An Experimental Life

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sublime singing & clandestine craft

Last night I went to the most amazing concert. I went to hear the Newman College Choir perform a whole range of mostly early music including Tallis' Spem in Alium, the stunning 40-part motet (with one person per part). It must be one of the great all time works of choral music and I have always wanted the opportunity to perform it, but to hear it live was pretty special too. Because the college choir itself only has about 18 singers, they invited other ring-ins to make the numbers up to forty. I was so close to being invited! Jenny was singing and apparently they needed someone else at the last minute, but between her speaking to me and then ringing the conductor back to let him know I was available, it turned out that he'd found another person. But it doesn't matter - I actually do far too much performing with choirs and no where near enough going to hear them perform (though I probably go to more concerts than a lot of other people in choirs I know. But don't even get me started on this!)

Anyway, being an audience member for last night's concert felt like such a privilege. The Newman College Dining Hall is a stunning domed octagonal building (designed by Walter Burley-Griffin who is famous, chiefly, for designing Canberra), with a first floor corridor that runs the whole way round the building and has big arched windows and four balconies. The choir stood all the way round the corridor/balconies so they were entirely surrounding the audience, who were in the middle below. The sound just reverberated round the room, and because of the nature of the work, you'd often hear a short phrase come from one part of the choir and then be echoed again by someone on the other side of the hall, and again a few bars later by someone else. And if you ask me, that's the only way this piece can really be performed to do it justice. Ah, English rennaissance polyphony! Going to hear a really good choir sing music like that is probably the closest I get to a truly spiritual experience.

They also did Arvo Pärt's Nunc Dimittis which I'd never heard, although I'm familiar with a lot of his earlier works. And a sublime setting (in 6 or 8 parts, I think) of the well-known Sibelius melody Finlandia, sung as an unaccompanied hymn with the text 'Be Still, My Soul'. That was the encore, and it was a simply perfect way to end the concert. All the other music was new to me, but I have a heap of things to go look up on eMusic now!

In other general news, it feels like it has been a week of excesses: excess spending, excess eating (oops!) and excess working. I worked probably 5-6 hours more than I do in an average week, including 3 hours yesterday when I went in to help pack a newsletter that goes out to five hundred people. One of the clients had a 4-hour planning meeting with their committee in the morning, and it would have been so easy for the dozen of them to stay round afterwards and do the newsletter together (it probably would have only taken 45 minutes with that many people) - it is their organisation, after all. But no, apparently the president has a 'policy' that the committee shouldn't be expected to do that kind of thing. And yet she complains frequently and loudly about how much the administration costs. Well she really can't have it both ways!

Oh, I meant to post this earlier in the week. Here's the mirror frame I mosaiced for Mum for Mothers' Day:

The photo's a little fuzzy, but I love the way the mirror turned out. I think this may be my best effort yet out of all the mosaic things I've made. I was paranoid at first that Mum wasn't going to like it, mostly because I wondered whether she would have wanted a say in the colours and the design. It had initially been a request, after I did the one for Ann a year or so ago, but Mum hadn't mentioned it in ages so I figured I'd make it a surprise for Mothers' Day. It goes perfectly in the bathroom, and she seems to really like it, which is what counts. Do you know how hard it is to mosaic something in secret though?! Apart from cutting the glass, which I did outside, I mostly worked on it in my room in the evenings for an hour or two at a time, and then hid it under my bed. But when it came to getting it outside to the garage in order to grout, I had to sneak it past her when she had her back turned, and I'm sure she knew I was up to something when I spent an hour out in the garage last Saturday afternoon!

Anyway, today I'm hoping to have a fairly quiet day. I have to return some library books and get a few groceries, and if I have the energy I'll make some yummy vegetable soup to take for lunches during the week. I need to have lots of low-point days to make up for a few high ones lately...

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

All made up with no place to go

This was the photo I mentioned the other day. Last Saturday night Melissa came round with one of her friends who's a Nutrimetics consultant, and we had a makeover evening. It was just a bit of fun, but I hardly ever wear makeup, except when I go dancing or when I'm performing with choir, so it was good to have someone who knew what they were doing do my makeup. I look a bit shiny, which is my only complaint, as she didn't apply powder over the foundation. But other than that I kind of like it.

I told myself beforehand that I wasn't going to buy stuff though. As usual, I didn't hold to that. There's something about party plan consultants that makes them very persuasive, which I suppose is why they do is at a job in the first place. But I also find them somewhat disparaging too, in that they make you feel as though all the other products out there are totally crap and that if you use them you are, therefore, an idiot. The first Nutrimetics thing I went to it was also just me, Melissa and the consultant. I was asked what my "current beauty regime" consisted of, and when I told her, the response I got was "OK, well I won't tell you that I cringe when I think of what products you're using, but that's fine if they work for you". Um, thanks? Saturday's line was much the same: "Well, you know, I'm not saying that you shouldn't go and use Revlon or some other product that's cheaper, but just know this - you only get one skin and you have a duty [yes, she actually said 'duty' like it was national service or something!] to look after it. That's all I'm saying..." I felt like I was being chastised like a small child.

So, yes, I spent more money than I should have, but for products that I will hopefully make use of and that I like. I still don't think I'll ever start wearing makeup everyday, which is something makeup consultants seems to find incomprehensible. But there you go. Not everyone cares enough to spend 20 minutes daily in order to look nice for the 10 people who you are actually likely to see that day.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Busy, busy week

The last week and a bit seems to have been very hectic. I keep trying to find time to sit down at the computer and blog, but when I spend a good part of the work day in front of a computer, it's the last thing I feel like doing when I get home. Plus my evenings keep filling up with things, so trying to find a window when I'm home but no one else is using the computer seems next to impossible some days.

I am back to keeping track of everything I eat in a food diary again - I had stopped for a few weeks even though I was counting points in my head. I wasn't doing too badly, and I think I only had a couple of days when I probably went over on points, but I definitely feel more in control when I track properly. When my last food and exercise diary came to the end I resorted to just using an ordinary notebook to write everything down in. You would think that it would be just as good, but for some reason I think that was part of the reason I slackened off. Perhaps I respond better to the visual setup of a ready-made food diary. The WW one has the QuickTracker boxes which you can tick off easily, plus little pictures of food to make sure you're getting 5 veg, 2 fruit, 2 dairy etc per day. It sounds pretty trivial, but if spending $10 on it was what it took to get me writing down points again then it's worth it.

A week and a bit ago my brother and his housemate Lisa came round for dinner, and Mum had promised Lisa a while back to make lemon meringue pie sometime when they were over. Actually it was Dad who made it, while Mum sat there telling him what needed to be done - she's having mobility problems at the moment with her ankle (or knee, or pelvis... I lose track!) so she has difficulty standing or walking for anything other than quite short bursts. Anyway, Dad grabbed a tin of sweetened condensed milk from the cupboard without checking if it was lite - and it wasn't - so dessert alone ended up being 9 points per serve! And yet miraculously I still came in just on my point total for the day, plus I did 6 bonus points worth of exercise.

But over dinner Cameron kept listing all the desserts we used to have as kids - culinary reminiscing I suppose you could say. Everything full of butter, or cream, or chocolate, or coconut... I felt like I consumed 50 points just by listening to the conversation! It's alright for him - he's never had the kinds of food/guilt/weight related problems that I have. And as he was listing chocolate mousse, apple spice cake, golden syrup dumplings and coffee mousse, all I could think was "Is it any wonder this family is so unhealthy?"

But despite all that, I decided to weigh myself last Saturday morning and in total I am down 10.6kg (since 20 February). That's about 10 weeks, so I'm pretty happy with that! Also, yesterday I reached a new record for the number of k's I did on the bike in one go: 14.2km in half an hour, up from about 12.6 in roughly the same length of time! And wow it felt good afterwards. I do love that post-exercise high! That brings my total to just under 350km ridden since the end of January - I will get to 500km easily before I go overseas in August. In fact, I'm aiming to get there before I leave for Perth. I thought about aiming for the Queen's Birthday weekend, but that might be just a little too ambitious. But we'll see.

Yesterday Concordis had a concert in at the ABC studios which was broadast live across the nation. It went well, I think, except for the last item, where Andrew gave us the wrong starting note (a tone too low). And of course, me being me, I could tell instantly that it wasn't right, and the piece is low enough as it is for sopranos. I did try to say "Andrew, are you sure that's right?" but he didn't hear me. But everyone else could tell by four bars in that it wasn't clicking, so we restarted the piece again on the correct note. A bit embarrassing to do on national radio, but at least it was handled professionally. Everything else went well. Better than I expected, even. I was so happy with the Eric Whitacre we did, Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine. It's a very challenging but absolutely stunning piece, probably my favourite item from our repertoire at the moment.

I will definitely miss this choir while I'm away, although it's made somewhat easier by not doing a whole lot of music that I'm really crazy about. There's a fair bit I like, but nothing I'd be upset at not getting to sing for 9 months.

I finally got organised enough to archive all the minutes and so on to CD for Claire who will take over as secretary as of the meeting this Wednesday evening. I'm not sad at all to be handing it over; it's well and truly time someone else had a go. But I have really enjoyed the past 9 years, playing such a formative role in the group. I love the sense of ownership one gets from being so involved, it's so much more rewarding than just rocking up to sing each week. Plus I love that we are where we are today because of all the work that people have put in. We don't get any funding, and we aren't attached to a university or music organisation, so everything we've done, we've done ourselves. I know I haven't always been the perfect secretary, but I'm sure I've been better than some.

Last Wednesday night I had to be at a meeting for work until after nine o'clock while my boss and her family went off to Cirque du Soleil. Her family had bought the tickets not knowing she had a meeting, so I filled in for her. Don't know how useful I was, but man, that is so not a committee I would ever want to be part of. They're hopeless!! No idea how to get anything done, a president who isn't the one to chair the meeting (and wouldn't even know where to start), a secretary who's even slacker than I was for Concordis, and a whole lot of people who bitch and moan about how much they pay for administration but who keep hurling work our way because of how disorganised they are. There's also way too many people on the committee - more than 15 though not everyone was there. My absolute maximum for an effective committee is about 10, though 8 is better. The more people you have the less gets done, and the more unnecessary bickering there is. I know from experience!

Anyway, I will leave it there for now, and hope that I can post again this week. There's at least one pic I want to put up, when I get around to it. Don't hold your breath waiting, though!

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