A Day In The Life


Prima Donna Returns
August 30, 2007, 7:24 pm
Filed under: Music

Preparing for my role in the opera was one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done.  You may scoff and think that I’ve never done any hard labor in my life, but I cleared fence rows this summer and I can honestly say that cutting brush and brambles was child’s play compared to rehearsing for The Marriage of Figaro.  The rehearsal schedule was brutal.  I’ve never sung so much in my life.  Morning, noon and night…..singing, singing, singing.  We blocked out our scenes on stage.  We practiced entrances and exits.  There were several dance scenes in the opera and I had to learn to waltz while singing.  That may not sound too difficult, but you should try waltzing while hitting a succession of high A-flats.  I sounded like an asthmatic for the first couple of weeks. 

Along with the physical demands there were extreme emotional and mental challenges.  I had to sing while embracing the male leads.  Talk about stressful.  Imagine being right in a man’s face singing opera.  I was constantly worried about  garlic breath or having lettuce stuck in my teeth.  To make matters even more tense, the director demanded that Figaro and I really kiss each other.  No fake, theatrical smooches.  We had to kiss.   I almost died the first time Figaro’s real-life wife sat in the theater during a rehearsal in which I had to lay one on her husband.  I kept expecting her to rush on stage and slap me. 

And let’s not forget my arch-rival, Miss H who was given a smaller, supporting role in the production.  Miss H. was none to happy about losing the lead role to little ole me.  She took every opportunity to up stage me in the first few weeks of rehearsal.  For those of you who may not know, upstaging is when a performer deliberately moves from their mark on stage to stand in front of another performer and block them from the audience’s view.  Madame kept me in the theater after rehearsals late one night and taught me how to gracefully counteract the upstaging Miss H.  And, if being graceful failed, Madame showed me how to use my body to simply shove the offensive Miss H. out of my way while never missing a note.  I got to try that technique out in the very next rehearsal and I must say, I really enjoyed it.  Miss H. didn’t do so much up staging after that incident. 

The day before the first performance I developed a case of sniffles.  By noon, I was coughing and running a slight temperature.  Madame packed me into her car and took me to her personal physician.  He gave me a gargantuan shot of vitamin B-12 in the buttocks and sent me home to rest.  In the meantime, Madame bought a case of Perrier and a pound of lemons.  On opening night, Madame had a table from her home set up backstage with Perrier at room temp and a huge bowl of quartered lemons just for me.  She even had one of her freshman vocal students sitting by the table to make sure no one else partook of my bottled water and citrus.  I was a nervous wreck, but the vitamin B-12 had worked wonders.  The Perrier and lemon worked to keep the vocal cords and throat free of phlegm.  And my opening night performance was dazzling.  I received a standing ovation and three curtain calls.  I was on cloud nine!  Two more performances and a matinee later, my leading role debut was history.  It was a heady experience and I cannot  begin to tell you how much I learned about music, performing, working with other prima donnas and about life in general. 

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 Susanna: Yes, Im very pleased with that:  It seems just made for me.  Take a look, dear Figaro.  Just look at me in this hat of mine.

 

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Susanna and Figaro: On this morning of our wedding how delightful to my (your) dear one is this pretty little hat which Susanna made herself.

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All:  Then let us all be happy.  This day of torment, of caprices and folly, love can end only in contentment and joy.  Lovers and friends, let’s round things off in dancing and pleasure.  And to the sound of a gay march let’s hasten to the revelry.



Prima Donna
August 27, 2007, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Music

Many years ago I was a student at a certain southern university.   The music department on that Louisiana campus was full of highly skilled, talented, ambitious and arrogant music students.  I ought to know.  I was one of them.  The performing arts building had a wonderfully dramatic,  intense atmosphere, rife with intrigue and halls that were always echoing with  music.  The vocal instructors were just as competitive as their students.  They pushed and prodded us, encouraging us one minute while tearing us to shreds with brutal honesty about our performances the next.   The stress level was high.  The competition was cut-throat.  It was exhilarating.  It was frightening.  It was beautiful.  It was music.

During my freshman and sophomore years, I had participated in several opera performances as a chorus member and in some very minor roles.  As a 20-year old college junior, my vocal instructor informed me that I was ready for a leading role.  The opera production that year was  Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.  Madame told me that I would audition for the female leading role and who was I to argue with her.  I’d been a prima donna since birth and it was high time the rest of the world recognized me as such.  Thus began a period of preparation and practice rigorous enough to prepare me for the vocal olympics if there was such a thing.  Madame practically controlled my every waking moment from singing endless vocalises to improve my vocal flexibility to physical conditioning to increase my stamina. 

The audition date finally arrived.  Only two other young women besides myself were auditioning for the part of Susanna, the female lead in The Marriage of Figaro.  I know it must sound horrible, but I was only concerned with one of them.  The other poor girl just didn’t stand a chance.  The battle lines were drawn between myself and my arch-rival, Miss H.  I must say that my audition was wonderful.  I was Susanna, a scheming, seductive and voluptuous little maid in the employ of Il Conte de Almavira.  Every note was perfectly tuned, every rhythm precise, every vocal nuance perfected.  I flirted, I flounced, I sang my heart out and I got the part. 

