November 30, 2005

 neilson crap

last night's rehearsal was interesting. i found myself in various small groups of musicians who wanted to talk about the verdict. it was on everyone's mind.

at one point the sheriff on duty (who is only at the arts council, by the way, because of janine -- she fought for higher security during our evening rehearsals) joined one of our casual discussions and revealed that he was one of the deputies at falls lake the day janine's body was found.

because of the buzz in the air last night our conductor, alan neilson, was in rare form. it's been a while since i posted any of his "neilsonisms", but he let a few fly last night that had us all in stitches.

at the start of rehearsal alan announced that he was having to shift the order of the works around:

"The percussion is going to be an hour late tonight, so I'm starting off with the crap."

i've never heard alan say anything even remotely crass before. it startled us all and we laughed heartily for quite a while.

so alan begins rehearsing one of the crappy works, and when there's a question as to how to play a certain passage he says:

"Play it exactly as rotten." (A clever play on "exactly as written.")

i do love playing with the durham symphony. our holiday concert is this sunday -- perhaps you can come? it's a wonderful event, with a dessert buffet and lots of christmas merriment. and crap.

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April 18, 2005

 if you're out there shopping anyway...

Durham Symphony Pops Concert
Tuesday, April 19, 2005 at 7pm
at The Streets at Southpoint Mall in Durham
(on Main Street by the Southpoint Cinema Complex)

oh, and by the way... i'm quoted in a recent article about the symphony's director, alan neilson.

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October 5, 2004

 durham symphony

tonight was the durham symphony's first rehearsal of the 2004-2005 season.

once again (for the 4th season, i think) i'm working as their music librarian and stage manager, but this year i'm also their 4th horn player. what this means is that i'm working twice as hard but getting the same paycheck. i don't mind, though. it's been such a long time since i've had my own seat in an orchestra (versus just sitting in as an occasional, last-minute sub)... it feels good to be making music again.

one of the best things about the rehearsals is the conductor, alan nielson. he's a total hoot. his humor is usually unintentional, which makes it even funnier. i've been archiving some of my favorite nielsonisms over the last year or so... here's another from tonight's rehearsal:

we're playing a relatively unknown symphony by a relatively unknown composer, nikolay myaskovsky. it's got quite a bit of dissonance, and though it's not all that difficult to listen to it's pretty tricky to play. a lot of us were more than a bit confused during our first run-through. alan, trying to make the work seem more friendly, said:

"This was really a well-known piece of music at one time. Then something happened... they sent it to me."

more exciting than this nugget of humor was the fact my horn broke in the middle of the rehearsal. broke!! the thumb valve just totally fell off. this is not good. the horn is playable, but seeing as i was missing a bunch of notes already i really didn't need the additional challenge.

i've got the name of a good repairman, though, and i'll call him in the morning. i have a feeling it's not going to be an expensive repair (probably just some solder) but the whole instrument could also use a good tune-up... it's been 10 years since i've played it regularly, and it's clearly suffering from neglect. (it is falling apart, after all.) worse, though, i imagine there are 10 years' worth of little critters living happily inside all those tubes.


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April 14, 2004

 random tidbits

i invented a new game last night. it's called "spot the midwesterner." i got 3.5 of 4 correct on my first try. (the .5 was a guy who was born in the midwest and went to college in the midwest, but who grew up on the east coast.)

i don't know what it is about midwesterners... we all look slightly different from everyone else. to me, we're easy to pick out of a crowd. i'm good at the game.

last night's nielsonism was uttered in the context of our upcoming concert at trinity park (5pm sunday... free! be there!). the orchestra has never played at this site before, and many musicians were confused as to where we'd be setting up.

"we'll be playing right in the street. you can drive your car right up to your seat if you want."
of course that's not the case. watts street will, in fact, be blocked off (which alan then explained). but it was still funny.

so because of the 2 days of rain i haven't been keeping up my walking schedule. i need to get back into that habit. i woke up this morning and it suddenly occurred to me that -oh!- i totally forgot! i should walk! clearly this isn't a part of my routine yet if i'm forgetting to do it. d'oh.

so, it's official: i am now actively avoiding all news of iraq. i used to listen to at least one newscast a day to try to stay in the loop. but this situation we're in pisses me off SO MUCH that at the end of the broadcast i have knots in my stomach. i despise what bush is doing to our world, not to mention our country. it's making me ill. especially these 9/11 hearings.

i made this no-iraq-news rule after hearing a snippet of bush's press conference last night. he said something to the effect of, "iraq isn't The War on Terror. it's just part of the War on Terror... one theater in the War on Terror." subtext: this war isn't even close to being over, sucker.

my news ban is having its biggest effect on my commute: no more NPR in my car. i am now, instead, systematically playing CDs from my collection. which is good, because they were really starting to get dusty. some sinatra yesterday, fatboy slim today. i seem to be arriving at work in a much better mood.

