Image

Archive for Singing

5

5

It is difficult for me to wrap my brain around the fact that SoCo Women’s Chorus is about to enter her FIFTH SEASON!  It seems like only yesterday Karen James and I were meeting at The Woodland Restaurant ~ which is no more, by the way! ~ to discuss my ideas for this chorus!!  Our collective enthusiasm drove us……we met with others who’d done this, we made and posted flyers in coffee shops and anywhere else they’d let us, Craig & his list became our friend, I sang on the street corners, for Pete’s sake ~ just to get the word out!  

I would do it again in a heartbeat!

And so, as we enter this 5th season, a lot of water has passed under our musical bridge, singers and board members have come and gone, we’ve grown and we’ve shrunk, we’ve had great ideas and learned terrific lessons from the bad ones, we’ve had growth spurts and times of stagnation.  It’s been a wild ride!!!

The bottom line has always been consistent to me,  however:  SoCo Women’s Chorus has always been where music takes our hearts!  Where we cannot speak, the music speaks for us.  Where we have adversity or sadness, music soothes.  When we have joy, it  is the music which celebrates!

“For The Children” is the name of our Winter 2016 concert, which will be held ~ once again ~ at Ballet Austin, the place we sang our first concerts in December of 2012!  It’s home.  We will celebrate the magic and whimsy of children!  We’re going to bang on things and sing about crickets!  We will invite your inner child to enter into a place of a child’s heart, innocence, purity and playfulness!

You’ll have one more chance to vote for your favorite songs over the past 4 seasons at the “For The Children” concert!  We’ll take the top 16-18 songs for our Spring 2017 concert ~ our birthday concert ~ “5”!  It will be a celebration to end all celebrations and I do hope you won’t miss it!

BIG LOVE! ~Janey

Rhapsody in Green Tour – Ireland 2015

IRELAND ~ Rhapsody In Green Tour ~ July 2015

 

Slainte

DAY ONE ~ Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

We all met in Terminal 2 of the Dublin Airport to board our bus this morning at 10-ish. Our Guide is Eunan Smyth and our driver is Anton. We already love them both so much! Eunan is a fabulous wit and Anton can park that big ol’ bus on a postage stamp! We’ve learned about the term “lynching” and where it came from (VERY sad!) and “posh” and something else I don’t remember. Eunan is full of historical facts and anecdotes and gives us helpful hints. Our banter ~ not that I would ever participate in such a thing, of course ~ is very easy and natural! He’s a total hoot!

Our 2nd YBA Sale ~ FUNDRAISER for our Ireland Tour!

Our 2nd YBA Sale ~ FUNDRAISER for our Ireland Tour!

On our way out of Dublin, I told Eunan about my friend, Regina Divilly, and how she was planning to come to one of our concerts. I had no idea where Ballinasloe was, but Eunan did. And evidently, it was on our way to Galway! So he planned for us to have a quick lunch stop and I got to meet Reg after years of chatting on~line!!! SO WONDERFUL to finally meet her…..and her speaking voice slayed me. She could have read the yellow pages to me and I would have melted! lol As we gathered to board the bus again, I asked the singers to sing for Reg, so we sang Cunnla. SO much fun! (I think she filmed it.) She’s going to try to make our St. Patrick’s performance next week!

We got on the bus and headed toward Galway…..I fell asleep, and, when I woke, it was raining. Just as we got to Galway, it stopped. (This happened a LOT on this trip!) We drove to the Galway Cathedral and had a quick visit…inside the cathedral……well it just took my breath away. The stained glass was exquisite, there was a stunning mosaic tiled dome in the center. I asked the front attendant if we could have permission to sing and he said he didn’t know why not! So we did.

Singing in Galway Cathedral Galway Cathedral Dome Galway Cathedral Rose WindowGalway Cathedral1

We sang O Occhi Manza Mia and as tired as the women were, they took my breath away. We were going to just sing it through once, but it was so lovely, I took them through it again. They gave the truest pianissimo I’ve ever heard and at the end of the song, when I gave them the cutoff, I motioned for them to be still…..our voices rang for about 4 seconds. It was an emotional moment for several of us. I have a pic I’ll post after I post this. I LOVE impromptu concerts!!! Just one song, but that’s all we needed. They were stunning!

