Friday, April 8, 2011

The Free Table

So I found this amazing pop-up book on the "free table" the other day. "The Pop Up Circus Book" from Random House. The book is beautifully illustrated and contains pages of different circus characters- there are flame-swallowers! cage masters! cannon-ball shooters! and the best part? You simply pull on paper handles and the illustrations move!

Have I introduced you to the "free table" yet? I dont think so. The Free Table is on Pearl street, a mere skip down from my apartment. I pass it every time I walk up and down to central square. Every day there is something new on the table, whether its the family who owns it who lugs stuff out from their home, or residents of the neighborhood who drop off unwanted dreck*. Recently I have been contributing a lot of goods to the free table, as my spring cleaning has begun and I find myself mercilessly ridding myself and my room of unnecessary shlock*.
I find the coolest stuff on the free table! For example, earlier this winter I found a mini hand-crafted Mexican guitar. When I spotted it from a block down, my heart jumped and I snatched it away before any one of my neighbors could take it. Its sitting in my room and I often I pluck its strings and accompany myself while I sing. (I dont know how to play guitar so I just pluck). A while back I also found jumbo playing cards that I have stashed in my growing library of reference materials. They are big, bold and have cool graphic illustrations and symbols. I can't wait to use them in a future project. My roommate, Brian cant wait to play "Giant Poker".

I love children's books! I keep finding great children's books around town and so my collection is growing. I'm appreciating, I think-more than ever- the purity and simplicity of these books; the language is so easy, yet the message is so very deep and meaningful.heartwarming too. And the artwork and illustrations within the books is so beautiful.
I love that every time I read a children's book, I understand the world a little more clearly.
Happily Ever After,

*Dreck: yiddish for useless shit
*Shlock: Also yiddish for useless shit

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Maria Guinand speaks at Harvard

Today I went to hear world-renowned conductor Maria Guinand- speak at Harvard's Paine Hall. Guinand is here in Boston as part of the conductor-in-residence program through the Boston Children's Chorus. The program helps to expose young singers to international influences in music and brings distinguished choral leaders from around the world to teach and conduct. She is here in Boston working with the BCC April 5-9th. She lives in Venezuela, where she has conducted Cantoría Alberto Grau, the Orfeón Universitario Simón Bolívar, and the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela. She has also won numerous awards for her work and has traveled all over the world to speak about South American Choral music and topics alike. On April 28-29 at 8pm she will be conducting the BCC in a performance at Sanders Hall at Harvard.

In her one-hour lecture she gave a brief overview of South American choral music, which she said was born from Catholicism and began as a form of education for Missionaries to teach religious ideas to native populations. She talked us through the time of 16th century latin madrigals all the way to 21st century African-inspired percussive a cappella choral music sung in Spanish. We listened to quick snippets of beautiful pieces that- quickly engulfed the music hall in such a way that I felt like I was being transcended to the sky for 30 seconds at a time then dropped back down to my bench. She spoke of the choral traditions in Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Chile and Uruguay. She had a thick spanish accent and she took time to find the right words to express what she was thinking. She read from a power-point, but often strayed from the podium, pushed her reading glasses into her silver hair and delved into detail on specific songs or composers.

The lecture ended with questions, and one man asked her about her experience teaching- "is it easier to teach music to children in Venezuela versus teaching music to children here in the U.S.?"- a question that I found particularly interesting. Guinand claims that vocal and choral traditions are so much rooted in the history of the culture and that yes, children who are raised in South American cultures are exposed to those musical traditions and are more familiar with particular aspects such as the sounds, the language, and the way the voice is used to express emotion. "We are not afraid to express with our voice", She said.
While there may be differences in the kids learning threshold, it is evident that Guinand travels and teaches because of exactly this. How powerful to dig up your country's rich musical roots and spread them to singers around the world.

Afterwards, I watched Guinand begin her rehearsal with the BCC and I was reminded of my choral days, sitting in the cold choir room with Mr. Martin banging the soprano notes on the piano. Hearing these kids sing and form such rich harmonies; the sopranos softly hovering over the solid alto section. The baritones laying down the backbone for the whole ensemble...oh the beauty.
And so it was a wonderful lecture, and definitely a wake up call for me to start singing choral music again.
You can watch a video of Maria conducting her choir...just click on her photo on the right panel!
Until later,