Archive for the ‘singing’ Category

I hope you’re recovering from your turkey/ham/massive vegan feast and bunny cake overdose. I know I am. I’m at my sister’s in Saskatoon and while her cat still hates me I’m having a great time.

Tomorrow I’ll be flying back to Toronto, teaching, then opening for Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People at the Cameron House. So if you have nothing to do tomorrow night around 9:30 and you’re in the mood for some lounge/cabaret versions of Kurt Weill, New Order, and Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra songs, you are in luck.

I sat next to this man in "Foundations of Music Education" class in 2001.


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*Warning: this is kind of a long post. It does have a poem in it, though.*

I don’t know if I’ve told this story before. If I did, tough. It’s important to me.

When I was in 3rd year university one of the things I sang was a Poulenc song cycle called “Calligrammes”. (Yes, my fellow Poulenc nerds, I *know* it’s a mezzo/baritone cycle and much too low for me. I had a terrible case of mezzo envy at the time.). Never having sung Poulenc before, I asked my grandfather to get a me a recording of it for Christmas.

And either because he forgot the title or couldn’t find it alone or because he was just an extremely nice person, he bought me a 4-CD set of the entire Poulenc vocal oeuvre.

Now, when I was in school I worked part time shelving books at the music library. This was a boring and repetitive job made tolerable by a) it being less disgusting than working in, say, an orthopedic shoe store, b) the opportunity to surreptitiously browse while putting things away, and c) you were allowed to listen to your Walkman or Discman as you worked.

(Yes, the IPod hadn’t even been invented yet. That’s how old I am.)

So I took my new Poulenc box set and I listened to it over and over and over again as I put copies of “The Well-Tempered Klavier” and “The Best of Lerner and Loewe” back where they belonged. And I absolutely fell in love. Poulenc became one of my favourite composers.

Buried in the middle of (I think) CD 3 was “Parisiana”, a little 2-song set of poems by Max Jacob. The second one, “Vous n’ecrivez plus?” (Don’t you write anymore?) stopped me dead in my tracks. Partly because it sounds an awful lot like the theme from “The Muppet Show”, but also because it affirms the dignity of the artist stuck working a crappy job to survive.

Anyway, fast forward about nine years to when I started doing the lounge act. Mostly I do Kurt Weill, Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra, and New Order covers, but I thought “Parisiana” would fit in well. So I translated the first song, “Jouer du bugle”, fairly faithfully and added it to my set. But “Vous n’ecrivez plus?” stumped me.

So since I have a show coming up (April 26 at the Cameron House) I thought I’d finally take a stab at it. Instead of trying to translate Jacob’s very France-specific list of shitty Parisian jobs, I used my own list of Canada-specific shitty London and Toronto jobs. Here it is:

Don’t you write anymore?

Did I sell you your Toronto Star
At the local corner store
For you to say, in the Arts-Life page
That I’m immoral and insane?
That my verse goes from bad to worse
And I’m as bad as Charlie Sheen?
Did I make you a fancy drink
At Starbucks down at Richmond and Queen?
I turned in my hat – next one’s green!
Did I sell you a pair of shoes,
Clean your toilet and your room?
I don’t mean to bitch, whine or bait
Make you cotton candy at the fete?
Champion and judge of all,
Arbiter, if you’re arbitrating,
On Friday night against a bar.

If you want to hear it with music, come to the Cameron House on Tuesday, April 26, 9:30!

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You know, awful things are happening in the world right now – horrible earthquake and possible nuclear disaster in Japan, the squashing of labour rights and quite possibly democracy in Wisconsin, Rob Ford being the asshole 24% of the city voted for him to be – and so on. If I were religious and insane, I would think that perhaps the apocalypse were upon us. (Was upon us? Is it correct to use the subjunctive here?)

But I’m not either (I hope). What is happening right now is the global equivalent of losing your job and being diagnosed with cancer and witnessing your best friend get murdered all in the same week. What are the odds of THAT happening? Well, I don’t know – I’m assuming they’re very low – but given that there are 6 billion people in the world it probably happens every day.

So what can you do? Well, for starters, you can donate to the Red Cross or Doctors without Borders.* That’ll help the people of Japan. As for the other two examples, you can try not voting for assholes for a change.

And to keep your spirits up as you face living in a cold, hostile, and possibly irradiated world, you can come hear me sing tomorrow.

During the Blitz Londoners still went out to theatres and concerts, and they were facing a non-zero probability of being blown up by zeppelins. Don’t let the awfulness of this week keep you from enjoying the good things in the world. At least 700 people in Japan won’t get to do that any more, and none of us know when our own time is going to come. So have a little fun while you can.

