Friday, May 29, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 9.

1. Well, the biggest news of the week is explained in the post below - the surprise nominations for the Catholic New Media Awards! I'm still getting over the surprise!

2. Another big thing that happened this week was my fourteen-year-old sister Maria's graduation from eighth grade at Queen of the Holy Rosary Academy, last night. She and her classmate looked awesome in their blue gowns and Maria's valedictory speech was beautiful and well-delivered. I felt outrageously proud of my little sister. :)

3. The third big thing this week was that I got all four wisdom teeth pulled Wednesday! I was expecting to be in utter misery, judging by my older sister's reaction (she was out of it for nearly a week); but lo and behold, after the bleeding stopped at some point early Thursday morning, and I slept till about noon, I was perfectly fine! I still can't eat real food, which is annoying; but oatmeal and yogurt are not that bad. My little song of the moment: (let's see who guesses before hitting the link...)

4. The room in which I'm writing looks so weird to me now! Imagine, if you can, a large family room with a bay window and a little fireplace, with every wall lined floor to ceiling with books and CD's; and now imagine all those books just - gone, not even bookshelves left. The library seems to no longer merit the name; I guess I'll be calling it the "ex-library" from now till we move!

5. I am working on a wonderful awesome piece by Beethoven. (That could be any of them, huh?) This one is the "Rondo a Capriccio, Op. 129", better known to the world as "Rage over a Lost Penny." This spectacular rendition is by that wonderful young Russian, Evgeny Kissin.

6. Besides the Beethoven, my Mozart concerto continues to blossom. I'm working on the second and third movements, under the sharp eye of Mr. Schene. It's amazing what a difference one lesson with him can make to a piece.

7. Partly because I need to upload it for something else, and partly because it's just cool, here is my sister Lucia's beautiful icon of St. Lucy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wow! What a surprise!

My friend over at Catholic Perspective just notified me that this little blog of mine has been nominated for the Catholic New Media Awards! Whoever nominated me, thanks you very much; and all voters, thank you in advance! Apparently I can be voted for under the following categories:

People's Choice Blog
Best Group Blog (although I think it should probably be switched to Best Blog by a Woman, because I'm really the only girl who posts here anymore...)
Most Spiritual Blog
Most Informative Blog

So anyone that thinks I fit into any of these, thank you very much and vote away, here!

Friday, May 22, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday - vol. 8

1. I went to a tea party today! It was my second time at the home of my fellow-pianist Colleen, who besides being a brilliant musician and an excellent painter and singer, is a brilliant entertainer. Her mother, a true lady in the old sense of the word - sweet, warm, gentle, a truly excellent cook, and making us feel very much at home - was the perfect hostess, and they loved the apple pie I brought along as a surprise. The other guests were a few of the music majors and a trio of professors who are as close to us as our fellow-students: our recently retired orchestra director and his wife; Mr. Schene, our beloved master of piano studies, who is always the life of the party; and the counterpoint-professor/accompanist extraordinaire, one of the youngest professors and a really great guy. We spent the afternoon sipping various amazing teas and talking (what else?) music. In the end, of course, we started playing, and Colleen and I sang arias and chansons by Handel and Faure and played Bach preludes-and-fugues, and were very silly -- there was one point where we just couldn't stop laughing over the music; we were laughing so hard we could hardly play.

2. This morning I also had a really awesome lesson with Mr. Schene. We worked on the second movement of my Mozart concerto and I found out a lot of wonderful ways to practice -- I can't wait to put them to use!

(These next are actually written on Saturday... I'm late... but o well!)

3. The house is getting ripped apart and put back together, getting ready to sell for the move to Boston! The basement has no ceiling at the moment, and the upstairs bathroom no wallpaper; both of which are going to get replaced very soon... :)

4. Today our SSPX chapel had its pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Kaskaskia Island. The river was unusually high so the water was right up to the levees and some of the fields below us were flooded. The sky was overcast for the first half, which was great, because there is no shade at all on the levee, along the top of which we circled the island to reach the beautiful chapel built by Father Marquette for his mission among the Kaskaskia Indians. (Here is a bit of history and pictures.) The fine old organ, built in the 1800s and restored in 2003, is one of only three of its kind surviving; it has a very good sound! I love playing old instruments, and this one is glorious, though I had to omit the trumpet stop, which was horrendously flat this year (last year all of them were in good tune). I pulled together a schola cantorum of boys from LaSalette Boys' Academy, one young man from St. Louis, and a gentleman from Kansas City who directed the chant; and several girls from Springfield and three from St. Louis made up the feminine section. We sang Mass IX, for feasts of Our Lady; the propers were those of Our Lady on Saturdays; "O Mary of Graces," Arcadelt's "Ave Maria," "Panis Angelicus," "O Esca Viatorum", and "Hail, Holy Queen" were the hymns and my volunteer choir sent them soaring to the rafters! There's nothing like a well-sung High Mass and these young folk did a wonderful job -- God reward them!

5. Ultimate Frisbee is a lot of fun. It has become the traditional post-pilgrimage-and-picnic game at Kaskaskia. We didn't have too much of a game this year, alas, because we didn't think anyone had brought a Frisbee along. Next year, though...

