last concert for a long time

Earlier this month, the Binghamton University Chorus, with whom I am singing for my 36th year, sang a concert of music related to St. Mark’s in Venice. That means that most of the choral works were written for multiple choruses, so we needed lots of singers to present the music. We were joined by the Women’s Chorus and the Harpur Chorale and Chamber Singers and the University Symphony Orchestra.

I appreciated the opportunity to sing pieces by Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Schütz, and Rossi. I love singing late Renaissance/early Baroque music, but hadn’t had much opportunity since I was in college myself. My voice is well-suited to this repertoire and I learned a lot of new vocal techniques from our new director, Dr. Culverhouse.

Our performing forces only had the opportunity to rehearse together in the last week, which was stressful, but the concert itself went very well. Daughters E and T attended, while spouse B and six-month-old ABC listened from the lobby so as not to take the chance of disturbing other patrons. It was also nice to see our director emeritus and former University Chorus members in attendance. Dr. Culverhouse graciously acknowledged our former director and thanked all of us from the stage, which was very sweet.

But now the difficult part…

As I wrote in a prior post, in the reorganization of the choral program, University Chorus has been revamped. We used to be an independent entity composed of community members along with some students and faculty/staff. We are now a supplemental group of mostly community members who will only meet in semesters when the student ensembles need additional voices to sing major works or pieces that require more singers.

So, in January, instead of beginning several months of Monday night rehearsals leading to a spring concert, I’ll be without a chorus to sing with for the first time in decades. In March, I will be singing Brahms’ Requiem at Smith, when some members of the Alumnae Chorus join with the Glee Club and the Penn State Men’s Glee Club. Ironically, we alumnae will be fulfilling a role similar to what University Chorus has become, although without the opportunity to rehearse until the day before the performance. Fortunately, I know the piece very well, so my individual preparation at home will be easy, but the performance weekend will be intense.

It also turns out that one Monday evening per month, I will be able to attend an educational  poetry event at the Broome County Arts Council. Additional skill building and writing time is always good.

What is even more special is that several other long-time community members of University Chorus plan to get together for some Monday evening dinners. After decades of singing together, we don’t want to wait until next fall to see each other again.

We will try to restrain ourselves from breaking into song at the restaurant…

 

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changing constellations

It’s been a bit hard to keep track of who is in residence at our house.

Starting in mid-September with B out-of-town on business for two weeks, we have fluctuated between being a household of three, four, or five.

I was away at my MASS MoCA residency, about which there are many posts, and returned just in time for B to fly to Missouri to meet up with daughter T, whose job as a crew chief for a study of the effects of fire on prairie plants had concluded.

They drove back in T’s car and we had a week together before daughter E and granddaughter ABC embarked on ABC’s first trip to the UK to visit her daddy (our son-in-law L) and his family and friends, most of whom had not yet met ABC in person.

It’s pretty adorable to have a four-month-old with both US and British passports off on such a big adventure! E and L have been sending lots of pictures and videos to us, which we have been sharing with Nana and Paco. It keeps us all from missing E and ABC too much, although it is also a bit of a trial run for the big move sometime next year when E’s spousal visa is approved and she and ABC relocate to the UK.

I’ll think about that more later…

Meanwhile, we are waiting to be a household of five again, for most of November and into December, when we hope that L will be able to join us for Christmas.

At least, that is the plan, although T is job hunting and could need to leave the area again…

If there is one thing I have learned in recent years, it is that change is inevitable and often not under my control, so I will adjust as needs dictate.

From the current household of three,
JC

 

 

SoCS: High/low

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. When I saw Linda’s prompt for this week, I knew I had to take a few moments to post.

My life has been all about highs and lows lately.

There is this post, “High/low“.

And this post, “Low/high“.

And life is continuing in that vein. Baby ABC is thriving, as Nana becomes more tired and weaker. Nana does have some times that are higher energy than others, though, and it is a huge blessing for all of us to be able to visit often. Of course, ABC steals the show whenever she is there!

Everyone needs a high and spending time with a precious new life is one of the best highs there can be.

It makes the lows more bearable.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is high/low. Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/08/04/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-517/ 

 

The end of reunion and the “after-party”

On Sunday morning, I went to breakfast early and was able to say good-bye to some of my classmates who were heading out before the official end of reunion to beat the Sunday afternoon traffic. Everyone was very appreciative of the events and very happy to have had time together. It is amazing how easily we relate to one another, even if we only see each other in person every five years, or even if we had not known each other well during our student days.

