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March 28, 2006

Absent Presence

I've been traveling lately and continue to marvel at how different people are in terms of the physical and psychological space they occupy. For some reason, my mantra has always been "leave a small footprint." In places like airports, I have no interest in standing out - that's pretty adaptive, I suspect. But the guy sitting down the row from me in the departure lounge had a really different goal. He had one of those Borg earpieces on and was carrying on business conversations loud enough for everyone on our outbound flight to overhear. "Justice department ... blah blah blah ... attorneys ... blah blah blah... blah blah blah"

Then I noticed the NY Times story (Sunday 3/26) called "The disconnect of connection." "Does anyone really need anyone at parties anymore? Instead of working the room, guests are busy working phones and BlackBerrys, surrounding themselves with electronic entourages. Kenneth J. Gergen, a sociologist, calls this constant need to be in a technologically mediated world of elsewhere while in public 'absent presence.' " Thanks for the new word, Ken - it describes this situation perfectly.

I see this in my students too. They come into class plugged into iPods and cell phones. Then they open up their laptops (and I'm SURE they're paying close attention to everything I say and taking diligent notes). At the end of class, in go the iPods and up go the cell phones again. Now, I have nothing against iPods or cell phones - I have them both and use them. But we do seem to be missing what's around us. Those things that are "hidden in plain view" (as the mystics say) are never revealed to us, because we are totally absent to them.

Anyway, it's all very strange, ironic, and paradoxical - no solutions here, but lots of questions. The Time magazine cover story last week was about multi-tasking. What are we doing to our brains with all of this stuff? There's probably a price to be had, but we may not know it for many years. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy my iPod and use my laptop and cellphone, but also be open to hearing the birds sing as spring arrives in Minnesota.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:43 AM

March 21, 2006

Concert Spirituel - April 2

The Gregorian Singers Have Added a Concert Spirituél!
Sunday, April 2, 2006 - 7:30 p.m. (NOTE NEW TIME!)
Location: St. Paul’s Church on the Hill, 1525 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN
Cost: Free of charge. A free-will offering will be taken.

We are pleased to announce that several generous patrons of The Gregorian Singers recently made it possible for us to add a Concert Spirituél (a spiritual concert) to our 2005-2006 season.

Although we are primarily a liturgical choir that sings choral music within the context of the church ritual for which it was intended, we enjoy offering occasional sumptuous feasts of liturgical music in a ‘spiritual concert’ setting, thus Concert SpirituĂ©l.

This Concert Spirituél begins in candlelight and features medieval chants written and performed by women; the massive Stabat Mater by 15th century English composer John Browne; and other music by Maurice Greene, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Francisco Guerrero, Richard Proulx, and others.

Concerts Spirituél were a European concert format in the 17th and 18th centuries. These concerts were often sponsored by lay confraternities or guilds, and usually included motets and oratorios.

Join The Gregorian Singers for a modern update of a Concert Spirituél.
Founding Director, Monte Mason

Posted by hgroteva at 11:52 AM

March 19, 2006

Transported by Music

Some people go to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break. Well, I stayed here and went to concerts instead -- no sunblock or plane tickets needed. I attended two wonderful concerts this weekend. Last night was the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. It was particularly interesting and fresh because of the audience and the energy generated between the orchestra and the audience. The SPCO has been working hard to attract a younger audience, so that once all of us grayhaired folk pass on, there will be bodies to fill the seats. I was pretty cynical about their attempts, but last night I saw that it is working. There were families, young adults, kids, teens, and people in comfortable clothing ... but all truly loving and appreciating the music. Although there were no standing ovations, each piece brought several well-deserved curtain calls.

Last night, they were truly acting as a chamber group (not just a small orchestra). They opened with the Bach Violin Concerto #2 in E, featuring their own Dale Barltrop as soloist. He gave an energetic rendering of the concerto and reminded me a bit of Nigel Kennedy as he was doing so. The second piece was especially impressive -- just a few hours before the performance, one of the key soloists became ill, and so they had to pull something off the shelves - which worked marvelously. It was a Mozart concerto for piano, viola, and clarinet - very engaging, and full of synergy in the trio. A "new" feature is that all the strings (except the cellos) stood during their performances. I think it enhanced what they usually do - there was a lot of energy and focus. Anyway, there was good chemistry within the group and between the group and audience that left us feeling really good ... and very fortunate to live in a city where such concerts are so excellent, accessible, and affordable.