Galway street

We drove around the Galway Bay road and you could see the hills off in the distance….some with rain showers, some bathed in sunlight. It was breathtaking! There were folks swimming in that cold water! Crazy heads! And a sail boat with big red sails that Eunan called a Hooker boat, a type of fishing vessel.  The boat was black with huge red sails.  It was breathtaking!  We parked around the corner from the hotel and it began to rain again…..before it started, Anton started to take the bags out of the bus….so they were sitting in the rain!!! The guys on the tour (Jaxon, Gino & Q) helped Anton get the bags back on the bus and we were able to park directly at the front door.

Hookah Boat of Galway Bay

The hotel is very old and the entry hallway is narrow, so it was interesting to make our way down to the elevator (which also was tiny and held 4 people with their baggage (at best!).

My room is on the 4th floor (top floor) and I have a stunning view of Galway Bay!!!! There is no AC here, but it is crisp outside, so it’s no problem! My phone was dead, my camera was dead, so I began to charge everything and laid down for “just a minute”. When I woke up, I tried to gauge what time it might be based on the light outside, but that’s hard to do here as Ireland has a very long day. (Sun doesn’t really set until 10:30 or so!) I turned on my phone ~ which still didn’t have much of a charge!

I have a wonderful corner room at the Western Hotel here in Galway! Currently, it’s a lovely 56 degrees, only slightly overcast and I have the lovely cry of seagulls as they fly by my windows…just feet from my windows! I can hear the whoosh of their wings! It’s like my own personal little tree house! I can see the dome of the Galway Cathedral & her steeples. Out one window, the beautiful slate roofs with their triple clay chimneys. I see something new each time I look out…..truly brilliant!

We were having our Welcome Dinner together at 6:30. My phone said “6:35”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! I scrambled to get ready and got down there. I wasn’t the only one, but still…..bad example played out by yours truly! No bueno!

While on the bus, Eunan has mentioned an Irish music show that was playing in Galway ~ Trad On The Prom ~ and would anyone be interested in seeing it? About 15 of us raised our hands, and, after dinner, we hoped on the bus & drove around by Galway Bay once again to see it.

UN.BE.LIEVE.ABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Traditional Irish music, instruments, the dancing (a la River Dance, which most are familiar with ) and it was a family affair. The mom was the fiddle player, the dad was the producer of the show & played guitar, the sister of the fiddle player was the drummer and I’ve never heard drumming like that EVER! She also played a trap set, an electric stand-up bass and a little squeeze box called a melodeon. She was a demon on the bodhran! (I sure wish Wendy Mazzurana could have seen THAT!) I was introduced to a new instrument: the Uilleann Pipes, a bagpipe-like instrument that has a bellows of sorts that’s manipulated by the arm against the musician’s side. It sounds a little like the soprano sax (think Kenny G) and this guy was a master at it. Each time he played, I was brought to tears. In addition, he played a tin whistle and various flutes. There was a keyboard player, also, who also sang….beautiful Irish tenor. Lovely!

Then there were the Irish dancers: 5 girls and 2 guys. And they never broke a sweat. So graceful and elegant and gifted. They took my breath away!! The show was simply magical and I’m so glad we went!! I have a souvenir program with a few autographs to add to my collection now. They are clearly a favorite with the locals. It was worth every Euro. (30)

We’re back at the hotel now….tomorrow is our first “official” concert at Kylemore Abbey. Then we have our second at Walter Macken Flats, our service concert for COPE Galway.

It was a VERY good day!

It is the first day of our “official” performances in Ireland! Today, we’ll sing at Kyemore Abbey….the gardens are said to be exquisite this year, so I’m really looking forward to that! Then later this afternoon, we’ll come back to Galway and sing at the Walter Macken Flats, a senior citizens housing facility, sponsored by COPE Galway. This will be one of those rewarding concerts, I feel, on so many levels. I know the women’s voices will touch many hearts this day! I’m so proud of them! heart emoticon

I must get ready for the day, but did want to wish you a good Friday morning (or whatever day it is! LOL!)…..

