Monthly Archives: November 2008

PSA For Music-Types

In my zealous search for something that will distract me from my valid and time-sensitive work, I went looking for cello-friendly sheet music for “Gaudete” and “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Because I don’t have enough music to occupy me, evidently. I woke up thinking that “Midwinter” would sound absolutely gorgeous on solo cello, and “Gaudete” popped into my head too, likely as a result of one of the songs on the new Loreena McKennitt album that has the word in it. The version I want, though, is the trad. anon. one covered by Steeleye Span.

Going through regular sheet music purchase sites was useless. Then I found Gentle readers, it has just about everything you can think of in almost any arrangement that you might ever want for the season. Lyrics, vocal/melody line, guitar chords, instrumental parts for C, F, Bb, and Eb instruments that all work together… you name it. Everything in public domain, that is, which covers a decent cross-section of traditional Christmas stuff. Including “Gaudete” and “Midwinter.” Bless them.

So there, that is my Good Deed for the day: sharing a link with you.

I really ought to work.


As the cat panic-strickenly told HRH last night, and as the boy told me with great excitement this morning: SNOW!

See, snow now is okay. All the leaves are gone, it’s been bitterly cold, the calendar date is closer to December 1, and there are holiday decorations sneaking into the neighbourhood (although, thanks be to the gods, no one near us has turned them on yet).

So we have an inch-ish of snow on the ground. Although I see now that it is raining, so who knows how long it will stick around. I’d kind of like it to stay.

And I worked in bed last night after reading the boy the first chapter of A Bear Called Paddington.

Harpsichord Dreams:
New words today: 3,522
Total word count, Harpsichord Dreams: 10,302

I really, really wanted to hit 4K as a day’s work or 11K as a full count, but I’d been working for two hours and that after a full day of other work. Also, wow, it’s been a very busy past four days, and I am cumulatively zonked.

Today: my freelance stuff. Jan is stopping by for tea this afternoon, too, which will be a nice break.


According to the professor I delivered a kick-ass guest lecture on Neopaganism this morning (not her exact words, but my interpretation of them). As usual I completely misjudged the time. Out of the fifteen pages I got through ten in my allotted hour, and fielded some excellent questions from the students. (Good grief, there were something like seventy there. I am used to between seven and twelve.) And then a great brief discussion with some of them afterwards in the hall, and then a two-hour long talk with the professor over tea. A fabulous morning! And not only did she give me the usual university honorarium fee for speaking, she bought me — are you ready for this? — sea-salt caramels as a personal thanks. I kid you not. She’s a saint. I love her.

It felt really good to sit and talk with someone who is an academic and who comes at the whole spirituality/mysticism thing from a similar angle. It helps that she’s a recent mom and married to someone active in comics/SF fandom, too, I think. Similarities facilitate grokking (for the lack of a better term). I’m so glad we’ve finally met in real life instead of being online friends only.

I’ve just handed in my edits of the hearthcraft book. Let’s see if I can do a brief recap of the weekend before I have to throw myself into work again.

Friday: HRH takes a half-day off work to get the winter tires put on the car. He takes me out to lunch and we sit and converse like actual grownups. We both get haircuts. I take my latest US freelance cheque to the bank and make fifty dollars on it. That’s the kind of exchange rate I like! After the now traditional weekly homemade pizza for dinner I head out for the dress rehearsal for the concert. Sat on awful stacking chairs with metal frames and bent wooden seats. We do not sound awful. Pretty encouraging, actually. There is a double bassist! ( “He lives in Kirkland,” says our guest conductor. “Imagine!”)

Saturday: HRH puts the lights and garland up along the front balcony. We head out to Canadian Tire for a new scraper/brush (we break one every single year), replacement bulbs for the strings of lights, seat covers for the car, and a string of lights for the boy’s bunk bed. We have lunch out at the hot dog place. Everyone in the store and restaurant is curiously laid back, which makes HRH and I suspicious. The boy naps, and HRH heads out to Mousme‘s place to talk about painting it. I do work on the lecture notes. It feels like I spend most of my afternoon just kind of waiting for the concert; I hate that. We change and head out. The boy is very excited about going to the concert like a grown-up person. He and HRH drop me off for warm-up and head over to Tim Horton’s for a little snack. The concert goes brilliantly. The boy claps loudly and yells, “YAY!” after big exciting finishes. A little squirmy, a little out of it during the first part of the second half (translation: flopped over Dada’s shoulder and drowsing) but thoroughly awake when we play the Brahms Hungarian Dances. (I suspect we woke a few other people up, too.) People I expected to see are in the audience, as well as people I didn’t expect to see, which was a lovely surprise indeed. Many compliments on the contrasting dynamics (ha!) and general loveliness of the evening. In my rush to get the boy home I forget to drop off my music post-concert and also to grab my lovely red water bottle from under my chair. (I remembered it when we were on the highway. Fortunately someone picked it up for me.)

