Sunday, October 09, 2005

Birthday Blog

It's been a long time since I've posted anything about what Greg's been up to. Since today is the birthday of the World's Most Fabulous Man, here's a catch-up post. (I've just heard that Greg's cousin Sara reads this blog. Hi, Sara!)

The Guest of Honor is downstairs in the family room, working on something and keeping Persephone the cat company. This is a voluntary banishment; I needed a chance to sneak his gifts out of the office closet and wrap them without him here to see. I've already given him the Cool Gift -- his new iPod -- but he should get a charge out of the wicked neat J.S. Bach action figure and the other Silly Gifts waiting at his place at the kitchen table.

Greg loves that he was born in the fall, so he has a particular fondness for All Things Pumpkin. Instead of a traditional birthday cake, he prefers to blow out the candles on a pumpkin pie. (One is cooling on a rack on the counter at the moment.) I made him a pumpkin cake one year, and it was fabulous -- but the recipe made so much cake that we got sick of looking at the thing and ended throwing half of it out after it had hardened to cinder-block consistency. We're back to pies because we can consume them within a finite period of time. We also have pumpkin ice cream from one of the local ice cream shops, so it'll be an all-pumpkin-all-the-time kind of birthday.

(In a way, I envy Greg. I was born at the end of January, but I don't love winter. I don't even like winter. My favorite thing about being born in January involves shopping for low airfares to warm climates.)

To catch up with Greg's news...

Lukas Foss has retired from BU, but he was kind enough to write Greg a nice letter of reference, and to sign a copy of Fantasy Rondo for him. Greg can also list Lukas on his resume, which can never hurt. I honestly don't know how Lukas did it; I think he's 84 now, but every week he got on a plane in NYC and commuted up to Boston to teach composition. That trip is probably one hassle Lukas isn't going to miss, especially once the bad weather hits.

This semester, Greg has opted not to take any composition classes. He needs to get some of his other electives out of the way, so he's taking a conducting class with Theodore Antoniou and another techniques class, the exact title of which escapes me, but it's with a professor there whom Greg likes very much.

Skipping out on composition this semester allows Greg to spend his creative time on the Sax Quartet and other pieces in progress (such as Niagara), without having to siphon off portions of that time to complete other compositions for homework assignments. By focusing his energy on current works, Greg hopes to get the Sax Quartet ready for performance by the end of the semester. It's turning out to be a long work -- 35 minutes and counting -- but he can get one or two movements performed without being accused of hogging the whole concert.

The Sax Quartet is such an amazing piece of musical architecture that I'm almost sorry I gave up playing baritone sax after graduating from high school. It shows every bit of the same intelligence as the Wind Quartet, but it builds on the relative simplicity of that piece and branches out into more complex rhythms and meters, all the while maintaining the same strict discipline and Greg's signature tall-chord harmonies.

Greg has also lined up a violinist to perform his solo violin piece Hardanger in one of the December concerts. In addition, his choir at the church will probably perform one of his Christmas songs (O Holy Lamb of God, I think) at a service closer to Christmastime.

He didn't get selected for the Barlow Prize this year, but we in this household are Red Sox fans. Our battle cry: "Wait till next year!". (I don't want to talk about the Red Sox. They got so close...)

Other Music News, Such As It Is

I'm not sure whether I'm bragging on myself here or whether I should run and hide, but... My blog post about Greg's compositional work and general rant about modern composition, "Write Safely and Carry a Big Schtick," was just reprinted in the fall 2005 newsletter of the Maine Composers' Forum. Okay, so this is a little bit incestuous -- I maintain the Web site for the MCF -- but it probably marks the first time that their newsletter has included an article from a non-composer. It should be interesting to see what sort of trouble that article stirs up among the membership.

Because I'd planned to be away for the first few weeks of the new season, I decided not to rejoin my chorus until after the Hurricane Katrina benefit concert next Sunday. Unfortunately, the longer I'm away from the group, the less enthused I am about rejoining at all. This is no reflection upon the new director -- whom I like very much, and whom I think is a fantastic teacher -- but I just can't bring myself to sing "Jingle Bells" one more time, and I nearly break out in hives at the thought of having to work up another tired old show tune medley. Maybe it's time for me to take a bit longer break from the group, at least until I can muster up a little bit of excitement at the prospect of singing with the gang again.

This is a lesson I never quite seem to learn at the right time: When you're not having fun doing something you joined for fun, then maybe it's time to move on. Back when all I had to do was show up to rehearsal, I really liked singing with the chorale. As time went on, though, I ended up getting more involved -- first as part of a carpool, then as a Board member and committee chair, not to mention ad salesperson (and I HATE selling things, unless it's on eBay) and 24x7 technical support for the crotchety little old lady who does the Web site.

Things started to go sour for me when people started regarding me as a taxi service without ever once offering to reciprocate, and when the Web site maintainer started hanging up on me when she didn't understand the instructions I gave her, even though she'd call and demand immediate support at any time of the day or night. The then-president stalled me for several months when I wanted to give up the committee chair, and then acted all surprised when I announced my resignation to the Board because she would never discuss things with me. I'm also beginning to resent the fact that Board members get hit up three times as often for money, and that chorale members are expected to do all the crap jobs for the organization, while the kids and their hyper parents and the actors never have to do anything.

Ah, you can see by my grousing that maybe it's time to find a new hobby. I sure will miss singing, but the negatives definitely prove greater in number than the positives. I will probably resign from the Board, too -- it's not fair to my fellow Board members, and it will allow them to select someone more enthusiastic (and with deeper pockets).

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Jennifer Grucza said...

No way, those composer action figures are awesome! I know what I'm asking for for Christmas, now!

I hear you on the medley rant. Ugh.

Dale Wilde said...

Loved the pictures!!! Famous Seamus is so adorable!!! And, I love love love the knitted bags!!! They would be the perfect carry-on luggage to all places warm and sunny... I look forward to hearing all about the all-things-pumpkin birthday party. See you Sunday...with coffee in hand for big Rally-O.