DAY TWO ~ Friday, July 3rd, 2015

What a totally delicious day for us! We boarded the bus around 8:30 & drove toward Kylemore Abbey. We stopped first at the Connemara Marble “factory”. Here they bring the mined marble in & cut & polish & form into various jewelry pieces, art and knick~knacks. I’ve never seen anything like it…..we were able to hear a brief talk on the various shades of marble & why it turns into the colors it turns into. Fascinating.y with purchases. My purchase was a lovely bracelet of dark green connemara marble stones alternated with amethyst stones with Celtic knots in between each stone. It’s stunning!

Connemara Marble Connemara Marble Visitor's Center

Many of us came away with purchases. My purchase was a lovely bracelet of dark green connemara marble stones alternated with amethyst stones with Celtic knots in between each stone. It’s stunning!

(Janey’s Edit: 8.17.15:  Eunan sent me a message, telling me that the senior Mr. Joyce, whose family owns & operates Connemara Marble, passed away shortly after our visit.  He & Eunan were good friends & I had the pleasure of meeting him toward the end of our tour & shopping.  He shook my hand and I remember how rough they were ~ a workman’s hands.  His eyes twinkled as he handed me a postcard & told me not to tell anyone he’d given it to me.  He was very kind.  “May the road rise to meet you”, Mr. Joyce.  Thank you for a very special memory for us at Connemara Marble.  Rest in Peace.  ~JH)

We got back on the bus and headed for Kylemore Abbey….the countryside here was more mountainous, but mind you, the highest point in Ireland is around 3,000, Eunan said. The thing about these mountains is they’re very distinctively rocky & jagged. Yet you can see the sheep roaming around up toward the tops of the peaks! SHEEP!!!!

We got to Kylemore Abbey and it takes your breath away for the beauty of it all. The small chapel was quite a trek from the entrance. But we got there and once again, the chapel took my breath away. It had pillars of Connemara Marble throughout! When we got into position to sing, the chapel was packed with visitors from many countries! I heard English, of course, but I also heard German, French & I think Czech. It didn’t matter that we sang in different languages………music ties everyone together!!

Kylemore Abbey Gothic Chapel Kylemore AbbeyKylemore Abbey Gothic Chapel Perf

The audience couldn’t have been lovelier! And there were tears shed when we sang Irish Blessing. The chapel was packed and the women’s voices caressed every corner of that little chapel. Our first public performance of the tour was a success. We were tired, but we were revived by the music. And that’s really the important take~away message here, is it not? Music chases the tired right out of you!

Many of the members made their way to the gardens of Kylemore where they walked through several acres of finely manicured areas of flowers and greenery. On the hillside above the Abbey stood a statue of Jesus out of connemara marble. There is a trail up there, but my understanding is that it was currently closed. I know several of the women who would have made the trek up there had it not been! My little mountain goats! The beauty of the chapel really lifted them up and we were very well received by our audience! People stopped us over the next couple of hours and complimented our performance! That was nice!

Following our performance at Kylemore Abbey, we left for a return to Galway. We performed for the senior citizens at COPE Galway, an organization which helps seniors, women of abuse and children who are neglected. As a part of my vision for this chorus, my dream is for us to be a service organization and I felt it very important to do a “service concert” amongst the planned ones by Harmony International. So I had contacted Adrian Farrell to enlist his aid. I had located COPE, but not a contact person, so he found Jacquie, and we set it up from there.

We arrived at a small community center, greeted by several volunteers who were thrilled to see us. What we were about to experience though was a gift they gave to US. We walked in to a medium sized meeting room, a long table FULL of cups & glasses for tea and juices, as well as cookies and cupcakes!!! I’m telling you they went all out for us! At the far end of the room was a piano which had been donated for our use by a music shop in Galway. They had also decorated our “stage” with red, white & blue banners and their announcement flyers they had distributed earlier. It blew me away. I met Molly and her caretaker….Molly was wearing this sky blue fake fur coat (which she had made) and was VERY proud of it as I asked her if I could have it and she told me absolutely NOT! She had the most brilliant blue eyes I’d ever seen (other than my Mom’s).

