Welcome to Austin, Winter

Boston, winter 2008

Winter is wet this year, which is a wonderful thing. Means a good chance we will have blankets of compact, intensely blue bluebonnets in the spring. Ditto for the companion Indian Paintbrushes.Lady Bird's seeds are not dead, only dormant, patiently waiting for rain. Lady Bird's wildflowers connect me  with my good Texas roots. They make Texas significantly more bearable.

Some winters, if we get moisture and milder temperatures, you'll see lots of greenery in one shape or another--the junipers, liveoaks, yaupons are dark, hard green. Mosses are brilliant, so are various bush plants, sage, cacti and succulents. All vibrant green. Until or if a frost comes along.

Other winters, no rain, hard and long freezes, ice storms, all the flora is pruned by mother nature, dead branches everywhere and vigorous spring growth unless the drought persists. Then it's spindly, faded, sparse, pretty much god-awful pitiful.

But that's not what I've been thinking about all day. I think about weather all the time, actually--I drive/bus/ walk to and from work, and drive/walk to and from rehearsals. So I'm out in it. The truth is, even though looking through my last, scarce posts, seeing how many were about people I've lost in the last year, I feel amazingly, vitally, alive. 

Plus the Capricorn stuff. Winter Solstice. That first spark of light. Winter is the Night of the Anticipated Awakening, summer is the Night of the Long Dance. Winter ignites some drive in me to cover ground. Walking, climbing, hiking. New Years Day is to outdoor adventures as the 4th of July is to fireworks. Summer is mostly just freakin' hot. My brain functions best in the 34-70 degree range. I concur with Robert Frost on the ice thing.

And The Christmas stuff. Not Christmas stuff, The Christmas stuff. This winter I am free of old losses that pretty much took the joy out of Christmas for too many years. This winter I sang Messiah for the 39th or 40th time, after taking a 12 year break. It was deeply healing, especially with David Stevens, in Baroque performance style, with the Austin Symphony. A slimmed-down, agile version that showcased the instrumentalists and singers, energized rather than stupefied the audience. Sitting through the complete Messiah can be like sitting through one night of Wagner's Ring (3-4 hours).

Which reminded me of past winter concerts, some with Concert Royale--all baroque instruments, Baroque tuning (slightly lower pitch), creamy-dreamy to sing with. Another endorphin boost. I heart the Baroque.

Savoring all the liquid runs, insanely grateful that I'd walked up and down that pinche hill to and from the Tower long enough to have the breath to pull off those lacy, long sixteenth note passages. Handel didn't slight his altos. Or his violas, or any of the interior voices, vocal or instrumental.

So that's another sign of how winter vitalizes me. I perform best when it's cool. Doing super-hard music is physically demanding. It's kind of amazing to register the mental/physical balance doing music all my life. As a child, it was mentally challenging, physically insignificant. As I age, it's less mentally challenging, but physically difficult (think standing stock still for 30-45 minutes at a time, holding a folder heavy with music, doing mad deep-breathing and sound production, while consummately focusing on a director's every demand).

Lately, the mental/physical has fused into a transcendental state. By now, I have all the major works memorized (that happens if you perform a lot), and I can dispense with a lot of little things that can distract you--the printed music, for one thing. You can attend to tuning, to how your line weaves above and frequently below the tenor line. How you and a soprano become a pair of birds, sweetly swooping and trilling in parallel major thirds (think the duet from Lakme').

Brings us right back around to Rocky Woo-Woo Land. "Support from your diaphragm" becomes "use your core" in today's vernacular. That's the music lesson for today, folks!