Blog & Photo Journal Archive

Oct. 15th, NYC

Happy Birthday, Mum… you would have been ninety-nine…  Exactly 9 months since I last posted on here… I should probably just quit doing this, but it sometimes helps to put things in perspective…

We got the Opera America grant (for female opera composers – that’s me!) in support o the Morris Graves project, so my time in March at The Lake, the Graves estate near Loleta, CA, was such a gift… 3 weeks of total isolation from the world, alone in nature, but taken care of at a distance – a good supper on a tray 5 nights a week, and loads of firewood delivered almost daily, by the Director (and janitor) of the Foundation, Robert Yarber, a truly lovely human being…  He and his wife were the only human contact I had… The beautiful studio, Desiree’s grand piano in the main house, Morris’s library, the forest, the lake, the birds, the frogs, the quiet… the rain, the sun, the wind, the trees, the spring flowers…. I wrote about 40 pages of music, by hand (no computer allowed, no phone, no radio, no nothing – no photos), walked a lot, played the piano every day (it needed it, much neglected, tho’ they had had a technician give it a thorough overhaul and tuning before I arrived, bless them) and read a lot of great books from MG’s library.  I got really grounded, and back to myself, having spun quite far out before leaving New York (the Wau-Wa recording session being the nadir…).

I did a solo gig in SF on my way home, which was a lot of fun – a house concert at Beth’s – and a 4tet gig in NY in early April which was the high point for me – I forgot how much fun I have doing that (planning to do it again next month).  Brad Jones was a great cover for Greg, plus Matt and Charlie, my two angels… at the Parlor Series, a lovely old Chelsea brownstone, packed house, very appreciative – who needs clubs?? And then I headed across the pond to plant the garden and take care of sis.

June I made a mad dash to SF for the Opera America conference – a crazy thing to do, but I felt I had to show up since they gave us the money for BIRD.  Way too many people, all in suits – it was less about the Art of Opera than the Business of Opera – but I learned quite a lot – most importantly from Ben Krywocz (so great to hook up with him again), who told me about the fact that in Greek there are two words for “life”: Bios, meaning “a life”, hence biography; and Zoe, meaning “Life”, hence zoology.  We are definitely after the Zoe, not the Bios… After an exhausting 4-days of too many people, I then had a 4-day vacation visiting various friends and family – Santa Cruz, Sausalito, Point Reyes – oh yes…  Then back across the pond to a much-improved sis – so nice to have our good sister friendship back…

August I returned to NY, including a week upstate with Joan, working on the libretto (and finding the occasional swimming hole).  Jenny Collins lent us her beautiful big house with grand piano and we got a lot of work done, tho’ not all. I gave Joan a hard deadline of Sept 1st to get me a completed draft of the libretto, and she did, so I gaily headed to Montalvo for the month of September, to hole up once again and write. How lucky can a girl be?  My third and final month there, finally, and perfect timing… Yet another exquisite environment in which to dig deep for the creative juice… Beautiful time of year to be there, the light, the redwoods, the Bechstein grand… Made a couple of weekend trips up to the city, including a major hike to the very northern tip of Point Reyeswith old friend Wendy Parkman; and dear Gail Bernstein’s memorial service in Berkeley; plus a trip south to see the family and take the kids to the Monterey Jazz Fest – Steven was playing with MTO West and got me 3 day passes, bless him.  Elfin (eldest nephew) had just left his family and I reckoned the kids could use a distraction – it seemed to work… but damn… life…

Joan then picked me up and drove me up to Humboldt for a week of rehearsals with singers, to hear what it was I had just written.  Lucky again. Joan took great care of me, and the singers were a good bunch – lovely folk, good voices (the tenor is really pretty great), and willing to go outside their comfort zone… I should have hired a pianist as well – I can’t play everything I write, and it’s hard to really hear what’s going on if you’re concentrating on finding the notes…  next time… But I’ve made a good start, tho’ there’s still a long way to go… Meanwhile Jane Hill is doing some serious fund-raising for the other half of the budget – thank you! It includes my fee…

