This week, I listened to Alan (brilliantly) play the Bach Prelude & Fugue (St. Anne) in E-flat Major (BWV 552). From the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Philadelphia, I was transported back 6 years, and hundreds of miles away to the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria.
I was traveling in Germany, and had made a side trip to Vienna to sing for an agent. As luck would have it, I was there at the exact time as a dear friend who was to sing in a concert of Russian music in the Votivkirche.
My sightseeing, the day of the concert, purposely included a trial run from my hotel on Mariahilferstrasse to the church and back, just to make sure that I'd know where I was going in the dark of evening.
It was a bitterly cold December day, and I pulled my new shearling hat down over my ears as I made my way across the city. I entered the church, to hear familiar strains of a piece of organ music - Bach's "St. Anne" - that I'd heard so many times at home.
In an instant, the familiarity of the work made me feel not so far away. I wandered up the aisle, eyes cast upward to the majestic Baroque-ness, welling up in thankfulness that I was able to experience such wonders.
That evening, I attended the concert of the Bolshoi Don Kosaken. My Bulgarian friend, Georgi, who I had not seen in over a dozen years, was now living in Germany, and was singing as a substitute tenor in the group for this one concert.
Assuming that a last-minute ticket would find me somewhere far in the back, behind a sight-obstructing column, I was giddy with the treatment I received - worthy of a princess!
Thanks to Georgi, I was ushered to the very first rows, and seated next to the wife of the CONDUCTOR of the group! In the chill of the enormous church on a cold winter's night, she generously offered me part of her fur coat to tuck around my legs.
The concert of urgent, melancholic, heartfelt, Russian music brought tears to my eyes, with the familiar tunes. The melodies of that music somehow bypassed the fact that I've never heard some of them before, yet still seem familiar.
And to see Georgi's smiling, familiar face among the fine singers, made that evening, swaddled in the Conductor's wife's fur, listening to the Music of my People, sung by a dear friend from another time, was pure, Viennese Magic.
As I left the Votivkirche, the night was crisp and cold, and I looked up to see the brightest of moons. I made my way to the U-Bahn singing the Moon Song that Mommie and I always sing, in harmony: "I see the moon, the moon sees me. God bless the moon, and God bless me."
How one piece of music has the power to ignite layer upon layer of memory, is just one of it's wonders.
Thank you, Alan & J.S. Bach, for that one...
The idea of renouncing all worldly goods and seeking detachment from material things doesn't appeal to me. Walking through the world with nothing but a saffron robe and an empty rice bowl is for MUCH more highly evolved beings than me.
I like stuff.
I like the feel of things - objects that have weight and texture, substance and permanence. I like the leftover to hold on to, after the experience.
My drawers are filled with bits of this and that, amassed from here and there - souvenirs, gifts, reminders, and markers of places visited and things done. To me, half the fun of the trip is the stuff I come home with.
Perhaps, I seek to balance the ephemeral nature of singing. For once a note or a phrase is sung, it's essence of mere vibration spirals out and away into the ether, fading to eventual nothingness. Gone. Nothing remains, save the memory in the hearer's ear.
But then again, maybe I just like stuff.
It's no wonder that I'm drawn to stones. What could be more permanent than stone? The "stuff" of my earliest days of childhood was all like that, things that helped me learn about nature, about cultures, the things of my world, and things that were out of this world!
Who knew that those things, sharks teeth, Indian beads, arrowheads, along with a special cotton -cushioned box of shiny chunks of pyrite, tiger's eye, and obsidian, collected from family travels, would eventually lead me to creating lovely jewelry out of just such stones!
It's been a hectic couple of days, keeping up with personalized "Thank You's" to all who have become Fans of the Facebook Page (82 as of this moment). I've taken a clue from an area photographer Scott Frederick (www.scottfrederickphotography.com) who went the extra mile when I became a fan of his work.
I felt a little afluster, then, when I got up early this morning to go to my church job, where I was to sing a lengthy 15-minute cantata. "The Way to Emmaus" is, even on the best of days, a "big sing."
I'm delighted to say that it went very, very well, thanks to Alan's brilliant playing. It really couldn't have gone better, even if I HAD obsessed about it all week, took to my bed, swaddled my throat, and used an atomizer to keep my cords well-hydrated.
