Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jam 3.9 and A Week in Austin

The Jam Sessions, which I may have mentioned before, seem to be dividing themselves into 'decimal jams' as well as the "real Jam Sessions," which are the x.0 Jams. If I haven't mentioned them, they may be defined thus, in dictionary form:

Jam Session, n. A gathering of young musical parishioners of SSPX chapels (see Jam-Sessioner), at which a pre-rehearsed polyphonic Mass is put together and performed, along with, random acts of music between rehearsals and keeping impossible hours. Hikes, bonfires and other such delightful activities may also be included.

(Jam Session 1.0 was in Dickinson, 2.0 in St. Louis, 3.0 in Dickinson again, and the Texans have managed to have a couple of decimal jams as well, culminating in Jam 3.9 the weekend of June 20-21. )

Well; let the tale be told! On Friday evening I arrived at little Hobby Airport in Houston and was picked up by the Emerson family. We promptly went out for ice cream and then went to their house, where I would stay that weekend. Despite the late hour, we spent a while enjoying videos of their traditional German Festival, and they attempted to teach me one of the dances.

The next morning after eight-o'-clock Mass, I was enthusiastically welcomed back to Texas by the Dickinson contingent of Jam-Sessioners, as well as Domenico and Bibiana Gattozzi, who had joined us from Austin. After a while of chatting, a small group of us went down to Denny's for breakfast. Dom and Bibi and I, Heather Dunsheath, Bobby Murphy, and the Emerson girls crowded around a table and chattered happily; and then Bobby, Dom and I, who had ridden together, dashed madly back to the church, for they were already late for chant practice. I played the piano in the parish hall for a while, then joined the others for choir practice, and we rehearsed the wonderful Missa: O Magnum Mysterium which we had performed with such success in St. Louis at Jam 2.0 last summer. Then we rehearsed a bit for the Bishop's concert in the parish hall, and Bibiana showed us a hilarious video of her recent graduation.

Surprisingly soon we were off to Theresa Abbey's house for her combination graduation-eighteenth birthday party; and it was in the car that Heather and Bibi gave me the shock of my life when they told me Father Stanich was going to be transferred to Syracuse, New York. The party swept it out of my mind, though; fortunately there was so much to do that there was no time to get miserable thinking about it. We chattered and laughed and ate and played Taboo and volleyball and kickball, and when the music began it didn't stop. Everything from Bach and Mozart to jazz and show-tunes rang from the piano, and it was nearly eleven when we cut the cake and Theresa opened the presents, and then we headed for home. Once again, I didn't get to sleep till past one. This was a bad thing, because with a concert to play the next day I needed all the sleep I could get! The fact that I woke up at six the next morning didn't exactly help...

The news of Father's transfer, officially announced at the early Mass, spread immediately and several of the girls gathering in the choirloft, myself included, dissolved in tears. But when the music started, I was lost in it at once and heartily enjoyed the lovely hymns we sang during the confirmation ceremony. The very first confirmand was Domenico, who also sponsored one of the Dickinson kids; and all told there were fifty-nine confirmands, so it took quite a while! It was nearly noon when Mass ended and we all crowded into the parish hall to find places, and we had a delicious lunch sitting quite near the stage where Father Stanich, Brother Gregory and Father Post flanked Bishop Tissier de Mallerais. I scribbled Domenico an impromptu acrostic for his confirmation, which he enjoyed, and we decided at the last minute to perform Summertime, rather than his original choice of Cole Porter's Ev'rything I Love, for the Bishop's concert that afternoon. Bibiana and I went to photocopy the programs I had designed for the occasion and then we spent the last little while before the projected recital reviewing our pieces one more time. The program was as follows:

  1. Antonio Vivaldi's Mandolin Concerto in C Major -- Father Stanich at the mandolin; Domenico and Bibiana, violins; Bobby Murphy, euphonium; and I (Inés) at the piano for the basso-continuo
  2. Scott Joplin's The Entertainer -- played by Catherine, another Jammer
  3. Giuseppe Giordani's Caro mio ben -- sung by Heather, with Bibi at the piano and Dom on violin
  4. Joaquin Turina's El Circo -- Bibiana at the piano (one of her senior recital pieces, and wonderfully done!)
  5. Beethoven's Sonatine for mandolin and piano -- Father Stanich and me
  6. Albert Pieczonka's Tarantelle in A Minor -- me
  7. Francesco Durante's Vergin tutto amor -- Heather, Bibi and Dom again
  8. Beethoven's "Spring" Sonata -- Bibi at the violin, me on the piano
  9. Beethoven's Adagio for mandolin and piano -- Father and me
  10. Gershwin's Summertime -- Domenico at the piano, me singing (his improvisation was wonderful to hear, as usual!)
  11. Bach's Prelude and Fugue in F, BWV 880 -- with me back at the piano, finished off the program.

To make the day even more awesome, I got to play the organ for Pontifical Benediction, and then His Excellency gave a wonderful talk about Archbishop Lefebvre and his vow of Romanitas. After that, the Gattozzis and I piled our things into their big car and headed homeward to Austin. It was a surprisingly short four hours. Dom, who had threatened to make me listen to hours of music during my stay, played me Schumann's melting Piano Concerto in A on the road, of which he had said to me, "If this doesn't reduce you to tears you have no soul." Unfortunately, as we were all talking at once, the effect was somewhat spoiled so he said, "You'll have to really listen to it at home." We got home about 12:30 and after a quick tour of the house and an introduction to their wonderful old grand (from Vienna, 1851!!!) we all crashed, dead tired from our long day.

