“I was in constant demand, in my professional life and my personal life.” Hedy Lamarr
One of the most difficult things for me during the Pandemic has been trying to keep up my skills, both musically and intellectually. Once this whole thing is over and we’re able to rehearse and perform more normally, there should be time to get back in the swing of things. But I know I will be impatient until then. So, what to do?
Last week, I shared some of the books I’ve been reading, and in many cases rereading, to keep my mind in the “choral game.” This week, I’ll share some of the performances I’ve watched and courses I’m doing. These are only a few of the things keeping me busy, the ones I thought would be of interest to you.
Three performances I’ve watched were significant for me during this time. Two were “PBS Great Performances” and one was streamed from DisneyPlus. You can guess which one was from DisneyPlus!
I really, really, REALLY enjoyed “Turandot” with Christine Goerke in the title role. That girl can SING! This was “Live From the Met” for “PBS Great Performances” and I believe was originally to be a HD broadcast in theaters. I am not always a fan of Puccini, but I do love “Turandot.” This performance was a huge treat in a spring with so many canceled performances. I follow Christine Goerke on Twitter–@HeldenMommy–and I love her personality and her Jersey Girl attitude. Oh, and her voice is quite spectacular! I hope to see and hear you when you’re finally able to come back to Chicago, Christine.
The second “PBS Great Performances” broadcast I enjoyed was Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass.” I happened to be at this live performance at Ravinia the summer of 2018 and was curious to see how it was filmed and edited. This was the third time I’ve seen “Mass” live and recommend, if you ever get a chance to see (and hear) “Mass” you should—it’s something you won’t forget! It was interesting to see what I missed, attending the Live performance and not being able to see everything at once. This performance was quite a “happening,” with one of the Bernstein children attending and Marim Alsop conducting. I was pleased to see this performance, reminding me of happier times.
Of course, “Hamilton” was the DisneyPlus performance. I have been curious to see it for many reasons, including the fact my family is remotely related to Alexander Hamilton (one of my great-grandmothers was a Hamilton). Fun, energetic with catchy tunes, I enjoyed this hybrid of typical musical theater devises paired with hip-hop/rap sections. Extremely clever, dealing with a part of history not prone to musical theater genre, I am in awe of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s talent!
We’ve been taking courses from The Great Courses from The Teaching Company. If you don’t know about this company, you should. We’ve ordered courses almost from their founding in 1990; their first format was video tapes, then the courses were DVDs and now we get them directly from a link on computers. Some of the courses are pricey but they regularly go on sale and the professors lecturing are OUTSTANDING. We are alternating between two courses right now and will add another, from our favorite The Teaching Company professor, Robert Greenberg, Ph.D after we finish the Sacred Music course. Soon, Dr. Bob, soon.
Professor Charles Edward McGuire, Ph.D is teaching “The Great Works of Sacred Music” and I’m really enjoying it. Of course, it’s a review for me, especially the beginning of the course—I do conduct an ensemble with “motet” in its name after all—but have learned one or two new things every lecture. The later lectures focus on individual large works and here again, I’m learning a few new things about works I’ve sung or conducted. As well, I have written program notes or have given pre-concert lectures on many of these works and it’s wonderful to hear another person’s views about my old friends!
Professor Seth Lerer, Ph.D is teaching “The History of the English Language.” I thought this would be interesting but not applicable to the choral art. Well, I was wrong! He explains why certain sounds occur, especially in Old English and how they came to be in Middle and early modern English, and defined the Great Vowel Shift better than I’ve ever heard it defined! We are a little over half-way finished with the course and already I’m looking at the English language a bit differently. Plus, I’m taking “Inkhorn Terms”–I love that term–and using as many as I can! Quite ingenious to use mundane terms to celebrate the dexterity and superiority to illustrate a pastoral, perhaps frivolous, way of verbosity with confidence—all Inkhorn Terms—I’ve learned well, Dr. Seth!
Until next week, be well and be safe!
I am taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page for the foreseeable future. Please join me there this morning!