Whoops. That wasn’t really a planned hiatus. But I’m back now!!!
“And there was much rejoicing. Yay.”
My friend joined a choral group here last fall. They performed at the Breakers, the summer mansion owned by the Vanderbilts, for Christmas, and I was able to go see them. And they sounded pretty darn good, especially considering that there are no auditions to joining the group. She decided I would enjoy going, and so on Tuesday she picked me up and off we went.
That had to have been the craziest choral practice I have ever attended. It was the first practice for this semester, and there were three new prospective members, including me. B and I found chairs next to one another, and practice started immediately. There was no explanation of what the warm-ups were; we were simply expected to know them. We went straight into the pieces the group is going to perform in March, sight-reading the music since it was all brand-new to us.
Every other choral group I have been a part of, sight-reading a new piece has been expected of us. But the director has always had the pianist run through the parts on the piano first so we could follow along and see where the music was going. That didn’t happen on Tuesday night. The pianist would play the intro, and whammo! We’d have to start singing our part and pray we could figure out where we were going. Needless to say, there was plenty of stumbling, and we sounded really terrible.
Another thing that rankled was that the director would become a bit snippy at us when we would take a breath in the wrong place, or when we pronounced something incorrectly (did you know you shouldn’t say “dee-vine”? It’s “dih-vine” instead). Yet she’d be fine with us holding a note for two or three or four beats too long. Her logic was if we started breathing in the wrong place now, when we’re being introduced to the piece, that we’d never breathe in the proper place once we learned the song.
What did amuse me, however, was being reminded of being in the choir when we lived in Nebraska. Our church was so tiny that they were desperate for choir members, allowing just about anyone to join, as long as they could carry a tune. I was recruited as a tenor, of all things, because our lone male singer took on as much of the bass part as he could. My best friend Caroline as an alto sat next to me. That lasted all of two practices. It’s absolutely impossible to keep two thirteen-year-old girls quiet, especially when choir practice is the only time they see each other! So we were separated early on in our choir career. B and I were giggling so much at Tuesday’s practice that I was afraid we’d be separated too!
Yesterday Kurt, the girls, and I headed up to Boston in the slush and muck and ice to join my friend Jen for Christmas. She’s an Orthodox Christian, and they use the old calendar — hence their Christmas occurs after the Western Christmas.
We arrived in time for me to head to church with Jen. The service was incredibly gorgeous — the whole service was sung, partly by the choir and partly by the priests. Even the congregation would join in at the proper time. The incense lent an otherworldy quality to the service, reminding me that this is the way that it’s been done in that religion for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Christmas dinner was absolutely scrumptious. There was so much food!! Turkey and roast beef and a pork loin and mashed potatoes and chicken n’ rice and mashed turnips and sweet potatoes and salad… the food just went on and on! And the roast beef… Wow. Just thinking of it again makes my mouth water. Jen’s mother had cut slits into the beef and stuffed pieces of garlic into each slit, so the whole cut was infused with the flavor of garlic. Earlier Jen’s mother had asked us if we liked garlic, and Kurt’s eyes just lit up. We love garlic so. Any time a recipe calls for garlic, I usually double it. It’s that delicious.
It was so comfortable and wonderful being with Jen’s family. Later she told me I fit right in, and I really did feel at home. I loved it when the whole family burst into song — and not everyone simply singing melody either. Jen sang harmony, her sister and mother did melody, and her two brothers split the bass and tenor lines between them. Now that’s my kind of choir practice!
Grace was a huge hit, of course, as was Mary Ellen. Grace helped to empty the dishwasher and helped set the table as well. Anything she could help with, she was right there. There were two little boys there, ages 3 and 5, and I think she captured their hearts as well.
I got in my baby fix as well. We were in church when Jen disappeared for a moment and came back with her 3-month-old nephew in her arms. I oohed and aahed over him, and a little while later, she offered to let me hold him. He snuggled up against my chest and snoozed away. Once I got home from church, I said to Kurt, “Guess what?? I got to hold a baby!” He looked at me like I was insane and said, “But you have one of your own!!” Hey, the more the merrier, right?
Kurt looked at me around 7:30pm and told me we really needed to get going. Sighing dejectedly, I agreed… and the next thing I know, it was 9:30pm, and we really had to get going. I have no idea where those two hours went. I guess we were just enjoying ourselves too much!
Hmm, next up — Easter? We’ll see!