Sunday, November 20, 2011


What an interesting few days it has been. This week saw another visiting master class artist, this time Timothy Noble. Working with him was illuminating and I feel like I made some fantastic progress. Hopefully I can keep it up! The issue with "quick fixes" on technique, as Ryan and I were discussing, is that one can become overzealous (or over-reliant) and then a fix can quickly become another fault. Such it is with life as a whole, I think. Anyway, it was once more a fascinating experience to work with yet another great teacher privately and to hear and watch him work with the other students in the master class on Friday. We're very lucky that, in the AD program, we'll get to work with both Timothy Noble and Wendy Nielsen (the previous master class artist) again in the spring. We're very lucky that we get to have master classes with so many talented musicians and teachers! And private lessons too! Ryan was busy as well, as he played at Beethoven sonata for Leon Fleisher, who is a quasi-faculty member at The Glenn Gould School, on Friday morning and with his trio for James Boyd, another visiting master class person, on Thursday. (Clearly I was also rather busy in the office last week.)

After the hustle and bustle I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend. I will begin rehearsing La Calisto next weekend so I was hoping to polish up the first act and learn some more Schubert and Messiaen (and continue working on technique, using my new tools!) in relative calm. However, I woke up feeling a little inexplicably sorrowful on Saturday. Nothing was really wrong, so I wasn't sure what was pressing on my mind. It was the day of The Game, so I was following along on my computer in the morning and absentmindedly waiting for the noon kickoff. I wasn't particularly concerned with the outcome; in fact, I expected we would lose (again... we haven't won since my freshman year). Quite frankly, I'm proud that my university devotes more resources to providing a stellar undergraduate education than to the football team. That's why we're better than Harvard. Ahem...

Anyway, I was poking about facebook when I first came across this video of the student protests at UC Davis: (warning--the video is graphic and disturbing, particularly at the beginning) . I haven't been paying that much attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests. I saw a bit of footage of the Oakland riots and of course the New York Times will post photographs and articles from time to time. I knew that UC Berkeley students and been treated unfairly but I must confess that I didn't watch any of the videos (of them being beaten with clubs and assaulted by the police) at the time. I'm happy that the Occupy Wall Street protests are happening, and I definitely believe that we all--especially the top earners--need to be paying more taxes, but I don't have a problem with people making money or being successful. So, it would perhaps be safe to say that I'm really glad other people are doing the dirty work for me. Perhaps--though it is unlikely--you have not heard about what transpired. Though news reports are often conflicting, it seems that a group of students decided to camp out on the large quad area at UCD on Thursday. They received permission from the chancellor to do so. They provided food to many people, including passersby and the police (even the police officer that later sprayed the students. He was, by a student account, quite friendly at the time). On Friday the chancellor decided that the students could not stay. She ordered them to leave. Most of the students did disperse and most of the tents were packed away. It seems that about 10 tents remained by 3:30, when the police arrived. I believe that at this time they were told to pack up their belongings, so they put the tents away. However, the police still wanted to arrest some of the students. So, they began to arrest people. The students that were there (initially about 20) began to form a seated circle, with their legs crossed and arms linked, but left a pathway for the police to move in and out. More and more students began to arrive to watch the unfolding scene. Eventually, and without warning, the police began to spray the seated students with pepper spray. When the students did not move, the police sprayed into their mouths. When they tried to protect themselves with their clothing, the police sprayed under their garments. The police held people to the ground. I believe that 11 students were taken to the hospital to be treated for pepper spray-related injuries. Some were reportedly coughing up blood over an hour later.

It is one thing to read about what happened and another thing entirely to watch it unfold, if only from the safety of your computer screen. I almost started crying, not just because you can clearly hear screams of anguish from the sprayed students but because watching their reaction to the police is also deeply frightening, even if it is ultimately uplifting. Perhaps that's a funny way to express my feelings. I don't mean to imply that I believe the students were in the wrong, or that the actions of the police were in any way justified. In fact, I believe the students have provided a shining example of bravery and calm in the face of brutality and oppression. They're amazing. What is frightening is the sheer power they exude, the power of a group verdict, the power of a clan in the face of this armed, hostile other. Perhaps awesome (in its original sense) is a better word for them. The students prove here the impact of nonviolent protest. Though the video is disturbing, I highly recommend that you watch it to the end.