Mollie

THEN, we were told that, following OUR concert, there would be some Irish music presented! I thought….oh how very sweet! I’m such a snob! So we sang…..and they loved the women. And I taught them a little Texanese (Hi Y’all & Yee Haw), and we sat down & they passed the tea and cupcakes to us. THEY served US. (Ok, I have tears in my eyes about this.) Then a group of 3 men stepped to the front ~ a man on a tin flute whose right hand shook with Parkinson’s, a guitar player who was very shy, and a bodhran player with intense eyes and crazy hair. They began to play. It was sweet. Then another man walked up in the middle of a song and walked in front of them and around them, and I’m thinking HOW RUDE! Kat leaned over and said, ‘This is how they do this!’ And I just couldn’t believe it! This man played the spoons or something…..then another man on guitar…..and they trickled in one by one, as if they’d had a plan to just keep adding to this trio until they had about 10 musicians playing everything from guitars, to concertinas, accordions & a fiddle.

COPE performanceCOPE musiciansCOPE impromptu dancing

Couples came up to dance in the tiny space between us and the musicians, and it was a beautiful thing to see! I wanted to get up & dance, but it almost felt as though we were the observers at this point….and they were letting us in to see their bit of magic…..

The bodhran player kept looking at me with those intense eyes…..he was a flirt. But the biggest flirt of all sat directly in front of Kat and he was a HOOT!!! (I gave him a hard time for not coming to hear OUR portion of the evening and he came out to the bus later and sang the women a great song with his guitar!)

COPE musician bus serenade

Then, they began to sing a song and all the seniors joined in ~ including my sweet Molly ~ and they were singing for US. I cried for the loveliness of it all. It was so touching and moving.

Then came the time we had to leave…..and they all hugged us and wished us well, some followed us out (Molly) to leave as well……I could have visited with them all evening.

We got back to the hotel and most everyone (my beautiful rabble~rousers!) left to Pub Hop. I had dinner in the hotel ~ with my beautiful pint of my first (and NOT last) Guinness! Smooooooootthhhh!!!! Went back to the room, took a shower and was about to put it in the bed when I got a text from April, saying there was a women’s bar that was having their grand opening that very night and I should come over ~ it was “just across the street” she said. So I got ready and stepped outside…..it was down the hill & around the corner. lol ANYway…..I went and it was a small bar in an upstairs room over another bar downstairs. Aubrey bought me a Jameson & Ginger because they didn’t take plastic and that’s all I had brought with me to the bar “across the street”…..there were about 15-18 Irish women there……and we sang for each other and together. It was great fun! I’m glad I went!!

 

DAY THREE ~ Saturday, July 4th, 2015

We left Galway this morning and headed toward The Cliffs of Moher. I love our Guide & Driver ~ Eunan & Anton. They are so flexible about stopping….and of course, we HAD to stop at the Chocolatier….out in the middle of NOWHERE! It was lovely……I bought 6 truffles in various flavors….and have only eaten one. WHAT??? (Looking at Sass!) The weather was lovely….brisk, but the sun was coming out! Across the road from the chocolatier was an old abbey in ruins….or a monastery…I honestly can’t remember. But there are SO many ruins of castles and abbeys and churches….it boggles the mind! They seem to be around every turn. And it’s not the old “Once you’ve seen one ____, you’ve seen them ALL” because each one has its own personality and style……they’re all unique and fascinating! I would not mind living here at all…..it’s so gorgeous and peaceful!

Old abbey across from Chocolatier Stacked rock fence

The stacked rock walls are becoming more prolific toward the west…..I cannot imagine how long it must have taken to build these walls!! They are massive. And not held together by anything other than the shape of the rock! There is no shortage of rocks around the west of Ireland, either, as the mountains seem to be full of them!

Also, the cattle seem to be bigger here than in Texas…WHAT?!?!?!? It’s true! The sheep along the side of the road ~ these narrow roads ~ have NO FEAR. And they will not move for ANYone or anyTHING…..including buses!! I love the sheep, in case you hadn’t heard!!!! (We’re going to a sheep farm tomorrow, so I will be slightly delirious!)

