Monday, July 30, 2012

Do You Hear the People Sing?


When I found out several months ago that I would be at Blue Lake for the summer with time to spare in between opera performance I sent an email to Dr. Jerry Blackstone (double Grammy© award winner, Director of Choral Activities / Chair of the Conducting Department at U of M and all around fabulous musician) to see if there were any solo opportunities with the University Musical Society Summer Sings he organizes.  I've had the pleasure to work with them two previous summers and was thrilled to get the opportunity to perform the baritone solo in Maurice Durufle's Requiem this year. 

Essentially, the program is a community "sing-along" in which one pays $5 to rent a score for the evening and joins other local choral buffs / music lovers to comprise a chorus for whichever oratorio is being presented.  The first half of the evening is spent rehearsing the piece and the second half is a full, non-stop performance.  The soloists are hired in advance and luckily for me (and the audience) my dear friend Kristin Eder was singing the mezzo-soprano solo and we were conducted by another friend from my U of M days, Eugene Rogers!


Eugene, rehearsing the choir before the performance!



Post-performance Team Durufle!: (L to R) Jean Schneider, piano; Kristin, Joseph, Eugene and Dr. Blackstone


And, even though I've already posted it before, I can't help but share this photo I took with Dr. Blackstone's two glorious Grammy's at one of his choir Christmas parties from years past.  You know… just 'cause :)


Darn you, horrific cell phone camera from 5 years ago and your awful picture quality!!


But enough chatting about the Requiem—let's end with some actual music, shall we?  Here's the glorious mezzo-soprano aria, "Pie Jesu," as performed by Sarah Connolly, Robert Cohen (cello), Jeremy Filsell (organ) and conducted by Jeremy Backhouse.


Artist: Boublil and Schonberg / Album: Les Miserables

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Green, Green Grass of Home


After the brief Amtrak ride from Detroit I arrived into the Ann Arbor station and was thrilled to spend a couple of days in a town that I so dearly love and miss.  Outside of my home town of Crockett, Ann Arbor is the town in which I have lived the longest, having spent four years and two degrees at the University of Michigan.  (Note: though I did do four years at Baylor, one of those semesters was spent abroad… sorry Waco! [Actually, I'm not sorry in the least.  It is Waco, after all :-/ ])

Needless to say I had a lot of catching-up/eating to do in a quite a short amount of time. I was fortunate enough to have my old pal and landlord, Larry, pick me up and let me stay at the old house for a couple of nights.  


SUMMIT HOUSE 2012!!  (Incidentally, the house rests at the top of Broadway and is the highest elevated point in Ann Arbor… hence the nickname)


There are very few things that I never managed to check off of my "Do in Michigan Before Moving to Texas" list, and visiting Maya Lin's Wave Field was fairly high atop it.  Lin, most famously known for her design of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington D.C., describes the piece as:

…pure poetry. It is a very gentle space that exists on a very human scale. It is a sanctuary, yet it’s playful, and with the changing shadows of the sun, it is completely transformed throughout the day. ‘The Wave Field’ expresses my desire to completely integrate a work with its site, revealing the connectedness of art to landscape, or landscape as art. (from the UM Architecture, Engineering & Construction website)

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Commissioned by the Association FXB in memory of Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (‘82 Aerospace Engrg.), and gift of his mother, Countess Albina du Boisrouvray. A pure earth sculpture occupying a 90’ square space and representing a naturally occurring wave pattern [see link above]


Even with its close proximity to the school of music and the house I, for some reason, never ventured quite far enough to find it.  Larry admitted himself that in all the years he had lived in Ann Arbor he had yet to visit the field, so I'm glad we both got to see it for the first time!


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Top image via U of M / Bottom image featuring LARRY!


I can't say how grateful I am to Larry for all his kindness and generosity over these last few years.  So glad we got to check out this place together!


