Wednesday, November 30, 2011

“A Beautiful Tapestry” - Vaughan Williams' Hodie


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“A beautiful tapestry” – that’s how one program annotator described the Hodie of Ralph Vaughan Williams, which The Hartford Chorale will perform four times this weekend with The Hartford Symphony Orchestra and the Connecticut Children’s Chorus (details below).

We had our dress rehearsal this evening at the Belding Theater at The Bushnell. I love the Belding, with its warm wood furnishings, vibrant carpet, soaring ceiling, and beautiful acoustic. It’s a lovely place for choral and vocal music.

Here are a few pictures I took this evening just before rehearsal began. This is what it looks like from the back of the choir:





I included those bright lights on purpose in the second picture to show what it's like from the performers' perspective.

My assigned seat is about three rows further back than usual; I guess there was some shifting around to accommodate the children, who sit in our midst. I like my seat on the end of the row (claustrophobia sets in if I am in an interior seat), but I miss being closer to the percussion section. But I can see very well. Now all I have to do is concentrate to ignore the foot-tapping on the risers (TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP TAP always just a bit behind the beat) and block out the sound of…. Oh, never mind.

After our portion of the rehearsal ended, we had a real treat; we were permitted to sit in the hall to listen to the remainder of the orchestral rehearsal (Glinka and Tchaikovsky; see below). The orchestra sounded just great, and it was a pleasure to watch Mr. Coffey having so much fun. As the Glinka came to its amazing conclusion and the sound floated away, I heard him say, “I just love this piece!” That was nice.

Come hear the concert. Come early to catch the pre-concert lecture on Vaughan Williams Hodie; Mr. Coffey and Dr. Alain Frogley, an internationally-renowned expert on the life and music of Vaughan Williams, will share the lecture duties.

Hartford Symphony Orchestra Masterworks Series
“HOLIDAY MASTERWORKS”
with Richard Coffey, guest conductor
Stephanie Gilbert, soprano; Eric Barry, tenor; Eric Downs, bass-baritone
Hartford Symphony Orchestra
Hartford Chorale - Richard Coffey, music director
Connecticut Children’s Chorus - Stuart Younse, artistic director
Thursday, December 1, 2011 • 7:30 p.m.
Friday, December 2, 2011 • 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 3, 2011 • 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 4, 2011 • 3:00 p.m.
Belding Theater • The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts

Program
Mikhail Glinka: Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Suite No. 1 from The Nutcracker, Op. 71
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Hodie

Ticket Information
Tickets range in price from $35.50-$70.50.
Student tickets are $10
On Saturday, December 3, $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under.
To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit http://www.hartfordsymphony.org/

Foot-Paw-Prints


On a recent frosty morning when I stepped out to fill the bird feeders, I saw this on the deck railing:




Can you guess who it was?

It was these two scamps:




These two are regular visitors, taking advantage of our tendency to forget to bring in the feeders at night. The one on the deck floor is very large (a parent?) and the one on the deck rail is small-to-medium sized (offspring?)
 
Such beautiful fur, and lovely markings.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Fragile Winter Sky

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On Sunday, I stopped briefly in “my” meadow, just as the sun was setting.


There’s something fragile about a winter sunset. Even though the clouds of a winter sky often seem heavier than those of summer, their color seems to fade more quickly, and the colors tend more toward pearl and gray, rather than blue and violet.

Still, it is beautiful.

And the colors of a winter sky seem to better complement the muted colors of field and forest. In the fields, the dried corn stubble has lost its golden undertone, and shows silver-grey against the black soil. Across the meadow, the woods look black, except where the lingering oak and beech leaves add notes of dun and taupe.

Muted colors for the end of autumn.

Of course, at this time of year, we see all around us the fragility of life itself, as leaves die and fall, birds flee the cold and dark, the life-giving sun seems paler and more distant, and we enter the long period of darkness that is winter.

As I sat and watched the sky, I became aware of a slight, very slight, movement at the edge of the field, near one of the tree “islands” that is a haven for birds and animals. I looked closely, peering through the dusk. And then there it was: A ring-necked pheasant, a male.

As I raised my field glasses, it crouched down and tried to become invisible. I assume that it’s one of the poor captive birds that hunters raise and release here in order to kill them. That’s a fragile existence―

I took a few quick photos and moved on, leaving the bird crouching in the gathering darkness.

