In less than four months, I’m flying off to China to sing in the Pre-Olympic International Choral Festival with the Rochester Oratorio Society. My group will be first U.S. choir in history to perform in Beijing’s Great Hall of People, a venue usually reserved for political events.
To get ready for the trip, I’m learning new music and reading Fodor’s latest travel guide. But nothing captures the spirit of a place like a novel or movie.
A faithful, sharp-eyed reader of this blog pointed out that in my recent post about singing, I never translated the Latin phrase from Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, “Tu devicto mortis aculeo.” This bugged her.
So here it is. It means “having blunted the sting of death.”
In the middle of the concert, I suddenly realized I had no idea what I was singing. “Tu devicto mortis aculeo.” Activate dimly-remembered high school Latin. “Mortis.” That’s death. OK. That’s sad. But what if it’s victory over death or something? I study the conductor for clues. Normally leaning forward with a look of hawkish concentration, he’s tilted back on his heels, torso curved, mouth open, eyes half-closed. He looks enraptured, like the sound is a glittery syrup filling his spinal column. Arms swirl. No clues there. I slice a look to the tenors for help. Andy and Dennis are leaning forward, singing intently, expressions neutral. I reset my features and turn the page of Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna. I’m blanking out.
Two days after announcing his retirement, Mordecai stopped by the office today to check his mail. He's getting a steady flow of calls, e-mails, and cards. He joked that he was proud to be lining the bottoms of birdcages, since he was in the local paper yesterday.
I feel happy for him, but sad, too. I grew up listening to him. For a generation of Western New Yorkers, he’s as endearing as Mr. Rogers. Mordecai LipshutzPhilip Larkin
Music in Our Schools Month needs a serious overhaul. First of all, the phrase itself - used to describe a national, month-long festival of in-school performances - generates as much heat as Administrative Professionals Day, Root Canal Awareness Week, and Better Sleep Month combined. It smells like community service. It calls up images of gymnasiums awash with sweaty 6th graders, parents lolling like walruses on a beach. I hereby suggest that music teachers put their heads together and come up with a new title, one that preferably includes the words "righteous," "awesomemest," and "sweet."
I heard a lot of memorable concerts in 2007. One concert I still think about featured a guy with an electric viola. A few months ago, when I heard violist John Graham playing, I wrote,
“Graham moshed his way from a grinding, heavy-metal sound into a yearning, vaguely Middle Eastern mode. I was astonished by the range of sounds he made. He cranked out violent, robotic rhythms. He dug in, stripped horsehair strands off his bow, and played on even more forcefully. Later his instrument broke out in bluesy laughter. “Viola Sketches” proves composer Andrew Colella has struck a rich vein. More from him, please.”
Rochester’s first crazy busy concert week in March begins on a lamb-like day. Tomorrow, look for a cultural announcement from WXXI. On Wednesday, Eastman prof John Graham will pick up his electric viola to reprise Andrew's Colella's powerful Viola Sketches. More later. Tonight, the Rochester Oratorio Society sings at Roberts Wesleyan College in a concert unfortunately named “Choral Triptychs.” I’m singing in it. The music falls a little on the heavy Germanic side with music by Mendelssohn, Bruckner, Rheinberger as well as the flowing, inscrutable Lux Aeterna by contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen.