"No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face." John Donne
I mentioned in my first blog post two weeks ago I have spent most of my summer vacation straightening up. My choir music is now so organized; I can put my hands on anything my chamber choir has ever sung. My desks are things of beauty, with silver cups filled with pens and pencils and the cutest desk blotters you’ve ever seen. My laptop fits so well on top of my desks, with no books or papers or stuff I have to shove aside, I no longer have to sit sidesaddle at my computer.
I am a voracious reader, and had to discipline myself when it came to organizing my professional library this summer. With every book I found, I wanted to sit down and read it. Most of the books I own are like old friends, calling to me and reminding me why I wanted or needed them in the first place. If I wanted to be finished with certain tasks by our agreed upon deadline, I had to have a system. I read biographies (and a novel-bio) at bedtime and sections of other books as a treat if I got a certain amount accomplished.
I reread a lovely biography of Amy Beach and one of Ruth Crawford Seeger as well. I have longed admired Mrs. Seeger for her wonderful children’s song collections, with their interesting accompaniments. I had almost forgotten she was a gifted composer in her own right, not just the wife of ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger and step-mom to Pete. I reread one of my favorite novel-bios, “Scarlet Music, Hildegard of Bingen, A Novel,” by Joan Ohanneson and was transported to a medieval convent for a bit.
I had misplaced my copy of, “Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire, Vol. I: Sacred Latin Texts,” by Ron Jeffers but found it in time to lend to my son, Ben, also a musician and ChoralNet User. When I came across my copy of the Elizabeth A.H. Green book (you know the one I’m talking about), I decided I wanted a refresher on fermatas, so I reread Chapter Six. I am still reading, “The Singer’s Ego: Finding Balance Between Music and Life,” by Lynn Eustis because it resonates with me on so many levels I felt I needed to reread it in its entirety.
I found several books destined to be my “treats” for this project and came across them as I sorted through, stacking them on the top of one of my empty office bookshelves. To keep myself on task, I read only a chapter or section that struck my fancy. From, “In Quest of Answers: Interviews with American Choral Conductors,” editor and interviewer, Carole Glenn, I read the “Women Conductors” chapter. “Up Front: Becoming the Complete Choral Conductor,” editor Guy B. Webb, made me want to reread the whole thing but I limited myself to “Mastery of Choral Ensemble,” by Jameson Marvin, with Tim Sharp’s contribution to be read later this fall. How can you read only one portion of “The Robert Shaw Reader,” edited by Robert Blocker? I tried by sticking with “Part I: Organizing and Sustaining the Chorus.” The last book in my “treat” pile compelled me to read the whole thing. In fact, I am still reading as I go along and digest a bit, then I read a bit more, “Wisdom, Wit, and Will: Women Choral Conductors on Their Art,” compiled and edited by Joan Catoni Conlon.
The best part of the whole organizing ordeal has been finding items I didn’t remember I had. There was a little china ‘choir angel’ the parent’s group for my children’s choir gave me for Christmas one year. And there was a wind chime a little girl gave me after her last concert with me. There were pictures of choirs I have conducted, both my church choirs and community children’s choirs, with singers I had forgotten about, jumping back into my memory from their photos. It’s been lovely to find all this bric-a-brac, if a bit jarring, and then realize I had it all hidden under piles of papers. The papers are all shredded and recycled, the photos put in albums, the wind chime hung from a shelf above my home desk in the family room with the ‘choir angel’ on that same shelf.
The books are back on their shelves now. It was refreshing to reconnect with my old book friends and feel ready to begin my fall concert cycle. I do love autumn!