Measured Extravagance

2001-04-13 - 2:52 a.m.

I added some books to The Library. They're on the shelf tagged "Duthie."

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At rehearsal, the choir worked on Thomas Benjamin's "Alleluiah" - a four-part a cappella piece that splits into eight parts on the last page. My kinda piece - even though it's showing up all of my weaknesses: I can't sustain high notes without lots of warmup. I need to improve my ability to sustain phrases between breaths - something I was never really good at, even back when I was singing symphony choruses. I'm not consistent with dynamics. I don't concentrate nearly enough - I pencil in corrections and then repeat the mistakes anyway. Gnarrrrgggh.

On the bright side, I can feel my voice regaining more of its former richness now that it's getting exercise at least once a week (now I just need to apply that principle to the rest of me). I'm retrieving the confidence both to carry other singers and to resist being thrown off when someone next to me misses a note or a cue. I was the lone second alto for the last ten minutes of rehearsal - I need to sing a trifle louder and take fewer breaths, but the notes were all there.

And, being forced to focus on all these things was good - for ninety minutes, I ceased to fret over work, or the water bill, or W. (the one in Washington).

The other piece we read tonight was Jason Shelton's "Alleluia" - he wrote it especially for this service. Jason's arrangements usually favor lots of odd chords and wacky key signatures, so I couldn't resist raising my eyebrows at him and asking "What, only one sharp this time?" Another singer chimed in with "You weren't feeling well that day, eh?"

But seriously, it's beautiful and it's fun. The men begin with a three-part ground, then the altos join in with a simple one-line round, the sopranos add their two-part descant, and the mix is finally punctuated with improvisations on a hand drum. It's lively. It dances. It will be perfect as this Sunday's closing hymn.

After rehearsal, I asked some of the veteran singers whether it was customary at First UU to dress up for Easter. The common plan appears to be to find something clean, spring-like, and dressy, in that order. One member replied, "The visitors often dress up, but some of them may be Unitarian..." It means, I think, that I will wear a white sweater and a flowery skirt.

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Just finished reading "The Food Issue" (volume 6, issue 6) of Literal Latte. What stood out for me were "Farm Wife," a short story by Beth Goldner (opening line: "He married me because I can do just about anything with an egg.") and the opening of Harold Braswell's review of several fiction books:

Along with excretion, I have always considered communication to be the basest, most sinister, of human necessities. Unlike excretion, communication is a particularly human ailment. Our advanced ability to communicate is the main thing separating us from animals. This is not an entirely good thing. The ability to communicate carries many burdens, not the least of which is that communication becomes a necessity, the string drawing together the vast network of humanity. Unfortunately, this string is of a weak quality, with almost infinite flaws. The flawed nature of human communication has followed me throughout my life --- whenever I open my mouth. I feel these flaws now as I attempt to channel my thoughts into print, only to see my sentences appear as scars across the page's clean, white face. Communication jumbles thoughts, leaving them open for a range of misinterpretations. In this sense, it is a violent and ultimately uncontrollable force: it warps and to an extent, destroys thought.

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