SHEEP!2 SHEEP! Irish Cattle Drive Irish Cattle Drive2

 

There was a road up to the Cliffs called the Corkscrew Road…..it was. On a bus, it seems even more so! And Anton is THE BEST at navigating these narrow roads. When two buses come at each other, and we’re on the outside edge, I’m thinkin’…..we’re gonna tumble right down the side of this mountain here! I just can’t look…..but Anton has this gift of driving that I’ve never experienced before. He’s a master driver! We stopped at one vantage point & took pictures…..of the scenery and with each other! I’m loving the bonding I’m seeing going on between these women! I don’t know how I can fall in love with them any more than I have, but I manage! They are so beautiful!

Corkscrew Road

We get to the Cliffs and I see we’re not very close…a lot of uphill walking involved. And I just make the difficult decision not to do it. I gave Elaine my camera and I told her I’d just lie that I was there! LOL (can’t do that NOW!). It was really ok…..I went into the Visitor’s Center and there was a film and exhibition of the Cliffs. And outside, I met some really lovely people from ALL OVER! Swiss, Irish (of course), Russians, Chinese, Italians……lovely people!

Cliffs of Moher2

As we were waiting for the stragglers, a nervous park ranger asked us to clear out. Eunan told him we were waiting on our stragglers and he let us stay. It seemed a certain Speaker of the House ~ John Boener ~ was on his way there. I kid you not. We passed his motorcade on the way out. I found it odd that he spent the 4th of July in another country.

We went through several towns on our way to Cork….Limerick was one of them. LOVELY! There were many “flower towers” full of colorful flowers, some I recognized (petunias, periwinkles), some I did not. We crossed the River Shannon in Limerick….it flows into the Atlantic and the tide was low, so it made for an interesting vista with the rocks of the river bottom being made visible and the water tumbling over them. St. John’s Castle was on the banks of the Shannon. It was in Limerick where we had to pay 20 pence (?) to use the “facility”…………Pay-To-Pee.

River Shannon & St John's Castle in Limerick Limerick Flowers

Then on to Cork……I slept I think….hard. So I missed stuff, I’m sure!

My room is perfect at The Jury’s Inn in Cork. I have a purple sofa and chair! The bed is MUCH better than the other two hotels, so I’m happy! I’ve already tested it! Went straight to bed when I got there and am about to return to bed for a couple of hours! I don’t have the view I had in Galway, but that’s ok. Galway didn’t have the purple sofa!

I. LOVE. IRELAND. And I’m tickled pink that the chorus is having a wonderful adventure, too!

 

DAY FOUR ~ Sunday, July 5, 2015

The tireds have arrived! But the energy is alive with this group! SO much fun to be with them!  The bond is palpable…..and it warms my heart.  Gosh, I love these women!

We left our Cork Hotel this morning, headed to our first stop of the day ~ The Kissane Sheep Farm!!!!!!! This is what I’ve been looking forward to seeing for MONTHS now…..YEA! Once more….it was raining on us on the way out, but by the time we got there, it was yet another brilliant blue sky!

We met Casey, the first dog……the farmer (John) worked with FIVE dogs in a very steep, rocky valley…..a stream ran through it and those dogs were amazing how attentive they were to John’s commands ~ a series of whistles, verbal commands (“Come by!”) & hand gestures. They would run and stop on a dime & crouch down. He said they would control the sheep by eye contact; the sheep aren’t afraid of the dogs, but they respect them and are guided (skillfully!) by them to the pen at the top of the hill. At first, the sheep were spread all over the tiny valley, & by the end, the dogs (one of them was named Jane, by the by!) had maneuvered those big ol’ sheep ~ including a sweet black one ~ into a sheep blob and ran those girls up the hill and into the pen! I think it was about 15 minutes. It was VERY cool to see!

John, Casey & Jane Kessane Sheep Farm

Then we went around to the barn where there were more sheep in various pens. The first pen held 4 sheep to be shorn. John took one of the sheep out and flipped her on her back. She was a little rattled at first, but I’m thinkin’ she was really looking forward to having all of that wool cut away from her. John said that if the sheep aren’t shorn, it can very well shorten their lives because it becomes so heavy.

