Handel and housework

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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!

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Photo from Mercury’s Facebook page

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!

Angels

 

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.

Happy New Year!

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!

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Gratitude for slow movements

This post originally appeared here on my other blog.

So, it’s been a while. The remnants of Hurricane Patricia have meant a very rainy day for Houston, so after a concert with Mercury was over in the afternoon, I came home and got into comfortable clothes ASAP.
I am so happy to be playing with Mercury this year. The rehearsals, the people, the wonderful music, and the concerts are the highlights of every month.

Among the repertoire we have performed so far are two double concerti by Bach. One is for two violins and one is for violin and oboe. When I was first beginning to get into music, around age 11 or 12, I LOVED listening to these wonderful pieces of music. I had a CD of Hilary Hahn performing these pieces and I listened to it so much it began to skip. A few years later I discovered recordings of these pieces on baroque instruments at the library in Baltimore and fell in love all over again. I also really enjoyed listening to Haydn string quartets and Mozart symphonies. My dad had a large study full of scores and I would follow along in one while listening to its recording. I dreamt longingly for the day I would get to perform these works. The realization that the day is here, that I am now doing what my 13-year-old self wanted so intensely is truly beyond description.image
When we began rehearsals for the violin and oboe concerto for when we performed it back in August and then again when we began rehearsals for the double violin concerto, I was transported back to the following scene when we played the slow second movements:
Peace, enveloping me as I sat at the foot of my bed, listening to these sounds come out of the CD player that was set up in the closet. My backpack was a few feet away, and there was homework that was waiting for me. But it could wait longer. I wanted to forget about the awful things people had said to me that day and the feeling of powerlessness and loneliness I experienced daily at my school, Parkville Middle. Listening to the solo lines support, console, converse with, fall away from, and come back to each other was like therapy for me because it gave me hope of finding friendship- friendship like the beautiful relationship Bach created between the solo instruments. I came to Maryland at the beginning of my 8th grade year, and I was teased and tormented almost relentlessly at my new school because of the way I dressed, my unkempt hair, and my shyness. Music was a refuge. I began to love practicing and listening to music, especially baroque, for reasons I’ve written about before. Those slow movements- I’d listen to them to help me fall asleep and when I came home from school. They provided hope and peace at such a turbulent time in my teenage years, and now, many years later and all that angst behind me, I’m still reminded very powerfully of the calm that washed over my heart every day when I play in the orchestra for these pieces.

Another emotion that creeps in is gratitude. Gratitude for the support I had then from my parents and wonderful viola teacher, gratitude for where I am today and for Who has orchestrated every detail of my life, gratitude to have found meaningful friendship with many wonderful people, and gratitude even for the troubled times in my past, because without those times, I wouldn’t have fallen so deeply in love with music, with baroque music… with those slow movements.image(Photos from Mercury’s Facebook page)

Still loving opera

For the past six weeks I have had the pleasure of playing in an opera orchestra in Arkansas. The wifi was spotty, so instead of blogging I explored nearby towns, hiked with friends or by myself, and generally enjoyed being in nature. Oh, and I practiced too.

After an intense two weeks of rehearsal, we opened the season on June 20 with Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. Our other operas were Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi and Sondheim’s Into the Woods. We performed an opera every night, except for when we were preparing for a gala with alum Latonia Moore. Even with over 20 performances under my belt, I am still absolutely in love with this art form called opera.

Why? Because:
No performance is ever quite the same.
The audience might not understand Italian, but everyone cries in Suor Angelica and everyone laughs in Gianni Schicchi.
I would get goosebumps during Suor Angelica’s “Senza mamma“. Every. Night.
Performing Mozart was magical- even though I had a wonderful past experience with the same opera a few years ago. Because the music is so great and the singers each brought something different to the table, this run of Mozart was its own unique experience.
Over the course of 8 performances, Into the Woods grew on me. It actually grew on me and I wasn’t sick of playing it at the end. (Hearing the words in my head every waking minute, now that’s a different story!)

I also met some people that were awesome friends and colleagues. We had some pretty fun experiences- one of which was rescuing a dog by the side of the road! More on that in a future post. I feel so happy to have met some new friends and I hope to work with them again in the future. One of the greatest things about the music world is that “goodbye” is almost always “see you later.” I currently go to school with many people I met at an orchestra camp seven years ago, and at a certain point, it’s safe to say we are all connected by one or two degrees of separation. So here’s to hoping that the wait is not long to see my new friends and colleagues again!

Lake Leatherwood
Lake Leatherwood
A sunset
A sunset

Wellness Wednesday: On vacation

As a musician who is auditioning for orchestras and also finishing up school, I consider myself to be on vacation right now. No class, no auditions coming up, and my summer orchestra job hasn’t started yet.
Many people would look at my schedule and say, “that’s no vacation! There’s still a lot to do!” They’d be right. Most of us, no matter our field, can never fully relax and do nothing.
However, if we don’t use our time wisely, we can run around all day and feel as though we accomplished nothing.
Even during vacation, I like to set goals for myself and allot time to work on them. For example, today I set aside the morning hours to clean my room. It was a large task, but because I gave myself a time limit of having to be done by 1:30, I was able to accomplish it!

Vacation is also great for catching up with friends!
Vacation is also great for catching up with friends!

Vacation is also a great time to get re-acquainted with good health. Everyone needs a little TLC, especially when you’ve been pushing your mind and body. Essential oils are chock full of healing properties- and they smell amazing! I’ve been using PastTense frequently during the day.
Photo credit: the internet
Photo credit: the internet
It’s a tension blend of lavender, frankincense, cilantro, peppermint, wintergreen, basil, Roman chamomile, rosemary, and marjoram. Rubbing this on my forehead during the day brings clarity to my thoughts and relaxation to my shoulders!

Lastly, vacations can actually be productive. What? I feel as though I have grown a lot as a musician over the past couple of weeks because of the time off and the goals I’ve given myself. Don’t get me wrong- there have definitely been quite a few unproductive moments. As in, playing-games-on-my-iPad-for-a-really-long-time kind of unproductive. However, I’ve had a lot of fun pursuing hobbies that I normally don’t have time for (like writing!) and trying to make them into habits. I’m also enjoying practicing. I still have my recital in September to prepare for, but I have to time to explore the music from all different angles. Vacation has been great for cultivating my love for what I do. Like any relationship, our passions need our hard work – but also our nurture and care. I’m very easily entertained when it comes to classical music. A simple sequence in a concerto by Vivaldi makes me smile, and I could listen to Bach for hours. I listened to most of Mozart’s late symphonies and started on Beethoven symphonies when I was cleaning earlier today and didn’t once get bored. And I’m not even mentioning Debussy, Ravel, Brahms, Mahler, and the music by dozens of other composers I love. I can’t imagine being in any other profession than music, and I am so grateful that this time off has allowed me to grow even more passionate about the viola.

Welcome!

Welcome to my corner of the web! Feel free to look around and get to know me. Besides playing the viola and using essential oils, I love to write, study scores (especially opera scores!), spend time with friends and family, and read (current favorites are the Bible and Jeff Olson’s Slight Edge). While this website will primarily focus on viola and essential oils, I hope to incorporate all of my interests in the upkeep of my little cyber-home.