Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Inexcuseable Knitter Behaviour.

Mine, that is. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

I must fess up. It's all my fault. I really blew it - big time. I totally shafted someone, a lovely and generous knitter, and I must remedy this situation ASAP.

Remember these from last fall? These are the toe-up modified Pomatomus socks I made for my fall 2007 Hogwarts Sock Swap partner, Ellie.

I was extremely late in getting this package out in the mail. All the swaps were supposed to be done by Hallowe'en. For numerous reasons, some good and some not, my package to Ellie containing the socks I made for her, some yarns and an assortment of knitterly trinkets, was eventually sent a couple of days after Xmas (in the hope of avoiding the holiday crush). With the insanity of the holiday season and potential delays for cross-border posting, it was possible for it to take a few weeks to arrive.

She never received it.

(Pause for deep breathing. Breathe in the white light. Breathe out the &^%$#@!…)

DAMN, I really loved the socks I made for her! I used 2 skeins of my favourite colourway of Koigu and carefully customized the Pomatomus pattern for her size and specifications. They were gorgeous, even if I do (not-so-humbly) say so myself. They were ogled on Ravelry. They were jealously coveted by acquaintances. I just hate that they were lost somewhere in postal purgatory limbo.

We figured the socks and goodies were MIA (though hopefully only temporarily - wishful thinking) and I moved on to Plan B: I was going to send her another box of goodies ASAP with a pair of socks to follow (because I had none ready to go). In the meantime, I immediately ordered something special from Cafe Press (a cute trio of knitter/dyer mugs) and had it shipped directly to her. And - in what I mistakenly thought was a sign that the swap gods were smiling on us for a change - I even came across a couple of skeins of Koigu very similar to the ones I originally used (I lost the original ball bands so I can't be sure what they were) and I started knitting a new pair of socks for her as fast as I could in the hope of sending them in early spring.

Insert screeching tires and skid marks here.

And here's where I blew it big time: I never sent the rest of the replacement package or the replacement socks. In fact I haven't been able to finish those socks - they're just not working for some reason and I can't get them right. They are seriously messing with my knit mojo. I do still have a collection of crafty and luxurious treats just waiting to be sent out to her, but I became totally demoralized by the lack of cooperation from the socks and I didn't send any of it yet.

If you've been following the saga of MezzoDiva in recent months, you know I had a crazy few months last fall and winter, with seismic emotional upheaval and minor/medium health issues, interspersed with some rather monumental professional obligations. But there's just no excuse for letting down my swap partner like this and I feel like a heel. A poorly-shaped excuse for a heel.

I am so sorry about this! Clearly the swap-deities were saying I shouldn’t join anything like this for a while (don’t worry - I haven’t since last summer). But Ellie shouldn’t be the unlucky recipient of my recent swapping karma. Especially since her gift to me was so thoughtful and fabulous! (I really have to get some pictures up for you to see - I just felt too guilty to do it).

So, enough wailing and wringing of hands. Here's my sworn commitment to make good on all this, out here for all to see:

I have (finally) finished the second sock of the lovely lime green Campanulas, (the first of which is pictured here in partial completion last fall). I just have to sew in the ends (with my newly acquired Cibis - my old ones ran away from home along with my favourite cable needles sometime over the fall/winter) and then I'll block them. They were going to be mine, but I can't in good conscience let Ellie wait any longer. So these will be mailed by next weekend, along with the rest of the loot I have for her.

BTW - Ellie's also an incredibly amazing indie dyer. Really, you have to get some of her sock yarn (And no, that's not my guilt talking. Her stuff is gorgeous! I've bought 12 skeins in some phenomenal colourways over the last year, and I also joined her Crazy4Seasons Sock Club. Go check it out!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Emily Carr, Self-Portrait (oil on paper), 1938-9

I think she liked it.

Please excuse me now while I go fall down somewhere soft for maybe a week or so.
Emily Carr, "The Mountain" (oil), 1933

Here we go...

