musical milliner

April 25, 2015

Hostile Concert Venue: Green Music Center

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Note! Musical Milliner goes one a bitchy, divaesque rant. On reflection, I would have handled certain things differently. But the overall gist remains. It’s not so much that I expect exception. I do expect professionalism and reason from myself and others.

I was excited when, after many years of challenges which included at least one federal legal investigation, the new music halls opened. The music department relocated from Ives Hall, and the impression and hope was that the department could grow now that there were facilities worthy of the quality of musical education so thoughtfully and competently offered by the faculty.

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From a colleague I heard that Green Music Center, and most especially Weil Hall, are really not part of the department, but under separate management. I’m told there is hostility between the two.

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I had an interesting experience at Green Music Center via House Manager Ms.H.
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I’ve been a performer or guest in many fine houses. Never have I been so rudely treated to the point of harassment when I observed a dress rehearsal to which I’d been invited, and in which two participants were my students, and two more were young people who received big scholarships from a recent competition I judged, and in whose future I am invested.
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This house manager came after me, smoke seeping from her ears and nose after noting that I had taken a sip of water from a stainless steel spout bottle. She told me she would have to take my bottle. I refused. But it’s the rules, she said. Yes. I  understand. I am a singer. I carry spill-proof bottles with me and sip constantly  to stay hydrated. Like my colleagues. I wasn’t aware of the rule. I put my bottle in my purse, and said, I promise, between one adult to another, that I would not open the thing in the auditorium. To me, this is just professional courtesy. Clearly, she didn’t care, and I sensed she wasn’t interested in nuances or how to approach someone in any way not hostile or aggressive  (And I kept my word. The bottle behaved.)
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This woman continued to aggressively harass me: what are you doing here; this rehearsal is closed (I was invited by faculty). I am a professional musician and teacher, but “nobody ever sits in on rehearsals.” This was the fourth rehearsal I’d been invited to attend in the past two years. This was NOT a music dept decision. It is the Green Center’s decision. The GMC is not part of the music department as one might assume. I did not know this prior to the incident. Music students are treated as a necessary evil. After the DR, I was asked to leave the building, and wait outside until the house opened. It was raining, cold, windy. It would be against the RULES to allow a middle aged, working singer who needs to be mindful of drafts and the rest, a seat in the giant lobby, in a corner, out of the way.
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The whole question about rules and their application got me thinking. What is the purpose of rules? What does it mean to uphold them for their own sake? When can they be bent? When are exceptions made?  Are rules part of the overall social contract? Well, yes they are. In my experience, I get hostile when someone says that it doesn’t matter the circumstances, it’s a rule. I can take it as a dare. I’m trying to evolve.
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I went all the way around this massive complex back to the artist’s entrance where there was plenty of room out of the weather, bathrooms, and…water. I sat by the door in a corner far from the green rooms, far from people, et al. But this battle-ax  bully appeared again. There are cameras everywhere, so she saw me. Now, this was a big concert, but it seemed Ms.H’s mission was not to assist her confounded ushers, and help the guests and performers. No. Ms H had it in her head to hunt me down because I was not allowed in the building before the house opened. It’s the rules, you know.
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It was a wonderful performance!  Afterwards, I went to talk to some of the youth choir sitting in the house to congratulate them. Remeber, two in this group recently sang in a competition I judged. And…there was this same graceless  woman asking me why I was talking to these kids, and I needed to leave. Thank God one of the chorus managers spoke up for me and invited me to continue to talk to the kids. She later told me that for those two young ladies, I had “made their day.”
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My guess is Ms.H will not be around GMC too long. Not in a job which require diplomacy, and common sense.

August 6, 2013

The Singer’s Mind

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This is an informative article from a teacher’s blog. Lots to think about. The art of singing involves so many inter-connected systems. One’s psychological and spiritual state is a huge part of the equation, and technology is giving us answers as to how the musical brain functions.

Mostly, singers are bat shit crazy.

Read on.

