WTC photos

Observation level, World Trade Center. Don't remember which one, although I am pointing SSW toward Princeton. Came across these unpacking. The plaza photo is of my late step-dad. This must have been late 80's, early 90's. We were involved with the earlier parking garage bomb there, which makes these photos doubly eerie for me.

We've always had tons of exchange students and international visitors over the years, and a busload of H.S. exchange kiddos from France had just pulled away from that garage heading uptown when it went off. Many concerned long distance phone calls between U.S. parents/school admins. and French parents. Thank goodness, they were safe, but I remember thinking then that compared to security in other countries, we didn't have much. I watched the TV coverage of 9-11 in the 22nd floor of the UT Tower and flashed back to the earlier bombing.

I've struggled with claustrophobia all my life, until fairly recently. When I took the job in the tower, it took several days of living in my terror and panic to the point that I felt I could tolerate the tiny elevator ride at least twice a day every work day. It holds 6 people. Period. Not counting backpacks, rolly carts, bicycles, or mail. At one point, one floor let all its folks out at exactly the same time and they all tried to pile into the elevator at once. I've counted up to 13 people in that same, small space on several occasions. Yes, I finally did talk to the floor manager, who was a colleague in a different division, and he was very helpful.

The WTC observation area was even more terrifying. Huge ceiling to floor windows, and there were insanely steep arena seats that dropped down to that critical juncture of floor and the sensation of nothing...space. From way up high. I get dizzy thinking about it even now.

The flashback I had on 9-11 to the WTC observation deck was visceral. I am still lost in the immensity. It helped to sing a memorial service with David Stevens and the St. David's folks. We each took a name from a basket of one of the people lost. I've sung my way through a lot of grief over the years. For me, music is the best therapy, and this holiday season I'm grateful that I've found it in so many places and to such depth.


AVAE concerts!

Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble (Chorus Austin), Music Director Ryan (we never get to see you from the back!) Heller, and accompanist and Southwestern University faculty member David Utterback. Photo by Fran Rush.

East Meets West concert season accomplished! Quite a satisfying process, this program. OMG the Russian! I've done my share of Russian--Tchaikovsky Mazeppa,* with Opera Orchestra of New York (Maestra Queler appears to be grooming a successor) and Kirov Opera principals, the Scheherazade concert with the Austin Symphony a few years back, portions of Rachmaninoff Vespers+ and various assorted pieces everywhere. The first half of the program, primarily the Sviridov, was as much Russian as all those put together. No kidding. Sviridov was a demon composer. And so very, very charming.

*a "cosmic fire!" (Kyr's dynamic marking for the final chord of Let There Be Music) occurence, Mazeppa was remarkable because 1) my daughter was a member of Princeton Pro Musica that year, and it thrilled me no end to sing in Carnegie Hall with her grandmother in attendance; and 2) it was the last concert my mom attended. She died three weeks later. Yeah, heavy duty.

+After singing the entire piece (in English) with the wonderful Frances Slade and Princeton Pro Musica on several occasions, including in a verrrrry old, ornate Greek Orthodox church in Jersey City, AND hearing the St. Petersburg Academy Choir sing it in Russian, I instructed my daughter that I would like to have it sung at any memorial of which I might be the central figure.

As ecstatic as the music was, my life between those intense rounds of singing this week was just as exciting. Baby face time is most amazing and nourishing, and being with a friend who knew and admired my mom was just as fulfilling. He shared stories of my mom interviewing Molly Ivins, and stepping in for him to interview Emeril Lagasse on CRIS radio in Chicago and his kind regrets about mother's death.

Precious music, precious beings, precious stories.


Rehearsal notes 11/8 and 11/9--Robert Kyr/Ryan Heller

Composer Robert Kyr, Musical Director Ryan Heller

11/8/10--Last night's rehearsal was at the Oak Hill United Methodist Church in the sanctuary where we will perform. It went well, the group really pulling together. Very comforting to get a feel for the acoustics--how to listen and how to produce sound for that space. The Very Big Deal, however, was Tuesday night's rehearsal.

