owlmoose: A photo of a Highway 1 roadsign, with the California Coast in the background (california - sign)
This long weekend in Los Angeles was just what I needed. We did too much for me to go into depth about everything, but here are some highlights:

Friday: Drove down, taking the Central Valley (I-5) route. I got to LA (actually Orange County) around 5pm, not too bad considering that I drove through most of the LA Basin during the first part of afternoon rush hour. There I met my friends A and AM (whom some long-time readers might remember as [livejournal.com profile] luvmoose and [livejournal.com profile] letters_to_ed; they were both regular players on the "guess the song lyrics" game that I used to post every week). We stayed with friends of A's, who were excellent hosts. I was tired from the drive, and A and AM were on East Coast time (they had flown in from Boston early in the morning), so we just had dinner and then found ice cream for dessert. And when one of the top hits on Yelp was Creamery N7, I knew where we had to go.

Saturday: The initial reason A and AM planned this trip was to attend a concert on Saturday night. (I'll explain my reason for joining them a little later.) But first, it was time for a spa day. We dropped by A's favorite nail place in Hawthorne for pedicures, then spent the rest of the afternoon at Burke Williams in Santa Monica. I got an excellent massage and then mostly lounged around reading my book, Heroine Worship, chosen because I thought it might be good vacation reading -- and I was right. Afterward, we drove up to downtown LA for the show, 80s Weekend 4, which is one in a series of concerts that bring together a bunch of New Wave bands, hosted by legendary DJ Richard Blade. The lineup: Berlin, Colin Hay (lead singer for Men at Work), The Fixx, Belinda Carlisle (my main draw to the show), The Psychedelic Furs, and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (aka OMD). I didn't know all the songs, but I knew at least a few things played by every band, and they were all engaging and high-energy performers. I sang, I danced, I had a good time. Right before the Psych Furs came out, Blade announced the line-up for 80s Weekend 5 in January, and A bought tickets before the show was over. (I might join them; depends on what else is going on then. One of the bands is the Violent Femmes, so it is tempting.)

Sunday: And now we get to my reason for traveling to LA this weekend. But first, a bit of context. A lived in LA for a couple of years a little while back, and while she was there she took a class at The Magic Castle, a private magician's club in Hollywood. She went to the club on a regular basis (that's actually how she knows the friend we stayed with), and still gets back whenever she has reason to be in the area. A few years ago, she mentioned that she had recently seen one of her favorite close-up magicians: Steve Valentine.

Yes. THAT Steve Valentine.

After recovering from my fangirl freak-out, I made A promise to let me know if she ever went back to the Magic Castle at a time she knew he was performing. Unfortunately she only got advance notice once, and the dates conflicted with FogCon, so I'd never managed it. (However, on that occasion she did somehow convince him to leave a message on my voice mail). So it remained a pipe-dream... until A called me about a month ago to inform me that he was performing his one-man show on July 30th and I was coming down to see it, and I concluded that she was right. So thanks to the cosmic good timing of the universe, the three of us went to see the show. It was splendid, an excellent blend of magic and memoir and storytelling, and afterwards I was brave enough to go up and say hello and get a picture.

omg I still can't quite believe this really happened )

He was very sweet and gracious, and if he didn't actually remember the voicemail incident, he did an excellent job of pretending. They say "never meet your idols" but I think it went pretty well this time.

Monday: AM got us day passes to use the pool facilities at the Hyatt in Newport Beach. It was swanky and nice, a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. I dipped in the pool but spent most of the time lounging again, switching between my book and my phone. This was the day that Anthony Scaramucci's brief moment in the sun came to an end, and the three of us had enjoyed reading each other our favorite Tweets and Facebook posts about the Mooch. That night, we went to the Magic Castle, where we saw three magicians (two of whom were women, which is unusual). The Castle is a neat place, and if you ever have the opportunity to visit I recommend it. (A took me once before, back when she was taking her class.)

Tuesday: Time to go home. I took the coastal route back (US 101 version, not Highway 1), which only takes a couple of hours longer and is a nicer drive. The return drive was mostly uneventful, except that I got rained on in the Santa Barbara area, highly unusual for August. I got home just before 7pm, missing the worst of SF traffic, and settled in for a nice evening flop on the couch.