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March 15, 2004


ok, i just have to say... i'm really glad that boyfriend project is done.

in some respects it was fun taking a trip down memory lane, but midway through the process i started getting anxiety attacks. unable to sleep. couldn't stop thinking about the past. it wasn't pretty.

so it's over. i'm glad i did it, but i'm glad it's over. thanks for your comments and armchair psychology. i actually needed it quite a bit. :-)

i got a cortisone shot in my left wrist today, to help ease the tendonitis that my orthopaedist has diagnosed me with. the whole area is kind of sore right now, so i'm going to keep this entry short.

but first, one neilsonism from yesterday's dress rehearsal... during stravinsky's firebird suite, a particularly difficult passage sounded better than it ever had before:

"not bad, not bad... still pretty scary, but not bad."
the concert went well, btw. our next one is in april, in trinity park.

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March 2, 2004


tonight's neilsonisms were good ones.

the last 2 notes of stravinsky's "firebird suite"... one is held for a long time, then a brief pause, then the note reiterated. alan was trying to ensure that everyone knew that the pause was going to be very brief:

"it's only a quick pause. if everyone goes out for lunch it just won't work."
then while rehearsing prokofiev's "peter and the wolf", the strings were having a difficult time. the first violins were supposed to play on the downbeat, followed by the second violins playing on the upbeat. it should end up sounding like a very regular rhythm, but it wasn't.
"it sounds like morse code, and i didn't get the message."
the concert is sunday, march 14, by the way. at 5:30pm. the durham symphony will be performing:

* brahms - academic festival overture
* stravinsky - firebird suite
* borodin - prince igor overture
* prokofiev - peter and the wolf
* schumann - 1st movement, piano concerto
* ravel - 1st movement, piano concerto
(those last 2 works feature winners of the young artist competition; both girls look to be in their teens.)

tickets are available at the carolina theatre. that'll be me moving the chairs around on stage.

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February 25, 2004

 cheesy poofs

last night's neilson-ism occured when the symphony was rehearsing a ravel piano concerto. the piano soloist doesn't come to rehearse with us until next week; for now it's just the orchestra alone stumbling through this music, which sounds more like gershwin than ravel. it's got some strange harmonies that the musicians were having a hard time with, following by long pauses where the piano solo will be inserted later.

the musicians were huffing & puffing through a difficult passage and as soon as the next pause came, alan said:

"...and then the piano comes in and we're off the hook."
i went online last week and bought a birthday present for myself. it arrived last night: 12 bags of cheese puffs.

these aren't any regular old cheese puffs. they're barbara's natural jalapeno cheese puffs. i used to be able to find them at whole foods, but lately they're only carrying the plain variety, not the jalapeno. so a couple months ago i googled them up to see if the jalapeno variety was available anywhere else. the only place i could find them was, and they were out of stock at the time.

but they had a little button to click to request an email notification when they came back in stock, so i signed up. and last week i finally got that email. i hesitated for 4 or 5 days, thinking, "hell, i don't need no cheese puffs!" but in the end i caved in. they're that good.

they arrived in a gi-normous box and ray was very curious to know what was inside. when i said, "cheese puffs," he thought i was nuts. at first he didn't really want to try them, but after i read the blurb on the back he caved in:

...the finest sharp cheddar and the tangiest marbled blue cheese. Then we add real jalapeno peppers to turn up the heat. We use only natural ingredients... no hydrogenated oils, artifical preservativs, flavors or colors of any kind. So there's no reason not to go ahead and munch away!"
they're damn good, i tell you. ray noticed with some alarm that the expiration date on the bags is june 2004, but that's of little consequence. i'll be surprised if they last me through march. i've already finished one bag; it's going to be hard to keep me from eating one a day!

so now that the house is reasonably whipped into shape i've started to wonder what my next project will be. i do want to build a long, low cabinet to go under the painting in the dining room, but that's a pretty huge deal and i'm not sure i'm up for it yet. i also want to finish painting the trim, but i'm damn tired of painting right now. i think i'm going to take a break from the house stuff for a couple of weeks. so i think my next project will be movies.

beth throws an oscars party every year, and i have quite a bit of movie viewing to catch up on. i missed a lot of films due to the inordinate amount of home repair going on this fall & winter. so i've got plans to see "mystic river" friday and "in america" on saturday. i won't have time to see "seabiscuit", and i'm not terribly disappointed about that. i also haven't seen "LOTR", but i suspect peter jackson is a shoo-in for best director anyway, so why bother? (i'm not a big fan of the whole fantasy genre, anyway.)

i think i've seen most of the other major contendors. usually beth gives prizes to the people who guess the most (or least) winning films, so by the party on sunday i hope to be in pretty good shape. i'm hoping for heaps of awards for "lost in translation". anything "the house of sand and fog" could win would be nice, too.