And now it’s autumn in New York – make the most of it… Hard to talk about the political environment of my two countries, they have both gone from bad to worse. And I fear it’s only going to get worse still – but I must, WE must, hang on to hope – which is not the same thing as optimism – hope that we will see our way through all this… our 45thpresident threatening civil war while we start the impeachment process, and the UK prime minister dragging the country towards a no-deal Brexit in a couple of weeks’ time, even tho’ it has been declared illegal by Parliament… jesus me beads, as mum would say… glad she’s not here to see it all… tho’ like David Robertson I would love to hear what she had to say about it all… Stay tuned…

 


Jan. 15th, 2019, NYC

2019… wow…

Tempus has fugited big time… I have been just leading a life, and somehow 5 months have gone by… The autumn was spent partly here, partly in Texas, partly in Menorca – perhaps that’s why… I’ve not actually just been sitting on my ass in Westbeth, which is what it feels like at the moment – altho’ I am currently decked out in multiple sweaters, hat and gloves, the heating being somewhat impaired as a result of the great Build It Back campaign – the longer I’m here the more dysfunctional the building seems to get – but I’m not complaining…. I just bought a sofa that someone in the building was selling off cheap – not as elegant as the one I have, but bigger and a hell of a lot more comfortable (taking a leaf out of my sis’s book), so perhaps I can leave my bed in the alcove and read and nap in the sunshine just the same – verremos… I still have to figure out how to a) get it down into my apartment and b) how to get rid of the old one. Meanwhile we have a Kamikaze concert in about 10 days, so I am vainly trying to get my chops together…

Texas was a success, ultimately, although I seem to have had a sinus infection since then that I can’t shake – such ghastly weather, insanely hot and humid, and equally insane air conditioning in the hotel, how can anyone live like that?? I finally had a CT scan today, verremos otra vez… I couldn’t possibly record a book like this, if they ever offer me another one… or record, which we’re meant to be doing in February with Mr. Wau Wa.. The Alley went the distance, paying for as much recording time as we really needed, and it ended up sounding really good… Then on to Seattle, Ellensburg, Portland and Eugene – reunions with RB and Cathy, Joanne P, Sue and Mona, then Calliope and the big Ray hang – another grand reunion of an old tribe – it seems to be that time… really worth the effort – particularly as dear Ray then passed away in his sleep a couple of weeks later – he was done… we got it right, for once….

Thanksgiving, Solstice and Christmas in New york, all vintage – Nyack, Westbeth (a really good party this year) and Brooklyn (Beka & family), including Midnight Mass at St. John The Divine, always a treasure… And then to Belfast for the 50th, and final, Henry Tonk memorial New Year’s Eve Banquet. Getting on the ‘plane – actually, getting TO the plane at Stewart International Airport – I thought I was absolutely mad to even think about it, but it was totally worth it. Not just the Banquet – 12 courses (actually about 42), 12 entertainments (actually about 26) and 12 hours (actually almost 14), for a maximum of 60 people, about 20 by the end – but also, and even more so, the days of pre- and post- hang…. rekindling old friendships – neither Fred nor Gerry had changed one iota, nor Charles and Jackie; re-connecting with Doff Pollard, who lives in Whitby so I hopefully will see her in the spring when I return to Cotherstone (more about that anon); and then making new ones – many duets with Peter Nelson, ex-prof of my alma mater and all-round good egg, and getting to know Susan Herivel, John’s girlfriend before me and a great find… and of course John and Marcus – and Joanna, who managed to feed the five thousand every day for a week, somehow, without batting an eyelid, even with the most dreadful case of the lurgie… John built a giant Henry head as the centerpiece for the banquet stage (flanked on either side by King Kong, of course) – the head then had a ceremonial immolation the following evening – satisfyingly final, altho’ it was generally agreed that all was not over and that things would continue, tho’ not necessarily in the same form – midsummer bonfire with rites, anyone?

