Friday, March 26, 2010

Running and Karaoke and Opera and Garden Pretties -- Really!

Euphorbia's brilliantly acid green.

Photos have nothing to do whatsoever with text, today, except that all reflect spring's pleasures. I took these garden shots in last weekend's sunshine.

Yesterday the spring showers turned to vicious pelting rain, and there must have been big winds somewhere close enough to shut the power down for a few hours -- right in the middle of Grey's Anatomy, the screen went dark as quickly as the house did, sending me to bed early with a flashlight and a mystery novel. I lit a few candles as well, of course, to enhance the experience, and although I wanted to know what was happening with Meredith and Christina, the still darkness offers some compensations. As long as the power outage doesn't persist beyond the septic tank's holding capacity -- our system on the island requires each homeowner maintaining a pump which sends the "grey water" into the city sewer system. With the tank level alarm and the pump incapacitated, we have to flush very judiciously . . . .

Hen-and-chicks in some broken pottery . . .


So I was pleased to find the lights and heat and all those other niceties available this morning, and even more pleased to see gorgeous sunshine, despite a forecast for grey skies and rain over the next five days. And bonus: I don't have classes on Friday so have flexibility to fit my work into the darker, wetter portions of the day and play a bit in these lovely light-filled hours.
Species tulips open in the sunshine
A run in the spring sunshine, then! I ran the first loop 'round the island content to let my random thoughts rattle around up there, sorting themselves out. For the second loop, though, when I stopped at the house for a water break I grabbed the Ipod which I'd loaded up with highlights from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, in anticipation of the VOA performance we're going to next month. I have to say, if you're in Vancouver and you have any curiosity about opera, this is a beautiful opera to begin with. If you don't believe me, check out this video posted on YouTube.
Ferny leaves of Dicentra

Compared to these stunning soprano voices warbling glorious melodies, I sound much more like the frogs croaking their spring courting songs in our island pond. No matter. Running along, singing my own little karaoke opera and noticing the delicate native "Easter lilies" (erythronium)along the path, I happily filled my endorphin bucket to drawn from later, as needed.

Anemone, so simple, so pretty
I was reminded of a spring day several Mays ago, Pater and I walking up the Rue Mouffetard about a half block behind a middle-aged, stocky fellow who quite unselfconsciously belted out some gorgeous aria or other as he strode along. While I wasn't channelling his voice, sadly, I was tapping into the same wonderful mix of music and movement.

Anemone flowers bobbing above their sea of ferny leaves.

Another memory, this one triggered by the simple technology that allowed me to hear a full opera company, orchestra and all, while I ran the paths of a little island situated far away and in a completely other time from its performance. I remembered decades ago wanting to play some piano piece or other that was normally accompanied by an orchestra. My piano teacher at that time, Mary Fraser, recommended I check the Music Minus One catalogue to see if they made that title available and, sure enough, they did. These recordings would have been, I suppose, the precursor to karaoke; they supplied the orchestral accompaniment, stripping out the track that would have provided the soloist, so that, in the comfort of one's own living room, one could fulfill those fantasies of playing with the Philharmonic. I bought the record -- at Sikora's in Vancouver -- and then found I needed to buy a tunable turntable to make sure the album turned at a speed that matched its pitch to my piano's. And, of course, even with the proper turntable, practising with this set-up meant that anytime I wanted to work on a smaller section of, say 6 or 8 bars, the needle would have to be lined up properly and then I'd have to race back to the piano bench . . . and again . . . and again.

Tiny species tulips -- I'm crossing my fingers the deer will leave these alone.

Today, I play so seldom (although recently I've begun trying to do a bit more) and such a limited repertoire, that I have no idea what the technology of the day is. But, having moved through records to cassettes to Cds to Mp3 players, I know it will be smaller and more efficient, although whether the sound is as warm is debatable. I've discovered just knonow, through Googling, that one can, indeed, Karaoke to any Opera one might want.

A pretty purple corydalis -- once it blooms, it disappears quite quickly, to avoid the summer heat, so I'm always glad when I catch it in action.
Instead, I'll settle for having the Ipod provide the orchestral accompaniment inside my ears while I sing along with it, lower-tech style. And be inspired by even lower tech, that fellow in Paris whose personal interior orchestra did all the work, no-IPod required, while he sang, gloriously, for his appreciative, if pedestrian audience.
Daphne mezereum -- rather scrubby plant, but wonderful fragrance, beautifully-coloured early spring bloom.