11/9/10--Composer Robert Kyr, whose "Let There Be Music" is featured on the program, worked with the ensemble this evening, and will be in attendance both performances. He was most enthusiastic about the preparation we'd done under the direction of Ryan Heller, AVAE's musical director.

We had an exhaustive, exhausting, fabulous time regrouping to the physical architecture of the piece. He gave us valuable insight into the piece on common ground and supercharged the response of the chorus. Kyr, professor of composition and theory at the University of Oregon, morphed rehearsal into a master class.

Firstly, we did a few minutes of yoga, although he didn't call it that. Progressive upward stretches to release the tension in the vocal mechanism to produce our best sound. And that it did. I think we all listened "with bigger ears," as Ryan said, and certainly put that piece (mostly--a few things to work out Thursday) where it needs to go. I love working with composers--and they love hearing their work done the way they want it done. And done, in Watermelon Sugar.

From Kyr: "overtones are the DNA of music..." "think of a double helix when you sing these interweaving lines..." let there be music--let there be light--let there be breath." The piece is quite sonorous. It is also quite visual. It will be a great treat for everyone, audience and performers alike.

Regrouping the architecture: Yes, we physically did this--moved the ensemble right out front in 2 lines, with the various voice sections re-positioned. Kyr explained the specific structures to the group, and placed sections that interweave closer together. It makes sense in this piece. We learned what to listen for, and we listened better. And the closer we are to the audience, the more involved they will be.

That's what music is, after all. Equal parts listening and singing/performing. It's the magic of chamber ensembles. The most interesting (to me) choral music and certainly the biggest challenge. I'd like to see all my friends and relatives there, and lots of new folks who love music and are interested to hear a fabulous ensemble perform wicked-good stuff.

Visit Chorus Austin for concert details and tickets.


10 things I didn't expect re: retirement

  1.  So much snail mail. I hadn't bought stamps in a year and a half. Pay 99% bills online. It's like waking up in another country one morning--lots and lots of business for "retirees" in the real mailbox outside.
  2. So much paperwork in general. Some as a result of moving house, some retirement, some Medicare, some Social Security. As far as the USPO is concerned, I've slipped into the never-neverland of "older American," and ads and offers and schemes are threatening to overflow my recycle bin. Get a clue. I'm not going to buy anything from any of you, so quit wasting trees, folks.
  3. Time to sweep and do dishes. Or at least I don't have the excuse of going off to work any more. Time to read. Just finished Neal Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy: Quicksilver, The Chaos, and The System of the World. Dynamite historical novels about England and beyond in the late 1600's, early 1700's.
  4. How awesome it feels to be out from under a crazy-making system at work. Still decompressing. 
  5. The hindsight to find out more about retirement sooner. There's too much information to absorb it all and take care of the necessary paperwork in only two months. I'd say start 5-10 years before you expect to retire. 
  6. Needing a lot more sleep than I ever got while working. It's much healthier for my body to wake up when it wants to, rather than when someone or something else wants it to. Disclaimer: of course this does not apply to Linus, who will get me up if he really wants something.
  7. And that's OK, cause NAPS! It is so much easier to control your blood pressure when you can just doze off whenever you need to. See #6. 
  8. As much as I love teaching, learning, and promoting higher education, I do not miss negotiating campus--the parking, hordes of students, traffic, nasty politics. My friends are still my friends, and we have a better time off campus than on, anyway.
  9. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Shed non-essentials. But don't trash things that bring you pleasure, no matter what they are. Now I have time to do those projects I've always thought I'd do: slide/neg digitizing, organizing into databases, making jewelry again, other artwork I've been collecting materials to put together, more photos, much more of the fun stuff.
  10. Nice things do happen. Saw the Blue Lapis Light group dance on the side of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum last night. Perfect evening: dinner chez niece/friend, driving back streets to BBHTM, sitting outside, chilly enough for a jacket, amazing aerial dance/light show. 
All in all, even Linus likes retirement.