the blog has been silent for the past couple of weeks, but not for lack of thoughts or events.
A colleague from my time at Rice passed away today after a five-year battle with cancer. He wrote a blog post about a week ago that has been on my mind lately. He handled his struggles with such strength and grace, inspiring so many and putting our short time on Earth into perspective. It is overwhelming to think that he is finally at rest.
last week I got a call to play in Houston Grand Opera’s production of Rusalka because of a violist’s illness. Even though it is under unfortunate circumstances, I have really enjoyed my experience so far- the cast is stellar, the production is beautiful, and the other orchestra members are amazing at what they do and super fun to be around! I feel very welcomed. It has also been an exhilarating experience to learn an opera on such short notice. The show opens this Friday- see the calendar page for details!
Over the past month and a half, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon. Upon any thought of cleaning my carpets or bathtub, a portion of Handel’s oratorio Messiah begins playing in my head. And no, it’s not the famous “Hallelujah” chorus.
There’s a little mason jar sitting on a shelf in my bedroom filled with baking soda and about 10 drops of an essential oil blend from doTERRA called Purify. It is made up of lemon, lime, Austrian fir, Siberian fir, pine, citronella, melaleuca (or tea tree), and cilantro essential oils. I use the mixture primarily when I vacuum, sprinkling it on the carpets beforehand. I also sprinkle it in my bathtub and then use vinegar to remove hard water stains. The citrus oils in the blend help to eliminate odors and stains on all surfaces. I’ve found that Purify also is a great bug repellant, a huge bonus when you live in a ground floor apartment in Houston!
The part of the Messiah that I hear when I think of cleaning my carpets/bathtub (and what has consequently been running through my head as I’ve been writing this post) is the virtuosic fugue called “And He shall purify the sons of Levi”. Like every number in the first part of the Messiah. this piece describes a prophecy regarding Jesus Christ. This particular prophesy comes from Malachi 3:3 in the Old Testament of the Bible: “And He shall purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver.”
Though I am interested in music theory and enjoy studying it, I’m not really much of a details person when it comes to writing about it. I’m much more comfortable describing the way I feel when listening to or playing a piece of music- the thrill (think goosebumps) when the text is painted in the musical line and harmonic language, when a fugue is developed brilliantly and leads the listener through an array of emotions and experiences, when there is longing and unrest in the musical line that finally gets resolved, even if it takes a few numbers- or an entire oratorio. People who ascribe to all faiths can be moved by the sheer joy in the “Hallelujah” chorus. These are just a few of my favorite things(ha!) about Handel’s Messiah.
The “Purify” fugue, and pretty much the entire oratorio, was a blast to play in December when Mercury performed the complete work. The piece had been an old friend- I had listened to and studied the score in undergrad over winter break (perks of having a conductor for a dad!). The process and performance certainly did not disappoint. I have fantastic colleagues!
Interestingly, when playing “And He shall purify”, I never thought of cleaning my room. That was most definitely a good thing, though the state of my carpets from December until last week would perhaps have inspired a different opinion!
The other day my uncle and I were visiting my elderly grandfather in the assisted living community. His little apartment was just as I remembered it from the early summer- the last time I was here. We sat in the wicker chairs with green cushions that rested on the off-white carpet in the living room, knick-knacks from his former home in Pennsylvania serving as unobtrusive decorations. The sun streamed cheerfully into the apartment despite the heavy grey winter clouds that were scattered throughout the sky. My grandfather can no longer remember what he was doing an hour ago, much less six months ago. Nonetheless, he is always friendly to the “strangers” that come around. Sometimes he can remember that we are family or that he knows us from somewhere. We were looking at old photo albums, and we came across a sweet picture of my grandmother and me from when I was just a few months old.
“Ah, that’s my wife,” Grandpa said, smiling a little. “She died some time ago. I miss her.”
As we pored over more pictures, I kept thinking about Grandma. She died over three years ago, and one of the things that always reminds me of her is the way the sun pokes through thick clouds and sends concentrated rays of light down so that from a distance, it looks like spotlights are exploding from the clouds, each of them illuminating a small portion of the land below. Grandma always used to smile upon seeing those rays of sun. She used to say that those were angels looking down from heaven and watching over those people, praying over them. I miss Grandma too, but I know that one day I’ll see her again.
We left the retirement community a little while later, briskly walking out to my uncle’s car. I was deep in thought over Grandpa, who couldn’t remember much of anything yet he remembered Grandma. I slid into the passenger seat and was greeted at my window by a beautiful sight: out of the thick gray clouds just over the nearest hill, a handful of bright rays were bursting.
I’m spending a week with family up in Ohio, so internet access is limited, but I just wanted to wish you all a Happy 2016!
I’ve never been one for resolutions, and especially as a freelance musician, you never really know what the next month is going to look like until you’re in the middle of it. That being said, I’m just looking forward to living each day as it comes, taking advantage of the opportunities that come up. It’s easy to worry and try to plan out my whole year, but exclusively doing that guarantees missing out on some of the year’s best days. However, only taking each day as it comes without planning can mean starvation in the summer months. So trying to find a healthy balance between planning and living is always the goal.
Do you have any New Year’s traditions or resolutions? One fun event I am looking forward to is celebrating Christmas this Sunday with my aunts and uncles and cousins and their kids. Until then, cherishing each moment catching up individually with family members and with SLEEP. Happy New Year!