I'm starting to see that things have a way of working out and going more smoothly when I have a balance in my life, and not having that all-or-nothing obsessive focus on just one thing.
Given that there are SO many things over which we exert absolutely no control, it would seem that all the worry and single-focus, can really detract (and distract) from the things we DO actually have a handle on.
After the service, I was happily receiving kind words from my colleagues, when Alan said that he had someone for me to meet. It was FLORENCE QUIVAR! ~ renowned mezzo-soprano, and absolutely gorgeous woman. She just happened to come to First Baptist Church this morning.
She was very complimentary, and most gracious when I nervously fumbled getting my cell phone to take a photo. What I know for sure, is that it was for the best that I didn't know that she was in the congregation BEFORE I sang!
You just never know...
Mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar ~ First Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA
...people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world." (sings Barbara Streisand)
How LUCKY I feel, after the launch of the "Belle Pietre" Facebook Page a day ago, to have dozens of (OK, as of this very moment, 70) Fans already! What a wonderful way to promote this work, and what a valuable tool social networking can be.
I'll admit now that I created the page months ago, at the same time that I created a Fan Page for Dan May ~ www.danmaycd.com ~ friend, colleague, and BRILLIANT Singer/Songwriter.
Of course it was easy telling the world about HIM. My hesitance about promoting myself, naturally, fell under the category of (what's now becoming a pretty boring story about) "Tooting One's Horn."
What a wonderful thing, that it IS becoming boring! And it's only gotten to that point by working it out here. Bit by bit, post by post, success by success.
You really couldn't have told me, on March 31st, when Belle Blog began, that I would be be doing promotion amongst hundreds of friends, colleagues, fans and acquaintances - and now THEIR friends, colleagues, fans and acqauintances, and the circle will continue to widen!
How could I have EVER imagined how supportive and encouraging they would be of me and Belle Pietre?
Thank you, People!
...gimme an L - A - N!!!
Alan let it slip that he loved being mentioned here, particularly in reference to our common condition of just-shy-of-diagnosable OCD. I mention him now, for another reason, lest he be thought of as a mere sidekick for my repertoire of weird "ism's."
Today, it's in appreciation for him who encourages and supports me in all that I do.
Alan has a remarkably unflappable persona (except, that is, when we get a good giggle on, in a totally inappropriate place). Life and people and conditions rarely phase him (by choice), and if he experiences ANY of the self-doubt or caution that I do, he's got me fooled!
It's a sweet and wonderful thing, when, in the midst of one of my Doubtfests, feeling like the dysfunctional whirling dervish to his eye of the storm, to have him genuinely, sincerely say something like, "Awww, that was beautiful!", in that understated way of his.
It's vitally important to surround ourselves with THOSE kind of people, and to receive THAT kind of help and support. I'm blessed to have Alan, and many others in my life who do that for me.
The lovely thing is, is that the circle grows exponentially - the more I seek them out, the more like them I become myself, and in turn, all the more I have to share with others.
Thank you, Alan, for helping me to do what I do.
"No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you."
~ Althea Gibson
Pablo Picasso, vanguard of modern art, notorious lady's man, and the guy responsible for driving more than one lovesick woman to suicide, is the source of Belle Blog's quote du jour:
"I am always doing things I can't do; that's how I get to do them."
This morning, I read a Status Update on Facebook from the "Chautauqua Belle," an historical paddle wheeler that gives the folks on Chautauqua Lake a taste of what life was like at the turn of the last century, when the only transportation in the area was the steam ship!
The Captain (actually, a young man named Mat Stage who spearheaded the re-building of the vessel some years ago) was calling for photos from people who had cruised on the steam boat, that would be included in their new, updated website.
On a whim, I looked through my pictures from last summer, and posted a couple of the best on their Fan Page, thinking, "that'll be the end of that."
Merely minutes later, there was a lovely message from Mat in my Inbox, saying how beautiful my photos were, and that they'd give me and Mom a season's pass to ride the Chautauqua Belle to our hearts' content this summer in exchange for the use of my photos!
Who knew I could take website-worthy photos? And who knew that I could actually take decisive action, when I couldn't already foresee the outcome?
And so here's to more of THAT (whatever "that" may be) whether I know how to do it, or not!
