Still Life, With Cats

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Taking notes

Have you ever had a day so mentally exhausting that you can do nothing but come home and stare blankly at the TV? Well, that would be the past two days.

Since the pandemic the group in which I sing has done a professional recording of our concert the weekend prior to the actual live performances. This not only counts as our main dress rehearsal; it also makes it accessible to folks who don’t live in the Sacramento area.

This year, we’re performing at three different venues (all churches), and one of them was willing to give us a discount if we also came and sang music for their service. So yesterday’s very long day kicked off at 10am. We sang, then went and grabbed lunch, and then came back to do the recording…which we finished at shortly before 8 pm. By that point we were all completely exhausted, but at least it was finished.

Today I felt like I was moving through a fog most of the day, and at rehearsal this evening it was clear I wasn’t the only one. Thankfully tonight’s rehearsal was more about blocking (although we still did a full run through of all the pieces). Usually I come home from rehearsal exhausted, but mentally wired, but not tonight. I love the music we’re doing, but oof, all I can think about right now is getting some sleep.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Making early spirits bright

So yesterday while I was doing all the other things, I was also monitoring my phone because our director messaged everyone to find out if anyone was available to sing on TV the next morning, and after a flurry of back-and-forth messages that determined we’d have enough folks to cover all the parts, we finalized the plan.

Which means this morning I got up bright and early as usual, but then had to rush through the usual morning chores and fling on my concert attire and dash off to one of our performance venues for an appearance on Good Day Sacramento.

It went really well (click that link to hear our snippet) and it’s awesome to be part of a group that can pull something together in less than 24 hours notice.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

Deep breath

Today I got up and made cookie dough for tomorrow’s cookie exchange, because last weekend’s baking attempt was not very successful (well, for the cookies meant for the exchange, that is). I also pulled the bag of successful cookies from the freezer (Apple Butter Snickerdoodles, which I made on a whim to use up some leftover apple butter from this year’s batch, but which turned out to be *extremely* tasty, and far better than the usual boring snickerdoodle so if you have apple butter lying around in need of using up, I highly recommend this recipe), and packed them into a cookie tin, and brought them with me to the recording session.

Ever since the pandemic started, we’ve been doing virtual versions of our concerts, even now that we’re back to performing in front of a live audience. It’s really nice, because that means family and friends who aren’t local now actually get to hear us perform, but on the down side, it also means a very long day.

So now it’s late and I’m exhausted from singing for roughly five hours straight, but the recording is done, and the cookies were all consumed, and it was a really good (albeit extremely tiring) day.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

All is calm

Last year, during the full lockdown, when we couldn’t sing together in person but were still trying to find ways to create music, Vox Musica, the group in which I sing, decided to do carol-o-grams. We divided into quartets, with each quartet doing a specific set of songs. We all recorded our parts individually in our homes, and then a couple of the more tech-savvy members assembled the videos into something that could be sent out to anyone who bought one.

This year we’re back to being able to sing together, albeit while wearing masks and with very limited audience numbers, but we still wanted to do the Carol-o-grams, because it’s a fun way to be able to send music to people as a unique holiday gift. At least this year we could record the audio for each group in our usual rehearsal space, but we still had to do the visual piece at home, following the same rules as the previous year – sing against a light colored background with no visual distractions in the frame.

Here is the thing about our house – the only white walls are the doors, and the lighting is, in general, pretty crappy everywhere except the kitchen. So in order to do this, I have to hang a white sheet on the wall, then sit at the island in the kitchen and attempt to record.

Let’s just say that it’s a good thing that I didn’t have to record actual audio this year. While I was doing my recordings, I could see the white sheet occasionally waving behind me as one more kittens dashed behind it. Around my feet, kittens tore back and forth, playing with every noisy toy they could possibly find. It is a miracle no one knocked over the light ring that was holding my phone but I did have to restart at least once due to a kitten careening across my keyboard.

So if you are looking for a unique gift for someone who has everything, how about sending them the gift of music – a quartet of Christmas carols. And if you happen to choose Package A, which is the one from the group I was in, and see the background behind me billow occasionally, just try to imagine the sheer level of kitten chaos that was going on, just off screen.

