January 10, 2010

Who's who?

Finding myself with four hours’ spare time in Lahti last Thursday, I headed to the main library, which proved a pleasant surprise with its large music section, sound proofed piano rooms – one of which I rented for the cost of 1€ - and its helpful staff. I certainly hope the piano room was sound proofed, by the way, because otherwise the library’s clients got to endure a performance of me humming the (very high) violin solo of the Benedictus from Beethoven’s Missa solemnis to my own accompaniment. Having a look at the choral section, I was delighted to find a thick book called “Who’s who in choral music”. Published just a few years ago, the book presents over a thousand people from all around the world who have made significant contributions to the choral scene. It’s either that or they’re the editors’ closest friends.

Anyway, since I had nothing but time, I decided to go through the whole list of names and make a note of people I have heard of. From the 1044 names, about 120 rang a bell. And out of these 120, I established a personal connection with 30 persons (this includes people who have conducted a concert I have sung and/or are on my Facebook friend list). Thirty might not seem like much to you, but let me really stress that the book presented a range of people so vast it included Chinese arts managers, people with the obscure job description “clinician” (which, you have to admit, brings more to mind someone in the field of medicine than musicians) and editors of a choral magazine somewhere unheard of.

If browsing “who’s who” didn’t feel quite satisfying, it at least made time pass quicker, and so I was soon trudging through the icy snow back to the Lahti theatre house to resume conducting stage rehearsals of Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci, which will have its premiere together with Cavalleria Rusticana in just over a week. It was one of the coldest days of this winter until now. The trees were white with snow, the sky was a beautiful blue and the sun was beginning to set. Not everybody was happy with the weather. “I always said I was born in the wrong country, out here with these bloody polar bears!!!” screeched our lovable director before settling down in her black robes to supervise the proceedings of the rehearsal.

We were at the final scene, where Pagliacco loses his marbles in the middle of the performance and stabs his wife Nedda and her lover to death infront of an (understandably) bewildered audience (that would be the choir I have been coaching all of last autumn!). The killings had to be rehearsed over and over again, with “STOP!”, “CUT!” and “you’re supposed to stab her, not break her neck!” booming around us from the director’s microphone. The singers performing the parts of the murder victims were having problems concerning the direction they were supposed to fall after they had been stabbed. They went swaying and crashing in different directions so many times that Nedda called a halt to the proceedings and went to get herself something to strap to her knees for protection. After many retakes of the scene – one of which ended in unintentional laughter because the doomed lovers had accidentally almost fallen on each other, with the raving Pagliacco stuck under their limbs – we were finally done.

With this year involving quite a lot of travelling in and outside Finland, it’s a relief to once again own a device for listening to music on the go. One of my newest evening pastimes is compiling playlists from my iTunes library. I actually began a playlist called Best of Bach, but soon realised the task was pretty absurd. When I feel like it, I can just select Bach as composer and probably anything the machine randomly plays by him will be some of the best stuff ever composed! Another thing I have discovered are podcasts. Until now, I have subscribed to two pretty good ones: BBC’s “From our own correspondent” and the Guardian’s “Book of the week”, in which the hosts of the program keep dishing out book recommendations so fast I can’t keep up with the typing.

To end this post, can I just complain about the outrageously short time it takes particles of dust to unite and create all these grey ugly balls flying on the floor? I just found another one although I’ve just vacuumed the flat. According to Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust), “approximately 6 mg/m²/day of house dust is formed in private households”. Well, say that in English, and it probably means a lot of dust. I sometimes wonder whether dust somehow gathers at an exponential speed, with one of the factors being the frequency of vacuum cleaning – the more often you sweep the floor, the faster you’ll have more dust..?

Whatever. The Beach is on tonight, so I can watch that and imagine I’m somewhere far from all this dust and this endless web of “who’s who” we're all supposed to master so well.


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