 

http://www.singalexander.com/blog/2013/8/Training-the-Singer-s-Mind

http://www.singalexander.com/blog/2013/8/Training-the-Singer-s-Mind

April 19, 2010

Pausa: Two Stories. Part I.

Filed under: Language,Life in Music,Musical Life,Opera,Singer,Soprano — by SAMM @ 4:03 pm

I was reading another singer’s blog this morning wherein she describes a common audition hazard. What does one do when the accompanist does not or will not take the standard range tempo for an aria?  Too slow, your phrasing is ruined. Too fast, and you hyperventilate or vocally trip over all those even faster runs.

In her account, she tells of an inexperienced accompanist in a German Operhaus who just couldn’t move it. Granted, it was Strauss, and any piano reduction of anything by Strauss requires more than normal human powers to play. It’s enough to bring up a little religion, you know?

In Part II we will chat further about Strauss.

So…I know the feeling. I have had the opposite happen. One time the accompanist seemed to want to kill me via Violetta prematurely.

It was at Chicago Lyric. I was asked to take it from the cabaletta, the place where the girls are separated from the women. This guy played it so fast that I was momentarily stunned. In those first few measures, you have to assess, “Will I manage, or must I stop him?” I mean, this was the Lyric!  The Lyric.

They had flown me in for this audition, paid for my hotel. So I did stop him with all the graciousness I could, just as my coach had drilled into me.

He was nice, and seemed to understand my request. And then he took off again just as he had the first time.  Actually, I remember it being faster.

I did it.  Nailed it. I was being tested. “Can she handle the pressure? Can she think on her feet and make it work?” Well, yeah. I can. I do. Take that, you sick bastard.

It wasn’t until I left the room that I let myself feel pissed. This guy had intentionally fucked with me, and he had lost the duel.

How we deal with these situations is part of the package, and it has to be  practiced, just like everything else we do.

(c)GoshGusMusic (ascap) 2010

November 12, 2009

Tutti i Fratelli and the Social Contract

imgres Oh, what a month it’s been. While distracted by a relapsed illness, blinds drawn against the world, the world has moved along without my attention or participation. Domestic debates over health care continue ad nauseum, and quite frankly I am worn out over discussions of the economy and the endless gaming in the Capital. It appears we are fully back to gloves off and business as usual after a brief respite. The predictability of the political cycle creates cynicism which results in apathy. The worst is when one becomes apathetic about apathy.

Things are no better elsewhere, but my attention was piqued by two ongoing issues which fall under the broad spectrum of human rights and social justice. Two issues while not dichotomous, do spin in separate orbits around the same planet. As a writer who is working at tightening up some of my random wanderings, this presents a crossroads. Do I offer both issues and then go about explaining the connection, or do I pen two essays? I suppose the twin can contain the bridge, but I’ll construct it another time.

That’s the plan, then. When I get to the other side, we can discuss my term grade. Now, off we go to serious matters.

Prima Parte
A month ago, a gorgeous young man died of a previously undetected congenital heart condition. This lovely and talented thirty-three years young fellow, Stephen Gately, was a member of the Dublin “boy band” Boyzone, a group hugely popular in the UK, including New Zealand and Australia, the Continent and Asia. The group has yet to break into the American music scene in a significant way.

Inadvertently, Gately, an actor, songwriter and one of the lead singers of Boyzone, became an unwitting poster child for gay rights back in 1999 when he was forced to come out on the eve of a titillating gossip piece in a junky English tabloid, The Sun.

“On 16 June 1999, The Sun newspaper covered its front page with what it described as a “World Exclusive” and the headline, ‘Boyzone Stephen: I’m gay and I’m in love”‘. At the age of 23, Gately sold his story to the newspaper because he feared a former member of Boyzone’s security was about to sell the story. (BBC News. 16 June 1999. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/370073.stm)

Look at that again. Gately was 23. A bottom-feeding journalist, and I use the term journalist with reservation, set about to create a sensation with a quick cash return. The result was huge storm. It remains so today. Gately, although out to a tight circle, was not prepared to be the locus of the gay youth community. Struggles ensued, but Gately soldiered on, and in 2003, after being introduced by Elton John and husband David Furnish to an internet businessman, Andrew Cowles, the pair celebrated a commitment ceremony (The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26210611-26040,00.html. Retrieved 16 October 2009).
In 2006, they registered as domestic partners in London (Pink News. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-857.html).

