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End of an era

 

Platinum Singers Concert 5.24.12 026Dungaree Dolls II (1)The “Dungaree Dolls” (Rachel Silva, Judy Jackson and Ann-Marie Pina) perform their original song in May 2012

 

I grew up with the Platinum Singers, as a conductor and a teacher of elders. We founded this group when Obama was inaugurated.  It comes to a end this Wednesday, June 28, from 2:30-3:30 in the Lincoln Room of the Harriet Tubman House, 566 Columbus Ave at Mass Ave.  Free admission, audience sing-alongs, but with more than a touch of sadness.

The Harriet Tubman House has been a place where seniors who still live on their own could get a hot lunch, take excellent exercise classes, learn to live with diabetes, and get help on their home repairs.  And it was a place to sit and chat, on hot days or cool, with other folks.

Sadly, the United South End Settlements is discontinuing ALL senior programming in order to “save the institution”.  And they will put all their efforts into “families”.  So the elders who do not have grandchildren that fit into this category are left without their community center in the South End.  Damn shame. As “45” slashes all sorts of programming and funding for elders (like Meals on Wheels), we are in need of more community organizations to take up the mantle of serving this population.

Silver lining: about half of the Platinums also sing in our Jamaica Plain group, JP Jubilee, where the program is also virtually free and taught by the same wacky woman.  Most of the Platinums have accepted our enthusiastic invitation to come sing with us there.

On another note, my student John is moving to Maine to be nearer to one of his daughters.  He sang “The Silver Swan” at the last student recital, and it was a fitting end to our years of lessons together.  Even as he lost words, he still could sing the melodies and vocalize up to a high C.  He was working as a journalist at the White House during the Nixon era when the Saturday Night Massacre occurred, so we shared a lot about the current political situation while reflecting back on his time as a member of the “enemies list”.  Fare thee well, John!

Bach time is the right time

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Sing and play the sublime arias of JS Bach in this 15 week class at New England Conservatory’s School of Continuing Education.  Explore, rehearse, perform and delve into the beautiful intricacies of Mr. Bach’s chamber music for voice and obbligato instruments (flute, oboe, strings, etc). NEC –(scroll down voice page to Bach class)

Please share!

*Artwork above by David Lance Goines 1973.  I saw this poster on every Bach lovers’ wall during my formative years of singing Bach in the Bay Area…

Starting again

Singing classes which double as performing groups–what’s not to love?  Two groups start this week, plus private lessons in Central Square and Jamaica Plain.

The Platinum Singers at USES meet after an excellent exercise class on Wednesdays…see below for complete list of classes (and can you spot us in the little photo?)

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Red and Green

Sing Handel and…

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“Hmmm, which delicious aria shall I sing first?”

A new semester begins!  Study Handel at NEC’s School of Continuing Education on Wednesday evenings Handel for Singers and Instrumentalists begins January 20.

Platinum Singers begin the same day, at the Harriet Tubman House.  A singing class for anyone who qualifies for the AARP, and a fun group to boot.  Virtually free, and you can attend a dynamite exercise class just beforehand.  USES Senior services

If you want to join the JP Jubilee singing group, the wait is until February 19, 2016.  Contact me for further info about this group that meets on Friday mornings, and, like the Platinum Singers, is a class and a performing group.  We meet at Curtis Hall in Jamaica Plain.

BUT wait, there’s more!  Private lessons with me, of course, in JP and Cambridge, AND our monthly Circle Singing group meets Sunday January 10 at St. Mary’s Church in Central Square, Cambridge.  Please contact Peter McLoughlin if you’d like more info.  Runs 4:30-6:30pm, fun group improvisational singing à la Bobby McFerrin.

Platinums swing and “swingle”

Come hear the Platinum Singers sing a few beautiful tunes, including Wachet Auf (with guest violinist Matt Hoener and his brother Drew on keyboard) at the USES Holiday Fair.  Wednesday December 9, we sing at 2:30 and you can buy trinkets before that.  Harriet Tubman House, 566 Columbus at Mass Ave, Boston’s South End.  Always free.

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A beautiful balance

Laurel and Hardy moving a piano over a narrow footbridge in the Alps

Getting back to regular exercise after colliding with an upright piano  (don’t ask, and please do not try this at home*), I find myself torn between pushing and holding back.  Yeah, that old conundrum.  No pain, no gain and all that.  Well, at a certain point we all have to listen to our bodies and heed what they say or they yell louder (“That HURTS, you IDIOT–can you hear me now?”).

I’ve always been a get-back-on the-horse as quickly as possible kind of person, so I’ve been walking and stretching.  Today I tried an exercise class.  I couldn’t do everything, but at least I went.  I listened to my body intently as I moved, and feel pretty good now.  It took a few years (okay, decades) to get the hang of how to garden for a short time and then stand up and walk around or do something different with my body.  So now i have another  reminder.

And so it is with singing.  We push for the high notes, lift our shoulders, tighten our necks and jaws.  We have all sung without warming up, pushed through vocal fatigue and colds and done a thousand other little things.  My favorite is how we lean towards the audience as we sing to show we really care…

Bob Dylan singing at a mic, neck forward with harmonica attached to his neck

Photo: © Sony

I was singing a recital with my wise colleague Francie Fitch after a bout with bronchitis.  I was frustrated that I couldn’t get from 0-60mph as soon as I resumed singing.  She reminded me that in the 19th century novels, heroines often had a “long convalescence.” How lovely, to give oneself such a gentle recuperative period.  We don’t.  I know.  It’s even faster paced now than when I was a pup. I was anxious to be a good employee at every gig I landed, always showing up and singing full voice, never being a troublesome colleague.  When I had vocal problems, I ignored them and the results were not pretty.

We are told not to listen to ourselves when we sing.  I know how hard that is.  But we can listen to our bodies–in a loving and respectful way.  They tell us to take a sip of water, to rest the voice for a while, to take a nap or have a meal.  There is an art to living in a body, and an art to having your instrument in your body.  It takes patience.  And practice.

*okay,I was trying to prevent a small upright from tipping over.  I was moving said piano–as I have every week at the Harriet Tubman House for 6 years, mind you–to use it to teach my lovely class and the wheels froze (kind of like shopping carts, it felt like) and my helper gave that extra push…since I was holding the handle and I desperately wanted to right the piano, I held on too long.  It had lost its balance on occasion before, but had never fallen on its back.   The piano lived and only one note sticks–the low Eb that is the tonic for our Bach aria, by the way.  I have bruises all the way from elbow to tip of fingers. The full mechanisms are slow to get  back and to strengthen again.  But it could have been much worse.