*Canadians without credit cards or Paypal accounts: text REDCROSS to 30333 to donate $5. Americans, use 90999.

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So on Friday night I had another gig at Alliance Francaise.

Unlike the one before, where I only sang for about 10 minutes, this was really a chamber recital of 50 minutes of music for soprano, viola, cello, and accordion. Did I mention it was much more difficult? And we only had one rehearsal plus an hour and half before the show?

Anyway, we did a great job, even if I did keep running out of breath in the last number (I was so relieved that the second last number went well that I think I forgot to breathe). The lyrics for the second set of songs were all poems by children in either the Alliance Francaise French programs or the Toronto French school system, and a number of the CUTEST POETS EVER were in the audience. You could tell which child’s poem it was because that’s when their parents picked up the camera and started taping. (We should really use a different verb for digitally recording video, since there’s no tape involved whatsoever.)

Anyway. I had all of Saturday off. I decided not to practice to rest my voice. So this is what I did:

– nothing
– watched “Inside Job”
– made bagels
– posted bagel recipe
– nothing
– finished a pair of slippers I was knitting
– cleaned the bathroom, as I am following this list
– answered 2 emails
– played “Plants vs Zombies” and beat it for a second time

And that was it. It was awesome.

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Remember the show I did at the Alliance Francaise in January? Well, I’ll be performing there tomorrow night as well:

As part of its “Classique de poche”, Alliance Française of Toronto presents an outstanding classical concert:

Friday, March 4, 7:30 PM
Pour les enfants, par les enfants
by the Wanton Fawns
$12/free for Alliance Francaise members
24 Spadina Rd.

With Kristin Mueller-Heaslip (soprano),
Douglas Perry (alto)
Elizabeth McLellan (cello)
And Alexander Sevastian (accordion)

Pour les enfants, par les enfants will be a concert of chamber music depicting the world through the eyes of children. Presented by Alliance Francaise de Toronto on March 4, 2011 as part of their Classiques de poche cycle, the concert will feature viola, cello, accordion, and soprano.

Half of the concert will be a presentation of the Suite pour l’ange Gabriel, music by Christopher Dedrick and text by Gabriel Chalogany, a French boy who wrote the poems between the ages of 9 and 10.

The other half will be comprised of original songs composed by Rebecca Pellett and Caitlin Smith, based on poetry to be commissioned from students in various Toronto French elementary schools (Monseigneur Jamot , Monseigneur-de- Charbonnel, Lycée Français de Toronto and North York centre of Alliance Française of Toronto).

(BTW “alto” is French for “viola”. No, there will not be a counter-tenor singing on this show. There will be a violist. Make of that what you will.)

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So in the six days since I last posted, I have:

– written a grant
– made a website, new Twitter account, and Facebook group
– found MORE chin hairs
– seen Nixon in China (short verdict: awesome staging, love the music, everything after the middle of the 2nd act doesn’t seem to do anything; in fact, the whole thing could be about 55 minutes long and be all the better for it. Also the singer playing Pat Nixon was much too hot to play Pat Nixon)
– hung out with an old friend I haven’t seen in 7 or 8 years
– been told which Battlestar Galactica character I am (Starbuck. Apparently. I’ve never actually seen BSG so I’m going on faith here)
– actually used a video clip from Fallen Voices
– had a four-hour rehearsal followed by six hours of teaching; survived
– possibly been on French-language TV
– had a remarkably successful pitch meeting
– cut down on both caffeine and alcohol to the extent that I’m actually meeting the bullshit Health Canada guidelines
– failed to podcast or blog, but used Twitter more

I don’t know when I’m going to get a podcast out. Normally I podcast on Monday nights, but I’ve got to check over the grant with Suzanne tonight, go to a workshop, then do all the printing and collating and stuffing into oversized enveloppes. And then hand it in tomorrow. Then work a lot Tuesday and Wednesday. So maybe Thursday?

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So if you’re following my Twitter stream, or if you’re my Facebook friend (or Ben’s), you know that Ben has been working feverishly on Call of Cthulhu: The Opera

This is because we’re applying for a grant in March and I had told him that we needed the completed score for that application.

I double-checked the forms today and, um, we don’t. At all. In fact, we don’t need a bit of the score, just a project description and examples of other work.

So Ben has put himself through all of that for no reason.

Fortunately he’s been really enjoying the writing and was too relieved that he doesn’t have to meet the deadline that he didn’t get angry at me. But in the future, I think I will read all official documents out loud two or three times before I assign any tasks.

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