Sunday, November 10, 2013

Weekly Interlude 23: The Spirit of Discovery

A Christmas window on Kärntnerstraße
This has been a delightful weekend filled with friends (old and new) and holiday cheer. On Friday, two of my friends came from Graz and the Czech Republic, and then this afternoon, I met up with a girl who is studying abroad with IES (the study abroad program I used in 2012). Last night, I spent three hours with my coworkers at Musical Munchkins, preparing for our winter holiday concert. Add in some ukelele playing, some Christmas carols, and some Apfelstrudel, and we have a pretty great weekend.

Holiday lights (unlit) on Kärntnerstraße
My friend Marjorie, who teaches English in the Czech Republic, recently started a blog called The Ukelele Diaries. She's planning to take a video of herself playing the ukelele and singing a different song in every city she visits, beginning with Vienna. She asked me if I'd like to sing in her video, too, so click here to see us singing "Edelweiss" at Schönbrunn Palace! Filming credit goes to my friend Lizzy, an English teacher in Graz. It was scary, at first, to plunk down in the middle of a public place and start singing/strumming, but after a few takes, I became more comfortable. (Please ignore the squinting; it was such a sunny day!) A few people stopped to listen or smiled when they walked by, though most people just ignored us or admired from a distance. That's okay, though, because the experience, ultimately, was just for us. It was a remarkably liberating experience--and empowering--to make music in a public place. It also inspired me to explore my burgeoning interests in folk music and improvisation, so for the last two days, I've been playing more piano and experimenting with some Irving Berlin.
A hole-in-the-wall church

The window display at Mühlen Brot
After singing at Schönbrunn, we took the U-Bahn back to the city center and strolled up Kärntnerstraße, the main shopping thoroughfare that leads directly to St. Stephen's Cathedral in the heart of the city. City workers were putting up the holiday lights over the street, which was very exciting to watch. I'll have to go to the city center sometime after 4:30 p.m., when it's dark, to see them lit up. We then stopped by Mühlen Brot, a very small bakery that sells the BEST apple strudel (Apfelstrudel) in the city. I bought a piece and savored it as I made my way to work.

Teaching on Friday went well, and I felt for the first time since beginning in September that I did every single class justice that day. My last class went particularly well, and I'm so proud of myself. Normally, when I teach, I feel completely out of my comfort zone--but, as my voice teacher at Ithaca College used to say, fake it 'til you make it! This has basically been my mantra since June, and I finally felt like it was paying off on Friday.

Delicious sweets at Gerstner Café
A Lipizzaner horse
On Saturday afternoon, the Musical Munchkins staff had a three-hour meeting to work on the Holiday Music Party, which takes place in early December. Since it's the tenth-year anniversary of MM, the party will be held at Porgy & Bess, the famous jazz club in Vienna. Not only will we be leading the children in group versions of songs such as "Five Little Monkeys" and "This Old Man," we'll be doing so with a jazz band playing in the background! Saturday was mainly to meet with the arranger, Mickey, and to figure out the order and arrangements of all the songs. Students playing and/or singing solos also stopped by at various intervals and performed with Mickey and his guitar. Later, the teachers worked out their own solos. If you remember, I'll be singing "Sleigh Ride," which I'm very excited about. Working out jazzy riffs will also fall under my ukelele-inspired quest to tap into folk and improv roots. After spending three hours listening to "All I Want For Christmas Is You," "White Christmas," and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," I am READY for the holidays to begin! (I believe the Christmas markets open next weekend...)
1st district Vienna on a Sunday

St. Stephen's Cathedral, city center
This afternoon, I met up with an IES student (a friend-of-a-friend situation). We bought lunch at a Würstelstand (sausage stand) and then roamed the first district for a bit. The weather was milder than frigid, rainy Saturday, though not quite as nice as sunny, balmy Friday. We passed the Spanish Riding School, where the famous Lipizzaner horses perform and then looped around the Ring (the main street encircling the first district) before popping into the Staatsoper to pick up a November Spielplan (schedule). Even though it was a Sunday and everything (besides cafés and tourist shops) was closed, the streets were still packed. Holiday decorations twinkled in every window, and I stumbled upon both Figlmüller (rumored to have the best
schnitzel in the city) and a hole-in-the-wall church on Kärntnerstraße. Apparently, there will be a mass at the church every day this week. It's nice to know that after a total now of nine months in Vienna (between my semester in 2012 and my experiences since June), I can still find new, exciting places. There's always more to discover.

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