CONCORA's Christmas Through the Ages: "Masters in This Hall"


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Next week, CONCORA has its final rehearsals for its holiday concert, “Christmas Through the Ages,” which we will present in Hartford, Hampton, and Norfolk, Connecticut, on these dates:

Sunday, December11, 2011, 4:00 p.m.
Center Church, 60 Gold Street, Hartford, Connecticut
Snow date: Monday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Information: www.concora.org or 860-293-0567
Directions: http://www.centerchurchhartford.org/contact/directions.html

Friday, December 16, 8:00 p.m.
Hampton Congregational Church, 163 Main Street, Hampton, Connecticut
Directions: http://hamptonucc.org/

Thursday, December 22, 8:00 p.m.
Infinity Music Hall & Bistro, Route 44, Norfolk, Connecticut
Information, Tickets, and Directions: http://www.infinityhall.com/ or 866-666-6306


You can read all my posts about CONCORA’s Christmas programs here: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/CONCORA%20Christmas

I feel so privileged to be able to prepare the program notes for many of CONCORA’s concerts, including this one. I had promised to share some of the notes here, in advance of the program. Here’s the first, a note about “Masters in This Hall,” a lively carol that has its origins in the French country dance. CONCORA will sing this as a processional; it will be a challenge not to dance as we come down the aisle.

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The “traditional French carol” we know as “Masters in This Hall” has a fascinating history. The tune, a contredanse well-known in 17th-century France, was included in Raoul-Augur Feuillet’s popular 1703 collection, Recueil de contredanse. The popular melody was also heard in the opulent court of Versailles, when Marin Marais (1656-1728), who enjoyed a successful career as court musician and composer in the royal household, incorporated the dance in his 1706 opera Alcyone, calling it a Marche pour les Matelots (Sailors’ March). In England, the tune had been published as “The Female Saylor” in a 1710 collection called For the Further Improvement of Dancing. A century and a half later, a young William Morris (1834-1896), who would later become famous as a writer, textile designer, and founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, penned the poem “Masters in This Hall” in 1860 expressly for the old French tune. Morris, who enjoyed part-singing and glee-singing with his friends, wrote many poems and song lyrics in addition to this. This over-the-top arrangement on CONCORA’s concert is by American composer and conductor Mack Wilberg (b. 1955). (The verses shown in italics below are not used in the Wilberg setting.)

Masters in this hall
Hear ye news to-day
Brought from over sea,
And ever I you pray:
Refrain:
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell sing we clear
Holpen are all folk on earth, Born is God’s Son so dear:
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell! Nowell sing we loud!
God to-day hath poor folk rais’d, And cast down the proud.

Going over the hills,
Though the milk-white snow,
Heard I ewes bleat
While the wind did blow.
Nowell! etc.

Shepherds many an one
Sat among the sheep,
No man spake more word
Than they had been asleep.
Nowell! etc.

Quoth I, ‘Fellows mine,
Why this guise sit ye?
Making but dull cheer,
Shepherds though ye be?’
Nowell! etc.

‘Shepherds should of right
Leap and dance and sing;
Thus to see ye sit
Is a right strange thing.’
Nowell! etc.

Quoth these fellows then,
‘To Bethlem Town we go,
To see a mighty Lord
Lie in manger low.’
Nowell! etc.

‘How name ye this Lord
Shepherds’ then said I,
‘Very God,’ they said,
‘Come from heaven high.’
Nowell! etc.

Then to Bethlem Town
We went two and two
And in a sorry place
Heard the oxen low.
Nowell! etc.

Therein did we see
A sweet and goodly May
And a fair old man,
Upon the straw she lay.
Nowell! etc.

And a little Child
On Her arm had She
‘Wot yet Who this is?’
Said the hinds to me.
Nowell! etc.

Ox and ass Him know
Kneeling on their knee,
Wondrous joy had I
This little Babe to see,
Nowell! etc.

That is Christ the Lord,
Masters be ye glad!
Christmas is come in,
And no folk should be sad.
Nowell! etc.

Tech Week : Hartford Chorale Prepares RVW's Hodie


This morning, it hit me that The Hartford Chorale, in which D and I sing, has actually entered “tech week” ― the intense period of days prior to a concert series. Our Monday night rehearsal was with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in their rehearsal space (instead of our usual piano rehearsal in our space), and on Wednesday we have our final, or “dress” rehearsal, at The Bushnell. Our performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. (I rehearse with a different group on Tuesday, so I’ll be singing every night this week.)

So why did this “hit me” this morning?

