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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hungry to learn

So Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I've eaten my fill. The dinner was great. The weekend over too fast, but the tree is up and we've got a fire in the fireplace and I'm onto glass #2 of a VERY nice 2004 syrah from Ojai.

During my undergrad years at Simpson College, Thanksgiving also meant a return to the campus on Friday to start preparations for the Madrigal Dinner. A huge, I mean HUGE event that happened every other year in the "Great Hall" on campus. Your regular type Madrigal dinner fare, but not your regular Madrigal dinner type of entertainment. First off, the madrigal carried hours -- HOURS of memorized literature. It wasn't just a few ditties by those English guys either, it was serious literature running the gamut from medieval chant to chants des oiseaux. Memorized -- did I mention that? We'd head back to campus, usually during the annual Thanksgiving blizzard, to put up the decorations (which took all day), and then have hours and hours and hours of rehearsals to get ready for the performances. It was the hardest thing I've ever put myself through, that first dinner...

Our madrigal was made up of the same group of singers who were cast in the operas, the same group who were the leaders in their musical fraternities and sororities (as well as the social frats and sororities), they were also the same group of students placing in the NATS and Met competitions, they were the same group who were performing hour recitals in both their junior and senior years, they were the same group who also sang in the choir and went on tour every year in the midst of taking graduate level history and theory courses (to this day I thank Larsen for his Med/Ren course!) I was in the Simpson Madrigal, but I was a piano performance major; and I wasn't the first pianist in the group, nor the first pianist to sing roles in the operas.

Okay, I'll stop now. What I'm saying here is that I learned how to make music, how to memorize music, and how to work hard and BE HUNGRY to work harder while singing in those Simpson madrigal performances. It is something I find lacking today, the hunger to learn. There is a work ethic I find lacking as well -- learning music seems to be something to get past instead of something to embrace and love. I'll know when I'm close to death -- it'll be around the same time I start hating learning music. There's so much music out there and I can't imagine not wanting to learn it ALL. Yes, ALL of it. Not just what you've been assigned or contracted for!

I can pick up a new opera and learn it rather quickly. Not because I'm some genius, but because I was made to do so in Madrigal and Choir at Simpson. I'm brilliant because I was made that way by an aggressive music department in the middle of Iowa. Thanks Dr. Larsen!

Let's all sing a round of "Matona mia cara" and get to the fun part where the bull...

Happy Thanksgiving 2009!