musical milliner

April 25, 2015

Hostile Concert Venue: Green Music Center


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.


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.


I had an interesting experience at Green Music Center via House Manager Ms.H.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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


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.

April 23, 2009

Tuning Up

Filed under: Lectionary,Schumann,Singer,song cycles,St. Benedict,Uncategorized — by SAMM @ 1:25 pm

imagesLast night I had the unexpected pleasure of talking for over two hours to a dear friend with whom I had lost touch over the years. She described this process of reconnecting with old friends as “reclaiming.” I love that image.

At one point we were discussing my earlier post on the Stages of Grief (or Transition, as I prefer to call them), and she reminded me that Schumann’s compositions were reflective of these ideas. He knew. He got it. This composer and his contemporaries used the prosody of Goethe, Chamisso & Heine, with their varied expressions, to provide the narrative which so characterized the Romantics. Of course, Schumann’s insight was too acute, and ultimately led to madness, something of an occupational hazzard of the brilliantly talented.

Perhaps song cycles were the therapy of the nineteenth century?

Check out Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben ( A Woman’s Life and Love). Most of the Stages are there. This is a common device in these song cycles, and Frauen is one of his most sublime works. I’ll give a fairly accurate translation of the German for you. These songs are not formally titled, rather they are numbered 1-8.

1. Since I saw him…(anxious disbelief)
2. He, the most glorious of all…(surprise)
3. I cannot grasp it, nor believe it…(denial)
4. His ring on my finger…(disbelief)
His ring on my finger,
it has taught me for the first time,
has opened my gaze unto
the endless, deep value of life.

5. Help me, you sisters…(bargaining)
Help me, my sisters,
help me to banish
a foolish anxiety,
so that I may with clear
eyes receive him,
him, the source of joyfulness.

6. Sweet friend, I gaze upon you…(joyful disbelief…and fear)
About the signs
I have already asked Mother;
my good mother has
told me everything..
She has assured me that
by all appearances,
soon a cradle
will be needed.

Know you not the tears,
that I can weep?
Should you not see them,
my beloved man?
Stay by my heart,
feel its beat,
that I may, fast and faster,
hold you.

7. At my heart, at my breast…(maybe a stretch, but mild guilt)
Only a mother knows alone
what it is to love and be happy.

O how I pity then the man
who cannot feel a mother’s joy!

8. Now you have given me, for the first time, pain…(depression)
Now you have given me, for the first time, pain,
how it struck me.
He sleeps, my hard, merciless man,
the sleep of death.

The abandoned one gazes straight ahead,
the world is void.
I have loved and lived, I am
no longer living.

I withdraw silently into myself,
the veil falls,
there I have you and my lost happiness,
O you were my world!

Death is certainly a resolution. For this lady, there is no happy future. No hope. We’ve no idea what becomes of her. Somehow we missed the predictable marital spats and ardent passion, but anger would throw the entire tone off in this cycle. As for sexuality, it seems not to have had much of a place in the cultural context.

If you are not in tears by the end of a live performance of this music, blame the singer, for the composer artfully crafted this journey.

I’ll hold up another example for you to consider. Episcopalians/ Anglicans who read morning and evening prayer, from the Book of Common Prayer, follow the Lectionary for daily Psalms in the liturgy.

What has this to do with the Stages of Grief or Transition? Plenty.

The Psalms offer the chance to vent every human passion. Anger, loss, resentment, hope and hopelessness, fear, frustration and depression. Bitterness and spite amke frequent appearances. They also celebrate and discuss love and expansive joy. In the Psalms we are reminded to dance and sing!

Our role model for the practice of praying the Offices is Benedict, whose Monastery in Canterbury existed under his thin volume Rule of Life.

The Psalms embrace the Stages.

St. Benedict believed that the common (community) recitation aloud of these poems promoted mental health, spiritual well-being, and healthy interpersonal relationships of the communicants. Smart fellow.

By the way, one of his suggestions in The Rule is that clergy are not to be trusted.


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