"Come Through the Gloom" - Lessons and Carols at South Church

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Though I no longer sing regularly with the wonderful Chancel Choir at South Church in New Britain, I was delighted to have been invited to sing with the choir for the Candlelight Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which is offered this year on Sunday, December 18 at 4:00 p.m. This service is part of the celebrated Music Series at South Church, now in its 39th season.

"Come Through the Gloom" is the title of an anthem composed for the choir by Kevin McGoff; it has a nice welcoming sort of sound to it.


This worship service is free and open to the public, but you might want to get there early to secure a seat. The church really fills up for this beautiful event, which is modeled on the Festival of Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge, first held in 1918.

Even if you are not a religious person, this service is a nice opportunity to hear the Christmas story told in its entirety, in a lovely setting, and far away from any crass commercialism. The Chancel Choir is a remarkable ensemble, known for its musicianship and artistry, and the Gress-Miles pipe organ is always worth hearing. (How I’ve missed that instrument!)

Much beautiful music is in store – I’ve appended the program below.

A Candlelight Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
Sunday, December 18, 2011, 4:00 p.m.
South Church, New Britain, Connecticut

INVITATORY CAROL

“The Holly and the Ivy”
Words: Anonymous Medieval Carol
Setting (2010): June Nixon (b. 1942)

PROPHECY I

“Remember, O Thou Man”
Words: Anonymous ballad
Setting: Thomas Ravenscroft (c1592-1633)

PROPHESY II

“Come through the Gloom”
Words: George MacDonald
Setting (2010): Kevin McGoff
(Dedicated to the South Church Chancel Choir)

PROPHECY III

“I Look from Afar”
Words: Psalm 80, and Gloria Patria
Setting (1983): Anthony Piccolo

THE ANNUNCIATION

“Annunciation Carol”
Words: Anonymous 15th Century carol
Setting (2000): Robert Lehman (b. 1960)

THE BIRTH OF JESUS

“I Wonder as I Wander”
Words: Traditional Appalachian
Setting (1996/2000): Carl Rütti (b. 1949)

THE ANGELS AND THE SHEPHERDS

“Angels, from the Realms of Glory”
Words: James Montgomery (1771-1854)
Setting (2010): Malcolm Archer (b. 1952)

THE MAGI

“Lully, lulla, Thou Little Tiny Child”
Words: 15th century English ballad
Setting (1984): Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988)

SIMEON AND ANNA

“Nunc Dimittis”
Words: from Luke 2
Setting (1924): George Dyson (1883-1964)

THE INCARNATION

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” [congregational hymn]
Words: from John 1

THE OFFERTORY

“The Little Drummer Boy”
Words & Music: Harry Simeone; arr. (1981): John McCarthy

“On Christmas Night”
Words: Sussex Carol
Setting (1978): Philip Ledger (b. 1937)

I Wish the Hawk Would Eat the Sparrows (Redux)

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A few minutes ago, a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk dashed across the yard and flung itself into the maple that overhangs the hedgerow.

It ruffled and preened itself, then spread its wings and tail – apparently it had gotten wet. Had it been caught in a passing shower, or bathed itself in our little brook? Or had it had a tussle with a prey bird, perhaps on the wet grass? Its crop didn’t look full, as though it had eaten recently… It flew to the top of the mulberry, where it was almost impossible to see amid the brown and gray branches.

As the hawk had flown through the yard, the House Sparrows at the feeder burst into the air, and headed into the wisteria, where the tangled branches offer some pretty good cover. It’s not entirely secure, though; we’ve watched Sharpies clamber through the wisteria in pursuit of their prey (smaller birds).

I hope that next time the Sharpie comes through, she’ll catch the sparrows by surprise and manage to catch one. The House Sparrows are not native to this continent; they were brought here in a foolish project to establish breeding populations in American of all the birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. (Stupid.) The House Sparrows displace many native species, taking nest cavities and food from native birds. They are messy, loud, and aggressive.

They make excellent nibbles for hawks.

Here’s an old bit of doggerel that I wrote a couple of years ago about just this topic:

I wish the hawk would eat the sparrows,
break their bones and suck their marrows,
pluck their feathers, pull off their heads,
rip their flesh into little shreds!

They eat all the birdseed. They cause other birds stress.
They poop on the window and make a big mess.
They poop under the awning when weather gets cold
and poop on the top of it when it’s unrolled.

Among our birds, these finches are trash;
they haven’t even got panache.
Their incessant tuneless discordant chatter
drowns out the birds that really matter.

They don’t even belong here, you know;
they were brought from the Old World long ago
as part of a plan to bring to our shore
birds familiar in Europe of yore.

