church singing

I was a tenor substitute at Grace Cathedral for their Sunday service yesterday. I was definitely not in top form, due to a sore throat that is threatening to stay the week. Having been to precious few church services (and the majority of those being Unitarian), it was baptism by fire (pun intended) on Episcopalian church ritual. Just for future reference, I am jotting down a few impressions.

The celebrant was decidedly not celebratory. When chanting portions of the Bible he sounded distinctly unenthused. I concluded this must be because he had to hold his arms out at 90 degrees, forearms vertical, and that this must have become rather painful after a while. The gesture baffled me — what could it mean?

  • “Look, I’ve got nothing up my sleeves.”
  • “What am I saying? Beats the heck out of me.”
  • “Don’t shoot me, O Lord of Hosts.”
  • “Vogue! Let your body move to the music!”
  • Having washed his hands, the ecclesiastical surgeon waits for the attending nurses to put on his rubber gloves and hand him the body of Christ so he can break it.

I realize that this little commentary may be offensive to some — I don’t mean any offense. I was brought up Hindu, and we have more than enough bizarre rituals (I recall a rather painful one involving being stooped over and holding out a begging bowl). But as a uninformed attendee viewing the entire ritual from the back, I couldn’t help but have these thoughts flitting through my head.

Another interesting aspect of the experience were the vestments. A tight fitting purple robe with a huge billowing white cassock over it. The sleeves resembled those from a kimono — one could hide a sword in them I felt, although the church is a place of peace. I had to borrow a robe from an absent chorister — the service was only the Men of Grace Cathedral, which meant 11 singers in total.

As far as the music went, my favorite piece was the little Duruflé motet Notre Pére. It was hushed, gentle, and also in French, my worst language. The other French piece was by Lili Boulanger (the famous composition teacher Nadia Boulanger’s sister). In the choral lounge, one of the other singers joked that we should sing all of the French pieces like Edith Piaf, with ridiculous rolled r’s. The director of music, when playing the organ during the service a half hour later, did an impromptu improvisation on “Ma Vie En Rose” which nearly induced audible giggling.

All in all I learned quite a bit, although I was rather unprepared. Walking while singing some Anglican psalm/chant that you’ve never seen before is a little tricky. I think I managed to get the hang of singing the words in the right places, but then the word stress sort of went to pieces. Perhaps next time, if there is a next time.


tracks oito

Since she suggested it, I divided the songs I had been considering for the previous CD into two — here is the second half, more jazzy/classical/silly:

1. World Weary (Noël Coward)
2. Impromptu No. 1, Op. 29 (Vladimir Horowitz/Frederic Chopin)
3. Le Gars qui vont a la fete (Stutzmann & Södergren/Francis Poulenc)
4. Donde Esta Yolanda (Pink Martini)
5. Virtuosity Rag (William Bolcolm)
6. Let’s do something (Erin Hill & Dan Jenkins/Mark Blitzstein)
7. Honolulu (Mark Blitzstein)
8. Golden Slippers (The Prince Myshkins)
9. Under The Boardwalk (The Temptations)
10. Topsy Turvey (Joe Lovano)
11. Twilight In Turkey (Raymond Scott)
12. My Funny Valentine (Sarah Vaughan)
13. Deceptacon (Le Tigre)
14. Sinnerman [Felix Da Housecat Remix] (Nina Simone)
15. Por Una Cabeza (Astor Piazzolla)
16. Kriss Romani (Swing Gadje)
17. Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago (Soul Coughing)
18. She’s Dead (Jim’s Big Ego)
19. Bullet Train (Wynton Marsalis)
20. Downtown Train (Tom Waits)

tracks sept

This mix is for Erin‘s road trip to Ann Arbor for grad school. It is a bit inauspicious that it starts with a quote from Scott’s failed expedition to the South Pole. However, things get better from there.

1. Introduction to Epilogue (Sinfonia Antarctica, Vaughan Williams)
2. Nothing Lies Still Long (Pell Mell)
3. The wake up bomb (R.E.M.)
4. Heaven (Talking Heads)
5. Une Annee Sans Lumiere (The Arcade Fire)
6. Angel of Harlem (U2)
7. If I Should Fall From Grace With God (The Pogues)
8. Take The Fifth (Spoon)
9. Ramble On (Led Zepplin)
10. The Vagabond (Bryn Terfel/Vaughan Williams)
11. Samurai Code Quote #4 (Forrest Whittaker/Ghost Dog : Way of the Samurai)
12. Lebanese Blonde (Thievery Corporation)
13. Boss On The Boat (Tosca)
14. Remind Me (Rökysopp)
15. Peppermint Patty (Ellis Marsalis)
16. I Think I Need A New Heart (The Magnetic Fields)
17. Lover’s Lane (Squirrel Nut Zippers)
18. Silver Lining (Stiff Little Fingers)
19. Big Spender (Shirley Bassey)

a boy was born : finis

We finished recording A Boy Was Born last night. This time we didn’t have any planes flying above or rose-window death-rays, so it was easier to work. Unfortunately, we didn’t get quite enough time to lay down Three Kings as well as we would have liked.

On an unrelated note, the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by today to tell me about how Isiah forsaw a world in which nobody was hungry and people all had their own homes. I don’t have the heart to shut the door it seems. I let them say their piece and took a copy of The Watchtower. And into the recyling bin it goes.

tracks seis

This one is for a bakery, so I wanted it to be a little more mellow and all-ages. I’m not entirely happy with it, although I do like the little sweep up from Joplin to US3.

1. Route 66 (Nat King Cole)
2. Queen of the Savages (The Magnetic Fields)
3. La Belle Et La Manouche (Les Primitifs Du Futur)
4. Una Musical Brutal (Gotan Project)
5. Sweet and Gentle (Don Byron/Mickey Katz)
6. Summer Song (Louis Armstrong/David Brubeck)
7. Weeping Willow (Dick Hyman/Scott Joplin)
8. Black Bottom Stomp (Jelly Roll Morton)
9. Flight of the Bumblebee (Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin/Rimsky-Korsakov)
10. Splanky (Christian McBride)
11. Cantaloop (US3)
12. And Your Bird Can Sing (The Beatles)
13. You Can’t Break My Heart (The Hot Club of Cowtown)
14. The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing (Elling)
15. Promenade – Gnomus : Orchestral (Mussorgsky)
16. I Just Want To Make Love To You (Buddy Guy)
17. The Man I Love (Billie Holiday)
18. Non je ne regrette rien (Edith Piaf)
19. Lob des hohen Verstandes (Dietrich Fischer-Diskau/Gustav Mahler)
20. Twisted (Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross)
21. For The Longest Time (UIUC Other Guys/Billy Joel)

haribo is the victor!

In a blind taste test, both Liz and I chose the Haribo gummi bear over the Black Forest (“made with real (= apple) juice!”) gummi bears. It was as I suspected — Haribo is the best. After all, kids and grown-ups love it so.

big singing

I have an audition coming up next week for the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. It’s pretty nerve-racking, really. I think there are only 5 or so slots open for tenors and the chorus is huge. The consolation prize is that I might still be able to sing the Mahler even if I’m not accepted into the regular chorus. The concerts I’m hoping to sing in are:

  • Stravinsky — The Nightingale and Oedipus Rex
  • Ives — New England Holidays
  • Shostakovich — Symphony No. 13 “Baba Yar”
  • Mahler — Symphony No. 8

My audition is on the 25th — which is also when we’re going to try to finish recording the Britten.