This afternoon, I heard the St. Mark's Cathedral Choir perform two pieces I especially love ... maybe in part because I've sung them, but I actually appreciate the music and find the texts deeply moving. The first was Charpentier's "Le Reniement de St. Pierre" - The Denial of St. Peter. An appropriate Lenten piece with strong solo contributions. They closed with an all-time favorite which I have written about here before - Herbert Howells' Requiem. He started the piece in 1932 and completed it in 1936 after his son Michael died of spinal meningitis. The piece was not published for 44 more years -- until the last two years of his life, Howells found the piece too painful to hear (from the program notes). It is an ethereal piece , full of spooky and transcendent harmonies. It is a Requiem of reassurance and peace, not of divine wrath. I was really moved.

There aren't many places where I could have had such wonderful musical opportunities back-to-back on the same weekend. They are to be treasured.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:29 PM

March 16, 2006

The Gift of Shoveling

Several weeks ago, I was complaining to a colleague that since I'm teaching on the "other campus" this term, parking is a hassle and I have to walk 15 minutes each way to my car. Earlier in the conversation, I had lamented about how busy the semester had been and that I had not been able to get to the gym very often. (I'm really not a whiner!) Her immediate response was, "Well, you've been given the gift of walking."

Was this pollyanna at work, or a very thoughtful and clever reframe? I choose the latter. I've thought of it every time I've walked to and from class since then, and it's really helped.

Well, today I had another chance to put it into action. Overnight, we got ANOTHER dump of snow - the driveway and the car looked pretty much like they did in Monday's picture (below). Well, I got my reframe working and decided I had been given the gift of shoveling. I had still not been to the gym very often and was "looking forward" to spending part of the days ahead doing my income taxes, so some new thinking was needed. The gift of shoveling... It helped me get through it. Fortunately also, the snow was much less dense than Monday's snow. I am not surprised that the Eskimoes have 100 words for snow (or however many...) There truly are many types.

All of this reminded me of another great reframe, this one from Robert Frost. I found this poem serendipitously while in the base library while I was serving in the Navy and mainly wishing I was somewhere else. I close with his words. And to my colleague friend who helped me see the gifts in walking and shoveling -- you know who you are -- my thanks!

Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:20 AM

March 13, 2006

What Happened to Spring??

Car under snow1-b.jpg

My car is under there somewhere.....

Posted by hgroteva at 11:29 AM

March 11, 2006

Sad Day for Adoption

The headline in today's Star Tribune read, "Boston's Catholic Charities to Halt Adoptions." That, in itself, is sad news because there are so many American children in foster care needing permanent homes and so many adults who want to be loving parents. However, it's doubly sad because the reason that the Boston Archdiocese is discontinuing adoptions is because a Massachusetts state law permits gays and lesbians to adopt, and the Boston Archdiocese does not want to comply. They are willing to scuttle the entire Catholic Charities adoption program rather than allow adoption by same-sex couples. The Church that has traditionally been a champion of social justice has become a champion of discrimination.

The homophobia polarizing the United States is getting way out of hand. The "marriage amendments" now being considered by so many states (including Minnesota) are blatantly discriminatory. The thing that baffles me is that same-sex couples who want to marry want to do so because of ... LOVE. Can there be too much love? What is society to gain by denying couples in love the opportunity to share in the economic and social benefits that accrue to heterosexual couples?

In addition to this social justice issue, there's also the research - what do we know about children who grow up with same-sex parents? My read of this growing literature is that these children are at least as well-adjusted as children who grow up in families with opposite-sex parents. The argument that children need both male and female role models falls apart when one realizes that children don't grow up in a vacuum - they have aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, neighbors - plenty of role models, both male and female. So the Archbishop can't argue from a research standpoint that children adopted by same-sex parents are harmed.

Even Massachusetts' conservative governor Mitt Romney said "This is a sad day for neglected and abandoned children." But he wants to deal with the problem by pursuing an exemption from the state's anti-discrimination law for religious organizations, allowing Catholic Charities to continue its adoption program without having to consider same-sex couples. Even the thought that a church whose social justice stance has typically been "anti-discrimination" would be granted an exemption to discriminate is so ironic, it's painful to think about. It's a sad day, indeed, for adoption - and for our society at large.

Posted by hgroteva at 2:29 PM

March 3, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

Tonkpile on heating pad 030206-b.jpg

I call it "Tonkpile on Heating Pad." When I'm reincarnated, I hope I can return as one of my cats.

Posted by hgroteva at 1:21 AM