Even after this brief a trip, I've still had some readjustment to normal life. But it was the perfect break, and I'm really glad I took it.

One down

Nov. 19th, 2016 12:01 am
owlmoose: (teamoose)
First concert was tonight, and it went quite well! We hit all the marks we needed to hit and no major errors, certainly nothing noticeable.

Now it's time to flop until the second show on Sunday.


Nov. 15th, 2016 10:34 pm
owlmoose: (beethoven)
Concert week ahoy. Today was the first dress rehearsal and it went quite well. The main piece this quarter is Durufle's Requiem, a lesser known work that happens to be one of my best beloved ones -- right up there with Brahms' Requiem and Beethoven's Mass in C. I know it because I sang it my senior year of college. I fell in love with it and have longed to do it again ever since, but this has been my first opportunity to do so. When it was announced at the end of the last term for our Fall 2016 concert, I literally gasped in joy. It incorporates many elements of Gregorian chant along with more Romantic and Modern touches (it was composed in 1947) and is unusual in tone and structure compared to many other classic requiems -- no Dies Irae movement, many other movements shortened, hardly any solo work.

If you're curious, there's a full-lenghth video here, although I haven't heard the whole thing and can't vouch for the quality.

We also have a guest conductor, who was the long-time director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He's a brilliant musician, very demanding, but it's been worth it -- the music he's been pulling out of us is gorgeous. First show is Friday, and I'm looking forward to it.
owlmoose: (lost - sawyer)
I'd hoped to finish my epic comparative religion post today (the Chantry vs Yevon), but it's turning out even more epic than I planned, so you get a random life update instead.

Biggest news is that I got new contacts to try out, with a change in prescription for the first time in probably a decade. My left eye has gotten worse by almost a whole diopter (was 7.0, now 7.75), but my eye doctor was concerned that too strong a prescription would mess up my close-up vision, so the new lens is a 7.5. Even that is making a huge difference, I think. The next test will be working a full day at a computer screen, see how it does with eye strain, but at this point I think it's pretty likely that I'll make the switch, and maybe even update my glasses.

Worked my casual job today, just a couple of hours in the afternoon. My current project is cataloging his book collection, which is immensely satisfying. Then it was concert time, which went pretty well. One more show on Sunday and then I'm free for awhile, which will be nice.

Right now I'm watching Larry Wilmore on Stephen Colbert, which is both entertaining and jarring. I was always more of a Daily Show fan than Colbert Report, but I really, really like what Wilmore is doing with The Nightly Show, especially now that they've figured out that a smaller panel with a shorter segment works better. He's got a strong voice, and he does a good job of bringing diverse points of view together and giving people room to make their points without letting anything get out of hand.

What I haven't gotten to watch yet is Jessica Jones. T is also interested, which is good for togetherness but bad because it means I won't be able to marathon it (he's not a fan of binge watching). Hopefully I'll keep from getting spoiled too badly.

Guess that's about it for tonight. I hope to get back on track with real posting tomorrow.
owlmoose: A bright blue butterfly (butterfly)
As it typical for me in the third week of November, it's a concert week, which means I don't have time for much outside work and rehearsal. This year's main piece is one I've done before, "Dona Nobis Pacem" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and it's one of my favorites. This cantata is a setting of several texts, including three poems by Walt Whitman about his experiences as a Civil War nurse ("Beat! Beat! Drums", "Reconciliation", and "Dirge for Two Veterans"), various Biblical passages, and a speech by the British orator John Bright opposing the Crimean War. Vaughan Williams was himself a veteran of the First World War, in which he served as a medic, and he wrote this piece in 1936, with the dark clouds of the Second looming clearly on the horizon. It is a meditation on the horrors of war, and a plea for peace, ending on a note of hope for the future, and I can think of nothing more appropriate to sing right now.

I found this article with some background on Vaughan Williams himself as well as "Dona Nobis Pacem, and a complete recording on YouTube in case you're interested, and my concert is too far away for you to attend. (But if you're local and would like more details, let me know!)

Cover Me

Nov. 7th, 2015 10:10 pm
owlmoose: (cats - silver kitty)
[personal profile] lea_hazel asked me about covers of favorite songs, which I'm going to broaden a little bit to talk about song covers generally.

I enjoy a good song cover, especially if I feel like a cover brings something new to a song. I don't see much point to covers that straight-up reproduce the original. Give me a new angle, or tell me a new story, or bring out a new mood. I am particularly fond of acoustic versions of songs, including those by the original band -- those can often feel like a cover, especially if a song was heavily electronic to begin with.

If I had to pick my favorite original song/cover pairing, I'd probably choose Michael Stipe's live performance of U2's "ONE". I find the original to be haunting and beautiful. Stipe, in comparison, is rawer, and yet quieter at the same time, with less of Bono's bombast. The song was performed only once, for a benefit concert on MTV, by members of REM and U2 as the supergroup Automatic Baby. The way it captures a single moment in time is another thing I enjoy about it.

Another, very different example, is the Lorde cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", originally by Tears for Fears. Unlike "ONE", where the mood differences are subtle, these two songs are drastically different in tone. Tears for Fears presents an upbeat song, triumphant in nature, especially in its association with the movie Real Genius, where it plays over the heroes' crowning moment of awesome at the end. Lorde's version is dark, heavy, and foreboding, no surprise when you consider that it comes from the Hunger Games series. It's almost hard to believe that it's the same song, but the lyrics are identical as far as I can tell. The first time I heard it, it took my breath away.

A few other honorable mentions: another Tears for Fears song, "Mad World", as covered by Gary Jules; the 2 Nice Girls cover of "Sweet Jane" (a song that took me literally a decade to track down on mp3); and the Tori Amos cover of Joe Jackson's "Real Men".

So, these are mine. What are yours? Any recs? I'm always happy to discover more good music. :)
owlmoose: Picture of a beanie moose and a small brown owl (owlmoose)
I'm making good on my personal threat to attend lots of cons in 2016: I've now registered for FogCon (as always), WisCon (which I've been meaning to attend for a few years now and the stars finally aligned), and WesterCon (SE's suggestion; Scalzi is the guest of honor, and it's in Portland, which is a city I've always meant to spend more time in). So that's the first half of 2016 scheduled up.

I finally watched Daredevil. I'd been meaning to get to it for awhile; wanting to finish before Jessica Jones drops next month finally pushed it up the queue. Overall I enjoyed it, although I also had some issues. Some of the more pressing complaints are detailed in this Tumblr post ('ware major spoilers). I want to write a longer post about it soon.

Instead of other things I'd been meaning to read, I picked up the biography of Alice B. Sheldon (aka James Tiptree Jr.). I've never read any of Tiptree's fiction, but I've heard the bio is excellent, and so far it has delivered.

Finally, just because I haven't posted about it here doesn't mean I'm not caught in the full throes of a Hamilton obsession. If you've been wondering what the heck Hamilton is, or this is somehow the first you've ever heard of it, the short answer is that it's a Broadway musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The cast album was released a few weeks ago, and made available to listen online shortly before that, and half the Internet has been freaking out over it ever since. Here's a good primer (thanks to [personal profile] umadoshi for the link). If you want a taste of it without committing to the whole album (although it's free on Spotify), check out Miranda's White House performance of an early version of the first song. Warning for highly addictive earworms.
owlmoose: (ffx2 - paine glance)
Second dress tonight. We're doing a traditional dress rehearsal in concert order, which both unusual for us and has the side effect of half an hour of downtime for the chorus in the middle. Usually they organize things so that all of the choral pieces are together, but this time we had some logistical things that needed to be rehearsed. So now I'm hanging out and listening to the orchestra play Vaughan-Williams' "Fantasia on Greensleeves", which is not a piece I know, but it's pretty so far. Even if the conductor does keep starting and stopping.

Concert tomorrow.

