The Sound of Musings

21 Mar

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the movie, The Sound of Music. I’m 45 years old. This means that one of my favorite movies of all time is older than I am. I am not alone in this love of The Sound of Music. There are many people who regard it as their favorite. People who know the lines, the songs, and even the exact movement of every character as they sang the songs or delivered their lines.

It’s like it’s a cult and they’re devoted fans.

I’m not that fanatical about it, but the movie’s endurance is rather interesting, I think. It means that of all the fancy, high-tech, special-effects-laden films that have been made over the last 50 years, this musical with the singing nuns and dancing children out performs them all. And it has Julie Andrews. Can’t forget about her.

When I was quite young, in the days before Blue Rays and DVD’s and even VHS tapes – not to mention re-releases of movies for the big screen – the only chance we had to watch something like The Sound of Music was at Thanksgiving or other holidays when they’d air them on TV. I loved those opportunities, and so did my older sisters. We’d scan the TV guide (the kind inserted into the newspaper, not the kind you could buy) to see what time it was coming on and we’d arrange our schedules so that nothing interfered with our watching. Because, after all, there were no DVRs, either, to mean that we could watch a televised show later on. It was then…or never.

And then one day I was invited to a friend’s birthday party. I was 10, I believe, so it was 1980. This friend lived on a commune, inhabited by a group of individuals who believed in a lot of things that my parents did not believe in, but for some reason my mom allowed me to attend the party. My parents considered them to be a cult…though probably they did not refer to themselves that way. Anyway, this…group…must have had a lot of money because, for the first time in my life, I saw a VCR and there, on the top of the stack of movies they owned, was The Sound of Music.

“You mean you can watch The Sound of Music at any time you want?” I squealed, amazed and impressed and excited beyond belief.

“Sure,” my friend shrugged. “Big deal.”

We were about to put it on but her mom said that the party games took precedence. I remember nothing about the games, just the disappointment I felt at being denied The Sound of Music. I do, however, remember that there wasn’t any birthday cake. Apparently sugar was against their religion.

But that’s neither here nor there. What is applicable is that, ironically, The Sound of Music has become, like the commune my friend was a part of, a cult classic, with a following of obsessive fans, and 50 years of sustainability under its belt.

Which, as far as I know, is a lot longer than the cult my friend was a part of. She – and the entire commune full of people – moved away not long afterwards and I’ve never heard of them again.

Funny thing, that. Quality lasts, I guess. And The Sound of Music has “lastability”. Danger, humor, love, music, children, nuns, Nazis…and Julie Andrews. Now there’s a description of a cult I could be a part of.

I guess it’s time that I learned the exact movements of every character so that I can apply to be a member. Care to join me? I even own it on Blue Ray, so we won’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to start learning…

A Duck Fan Through and Through

13 Jan

Oregon-Ducks

The truth is, life is easier when you don’t care about sports.

This deep thought occurred to me Monday night as I finally admitted to myself that three minutes of game play was probably not enough time for the Oregon Ducks to make up their point deficit against Ohio State in the college football national championship game. It was painful to admit. But it was, sadly, true. Ultimately, the game was a loss for my Oregon Ducks.

I never remember a time when I wasn’t an Oregon fan. My mom attended the U of O and ever since I was old enough to think about such things, I decided that I wanted to be a Duck when I grew up. When the time came to apply to colleges I sent my application off from my home in Germany and waited with baited breath to learn my fate. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I guess I was either very confident or very foolish.

When I found out that I was accepted I took it in stride. None of my classmates really knew anything about the U of O – they were mostly going to east coast schools – so I didn’t talk about it much, but I began secretly buying up green and yellow clothes and even a button-down shirt covered in ducks which I found in a German department store.

By the time I got to Eugene I dove into college life like a duck taking to water. Well, ok, I did have a few weeks of homesickness, in which the orange carpet of my dorm room absorbed more than a few tears, but I quickly came to love college and my life as a Duck.

I didn’t attend a whole lot of football games during my four years of school and I only remember going to one basketball game. I did go to a Track and Field invitational where I saw Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith Joyner and Carl Lewis running just a few feet away from me which was easily the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever seen in person.

You see, back then Oregon didn’t win many football games. It was fun to go to a game or two a year, but we went just to support our team, not to see a fantastic football game. It wasn’t until several years later, after I moved to Minnesota, that Oregon began to win consistently. Somewhere in there I married a U of Minnesota alum and we moved to Worthington and, much to my amazement, found out one year that Oregon and Minnesota were set to play each other in the Fiesta Bowl. That was a lot of fun in our household. (Oregon won, by the way. But the same match up happened a year or two later in which Minnesota won, so we’re even.)

And then, suddenly, Oregon seemed to blossom as a team. We were winning! We were on TV! It was exciting to be a Duck! Our perpetual underdog feeling was beginning to dissipate!