We're approaching the summit.

It's been a helluva climb so far. Just a little farther.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Emily Carr, "Forest, British Columbia" (oil), 1932

I wish I was here. And in a way, I am.

Today was both wonderful and grueling.

We had the dress rehearsal in the gallery this morning and it was marvelous. This piece really has magic in it and it is even more magical in this perfect venue. If you can find a way to get to the McMichael Gallery tomorrow between 1:30pm and 3:30pm, I think you should go. And I'm not just saying that because it's my show.

We grabbed some lunch at the gallery cafe and I talked with the composer, the librettist, the pianist and his wife for a while. Then I got back to town and spent the afternoon getting a new cell phone (because mine always choose the most inopportune time to croak, in the middle of an important gig or when I'm travelling for auditions, when I have no spare time to go get a new one but I absolutely can't afford to be unreachable).

After that I went hunting for a dress to wear tomorrow because I’m retaining so much fluid none of my planned potential outfits will fit (they were fine just over a week ago). My feet and ankles look like they’re about to burst and I think I’ve gained a bra cup size, not to mention my puffy arms and face. Sheesh! I think it's a BP spike as a side effect of the antibiotics or some combo of them with the other things I'm taking. My BP was okay earlier in the week when I went to have my ears checked and got the prescription, but I’m sure it’s not so great now – and of course I was on my feet all day today which doesn't help.

In the interest of offloading the potential camel-collapsing straw, I decided it is prudent to take tomorrow morning off and not go to my synagogue gig as I had planned. The necessary folks were notified. I'm sure God will forgive me.

So in about 15 hours I'll be offering my voice to Emily and hoping she will share with me some of her vibrant spirit, her indomitable will, and her gift for expression so I can share with the audience my increasing admiration of her.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Emily Carr, "Old Tree at Dusk" (oil), 1936

Well, that went well! Monday night's rehearsal was good, but very intense. I still have some work to do this week to tidy things up in a couple of places, but I got through the whole thing fairly comfortably and that's a great relief.

I can laugh now, remembering what a nervous wreck I was when we did the partial preview with piano accompaniment last fall. It's great that we did that because it cracked the code for me. I became familiar with this composer's idiom, her own musical language.

Each composer has their own style, their preferred scheme of meters, rhythms, harmonic progressions, and melodies (or, sometimes, lack thereof). Once you crack it, it's like you've learned to speak their particular dialect and learning their work in future becomes much easier. I found the piece difficult to learn last fall, so much so that the composer built a lot of doubling into the chamber ensemble score, with the oboe or viola or piano often playing my line as I'm singing it. But we found that to be largely dispensible last night so she's taking a lot of it out now. It's okay - she says she's glad because it's always easier to take something out than it is to put it in at the last minute.

What a whirlwind! I can't believe we got through the whole score in a 2-hour rehearsal (union musicians), and with only minor bumps in the road - amazing, especially since everyone got their parts from the composer just in the last few days.

Still, it was INTENSE! It's incredible how much energy this work takes. People who aren't in the arts (or don't have someone close to them in the arts) often think we are all a bunch of lazy slackers who work a few measly hours here and there and then take extended naps and personal time. This society has some false underlying moral standard that says you have to be busy as a beaver for 8-14 hours every day, and if you're not you clearly have poor work ethics. It's so insidious that I even have to remind myself on days like this that I'm not slacking, I've just worked my @$$ off and I'm too f^#*ing tired to see straight or safely chew gum.

I'm making a pot of tea and then probably going back to bed for a couple of hours. Then I'm going to the doctor to have my ear checked out and probably get some antibiotics (blech!). I had some sinus problems and itchy runny eyes late last week, probably allergic not viral, but with the all excess fluid build up I developed an ear infection on Sunday night. Fortunately, both the nose and throat are fine, so my singing wasn't compromised (Whew!).

