Category Archives: Weather, Seasons, & Celebrations

General Music Roundup, December 2017 Edition

Sparky and I had our cello recital this past Sunday, and that went very well. It was a terrific programme. Sparky played a Bach minuet (which he crushed, a triumph after some rocky patches this fall) and I played a Kreisler Rondino that presented some stupid challenges that shouldn’t have been challenges, except my brain and fingers decided they were brick walls. But we each pulled it off. Our group pieces were lovely, too, and our studio mates all had excellent performances as well.

After an amazing fall concert with the Lakeshore Chamber Orchestra, I’ve had to decide to take the next concert off because of low energy levels, high workload, and insanely circuitous traffic rerouting while the Turcot interchange is being rebuilt. I can’t face a commute over ninety minutes long each way at the end of the day, plus a two-hour rehearsal in between; not in deep winter. This will be the first concert I have planned to miss since I started playing with the orchestra in the fall of 2001. (Dear gods, I have been playing with them for sixteen years. I had no idea till I did the math.) (Planned to miss is critical, here; I didn’t plan to miss the concert three weeks after Sparky was born, I just… had to.) (Third parenthetical interjection: That’s forty-seven orchestral concerts I have played!!! Not including the three I did with the Cantabile orchestra.)

I bought a new bow this fall, a high-end octagonal Brazilwood Knoll through The Sound Post in Toronto, because I could finally afford it (thank you, ridiculously busy freelance life). This bow has been overdue for about seven years; my previous wood bow had a cracked frog due to a toddler-related incident and had started to warp, so I was playing with the heavy German fibreglass bow that came with my new 7/8 in 2009. The Knoll is glorious. I have no idea how I played with the fibreglass for so long. It’s bouncy but strong, flexible but sturdy. I love it. And for something purchased online, with just the help from one of the specialists at the Sound Post… I feel so incredibly fortunate. They were technically out of stock, but he pulled this in from the Ottawa store where they weren’t using it and had it rehaired for me at no extra cost. He offered me the next level of bow at a price midway between this one and that (a very generous offer), but I wanted this specific bow for the faux whalebone wrapping; my fingers have been reacting badly to wire wrapping. So he made it happen.

Owlet began piano this fall, and is zooming along. It’s her thing, and I’m glad we encouraged her to do this instead of violin; the piano avoids frustrating intonation problems as long as you’re hitting the correct key. She’ll do her first recital in the spring, and is looking forward to it. Right now she can play a four-page version of Jingle Bells with relatively decent rhythm, and her teacher is delighted (and somewhat dazed, I think?) at how well she absorbs information and how quickly she’s progressing. It’s not from excess of practice, that’s for sure; we think she just has good musical memory. She’s the first non-Suzuki musician in the house, and as much as I like the Suzuki philosophy I think this teacher and this programme suit Owlet just fine.

On Christmas Concerts and School Music Programmes

Let’s talk about school concerts for a moment.

We joke about how they’re painful (oh, recorders; everyone has to go through that phase) and roll our eyes at the cheesiness, but you know what? They’re important. And I love them.

I just came home from Owlet’s holiday concert. It was smooth and energetic and well-organized; all the kids were focused and committed. It was terrific. They had multiple classes from different levels cooperating on their pieces, and it only lasted an hour as a result.

Those two music teachers, one from each branch of the school, worked ridiculously hard. It’s easy to teach an individual class something during their music block and have the kids perform it. It’s not so easy to coordinate three different classes from two different streams to do that.

These concerts — no, music classes in general — are important because kids learn stuff. Music is math. Music is following instructions. Music is learning how to take separate blocks of something and put them together to make something bigger. Music is learning to function as a larger group and co-operate toward a common goal. Music is problem-solving on a group level: how does my part fit in, how do I blend, how do I match my intonation to that of those around me? Music is focusing in a way that’s not quite the way you concentrate in an English or civics class. Music is taking turns. Music is respecting the people around you, listening when it’s someone else’s turn to play. Music is sharing with an audience.

School music class is often the only chance kids get to sing or dance or play an instrument. Our family is ridiculously fortunate in that we prioritize music and each kid gets lessons, but not all families have that opportunity or have a different priority. Investing in this at the school level offers students so much, and I am so grateful to the schools my kids attend for making sure music is still a focus among their other disciplines. With the cooperation of a local high school and by collecting freewill donations at the school concerts, Owlet’s school has acquired 60 alto recorders and a set of boomwhackers to add to the existing ukuleles, xylophones, and wind instruments since last year. I am thrilled that they continue to invest in their musical programme.

