Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas holidays!

I am on holiday! Yay. I'm so glad work is over. I submitted my last final on Tuesday, and spent a little time today calculating final grades for my students, and now I'm home, and finished, and SO ready for a break! I'm not going to do anything school-related until after New Years.

This isn't a great picture, but at least you can get a general sense of what my Christmas decorations look like, with the view of the Empire State Building in the background.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It isn't over till it's over.

Hey, it's the Christmas season after all, and miracles can happen. But in the mean time, I'll let Zapiro, eloquent as ever, comment on all that is wrong with this....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

talent on all sides

In amongst the marking and scrambling to finish finals, there is a whole lot to celebrate at the moment.
Yesterday was the last lecture of the undergraduate course I have had such fun TAing this semester, and we used the time, delightfully, to hold an open mic session for students and faculty alike. It was really wonderful to have some super talented students show us what they really can do with their voices, and I was particularly moved by A's wonderful song-writing and performing abilities, D's incredible producing skills, and M's very creative combination of beat-boxing and throat singing. You are all so awesome, and it has been wonderful getting to know you this semester. I wish you everything of the best for your future careers, and really hope I'll get to see more of you in future.
And now, in the spirit of the season, I'm posting the YouTube video originally sent to me by NYChoirgirl, that I contributed to our class festivities yesterday. Enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

And feel like it, too. On Saturday night, NYChoirgirl and I performed our end of year concert with the Stonewall Chorale. It was a super success, with the big Church of the Ascension nearly full, and lots of great feedback from the various audience members I got to talk to afterwards. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us. It was wonderful to see so many smiling faces in the audience, to get such super applause, and to hear your very generous comments afterwards. I'm so glad you were all there, and that you had a good time.
I also put up my Christmas decorations this past week, and now have a string of steady white lights, a string of flashing blue lights, great loops of blue tinsel, and a dozen or so blue and white snowflakes adorning my living room. They blend very well with the blue and white Empire State Building I can see through the window. I haven't got a Christmas tree yet, because live ones make me sad (I hate the idea of cutting a tree down, just to throw it out, dry and sorry-looking, in January), and artificial ones are surprisingly difficult to find in this city. At least, artificial ones under $50. Online shopping has come to my rescue (as it so often does), though, and my little 3 foot pre-lit artificial Christmas tree is on its way. I love putting Christmas decorations up. And now, in the Northern hemisphere, where the sky is dark by the time I get out of class, the lights really brighten things up.
Speaking about getting out of class, I taught my last seminar of the semester today, and now have a large pile of marking waiting for me. It's actually less daunting than I thought it might be, because the student's assignments are so interesting to read. I really like these students, and am going to miss them next semester.
Finally, this is my last evening at home for a while. Tomorrow, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights I'm attending various Christmas parties, and on Wednesday night, I participate in the NYU tradition of midnight breakfast for dinner. On Wednesday, I also attend my last class of the semester, and a week later, submit my last final. And then, I'm on holiday for just under a month.

Monday, December 03, 2007

What sweeter music....

NYChoirgirl gave a wonderful performance on Saturday evening, with the Dessoff choir. It was her second performance with this really super choir, and while I found their last performance, at Carnegie Hall really thrilling, I especially enjoyed this performance because the focus was so much more on the choir than the last one was.
The venue was St. Bartholomew's Church, and it set the perfect atmosphere with its gold dome and spectacular stained glass. The accoustics were wonderful, and the choir made full use of that, exhibiting all the subtelty, strength and clarity of their sound with Gerald Finzi's In Terra Pax (Op. 39, 1954) and Benjamin Britten's St. Nicolas (Op. 42, 1948). I must admit to being a particlar fan of the Finzi, where the composer's wonderful familiarity with the type of harmonic movement that is particularly beautiful with a full choral sound resulted in moments of absolutely sublime music in the hands of this skillful choir. The very last line: "And on earth peace, good will toward men" gave me goosebumps.
The Britten is perhaps more of a virtuosic work, requiring both stamina and clear articulation from the choir, who were in good form. I still have the rapid ascending meoldy of the second movement, in particular the clear, fresh womens' sound, interwoven with the deliberate incantation sung by a very sweet boy soloist, and the tenor soloist, running through my head. The moment when this incantation is taken over by the adult St. Nicolas from his child self is very moving, as is Nicolas' prayer in the fourth movement that God "Teach us to ask for less and offer more in gratitude to Thee."
All in all, it was a wonderful start to the Christmas season, with unusual, and very appropriate music that makes a nice change from the usual Christmas fare. I was so proud of NYChoirgirl. Her face was shining, and she looked so delighted to be singing. As one of her fellow chorister's pointed out, she looks especially angelic when she's singing.

So now we are less than a week away from our first performance together with the Stonewall Chorale, next Saturday, the 8th of December, at the Church of the Ascention. Do come and support us. I predict a good performance!