The reasons now seem bizarre and absurd:
The plan was to establish here each bird
mentioned in the plays of Avon’s great Bard.
Now we have sparrows in every yard.

That’s why we also have the Starling,
a good mimic (and Mozart’s darling).
But our bluebirds became the sacrifice
to someone’s idea that the starling is nice.

Who thought our landscape would be more pleasant
with introduced birds like the Starling and pheasant?
The House Sparrows and Starlings have adapted so well
that their destructive numbers continue to swell.

If I had a tiny bow and some tiny arrows,
I’d shoot all the pesky, nasty House Sparrows.
I’d mince them fine and put them in boxes
then set them out to feed the foxes.

But as I have no bow or tiny arrows
to eradicate my hoards of sparrows,
I call upon our neighborhood raptor
to chase, and pounce, and grab, and capture.

More bad poetry about house sparrows:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/2009/08/chewing-fat.html

© 2011 Quodlibet. Dissemination, re-use, or duplication prohibited except by express permission of the author.I pay attention and I will find you if you cite, republish, or use my work without credit or without attribution.

There Is No Life Outside of History


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“There is no life outside of history.”

That phrase struck me as profound. It was offered by Karen Chase, Linden Kent Memorial Professor of English literature at the University of Virginia, speaking about the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens' 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities. Professor Chase was part of a panel discussion the book on an older episode of The Diane Rehm Show (October 20, 2010), to which I listened as I prepared Thanksgiving dinner.

“There is no life outside of history.”

We are part of history, influenced by history, and influencing history. We are in history, of history, and carried in the inexorable flow. We cannot resist history, we cannot deny history, and we cannot exist outside history.

It is a profound understanding.

If you haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities recently, or (gasp) not at all, here’s that remarkable opening paragraph, which surely is the best-ever opening to any novel in the English language:


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. ―Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870), A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
Here’s Professor Chase’s complete quote, for context:


“There is no life outside of history. That everybody lives in time and that previous incidents in history have everything to do with contemporary incidents that [Dickens] may not want to discuss openly.”
You might enjoy listening to the entire discussion:

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2010-10-20/readers-review-charles-dickens-tale-two-cities

If you haven't read the book, do so. It is profound. It will enrich your understanding of history, life, and love.

Beautiful Broccoli

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Three Ways to Peel a Clementine

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What Omnia saw:


 What Justine saw:


What Katie saw:


Different perspectives of the same idea.
Each one is interesting.
Each is part of the whole.
Each one is worth considering.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Evening Rest

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On my way home from a meeting the other day, I stopped at a favorite pond just as the light was beginning to fade. 

As I opened the car window to take in the air and to listen to the evening, I heard geese approaching, their wild calls filling me with nostalgia.

In a few minutes, a small flock of Canada Geese glided over the tree tops and set down on the water. The glided to and fro on the glassy water, as stately as galleons.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"To Acquire the Bird"

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I enjoy reading about music, books and ideas, cuisine, and birding, and I've found some nice  blogs that offer some great information and photos.

My favorite cooking blog, Baker's Banter from King Arthur Flour, offers clear prose, helpful photos, and a forum wherein readers can share questions and ideas. That blog has, in large part, inspired me to photograph and write about about my own cooking experiences (check the "Recipes" heading in subject index below). I enjoy The Old Foodie, which is an amusing, fascinating, highly addictive exploration of food history, food in history, the evolving language of food, and the history of cooking. A lovely read for those of us who love cooking, eating, history, and language.

The best birding blogs, rich with detail and beautiful photographs, are also excellent teaching tools, and have helped me refine my identification skills and deepen my understanding of bird behavior. Check out David Sibley's blog for expert tips on identification and behavior, or the Colorado Field Ornithologists' Photo Quiz for some real challenges! The Stokes Birding Blog is a great place for beginning birders to learn more about commonly-seen birds (especially feeder birds), and the photographs are exquisite.

Of course, the above-named blogs are written by expert, elite birders, who have literally written the books on birding. There are many others, written by birders of all skill levels and with all sorts of motivations for birding. Following blogs on these topics is a nice way to learn more about how other people experience the pleasure of birding. Some bloggers have a zeal for photography, and use their blogs to share some amazing photos.

And of course, some bloggers write about their chasing and twitching and ticking and dipping -- that is, their efforts to find rare birds and check them off on their lists. For many birders, this is the raison d’être of birding: to tally the greatest numbers of distinct species they have seen. They keep track of the species they've seen in particular towns, counties, states, and countries and all sorts of other metrics. While I find their efforts interesting, I'm often struck by their seeming indifference to the bird they're chasing, other than its value to their lists.