And then along came this year. It’s been amazing. We were winning (except for that Arizona game but we made up for that in the Rose Bowl) and we even had the first-ever Duck Heisman Trophy winner! Whoo hoo! We were even favored in the championship game!

But it was not to be.

Oregon has never won a national championship. Ohio, on the other hand, now has yet another trophy to add to their case. Yes, I’m bummed about that. “Number Two” doesn’t have the nice ring to it that “Number One” does.

But that’s life as a sports fan I guess.

Like I said, life is easier when you don’t care about sports.

And to that I say, Go Ducks!

Merry Christmas!

15 Dec

Ok, so I don’t usually post videos on here and this is the second one in a couple of weeks but it’s marvelous! So consider this my Christmas gift to you all! I laughed until I cried and I don’t do that very often! Somehow, combined with our recent performance of Handel’s Messiah, this was the icing on the cake! There are several different versions of this on You Tube but this is my favorite.

So I give you Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus as you’ve never seen it before!

My Orcas Island

3 Dec

Ok, so this is where I grew up. Can you understand my obsession?

The video is only 2 and a half minutes long. What better way to spend two minutes?!

Handel’s Messiah

26 Nov

Part of me doesn’t want to listen to Handel’s Messiah again for at least a year.

Another part of me wants to be back on stage again and again, singing it better each time, and reveling in the fun of the moment, the gorgeous soloists, the lovely accompanying symphony.

Part of me will not miss waking up singing a different chorus every day, wondering which one it will be today that follows me around incessantly.

Another part of me will miss having the background theme songs in my dreams.

I will miss having something to challenge me musically – it had been many, many years since I’d sung in a choir and what will fill that void? I will miss seeing new friends every week. I will miss the anticipation – several decades in the making – of singing this oratorio. For as long as I can remember – probably way back when my parents sang in it when I was a kid, Dad taking the bass solo and Mom the soprano – I have wanted to be a part of The Messiah.

In 10th grade, I missed out on singing the Hallelujah Chorus because I was ill. Had I known that it was a traditional part of the Christmas program at my school (it was my first year there) then I would have dragged myself out of bed and sung my heart out (probably infecting the entire soprano section in the process).

But I didn’t know. And I’ve been bummed ever since.

If I had a better voice – and a lot more ambition – I probably would have sung it long before now, as had many members of the chorus. But as it is, I second-guessed my presence in the rehearsal room every week! But I never wanted to quit. Not once.

As we performed the songs last night – to a sold-out crowd – I tried to enjoy the moment, to soak in the music, the ambiance. I was sitting right behind the bassoons with their fabulous, pure, deep notes, which was enough to practically make me swoon. And as for the soloists – well, I closed my eyes and imagined I was in Carnegie Hall, they were that good.

I wished I was sitting next to my husband so that I could hold his hand and share the moment, but he, a tenor, was much too far away in the 70-some member choir. It was fun singing with him, though. He sings a lot more than I do so I enjoyed the rare chance to at least be in the same group with him.

Handel’s Messiah actually features in our courtship. My parents had invited him over for dinner – it was the first time he met my dad, I think, though he’d met Mom before. He came into the house and we all sat down at the table and The Messiah was playing in the background. My dad turned to him and asked him if he know what the music was.

Colin smiled and replied, “Handel’s Messiah!”

Dad smiled in return and, with his smile, told him he had permission to court his daughter.

Colin swiped his forehead and said, “Phew! I’m just glad it was a well-known piece of music!”

Dad nodded. “You got lucky, young man.”

That all happened close to 20 years ago. Last night, sitting there beneath the bright lights, felt like the culmination of that moment.

At various times throughout the concert I squinted into the crowds and found our children, sitting with a dear friend of mine, and I couldn’t wait to hear what they thought of it all.

When it was all over – after the intermission, after the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra filled the auditorium with the marvelous strains of The Nutcracker Suite in the second half of the program and we’d sung Christmas carols (such a great entrance into the holiday season) and retrieved our coats and returned our music (a sad moment) our kids finally found us and hugged us and told us what they thought. Our youngest, at seven years old, said, “I loved it!” I asked her what bits she liked best. Without a pause she replied, “I don’t know. I slept through most of it.”

And that, my friends, is how our children keep us humble. Because Mom may be having an existential moment. But Lucy, lulled by the beauty of the music, just needed a nap.

Tunisia, 1987

18 Nov

Okay, full disclosure here: I’ve posted this basic story before. But that was three years ago and it’s timely given the season, so I’m posting it anew, with a few edits along the way. It’s like a re-run on TV that you can watch over and over…at least I hope it is.

I spent the Thanksgiving of 1987 in Africa. I can still smell the Sahara and taste the mandarin oranges.

