Tag Archive | Sing to Cure MS

Find Middle C

colorful piano keyboard

During an exercise class  I was moving in the wrong direction, as the teacher was keeping us on our toes by mixing things up. It reminded me to “find my feet”, a comment that helps in all sorts of situations.

Well, in music it helps to find middle C. Working with a 12-year old student, we kept finding C in songs and exercises (her clever teacher knows the material).

And I am learning a Handel role that is in alto clef. Nice to have our own clef, but it requires finding middle C and adjusting, after years of treble and bass clef. It is certainly familiar; after all, I have sung Baroque pieces in this clef and I am in a trio with a viola, who also uses this clef. But even a seasoned contralto needs to “find her feet” by finding Middle C, just to stay balanced.

Middle C is a great way to get grounded, and also to remember what is truly important.  As I prepare to sing a benefit for a cure for folks with MS, I am aware that health is a huge middle C for us all.

alto clef with description of where middle C is locatedMy back in hurting tonight, so I’m keeping things simple and not attending the social event that was planned.  Staying home and keeping quiet is a good balance for a gregarious performer.  We need quiet time and time to get centered before performances.   I don’t usually listen to recordings of works I’m preparing, but since I’ve known “Schlummert Ein” for about 30 years, I figured it might be nice to check out my shelf of CDs.  I knew I had Lorraine Hunt and Will Parker, both lovely colleagues who died at the height of their careers.  I also found Max von Egmond, the Dutch baritone with whom I studied and later sang a Christmas Oratorio with here in Boston.  What a delight to hear such beautiful performances, and such memories of all of them.   Each brings their special interpretation and character to this piece. I used to feel intimidated by recordings, especially someone as close in age to me as Lorraine.  But something changes as we age–the sense of unworthiness, frustration at not being perfect, or sheer ambition simply shifts.  I look forward to ours tomorrow.

Appreciation has many rewards.  Being able to keep singing and doing what I love is the best.   I get to teach a master class this coming Tuesday at NEC on Baroque ornamentation.  I’m no huge expert, but I’ve been doing this long enough and I love to mentor less experienced singers.  Introducing them to the joys and thrills of making up their own improvisations.  I found out some of my colleagues who are more expert than me are quite reluctant to put themselves out there.   What have we to lose?  Let’s share what we know and encourage others.

When I write exercises on a classroom board, I usually say:

I’m writing this in C major, but life is not in C major.”

Thanks to a student named Virginia, who made me this button

Yellow button with "Life is not in C major"

Autumn Songs

15 singers in white shirts and red choir stoles gathered outdoors at the Boston Common to sing for peace

What the World Needs Now is Love, and other delights by Platinum Singers and Friends, conducted by Yours Truly

Ah, New England in the Fall…

The Platinum Singers sang at the International Day of Peace gathering on Boston Common, September 21, 2013. I conduct/direct this fabulous group, and we had some guest singers from the Singing for Seniors at our neighborhood branch library. There were liturgical dancers, the Raging Grannies and speakers at this beautiful event. Thanks to Ghanda DiFiglia who invited us to sing here.

I learned a lot, and especially about leaning on a portable keyboard–sometimes a drum set starts up at the oddest times! And I am also learning about placing singers in front of microphones. Okay! Some of us are pretty shy about those mics.

Last night I sang at a retirement party for a faculty member at Tufts–John McDonald asked if I’d sing “Death and the Maiden”, a famous Schubert song, before a string quartet played the movement of the same name. What a great, intense and dramatic piece, all rolled into 1 1/2 minutes! I should make a career of these memorable cameos. Very satisfying. Singing about death is nothing new to this contralto. We get the sad songs all the time. Next month, I’ll be singing Bach’s take on welcoming death, Schlummert Ein (from Cantata #82, Ich Habe Genug) at a benefit for MS research. http://singtocurems.org/support/poster11-2013Q.pdf

Moody seascape with three small figures in the lower left corner, including Professor Janet Schmalfeldt, and Weird Al Yankovic

Honoring Janet Schmalfeldt, “the Monk by the Sea” has been joined by Professor S and Weird Al Yankovic