Artist: Johnny Cash / Album: At Folsom Prison

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Detroit City


After our second round of performances I had a bit of free time from any Blue Lake obligations and decided to take a bit of a working vacation, first hitting up Ann Arbor to perform the baritone solo in Maurice Durufle's Requiem and then heading to Chicago (much more on both of those later).

The travel aspect of the trip was a bit … circuitous.  Josh and Leah took me from camp to Grand Rapids, where I then hopped on the MegaBus to Detroit and then grabbed the Amtrak to Ann Arbor.  Before heading out, though, I made sure to get my go-to road trip snack and tweeted away:

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The fact that Combo's Twitter account responded says a lot about my life… both the good and the bad :-/


I was surprised to find out the bus made a stop at Wayne State University in addition to the Rosa Parks Transit Center further downtown and took the opportunity (and two hour layover until my train left) to step across the street and visit the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Any chance I had to visit this place when I lived in Ann Arbor was quickly taken and it remains to this day one of my favorite museums, so it was a tad bittersweet that I only had a scant hour to go through.

One of the grandest pieces in the collection is Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry mural.  Comprised of 27 individual panels, the work was commissioned by the D.I.A. and Edsel Ford to depict industry at the Ford Motor Company and was considered by the artist to be his most successful work.

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Get it, lil' Marxist!


Other favorites include…

     Nancy Graves: "Variability of Similar Forms"               Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux: "Genius of the Dance" 

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          The leg bone's connected to the… wait, huh?                   Alright Mr. Sassypants with yo' tambourine!


Mark Rothko: "Orange, Brown"


Always nice to be reminded a bit of my back yard


William Kentridge: "What Will Come"

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This video installation is based on the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, when African civilians were gassed—a fact not acknowledged by the Italian government until 1995.  Just as the truth about the invasion remained uncertain for years, the distorted animation projected on the table becomes clear only when seen in a different way: it resolves on the reflective cylinder.

io9 recently had an article all about the history of anamorphic illusions (as seen above) … check it out if you've got the time!


There were also two special exhibits going on, the first of which I was able to see and the latter closed up a little early for the day.

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An hour wasn't nearly enough time to spend but I had a train train train to catch to Ann Arbor.  Waiting at the station wasn't so horrible 'cause it was a beautiful day out!

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Much much more from the trip later!


Artist: Tom Jones / Album: The Complete Tom Jones

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Man in the Box


I'm always up for some equal opportunity birthday celebrating and as luck would have it there is another Blue Lake celebration to be had today!  More specifically, though, it's the first birthday of Giuseppe Mezzadri, the son of Danilo and Susan Ruggiero-Mezzadri (the flautist and soprano from our La Boheme production, respectively).  More specifically specifically, I was lucky enough to spend the mornings of first session here at camp babysitting this sweet lil' stinker!


Scrunch your nose!


As many of you wish small children are aware, sometimes it's the simplest things than can provide the most amusement.  For example…


Diaper boxes are waaaaay more fun than diaper changes


Don't worry, 'Seppe, you can still play with them when you grow up… as is evidenced by my former stint at Pottery Barn a couple of years ago. Though, from the looks of it you are a bit more adept at it than I was!

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I'm pretty sure this was off the clock … ?? :-/


With the exception of the fact that he was teething, Giuseppe was absolutely no trouble at all.  After one of his bottles he fell asleep on top of me and I was too worried moving him would wake him and so I just let him snuggle for an hour :)




Happy first birthday, boo! 


Artist: Alice in Chains / Album: Facelift

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Don't Blow This Putt


Today is the first birthday I will have spent in the States since 2009 and there is certainly something to be said for being on your home turf.  Every other Sunday here at Blue Lake is the final day of each session, followed by a three day break for the faculty who are returning to teach the next session.  As such, many of my new found friends will be headed out directly after lunch and it wasn't exactly possible to plan some type of party.  Fear not, though… that's what Friday nights are for!