Update: now the orchestra is playing "Waltz of the Flowers" from the Nutcracker. Half the chorus is bobbing their heads or swaying back and forth in their seats. I wonder how many of them even realize it? :)
owlmoose: (beethoven)
I'm down at Stanford for chorus tonight. Our regular conductor is back, which is a relief on many levels. The major piece is Mendelssohn's 2nd Symphony, "Lobegesang" ("Song of Praise), which I have done before but don't remember very well, so it's almost been like learning it from scratch. Parts are pretty challenging, and I missed a week for Hawaii. But overall I feel pretty good about it. Concert is in two weeks.

What I'm really excited about is next quarter, in the Winter. Brahms "Ein Deutsches Requiem". In the Bing. Conducted by our regular director, which is particularly awesome because it's his favorite piece of music ever written (one of mine, too), and it really shows in the way he prepares it, and leads us in it. That starts in January, and I can't wait.
owlmoose: (ffx2 - yuna)
Today is my single day off in a marathon concert week (we even had an extra rehearsal on Sunday night). There's only one performance, on Friday night. I have mixed feelings about single shows -- it's nice that I don't lose my entire weekend, but there's way more pressure to be perfect because we don't have another shot at it. One of the pieces is fiendishly difficult, but I found in last night's dress rehearsal that I know it better than I thought I did. As is usually the case. I wish we had another week or so to work on it, but I think we'll do fine.

Meanwhile we are having a heat wave, and it is glorious. I know many of my fellow San Franciscans are melting, but I am so happy. You people who enjoy your cold and your fog get your preferred weather 80% of the year; let me have this moment of cozy warm glory. ;) It's supposed to break tomorrow or Friday, so I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

The Agents of SHIELD finale was last night, and overall I am pleased. The season had its bumps and its low points, but as a first crack at cross-platform storytelling, I don't think they did too badly. I think I have a larger post brewing on this. Watch this space.

Good progress on DOINK! today. I am inching toward an ending. Let's see if I can get it there.
owlmoose: (da - flemeth)
1. My Tumblr dash is over half blocked posts. Must be new DA:I content! From the things that have slipped through (gaaah people why must things slip through), it sounds like a new trailer, which I would actually be interested in watching (just not dissecting in intense detail), so I'll have to check it out when I'm on a better Internet connection.

2. Speaking of Dragon Age, I'm still in need of a beta read for my Dragon Age Big Bang story. Any takers? At this point, given that it's due in less than a week, I'd be happy just for a quick read-through to look for egregious problems. Let me know.

3. I saw Winter Soldier again last week. It definitely holds up. I need to see it again. I posted my thoughts to Tumblr. Note, the entry also contains a significant spoiler for the two post CA:TWS Agents of SHIELD episodes. (Although it's the kind of spoiler that might actually lure some people into watching.)

4. We have another guest conductor this quarter. In some ways, he's as brilliant and as difficult as the guy we had in the Fall, but he has a way of communicating that makes him much easier to work with. The repertoire (church music by Holst and Vaughan Williams) is quite challenging -- so challenging that he actually pulled one work and substituted a much simpler one. It's a little disappointing to put three weeks of work into a piece and then not perform it, but it was absolutely the right choice, because now we can concentrate on making the rest of the concert amazing rather than struggling just to put it all together.

5. DOINK! I have my assignments and know which one I want to do. Now I just have to decide how I want to approach it. And see if I can manage to avoid all the shiny Steve Rogers distractions that the movie has put into my head.
owlmoose: (beethoven)
[personal profile] pete_thomas asked about my musical tastes, a bit more about the group I sing with, and what got me into music.

We'll start with the last question. I've always enjoyed music of all sorts, although my exposure to it as a kid was somewhat limited, because neither of my parents listen to popular music. They're both musical, though -- my dad sings and my mom plays piano and guitar, and I have many other family members who play instruments, sing, or both. I started playing the flute in fourth grade and the piano in fifth, and then in eighth grade, when we moved to California, I joined choirs at both school and church. When I started high school, I had to choose between band and singing, and because the music teacher had a better reputation as a choir director, that's what I did. I'm still sometimes a little sad that I gave up the flute (and that I quit playing piano a couple of years earlier), but high school was when I got really into singing, and it's been an important part of my life ever since.