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Ah, that’s enough for this evening. The prima donna will return to finish the story at a later date.



Why?
August 26, 2007, 10:47 am
Filed under: Odds and Ends

Lisa has us answering the question, “Why do you blog?” for this Fun Monday assignment.  You can visit her site for a list of all the participants. 

I had a web site in the late 90’s before blogging became a pop culture phenomenon.  I used my site to display pictures of the beauty that surrounds me out here in the woods and to share poems, quotes and scripture.  I liked creating my personal web site so much that I agreed to develop a web site for the school district where I taught at the time.   That was a lot of work and a lot of fun.  Blogging doesn’t allow one to be quite as creative as does creating one’s own web site from scratch, but it is much easier.   Easier is what I am about at this point in my life! I think I like creating web sites and blogging so much because it takes me back to my days on the high school yearbook staff.  Blogging is like publishing a magazine or yearbook without all the expenses.  Plus, unlike the high school yearbook,  if I want I can put something about me on every page! 

I blog so I can show you views like this:

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The road to a friend’s house is never long.

And, I blog so I can say things like this to my friends who read what I write:

Happy Birthday, Melanie!!!!

We traveled down this old road in pony tails and French braids, through hundreds of piano lessons, countless hours of practice, recitals and Guild; on the school bus and in our own beat up cars.  We played and sang in so many talent shows and for so many banquets that I lost count.  You were my hero and I looked up to you more than you’ll ever know.  We laughed and we cried.  We grew up and went our separate ways.

Now we work together teaching music.  You’re still playing the piano and I’m still singing.  Isn’t that grand?!!  You know DeeDee is so proud.  And you still are my hero!

We’ve come full circle.  I live on that old road that you grew up on.  It is still the road to a friend’s house.  It is never too long to travel.  

I love you and I’ll join you Over the Hill next year!!! 

                                                                                              



The Most Important Ingredient
August 23, 2007, 8:17 pm
Filed under: Food, Life in the South

My Granny W. was a great cook.  I remember so many meals eaten around her big kitchen table.  We used to gather there on Sunday after church for the noon meal and, of course, holidays were always celebrated with feasts fit for kings.  Unfortunately, Granny didn’t write many of her recipes down primarily because she was always changing her ingredients.  She often changed things in an effort to improve the taste, but she also simply cooked with what she had on hand substituting a new seasoning for something she didn’t have in her pantry at the time.  And Granny just wasn’t keen on sharing her culinary secrets.  She enjoyed her status as the supreme cook in the family and she loved listening to people trying to figure out what exactly she had added to this food or that to make it taste so good. 

Nowadays when the family gets together for a meal, it is usually served at my mom’s house.  All the family members generally pitch in and bring several dishes making a giant smorgasbord for sampling.  When Granny was alive, she did all the cooking.  She actually turned down offers for help with the meal.  Mom remembers when Granny did all her cooking with a wood stove.  Can you imagine?!!  I can’t remember the wood stove, but I do remember Granny making her own butter and straining the cream from the top of the warm milk that Grandpa brought in fresh from the cow.  I can also remember the absolute perfect taste of that freshly churned butter smeared on bread still warm from the oven.  It was like eating a little piece of heaven. 

I learned to love cooking by watching Granny W. at work in the kitchen.  I have a cousin who also ‘studied’ at Granny’s side.  My cousin and I spend a lot of time trying to replicate Granny’s specialties.  In our separate kitchens, we add a pinch of this and stop adding a cup of that trying to find that perfect blend of ingredients based solely on our memories of Granny’s delicious dishes.  We bring our finished products to the family gatherings and wait expectantly as our kin folks dig in and devour the food we’ve prepared.  “That tastes just like Granny’s…..” is the phrase that is magic to our ears.  My cousin has perfected Granny’s coleslaw recipe and I can whip out a pumpkin pie that puts everyone right back in Granny’s kitchen.  The one recipe that still eludes us is Granny’s banana cake.  Try as we might, neither of us can figure out exactly what Granny did to make her banana cake one of the most requested desserts in the county.  

One of the last meals Granny cooked for me was turnip greens and cornbread.  That’s so Southern it’s almost a cliche’, but just thinking about Granny’s greens and cornbread makes my mouth water.  The turnip greens were always fresh from the garden and she cooked them with pork fatback and a generous helping of sugar.  I can’t even begin to tell you what all she put in her cornbread, but she baked it in an iron skillet and I believe that had a lot to do with how good it tasted. 

Granny gave me her one cookbook several years before she died.  The copyright date in it is 1938.  The book is one of my most treasured possessions and it does contain many of the recipes that she used, but the thing is, Granny used those written recipes as a starting point from which she added, subtracted or substituted at will.  Often times I’ve carefully measured and stirred following recipes from the cookbook, only to create something that doesn’t taste like Granny’s cooking at all.  Through all my trial and error, I’ve discovered something very important and I’m sure my cousin who loves to cook would agree with me.  The most important ingredient in Granny’s cooking was love and there simply isn’t a substitute for that.