Sunday: More work on the lecture notes. We manage to get the boy to nap early to facilitate the going-to-a-cello-lesson thing later. I bake brownies. Wake boy up just before 2:30, bundle him and cello into the car. HRH drops us off at my teacher’s house. The other little boy does not join us to observe the younger kids’ lesson, alas and to the boy’s disappointment, so it’s myself, the boy, and a parent. The girls have lots of fun, and the boy observes them very quietly for the first half and gets a bit squirmy during the last half. He is particularly fascinated by a game where instead of playing a note when it occurs in the music (an F, for example, or an open string) they stand up then sit down in strict time and then play the following note. He starts standing up and sitting down too. Also very interested in them using a ball in the left hand to move around the fingerboard while bowing. He informs people importantly that he was at the concert last night. He does not embarrass me in any way (not that I expected him to) although he came close when he initially darted into the room between the instruments and both I and my teacher lunged after him, telling him to never, ever run around the cellos. (He knows this; we have the same rule at home. But it was a new place and had all sorts of exciting things to look at. He’s three, as we all keep forgetting.)

HRH returns to pick the boy up and take him to the b-o-o-k-s-t-o-r-e to play with the train layout. I tell him to come back for me between 5:15 and 5:30, closer to 5:30; he misunderstands me completely. We have our group lesson, which is great. We run a bit late and I dart out at 5:45… to find no one there. Apparently HRH showed up between 5:00 and 5:15 and gave up on me not five minutes before I emerged, thinking I must have said 6:15. The car arrives at 6:05. No harm done; it’s not like the weather is driving sleet or bitter wind.

HRH has picked up WALL*E on DVD while the boy and I are at the group lesson; we all go home and watch it while eating dinner. The boy is absolutely riveted, and despite the lateness of dinner and so forth we decide to allow him to watch the whole thing before going to bed. (After reading the last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner curled up with Mama and Dada in their bed, of course. See the earlier post.)

That, in a nutshell, was the weekend. There was a lot of music, which was lovely. I discovered yet again in the group lesson that I have a nicer tone than I think I do. It has been decided that I will play the first Bach minuet as a solo since someone else is now playing the third, which suits me just fine because that was the one I was going to choose anyhow. We got yet more new music. And I admit that I had to look up the music for “Twinkle” when I offered to play the theme while others played a great blues progression boogie-type thing under it. Yes, I am that lame; I need music for “Twinkle.” Also, it does wonders for the ego when I offer to switch from the group playing the theme to the blues progression to help support it and the teacher says, “If you do that I’ll be switching to the theme,” because it suggests I’m anchoring the part I’m playing with the others. Go me and my “Twinkle” skills! I really enjoy the group lessons. And I could feel a difference between my showing in this one as compared to the last one. I’m a lot happier with my sound, thanks to the tonalization work and the bow management I’ve been working on.

I was pleased with my showing at orchestra too. I nailed some of the harder scale passages and completely blew others (usually the ones I was confident about going into the concert, ironically enough). Turns out that we have a break at orchestra until early January. Our next guest conductor is very pregnant and is due next week or so, and there’s only one available date in December for our usual rehearsal space. So rather than trying to figure it all out we’re taking a six-week leave.

Okay, I think that’s everything. I have some serious writing to do this week as well as that freelance assignment, so off I go.

Good Grief, and Busy Busy Busy

I just made a complete fool of myself while reading the end of the last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner. You know, the one where Christopher Robin talks in thinly veiled terms about Growing Up to Pooh and asks him obliquely to be understanding if/when he Changes? Yeah. Complete mess, that’s me.

Awesome weekend. I am so very proud of my boy for all sorts of reasons. Excellent concert, too. Don’t have time to write a full post at the moment because I’m touching up my Real Live University Lecture for tomorrow morning (what do I leave in? what do I take out? what’s important info? what tangents can I predict? how much time will this take? how am I going to mess this one up?) and there are all kinds of Eep happening. The most I’ve done in the past is lecture college students. Fortunately the teacher is very supportive and encouraging and understanding!

After I get home from the lecture I have to do the last scan of the hearthcraft MS and send it in to my editor, then throw myself into the latest (time-intensive, alas and argh) freelance assignment, which is due back Wednesday. Yikes.


I’ve just written, translated, and sent off the regretful decline of the reconstruction quote for the Mystery Cello. I’ve been putting it off because I haven’t wanted to formally call an end (albeit temporary) to the dream. But it’s been a month (not that I intended to let it languish that long in my inbox, dear god, where did November go? scratch that, where did 2008 go?) and it’s irresponsible to let the affair drag on any longer.