So. All that is unfolding, and I watch the video, and the football game begins, and we are typically losing... and then I hear that a woman was killed at the tailgate. It seems that some student (who was sober) lost control of a UHaul truck and crashed it into three women, killing one and injuring two others. Yet the festivities continued. I suppose I understand why they wanted to continue The Game, but it seems awfully callous. I don't know. What a tragedy for the family and friends of the woman killed and for the poor student, who will have to live with the consequences of his mistake for the rest of his life.

Oh, and then we lost the football game, 45-7. Oh well.

With all that, my sadness upon waking suddenly seemed rather justified.

In other (happier) news, a Toronto outlet will be selling the Etherea CD (now released in hard copy), which is still performing quite well. We got a really wonderful review in Opera News, also rather exciting. I did manage to learn the music I wanted to learn. Comrade MM made a wonderfully delicious Indian meal in which Ryan and I shared on Saturday night, full of various curries. I had originally planned to write my next post about Canada and Christmas, as Canadians seem to start celebrating awfully early, and indeed Ryan and I encountered their big Christmas parade today (Santa was there!), but it all seems a little trivial now. I will post pictures and thoughts at a later date, though.

In closing, I do highly encourage all of you to read about the UCD protests and to consider contacting the chancellor if you feel strongly about the situation, no matter where your loyalties lie. If you are interested in writing to her, here is a link to an online form:

Here are also some links to articles which I have found interesting or illuminating:

an article by a UCD professor on militarization of the police

an opinion editorial by UC Berkeley professor and poet laureate Robert Hass, who was beaten by the police

an interview with a student who was pepper sprayed at UCD

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Encounters with the Pantheon in Downtown Toronto

So. It has been a really long time. I think a lot of things have happened, but I've been busy so I haven't noticed. Really, the most eventful moments have probably been in the kitchen. Oh, and the CD I released with Etherea that has been selling rather well. The digital release was on November 1st and it is available in hard-copy starting on Tuesday, the 15th. Currently we're 14 in the nation-wide "Billboard" charts and still number two (after falling from number one, which we held for a week) in the "traditional" new releases on iTunes. Ahead of Lang Lang and behind Hélene Grimaud.

Otherwise life is chugging along at its usual pace: lots of singing mixed in with some learning and then the boring "life" stuff. Halloween came and went; Ryan and I didn't do anything eventful (other than make dinner and help to hand out a little candy) because it fell on a Monday. November entered the picture and with it came the end of daylight savings. Now it is pitch dark by 5:30, which is a little sad. On the plus side we didn't get any of that pre-Halloween storm that blanketed the East Coast and the weather has been perhaps unseasonably warm. It might snow later in the week, but if it does it will probably just be a dusting. Otherwise I've been chipping away at learning La Calisto, thinking about technique, and working on some shorter assignments for school.

We have another ADP master class this Friday with the baritone Timothy Noble but luckily for me there is slightly less pressure as I'm not singing in the class itself, just in my coaching with him (we alternate, so all of us sing publicly in three classes but in private lessons for all six visiting master class artists, plus there are two extra classes this year, with Susan Graham and Ian Bostridge). I'm not sure what I'll be working on for Mr. Noble, but I've had Schubert on the brain of late so it may be some of that. My teacher recommended two songs of his to me: a short but beautiful one called "Florios Lied" (the only drawback being that about 45% of it sits on an F-natural, right in the passaggio...) and a 13-or-so minute long Blumenballade (or flower ballad) called "Viola." "Viola" is pretty awesome. It is somewhat like a giant version of the Goethe poem/Mozart Lied "Das Veilchen," but grafted onto a piano sonata or something like that. The poem (and song) alternates stanzas of storytelling with a refrain that, as one eventually realizes, rings with funeral knells for the dead violet. Per usual, the song is not so much about the different flowers of spring as it is about unrequited love. Poor Viola just gets too excited, stops paying any attention to anything but the coming of Spring, and then freezes to death. The music that falls between the refrain stanzas (there are a few strophes between each refrain) changes from strophe to strophe, with different textures and figurations in the piano reflecting the changing sentiments. It is rather nice. Highly recommend a listen.

