Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Randomness - Endless hours watching the Food Network has fully prepared me to sit around watching you cook this Thanksgiving.

Confronted with the prospect of a lighter schedule for the first two weeks of this month, my body resolutely decided to go on strike.  Its strike was perfectly-timed: an autumn cold started on the day of our recital in Philadelphia, allowing me to perform the program reasonably unscathed.  The very next day, the cold settled comfortably into my upper respiratory system, setting up house, redecorating all the various respiratory passageways, painting them a lovely shade of infected pink.

Being incapacitated and forced to sit still at home for 10 days straight, restless and needing to direct my stir crazy energy somewhere useful, on top of sitting at my piano plinking out pitches in an effort to cram this music into my head (without actually singing it) for this upcoming concert, I ended up doing a bit of redecorating myself - all I can say is that my closets have never been cleaner or more organized.

My body, apparently satisfied with the vacation terms it had negotiated, slowly resumed cooperating with me just in time to go back to work to sing Bach with the Alabama Symphony last week.  Last week was a particular luxury, as I had the opportunity to work with all familiar faces and great friends.  Singing Bach with these friends was one of those special musical moments when there is nothing but music and play for me in both rehearsal and performance.  My duet partner for the Domine Deus (Kiera Duffy) and I barely had to utter words to each other in rehearsal - we just picked up on each other's musical instincts and responded spontaneously and effortlessly in sync with each other.  It was great fun to both sing with and listen to these good friends sing some of my favorite music ever composed.

While we were in Birmingham, the subject of nerves and stage fright came up, and we all commiserated about how we all have to grapple with it (you can read my colleague, Jenny Rivera's take on our conversations at her blog, here). It's so easy for us to beat ourselves about feeling it - it somehow feels as if we aren't courageous or brave, and because of that we are somehow inadequate to the task at hand. The thing is, I really don't believe that bravery is the absence of fear - I think it's the power to accept our fears and take a leap despite them.  

On the flight back to New York, thanks to the wonders of WiFi in the sky, I stumbled upon the video below by the actor, Edward Norton, discussing his experience with the terror associated with creativity and performance.

In a way, I feel that fear, while it feels like craziness, is actually sanity.  Without it, something doesn't feel right to me, and there is an essential energy that is missing.  The challenge is to accept it and not let it hold you back.

Anyway, I digress...mostly, I just was writing to check in and wish everyone in the US (and any Americans reading this abroad) a very Happy Thanksgiving.  Fortuitously, I am actually free for the holiday weekend this year (last year involved a flight to Kansas City and a surprisingly good room service burger that I ate while watching Monster-In-Law).  So, it will be nice to spend the day stuffing my face with turkey with family members for a change.  Just another moment that I can add to the long list of things I have to be grateful for this year.

I leave with you a gratitude-ful song that was attributed to Handel for a long time sung by one of my favorite singers:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Leadership and Community

Here's a fantastic New York Times profile on the conductor, Michael Morgan, from the other day (picture above is from the NYTimes article).

My two favorite quotes from the article:
“The thing I find most interesting about orchestras is using them to bring the town together...We want the fans of this music and that music, who may never see each other in real life, to come and watch a concert together.”
“All of my ideas about bringing people together come from seeing myself as outsider...Being black in what’s considered a white music culture, being gay in a straight culture. Everything to me is about asking, ‘How do you use your outsider status to bring more people together?’ ”

Thinking back to last Friday's mostly-Britten recital in Philly, those comments coincidentally touch on what are central themes to much of Britten's work, and much of the music that Myra and I performed on Friday night.  It's pretty clear that Britten, himself, felt like an outsider throughout much of his life.  In the liner notes to our Winter Words album (which come with the album when you purchase it on iTunes, if you don't already have a copy), I wrote about how the first time I ever performed Winter Words, I felt very much an outsider in the community in which I was performing, and how singing Britten's music that night bound all of us in the hall together in a profound way.  Ever since then, I've been amazed at Britten's ability to create music that so movingly touches on these common human experiences.  When performing his music, I always feel that there is the potential to draw an audience's attention to the experiences that we share as humans, focusing on what binds us together rather than what it is that divides and differentiates us.  Last Friday's recital in Philly was no exception. 

In the end, perhaps I feel that way about most of the music I perform, but it was most certainly Britten's music that drew me to that realization about the connective possibilities of performance in the first place.

It's so great to see/read about a like-minded soul also making a mark out there in our present-day musical universe.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Britten Humour

In honor of tomorrow's recital in Philly - a folksong setting that will not be on tomorrow's program...

I also came across this sweet picture of a young Benjamin Britten the other day - it looks like it could be his high school senior picture:

If I'm going to show Benjamin's Senior Picture (actually, I think he's 20 years old in that picture), I feel that I must be fair and show mine, too:

I must admit - I think Mr. Britten looks sharper and much more put together than I did...