6. My eleven-year-old sister is teaching my sixteen-year-old sister how to crochet next to me. I haven't done that in ages... I might start again. If not for the risk of tendonitis, which I got last time I crocheted something rather large, I'd do it all the time; but I guess it's a matter of caution.

7. I find it amazing how hard it is to think of seven random little things to put that wouldn't bore readers out of their minds. Of course, I don't know that I'm not doing it anyway... am I?... I hope not. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

what a concert!

Last night I went to the Sheldon, a lovely old building downtown which now houses a concert hall and art gallery, to hear two dear friends and one acquaintance from college play a "Prelude Performance" for the Artist Presentation Society. It was magnificent. Alyssa Santoyo, guitarist, led off with a wonderful group of pieces from a Bach Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, followed by a piece that will always hold her signature for me - Heitor Villa-Lobos' Choros No. 1. This was the fourth time I'd heard her play it, and it still held the magic and delight of the first. She finished up with a duet with her teacher, and though I don't remember the name, I remember it was lovely!

Michael McElvain, pianist, followed; and he held me as spellbound as he always does. He started off with two preludes by Rachmaninoff. The first, in D, was sweet and rich; the second, in B-flat, a fortissimo firestorm. Not to stop with this, he came back with our beloved teacher, Daniel Schene, to play Schubert's four-hand Fantasie in F Minor. I leaned over the edge of the balcony, watching them. They looked like a fine machine - perfectly in unison. I don't know how long the piece was, but I could have watched and listened for hours; so flawlessly calculated was every crescendo, so perfectly matched the tone, that they were one musician, rather than two. Afterward, I slipped backstage with Michael's girlfriend to congratulate them both, and when she commented on their perfect coordination, saying, "It was as if your minds were linked," he said, "Well, there's undoubtedly a connection, somewhere." I said, "Somewhere in the heartstrings of the piano..." and he gave me an approving look and said, "Why, yes, that might be it."

The last section of the concert was jazz. This one was by far the longest, due to the typical improvisations in the four pieces, including one original composition by the guitarist of the group. The featured performer was the drummer, Kevin Neyer, who went all-out on his complicated solos. We sat downstairs for this part, and I was fairly deafened by some of it; but I was certainly impressed by their musicianship. I'm no lover of jazz; but there was no doubt that every musician in the group was excellent and I joined heartily in the applause.

Taken altogether, it was a marvelous night and one I wish I could repeat sometime. As the three performers graduated this year, I doubt I'll get another chance to hear them all at once like this; but I certainly plan to keep listening to them -splendid musicians as well as dear friends.

Monday, May 18, 2009

St. Cecilia does it again...

she answered my prayers for a good audition for the Ladies' Musical Club (see the last Friday takes) and I got a hundred-dollar check from them... "towards your music of the future", said the lady who called to let me know. Blest be St. Cecilia! She's never failed me yet; and to her, I offer this little ballad.

Seventeen hundred years ago
She lived, and yet it seems as though
She were a friend who shared with me
Her sorrow, joy, solemnity...
She died for God, wide worlds away,
That I may have that grace I pray.
She with the organ gave Him praise,
I with the piano music raise,
That I, a maiden as was she,
May keep like her my purity,
Defended by my angel's sword,
With honor honoring our Lord.
She guides my hand to play aright
The truest music, to delight
The ear of God as well as man,
As best our earthly music can;
My thanks to her I truly owe,
Who oft and oft has helped me so!
Cecilia, dear, my friend and aid,
Who for our King such music made,
May you, who sang with heart ablaze,
And I, who strive to rightly praise
The Lord we love, be joined someday
To intertwine our loving lay.

Friday, May 15, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday - vol. 7

It's amazing how hard it is to find something to do when you're not on a schedule. I almost wish I was back to school so I could know what I had to do in the mornings.

My last grades are up on my web-page... and I got a B+ in Music History, to mar an otherwise straight-A semester. Darn. But well... my GPA is still 3.74, well above what I need to keep my scholarship, and not so bad.

I am anxiously waiting for my Well-Tempered Clavier to arrive in the mail so I can set to work on that awful (in both the old and new senses!) prelude and fugue in G Major... awful in the old sense of flippin' sweet, and in the new sense because the prelude is insanely fast and the fugue is very long. Another of those instances of leaping before looking in choice of music; I was warned about the prelude, but didn't look at the fugue, so it is my own fault. If fault it can be called. I enjoy the challenge. (And yes, I am a musical nerd -- and proud of it! My name should have been Cecilia!)

Yesterday some kindly mothers from the school came to help Mom pack our library. No small feat, as the so-called library alone contains at least 1200 books and probably more. Yet they managed it in less than three hours, with my younger sister helping and me keeping an eye on the small fry, who ran madly from dining to living room where I was playing the piano to our musically insatiable baby sister. I'd swear, the kid gets high on music! She gets all tensed up and her eyes and mouth fly wide open and her little hands wave when I play a particularly brilliant passage, and at the end she yells for more. I guess the other girls will have to play to her when I am still here and they're in Boston!

