Friday, July 31, 2009

Sounds in the Sound

I've been lax when it comes to blogging, and I apologize for that. No excuses. Except that I am the biggest procrastinator in the world. So, with that out of the way, on to the blog.

This Tuesday just past, I took my mom up to a concert in Parry Sound. They have this Festival of the Sound every year, it's a two week long festival of all sorts of music. (well, not all sorts, really. There's no rock, or metal, or pop. Classical, jazz, choral, that kind of thing.)(no rap either)

Anyway, I learned that the Elora Festival Singers were going to be performing at the Festival of the Sound, and I've really been wanting to hear them, since my choir, Serenata Choir sang with them a couple of years ago. They are truly amazing, and a joy to sing with. As a member of a choir, I love that kind of music, but i seldom take the opportunity to listen to it. I love the performance, but it's just so nice to be on the other side of the stage for once.

The concert we heard was in the Charles Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, which, because this is Canada, after all, also houses the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. The Stockey Centre is absolutely gorgeous, a really intimate setting, we were four rows from the front, and less than 20 feet from the stage. They even had seats on either side of the stage, but i liked where we were, in the centre, you get a more balanced sound.

Noel Edison is the Conductor of the Elora Festival Singers, and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. He's a wonderful director, able to coax beautiful melodies and wonderful phrasing from any choir.

The performance started off with four pieces by Eric Whitacre. (BTW, he does not fit my stereotypical image of a choral composer.)Two of them i don't remember the names of, and they weren't in the program. "i thank You God for most this amazing day" is an ee cummings poem set to music. "Sleep" was the other piece. So beautifully done, they were halfway through the first piece before i realized that they were doing it a capella (without musical accompaniment)The balance of this choir was amazing. Their phrasing is exquisite, the tone is beautiful. Singing a capella is challenging, an inadequately trained choir can easily fall off pitch. Um..yeah.. not a problem for this group.

They also sang a piece by Paul Tiefenbach, "Nunc Dimittis", which was lovely and lyrical and beautiful.

One of my favourite pieces, "Remember", is a poem by Christina Rossetti, which is sung to the music composed by Steven Chatman. It's a gorgeous piece, which is meant to be sung a capella, which they did. They gave me goosebumps.. truly a beautiful, wonderful, lyrical piece, which they did absolute justice to.

The next part of the concert was their performance of a work by Tim Corlis, who was a Juno nominee (you have to scroll down a bit on that page). "Missa Pax" was commissioned for the occasion of the Elora Festival's, and the Festival of the Sound's 30th season. This work was absolutely amazing. I can't remember how many movements there were, I was lost in the music. There were beautiful, long sustained notes from the women, gorgeous low tones from the men, and such wonderful mixtures of everything. The entries were clean, the ends of phrases were exact. It was beautiful. James Campbell, the artistic director of the Festival, accompanied the choir in that work, on the clarinet. I have to say, i was a little nervous about that. The clarinet has never been my favourite instrument. Well, apparently i've just never heard it played right. It was a beautiful addition to the work, absolutely lovely. He blended so well with the choir, that at times, i could almost not pick the sound of the clarinet out of the mixture.

I have only one negative thing to say about the whole concert. After the "Missa Pax", the audience stood up in appreciation. The program was perfect. It needed nothing else. I had the last note of the Missa Pax in my mind, and i could have died happy, right there. Then Mr. Edison led the choir in "So you want to write a fugue", by Glenn Gould. Now, this is a wonderful piece of music, its funny, its lovely to listen to, but i just so wanted that last note in my mind.

so... there it is.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What were they thinking?????

I'm just saying. As if clowns and nutcrackers aren't scary enough, what the hell would you do if you woke up on christmas morning with this freaking thing under the tree? HIDE!!! that's what. Wonder why you haven't already been taken by the children's aid, if your parents think that this is an appropriate gift. I found this on (where, incidentally, i found my new living room furniture)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My father

I’ve been thinking about my father a lot lately. Last night, I was kept awake by thoughts of him. These thoughts have been stimulated by a couple of things. I recently finished a book, Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels. It tells the story of a young boy who watches his family get massacred during WWII. My father spent a year in a concentration camp during that war, and stories, movies etc that are set in that era are always difficult for me. I generally avoid them, but didn’t this time.