Many moons ago, when I was 17 years old and still fondly dreamed that someday I’d be a famous opera singer, I took a trip to Tunisia with my best friend, her mother and aunt, and another friend. That’s right: five women (three of them still in high school) headed to Africa for Thanksgiving. Don’t you always think of Northern Africa when you think about Pilgrims and pumpkins? Okay, I didn’t either, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I was living in West Berlin at the time, so really it was just a small hop south. We arrived, along with a German-speaking tour group, in Sousse, Tunisia. From there we drove to Kairouan, where we spent most of our time. From the bus window I saw a sign as we drove: “Libya, 10 kilometers” (it might not have been that exact distance but it was close). “Oy!” I thought, “That makes me a little nervous.” Quadafi was causing a bit of a ruckus in those days and I had one of those, “I’m not in Kansas anymore” moments.

Those moments continued as we began to explore the town. We ditched the tour group (as none of us spoke adequate German to understand anything anyway) and struck off on our own. I was not accustomed to shops that sold hookas as casually as if they were tea pots. Nor was my friend. “Are those lamps?” she asked, curious as to the purpose of the curvy pottery. “No,” our other friend replied. “They aren’t.” We left pretty quickly after that.

This is the Mediteranean Sea from Tunisia, though not the exact beach I was on. Photo from http://www.panoramio.com.

We walked past that shop and headed to the Mediterranean Sea, no more than a block away. It was beautiful and almost empty, that beach. Sometimes we were the only people there. We collected tiny shells that we left in our hotel room to dry and which, by morning, had a residue all around them and on the counter beside them. I couldn’t figure out what it was. “Taste it,” my friend’s mother said, smiling, and sure enough, as I rubbed it with a finger there it was: salt. The Mediterranean had condensed on our countertop.

What I remember best is the Clementine seller. His was a constant presence every time we went to the beach. “Clementine, mandarine!” he would call with a sing-song tone, making both words rhyme. You could hear him coming from way down the shore. He would come up to us with a basket of mandarins, their tangerine-colored skins warm from the sun, and for a few cents we would buy them from him, choosing our favorites from amongst the dozens. Then he would shuffle off, calling his song to whomever could hear. Even now, 27 years later, when I buy tangerines from the grocery store, I think of that man and I sing his lilting song. I can hear it as clearly as if he were here beside me now. “Clementine, mandarine, clementine, mandarine!” I taught my kids his song and we sing it as we peel and pop the juicy segments into our mouths. Minnesota is a long way from northern Africa. But even here the memory of the soft sand in my toes, the aroma of the hooka shop, the desert heat, and the clementine-man’s song, all conspire together in my mind, leaving my mouth watering for more than just fruit.

PS – This mandarin basket isn’t my photo and I can’t figure out where I got it from. Sorry. Does acknowledging that make it okay?!

Well, How Do You Like Them Apples?

11 Nov
Too cool not to immortalize.

Too cool not to immortalize.

I headed out the door at about 6:00 on Sunday evening to bring a cup of hot coffee to my husband who was burning brush in the back yard. He’d been out for hours, and, despite the heat from the fire, I knew that he’d welcome the hot, thick, coal-black brew that I personally wouldn’t drink unless I was forced to by a fire-breathing dragon.

And even then I’d choke and gag.

I wasn’t wearing gloves – a foolish decision in the 30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures with wind gusts up to 40mph – so I held the covered coffee mug tightly and cherished the leaking warmth. Then I felt my pocket vibrate and, being the normal American cellphone addict, I had to check to see who was getting in touch with me on my lemon-yellow phone.

I reached one hand into my pocket, pulled out my phone, and saw though a haze of wind, cold, and tingling fingers, that someone from Freshly Pressed had tweeted about me on Twitter.

“What that heck?” I wondered, turning on the phone’s flashlight but not typing in my code to see the entire message. I got distracted right about then by the pitch black back yard and by my phone-holding hand which was quite cold especially when compared to my coffee-holding hand which was relatively toasty.

We have a big backyard. About 8 acres, with a meandering stream and lots of trees and grass that takes my husband 4 hours to mow, so as I traipsed back, following the glow of the fire, I forgot about the tweet I had received in my eagerness to get through all that blackness.

I reached my husband’s side. Handed over his coffee, gave him a kiss (while breathing in his smoky scent), and then said, “Oh! I think I might have been Freshly Pressed!”

“Really?” he asked in surprise. Not “I can’t believe that to be true” surprise but pleasant, “Are you sure you’re not imagining things?” surprise.

He knows me quite well.

I pressed the button on my phone, reread the partial message (“I think so, yes!” I said in a very happy tone.), coded in my ultra secret number, pressed the Twitter app, pressed “messages” and there, to my delight (and proving that I was a conclusion-jumper) it was proven to be true.

“I’ve been Freshly Pressed!”

The cows in the neighboring field were not impressed.

But I was.

Thank you so much to all of you new followers! I shall strive to not disappoint.

And to all of the rest of you who have suffered from a lack of Epiphany posts of late, I promise to do better.

I’m back!

Horray!
freshly pressed

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