It’s hard to grasp in the United States the intensity Gately’s death had on people in the UK. The outpouring of disbelief and affection from dignitaries, fans, other performing artists, and ordinary people dominated the news.

It was due to the unfortunate lack of judgement by the publisher, as well as an ill-timed case of bad taste that had Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir inciting mourners into angry activists. Her assessment was insensitive and ignorant, and read as if written by someone who had no historical sense of the past forty years since Stonewall whacked us up the side of the head in 1969. To further the offense, the piece appeared one day before the funeral. The despicable tabloid was inundated with complaints and demands for Moir’s brooming. Advertisers pulled print adverts. In every corner, Op-Ed keyboards were smoking.

A few respected popular figures made use of their access to express the general outrage and frustration. From there began a cycle of sandbox warfare. I don’t mean to make light of the situation with that term. Perhaps “ginormous pissing contest” is a more accurate description. Glib? Yes, but the picture illustrates the scene. Somewhere in the muddle people who were already in terrible pain were hurting even more.

The burden of Moir’s piece is that Gately’s death is connected in some unspecified way to the fact that he was gay.

Though the official announcement after he was found dead in a Majorca hotel room was that he died of natural causes and that there were no suspicious circumstances, Moir writes:

“Hang on a minute. Something is terribly wrong with the way this incident has been shaped and spun into nothing more than an unfortunate mishap on a holiday weekend…

The sugar-coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again.

Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural death.” (Jan Moir, The Daily Mail, Friday 16 October 2009)

“Her evidence for that claim is non-existent. Instead, she resorts to innuendo and goes on to make a leap of stunning illogicality by suggesting that the death “strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.” (Roy Greenslade Friday 16 October 2009 13.33 BST guardian.co.uk)

She further snipes on drug use the night Gately died. Witnesses and toxicology reports concur cannabis was present. Are we still labeling cannabis as a “drug?” Besides, any causal relationship between cannabis and pulmonary edema is absurd. The Medical Examiner drew no such connections or conclusions.

Furthermore, her article called into question the integrity of domestic partnerships, by suggesting that gay couples participate in risky behaviors more often than heterosexual couples. Moir’s piece was structured on homophobic misinformation.

The original Daily Mail column was initially “Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death” which they toned  down to “A strange, lonely and troubling death . . .” in the online edition. That was an improvement?

Stephen Fry, infamous polymath who is one of the kindest of the kind, and most gentlemanly of gentlemen was particularly exercised over the matter and used his nearly one million Twitter followers to express his initial reaction.

“I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of
decency would be seen dead with has written something
loathsome and inhumane.”

Harsh words from a fellow rarely given to such language. A follow-up tweet gave the web address for the Press Complaints Commission. By then the news was viral. The PCC site crashed before noon.

Fry and others have endured criticism for speaking out. This is ridiculous nonsense. Thank God that when hate mongers spew their slime, we have a few artfully articulate people who can and do speak up. Fry is lovely, but he is human, and has stepped in a pile or two. He is so transparently nice that when this has happened, he immediately owns it, apologises profusely, sometimes to the point of irritation, and moves along.

Moir, in her retraction the following week, made it even worse by trying to explain herself. Her column was fluffed with defensive rationalizations. She apologised, but in that irksome way that devalues responsibility. The words, “if I have caused distress…” is a non-apology.

