Saturday, September 29, 2007


Okay, now that it's over, I'm going to dish about the gig I had these past few weeks.

First of all, the conductor had a wierd habit of sweating under his man-maries, except he wasn't obese and didn't really have any. But still, there were two stains kind of like large eyes staring out at us by the end of every rehearsal. And a distinct lack of pit stains. Disturbing.

Second, he was extremely annoying and just bad. He told us to listen to the singers rather than follow him. So there I am, deep within the recesses of the pit-cave ten feet under the singers who are gallavanting all about the stage pretending to fight bulls in a Cuban cigarette factory while wearing platform shoes and fourteen pounds of cake makeup and wigs with sticky tape visible at the edges. Behind me is a long row of disgruntled and out of tune brass. They are righteously pissed, because have you ever tried to play a trumpet fanfare while "following" a sluggish male chorus? Of course you haven't, because that's what the conductor is for.

Then, at the first four-hour dress rehearsal, we finish 15 minutes early and begin to dream that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Boobsweat will let us out like a decent human being. Instead he launches into a long description of what he likes about Carmen, in which he implores us repeatedly not to play too "wet". For fifteen minutes we sit there seething, listening to what should have been a private conversation with somebody paid to hear it (concertmaster? they should fall on the occassional sword for the rest of us, no?) during a rehearsal break. But no, we are required to stay until 11pm, our instruments growing cold and sour in our weary hands.

Thank God I had a great standpartner, one who finds the humor in my lame jokes. She was even up for games of invent-a-bowing (we were last stand and invisible to the audience), left-hand-pizz-off and all-one-finger. She even laughed when I marked in our part that the men were shouting "I love Oprah" just before we played the fancy-pants spanishy number with all the gypsy ornaments. Indulgence goes a long way with me, my friends.

Bon soire, I love Oprah, good night.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oregon Coasting

Today we went to my sister's all-time favorite Oregon coast spot: Cape Kiwanda. Doesn't the name alone make you want to book a week there already?

This is the best time of year to go to the coast. The bulk of the pushy tourists with questionable driving etiquette have fled back to their homes, or parked their RVs or what have you. The weather is often lovely (it was warm and sunny today!) and even when it's not the fall storms are neat to watch.

If you go to the coast, check out Pelican Pub and Brewery. The fish and chips is awesome, and everything else looks great. The waitresses have a low turnover rate and seem to know everybody. AND! They have a big line-up of award-winning beer. Once I'm done with this pregnancy, I will bop right on over there and have a tall cold Tsunami Stout. Mmmmmmnnn.

This was the view from the brewery today, but with more brave dry-suited surfers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yay J!

I'm sorry I've been such a slacker. I hate when the people I read online do this, and I'm sure it has been annoying to a large percentage of my vast readership.

I did not win the audition last week in Podunk, Oregon, but I think my Mendelssohn was the sparkliest yet and I felt really solid in all of my excerpts. The Bartok was kind of surreal, but not bad- it was just one of those moments where I felt like I was listening to somebody else play it a little wilder than I usually would.

It was really demoralizing for about 12 hours, since I was feeling all prepared and overqualified and really actually wanted the job and such. I know that may sound like a prissy snob thing to say, but it's what I was thinking. With the schooling I did and the things I was able to win before coming to Oregon I can honestly say my expectations were different than the way reality has unfolded over the last year and a half. I haven't won crap since moving here (and I've taken auditions for a lot of crap), except the sub auditions for the Symphony, which is arguably the most difficult one. Also the least lucrative and the most fleeting. Ironic? I think so.

So at least I personally feel my audition game is improving, despite the apparent disagreement from every committee for the last 12 months.

Enough about me!

J won the job! (Insert many exclamations here!)

It looks like it could be a great move for him; more interesting work, better hours, and career advance-ability. Isn't he a stone cold stud? We think so.

This means we'll likely be moving 30-45 minutes south of Portland where the housing prices are almost funny (cheaper!) and the Aumsville Toddler Spa is a mere hop away.

More than any of the time, upward mobility, or other considerations, the prospect of J having work he might actually be challenged and engaged by is the best part of the whole thing. Whether this becomes his career job or a door-opener for the future, things are looking up for him and that makes me really happy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It should be "Maximum Violingerov"

Toby is down at Gramma and Grandpa's today because J and I have a meeting and Rachael's coming to town and I have an audition on Thursday. When I told my friends at rehearsal last night about the incredible posh generosity of the Aumsville Spa for Toddlers, they actually looked a little pissed. It's just so amazing to get free time and practice space- musician moms literally can't believe my luck.

So with the kiddo gone I'm taking a slow morning, and I found something on the performing arts cable channel to accompany my puttering. The show is Maxim Vengerov: Playing by Heart. Musician biographies always have such cheezy subtitles. Mine will be Miriam: Violist to the Stars.