So. I'm sure there are more things to talk about and think about, but for now I will segue to a photo essay, which will surely prompt memories...


Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away, we made butternut squash ravioli for dinner. Ryan and Comrade J are working the assembly line:

I went to see Mlle P. in a ceremony at her school a few weeks ago because she was nominated for an award and her parents couldn't make it. Her school is French immersion, so it was interesting for me to witness both Canadian public education and also hear a little Ontario French. Here she is proudly displaying her certificate!

That Friday, after attending the ceremony, I went to the Royal Ontario Museum (we had the week off for a fall break/extra rehearsals). It is the subject of some controversy, as a prominent architect was hired to update the building and he wound up designing this "crystal" that juts out from the original facade. The museum is next door to the school and I happen to think that it looks very pretty from the outside, but I have to agree with some of the critics when I say that I'm not sure it does much for the interior. The museum is somewhat confusingly organized, with a collection that is very strong in some aspects but lacking in others. The crystal is made of big windows, as the name might suggest, but these are also blocked to prevent harmful light from damaging the collections. So, one winds up wandering amongst dinosaur skeletons in a sort of strangely white atmosphere. Not my favorite. There were some smaller collections of art of all sorts, including a few beautiful early pieces and some interesting folk art, as well as a large collection of Asian pottery. Some of the most interesting pieces of Asian work were the early "native" pottery examples, actually, not the beautifully-formed pots with jade-colored glaze. Perhaps unsurprisingly, early Chinese pottery looks a lot like Anasazi/pueblo work from the American Southwest.

One of my favorite pieces, however, was a wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary standing with the infant Christ in a crescent moon. It struck me as oddly similar to the Artemis/Diana-Selene conflation that occurred in the post-Classical era...

The trees are less golden now than they appear here, but there are still leaves left on the branches:

Since then, I've clearly been busy with some interesting food.

On Halloween, I baked "Pane Francese," following a recipe from Mr. Hitz's book, to have with roasted vegetables and buckwheat groats:
One loaf is topped with poppy seeds and the other with sesame seeds.

I also must have made stir-fry of some sort involving zucchini, and then noticed how beautiful they are in cross-section!

Last Sunday I made a pie crust with a little whole wheat flour because apples were on sale at Economy Fruit. So, I made an apple pie augmented with some leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and some almonds and oats.
Not pictured is the quiche I made later in the day with the remaining half of the pie crust. Talk about a fancy dinner! Quiche and pie! It was a good quiche. To make it less eggy, since Ryan doesn't really like eggs, I spiced it up with some garam masala. Yum!

The next night I decided I wanted to have some aioli, so I made it and lightly cooked some vegetables for dipping. It was reminiscent of some very good meals I had this summer at a friend's house! However, I was at a loss as to what I should do with the remaining egg whites. Until I decided to make French macarons: almond cookies, of course, with a raspberry-dark chocolate ganache. And they were pretty much divine. I highly recommend them. They are also apparently notoriously difficult to make but really behaved quite well. Not too tricky! I followed a recipe from but made a few changes to their ganache.

Another picture, just for good measure:

A few days later I made my usual sojourn to Economy Fruit and picked up the following cornucopia-worthy items for only $6.50. The woman who works at the checkout might just actually be Demeter/Ceres. Seriously. Cere-ously.

The one drawback is that I have had to get very, very creative with the cabbage. Cabbage salad. Cabbage in couscous. Home-made falafel with cabbage. Andddd... that brings us to last night's dinner: minestrone soup.
I made vegetable stock by roasting vegetables and then made soup and bread in the evening. Here's the soup, bubbling away (before I added the cabbage):

And the bread, which was made following another recipe from Gourmet magazine involving bulgur wheat (and let me tell you... it is delicious!! I literally pulled one of the rolls out of the oven and ate it. The recipe made 12 medium-sized rolls and one medium-sized loaf):

And that, folks, is all for now. I need to spend some more time thinking about cabbage-filled recipes.