‘Tis the season for Holidailes.


I finally sat down and did the taxes today, and it was…shockingly painless. I think this is the first year I can actually say that. Oh don’t get me wrong, we owe a sizable amount, same as we do every year, because we are DINKs (dual income, no kids), and alas, the IRS won’t let us claim the cats as dependents. But the actual act of doing them was much better than it’s ever been. Hooray for Turbo Tax, which now is able to import all the documents that have caused me so very much difficulty and swearing in the past. Perhaps next year I won’t put it off so long.

Ha. Yeah, right. I say that every year. But then, when one knows one is going to owe, why bother doing it early anyway.

Tonight was the final concert of the Hildegard project, and it went really well. Our normal venue doesn’t have quite the same acoustics as the cathedral in which we performed last night, but on the flip side, the layout of the cathedral doesn’t give us flexibility to let us do this.


Blogging from A to Z in my own special way.

Back to back

Today was a lot of fun. It was also exhausting.

I got up early to do a little bit of tidying around the house – mainly just running a couple loads of laundry and packing up my back pack for the long day ahead. Alas, I left poor Richard to do the bulk of the cleaning for the TGIO party (for Nanowrimo) which was being held at our house, but it wasn’t all that much to begin with so I am not feeling *too* guilty. Much.

Anyway. The day started by meeting at one of the other singers’ house, and then we all carpooled up to the Harris Performing Arts Center up in Folsom for the Voices of California holiday concert. The performance consisted of a large men’s chorus, a smaller quartet, a brass quintet, a high school choir, and us. We did the big group number warm up first, and then our sound check, and then hung out in our green room and spent a couple hours running music in preparation for the two concerts.

It was a completely packed house, which is always a nice thing to perform for, and we all felt solid and happy with every piece we performed, and best of all, as we finished our last piece, you could hear one of the audience members say, very quietly, ‘wow!’

Back to the green room for more music run-through, then back to the stage for the final number, and then we all dashed back to the green room, grabbed our bags, and zipped out to our cars to head off to the next gig.

This one was very different. Where the first was definitely a concert, with people who paid specifically to come hear people perform, the evening’s thing was mainly us providing background music. We started things off by singing on the main porch as people entered the museum (I, by the way, was not the only one sporting a knitted hat), then moved inside and tucked ourselves into a smaller room to do one piece (where we did attract a small, but very appreciative crowd of partygoers), and then finally, we all tromped up to the third level and sang two more pieces downward to the crowd.

So. Fun, but completely exhausting, both from the hours and hours of singing, and the hours and hours of standing. Thankfully all the other performances for the month are scheduled at only one a day. And also thankfully no hats will be required.


Today’s nifty thing is this recording from one of our recent rehearsals, because today has pretty much been 100% all about singing for me, so it seems only fitting I should share some of it with you.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

S is for Singing

Gathering, after weeks off. Calls of greeting.

Collecting new sheet music, all of it composed specifically for us.

Squinting in the low light, as the sunlight outside the windows fades, until suddenly someone remembers, oh yeah, there’s a light switch over there, and then we can suddenly see again.

Muddling through new rhythms; new chords.

Picking out notes on the piano.

Laughter as the text of a piece goes somewhere delightfully unexpected.

Chatter in between songs. Snippets of older pieces, sometimes sung deliberately off key.

Anticipation for a new project. Excitement.

Voices rising. Making music.

The letter S is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.


Tonight was the final concert of our first set of the season, and oh, how I loved this concert. We changed up a lot of things this year – new venues for the performances, new practice space, and new practice method. For the first few weeks, we met in sectionals, so all the altos came to my house and we sat in the dining room and worked on the music together. Sherman and Rupert usually were involved (either by flopping on the music or just walking around and rubbing on people) and there would be laughter and singing, and it was clear when we got back together as a group that that format worked really well for us. The music itself was gorgeous – a mix of old world and modern, with only a tiny handful of the more recognizable carols to give us singers a break from the harder works.

