Taking a quick look back at 2017

Well. There was all the regular cultural stuff that everyone was dealing with. But here’s a list of some of what stands out in my life, in no particular order.

  • My father died. That leaves practical things to deal with, but also more emotional stuff than I expected. Somehow the death of my mother just made her absent from my childhood family of four, but my father’s death breaks it.
  • My place of employment went through a protracted (and ongoing) time of struggle and uncertainty around racism and leadership. It was a very, very difficult spring. And then at our annual conference in June, two coworkers were attacked on the street, and one was critically injured.
  • I returned to internet radio with a monthly show on Radio Riel, second Sundays, 12:30–2:00 pm Pacific (or Second Life) time: The Musical Magpie.
  • I sold my estate in Second Life (the second time I have done so)
  • Two trips to Brooklyn to visit Jim Ford. We returned to the Metropolitan Opera to see Norma in December (having seen Aida a year ago).
  • An annual September weekend in Provincetown (near the anniversary of my mother’s death) felt like it made the transition to an event all the participants “own.”
  • I scattered  my portion of my mother’s ashes in an old burial ground in Provincetown.
  • I became a staff chaplain, and while overall quite ambivalent about work (see above!) I felt an increased sense of being a longtime staff member with a particular contribution.
  • I rented a BMW convertible (long a pipe dream). It was worth every penny, although it would have made more sense in a slightly warmer season.
  • I lost 40 pounds (and still losing, after a holiday plateau).
  • By going to happy hour at a local bar nearly every Friday, I’ve made a new group of friends/acquaintances.
  • I went to a LOT of music events.

Ken Scholes’s The Psalms of Isaak

Over the holidays, I reread the first four volumes of Ken Scholes’s The Psalms of Isaak in preparation for the release of the fifth and final volume. I’m glad I did. There were things I had missed or didn’t remember. Hymn, the final volume, provided a satisfying conclusion (albeit with a bit of a deus ex machina—which is a pun, should you read the books) while leaving the door open for future stories in the same world. I hope Scholes does continue creating here.

The books, in order:

  • Lamentation
  • Canticle
  • Antiphon
  • Requiem
  • Hymn

Mozart + Beethoven

Handel & Haydn Society.

  • Overture to L’amant anonyme by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
  • Symphony No. 40 in G Minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Concerto in C Major for Violin, Cello, and Piano, by Ludwig van Beethoven

No conductor. Aisslinn Nosky directed.

I’ve never heard of the Chevalier de Saint-Georges before, but he certainly led an interesting life. It’s the overture to an opera, and I quite enjoyed it.

The Mozart I heard just over a week ago, paired with the Requiem, by Boston Baroque. I enjoyed this performance, but the difference between the first row of Jordan Hall and nearly the back row (on the orchestra floor) of Symphony Hall is marked.

I liked the tune introduced in the first movement of the Beethoven, and the interplay between the soloists was fun, but on the whole I didn’t enjoy this piece.

L’assedio di Calais

The Siege of Calais, by Gaetano Donizetti, performed by Odyssey Opera.

The second in their season of works focused on the Hundred Years’ War. L’assedio di Calais was written in 1836, but this was its Boston premiere. Parts of it were very fine (the male choral parts, notably), but on the whole it had very uneven mood. The story is of the six burghers of Calais, who agree to sacrifice themselves to lift the siege of Calais by King Edward III. Yet the music kept turning to light themes, including a bit of incidental music between the second act (which ends with the burghers placing nooses around their necks and going off to submit to the English) and the third act that sounded like a bit of John Philip Sousa. (My friend Chris referred to it as “Italian martial music.”)

I did not enjoy the mezzo who sang Aurelio, the mayor’s son, although the rest of the audience seemed to like her and she received good reviews. I disliked her (single) facial grimace, and felt the romantic dynamics would have been better served by a male alto. (The soprano who sings Aurelio’s wife and the baritone who sings his father the mayor spend a great deal of time in the first act singing duets; the contrast with the pants role didn’t sit well with me.) Interestingly, the program notes say Donizetti hoped to have a male alto sing the role but had to hire a female mezzo soprano for the premiere.

Die Zauberflöte

Metropolitan Opera production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte designed by Julie Taymor. Really wanted to see Taymor’s puppets, etc., and couldn’t swing a trip to New York, so I saw a High Def “broadcast” (it was a recording, but originally was a live broadcast) at a local theater. One highlight was the interval interview with Kathryn Lewek, who sang the Queen of the Night.