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February 10, 2004

 one of those days...

i woke up with a headache. actually, it wasn't so much a headache as an eye ache... a terrible throbbing, directly behind my right eye and squidging out to my right temple.

after 2 cups of coffee (one of my co-workers insisted it would help) things ran pretty smoothly. my boss is leaving town tomorrow for two weeks, so a lot of time was devoted to assurances that we wouldn't burn the place to the ground in her absence.

things started to get really exciting after work. the durham symphony started a new round of rehearsals tonight. (i work as their stage manager & music librarian as a second job.) i've been doing this job for 4 or 5 years and tonight was the hardest night so far.

i got to the arts council building only to discover the key to the rehearsal room was missing. a problem easily overcome, though, as the off-duty sheriff-cum-security-guard had a master key that he lent me. so i opened up the space and almost immediately noticed that there were no music stands in the room. there are usually 60.

so, master key in hand, i started walking around the area looking for a whole mess of big bulky music stands. when i couldn't find any, i moved on to the next floor. no dice. the 3rd floor... nothing. i even unlocked the performance space to take a look, but i couldn't figure out how to turn on the lights.

i went back down to the sheriff and told him my problem... essentially, that 60 musicians were going to be showing up in approximately 20 minutes, expecting to have something to place their music on, and given the current state of things they were going to be sorely disappointed.

well, he really didn't seem to care. but i didn't leave his desk. i needed help... he wanted to surf the 'net. i eventually won...

...because in the course of my search i had seen that the light was still on in the arts council's executive director's office. so i went and knocked on her door (nothing like going straight to the top!) and informed her of the problem. she promptly phoned the building manager at home, grilled him as to the whereabouts of the 60 missing music stands, and then ordered the sheriff to help me move them. (they were hiding in a 3rd floor meeting room that i would have never thought to look in.)

time was ticking away before rehearsal started, and as we rode the freight elevator packed full of stands the sheriff suddenly starts to become friendly. he wants to know where i live ("duke park"), if i have a husband ("a boyfriend"), how long we've been together ("4.5 years"), and what my boyfriend does for a living ("um... are you married?? do you have kids??"). jeebus! it was a friendly interrogation, but it was starting to weird me out. it wasn't until we were done moving all the stands (2 trips in the clanky frieght elevator together) that i even thought to ask his name. "reese." then he asked mine and i should've lied. but i didn't.

after that exhausting ordeal the evening started to go a little more predictably, but the first rehearsal for a new concert is always hard for me. passing out all of the music, making sure musicians aren't missing parts, organizing the music from the prior concert that people are only just now returning when they should have done so two months ago... it's a lot of paperwork. sheet music work. and on top of all of that, i'm also lugging around stands, chairs and tympani... all with a busted foot. so when i finally got a chance to sit down and eat my 3-hour-old veggie sub i was thankful. i was also thankful that i had about 30 minutes towards the end of rehearsal to relax and knit a bit. hopefully next week i'll be able to do even more knitting, as the music (and music stand) issues should require less attention.

one of my favorite things about working for the durham symphony is interacting with the conductor, alan neilson. he looks like a conductor, with wild sprays of white hair going every which way, and acts like a conductor in that he often says goofy things that make perfect sense to him but leave the rest of us scratching our heads. two things came rolling out of his mouth today that made me laugh, so i decided to start compiling a list of "neilson-isms" (sort of like "ormandy-isms").

today's entries both occurred during the first run-through of stravinsky's firebird suite. this is tricky music, with strange time changes and syncopations. it's a familiar-sounding piece to most of the players, but is still difficult to sight-read. after a particularly difficult passage that resulted in a lot of confused questions from the musicians, alan got a little frustrated and said:

"you know, this music has been played before. it can be done."

then the crazy-fast movement... with notes flying every which way, somehow everyone managed to stop at the same point. alan was so surprised that he said:
"wow. does anyone have any notes left over??"

ok, maybe it was a 'you had to be there' thing, but everyone in the room cracked up. and it helped me end my day on a better note than it began. literally.

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