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Last night a volunteer at church emailed me asking that I revise a paragraph about the church music program, which still referenced my predecessor. I sent back the revision with a note that it's not clear to me what my title actually is-- the job description to which I responded said "Minister of Music" but folk tend to refer to me as "Director of Music."

Gail responded apologetically, and then asked what title I wanted-- she'd gladly give me any title I wanted. I responded, "Grand Musical Wizard!"

Because Gail has a sense of humor, the rough draft lists me as Grand Musical Wizard. When someone notices, she'll clarify what actual title should be there.


Mar. 11th, 2015 08:45 pm
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So absolutely wonderful to be walking outdoors again!


Mar. 10th, 2015 09:33 pm
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The shapes and colors of bricks and barrels in the snow caught my eye.

Three more )
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I am not a fan of Frozen, nor of Let It Go-- except that the song has one supreme virtue. It is the Anti-Earworm.

A year or two ago I read something that suggested that the way to get rid of an ear worm is to force it to a conclusion; and if you can't manage that, deliberately change songs to something that you can force to a conclusion.

Frozen has a stunningly clear and conclusive final cadence. Just get it in your head, let it wail away for a while, and then sing (internally or externally) "the cold never bothered me anyway." Done!
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When I interviewed at Delmar, the only point I negotiated was Sundays off: they offered 3, I asked for 6, we settled on 5 Sundays off (two full weeks of vacation, the others for worshipping elsewhere). Today was the first I've taken. I lined up a sub, and invited the handbell choir to provide the offertory and anthem. Then the fun started-- handbells had members who couldn't play Sunday, or needed to miss rehearsals, and then the director had a family emergency. And then the organ developed a glitch, and I had to call in our organ guy.

Despite all the hassles, this morning I headed for First Presbyterian in downtown Albany. Big church, big choir, big pipe organ, Tiffany windows. It was snowy so attendance was a bit sparse, but the choir was in full voice. The organist played the Pachelbel Canon as prelude, using some of the digital stops that have been added to the organ along with the pipes; I'm afraid I wasn't very impressed with the blend. The service was quite high-church for Presbys, with a chanted Kyrie and Psalm as well as Doxology and Gloria Patri. The choral introit and anthem were solid, and the offertory-- a spiritual setting by Moses Hogan-- was really extraordinary. A couple of the hymns were of African American origin, and played rather uncomfortably on organ-- but I think the piano probably gets lost in the whole room, and is used mostly to accompany the choir.

The organist is retiring in a couple of weeks. Today for postlude she played Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor-- as I did just before I left CLC 6 months ago. I sat back to listen, and was delighted to note that most of the choir and about a third of the congregation did the same, and stayed for the whole 10 minutes or so. I admit to giving the stink-eye to a couple of people who chose to sit and chat full voice; it worked. It was really wonderful to hear that piece played on a big pipe organ (with no obvious digital enhancement this time).


Feb. 7th, 2015 09:55 pm
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Finally got in some more sewing time. Click through to see the fun method for making these.

Three more )
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After about a year, I'm starting a new quilt-- life just got in the way for a while. A couple of people have asked questions about my process, so I'm going to attempt to blog it.

The first spark of an idea for a quilt can come from a particular fabric (like the dragons years ago), a color combination or a design. The first two weren't happening for me, so I grabbed a magazine from our stash, and the very first design in it jumped out at me-- to my surprise, a simple pinwheel block. Two thoughts struck me: "That'd be great in bolder colors" and "I can try the nifty technique for making half/triangle squares."

Next, fabric. We have a HUGE stash, stuff we've bought plus the remains of a generous gift from another quilter. So I 'shopped' at Laura's apartment. I knew I wanted two or three colors, and for some reason I didn't want any red this time. So I grabbed various piles, sorted by color, and simply pulled out fabrics that spoke to me. In half an hour I had a pile of about 30 fabrics, in shades of yellow, green and blue. Then I started pawing through them, looking for sets of fabrics that played together well. In a few minutes I had three small piles of fabric. I was particularly struck by three bold graphic prints in the same color family, so I went looking for a tiny print that works with them (I almost never use actual solid colors). Here's the result:



Jan. 24th, 2015 09:31 am
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Wonderful sunshine today, and I needed a lift, so I probed my mind about where I might be able to walk outdoors despite icy conditions. The decision was Peebles Island, at the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, and I was delighted to see a small herd of deer (at least 8) as I walked.


