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November 30, 2007

Biebl Ave Maria

I got to sing the Ave Maria by Franz Biebl last night for the first time. What a joy! I have loved this piece for years and have sung along to countless CDs, but have never sung it with a group. It calls for 7 men's voices - a trio and a quartet. At the monthly gathering of the Sch├╝tz Secret Singing Society, we sing simply for the joy of it. (Repeat that sentence out loud, quickly, five times, at your own risk!) It's a group of about 15 - 20 people (some more regular attenders than others), and we have a wonderful evening sight-singing new pieces and re-experiencing old favorites. Last night we did some Christmas stuff - my first inkling that the season is approaching. But the Biebl was a huge treat and made the evening for me. I think it affected all of us the same way. The women had already departed to begin experiencing the wonderful food and wine our hosts had put out, but we men just kept singing away. The Biebl is a signature piece of both Chanticleer and Cantus, two favorite groups of mine. But there's nothing like singing it yourself. Here is a YouTube of Chanticleer performing it. Happy holidays!


Posted by hgroteva at 8:23 AM

November 24, 2007

Beowulf

beowulf_dream_400x200.jpg

I'm not quite sure how I missed Beowulf in high school -- but it would probably have been lost on a bunch of 15 year olds. However, it certainly wasn't lost on me at this ripe age. Universal themes of heroism and vulnerability, Faustian bargains, temptation, power, greed, fame --- kind of sounds like U.S. politics, doesn't it??

Mark and I saw the film on the IMAX screen at the Minnesota Zoo (largest screen in Minnesota: 90 ft wide x 60 feet tall), in 3-D. I mainly wanted to see it for the technology. I heard it reviewed on MPR this morning by the "movie maven," who declared it to be the worst movie of the year. Well - to each his/her own. She complained about not being able to identify with the characters. Well, give me a break. This is an epic poem from sometime between the 8th - 11th centuries.

The technology was quite amazing, IMO. The 3D effects really grabbed my attention. It felt like blood was coming right out of Grendel into the audience. And when Beowulf was flying along on the dragon's back, it felt like I was there too. I was afraid that with my various eye conditions, the 3D glasses wouldn't work, but the effect worked well.

On the blog, "Underexposed," Greg Foster, Imax's chairman was quoted as saying, "When you experience 3D with us, you experience the 3D at the bridge of your nose. It is an immersive, full-contact experience." No kidding.

beowulf ms image.jpg

Maybe the film will rocket the epic poem back into consciousness so that people can consider what was known centuries ago. Who was it that said that those who don't understand their history are doomed to repeat it?

I'll be taking a look. In the meantime, go see the movie, just to marvel at the technology. Put yourself in the place of one of the geeks dealing with the animation, and say "thank you."


Posted by hgroteva at 12:08 AM

November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I always enjoy Thanksgiving morning by listening to "Turkey Confidential," -- Lynne Rosetto Caspar's special live call-in show. (Go to splendidtable.org ) People call in with all sorts of cooking emergencies: turkeys that caught fire, turkeys that didn't cook, tipped over tanks of hot oil, etc. She has a reassuring way of helping people through their challenges, while adding in a good dose of humor and goodwill. I'm glad the show is streamed online - people are calling in from all over the country. I look forward to being able to listen from wherever I will be.

This may be the only Thanksgiving that Mark and I share by ourselves. We've enjoyed planning the meal together. I'm making the turkey and gluten-free dressing, and he made a flourless chocolate cake last night. It looks quite amazing. It is extremely rich -- pretty much all chocolate, sugar, eggs, and a little coffee. We'll miss not being with the rest of the family, but we'll all be together for Christmas. It's snowing as I write this, so it definitely feels like a holiday.

2007 has been a year of many transitions. Many work transitions (occurred and anticipated), housing transitions, pet transitions, health transitions. It has made me reflect on the meaning of "stability." We tend to think of the life course as a series of stable times punctuated by transitions (developmental or unexpected). I'm beginning to think that stability may be the illusion, with change being the norm. Ever since the co-occurrence of 3 major life changes in 2006, I've found that I simply expect more change and can let go of expectations about what will be. Without the illusion, life seems more fragile -- but it also makes it more difficult to take things for granted and more important to express thanks. On NPR, Anna Quindlen read the following from her book, A Short Guide to a Happy Life: ... "Knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God gave us."

Music alert -- Next Sunday, December 2, at 4:00 pm, the Gregorian Singers will do their annual Advent Procession at St. Paul's on the Hill Episcopal Church, 1524 Summit Ave (just east of Snelling). It's a beautiful service, and a wonderful way to begin preparation for Christmas. I enjoyed participating in this service during my two years singing with the Gregs -- although balancing music, bells, and candles while singing and processing in the dark did present a challenge of the highest order.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:14 AM

November 18, 2007

Reflections on Tonight's Concert

What a joy it was to sing with Waltham Abbey tonight. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity, and to have done it with good friends.

Here's a favorite quote from Peter Sellars, which seems particularly appropriate.

"Vocal music is an attempt to take the whole human being and project it into space. It is the ultimate gesture of getting out of yourself. You take a part of you that is most private, most personal, most inward, and you hurl it out into space - you project it as far as you can. That gesture of opening the whole body results in an enormous spiritual release, and is felt by other people with tremendous impact."

Posted by hgroteva at 11:31 PM

November 11, 2007

Waltham Abbey Singers Concert Nov 18

All are welcome to the fall concert of the Waltham Abbey Singers.
Sunday, November 18, 7:30 pm.
St. Paul's on the Hill Episcopal Church
1524 Summit Ave.
St. Paul, MN
on Summit, one block east of Snelling

Join us as we present Andrea Gabrieli's Magnificat, Jean-Josepoh Mondonville's Coeli enarrant gloriam Dei, plus works by John Sheppard, Guillaume Dufay, and others.

Admission: free-will offering

For more information about the Waltham Abbey Singers, visit www.wabbey.org

After a year away from this group, I've very much enjoyed singing again this fall. Brian announced that we'll be doing some of the Penetential Psalms by Lassus during the spring - they are amazing. Demanding and rewarding. Rehearsals feel like penance, but there is redemption on the other side...

Also, feel free to click on the category "Choral Music" on the right-hand column of this blog, and look at the entries for Jan 14 and 15, 2007.

Hope you can join us!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:56 PM

November 1, 2007

Past, Present, Future

I thoroughly enjoyed handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters last night. Almost 40 kids stopped by the house -- mostly young kids with their parents. One of our neighbors down the street always served hot cider for the parents -- a welcome assist on a cold night. (He was mayor of our burg at the time; I wonder if they still do it??) The costumes were fun; one boy was a robot (or perhaps the tin man from Oz), but his costume was home-made with aluminum foil, and you could tell he put a lot of his own creativity into it. I reminisced with a few of the parents about the big Halloween blizzard of '91. That was our second year in Minnesota. I was trick-or-treating with Mark in tow, and it was starting to snow. I thought to myself, "Well, this is quaint. Does it always snow on Halloween here???" Of course, the rest is history. By morning, 24 inches of snow were on the ground and the city was at a stand-still because all the plows were still being used for clearing leaves. We got another whammy at Thanksgiving, so the snow was on the ground continuously from Oct 31 until the usual spring thaw. A LONG winter indeed. Then my thoughts turned to the future. Where will I be living next October?? I know it won't be in this house, but I have no clue where it will be (specifically). Adventures await.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:48 PM