The chorus I sing with now is based out of Stanford University. The conductor is a faculty member, and many of the singers are students, faculty, and staff, but it's also open to anyone in the community who wants to take part. It's a large group, usually well over 100 singers, and we perform with various local orchestras. I joined when I moved back to the Bay Area after college, and (with a quarter off here and there), I've been a member ever since. In a typical year, we have three performance seasons (Fall, Winter, and Spring) with two concerts each. Mostly we perform large-scale classical works, although sometimes we'll do smaller, more modern and/or avant guard pieces. This quarter is Verdi's Requiem, which I've done once before -- it's a challenge, but I like the music a lot. I enjoy singing with this group, and I've made a number of friends there, but the main thing that brings me back is the conductor, who is fabulous. He's on sabbatical this year, which makes me appreciate him even more.

As for my musical tastes, they're pretty eclectic. I do like classical, both choral and orchestral, but if you scrolled through my iTunes, you'd find quite a lot of alternative rock and pop (especially from the 80s and 90s), movie and game soundtracks, folk and folk-rock, and mellow electronica. I like music I can sing along with, and I like music I can write to (two categories that are almost but not quite mutually exclusive). Since I almost never listen to music radio these days, finding new music is a challenge. Recommendations, Pandora, and fanmixes are good sources, but I'm always on the lookout for more.


Nov. 22nd, 2013 11:37 pm
owlmoose: (beethoven)
The first concert is done. It could have gone better but it also could have gone worse. I'm glad we get another shot at it on Sunday -- and I'm also glad that it's Sunday, not tomorrow. Time to drink lots of water and prop up my feet.
owlmoose: (B5 - londo oh dear)
Second dress rehearsal today. My feet are tired, and I am very frustrated with my fellow chorus members. You know, if you would just do the thing our guest conductor is asking you to do, rather than misunderstand, resist, and second-guess almost everything he says, things would run a lot more smoothly. The difficulties we had with him this quarter are not all on him.

The music is sounding pretty good, at least.

Some good commentary and thoughts on my Wardens of Ivalice post. I have some interesting new ideas already. Come weigh in! :)

Yesterday's rainstorm is over, but it's super windy out. A friend on Facebook said she was having the urge re-read A Wrinkle in Time. Power is out lots of places, too. Feels very like winter. So much for fall.

That's about it here. How are you?
owlmoose: (beethoven)
Last piano rehearsal was today. Tomorrow and Thursday dress rehearsals, concerts Friday and Sunday. The piece is Ernest Bloch's Sacred Service (Avodath Hakodesh), which I've done before, but not for a very long time. I like the music better than I remember, but the experience of learning it has been more stressful than usual because our regular conductor is on sabbatical this year, and working with the guest conductor for the quarter has been tough. In part, it's because his style is very very different, and I think he would have been difficult to get used to regardless. But he didn't make the best first impression with most of the chorus, and I feel like most people didn't give him much of a chance to correct it. So it's set up a very poor feedback loop where he does or says something that rubs folks the wrong way, people react badly to it, and he gets defensive.

Fortunately, we're working with someone else in the Winter Quarter, and yet another person in the Spring. And the orchestra conductor, whom we've worked with before, is conducting this weekend's performances, and our two rehearsals with him have already gone much easier. So I think it will be fine. As long as my feet don't give out.
owlmoose: (coffee)
I've sent a couple more job apps out, and I'm mulling over another that might be more work than it's worth. We'll see.

Today was mostly laundry and writing silly prompt fics, which has been quite fun so far. It occurs to me that maybe I should link prompt memes here when I post them on Tumblr. On the other hand, I think most of you who would be interested are following me in both places. But anyway, feel free to play along. :) My askbox is open to anons if you don't have an account. I'll crosspost the results when they're finished regardless.

I also watched a couple episodes of Scandal -- I'm intrigued by Kerry Washington, I like political shows, and a gifset from the most recent season really caught my eye. So I figured I'd check it out. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but Kerry Washington really is fantastic. But I need another currently airing show like I need a hole in my head. ;) Maybe I can just keep behind on this one.