Arggghhhhh
August 21, 2007, 12:52 pm
Filed under: Odds and Ends

I had no Internet at home last night or this morning.  I couldn’t comment on any of the Fun Monday posts or check my email.  I can post from school, but I can’t comment on any blogs that aren’t with WordPress so…….. I’m not being a snob, honest!!  Hopefully, whatever is wrong will have righted itself by the time I get home this evening.  Until then….have a great day!



To Tell the Truth
August 19, 2007, 7:15 pm
Filed under: Odds and Ends

I am not a good liar.  My face is too expressive, especially my eyes.  My mouth can be spewing forth falsehoods, but my eyes are generally telling the truth which makes for some very awkward situations.  Lies are so complicated.  You have to remember who you told the lie to, why you told it, when you told it and what the lie entailed.  I’m just not any good at keeping up with that much information.  Reality is hard enough for me to remember, much less a multitude of fabrications.  I generally blurt out the truth or my honest opinion which, ironically enough, has gotten me in far more trouble than some of the lies I’ve told.  And, finally, I think lying is wrong.  So, if and when I do tell a whopper, I have to deal with Guilt.  And Guilt really makes me miserable. 

The first really big lie I can remember telling was to my parents when I was thirteen years old.  I was a participant in a singing group and I had a major crush on a fellow thirteen year old male member of the group.  The group was traveling to a nearby town to perform and my parents let me ride with my “boyfriend”, D, in a car driven by his older brother.  The brother’s girlfriend was also along for the ride.  After we sang, I begged my parents to let me ride back to our hometown with D and his brother.  My parents said I could.  Little did I realize that D’s brother had planned to head on up the highway to a liquor store in another county to purchase some beer.  The plan was to explain the extra time it took us to get home by saying that the older brother’s girlfriend had forgotten her purse and we had to go back and get it.  When we finally returned to the church parking lot where I was supposed to meet up with my parents, we were 45-minutes over due.  My parents were worried and upset.  I told them the lie and D, his  brother and the girlfriend all joined in with the story and my parents believed us.  I can’t remember how long it was before I confessed the truth to Mom and Dad, but I do know that I eventually told them what really happened. 

In more recent years, I told a lie to a group of students who sang in a competition.  It was a terrible performance in which just about anything that could go wrong did indeed go wrong.  I felt that as their director the responsibility for the poor performance was mine.  I didn’t want my kids to be unnecessarily hurt or upset.  My group knew they didn’t do well and they didn’t need to hear about it from some strangers.  So, after quickly reading through the judges comments, I tore the pages up and threw them away.  When I got on the bus where my students were waiting to hear the results, I told them that the comments sheets had been misplaced and would be mailed to me if they were ever located.  Over the next few weeks, my students occasionally asked about the comments sheets and I kept telling them that the pages had never been found.  They eventually stopped asking about them.  We continued working together and were much better prepared for the next competition we entered where we did very well. 

Head on over to Uncaring Bear for more deceitful stories.  Perhaps you’ll find something a bit more exciting than what I had to offer! 



Once Again…..With Feeling
August 17, 2007, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Odds and Ends, School Buzz

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I posted this picture last year after the first week of school and here it is again.   I simply haven’t found a better visual aid to describe how I feel after that first week back in the school routine.  There are four schools in our district and I teach in three of them.  Most teachers have the luxury of getting one room prepared; I have three.  Most teachers have a limit on the number of students enrolled in a single class, but because I teach choir, I have no legal limit on my student numbers.  I’m not complaining.  Seriously, I’m not.  Just wanted to make it clear why my butt is dragging!!  And I think it’s funny that our legislators are so concerned with how many students a regular class room teacher can handle in a single class period, yet choir teachers are expected to play the piano, direct the choir, maintain discipline, handle all the same paperwork and TEACH with double or triple the amount of students found in a “regular” class room.   I am powerful.  I am strong.  I am super human.  And my  butt is dragging!!  I love what I do though.  Making music all day long is definitely my kind of gig.  I’m ready to get those voices tuned up and singing beautifully!!

P.S.   My students are really great kids.  No doubt about it, I have the best kids in the district.  One thing I really love about them is if we do get a trouble-maker or some student who expects an A in choir for keeping a seat warm, often times my students take care of the problem before I really have to do anything at all.  Peer pressure generally reaps positive benefits in my performing groups and that is a blessing.  I have 60 kids signed up for high school choir which is about 10 more than normal and I have 68 signed up for middle school choir.  Those numbers will change a little bit during the drop/add week, but I generally don’t lose too many students.  My elementary music classes have any where from 19-25 students per class and I teach five elementary classes per day in addition to the high school and middle school choirs.  Needless to say, it takes a lot of energy to work with that many students every day which is why I am usually exhausted at the end of a week. 

On another note……I saw a bumper sticker today on the back of an old, beat up truck that said “No one died when Clinton lied”.