Jan. 18th, 2015 10:43 pm
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Reaction to my rearrangement at church ranged almost entirely from neutral to positive. My predecessor, bless her, apparently spent the morning raving about how wonderful it is that I'm doing exciting new things. A former choir amused me; she nodded hello to me as she entered the sanctuary, and then did a classic cartoon-style double take when she saw the choir in front of her, where the organ used to be. My grumbler from earlier in the week was on vacation; the only nay-sayer today was a man with (diagnosed) OCD, who not surprisingly doesn't like change. There's little I can do for him except hear him out until he moves on to the next thing. And I really like it; it's not perfect but it's certainly an improvement.

It was a challenging morning in other ways. I fell in our bathroom yesterday; I had my hand on a grab bar when I slipped, so controlled the fall somewhat but at the expense of my left hand and arm. Nothing broken but definitely some messed up muscles. Playing this morning was rather uncomfortable. To my embarrassment, Pastor Karen told the congregation what had happened, thus making me seem heroic when it didn't affect my playing.

The various aches and bruises are still developing, and experience tells me that tomorrow will be achy, then I'll improve. Very grateful for OTC painkillers.


Jan. 14th, 2015 09:15 pm
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When I arrived at Delmar Prez, I quickly realized that the arrangement of the music area in the sanctuary was disastrous. We have a platform across the back, about 15 feet deep most of the way, and 45 feet across. (You can peek ahead to help visualize.) Dividing it into 3 squares-- the right hand one as you looked at it has a forward extension of 4 more feet; the organ sat on that extension, with the piano behind it, and the sound system and other clutter behind that. The middle square, back half, is occupied by the organ pipes. The choir sat in one long row, mostly in front of the pipes! Uncomfortable, physically harmful-- I can't believe they tolerated it. Plus that long line made it hard to hear each other, and nearly impossible for me to hear the singers at the far end. I immediately moved things so they could sit on the left platform, beside the pipes, and had them move in front of the pipes only to sing; but this is problematic because I've got one movement-impaired singer. I also have been moving a dozen heavy chairs twice a week, from a rehearsal arrangement to Sunday seating and back

So I've been measuring and dreaming, and talked to the organ installer. The discussion of a new sound system made me realize that I have to commit to an arrangement for the next several years, so I am moving ahead with an experimental new arrangement. Sunday after church we moved the organ console, and I've been shifting furniture since then. Now, as you can see, I've got the choir on the larger platform, all in a body, with the piano; they'll be able to stand and sing in place. It's not perfect; I wish I had room for a few more people, and the sopranos will be behind me when I'm at the piano. But I think it will be a vast improvement.

Of course I know change is challenging, and I've already encountered one grumbler; I just hope there aren't too many! Choir rehearsal tomorrow night will give me a better idea.



Jan. 7th, 2015 09:54 pm
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Birthday, that is. Pastor Karen took me out for lunch, and I met the hubby and kid for dinner out, and received many kind greetings and a few small gifts and one very large gift... it has been a very good day.

One challenging part to the day: there was a meeting at church with an audio system designer, regarding getting a new sound system. I though this was a preliminary meeting, but it turned out that they were reviewing and more or less finalizing a proposal they began work on some time ago, and requesting a bid. That early work was almost entirely focused on making the pastor more clearly audible, with very little thought for amplifying anything else-- including the electric keyboard we are in the process of buying. To add to the fun, the Session has just begun work on a plan to make major changes to the sanctuary within the next few years, and those changes will have massive impact on the music program, moving nearly all music from the back of the church to the front. So I found myself, on the fly, attempting to articulate needs for the current music program plus enough planning for the future so that we won't have to redo the audio system during the remodel. Yikes! Thankfully the consultant/designer was patient and helpful, for the most part.


Jan. 2nd, 2015 10:02 pm
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I've now done more funerals at Delmar in 4 months, than I did at CLC in the past 2 1/2 years. I've done 5 Delmar funerals already, and returned to CLC for one during that same time. Enough already! Pastor Karen is even more worn than me, with another death in there for which we didn't do the funeral, plus her daughter has been visiting. We both are ready for a break! But I don't mind the extra income... and this church states my fee rather than letting folk pay whatever they choose.

Day 2 of 2-hour practice sessions, and I feel a real difference; that's long enough to get really completely focused on technique and musicality, beyond just practicing individual pieces. I hope I can keep it up once we really get back into the routine of church stuff next week; mostly it's just a matter of getting to church early enough to fit in 2 hours before lunch, along with the necessary administrative stuff. And I need to start making arrangements for a Sunday off before Ash Wednesday.