On Monday Bibi had to go play a class at the Ballet Austin (she and Dom were recently recommended as rehearsal pianists by their former teacher, who is music director there.) So Mommy Gattozzi and I went to the beautiful state Capitol, which was built in 1888 and is a good bit taller than the Capitol in Washington, DC (because, as I often joked to the Gattozzis, in Texas everything is bigger and better!) I got to see the Senate and House chambers, took pictures by the statue of Stephen Austin and inside the dome, and admired the beautiful coats-of-arms inlaid on the floor of the rotunda, the "Six Flags of Texas". They represent Texas under Spain; Texas under France; Texas under Mexico; the Republic of Texas; Texas as one of the Confederate States of America; and last, Texas as one of the United States. After our little tour of the Capitol we went back to the Ballet to pick up Bibi, and met Dom for lunch at the Magnolia Café - he had been working on a violin he's making with the Italian luthier who always mends the violins for Dom and Bibi when they need it. Then we parted ways - Dom headed off to the ER where he volunteers (he wants to be a doctor, so he's getting some practical experience), and Bibi and I went shopping with their mother and then went home. We sight-read music and played some stuff we already knew, and then we piled into the car and headed for San Antonio, where we had decided to go to Mass that evening. It turned out that Bishop Tissier de Mallerais was confirming there that day, so I attended my first Pontifical Low Mass (all the others I've seen were High-Masses), and then we drove merrily home.

Tuesday: was another awesome day. I woke up and went with Dom to the violin shop, where we spent a delightful morning working on his violin. It was fascinating to watch him scrape at the curve of the instrument with meticulous care, getting both sides exactly alike. I was reading P. G. Wodehouse's hilarious A Damsel in Distress, but as I finished it quickly, speed-reader that I am, I went to stand and watch Dom. In a moment Sandro asked me, "Do you like working with your hands?" I answered, "Well, yes, I like sewing and embroidery…" at which he proudly showed me a new sewing machine he had just gotten, and remarked that he's had some trouble threading it, which made me laugh, because it's the same problem I always have. Then he gave me one of the bands of wood that would be the side of the violin, and I set to scraping it carefully so it would end up all the same thickness - just one millimeter! Before I knew it, it was one o'clock and Bibi was there to pick me up and take me home. We sight-read music and more music, and when Dom finally came home from the ER we had a merry dinner and then he vanished to work on his applications while Bibi and I did the dishes. Around eleven we called Dom, who had asked us to give him till then to work on his essays, and all went downstairs to have some ice cream. Then we came up and piled onto the floor in the master bedroom to watch The Philadelphia Story, a hilarious, delightful old movie starring that wonderful couple, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Unfortunately, we didn't finish it that night, but it gave us something to look forward to the next day.

Wednesday: I went with Bibi to UT, where she showed me the music building which has been her haunt for the past four years and will remain so for two more as she plunges into her Master's in musicology. I spent a happy hour in the practice room next to hers as she taught a lesson, and then we headed for home. We made a stop at Cavender's, which sells cowboy gear galore, and I came home richer by a very nice cowboy hat and belt which I promptly put on and came down to show Domenico and Mommy (I ended up calling the parents Mommy and Daddy, and they never minded it, so I may as well use the names here.) They were delighted with the effect and then, as Bibi had to go teach another lesson and her mother had errands to run, they left me chatting with Dom, who was sprawled on the sofa, exhausted from a late night and early morning. I offered him a game of chess (he had been his high school champion three years straight, so I knew I was going to lose) but he suggested that instead, we listen to some of the music he'd promised me.

So I dug out Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto and put it on, curling up in the big armchair between the two speakers. He fell sound asleep before the end of the first movement (and accused himself of sacrilege for it later, haha), but I sat and listened, and ended up in tears. When he awoke with a start at the beginning of the second movement, berating himself for sleeping, I had to laugh through my tears as I asked, "So, do I have a soul, Dom?" He answered mock-solemnly, "You must." But I cheered up listening to Lalo's wonderful Symphonie Espagnole for violin and orchestra, and as we listened we played three or four matches of chess, until the ladies showed up and we had to set the table for dinner. That evening we played foosball - kids against parents - and got smashed, (the shame, the shame…) and then went to finish The Philadelphia Story, which is a really funny sweet story. I loved it.

Thursday: was the last day in Austin, and it was pretty full! Bibi and I did laundry and started packing, made photocopies of the piece we had composed for the Jammers, (words by yours truly, music by her, revised by both), and, of course, played music and more music - violin and piano, piano four-hands, and we even improvised counterpoint -- major FUN! We also picked out all the pieces we were going to take to Albuquerque (what musician travels without her scores?) In the afternoon we watched the Confederation Cup game between South Africa and Brazil (which, sadly, South Africa lost… those Brazilians play a pretty dirty game!) In the evening, we three youngsters went to the house of Bibi's astronomy professor, who hosts a chamber music group (members of the Association of Chamber Music Players, a worldwide organization.) It was like falling back into the Baroque days, sitting down to sight-read a piece by J.C. Bach on my recorder and then switching to a wonderful wooden alto recorder for a Corelli concerto-grosso, and finally taking the harpsichord for a Telemann "Tafel-musik" suite. It was amazing! Afterwards we had strawberry shortcake for our host's birthday, and between conversations I played bits of Bach on the harpsichord, which the host had built especially for these chamber-music reunions. It's a lovely instrument, and I had the time of my life. All too soon it was time to go home and finish getting ready - which ended up taking us till past one in the morning, with all the distractions we had, and how tired we were... And the next day, we got up at about six and headed off to Albuquerque for the real Jam!

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