It was very painful for about 24 hours, and especially last night with all the loud noise both inside my head (when singing) and outside it: oboe, horn, viola, cello, piano, and lots of percussion rehearsing in a smallish studio makes for some serious loudness. I took Advil to get through the rehearsal and it helped a bit. Then, blessedly, the pain eased a lot last night around midnight while I was waiting for the adrenaline to dissipate. There's still pressure and a blocked feeling there so I want to have it checked out

If I feel well after seeing the doctor I'm going to treat myself to a visit to the SnB at The Purple Purl. I need to inhale some fiber fumes and be around warm and fuzzy string-loving people today. I'll try to keep the acquisition to a minimum (though I do get one day off month, I might want to save it for the DKC frolic later in April).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Emily Carr, "Blue Sky" (oil), 1936

Helloooooooooo!!!! Is this thing on????

Sorry (again) for the prolonged absence. I know I've been a bad blogger. There's been so much going on around here and I promise I will get around to telling all about it but it will probably have to wait until after April 20th 'cuz I'm just a little busy until then preparing for the WORLD PREMIERE OF AN OPERA THAT WAS WRITTEN FOR ME!!!!!

If you're in the Greater Toronto Area or anywhere in Southern Ontario, I am cordially inviting you to come: EMILY, THE WAY YOU ARE by Jana Skarecky and Di Brandt, a one-woman opera exploring the life and work of Emily Carr, will be premiered on SUNDAY, APRIL 20, 2008 at 1:30 p.m. at the McMichael Gallery Canadian Art Collection, in Kleinberg.

A bold visionary who articulated much of the imagery by which Canada knows itself, Emily Carr was a woman of exceptional courage who defied the conventions of her upbringing as she struggled to define herself and her country. Born into the strict confines of Victorian society in western Canada in 1871, her quest for independence and artistic truth took her from the studios of Paris to remote native villages deep inside the west coast forests on a lifetime journey of mythic proportions. The two great themes of her work were the native culture of the Pacific coast, and the power of nature expressed in images of rain-forests and seascapes.

Presenting Emily Carr’s story at the McMichael Gallery which has long been home to some of her art work highlights the connection between her achievements as a visual artist, her writings, and the inner drama of her life.

The concert, part of the Canadian Music Centre’s “New Music in New Places” program, will feature The Talisker Players chamber ensemble with conductor Gary Kulesha will include other music by composer Jana Skarecky performed by pianist Joseph Ferretti, as well as poetry and prose by Di Brandt and by Emily Carr. The concert is free with gallery admission (adult $15, student/senior $12, family $30).

This is an incredibly wonderful opportunity and artistically very exciting: I get to create a new role that's been written with me in mind and has never been performed before! It's been in the works for a couple of years now, but even after all this time I'm still a bit stunned when I stop and think about it: Dudes, they actually wrote this for ME.


Really, I'm fine. I just need a minute. And maybe a shot of Scotch.

Okay, I'm just going to go breathe into this paper bag for a couple of minutes...


No, really - don't go - I'm still here!

So, um,... I need to admit this whole thing is a wee tiny bit nerve-wracking. Lest you think it's ALL sunshine and roses (and believe me I am NOT complaining at all, just releasing some anxiety), here's how it's going: I just received the last section of the score TODAY (emailed from the composer at 4:00 am this morning), I have a rehearsal TONIGHT with the pianist, and then with the chamber orchestra and conductor on Monday, which is the only rehearsal before the “dress” rehearsal and the performance next weekend.

No pressure.

Actually, I think I am amazingly calm under the circumstances. I really should be running naked through the house (or street) babbling obscenities or rocking in the corner and winding and unwinding the same poor overworked skein over and over again while drooling silently, but alas I haven’t got time for my nervous breakdown right now.

Whew. Okay. I just needed to get that out of my system. I'm feeling MUCH better now. Thanks.