ANY chance to get away from the camp cafeteria is quickly taken and I was lucky enough to find the Hearthstone, a bistro in nearby Musekgon.  Let's just take a comparison of the two, shall we?


Blue Lake


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Cheddar cheese soup with popcorn and cheese puffs (!) / pommes frites; roast beef, goat cheese, and grilled asparagus tartine


It really is hard to express how grateful I am for everyone who showed up… all 20 of y'all!  Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the group, but someone was nice enough to get a shot of my birthday dessert.


That woman in the background was loooving the singing.  "They MUST be from that fine arts camp nearby!," she was overheard saying.


After dinner a group of us made our way to Putter's Creek for some good ol' fashion putt-putt golf and go-cart racing.  I'd love to offer some of the juicier quotes from the game but let's be honest… get a group of adults playing putt-putt and the evening is nothing but sexual innuendo.


One would think I was turning 12 lol 


IMG_20120706_233314  Lonel (Rodolpho): "We got a Bagger Vance up in here!" ;)



Strike a pose!: Tiffany (Musetta), Terrance (Marcello), Ele (our costume designer extraordinaire) and her adorable daughter.


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Carole and Jolene: comment redacted by Standards and Practices



I lost by one point (and only took one McGonagall in the process)!


Michigan has been enduring a heat/humidity wave in the last week and ending the evening with a go-cart race seemed to be the most logical way of forcing a breeze upon ourselves, if only for five minutes.


Me, Andrew and David (our director).  From the looks of this picture it would appear I won the race!!! [Shut your mouth David, it's my birthday]


I am genuinely touched that so many people came out and apologize for those of you of whom I didn't get a picture.  Thanks to all y'all for a fab.u.lous celebration!!


Artist: Bob Baker / Album: Talking to the Ball

Saturday, July 7, 2012

King of the Dairy Queen


When spending the 4th of July at Josh and Leah's this past week I overheard him talking to his parents about their trip to Country Dairy, a family owned processing and bottling plant nearby that produces milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy derivatives.  So naturally I piggy backed onto his family plans and invited myself along!


I shall call you "Bessie"


Before the official tour began it was required of us to attend Moo School, where we learned about this history of the farm, the dairy business and how their myriad of products are produced.

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FYI: Milk comes from cows.  <----- VALEDICTORIAN OF MOO SCHOOL! (Other acceptable names could have been Halstein Moo-niversity, the Michigan Moo-ntesory School or Bovine Cow-llege.)  Myself with Josh's parents and some random family who totes failed Moo School.


In true farm fashion we were carted about in a trailer pulled by a tractor from location to location.  At least the breeze was nice!

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Our first stop was the bottling plant, which also housed the cheese aging room.  Before we were allowed to enter, however, it was incumbent upon us to wear hair nets… I'm pretty sure I rocked the look as best I could.

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Primpin' for some cheese with Josh!


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Learning about homogenization and the bottling process from our guide, whose name I can't recall.  Let's name him "Pepper" Jack, shall we?  Side note: my one complaint about the tour was that he kept on pronouncing milk as "melk." WTF dude, this is your industry!


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The aging room… with cheddar so sharp they might as well call it "Joseph's Wit"  (wah wah)


Country Dairy takes great pride in the fact that all of their products are completely bovine growth hormone free!

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Puns are both my most and least favorite form of humor


Our next stop was to visit the baby cows… I mean, seriously!  Luckily, with the help of Josh, you get to see the same view from two different angles.

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Yes, that is the most attractive photo I could take of the calf


And finally, we were able to visit the milking room itself in all it's mechanically induced glory!

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Yeah, so let's be honest: I'm a little less interested in the process than the final product :-/


After the tour was completed we were given free cheese samples and a "bottom-less" cup of milk/chocolate milk.  (Not to mention that giant cup of the freshest of fresh ice-cream … sorry body!)


Artist: Cooder Graw / Album: Live at Billy Bob's Texas