Take me out to the ballgame

We went to see the Washington Nationals last night. I lucked into four tickets through work, so Steve and I brought Seth and Ross. It was hot and steamy and sticky, almost unbearably so, but we were very brave and (mostly) stoically suffered through it until the middle of the 8th inning, at which point I could stand no more. Yes, I realize it’s July in DC, and don’t mistake my discomfort for surprise that the weather conditions were what they were. It’s just… yuck. So, Steve and I retreated to the relative comfort of Metro’s air-conditioned cars, leaving Seth and Ross to return at the game’s end (the youth have a higher tolerance for discomfort, apparently).

It was a pretty typical ballgame: I spent way too much on a red Nationals tee-shirt. I bought my oldest son beer. (!!) I explained to him about tipping the concession guys working the stands. We ate hot dogs. We got frustrated as the Nats fell behind by like nine runs, then excited as they rallied to beat the Marlins, 14-12. We cheered for the guys on top of the dugout to lob a free, rolled-up tee-shirt our way and made noise when the stadium signs demanded we do so.

But the most important thing I need to record here is that last night, at long last, I finally got the answer to something I’ve been wondering about for 22 years. You see, when Seth and Ross were babies, I would sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while I rocked them to sleep. The song is short and sweet, I knew every word (if you know me, you know that’s not always the case), and it worked like a charm. And, we were big baseball fans, so it made sense.

As I rocked and sang, I thought to myself, I wonder if someday, many years from now, my adult offspring will be at a baseball game and, during the seventh inning stretch, will start singing the song, then experience an overwhelming urge to go right to sleep, there on the spot, like some post-hypnotic suggestion or something. It was a funny image, to me, and I had mostly forgotten about it until we stood up in the middle of the seventh last night. At last, here’s my chance, I thought! Ever vigilant, I was ready to catch one or both of the grown men who still call me “mommy” if they crumpled and passed out in a dead sleep, but I tried to play it cool so they wouldn’t catch on.

Well, friends, I am here to tell you that the answer to the question is NO, they were not overcome. Nobody who was born in the 1990s went to sleep in row T behind the first base dugout. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed. C’mon, it’d have been funny! On the other hand, their persistent consciousness did save us all from mild embarrassment. It felt… anticlimactic. Womp womp.

As we sat back down, I told them the story. They pretended to be amused. Oh, that mom of ours, they probably thought, exchanging knowing glances and rolling their eyes as I looked in the other direction. That’s completely silly and would never happen in real life. She is such a piece of work.

Hey, I am just continuing in my own mother’s tradition. I’m almost 51 years old, but she still likes to tell stories about funny things I did or said when I was little. It’s what moms do. So get used to it, boys. We’ve only just begun.

 

 

Come hear Handel’s “Messiah”

IT’S TIME AGAIN FOR shameless self-promotion. Well, it isn’t exactly self-promotion: I am part of a much larger group, the National Philharmonic Chorale, and we are presenting Handel’s Messiah on December 16 and 17, 2017.

Together with the National Philharmonic, and four fabulous soloists, we do the whole thing, start to finish. (Well, most of it. There are always a few parts that we leave out.)

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To buy tickets, go here. Kids ages 7-17 are FREE! – but you do need to reserve a seat for them.

How about a little Messiah backgrounder? Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

And here’s some good history from Smithsonian Magazine:

Handel’s Messiah was originally an Easter offering. It burst onto the stage of Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The audience swelled to a record 700, as ladies had heeded pleas by management to wear dresses “without Hoops” in order to make “Room for more company.”

An Easter offering! From the same article:

“There is so much fine Easter music—Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, most especially—and so little great sacral music written for Christmas,” says Cummings. “But the whole first part of Messiah is about the birth of Christ.”

When I was at Dickinson College, we presented Messiah as a sing-along. (For fun, I just Googled, and found an archive photo from December 1986 that I am probably in! – though I don’t recall posing and can’t find my face.) It was big fun – we filled the recital hall each December with college and community voices and had a blast singing together.

Our performance with the National Philharmonic is not a sing-along – for you. But you can listen and appreciate this amazing work, performed by musicians from the DC-area community, just in time to get yourself into the Christmas spirit.

In case you can’t join us for this performance, here’s the Hallelujah Chorus, performed by the Royal Choral Society.

Send me a message if you need more information!

 

I sing

I AM ALWAYS HAPPIEST functioning behind the scenes, away from the spotlight. Not that I’m hiding; I just don’t much care to be the center of attention.

I have said of my job, you’ll know I’m doing it well when you don’t know I’m doing it. I could say the same about singing. I have sung solos (and not just karaoke), but mine is really not a solo-quality voice. But that doesn’t make me a soloist, any more than having skied a few times makes me a skier.

I am a choral singer. I read music and sing what’s written, adding interpretation according to the director’s guidance. I don’t improvise. I’m at my best when I’m blending with others who are singing the same part, or harmonizing with those singing other parts.

I am an alto. We altos approach our supporting role with the quiet confidence of those who know they are able singers, yet don’t need to sing the melody in order to prove it. (Don’t take offense, sopranos; I mean no disrespect. We can’t sing harmony if you don’t cover the melody.)

I am also an instrumental musician, I guess, though I’m a much better singer than I am an oboist or pianist right now. Frankly, that’s because I wasn’t driven enough to keep practicing my instruments once I maxed out my natural ability and things got hard.

(Kids, please – keep practicing.)

But singing, I’ve been doing for my entire life. My mom nurtured my sister’s and my love of music from our earliest years, teaching us how to hold the melody while she sang harmony, then the reverse. She could tell we had “an ear” for it. I have sung in choirs large and small through high school and college, and had singing roles in musical productions. (That time when I was Rose in “Bye Bye Birdie” and forgot the words to one of my solos is probably a big reason that I now prefer the company of other voices.) I learned many important skills during my years with the college-community chorale, including punctuality, NOT EVER TALKING during rehearsal and always, always carrying a pencil to mark music.

In my early years in DC, I sang with two different local choruses. Once the kids came, I limited my singing to my church choir. While I enjoyed being a part of leading worship through music, I came to realize that it wasn’t quite scratching a musical itch I’d developed.

15002474_10154490298515944_992126786823873657_oAnd that’s why, when a friend suggested I audition for the National Philharmonic Chorale two years ago, I jumped at the chance. It’s a large group, and we sing choral masterworks, usually with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, but sometimes unaccompanied. It has been a great thrill to be part of productions presented at the Music Center at Strathmore, in my home county, near Washington, DC. And, it’s been just the challenge I was seeking.

As a behind-the-scenes supporting type, I’m not given to self-promotion, but I do want to share something with you: We have a concert this coming Saturday night. Here’s a link to the page that lists all National Philharmonic shows this season, through June, including Handel’s Messiah in December. Some are orchestra-only, with soloists, and for some, the chorale also takes the stage. If you decide you want to come see us, send me a message – I can hook you up with a discount code for tickets and answer all your questions.

I cannot imagine a world without music in it, let alone one where I’m unable to sing along. I believe there is real magic whenever any group makes music together. I know singing does not come naturally to everyone, but it’s in my bones, deep in my soul. Music is a lifelong gift, and I’m so grateful for it in all its forms. I get to sing with a whole bunch of people who feel the same way. Please, come hear us!