Another thing that set me down this path is this picture that i saw in Found Magazine. The man in that picture reminds me of my father, not just the way he looks, but the way he sits, the directness of his gaze, he seems to be left handed. It just struck me.

Found magazine has had a number of finds, these days, that seem to be things that people would be sad to have lost. Those photographs, notes from children. It’s sad, the way things get lost, people get forgotten.

I think that is what’s bothering me. I don’t want my father to be forgotten. My own children were young when he died. They have no memory of him being the incredibly vibrant man that he was when I was growing up. I think it’s sad that most of my nieces and nephews didn’t have a close relationship with him, mostly due to distance, I think. My children had the most potential to be close to him, and they were robbed of that by his sickness.

I see parts of my father that have been passed on. Two of my nieces are talented artists, as was my father. Several of them are talented in other ways, musically, creatively. My brothers can all build things without being taught how to do it, they have this instinctive knowledge of the way things go together. My oldest sister has an eye for beauty, and the sister closest to me is a talented artist, as well as having his trust of people. All of us have a love of nature, a love of water, and an appreciation for freedom.

So. I think it's up to me, to find a way to ensure that he's not forgotten. I don't quite know how I'm going to do that. But I will.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

follow this other blog

This blogger, Amy is donating $1 per follower (up to 100) to 826 Valencia -- A group that teaches workshops and one-on-one lessons to children 6-18 in several cities across the US. The depend a lot on donations and volunteer time. So just give her blog a little look and follow if you feel so inclined.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sophomore Undercover. A review

Sophomore Undercover

Ben Esch

I decided to take time out of my Yukon fur trapping endeavours and snow shovelling to sit down with a doughnut and write a review of Mr. Esch’s book.

Sophomore Undercover is an absolute riot. When a book is this full of funny, an author runs the risk of substituting humour for plot. Not so in this case. Giving us such free access to the inner thoughts of Dixie Nguyen (pronounced Win), lets us get to know him in ways that saves us from pages of narrative explanation. The plot is all at once suspense filled, hormone driven and full of investigatory challenges. It’s geared toward a teenage audience, but honestly, I loved reading it. I felt like I knew Dixie for all of his hormone infested geekiness. I rooted for him all through the book, whether his head was stuck in the toilet, or he was sleeping under a bridge.

Dixie is a Korean teenager living in Stilton, California, who has been adopted by a police sergeant and his family. The police sergeant is actually his second adoptive father. “His first adoptive father had been a figurative “bleeding heart” Berkeley professor, who became a literal bleeding heart Berkeley professor after a car crash”.

Dixie is the lead reporter of the school newspaper. “As the most intelligent, dedicated, and only enrolled student in the class, he quickly became the lead reporter.” The plot of the book surrounds Dixie’s investigation of a drug scandal that he feels has infested the school football team. This leads him into conflict with Ms. Trasker, the menopausal journalism teacher, into legal charges for assault and drug possession, and drug rehab with Huggy Bear (aka Mr. Steinberg), the former math teacher turned school counsellor.

It also leads him into a pseudo romantic relationship with the girl of his dreams, whom he meets during his meditation sessions with Huggy Bear. She’s a former cheerleader, who’s turned goth. “Brynn laughed and tossed back the hair out of her face. She really did have beautiful eyes. It was a shame they didn’t get out more often.”

I literally laughed out loud at one thing or another on every single page. Seriously. And yet, like I said, that did not get in the way of moving the plot forward. This book is raunchy, skilfully written, bouncing with humour, and a blast to read. And it's nothing like Twilight.

oh, and check out his blog, it's as hilarious as he is. He wears lovely sweaters and cultivates an awesome beard.

so, Suck on That.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I am a superhero...

One of my followers, Benjamin James Watson turned himself into a superhero. Kewl, thought I. Now, being the copycat that I am, I went to The Hero Site to get my own darn superhero powers. So, here I am, in all my superhero glory. The Sharpened Barbarian...

Suck on that...