I shared a lovely Airbnb with the Lambla clan for the first 5 days, which was enormous fun – finding costumes, planning and making banquest courses and entertainments, reminiscing – and then spent the last couple of days at Sans Souci with Marcus and Joanna (and Susan and various others – a constant stream of visitors). Belfast has become a major international tourist destination – I went to the ‘Titanic Experience’ on Jan. 2nd, something rather more than a museum, very well done – not the sort of thing I generally would go anywhere near, but I thoroughly enjoyed it – most of all the SS Nomadic, the Titanic’s tender that is tied up nearby and is definitely my kind of ship – that gets my vote for the next banquet, if there is one. Altho’ it was all quite quiet, relatively, being the day after New Year, I was surprised at all the international tourists – turns out Game of Thrones was filmed in the countryside around Belfast… that explains it… good for them, altho’ tourism really is a the modern plague. I see it here in NYC, in Menorca, everywhere… I also got in a good visit to the Botanic Gardens , and the Ulster museum, where the Ulster Academy show was up, including pieces by both Marcus and Joanna, an all round startlingly good exhibition, and two fabulous dragons hanging in space on the top floor – more Game of Thrones, no doubt, but happy for it…

Meanwhile, back in NY … I have been offered a 3-week residency at the Graves Foundation in March – 3 weeks of isolation in the beauty of the northern CA landscape, no phone, no computer, no nothing, on my own. March was my 2nd choice, my first being late July early August, a time much beloved by academics, so little wonder they took me up on my less popular offering. So, altho’ tho I could devoutly have wished to stay home for another month, I will be heading west at the beginning of March, to start work on the Morris Graves piece with Joan Schirle. I applied to Opera America for funds – I should really have asked for funds to further Vagabond, but I figured Joan’s grant writing expertise gave me a better shot… I shall get none either way, so what does it matter?

I spent a week in Cotherstone in November, on my way back from Menorca, and hooked up with a woman who offered to help me airbnb the cottage – she does it with her cottage in the village (next door to Madeleine’s old place)- she’s made a real go of it for herself, so maybe she can help me – verremos yet again… after 5 years of coasting, it’s time for things to pay their way or say bye bye – time to get real….  I also had a final stay at Stopover Hall with Moppet & Johnny before leaving, complete with a soak in the biggest bath tub known to mankind – they move to the Farm before the end of the year – the end of an era, but Wal-E continues to reside in the barn, bless them…

I can’t bear to talk politics – both of my countries are so f****d I can’t bear to think about it…. the only good news is that we took back the House in November… now, if we could only NOT go through with Brexit, we might stand a chance to get back on track… wishful thinking, I’m afraid… On a more positive note, I have finally and belatedly taken up yoga – I am going twice a week, and oh how I wish I had thought to start this 30 years ago… What will this year bring?? God speed all who sail in her… and a Happy New Year to all…


NYC Sept.19

I have re-discovered the juicer… Given to me by my friends after the diagnosis back in 2016, I drank vast quantities of green juice to get me strong for surgery, only to have them tell me afterwards that dark leafy greens were bad for me – well, counter-productive to the meds they swore I had to take… so I stopped juicing – boo hoo… but the lightbulb finally went on, and I am now a convert to apple/beet/carrot/lemon juice – wow, makes me feel like superwoman.. go go go! hooray for juicers…


September 2nd, NYC

And I am finally back, after 5 months’ absence – quite the culture shock…

The last few days in Palazzolo were definitely about event density… the saturday night performance, starting with smoke painting in the piazza and ending with the Italian Constitution being copied out by the citizens – with music (me) in between – and finally a late-night pizza hang at the orphanage, where the clay oven had been built.  Rosemarie and I barely made it home, we were so tired…and the following day (Sunday) the third and final trip to Buscemi, for the celebration of their patron saint, the Madonna del Bosco – the fabled Dancing Madonna, as the burly men bounce her statue up the street to the strains of the brass band and the pealing of every bell, followed by the totally mind-bending explosion of confetti and streamers – we were right underneath it all, fabulous – I much prefer the small town as opposed to the bigger ones…. and so my trip ended as it began, with fireworks and Banda and processions – yay!

.

I then had two whole days with the family on the finca – Chris, my beloved nephew, and his lovely new girlfriend Catherine – an afternoon kayaking to Isla del Colom. and an expedition to Cavalleria with Bett and her kids… plus three great dinners on the patio… sis in good form…

and so back to New York… what a shock… luckily the current heat wave had just broken, and the next one starts tomorrow, when I head to Houston for the start of 12th Night rehearsals at The Alley…. jet lag has been brutal – after 5 months away, my body is totally on the other side… I am seriously sleep deprived..


Blog & Photo Journal Archive