Monday, February 25, 2008

Luck o' the Irish

Today I'm stressed. And it's because of these three men. They call themselves the Celtic Tenors and starting on Wednesday they will be my employers. Only for 12 days, but still...

I got an email from Daryl Simpson (on the left) on February 8th, informing me that the C.T. were in need of a pianist for a portion of their U.S. tour--apparently their normal M.D. had to be out of town for that stretch--and asking if I was interested in the job. Fiona Murphy, an Irish mezzo-soprano I worked with in Houston, recommended me to Daryl whom she went to school with. I WAS interested but needed to know more. Especially since the C.T. do a mix of classical, Irish, pop and sacred music and pop and Irish are FAR from being my specialty. By that evening I'd gotten an offer and by Sunday I accepted. Who can resist an Irish accent?

So...I leave on tour Wednesday. I miss a week of school---stressful!---and the week I get back just happens to be one of the craziest of the semester. And it turns out that some of the C.T. music is illegible and based on my ability to improv--not one of my strengths. I'm a bit overwhelmed. So what better thing to do than blog about it?

Friday, February 22, 2008


"Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned."

~Edna St. Vincent Millay

On the eve of Sunday, February 17th of the year 2008, a true hero was lost. She went quietly--she who was beautiful and brave, though perhaps not witty and intelligent. And maybe not actually beautiful. But she was kind, loyal, and sometimes trustworthy. Now she is gone. And I do not approve. And I am not resigned. Bertha Lucinda Cirrus was my lifeline.

Bertha is survived by me, her somewhat abusive friend and owner, who drove her mercilessly across the country. From Utah to Colorado, Colorado to Utah, Utah to Houston, Houston to Michigan, and finally from Ann Arbor to Cincinnati and partially back. The demands placed upon Ms. Cirrus were many, and she rose to them occasionally. Above is the last surviving photo we have as a couple--taken just after Bertha had collapsed on the roadside, requiring not 1, but 4 brand new tires.

B.L.C. (Almost B.L.T.---something which I truly love) decided she could endure this life's travail no longer as she trudged north on I-75. We had driven from Ann Arbor to Cincinnati that morning. The roads were icy and the sky gray, nothing too out of the ordinary for a Michigan winter. Conditions cleared somewhat as we neared our destination, but after I completed my audition for Opera North--a summer opera company in New Hampshire--we took to the highway again, only to find conditions were not as favorable. We passed through a rainstorm which washed the dust of this earth from Bertha, leaving her spirit to fly free to the heavens and me to walk down the side of I-75. The autopsy indicated a water pump which had "gone out," causing the timing belt to shred, which in turn encouraged the pistons to misfire, burning out the engine through this series of events.

I felt only a jolt and loss of acceleration. And then I was stranded. For a long time. In Wakapeneta, OH. My roommate Maggie and my friend Christine had to drive nearly two hours to rescue me. My friend Amita and I in the meantime got to know the folks at the Comfort Zone diner, the local highway patrol, and a very nice tow-man extremely well.

And while Bertha gave her life in my service, I will conclude that I'm not overly sorry to see her go. She was a gas guzzler. A greed fiend and an unreliable, false servant. Better to be free of her clutches than wonder when she would fail me.

But I loved her just the same. So...adieu. Addio. Auf Wiedersehen. Later.

Friday, February 15, 2008

From the Heart

Happy Valentine's Day! If I can still say that at 12:20 am. I haven't blogged for some time now, but I feel that this holiday has warranted the occasion. Primarily because it's led me to ponder. And what better way to ponder than in a written blog that can be accessed by anyone online?

It's amazing how we can move through our lives blissfully unaware of how far the sphere of our universe extends. Who's noticing you? Who's watching? Who remembers the remark you tossed off so casually to them? At the root of all the rhetorical questions: how aware are we of those beyond ourselves?

I got a valentine today. Plus three. Which makes four valentines total if my calculations are correct. My roommate Jess gave me a Sponge Bob (not sure if that's one or two words)gummy hamburger goodness, Jason Jones gave me a chocolate fish---yes, a fish---Brian gave me a heartfelt Power Ranger card and then someone gave me a surprise.

I came home from school and there was a card waiting on the porch with my name printed across the envelope. And inside was an unsigned valentine from a "secret admirer." Novel and exciting, right? Anonymity holds a certain magic for the human psyche. Which holds true in my Valentine's Day scenario. But this card was so much more than novel. It was beautiful and it was sincere--by far the best Valentine I've ever received.

The message was straightforward. This person had formed initial judgments about me which he felt were incorrect and warranted apology. He then proceeded to write how his opinion of me had changed over time and concluded with an expression of gratitude for our friendship and the influence I've had on him. My words don't do it justice, but the sincerity of my beautifully scripted valentine made an impression on me. As a result, I've been thinking. So here are some thoughts:

Few things have meant as much to me recently as the sincerity which this writer was able to achieve through anonymity. If such sincerity seems rare, then what do our lives consist of in actuality? Are we living life only on a surface-level and never actually letting our true feelings permeate our actions and being? Not to suggest that everything in this world needs be deep and life-altering. But aren't their times when things should be said? Things that mean something? Are we afraid of honesty? Of the risk we run when we show a true piece of ourselves?

Beyond that I've been thinking about how unaware I am of the people in my life. I know they're present. I love having them there. I love talking to them. But how much to I invest in them? Do I treat everyone with the value and worth they warrant? Do I really care? The rhetorical questions may be getting a bit old at this point, but I'm inclined to think that they might be warranted to shake me from my sphere of oblivion. I think I'm too quick to listen lightly. I think I don't ask enough questions. I think I don't really know the people whom I interact with on a daily basis. I think I need to be more aware. I think I need to see something somewhere beyond myself.

And finally comes the issue of judgment. My admirer, if that's the appropriate term, initially thought me vain and self-centered. And I'm sure those are true to some degree, as I have owned up to in the previous paragraph. But I would hope that fundamentally, those characteristics are at least somewhat inaccurate or compose a small percentage of my personality. That being said, how many people have I typeset into a box based on initial impressions? To some extent, judgment is necessary and appropriate. But am I open-minded enough to let someone prove me wrong? Is there finality in first impressions or do I take them lightly enough that they can easily be forgotten if incorrect?

The questions are rhetorical. The thoughts posed will continue floating around in my mind. I do know, however, that someone made my day. Sincerity and honesty made Valentine's Day '08 one that I'll never forget. And I haven't even begun to mention the rockstar "Where's the Love?" party we had at 595 Landings....
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