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Helen Hills Hills Chapel Smith College Northampton MA

At nine o’clock, several dozen alumnae gathered at Helen Hills Hills chapel for a service of remembrance. I arrived early and had a few moments to talk to the college organist about changes over the years. His role and the life at chapel are very different than in my years at Smith. When I was a student, there were Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish chaplains and weekly services at chapel for each tradition, along with a network of faculty and community advisors for other traditions. There were three choirs who periodically provided choral music for services, plus a student led gospel choir which sang for some of the ecumenical Christian services and other student volunteers who most often led music at Catholic Mass. (As a Catholic and an organist, I played often at Mass over my four years at Smith, as well as serving for two years as accompanist for one of the choirs and playing almost every organ piece I learned as a prelude or postlude for the Protestant services.)

Now, there are no chaplains and no regularly scheduled religious services on campus. There are advisors available in different spiritual traditions. The chapel still has space for prayer and meditation, but the main body of the chapel is now a multi-use space for concerts, lectures, classes, and the occasional service, such as the one we were gathering for that morning. The chapel was built in the New England Congregational style, but the pews on the main floor have been removed and the floor was changed to wood. It is jarring to me to walk into chapel. I do understand the need to make the space more versatile, but I think it could have been done in a way that was more in keeping with the architecture had the floor been New England hardwood and the chairs less clunky and modern in design. Even more, I lament the loss of service and leadership opportunities in their faith traditions for current students on campus. It was powerful to have services that were planned and attended almost exclusively by women; this basis has been a rock on which I have relied often in the storms that have followed in subsequent decades.

Sorry. End of rant. Back to our service of remembrance…

The prelude and postlude were Bach and we sang three hymns drawn from various traditions and a fellow ’82er sang a solo. There were readings from the Bible, the Qur’an, and from Rumi. Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Matilda Rose Cantwell prepared and led the service very gently and thoughtfully. The most moving part of the service was when Rev. Cantwell invited alumnae to come forward and give a remembrance of someone close to them. People from many different reunion classes spoke about classmates, professors, and family members. Two of my classmates who were from Northampton spoke movingly about their parents’ relationship with the town and the College. My college roommate, who served as one of the deacons of the Ecumencial Christian Church, spoke about two of her fellow deacons who died, Beth, during our senior year, and Amy, who died just weeks before reunion.

After the service, we visited Beth’s memorial tree beside the chapel.

Then, we continued on to our final official reunion activity, Sunday brunch. Our table did express our disappointment that our favorite sour cream coffee cake was not on the buffet.

We went back to our rooms to pack up and make sure that our headquarters was squared away before we left.

Several of us decided to stay in Northampton another night in order to process and decompress, particularly to support our two housemates who had chaired the reunion for our class. We decided to visit the Art Museum, which had a special exhibit on the villas of Oplontis near Pompeii. We then dispersed for hotel check-in and reconvened at Fitzwilly’s in downtown Northampton for dinner, joined by a housemate from the class of ’81 who lives locally. We then went back to one of the hotel rooms and proceeded to talk and talk and talk, with quite a bit of laughter mixed in!

We spent Monday morning doing what we needed to do, in my case, catching up on a bit of shopping, including buying some Massachusetts maple syrup to bring home for us and for Nana and Paco. We met for a final lunch together at Paul and Elizabeth’s, a restaurant at Thorne’s Market that was new when we were students. More eating, talking, and laughing and then a round of good-byes.

Before I left Northampton, I had one more visit to make. Another business that opened in Northampton when we were students is Steve Herrell’s Ice Cream. I always visit when I am in town. They have redecorated since my last visit, giving more area for seating. I splurged and ordered a sampler so I could have four flavors: black raspberry, malted vanilla, peppermint, and apple cider. Yum! I was happy to have the company of my in-town friend. We lingered for a long while, catching up on our lives and marveling at how Smith friends, even when they don’t see each other often, can immediately re-connect on a deep level.

Eventually, though, I had to head for home, although I could not help but feel that reunions are too short and too far apart.

 

 

Smith 35th!

On Thursday afternoon, I arrived in Northampton, Massachusetts for my 35th reunion at Smith College.

Thursday is light on scheduled activities, as many participants can’t arrive until later in the weekend, but it gives those of us who do have the opportunity to get started on heavy-duty reminiscing, as well as catching up on our current lives and loves. We spent hours chatting at our headquarters and over dinner at the Cutter-Ziskind House dining room. We reflected in a special way on the classmates we have lost over the years; our class memorial chairs thoughtfully prepared a compendium of our deceased classmates which brought each of them to mind for us.

Friday presented us with a number of options for presentations and reflections. In the morning, I chose to attend a faculty presentation by Ellen Doré Watson, entitled “How Poems Mean.” It was held at the Poetry Center, of which she is the current director. We filled the room with women (and one spouse of the male persuasion) and read and discussed poems from a thick packet that Ellen had compiled for us, illustrating how poets convey meaning to readers/listeners. After the presentation, I perused the collection of poetry books and journals, spending the most time with the shelves devoted to alumnae poets. I was especially excited to see the books of Anne Harding Woodworth ’65, with whom I have sung with the Smith College Alumnae Chorus. Anne is one of my poetry godmothers, who has always been generous in giving encouragement and advice. I was pleased to have a bit of time to speak with Ellen personally after the gathering had dispersed. I hope to meet her again, perhaps for manuscript review through the Colrain conferences or when I return to campus.

