May Day. Oh Joy.

Today is May Day. Depending on your situation, it might mean that you get paid (first of the month). Or it could be a religious festival related to spring. Or it could be a day off of work to honor international labor. Or nothing at all.

I tend to think of parades of military hardware, and long columns of marching soldiers. Nowadays, I wonder how many of those soldiers developed shin-splints or other problems from marching (or running, or goose-stepping) in those boots on cement and stone. May Day was when the Soviet Union showed off its might and strength before the world. Which made no sense to young Alma, because in my neighborhood, May Day was for making little paper cones with paper or pipe-cleaner handles, filling them with candy and flowers, and leaving them on friends’ and strangers’ doors. Continue reading


Is it Classical or Baroque?

I’m wrapping up Beethoven #2 at the moment. The “Choral Fantasy” was round one, and the Missa Solemnis is round three. I’m still not a Beethoven fan in terms of his vocal compositions, although some of his earlier masses are nice. He tends to park vocalists up at the top of our range and then come back later. Even the tenors have been muttering darkly about “was he writing for castrati?”

One of the other challenges with Beethoven, for vocalist and instrumentalist, is that we think of him as Romantic but he’s not. In some ways he prefigures the Romantic movement (Brahms) but he’s actually a classical composer, and has to be treated in that way to get an accurate sound. If you sing his music as Romantic, it’s not being true to what he intended. Continue reading

Art and Music: A Familiar Snippet

Shoshana is a hard voice to write through. This begins just after Oddly Familiar.

Two days later, Shoshana opened the back door to her studio and turned on the lights. A note rustled down from the switch, and she jumped, then crouched and picked it up. “Power connection now protected. Didn’t find any other problems,” she read aloud. Her landlord had signed it over the electrician’s tiny, precise cursive. She folded the note and added it to her business forms file, then went into the main gallery to check for phone messages on the machine. None. She glanced out at the main space and sighed. A tree had grown there during the power outage. It rustled a little in the wind from somewhere. This would never do—no one could get around the tree to look at her art!

Shoshana eased around the trunk and studied the leaves. Acrylics. She’d need to paint it in acrylics, if only so she could finish faster and get back to that second commission. She returned to the work area and dragged her heavy easel out into the gallery, then found the proper board and set that up. She assembled the rest of her tools, then maneuvered a small work table into the gallery, followed by a drop-cloth, just in case. She visited the tiny washroom in the back, then set to work. Continue reading

Christus Resurexit!

An early Renaissance/ late Medieval resurrection by Andrea di Bartolo 1390-1410. From the Walters Art Museum. 

Today is Easter in the Western branches of Christianity. The Orthodox will celebrate it next week. Really, if we stuck with scripture alone, Easter should always be the same “weekend” as Passover, but Christians just had to make it more complicated – bureaucracy, you know. 😉

To borrow from the Orthodox, or at least Orthodox-inspired, Easter tradition:

Saint Sulpice is the other “big” church in Paris. Improvisation is a major organ “thing,” and he is working from several chants and hymns in this prelude.

A blessed and wonder-full Easter to those who celebrate it!

A Little Spring Bluegrass

Bluegrass is one of those American music hybrids that borrows from anything that can’t get away fast enough. There are very strong elements of Celtic music, African traces, English folk music, and a lot of competition between players. Like the religious music of the Upper South, the element of call and response and “lining out a melody” is strong. Like jazz, improvisation is required. Continue reading

1/365th Irish

At least, that’s the joke on one of the Wicked Tinkers live albums about why everyone can celebrate St. Patrick’s day. And knowing how some of my ancestors and relatives got around, well… There’s a reason it is probably the best known saint’s day in the US. I’m not sure St. Nicholas* comes close any more.

Since I’m brain tired from finishing a novel and doing Day Job stuff, some music for the day. Continue reading