Five Things Make a Post

Or something to that effect. That’s how this used to work.

1. I have just signed a contract to work on a second edition of one my books that recently fell out of print after a decade. This is pretty exciting. It’s basically an update, tightening it up and refocusing it a bit for a new audience. It’s due back to the publisher around Easter, and will be (re)released this fall.

2. I am currently working on a different exciting project that I can’t say anything about because it Doesn’t Officially Exist Yet. It came about via networking (in other words, a series of instances where I was referred from one project to another and recommended back and forth); I don’t think I’ve written an actual CV in ages. Anyway, it’s forcing me to develop in a different direction, because (a) it’s scriptwriting, and (b) it’s not traditional scriptwriting. I’m learning as I go, and I’m so grateful for the support of fellow writer-friends who are also scriptwriting people. The scheduling is kind of blowing my mind due to the nature of the project; it’s… weird, and unlike anything else I’ve worked on. I can’t really explain without getting into specifics. This one is due out sometime this spring.

3. Things proceed apace on the three-year series project I’m writing for. A deadline every two weeks; it’s very steady. (If you can count to three you have just realized that I am working on three big things at once, and yes, if I think about it for too long I start to get panicky. For now it’s all balancing out very well, especially since the two most recent projects just revamped their delivery dates.)

4. I gave bullet journaling a try last fall and while it didn’t work for me in the popular trendy BuJo-ing sense, it does work in a simplified sense of keeping all my notes and to-do lists in one place. I just have to remember to take it with me when I walk around the house or go out. Also, it pleases my pretty stationery/fountain pen/office supply side.

5. Yesterday I saw my doctor for a follow-up to the increased dosage of my medication that she initialized a month ago. While I am generally feeling better, I told her that I wasn’t convinced this was the long-term solution for me because of other effects it was having. My doctor agreed; she said that those side effects wouldn’t fade, and that she’d been thinking of proposing a switch to a different, newer medication anyway. So three days of a half-dose of my current medication, seven days off completely to clear it out of my system, then two weeks of a half-dose of the new one, then increase to the full dose… it’s going to be a rough four weeks. And then it’s going to take four to six weeks for the new medication to settle, too. (For those of you keeping score… why, yes, this time period does overlap with working on three projects at once, two of them large and with Significant Deadlines.)

Thank goodness winter is almost over. Things will get easier in general to deal with as spring rolls in. WInter just takes so much energy to cope with.

Farewell Santa

We will not be doing a Santa picture this year, because Owlet is dead set against it. Sparky is old enough to not need one, and I suspect he was humouring his sister these past couple of years. We were going to take this kids this morning and bring them to school afterward, but Owlet freaked out. It took a lot of negotiating, and even then she was trying to get us to agree to just have Sparky in the photo. We said we’d revisit it in the morning… and when we woke up it was -23 C before windchill, and the Santa we visit has an outdoor waiting line.

So executive decision: no, we were not going to wait outside with a whiny child who wanted to be anywhere but with Santa, because we are working really hard to limit stress for everybody. And then Owlet moped around the house, because she said she wanted to see Santa.

ANYWAY.

So that’s that. It looks like the Santa pictures are done for our family. In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised; last year she only agreed to do the photo if she could sit on a stool at Santa’s feet (which we were fine with, and offered this as an option this year as well), and in 2014 she said she didn’t want to see Santa, she wanted to just go have tea at DavidsTea, which was the treat I’d promised them for after we’d seen Santa.

Owlet told us last night that the boys in her class said Santa wasn’t real. Of course he is, we said. But he’s real in the way that he symbolizes the spirit of generosity, love, and sharing. That’s why there are so many Santas out there and they all look different. Her eyes got very round as she processed this. We’ve never tried to perpetuate the ‘Santa is a real person at the North Pole’ story, but we do have to address it every year. Which isn’t surprising; eleven and a half months is a long time to go between encountering the concept again.

So in place of a new photo of Santa with the kids, please enjoy this revisiting of pictures from the past five Christmases.

Welcome Winter

Well, no. It’s not exactly welcome. But it’s here and we might as well make the best of it.

(I admit that I am posting this (a) to get back into posting — which has been made easier by adding a plugin that fixes my photos so that they post the right way up when I update from a mobile device, and (b) to make my parents feel terribly smug about being somewhere warm and sandy while the rest of us are shivering.)

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The lilac tree across the street after an evening and morning of snow.