After lunch, a classmate and I walked around campus, enjoying the exercise, our surroundings, and conversation. We were able to visit Haven House, where I lived all four years. It has had extensive renovations since then, so it was interesting to see what had changed – which is nearly everything. I was touched, though, that our wooden mailboxes remain in place, even though students now receive mail through boxes at the Student Center. Even more amazing was that our napkin boxes are still there. In our student days, Haven had its own kitchen and dining room for our residents and those of our sister-house Wesley. We each had our own cloth napkin, which was kept in a labelled cubby near the dining room entrance, taken out and returned there for each meal. The college laundered them every week. Now, dining is concentrated in fewer locations with recycled paper napkins available, but I admit to feeling nostalgic for our student days with homestyle serving most evenings – and candlelight on Thursdays.

Later in the afternoon, I helped to host the Alumnae Chorus reception, along with other Alumnae Chorus members from the class of ’82. We are always on the lookout for other singing alums to join us for events, on campus, in the US, and abroad. We were excited to have Alice Parker ’47 join us, along with a number of her classmates! While we were students, we sang her works, including a commission for the 25th anniversary of Helen Hills Hills chapel. The Alumnae Chorus was honored to sing in a tribute concert for and with her in 2014. Alumnae Chorus will be doing a US event in 2018 and another international tour in 2019, so we have a lot to look forward to!

SCAC reunion reception w/Alice Parker
Alice Parker ’47 with Smith alums

Next was a class dinner, which President Kathleen McCartney visited. This is our first reunion since she became president. I was so impressed with her warmth and Smith-spirit! Smith is lucky to have her at the helm.

After dinner, we returned to our class headquarters for “A Night of Passion” in which classmates shared what they are passionate about. Language, music, nature, quilting and fabric art, writing, and more – each presentation uniquely fascinating.  I participated by reading an excerpt from this blog post about meeting up with Smith friends and two Smith related poems, including “Lessons from Mahler”. I so appreciated the warm reception from my classmates, most of whom remember me, if they do at all, as the organist I was in our campus days. It was so affirming to my current poet-identity to have them react so positively to my poems.

When I fell into my dorm-bed in my room overlooking the lawn where the diploma circle was held after commencement last Sunday, I felt content – and really, really tired. I’m not used to being on the fourth floor…

Waking up in the dark

I am not a fan of Daylight Saving Time, which started today in most of the United States.

It is not an accurate name. The amount of daylight is determined by astronomy, not by clocks. Naming the time of sunrise and sunset differently does not change the time between those two events.

What most annoys me, though, is waking up in the dark again. I had just gotten to the point where I was waking up to the light of dawn, which I find more energizing, and now I am instantly back into mid-winter waking-to-darkness.

This is not helped by the fact that we are having a cold snap and may soon have the most snow we have had in weeks, depending on the track of a developing nor’easter.

I know that many people will argue that having it be light longer in the evening makes up for the dark mornings, but we had already been able to eat dinner in natural light, although I admit that we tend to eat dinner on the early side.

By June, it won’t be fully dark until after 9 PM, which makes our usual 10 PM bedtime feel like we are children, being put to bed as soon as evening falls.

Daylight Saving Time, especially the current US implementation, also causes issues with long-distance communications. E’s daily call time with her employer in Hawai’i will shift. B’s daily 6 AM conference call with colleagues in India (thankfully) stays at 6 AM for him, but his India team has to change the time at which they call. Because the US extended the dates of DST, for the next three weeks, US time will be out of sync with many of the countries that observe DST using the original dates.

It would be so much simpler if we just dropped the whole concept and left our clocks alone.

Daylight doesn’t care, but I do.

How do you feel about Daylight Saving Time? Is it observed where you are?

changes

Since December 26th, E and T, our adult daughters, have been living with us. We weren’t sure how long this would last, but now we know.

Not much longer.

T has been offered a job beginning February first as part of a grasslands research study by the Department of Environmental Conservation – in Missouri.

T has a particular interest in grasses and prairies. She can rhapsodize about sedges. We are very happy for her as this will be great experience for her post-master’s degree resume and allow her to work in a prairie ecosystem, which has long been a dream of hers.

We are shifting into high gear to prepare for her 1,000+ mile move, which needs to happen quite quickly.

Thinking about the move is bittersweet, though. We will miss having T here with us, especially her hugs. Because she will be in a rural area, her internet access will be limited, so there is unlikely to be much videochatting.

We will try to enjoy these last few days with the four of us together, even though they will be busy. And we will have memories of these rare few weeks together to last for years to come.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/16/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-16th17/