Last night I was reading an incredible book called Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, by Oliver Sacks. Here is a quote from a review on Sacks' website.
Oliver Sacks's compassionate, compelling tales of people struggling to adapt to different neurological conditions have fundamentally changed the way we think of our own brains, and of the human experience. In Musicophilia, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians, and everyday people--from a man who is struck by lightning and suddenly inspired to become a pianist at the age of forty-two, to an entire group of children with Williams syndrome who are hypermusical from birth; from people with "amusia," to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans, to a man whose memory spans only seven seconds--for everything but music.

I'm a musician, not a neurologist, so some of the complex explanations were a bit over my head; but the book held me enthralled. I couldn't put it down. I would recommend it to anyone; I get the impression that this will be one of those books I will find more and more fascinating in years to come.

This afternoon I went to college to return some books and then spent at least a couple of hours (I didn't really keep track) practicing at one of the few grand pianos in the music building, the fine Boston grand that I had the good fortune to work on all this semester. It may not be the best piano in the building; but it's a very good one. I only stopped when my hands started aching. Remembering the mixed feeling of exhaustion and triumph, my former voice teacher's Gmail "status" today, a quote from Muhammad Ali, seemed very appropriate.
I hated every minute of training, but I said, "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion."
I understand it from a musician's point of view too. Practicing can drive us crazy (it often does me); but in the end the glory of music makes it oh, so worthwhile!

7. Tomorrow I'm auditioning for the Ladies' Friday Musical Club of St. Louis' annual music prize. I wonder how the competition will be. If the other pianist from Webster that I know is competing is a fair sample, it'll be tough. But it'll be fun, no matter what. Amusingly enough, we are playing the same two composers: Bach (she has the Prelude-and-Fugue in F minor from WTC II, I the Prelude-and-Fugue in F major from the same book) and Debussy (she one of the Images, I the first piece from Children's Corner.) I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, May 11, 2009


My little sister (see post below, #2) came home on Sunday and is doing great, though we still have to be careful for a week or two. Laus Deo

Friday, May 8, 2009

7 Quick Takes Friday - vol. 6

1. I owe Our Lord, through his Mother and St. Cecilia, a really huge vote of thanks! I had my sophomore candidacy, a sort of progress report/mid-major checkup, yesterday afternoon. For me, (not everyone else), this doubled as a re-audition to switch from the Bachelor of Arts in Music, with piano emphasis, to the Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance, a much more performance-oriented major, as evidenced by the title. I had attempted this last year and been told, "Give it another year." I did, practicing, listening and learning; and this time, I played my Mozart concerto (the Concerto in A Major, K. 414) and my wonderful Bach Fugue in F Major (from the Well-Tempered Clavier Volume II.), and after answering a few questions about grades, what I wanted to do with my major, and such, I went out and waited (rather tense, but less so than I'd thought I would be), listening futilely to the faint murmur of voices within the recital hall. My teacher whispered me that I had passed, entre nous, but the official notice came from our department chair, Dr. Carter, this afternoon, and I didn't have to pretend my delight, despite its being no surprise - I couldn't keep my most brilliant smile off my face! Two years of hard work have paid off - Laus Deo!

2. In contrast to the delight of the first take, my three-year old sister has not been well... she had her tonsils out about two weeks ago, and Tuesday the cut re-opened and she lost a lot of blood. She spent Wednesday in the hospital, came home yesterday morning and that very afternoon was bleeding again... so now she is back at Children's till Sunday. Prayers would be hugely appreciated, though the last news is that she was doing okay.

3. The school-year is over. I am now officially a junior. It feels so weird... it doesn't seem like two years ago that I was introducing myself to Professor Chamberlin, who registered me for my first semester and taught me two semesters of theory this year... wow, two years are short!

4. Somebody introduced me to a marvelous poem by G. K. Chesterton, Gloria in Profundis. A must read!

5. This afternoon was the honors ceremony for the whole College of Fine Arts. Quite a few of my dear friends at college are graduating with honors this year, and three of five performances were theirs. It spoke well for the Music Department! The first performance, following the Dean's introduction, was by one of our piano performance majors, who, with the aid of one of the junior piano-majors, gave a spectacular performance of his own two-piano arrangement of Philip Glass' Rubric, from Glassworks. I had not heard the original chamber piece before (I am no lover of minimalism), but on listening to the beginning of it tonight in original form, I like Michael's version much better! I fell in love once again with Elisabeth's blazing rendition of the Prokofiev Toccata, Op. 11, and Alyssa's Choro by Villa-Lobos was every bit as splendid as I remembered it from her senior recital and the departmental-honors ceremony. At the end I found tears rising to my eyes... Shakespeare was wrong. Parting is no sweet sorrow.

6. Tonight I was introduced to a new brand of ice cream, Blue Sky, made here in St. Louis. It's excellent - made by a nitrogen-freezing process, I was told. Somewhat expensive but absolutely delicious!

7. This summer will bring a new adventure - house-hunting for the school year! My brother will be staying here in St. Louis with me (he at WashU, I at Webster), and we will be looking for some comfy little apartment near my university (as he drives and I don't), and settle in together for the school year. It will be very different living without the family, but it should be fun!