Thursday, August 1, 2013

Weekly Interlude 9: Auditions and Apricots

Black-Eyed Susans
There's nothing like a voice lesson to help cheer me up and inspire me. As cheesy as it might sound, having a voice lesson after months of no voice lessons is like finding water in a desert. Or like walking into an air-conditioned building in the dead of muggy summer. Jennifer was kind enough to give me a lesson yesterday afternoon, and let me just say that she's as great a teacher as she is a singer.

My voice teacher at Ithaca College (Dawn Pierce, who is a phenomenal performer and teacher) was a genius, and I graduated with all the tools I needed to be my own teacher for a while. This is mega-important in the real world because teachers do not come cheaply! It's crucial to be able to solve your own problems as a singer, not only for financial reasons but also because, ultimately, YOU are the only one who can teach yourself how to sing. Voice teachers are actually guides: they can't get inside your instrument and tinker around until things line up; only you can experience your instrument.
Danube River, running through Krems

That being said, it is important to have a trusted pair of ears and an objective opinion. Enter the Voice Teacher. Personally, I think I'm still a little bit too reliant on voice teachers because I tend to get too fixated on one element of singing, and then everything else is thrown slightly out of whack, thus evoking my frustration. (Granted, I'm MUCH better than I used to be at remaining calm and speaking gently to myself.) I hadn't had a lesson since the beginning of May, and working with Jennifer yesterday afternoon clarified things for me. The lesson forced me to step back and look at the bigger picture, the instrument as a whole. Where all my energy had been directed into one place (my tongue) before, yesterday it was able to release and direct to other places of interest (breath, freedom of sound). I mean, tongue tension and tongue position can be fascinating, but when you obsess about them for too long, singing becomes miserable.

So now I have two new songs I'm going to learn, as well as the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, which I'll keep working on. Hopefully, I'll have another few lessons with Jennifer between her performances in Langenlois and when she departs for the States in September.

Krems, Wachau Valley
So all this singing brings me to my big news, which is that I've decided to stay longer in Vienna! I signed up for a 4-week German class (placing WAY higher on the placement test than I expected, so we'll see how that goes) with DeutschAkademie, which runs from this coming Monday through August 29. Meanwhile, I'm looking into some auditions with local choruses: Schoenberg Chor (they don't sing only atonal music, thank God), Augustiner Kirche Chor, Theater an der Wien, u.s.w. My voice teacher here from when I studied abroad has put me in touch with some of her students who may be able to help me with the process.

Apricot squares, minus a sample
I don't know how long exactly I'll be in Vienna, but it'll certainly be for a few more months. I need to apply the German to real-life situations once I learn it in class! I think it could be fun to finish out the year learning the language and just getting used to the audition process, whether or not anything comes of it. What are your thoughts? Do you think I should stay for a whole year, like my sister does? Six months? Three months? Six weeks? It's just this pesky homesickness that's getting in the way of making plans!
Apricot tree

On a totally different and much less serious note, last weekend in Langenlois, Lillian, Jennifer, and I went apricot and cherry picking! I filled up a HUGE bucket with said fruit and then spent all day Monday cooking. I made six jars of jam (apricot, cherry, and apricot-cherry), apricot chicken, a pan of apricot squares (in a circular pan), one apricot pie (with a croissant-like crust), and one apricot cake. Needless to say, my freezer is full!

Marillen Knödeln
Apparently, the Wachau Valley (the region where Langelois is located) is famous for its white wine and its apricots. The family and I went out with some colleagues of Jennifer to a café in Krems, the nearby (small) city, and indulged in some Marillen Knödeln, or Apricot Dumplings. Too sweet to be a real lunch but savory enough to be ruled out as a real dessert, they were delicious and filling. I'd expected them to be thick and doughy or slimy, but they were just right. It was more like a warm, firm, sugar-sprinkled dough surrounding a soft, hot apricot. Gerhard -- who had been raving about these all day and promised me a life-changing food experience -- joked that when he was a kid, they'd have one Marillen Knödel for an appetizer, four for the main course, and two for dessert.
Krems - I love the colorful buildings!

In less than three hours, I'm heading off to Langenlois again. Jennifer has performances for the next three weekends, so I'll spend the weekdays in Wien and the weekends in Langenlois.

I would also like to announce that I've finished Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Askaban!! Perhaps HP is the reason for my unusually high placement score? Now it's time to begin Harry Potter und der Orden des Phönix... :)

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