nature of the beast, and well our leaders know it. So, good luck, Queen Elizabeth I*! …And Incumbent Obama…

*Edited to Add: I know that the current queen is technically QEII, however, since it was not the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the time QEI reigned, the current Elizabeth is the first. And YES. Because I know this, I also know that I have way, way, way too many history major friends…