The Chautauqua Belle ~ Summer 2009
Maybe it's the Perfectionist in me, or family conditioning that says tooting your own horn is "just not done" - either way, making my way in this world employed as a singer, voice teacher and artsy creator, makes me wish that it were possible to farm out the job of "tooting" to someone else.
Being self-effacing works brilliantly for shy, retiring damsels in Jane Austin novels, and can be a rare and lovely touch in typically over-blown political speeches, but it does NOT work in self-promotion.
Since launching Belle Pietre, I knew it was going to be up to me to get the word out. I also knew that I would feel goofy and hesitant about doing it.
Funny, what happened today, then, when Dan Pantano, my colleague from The Academy of Vocal Arts, asked me when I was going to tell him about my jewelry so that he could blog about it, and me as an alumna, on AVA's website.
My immediate reaction was to sputter, hem & haw, and say, oh no, really, it isn't necessary, and who would want to read about it, and little ole me, etc.?
So I said, "No."
After a moment, however, I comprehended that I would be passing up a chance for hundreds of opera fans and supporters to see what I've created. I gave myself a good mental bonk, squared my shoulders, whipped one of my new business cards out my bag, and thanked him profusely for getting the word out about my work!
Not coincidently, I ran into Eric German, a friend that I've not seen in ages at a concert, just last night. He told me something long ago that I often preach to others (and conveniently forget myself), "If you don't ask, the answer is always, 'No'."
The thing about Dan and the AVA Blog was, I hadn't even HAD to ask. And all along, it had been ME that was saying "No."
Let's see what ELSE can be said, "Yes" to today!
"As I say yes to life, life says yes to me!"
...another one opens. And, oftentimes, a very lovely one!
That's just what happened yesterday afternoon when I met with jeweler, Reginald Grant, owner of GRANT JEWELERS, a lovely store right on Skaneateles New York's main thoroughfare - in the historic Legg Building - near Thayer Park!
I brought 10 pieces, 7 necklaces and 3 pairs of earrings with me to show, and Reg wanted to display ALL of them in his shop/gallery - and the timing just couldn't be better!
While Skaneateles is "home" for me (or at least the next-town-over), it's a vacation destination for thousands of visitors to the Fingerlakes each summer. With Mother's Day fast approaching, and the high months of Tourism Season ahead, it couldn't be a better time to establish a Belle Pietre Presence there!
My pieces have already traveled home with tourists to Philadelphia from Scotland, England, Canada and Germany, and I can't wait to see where they'll end up next!
...a piece doesn't sell:
a.) Believe that the work is horrible and has all been done in vain.
b.) Think that it's a sign from the Universe to quit and give up entirely (I mean, really, why did I ever think I could do this anyway?).
c.) Go on the offensive and sputter that "people" just don't know a good thing when they see it.
d.) Take things apart and rework them, show them in a different location, save them for another season when they might be more color- or texture-appropriate, and trust in the process of creating something for public consumption.
I'll admit to wallowing for a while in a, b, and c ~ but am now choosing d! What's the alternative, really?
My Mom's dining room table is entirely covered with beads, baubles, silver, and half-finished pieces at the moment. Before traveling home, I rescued a number of pieces from a retail location, where, although there had been a number of sales, let's just say the nature of the storefront did not allow my pieces to be seen to their best advantage.
I've now polished the silver findings 'til they shine again, have taken apart a number of pieces and am in the process of reworking them into different shapes, that I've discovered I LOVE as I learn and experiment in jewelry design. I'm making something new; making Belle Pietre lemonade out of what I'd been seeing as tarnished lemons!
Could this be true of other things in life, too? Sure, sometimes a complete overhaul IS necessary and worthwhile, but, oftentimes it's not about having to re-invent the wheel.
Perhaps a slight adjustment of the elements is all that's required to bring about the results we want. Maybe the answer "No" we're getting now, is just for the time being and not forever.
Already I'm seeing the fruits of my perseverance, and not only in the finished pieces themselves. I'm excited to report that what had seemed like a loss of one retail outlet, has already led to not one but TWO new potential venues, and with ideas for even MORE in the works!
"Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
Twas the night before Easter,
when all through the city,
not a creature was beading.
Not me nor my kitty...