For example, this morning, on the blog of a birder in a distant state, I read the author's essay about his efforts to "tick" a rare hummingbird that he had never been able to add to his state list. The essay detailed his excitement that one of the birds had showed up not five miles from his house, and his successful trip to see it. He had leisurely looks at the bird, took some nice close-up photos and shared them in the post, and discussed the niceties of differentiation between this species and a bird that is very similar.

But he seemed not to even notice the bird itself as a living creature, other than as a "tick" for his list. He wrote nearly 1000 words about this bird and his efforts to see it, with plenty of detail about his lists and the relative width of the outer tail feathers (important in identification of this species), Fine. But where was his sense of wonder and delight at this bird's amazingly long journey, a thousand miles out of its typical range? Where was any comment at all about the beauty of the bird, about the subtleties of color and plumage? Where was any remark about the fortitude of this tiny bit of feathers, flying so far on its grand adventure? Not even a word or two about its behavior during his brief observations? Nope -- for this birder, this was all about getting the bird on his list. In fact, it was this sentence stopped me in my tracks:


I put a call out to some of my other like minded birding acquaintances, and soon had a full carload ready to head out before dawn yesterday morning to acquire the bird.

To acquire the bird. To get it, to have it, to own it, to acquire it.

To acquire it?

That seems rather limited, and bit sad.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Autumn Fireworks

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“That Perfect, Ineffable Moment”


This morning I’m spending a few minutes with my music for CONCORA’s upcoming concert, “Christmas Through the Ages.” I had flagged a few musical spots that needed some extra attention, and I also took some time to tidy up the music and be sure that it is all ready for the next rehearsal. I had a few anxious moments when I couldn’t find my pies, but there they were, right where they belonged. (You’ll have to come to the concert to find out what that means!)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

“This will be my favorite! … No, this one!” Rehearsing CONCORA’s “Christmas Through the Ages”

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“This will be my favorite! … No, this one! … Oh, this one!”
 
That was my experience last night during our first rehearsal for CONCORA’s upcoming holiday concert, “Christmas through the Ages,” which we will present on December 11 in Hartford, December 16 in Hampton, and December 22 in Norfolk (details below).

As we rehearsed each selection, I found myself thinking, “This is so wonderful…it will probably be my favorite piece on the program.” Then we’d move to the next one: “No, this one!” and so on. By the end of the rehearsal, I gave in and put them all on my imagined “Favorite Piece of This Concert List.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised; as usual, Mr. Coffey has put together a truly beautiful program. “Stunning!” was Claudia’s assessment, and Jessica said, “One of the best ever!” As Trish pointed out, it’s just one of his many gifts: the consistent ability to program a concert that offers scope and breadth, varieties of texture and mood, beautiful texts, and a perfect balance of familiar favorites and new works to be treasured.

From the singer’s perspective, too, the program offers a wealth of other treasures. First, there’s some pleasantly challenging vocal music, which of course we love – CONCORA singers really love digging into difficult music, not only to master it technically (which we do) but to perform it beautifully. The jubilant setting of “Alleluia! A New Work Is Come on Hand” by Peter Wishart fairly dances off the page with intricate rhythms and complex textures. It was so gratifying to sing with a group that could read this almost perfectly the first time through, and then, after some work on polish, text, and interpretation, to sing it with the verve and exuberance that can emerge only when the music has been mastered.

We also enjoy the opportunity to sing new or unfamiliar arrangements of beloved old songs. For example, this program includes an over-the-top arrangement of “Masters in This Hall” and an astonishing, ravishing setting of “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen” by Swedish composer Jan Sandström. If for no other reason, you must come to the concert to hear the Sandström. It is…extraordinary.

Then there are the unexpected small gems, such as Otto Goldschmidt’s intimate setting of “A Tender Shoot,” or the very French, very lush “Hymne à la Vierge” by Pierre Villette, and from our own Colin Britt, a truly beautiful new setting of the old text “There is no Rose.”

At the end of this post, you may see the entire program.

We had a terrific rehearsal: everyone arrived prepared, in good humor, and ready to work. We quickly found our collective voice and made great progress through the three-hour session, working through nearly all the music on the first half of the program. We meet again this afternoon to take our first pass through the rest of the repertoire. It will be wonderful. And I’m sure I’ll find some new favorites.

