I Have Had Singing

Last Week was rehearsal week. The concerts were Saturday and Sunday, and they went beautifully. Good audiences despite quite a bit of competition, and performances that were worthy and reflective of the effort that went into their making. As I commented before, there were several pieces that really resonated with me, so I really enjoyed the concerts. The week was intense. The concerts were intense. And, now, for a while, nothing—we are finished for this season, and I already miss it.

The title of this post, I Have Had Singing, is the title of a choral work by Steven Sametz, a wonderfully creative composer and the Choral Director at Lehigh University. This piece was not on our concert this year, but I have sung it several times, and I often use the title to express how I feel at this time of the year, when the season is over and the summer hiatus has begun. The text of the piece comes from a work by Ronald Blythe called Akenfield, Portrait of an English Village.

“The singing. There was so much singing then, and this was my pleasure, too.
We all sang, the boys in the fields, the chapels were full of singing, always singing,
always singing. Here I lie. I have had pleasure enough. I have had singing. I have had singing.”

That’s how I feel today. I have had singing. It was my pleasure. But, for the moment, I have had pleasure enough. It is time to be immersed in the beautiful memories.

When fall arrives, it will be time to take up singing again to create more beauty and spread loving kindness to our audiences. Our first concert, in September, is at the ruins of Quarai, one of the three Spanish missions in the Salinas Valley in New Mexico. We sing in the church, which has almost complete walls, but no roof. The Park Service brings in chairs (much better repose than the dirt floor), and we sing to between 125 and 150 people on what is usually a glorious Sunday afternoon. Then it will be time to take up singing once again.

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Concert Week

I sing with a men’s ensemble called de Profundis, Latin for Out of the Depths. We have concerts this weekend, which means 3 rehearsals this week. We are 14 singers plus a director who perform a wide variety of music from the renaissance to last week (sometimes even the arrangement of the hour–our director is a composer and arranger), and in a wide variety of languages. This concert, for example, includes an Indian raga, in some language from the Indian subcontinent, a Russian church piece (many of those are Old Slavonic, but this is composed and is actually Russian), a Palestrina piece in Latin, a Schubert piece in German, and a piece in Georgian. We also sing in a variety of venues, and did a preview of some of this repertoire a couple of weeks ago at Ghost Ranch and the Benedictine Monastery “across the road” (“across the road” also includes the 15 miles down the dirt road on the other side). Look here for more about those events.

The language component is an important part of the group’s personality. We live in a Spanish speaking area, so there are many pieces in Spanish. At the winter concert, there is always Hebrew. We have sung Chinese, Japanese, and Tagalog; French and Italian; African languages, Eastern  European languages; Inuit and other Native American languages, and, sometimes, even English. Last spring, we went to Wales, so we sang several pieces in Welsh (surprisingly hard). A few years ago, we did a Christmas piece in Slovenian. At intermission, a couple appeared who identified themselves as Slovenian. They said they thought they were the only Slovenes in the city, and they were so grateful to hear their language in an unexpected place.

This concert is about Transformations, one of the most familiar being death. For example, I do not sleep (“Do not stand by my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep…”) by Darryl Lynn Wylie, Sing to me of Heaven by Daniel Gawthrop, Come Sing to Me of Heaven arranged by J. Aaron McDermid, and Loving Kindness by Stephen Paulus, which I wrote about here a few days ago. I found that I resonate strongly with several of them. I even said “I want to hear that at my funeral” a couple of times (not that I am expecting that any time soon).

I have enjoyed preparing this concert. I love the group. I love the music. And, I love presenting the concerts, but this week is very intense, and I will also love being past the concerts.

Magic Shoes

The shoes are great. Since I got them, I’ve been faster over familiar routes every time I’ve worn them. Despite the miserable conditions, my half marathon time was almost 14 minutes faster than the previous time. Even with possible explanations of why the previous time was so bad, the results are hard to explain except by looking at the shoes. One daughter says they are magic. Another calls them cheaters.

My times over a 5 mile route around my home are interesting to observe. I have a schedule that is easy to follow on the run when fatigue makes calculation difficult. Five miles is 8k. My schedule is 2k in 15 minutes (yes, I know that is slow–no need to point that out). My 5 mile (8k) route has some long hills whichever way I go around it, so my times have always been behind schedule, even when my times on a flat route are on or ahead of schedule. I’d been running 2:30 to 3:15 behind schedule. New shoes, new times. 1:15 behind. On time. 1:15 ahead. 2:30 ahead. I just kept getting faster–more so than my lackadaisical approach to performance improvement would suggest was reasonable.

Magic seemed like an explanation, but I don’t believe in magic, so I decided to examine the shoes. It took quite a while, but I finally found out what was happening. First there was the discovery of a bunch of little holes in the sole and the outsides of the cushion material. The ones in the outsides were directed down and back like the ones in the sole. I tried probing the holes, but didn’t get anywhere. Then, with some help from a friend, an x-ray showed air chambers in the cushioning material connected by little tubes to the holes in the sole. Why? What is going on here?

Lots of pondering to no avail. Then it hit me. Foot strike compresses the air in the chambers. Little jets of air come out the holes. They literally blow your foot off the ground and forward (because of the angle of the tubes). The result is to lengthen your stride and effectively lighten the shoe. Faster turnover rate plus longer stride, even by just a little, means you cover the ground in less time.

When I first wore the shoes, I thought the foot plant felt somewhat unstable. I now realize that the feeling came from not properly managing the air jets. Since then, I have unconsciously adjusted my foot plant, and the feeling is now stable. Further conscious adjustments will let me take advantage of the air jets and bring my times down much more. Another 14 minutes next time? Back on track for 2 hours.