Voices only, please

I’m a choir junkie.

It all started in junior high with a crush on Boyz II Men and their slick harmonies. My love for voices started to blossom when I auditioned for a select choir in high school and was thrilled that I got in. Being that our director at the time mostly chose a capella pieces for us to sing, I began to fall in love with that type of music.

When I got to college, I was feeling lonely, all by myself, and was starting to have slight doubts about moving a few states away for school. I then took a leap of faith and auditioned for yet another select choir–this time for a choir that strove for a high level of perfection and had even garnered a bit of local celebrity.

Joy of joys, I made it in.

Then began two busy years of being immersed in the most music I’ve ever had before in my life. Being in yet another choir, such a wonderful choir, it kept me going. Sure, I played solos on the piano, rocked percussion in wind ensembles and orchestras, accompanied a myriad of music performances…yet my true love remained in voices.

Growing up playing the piano, I’ve always been mildly irked at one particular facet of my instrument of choice: it’s lack of portability. It’s true that most places one goes, a piano is likely to be found but you never know what it’s going to sound like, how the keys are going to feel to your touch. On the other hand, there have been many places I’ve been to where I felt inspired to play something–in caves, by the ocean, on mountain tops–but didn’t have my instrument. Because of that, I’ve always looked wistfully at those who played more lightweight instruments than my own.

Which brings me to most lightweight instrument of them all: the voice.

While singing with such a great choir in college, I found that I loved a capella pieces the most. There’s something that’s fascinating to me about bringing many voices together and singing as one yet with different parts, blending “just so” that it sends goosebumps up my arms, letting pure voices mingle together to make harmonies that float effortlessly up to the sky.

I guess that’s why I’m so excited for The Sing-Off being back on television for a second season. If last year was fabulous, then this season is absolutely amazing. I can’t even begin to explain how inspired I am to be in an a capella group and recapture those feelings I’ve had for singing again.

As much as I love the piano, I definitely get more joy out of voices in harmony. If I knew enough people who had the ear for singing without instruments, voices to match, and a person to arrange all the music, I’d totally be there in a heartbeat.

Even with school dragging me around by the neck, I wouldn’t miss that kind of opportunity.

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The calm before the storm

I can’t believe I only did one post last week. I was full of good intentions to post something on Friday but…oh well, life happens!

The past five days or so have been busy. Andrew’s brother and sister came to visit at sort of separate times, I studied a lot, concrete was poured in our backyard, we had dinner with others on Friday evening, Andrew and his sister left for Arizona to race in an Xterra off-road triathlon, and did I mention studying? Oh yeah, of course there was the demolition of the ghetto screen room at the back of our house:

demolition, pt.3

demolition, pt.1demolition, pt.5

demolition, pt.4

The metal scraps of the roof, cardboard walls (yes, they were only made of cardboard inside) and all sorts of junk now sit in a pile on our backyard grass and filling the little walkway beside our house. But at least that ugly room is gone–!

demolition, pt.6

Earlier last week, Andrew and his younger brother also built a fence that will connect the house and garage. It’s heavy as heck (I can’t even budge it). Thankfully it’ll be attached like crazy with hinges and will roll on some casters.

making a new gate

I’m kind of going backwards through last week, don’t mind me. On Memorial Day, we went and saw something totally awesome: Star Wars in Concert.

star wars in concert, pt.4

I know, I know, I really am a nerd deep down inside. (Okay, all you really have to do is scratch the surface to discover that.) I don’t have as, oh, deep of feelings for the films like hard core fan does, but I do enjoy them. What I love the most from the entire Star Wars saga is the music. Ah, John Williams…if I could only someday write a theme and corresponding orchestration that is as memorable as what he does, my life would be complete. What can I say: I’m a sucker for orchestra movie soundtracks, especially one as great as this.

There was a full orchestra, choir, a ginormous screen, LED lights, lasers, fog machines…way too cool. Not to mention, Anthony Daniels, the voice and body of C-3PO, was the host for the evening. As the program led through the stories from the six films, clips of the movie where played on the screen with a precise accompaniment from the orchestra and choir. Being a choir and orchestra junkie, I found myself watching them most of the time–I had to keep reminding myself to watch the screen, too.

When we first got there, it was fun (and funny) to see people dressed up for the concert: several princess Leias, young and old Jedi knights, storm troopers, kids with light sabers, etc. For those who didn’t dress up, they were wearing some sort of Star Wars paraphernalia that they had, no matter how new or old it was. Since my brother is a pretty die hard fan, I was fully expecting him to wear some sort of shirt. From a distance, it looked quite normal and I was disappointed. As he got closer, I realized I was quite wrong

star wars in concert, pt.3

and then mentally shook myself for doubting him. Of course he’d wear something that wouldn’t rock the boat too much but rather would be recognized as being a fan by those “in the know”.

After all the brothers posed for a quick picture,

star wars in concert, pt.2

we ran inside and found our seats. At first we were a bit disappointed–the speakers were right in the middle of the screen:

star wars in concert, pt.5

As we sat there scanning the many open seats in the upper tiers and planning a move after the ticket people left, we were approached by one of the managers. He told us that they didn’t even realize that the section we were sitting in would be blocked by the speakers until that day and had tickets to freely exchange for floor seats; would we like some?

Uh, sure!

star wars in concert, pt.6

Much better.

star wars in concert, pt.7

star wars in concert, pt.9

Needless to say, it was fabulous.

Now, a week later, after all the hoo-haa, busyness, and running about, it is the calm before the storm: final exams start tomorrow. Of all things, they start with one of our biggest subjects for the quarter, pharmacology. This is a very important subject, mind you, but quite a daunting one to learn since all of it is simply rote memorization. And coming up with many dumb, silly, and even slightly scandalous stories (okay, I can only think of one, really) to link all the bits of information together. The stories we came up with really are retarded–I’m too embarrassed to even share any of them. Oddly enough, they work.

Considering the time, I better get to bed to give these crazy stories a chance to solidify and to be filed away properly in my brain.

Yellow After The Rain

After it poured down rain this past Saturday, I happened to look out the window and was rewarded with this golden view:

yellow after the rain

During my second year of undergraduate college work, I was (somehow) given the privilege of free percussion lessons. Before you offhandedly dismiss percussion as being easy and consisting of merely banging on something and making lots of loud noise, I’d like to convince you otherwise.

  1. Playing percussion means you need to have rhythm, understand rhythm, have the ability to count and count and count in rhythm.
  2. You are given a pair of sticks or mallets and are supposed to bodily demonstrate said rhythm with them.
  3. You can’t just play at any ol’ volume you want, you need to play what is dictated to you.
  4. If you end up playing a keyboard instrument (i.e xylophone, marimba, vibraphone), you have to make the mallets hit specific parts of it, not just anywhere you want.  Well, really, this applies to any percussion instrument you play, even a triangle.
  5. Lastly, if you end up playing a keyboard instrument with two mallets per hand, that is four mallets total, then you’re in a whole ‘nother ball game.  (Apparently you can play with three per hand, too.)

Anyway, I digress.

The latter, 4-mallet playing, is what I was learning how to do on a marimba.  One of the first solo pieces I was ever given to learn is considered a beginner standard in the percussion industry, Yellow After The Rain.  It was challenging to play, had cool sounding chords and effects, lots of neat rolling with the mallets, etc.  I played it time and time again.

Yet, somehow, I never quite understood where the name came from.

Now, I do:

yellow after the rain

Every now and then, it actually is yellow after the rain. Beautiful.