Friday, March 28, 2008

Quality News Coverage for the Arts

The Hartford Courant’s editorial “Symphonic Convergence” [March 28, 2008], commenting on the bright future for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, was right on the mark. As a community leader, The Courant does well to highlight the HSO and other members of our arts community on its editorial pages. Now, The Courant should put its money where its mouth is by providing regular, quality news coverage of our arts community.

As the state’s leading newspaper, and as an organization that positions itself as an advocate for the growth and enrichment of Greater Hartford, The Courant should follow up on its editorial leadership by providing the quality news coverage that our arts groups and music ensembles – and their audiences – deserve. Readers look to The Courant for meaningful articles about upcoming performances and exhibits, interviews with artists and musicians, and objective reviews by qualified reviewers. The Courant devotes entire pages to video games, television, and, of all things, pet photos, yet contends that it does not have the staff or space to cover the arts on a regular basis.


The Courant has the moral responsibility to be a leader in supporting music and the arts in our community. Our arts community deserves more than plauditory editorials and occasional reviews. The Courant positions itself as an advocate for Greater Hartford; it’s time for the paper to take that role seriously and deliver quality news coverage of music and the arts.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Many Surnames Reflect Old Occupations

I love words. I love their sounds and rhythm -- language is a sort of music, is it not? I also find fascinating how our history survives in our language, such as in our surnames. Some surnames (Archer, Baker, Brewer, Butcher, Cook) have obvious origins, as these words have survived uunchanged over the centuries. But some are not so obvious, as shown in this list which I have gleaned from many sources over the years. And there are many, many more!

One of these names, Hayward, is a name on my mother's side of the family; they emigrated from England many generations ago. Knowing the provenance of this name (a hayward guarded, or warded, fences or enclosures) makes me wonder about the long-ago lives of my ancestors in rural England.

Here are some interesting names:

Alderman An official clerk of the court
Bailey A bailiff
Barber A surgeon
Barker One who worked with bark for the leather trade, or a shepherd (Norman barches, meaning “shepherd”)
Baxter A baker (“bakester”), especially a female
Bekker One who made wooden vessels
Bender One who made casks and barrels
Berger A shepherd (berger is the French word for shepherd)
Bishop One who was in the Bishop’s employ
Black A dyer of black cloth
Blacksmith A metalworker, especially one who worked with iron
Boatwright One who made boats
Boniface An innkeeper or tavern keeper
Bowman An archer
Boyer A bowyer – one who makes bows
Brewster A brewer, especially a female
Butler A wine steward
Campion A professional fighter; a champion
Cantrell A singer in a chantry
Carrier One who carries (transports) goods
Carrin One who made carts
Carter One who transported goods by cart
Cartwright One who made carts
Carver A sculptor; also one who carved the meat at a lord's table
Chafer One who worked in a lime kiln
Chaffer A merchant
Chalker A whitewasher
Challender One who sold blankets
Chamberlain A personal servant. Chamberlains cleaned a lord's chambers.
Chambers A chamberlain
Chancellor A chancellor
Chandler A candle maker
Chaplain or Chaplin A chaplain
Chapman An itinerant peddler
Cheeseman or Cheesewright One who made and sold cheese. Also spelled Chessman.
Cherrier One who worked in a cherry orchard
Clark A clerk or cleric
Cleaver One who worked in a butcher shop or split wood
Coldren One who made large cooking pots (cauldrons)
Coleman One who gathered charcoal
Collier A coal miner or one who sold charcoal
Conner One who inspected for weights and measures (to "con" was to reckon or calculate)
Cooper A barrel maker
Cotter A tenant farmer
Crocker A potter; a maker of crocks
Crowner A coroner, or official in service to the King
Crowther One who played the "crowd," a medieval stringed instrument
Currier A dresser of animal skins
Cutler A maker of knives
Day A worker in a dairy
Deacon A church deacon
Dexter A female dyer
Docker A dock worker or stevedore
Drage A confectioner
Draper A dealer in dry goods
Dresser A surgeon's assistant in a hospital
Duke One who was in the duke's employ
Dyer One who dyed cloth
Dyster A female dyer
Earl One who was in the Earl's employ
Falconer One who kept and trained falcons
Farmer A farmer
Farrar A smith or farrier
Farrier One who shod and cared for horses
Faulkner A falconer; one who kept and trained falcons
Fearson Ironmonger or smith
Ferrier Ironmonger or smith
Fisher A fisherman
Fiske One who sold fish
Flax One who sold or grew flax
Flesher A butcher (German Fleischer)
Fletcher An arrow maker (to fletch is to dress with feathers; cf. fledge, as a bird)
Forester A guardian of the lord's forest; also spelled Forrester, Forster, or Foster
Fowler A keeper or catcher of birds
Frobisher One who polished (“furbished”) swords and armor
Fuller One who fulls cloth. Fulling is the process of shrinking and thickening woolen cloth by moistening, heating, and pressing; the end product is a felt. A fuller is also one who cleans and finishes cloth.
Gage One who inspected for weights and measures
Gardiner A gardener; also spelled Gardner or Gardener
Glover One who made gloves
Goldsmith One who worked with gold
Granger A farmer; also spelled Grainger
Graves A steward
Hammer One who made stone hammers
Hansard A swordmaker (French hansard, a long, pointed sword)
Harper A minstrel; one who played or made harps
Hayward One who guarded fences or enclosures (hay wards)
Heard A shepherd or cowherd
Hillier A roof tiler
Hind A farm laborer
Hinman A keeper of deer on an estate (a contraction of "hind man," a hind being a deer)
Hogg A swine herd
Hooker A reaper (one who used a hooked tool for lifting and carring sheaves)
Hooper One who fitted metal hoops for casks and barrels
Hunter A hunter
Inman An innkeeper
Jagger A fish peddler
Joiner or Joyner A skilled carpenter
Kantor A singer in a chantry
Keeler A bargeman
Kellogg A slaughterer, esp. a pork butcher (literally, “kill hog”)
Kemp or Kempe A wrestler (Old English cempa, meaning “warrior”)
Key or Keyes One who made keys
Killer A lime kiln worker
King A servant to a king
Kisser An armor maker