Then I had chorus. Concert is next week. Our usual conductor is on sabbatical this year, so we've been working with a guest conductor whose style is very different. I don't mind him so much, but let's just say he's not generally popular. So I'm glad it's almost over, if only because the stress of everyone else's unhappiness has really been getting to me.


May. 30th, 2013 12:15 pm
owlmoose: (heroes - hiro jump)
I had an interview yesterday, and it went pretty well! They said I should know by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, the units on either side of our place are both undergoing remodeling. :\ So that's a fun time for me to be home all day. I might need to start making more plans to get out of the house.

Also, it's a concert week. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, three nights in a row (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday -- I'd invite locals to check it out, but all three shows are sold out and have been for awhile; they even added an extra show on Sunday, and it sold out in only a few days). Plus tonight's dress rehearsal is being recorded, so we have to wear concert dress and be on our best behavior, so it's really more like an extra concert. Good times.

How is everyone?
owlmoose: (quote - bucket)
I keep promising to update my journal more often and then not doing it. Well, no time like the present. Five things make a post?

1. The Winter quarter concert is over, and it went well. Now we're on a brief break until April, when we start rehearsals for Beethoven's Ninth. That's such an awe-inspiring piece, and I'm really looking forward to it.

2. DOINK! sign-ups are open through Friday!

It's no exaggeration to say that DOINK is my favorite event on the fandom calendar, except maybe the Kiss Battles. I've been participating in DOINK since the very beginning, and I've gotten and produced some of my very favorite stories in the process. If you are at all interested, check it out. Even if you can't make the official schedule work, the mods are always in need of betas and pinch-hitters (I find writing pinch-hits to be especially satisfying).

3. I just realized that I never posted anything about my latest cat drama. Cut for pet health issues. )

4. Is anyone surprised that I started playing FFX-2 right after finishing FFX? No? I didn't think so. In other fandomy things, I am still doing the 30 Day Grey Warden Challenge, but I've decided to post my answers only on Tumblr. If you're interested, you can follow along on this tag, and I'll probably also do a master post when I'm finished. Speaking of master posts, I really need to make one for the DA Kiss Battle, and I'll plan on doing that this week. Hold me to that, Internets.

5. Although it might be a challenge with cat care, I'm planning an overnight trip to Napa with some friends next month, as part of my extended birthday celebration. Hey, I turned 40. That rates a birthday month, doesn't it? Despite living in the SF Bay Area since 1986, I've almost never been to Napa, so I'm looking forward to that, too.
owlmoose: (beethoven)
We started rehearsals for this piece tonight. I don't have anything to say about that, really. I just wanted the excuse to use my Beethoven icon.
owlmoose: (beethoven)
Concert week, day 2. In 10 minutes, I will leave the confines of this nice cozy Starbucks for the dubious charms of a very echoey church, where I will stand on either marble steps or (fingers cross) rickety metal risers for the better part of three hours, working with a new orchestra and two conductors in a valiant attempt to get all the balances right. And I will both love and hate every minute of it.

The pieces this quarter are Mozart's Vespers and Faure's Requiem. The Mozart is new to me, and I don't know it as well as I would like -- we rehearsed the final movement at our usual practice time last night, and I swear, cross my heart, that I had never seen it before on my life. (We must have worked on it at the rehearsal I missed for my road trip.) But it's a fun piece, very light and bouncy and quick, in true Mozart "too many notes" style. It might tire the royal ear, but I enjoy it. The Faure is one of the most gorgeous pieces of choral music ever written. This is the third or maybe the fourth time that will have performed it, and I love it more every time. There are sections that still give me chills just to think about them.

Dress rehearsals tonight and Thursday (Wednesday we have off), performances Friday night and Sunday afternoon -- and Saturday I am making the drive to Sacramento to hook up with some Tumblr friends, which is very exciting, but does that ever make for a busy week. And normally I'd get to flop afterwards, but we pick right up again on Monday with more rehearsals for a special performance in January. And if I'm around less than usual for the next few days, now you know why.

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