“I would like to say sorry if I have caused distress by the insensitive timing of the column, published so close to the funeral.” (Jan Moir, 23 October 2009, http://www.dailymail.co.uk)

There has been grumbling lobbed back over the fence from conservative sources, including Moir herself, which blame social networking for the demise of balanced opinion, thereby creating an atmosphere in which personal opinion is not respected. There has been even more grumbling over an internet fueled conspiracy to promote liberal causes by…too much enthusiasm for social networking. Pardon? Statistics show a broad majority of social network users of Twitter and Facebook do trend to fancy progressive and liberal thinking. Is that a conspiracy, or is it just a demographic?

Surely there are other examples of the value of social networking beyond mundane and gratuitous tweets by starlets? It can be a tickle. I take pleasure in following Fry on Twitter. But there are indeed more important uses available.

In June 2009, Twitter and Facebook users played a pivotal role in the Iranian elections by supporting what began as a DDoS attack against the President, after which the government shut down local internet for an hour, then restarted with a lower bandwidth and filters intended to make accessing social networks and YouTube impossible. Cell phone calling and texting was nearly impossible, and all BBC affiliated sites were blocked (Hiawatha Bray 19 June 2009 “Finding a way around Iranian censorship: Activists utilize Twitter, Web tricks to sidestep blocks”. Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2009/06/).

The response of the Global Village was to set up proxy servers. Iranian citizens and foreign journalists (many of whom kept behind doors to prevent expulsion or worse) could document the protests and inform the outside world in real-time of the atrocities wrought by the government against the protesting people. For two weeks the Green Revolution rode on the back of the internet.

I participated for five hours the first night and a few hours each day that first week by way of a temporary anonymous Twitter account. The content of one’s tweets mattered not, but the frequency did. On and on it went as users set their location to GMT +3.5, Tehran time. Hundreds of thousands of tweets overwhelmed the local server. Using proxy servers citizens were able to post to YouTube and update international news agencies. People were able to communicate with friends and family members both in and outside Iran. It was one of the few times in my life wherein I felt I was part of something much bigger than I could ever fully understand. But I now know precisely what “Global Village” means.

Put your conspiracy theories there, Ms. Moir, because the Twitter Revolution was Oz behind the curtain. The Green Curtain. You caught a piece of it yourself when you wrote your column about the late Stephen Gately. Mind your manners because news really does travel fast.

Fry is for better or worse, a celebrity in the UK. Cambridge educated at Queen’s College, Fry is a delightfully literate individual who is said to hold a BBC record for saying “fuck” on TV more than anybody else. The difference between the American style of celeb and the UK brand has to do with using one’s renown commensurate with one’s strengths. Americans don’t always grasp this subtlety.

An overwhelming majority of the publicly recognised species do not have the resources and skills to write or speak extemporaneously as Fry and his peers. But these others, primarily confined to life in the shadows of a nine letter landmark on a hill in Los Angeles do possess an even broader talent. That ability is an obligation to support specific philanthropic associations. In doing so, they induce their fans, many of whom seem unaware of conditions elsewhere, into taking up causes to improve the health and well-being of our brothers and sisters in places on the world map where the need is urgent.

Speak up! Speak up against injustice if language is your skill. Help improve the planet in other ways by using your time, talent and treasure according to your ability. Tweet for fun, but don’t forget the powerful medium for change you possess with your phone and computer.

And remember that for as far as we’ve come in Western culture, equal protection and civil rights are not universally embraced. Not even in the West. Yet.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2009

February 18, 2009

A New Key

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Instrumentalists look at the key signature before beginning to play a new piece. Being a typical singer in this regard, I look at the inclusive range of notes. Two considerations: the extreme- how low, how high, and the tessitura, the Italian word for “texture” – the place where most of the notes call home.

For me, the parallels of these matters to my current situation is telling. What are my limits, my breadth of tolerance? How do I live in my home when it is no longer where I belong? How do I find my way to a comfortable tessitura? And how do I find the strength and stamina to live those long, arching lines and difficult passage work, which fly naturally from my throat, yet not from my environment?

So I begin. Not to fret over the key, because I own the gift of relative pitch. Rather, to find that tessitura which will lead me forward into a new way of living.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2009

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