Knight A knight; any military servant; a young servant to a knight
Lander or Landry A laundry worker
Lardner A keeper of the cupboard or larder
Latimer An interpreter
Leadbetter A lead worker
Lederer A leather maker
Leech or Leach A doctor (that is, one who uses leeches)
Lister A cloth dyer
Lorimer One who made bridles or spurs (from the Latin lorum, a part of a bridle)
Lush An usher
Machin A mason or stoneworker
Marshall One who was in charge of horses
Mason A mason or stoneworker
Mayor A mayor or one in the mayor's employ
Mercer A merchant, esp. of fine cloths (silk, velvet etc.)
Merchant A merchant
Miller A miller (also spelled Milner, Mills, Mullin, Mullins, Mulliner)
Nader A tailor
Naylor or Nailor One who makes or uses nails
Page A minor male servant; also spelled Paige, Paget
Palmer A pilgrim; one who carries palms on pilgrimage
Parker A park or game keeper; one who watched or guarded estate parks
Parson A parson or rector
Piper One who played or made pipes (musical instruments)
Pitman A miner, especially of coal
Plummer A plumber; a lead worker; one who applied sheet lead for roofing and set lead frames for plain or stained glass windows.
Pope A servant to the Pope (?)
Porter A door keeper
Potter A potter
Priest A servant to a priest (?)
Prince A servant to a prince (?)
Proctor A tax collector; solicitor; steward
Provost A supervisor on a lord's manor
Purcell A swine herd
Redman A roof thatcher [but what of the reddleman in Hardy’s Return of the Native?)
Reeve An official appointed by a lord to supervise manor lands
Rock or Rocker One who spun wool; made distaffs
Roper A maker of rope or nets
Ryder One who delivered messages on horseback
Sadler or Saddler One who made saddles
Salter A salt worker or salt seller
Sargent A military servant
Sawyer One who sawed wood
Schneider A tailor (German)
Schreiber A clerk or scribe (German)
Scrivener, Scribner A scribe; a professional or public copyist or writer; notary public
Scully A town crier
Seal or Seales A maker of seals or saddles
Sexton One who maintained churches; dug graves
Shepherd or Sheperd A shepherd
Shields An armorer
Shrieve A sheriff
Singer A singer
Skinner One who tanned hides
Skipper A ship master ("sh" or "ch"and "sk" were interchangeable in many English words with Norse origins; other examples are "skirt" and "shirt" (both from the same word for garment) and "church" and "kirk")
Slater A roofer
Slaughter One who slaughtered animals
Smith or Smythe A metalworker
Smoker One who made smocks
Snyder A tailor (Dutch)
Soppner A roofing or shingle maker
Spencer One who dispensed lord's provisions
Spicer One who sold spices
Spittle A hospital worker
Stanier or Stonier A stone cutter
Steele A steel worker
Steward A steward; also spelled Stewart, Stuart
Stone A stoneworker
Stringer One who made strings for bows
Sugarman One who made or sold sugar
Sumner A summoner
Swain A swineherd
Tabor or Taber One who played the tabor (a small drum)
Tanner One who tanned hides
Tasker One who did piece work
Taverner A tavern keeper
Taylor or Tailor A tailor
Thatcher One who thatched roofs
Tiller or Tillman A farmer or tile maker
Tinker An itinerant tin pot and pan seller and repairman
Todd A fox hunter (from Gaelic todd, meaning fox; recall Beatrix Potter's Tale of Mr. Tod)
Toller A toll collector
Trainer A trapper
Tranter A waggoner
Trapp A trapper
Travers A tollbridge keeper and collector
Trinder A wheel maker
Trotter A messenger
Tucker A cloth worker, especially one who cleaned cloth goods
Turner One who made small wooden objects by turning them on a lathe
Tyler A tiler
Tyrer A wardrobe master (“attirer”)
Voss A servant
Wagoner A teamster not for hire; also spelled Waggoner
Wainwright A wagon builder
Walker One who shrank woolen cloth
Wall or Waller A mason who specialized in building walls
Ward A watchman or guard
Warf A dock worker
Warner or Warrer One who was in charge of wildlife at a park (estate)
Waterman A boatman who plies his boat for hire
Wayne A wheel maker (“wain”)
Weaver A weaver
Webb or Webster A weaver, especially one who operates a loom, or especially a female weaver Wheeler or Wheelwright One who made or repaired wheels; wheeled carriages, etc.
Woodward A forester
Workman A laborer
Wright A general fabricator



Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Embracing Beethoven's Missa Solemnis

What great music is Beethoven's Missa Solemnis! The Hartford Chorale (of which I am a member) is in the midst of preparing the Missa for performances with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra on May 16 and 17 at The Bushnell in Hartford.

The Chorale has the privilege of working with two distinguished musical leaders as we prepare the Missa. The Chorale's Music Director, Richard Coffey, leads our weekly rehearsals and guides us in understanding and presenting the music and text. In the week or two before our performances, Edward Cumming, the HSO's Music Director, will take the rehearsal podium to prepare us for performing the work under his direction with the orchestra. This hand-off does present challenges, though, as the two maestri employ very different conducting styles; it takes a good deal of concentration and commitment to transfer months of preparation from one baton to the other. But Mr. Coffey and Mr. Cumming enjoy a warm relationship which infuses our sessions together.

It's also a challenge to make the change from rehearsal hall with piano to concert hall with orchestra. Though the richness of the orchestral sound completes the colors and textures that Beethoven imagined, I think that during the long weeks of preparation the singers come to rely on the percussive quality of the piano as an aid to maintaining rhythm and tempo. Thus, two factors -- working under a different conductor and perhaps being challenged in perceiving rhythm and tempo -- can create new opportunities for thinking and learning during the last few weeks before performance.

From musical and vocal perspectives, Beethoven's music seems to break all the boundaries and dashes to pieces what we think we know about music of the "Classical" period and about sacred music, especially settings of the Mass. If we expect the conventional "classical" symmetries of Mozart or Haydn, we will be shocked by Beethoven's reinterpretations of the harmonic language of his day and we will be challenged to understand his transformative expansions of classical forms. If we expect his vocal writing to continue the graceful, lyrical, rather restrained style perfected by Mozart and Haydn, we will struggle to present with clarity and beauty the unrestrained vocal joy which characterizes Beethoven's Missa . If we expect a reverent interpretation of the ancient words of the Mass, we may feel uncomfortable with Beethoven's frankly dramatic setting. Like Verdi's Requiem (which the Chorale and HSO will offer in 2009), the Missa is more akin to opera than to traditional sacred music.

From the singer's perspective, the Missa can indeed be vocally terrifying. Many singers are challenged to sing chromatic melismatic passages as quickly as Beethoven required (e.g., consider the break-neck speed of the convoluted countersubjects in the Credo) or to negotiate the extremes of range and dynamic that contribute to the drama. Unlike most oratorios or masses, where the choir can rest during solo arias or solo ensembles, the Missa calls for almost continuous choral singing from beginning to end. Thus, each singer must learn to sing lightly and 'healthily" throughout the work, saving the "big sound" only for the several moments when it is truly required. With 160 voices, none of us needs to shout too much. And of course, heavy or forced singing is ugly, and as Mr. Coffey tells us, "Never make an ugly sound." Such a simple concept, and so apt.

Beethoven either loved sopranos or hated them; the tessitura of the soprano part is almost too high to be believed. Vocally, I am thrilled that I can pop up into "the zone" and zip along pretty easily above the staff without tiring. For me, lightness and clarity is key to not getting tired; the more vibrato I allow, the heavier the voice becomes, and the more quickly I tire.
The Credo is my favorite movement; I revel in the vocal acrobatics and musical challenge.

Yes, the Missa can be daunting, but only until one can embrace Beethoven's larger-than-human-life conceptions. Clearly, he thought in larger ways than we can conceive, and as one can see from his own score (shown at left), he struggled with it, too. If we can abandon our conventions and expectations, we can enter into his larger, more expansive world, which is full of possibility. Perhaps Beethoven's deafness released him from convention, as in his aural imagination he could conceive of more than he, or anyone, had ever heard. Perhaps as singers and musicians we can approach the Missa with a similarly clean slate, free of expectations and ready to understand this music, embrace it, and sing it with conviction and love.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Winter Brightens Into Spring

I sense spring approaching; I see it in the changing quality of the light from "winter" light to "spring" light - with winter light being more transparent, paler, slightly watery. So, too, do summer and autumn have their own quality of illumination. My daughter (14) also notices these changes in the light and commented to me on a recent warm day that although it felt springlike, the quality of the light was still wintry.

I am also seeing signs of spring around the bird feeders: The goldfinches are slowly brightening. The downy woodpeckers are becoming more territorial and less companionable with each other. The blue jays are becoming more companionable and less aggressive with each other. (I delight in watching the jays' feeding rituals, as one selects a seed from the feeder, flies to the wistaria where the other awaits, and gently places the seed in the other's bill.) The male mourning doves are beginning to develop that soft rosy blush on their breasts. The house sparrows have been breaking twigs off the wistaria for some weeks, but perhaps they do that year 'round. I saw two red-tailed hawks circling together last week... And of course the squirrels are going nuts.