I do hope that you can be part of CONCORA’s special holiday celebrations! More information about these concerts may be had by contacting the CONCORA office at 860.293.0567 (online at http://www.concora.org/ or contact@concora.org).


More of my essays on the life of a chorister, and more about choral rehearsals and choral music, may be found here: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Chorister


CONCORA
“Christmas Through the Ages”
THREE PERFORMANCES!

Sunday, December11, 2011, 4:00 p.m.
Center Church, 60 Gold Street, Hartford, Connecticut
Snow date: Monday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Directions: http://www.centerchurchhartford.org/contact/directions.html

Friday, December 16, 8:00 p.m.
Hampton Congregational Church, 163 Main Street, Hampton, Connecticut
Presented by the Hampton Recreation Commission
$10 admission, accompanied children free; reservations recommended
Directions: http://hamptonucc.org/

Thursday, December 22, 8:00 p.m.
Infinity Music Hall & Bistro, Route 44, Norfolk, Connecticut
Information, Tickets, and Directions: http://www.infinityhall.com/ or 866-666-6306

PROGRAM

A Choral Prologue from the 18th century
Johann Sebastian Bach “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” (from Christmas Oratorio)

A Choral Procession
“Masters in This Hall” Traditional French carol, arr. Mack Wilberg

From the 19th century
“A Tender Shoot” Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907)
“In Dulci Jubilo” Robert Lucas Pearsall (1795-1856)

From the 20th century
“Alleluia! A New Work Is Come on Hand” (1953) Peter Wishart
“Hymne à la Vierge” (1967) Pierre Villette
“Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming” (1995) Michael Praetorius, arr. Jan Sandström

From the 21st century
“There Is No Rose” (2007) Colin Britt
“Sleep, Little Baby, Sleep” (2010) Robert Cohen
“Glory to the Christ Child” (2005) Alan Bullard

Your Turn! – An Audience Sing-Along
“See Amid the Winter Snow” John Goss, arr. David Willcocks
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” Traditional, arr. John Rutter

Intermission

Solo for Organ: a setting of the German chorale "Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern" by American composer Mark Sedio, performed by Jason Charneski

Music from the Gallery
“Oculi Omnium” Hieronymous Praetorius (1560-1629)
“While by My Sheep” (echo carol) 17th century German carol, arr. Hugo Jüngst
“In the Bleak Midwinter” (1911) Harold Darke
“Ave Maria” (2006)John Rutter
“Sir Christemas” (from Ave Rex) (1970)William Mathias

For Fun!
The Pie Carols (2010) Words and Music: Daniel Gawthrop
Pumpkin Pie • Cherry Pie • Apple Pie • Lemon Meringue Pie • Pecan Pie • Rhubarb

Friday, November 18, 2011

“I’ll Catch Up Tomorrow”

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Last night, well after midnight, I finally got too sleepy to work any more. I checked my email accounts (six) one more time, and of course, there were tons of new messages waiting for me. About half of them would require some response, and probably a third of them included some new item for my growing to-do list.

I'll catch up tomorrow, I said to myself.


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"I'll catch up tomorrow," she said hopefully, though she had her doubts. The others were not fooled. They knew all too well that more email would arrive overnight, overflowing the inboxes and flooding the servers and making her escape impossible, though she was armed with current passwords and the strongest spam protection on the market. Her only chance of keeping her head above water would be to labor through the night, dispatching one message at a time, but everyone could see that she was fighting sleep after weeks of intense research and writing. She was suffering, too, from a severe singing deficit, which left her depressed and irritable.

Catch up? Impossible. No one ever “caught up.” It was a fantasy, and a dangerous one at that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

CONCORA Performs “Christmas Through the Ages” … Across Connecticut!


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The Christmas concert given by CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists), Connecticut's premier professional choir, has become a beloved tradition for many music-lovers in the Greater Hartford area. Each year’s concert has a different theme; our 2010 program offered “Christmas in the Americas,” while the 2009 concert offered music to celebrate “Christmas in New England.”


This year’s program, “Christmas Through the Ages,” will delight you with an array of sacred and secular music from many cultures and eras, in an attractive potpourri of holiday favorites and new works.

And of course, as happens at every CONCORA Christmas concert, the audience – that’s you! – is invited to sing along with CONCORA in beautiful arrangements of Christmas carols. Oh, it’s beautiful!

This year, in addition to performing the program on December 11 at 4:00 p.m. at beautiful, welcoming Center Church in Hartford, CONCORA will take its Christmas program to new audiences at each end of Connecticut. We’ll perform at the charming Hampton Congregational Church, on Friday, December 16 at 8:00 p.m., and at Infinity Hall in Norfolk on Thursday, December 22 at 8:00 p.m.. Details are at the end of this post, just before the program listing.