So, Maxim, though, is a violinist who has apparently been a kick ass player from the first day he touched hair to string. Some people are like that. (I once had a kid who figured out television jingles on his 1/4 size violin after only a few lessons. He used one finger for everything, and had the intervals right- he probably quit to devote more time to Play Station or something sadder...) By thirteen Maxim was doing the Russian thing and had learned every hard thing ever written and was playing with every famous person ever made while reciting poetry and solving mathematical proofs.

I always thought Vengerov was not somebody I would like, musically. Most prodigies are not all that fun to hear when they grow up, and I had kind of written him off as a bombastic Russian in whose hands French filigree would sound heavy and stylized. Also, I really don't like Daniel Barenboim's accompanying (or playing, or sick wife-leaving), so maybe whenever I heard "Vengerov" I also heard "Barenboim" and ran screaming from the room. Indeed when the documentary got to the part where B is coaching V on how to play more aggressive Brahms "because they won't hear you over the piano", I wanted to shut the lid on the keys just a little. I may or may not have left time for him to move his lame hands.

I don't like this pic of Vengerov, and it's the only one I remember seeing until today. It makes me think of the wierd hair-pulling guy from Charlie's Angels.

Do you see?

But Vengerov! He plays pretty. Really, I didn't expect him to be so musical and fluid. I really like his vibrato- he seems not to have that finger + light socket indiscriminate speedy narrow thing so popular with powerhouse violinists.

His mama is adorable and worries that at 34 (he looks older though) he won't have any friends because he's so busy being an incredible musician. She wants him to find a "very good girl"- sweet, no?

Here's a much better pic of him clowning with kids on behalf of Unicef. When's the last time you heard of a superstar musician raising hundreds of thousands for a charity they love? It's official: I am crushing.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Oh my gosh you GUYS!

It must have been the Bartok.

We had the most incredible day yesterday. It's the first weekend in memory where I am free, J is free (I mean not a single all-nighter! Who woulda thought?), and the world is our oyster.

We went to Costco and finally bought 4 of these rad garage shelving thingies and then... AND THEN!!!

We went through boxes and boxes of crap, filled our whole recycling can and took an entire jeep load out to donate and sell at Powells. They paid us $19 for five huge boxes but claim to be sending the law texts to Uganda. I got the message loud and clear: God wants you to purge, and maybe watch more HGTV.

We whittled 7,934,872 items from our past down to about 8 boxes.

Today we will finish up. So, homework from 10 years ago, notes of achievement from 3rd grade, nick-nacks commemorating friends whose names we've forgotten and art supplies I didn't even know I had: you're on notice. Get your affairs in order, we're coming for YOU.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I heart Bartok.

Man, do I love Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. We put NPR on this morning and there was Marin Alsop (an excellent famous woman! conductor- I hope she likes Baltimore better than I did) talking about the piece.

So we put it on. It's so fun to play I keep telling J, Listen to this part! Hear the rock string section? This is the neatest fugue ever. Hear the broken squeaky gate-sounding flute? Oh ohohoh, this is the best part here...

He's quietly doing a crossword and humouring me.

If you aren't into classical music, or if you are, check it out. It's one of those works. I've been happy to play it two or three times now, and I can't wait for another chance.

Listening to this makes me want an orchestra gig.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Babies bring out the Marshall Dillon in me.

You know how little kids are really invested in their sense of right and wrong, and justice? I think pregnant people's juju must get mixed in with little kid juju in some way. Or at least mine is. Because a bunch of things are really getting under my skin.

Today it was the luthier's shop. Violin makers are generally pretty hippy laid-back folk, and the one I met today is no exception. He's got a beautiful shop, and a luthier-slave-apprentice whom we will refer to as Useless Lacky. Neither of these possessions seem to have imparted him with much business sense.

What got me was that said Lacky would not help me buy strings. He said the owner could do it "when he got back". I was there a couple minutes before the shop opened and waited until a quarter after for that to happen, all while Useless Lacky puttered about listening to some seriously obnoxious gypsy violin music and avoiding eye contact. Toby was bored and cranky in his stroller. The shop to him was like a cruel social experiment: How long can a toddler contain his need to touch the lovely instruments and exotic plants? (Answer: not long.)

So finally Mr. Shop waltzes in with a cute little dog, looks at the clock and at my scowl (I don't hide those well, but I made my voice friendly I swear) and said... nothing.

The kicker? He didn't even have all the strings I needed, and I use what everybody and their dog uses. He did seem sorta embarrassed then, and I did what my Gramma would do and left without buying any of them.

What a waste of time. Irate toddler time! I mean, I don't think everybody should drop what they're doing and help Toby have a great time, but couldn't there be a little consideration? There are only two shops in town and the other is kinda corporatey for my taste. I hope Mr. Shop is normally cool. Maybe after I left he yelled at Useless Lacky for a while, and justice was served. I can only dream. While I nap after the ordeal.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On Hold

I plan to post again someday, when I have something to post. We are waiting for lots of things just now, and I feel sort of creatively squashed.

Sometimes I think I've got something, but then the idea of a horribly greasy filet-o-fish swims into my head and I can think of nothing else.