So I wrote a thank you and and an explanation of why we had to wait, and reinitialized my search for a 7/8. I should put my 4/4 up for sale as well to free up more money, but I’m enjoying the sound it makes in my lessons and I’m clingy when it comes to things like big resonant instruments that have been my companion for fifteen years. My teacher has assured me that if it sells before I’ve found a new one I can use the cello she still has from before she bought the beautiful one she uses now, which is lovely and mind-boggling but somehow I doubt I’ll be caught without one. I see the same celli up for sale online all the time. I also have no idea what to ask price-wise for the one I’ve got. I’ll talk to the luthier when I’m next in. I just wish I didn’t feel like I’d killed something heartlessly.

Anyway, I am consoling myself with, and actually beginning to revive my interest in, trying 7/8s again. In the meantime my teacher has somehow suckered me into playing a solo at the Christmas recital in three weeks. I suspect I agreed because she proposed it so nicely (in the “possessing, marked by, or demanding great or excessive precision and delicacy” definition) and didn’t make me feel like I was being railroaded into it. What I wanted to ask, but didn’t because I am shy and despite the fact I’ve played with her for seven years I’ve only been her student for a month, was who else was soloing and what were they playing. Because I’m doing a Bach minuet, and part of me is relieved because I played these things thirteen years ago, and another part is mildly squirmy because they’re in the Suzuki level 2 book, for heaven’s sake. I was playing sonatas before I stopped lessons before. Mind you I’ve lost a hell of a lot of decent sound production and technique since then, so these are reacquainting me with the basics, but still. Not that the people in the senior’s residence will care. They will be too busy being charmed by the six year old playing Suzuki book 1 pieces on her tiny cello .

Speaking of the six year old, my teacher told me yesterday that her next-door neighbour has a four year old who is obsessed with music and wants lessons. Generally the idea about children and lessons is not to bother until they can read (something about their ability to organize the info they take in, and I suspect so as not to utterly crush the joy they have in spontaneous music) but she knows that Sparky is also excited about the idea of music lessons, so he can play the cello like Mama does. So she has proposed that the two boys come to the group lesson on Sunday to see what it’s like. Our group lesson is divided into two halves, the younger students for the first hour, then a short social thing, and then the adults have an hour of group lesson. The boys would observe the younger group lesson, and if they are still as excited about things she’d think about maybe having a special series for them to learn about rhythm and other pre-formal lesson skills. She mentioned that the McGill Conservatory has a Very Little Musicians program that might do as well.

I told Liam about this Very Special Invitation last night and he was very excited. His first question was, of course, “What’s the little boy’s name?” “I didn’t ask,” I said. “I forgot that it would be important to you. I’ll ask when I see my teacher tomorrow at dress rehearsal.” So he went around for the rest of the evening telling his father and the cats that he and ‘the little boy’ would be watching a cello lesson. We’ll have to talk about proper etiquette and such tomorrow, both for the concert and the lesson the next day. The tentative plan for Sunday is to explain why he needs a slightly early nap and for HRH and I to bring him to the young group lesson, after which the boys can take off to the Thomas layout bookstore while I have my adult group lesson. If he’s unbearable after having attended the concert Saturday night we can call it off, and there’s always the option of HRH whisking him away from the lesson if he can’t sit quietly.

I looked at the calendar yesterday and realised that there was a Wednesday rehearsal, my lesson on Thursday, a dress rehearsal tonight, the concert on Saturday, and the group lesson on Sunday. Good grief. I’m also mildly freaked out about the amount of work that has to happen between now and Wednesday, because I’m teaching a real-live university class on Monday morning (subject: Neo-paganism, and I have an eight-page lecture outline and the dreadful feeling that I’m going to demonstrate an Epic Fail by somehow being unprepared… I always feel like there’s no good way to make the info flow logically) and have a coffee/lunch date on Tuesday and an assignment due for the evaluations Wednesday which is only about 30K words but revolves around examples drawn from Biblical stories and quotations so I’m going to be flipping through a Bible as I do it, which will slow things down.

Back to the cello stuff. I’m liking the sound that I’m (sometimes) producing in my lessons. It’s a bit of a juggling act because I have to remember things about my bow hand, my right elbow, my shoulders, the left wrist and elbow that we’ve been working on, and then all the usual technical music stuff too. But there was a point in yesterday’s lesson where I sounded good, and where I could hear and feel the vibration of the bow across the string in all the right ways. It feels sometimes like I’m not grasping very basic things, but things are improving in general at orchestra thanks to the new awareness I have of my body and how it moves, so there’s hope.