I'm preparing the program notes for these concerts, a delightful task that allows me to explore the history, texts, and variety of the program. I'll share snippets of the notes here over the next few weeks.

You can read all my posts about CONCORA's "Christmas Through the Ages" here:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/CONCORA%20Christmas


I'm also so lucky to be one of about two dozen CONCORA singers assigned to perform in this program. We have our first rehearsal tomorrow night, so I'll be busy today preparing my scores and getting all the music into my ear and voice, ready to begin making music.


I do hope that you can be part of these special holiday celebrations! More information may be had by contacting the CONCORA office at 860.293.0567 (online at http://www.concora.org/ or contact@concora.org).

CONCORA
“Christmas Through the Ages”
THREE PERFORMANCES!


Sunday, December11, 2011, 4:00 p.m.
Center Church, 60 Gold Street, Hartford, Connecticut
Snow date: Monday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Directions: http://www.centerchurchhartford.org/contact/directions.html

Friday, December 16, 8:00 p.m.
Hampton Congregational Church, 163 Main Street, Hampton, Connecticut
Presented by the Hampton Recreation Commission
$10 admission, accompanied children free; reservations recommended
Directions: http://hamptonucc.org/

Thursday, December 22, 8:00 p.m.
Infinity Music Hall & Bistro, Route 44, Norfolk, Connecticut
Information, Tickets, and Directions: http://www.infinityhall.com/ or 866-666-6306

PROGRAM

A Choral Prologue from the 18th century
Johann Sebastian Bach “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” (from Christmas Oratorio)

A Choral Procession
“Masters in This Hall” Traditional French carol, arr. Mack Wilberg

From the 19th century
“A Tender Shoot” Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907)
“In Dulci Jubilo” Robert Lucas Pearsall (1795-1856)

From the 20th century
“Alleluia! A New Work Is Come on Hand” (1953) Peter Wishart
“Hymne à la Vierge” (1967) Pierre Villette
“Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming” (1995) Michael Praetorius, arr. Jan Sandström

From the 21st century
“There Is No Rose” (2007) Colin Britt
“Sleep, Little Baby, Sleep” (2010) Robert Cohen
“Glory to the Christ Child” (2005) Alan Bullard

Your Turn! – An Audience Sing-Along
“See Amid the Winter Snow” John Goss, arr. David Willcocks
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” Traditional, arr. John Rutter

Intermission

Solo for Organ: a setting of the German chorale "Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern" by American composer Mark Sedio, performed by Jason Charneski

Music from the Gallery
“Oculi Omnium” Hieronymous Praetorius (1560-1629)
“While by My Sheep” (echo carol) 17th century German carol, arr. Hugo
“In the Bleak Midwinter” (1911) Harold Darke
“Ave Maria” (2006)John Rutter
“Sir Christemas” (from Ave Rex) (1970)William Mathias

For Fun!
The Pie Carols (2010) Words and Music: Daniel Gawthrop
Pumpkin Pie • Cherry Pie • Apple Pie • Lemon Meringue Pie • Pecan Pie • Rhubarb

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Underfoot

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There are little bits of beauty all around us. Look around.

Once in a while, look down to see what's underfoot, on the beautiful earth where we tread so casually.

Not for your Thanksgiving Table

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Seen in my neighborhood late on this cloudy, rainy, November afternoon:


These four birds were part of a flock of about a dozen, up the road across from the reservoir. We have plenty of wild turkeys around here. The habitat is good for turkey: wooded hillsides, plenty of oaks, grassy meadows, and fields under tillage.

One day several years ago, we watched 29 turkeys parade single file across our front lawn, saunter down the walk at the side of the house, and settle themselves down in the back yard for an extended session of preening and napping. Twenty-nine! After an hour or so, they got and up stretched, and continued toward the back of the back yard, but they were brought up short by the fence. They just stood there for the longest time, seemingly unable to figure out that they could 1) fly over the fence (they are very good flyers!), 2) go out through the open gate that was right in front of them, or 3) turn around and walk out the way they came. It began to rain, and they looked pretty pathetic. Finally, D took pity on them, went out to the yard, and gently shooed them out through the gate at the back of the yard.

Fun facts! Turkeys are among the fastest fliers of our land birds. And...they roost in trees. High up in trees.