We normally schedule it for the first weekend in December, so it was pretty late this year. We also usually perform at only at one venue, but this time we sang at 3 different venues. The first, on Friday night, was at a massive cathedral, where the sound echoed around us, but due to our placement and the acoustics, we could barely hear each other (although the audience could hear us just fine). The second, on Saturday night, was in another big space – still large, but slightly less echoy; narrower than the first venue, and with carpet to soak up the sound, so it had a completely different feel than the first night. Tonight’s venue was probably one half to one third the size of the other two, but I think we all liked it the best. There is nothing quite like the energy of singing in a smaller space, when it is packed with people and you feel as if you can actually connect with your audience.  It was a lovely way to end things for the year.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

*Resmiranda means ‘wondrous thing’, and is a phrase from my favorite song of this set – “There Is No Rose”, arranged by Don Macdonald.



And bear in mind

Oh, this whatever-it-is that I have, with the coughing and the sinus issues and whatnot. Really, it can go away any time now. Because do you know what is a  blast? Trying to practice music when any random intake of breath could lead to a spontaneous fit of coughing . And do you know what is also just as exciting? Trying to maintain both tone and volume when your diaphragm is spasming from trying to hold back the coughing.

Ah, fun times.

I usually don’t follow the Holidailies prompts, even though I am actually the one responsible for coming up with all of them (a fact which generates no small amount of panic every single November, because it’s not like I have the entire year to come up with ideas, after all), because while I might think it’s an awesome idea when I add it to the list, that’s usually a few weeks before the actual day it’s to appear, and by then my fickle brain has zoomed off to some other topic. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I’m using yesterday’s prompt for today, in part because I am feeling a bit crabby about my current compromised vocal ability due to the aforementioned whatever-it-is that I am currently ‘enjoying’.

So here you go. My favorite version of my favorite Christmas carol. Dim the lights, lean back in your chair, and close your eyes. I’m going to listen to it again and pretend in my head that I can sing it with her, without a single cough.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Fa la la

Because Vox Musica is going to Chicago in March, to perform at the National Choral Directors Association’s annual conference, we’re currently in major fund-raising mode. To that end, one of the things we’re doing during December is caroling. Basically, if you pay us, we’ll pull together a quartet and come sing lovely music in two-, three- or four-part harmony for you at your private party.

On the plus side, Christmas carols are far easier than most of the music we perform. On the down side, it was all new. So before any gig we’ve done so far, we’ve tried to make sure we had enough time to meet beforehand so we could work our way through a few songbooks to nail down a set list and make sure we were all confident in what we were doing, before we were off to perform.

We had our first gig last night, at a party up in Roseville. It was harder than I had expected to pull together a quartet, but only because since last weekend was our winter concert, everyone in the group postponed all their reasons for being out of town until this weekend. And when there’s only twelve in the group to begin with, that makes it that much harder.

Anyway. Managed to get three others who could juggle schedules to do it with me, so off we went, first to one of the singers’ houses to practice around her baby grand, then to perform at the house (where they gave us cheers and applause and also clementines and bars of dark chocolate). And that was last night.

Today I had two more caroling gigs to do – both much longer than last night’s. Four of us met up to go over music and scribble down a set list and figure out which songs we could definitely do and which songs we should definitely avoid, and then we all caravaned off to the first house to sing. They were loud and funny and sang along with us when we encouraged them to and we all had an incredibly fun time with the whole thing. Then once that was over, we all piled back into our cars and drove off to the next performance, which was at the Barnes & Noble at the Arden Fair mall. They put us back in the children’s section, where there was a little stage, and we worked our way through the songbook of the more complicated stuff, mainly just because we felt like it. One doesn’t really get a sit-down audience in a bookstore, but people would pause in their shopping to listen and smile, and every once in a while someone would come sit and watch for a bit. So that was fun too, in a calmer, quieter sort of way.

I am, at this point, done with the caroling gigs – there’s another next weekend but since there’s plenty others who can do it, I’m bowing out. As for back home, well, the only thing we managed to accomplish is to pull all the boxes of Christmas decorations down from the attic and stack them neatly in the guest room. And now I am hoping that maybe if we leave them there, at some point the elves will magically appear and decorate the house for us.

Yeah. Not holding my breath on that one.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.