Dec. 30th, 2014 08:59 pm
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I love using music of other cultures in worship, to give an opportunity to stretch both musically and spiritually (certainly it does both for me). In seminary I had many chances to do music with students and faculty from around the world. One thing they impressed on me strongly is that drumming is integral to much African music; it simply isn't correct without a drum. Most of my Lutherans have little desire for this kind of stretching, unless they just happen to like the song. Sadly, despite a significant number of Congolese refugees in the congregation, the idea of a drum in worship was just too much for leadership, and I couldn't get permission to buy one or bring one in (and the Congolese were terribly poor; couldn't buy one themselves and were well aware it wouldn't have been welcomed anyway).

My Presbyterians are far more open, so I raised the question of a drum early on, and got responses ranging from neutral to very enthusiastic; I've been keeping my eye out for the right one since. Ten days ago, on an outing with a friend, we ran across a little shop full of African goods, including a number of djembes-- and it turned out the owner makes them! I was too rushed then to make a decision, but knew I wanted to go back before the end of the year, while I had 2014 budget funds left, and today was the day!

2 pics and more story )


Dec. 25th, 2014 12:02 pm
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Christmas morning was warmish (50F) and even sunny for a while, so of course I went walking-- and finally got a pic of this cutie, whom I've seen twice before.


Dec. 20th, 2014 10:46 pm
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A peek inside my little pipe organ.

Two more )
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I need concert blacks. I haven't worn black as a musician since I lived in Michigan; the culture was different in Vermont. But I've got a new position, and New York is more formal, and I think I need a stunning black outfit. (At least one...)

It must be pants, not a dress or skirt, but I want a top or jacket with some style. Can't be flowing sleeves unless they're cuffed, and can't be overly warm. I'm 5'8", and skirting the line between 1x or a Misses XL. Long or 3/4 sleeves; almost any neckline except round, which just doesn't work on me.



Nov. 27th, 2014 10:00 am
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A lovely snow scene next door. It doesn't really show the full amount of snow, though, as it's exposed to wind.

Two more )
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After two winters when we simply couldn't afford a gym, I have been looking forward to finding a gym this year. It's definitely time-- getting dark early, and often too nasty out for my taste-- so I was intending to call Planet Fitness today and arrange for a tour. First, though, I had to take the hubby to his eye appointment.

We were a few minutes early to the office, which is amazingly close to home, so I told him I wanted to drive the length of the strip mall and see if there was any place where I could get my hair cut during his appointment. There was only an expensive-looking salon, so no luck-- but there was a gym I'd never noticed. We went to his appointment, but in the waiting room I pulled out my phone and looked up the gym. Lots of interesting details, so I walked down.

I'm not even sure what I said when I walked in, but the response was a cheery "Would you like a tour? Let's go! I'm Billy!" So tour we did, and I loved it. All the usual equipment, clean and looking well maintained, not too busy, and my guide knew every person by name. And there's an actual gymnasium (I love to shoot baskets) and a track, and a sauna, and it's 24 hours during the week. All about the same price as Planet Fitness, and more convenient; I signed right up!

And then I took a walk outdoors, because natural sunlight still beats indoor exercise. But I'll go there tomorrow!
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Yesterday's liturgical readings were a rather disturbing set-- full of the wrath of God, doom and gloom. Six years ago (liturgically) Pastor Kim read "As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" and finished with a remarkably perky "This is the Good News of Jesus Christ!" Left me wondering if she had just mentally edited out that final verse.

My new church uses all the readings, rather than just the one being preached, so a lay reader went through the reading from Zephaniah: "I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the LORD, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord's wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth." Then he paused for a moment, and quietly said "Whoa!" Much more sensible! And after the Gospel he quite solemnly said "The Word of God" for the response.


Nov. 17th, 2014 07:06 am
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I am typing this in my daughter's new home. What an odd feeling! She'll turn 30 in 2 weeks, and except for 2 years of college and a short internship she's nearly always been with me. We know it's time and we're both ready, but it's still odd. I'm mostly happy-- I love her apartment and feel good about her being here, and I'm really glad she'll still be close. And I am so glad to separate the feuding cats, and to not have to gear my schedule so closely to hers (especially during the insomniac's bedtime routine). But there are still moments of sadness.


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