People love to make jokes about wild turkeys ending up on the Thanksgiving table. But you wouldn't want to roast one of these birds; they are dry-fleshed and gamy, unlike the domestic birds bred for the table, which are bred to be fatty and tender. If you are ever lucky enough to obtain a wild turkey, don't try to make it into a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Instead, braise it with red wine and good-flavored stock, starting with a soffrito of leeks and root vegetables. Serve with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beef Pot Pie

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Is there anything nicer on a cold night than a home-made pot pie? Chunks of tender meat and sweet root vegetables, folded into a savory gravy and tucked under clouds of home-made biscuits?

Pot pie is easy to make, especially if you have the right leftovers on hand. Last week I made a nice pot roast, with plenty of vegetables in the gravy, served with boiled potatoes. Now, the leftovers are fine on their own, but they also can form a great base for a very nice, quick pot pie. And if you make time-saving cream biscuits as described below, you can have it in the oven in 20 minutes.

Start by preparing the filling. Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Cut the leftover beef (or chicken, or turkey!) into bite-sized pieces, add the leftover potatoes, and (cheating on this one), half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. (Normally I would cut and cook fresh vegetables, but it was already 7pm and we were hungry.) You can also use other leftover vegetables you have on hand, especially peas, corn, carrots, winter squash, green beans and the like. Choose vegetables that are not too strong-flavored (no broccoli here, please), and which will hold their shape. If needed, stir in some well-flavored stock to moisten the filling, as the biscuits will soak up some of the gravy during the baking. Turn the mixture into a casserole that is 3"-4" deep. If it's too shallow, the filling will spill over. If it's too deep, the biscuits will not brown and rise evenly. I ended up with about 5 ½ cups of filling, which was just right for this old-fashioned casserole dish.


Put the casserole into the oven before you make the biscuits to heat the filling thoroughly. This is very important. If you put raw biscuit dough on cool or even warm filling, the biscuits will bake properly on their upper surfaces, but will end up undercooked on the bottoms, which is unappetizing and wasteful. When the filling is heated to 400˚F or so, the biscuits will cook from the bottom and the top, and they will be perfect. This is the secret to good pot pie!

While the filling is getting hot, make the cream biscuits. Combine:

2 cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour (don’t bother with other brands)
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional, but I add it)


Add all at once 1 ¼ cups heavy cream:


Blend quickly. The dough should come together easily to form a rough ball. If it looks like this…

 …then you need more liquid. Add a bit more cream – say, a quarter cup:


That's better:


Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface:


Knead with a very light touch just until the dough is smooth and cohesive, about a half-dozen turns, or about thirty seconds:


The goal here is simply to distribute the ingredients and smooth out the dough a little. Over-kneading will result in a tough, chewy biscuit. This is altogether a different sort of kneading than is used when making yeast breads.

Roll or pat the dough into a circle about ¾” thick. As with the kneading, use a very light touch. It’s better to end up with an irregular shape than try to manipulate, re-roll, or re-knead. With biscuits, less handling is always better.


Cut the dough into any shapes you like, depending on the shape of your casserole dish. For my round dish, I could have simply cut the dough into rounds or wedges, but I remembered that I have this heart-shaped cutter:


Remove the scraps from between the cut shapes:


Now, what to do with those scraps? Don’t bother re-rolling and re-cutting; they’ll just get tough. Enjoy them as they are! Put them on a little baking pan and throw them in the oven to bake when you take out the filling. Here they are - overbaked by about five minutes. They were a bit crunchy, but still good!


OK, back to the pie. Remove the hot casserole from the oven – the filling should be boiling hot. If it isn't, give it a stir and return it to the oven for a few more minutes. Here's the bubbling hot filling:


Put the biscuits carefully on top of the hot filling. They will start to cook at once, so plan carefully before you start laying them down.


Put the pie in the oven and bake for 10-20 minutes, until the biscuits are as brown as you like them. The timing will vary depending on the size of the pan and the size and thickness of the biscuits, so watch carefully after just ten minutes. Here’s the pie, ready to serve:


Notice that the biscuits are nicely puffed on their lower surfaces, incidating that they cooked all the way through.

This beef pot pie was delicious! And so easy to make from leftovers and “pantry” ingredients. It took about a half hour of prep time, plus about 15 minutes in the oven.


All my recipes may be viewed here:
http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20All

They are further organized as follows, with some overlap:

Breads http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Breads
Desserts http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Desserts
Fruits http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Fruits
Main Dishes http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Main%20Dishes
Meats http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Meats
Soups and Stews http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Soups
Vegetables http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Vegetables