(i do like that tagline, PMM. Pity you didn't keep it for yourself.)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

In Tongues of the Dead - a review

First of all, I'd like to welcome my two newest followers. One is my brother, the Sail doctor. He's not a real doctor, but I'm sure he's played at being one at one time or another. The other is Lori, who is an extremely cool person that I'm getting to know better. I'm a firm believer that people come into your lives for a reason, and tho i don't know why exactly i know her yet, I'm sure the reason will make itself known sooner or later.

Secondly, I just love the way that the internets seem to read my mind, or know what I'm doing at any point in time. Take this XKCD comic for example. Here i was, merrily going along, reading this book, and i came across that comic. Talk about synchronicity. The connection to the two will become clear as you read along.

Faithful readers (if i may be so bold as to use that familiarity) will remember that, a few posts back, i told you about the Shelf Monkey thing going on, which I came to know because of my fascination with Canadian author Corey Redekop. So, I, being the lover of free stuff that I am, decided to contact ECW Press and become a Shelf Monkey.

I chose my favourite genres from a list that ECW supplied me, and then I received an email from Jennifer, telling me that my first book was on the way. (Can i just say how much i love getting things in the mail that aren't bills?)

So, here i am, holding up my end of the bargain. Here goes the review.
These are excerpts from the ECW Press website:

"In the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University there lies a 400-year-old document that no one has been able to decipher. Twenty years ago the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) secretly placed a guard to watch over the document.

The guard, Father Ronald McCallum, is overwhelmed when an autistic child visiting the library appears to read from the manuscript’s pages... Father Benicio Valori, priest and clinical psychologist, is sent halfway around the world to verify the boy’s ability to read the manuscript.

...It becomes apparent the Vatican has sent others to investigate with orders to stop at nothing from keeping the document’s secrets from being exposed. Fearing for the child’s life, Benicio flees the country to Canada and trusted friend and psychologist, Dr. Jake Tunnel.

Despite being distraught by the diagnosis of a brain tumor in his five-year-old son, Jake reluctantly agrees to help his old friend... Soon he and Benicio begin to unveil the biblical origins of the Voynich manuscript and why this autistic child can read it.

They realize that the Voynich Manuscript is the bible of the Nephilim – soulless beings created by the crossbreeding of angels and humans, and despised by God. The angels responsible for their creation were banished from heaven and the monstrous offspring were thought to be destroyed by the flood of Noah’s time..."

Ok, so my first impression was that I really liked the premise of the book. The Voynich Manuscript actually exists, and the Nephilim are in the bible. I did feel that it falls into that whole Dan Brown 'the catholic church is inherently evil and corrupt' kind of deal. Frankly, that has been a little overdone lately.

The book is described as fast-paced and filled with action, which it is. There are many scenes when I was caught up, reading quickly along with the action, and it did hold my interest during those parts.

I feel that the characters could have been a bit more real. Benicio Valori, who is the protagonist of the book, emigrated to Canada from Italy with his parents, when he was a teenager. Throughout the book, he would toss in phrases in Italian, which i felt was a bit affected. It just didn't ring true, to me. Jake is well described, he's a psychologist, and the descriptions of his interactions with, and his feelings about his patients are well done. He and his family are dealing with the illness of his son, and the scenes involving that conflict are well written.

There was a scene in which Benicio is taking the autistic boy, Matthew, across the border. Benicio knew this would be a problem, the boy was not related to him, Matthew did not speak, it was just an all around problem. He thinks through the problem, as they sit at the side of the road near the border. "Then Benicio noticed a lane dedicated to truckers, extra-wide and almost hidden by a parade of semitrailers. It gave him an idea." He gets Matthew out of the car, they have an interaction with one of the other drivers, and then Benicio decides to call his friend Jake Tunnel for help. The next scene that we read about it is with Jake's family, and then all of a sudden "Benicio turned and looked down the road to New Brunswick." What?? How'd they get across the border? It almost feels like the author stepped away from that scene for a bit to figure it out, then never went back to solve that problem. Maybe its just one scene in an otherwise well written book, but it bothered me. It felt unfinished.

It is well written. The author, Brad Kelln is a forensic psychologist in Halifax, he's a special consultant on hostage negotiation to the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP. He's an intelligent man, that comes across in his writing. If you are a fan of Dan Brown, and that genre, you'll enjoy this book.