 

He proceeded to shear her, turning her over gently and removing the wool. In the end, she was a tiny little thing and the wool was in one piece! He turned it over and let us feel the lanolin from the wool…..SO silky!

In the next pen, was the newly shorn sheep and a little lamb, just born on Friday! OH HOW PRECIOUS!!! This is the lamb we would have gotten to hold except that she had poopy butt. Ain’t nobody got time for that! But he brought her over to let me have quiet time with her (amidst the whole group!  😉 ) and I almost cried from the sweetness of her! Then she started calling for her mommy, the mommy started calling for her and that’s all she wrote! Her little tongue curled up & stuck out when she bleated! PRECIOUS!

Poop Butt & Mommy Poop Butt

There was another pen with some random sheep ~ maybe 5 or 6. Then 2 pens down, a large pen with orphaned sheep…..this one broke my heart because I wanted to take them all home with me! There was a woolly black sheep in there, too. They loved being scratched around their ears and I loved that…..they are attention seekers for sure! And adorable! SHEEP!!!!!

We stopped at Ladies View Lake, named for Queen Victoria ~ who seemed to love Ireland. It was stunning! We saw a fawn run across the path and into the woods. This was just a brief photo break and well worth it! The air here is so very pure and invigorating!

Ladies View Lake

Then we moved on through Killarney, where a huge Irish Football tournament was going on between Cork & Kerry Counties….HUGE! And the traffic in Killarney was HEINOUS!! But Anton, once again, got us through it with absolute & undeniable ease without taking anyone out! This guy is phenomenal!! He drove us out to Moriarity’s, a family~owned & operated store of goodness & yumminess!! SHOPPING!!!!! It is here many of us shopped for pressies and stuff…..I had such fun until my card wouldn’t scan! NOOOOoooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But we got it worked out and my panic mode went into sharp decline!

We ate at their cafe ~ wonderful food (including beets!) ~ and then sang in the restaurant for the other diners. They loved us…..we sang Irish Blessing.

Following this we drove back to Killarney and some of us took a Jaunt, a horse~drawn wagon ride to the ruins of Ross Castle.  It was lovely and relaxing.  There were about 10 of us in 2 jaunts.  Our horse’s name was Charley.  Beautiful boy!

Charley

 

DAY FIVE ~ Monday, July 6th, 2015

We woke up to major rain today! And we boarded the bus to whisk off to Blarney Castle! It was still raining when we got there. I opted to not do the Kissing Of The Stone…..I woke up with a wee bit o’ a sore throat, and I didn’t want to chance it getting worse by getting a chill. So Krista & I ventured inside to the Blarney Mills Shopping Extravaganza!!!!! OH MY GOODNESS!!!! Let’s just say I got my shop on, baby!

I found the perfect charm for my chorus bracelet…..a lamb holding a clover in her mouth! PERFECT!

Around lunch time, the chorus began to trickle into the restaurant and we dined…..fish & chips & mushy peas for me! Then, we headed back to the hotel for a little free time (read: NAP time!) before we headed over to the rehearsal space with the 3 Cork choral groups directed by Caz Jeffries. They had a large spread of sandwiches and chips and desserts waiting for us! It was delightful! I loved watching the interaction between the SoCo Women and the women of Caz’s three choruses…..like old friends reconnecting! THAT is the magic of music, the international language!

Caz Jeffries, Cork

 

Caz Jeffries & Janey

The singers learned 3 songs together, to be sung at the end of the concert, and it was so much fun to listen to them all work together! Caz’s groups learn everything by rote, so that’s how she taught the SoCo Women, too. There were lyric sheets to share and it was exciting to see how quickly our Chamber Singers picked up on the 3 songs.

We traveled back to The Jury’s Inn to ready ourselves for a 7 PM call. We arrived at St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral around that time and the interior of the church was stunning, with glorious acoustics! We had a chance to warm up and get a vocal feel for the space. Our voices rang up and filled the cathedral. It was magical!

Caz informed me that the Lord Mayor of Cork would be in attendance and she was all a~twitter over his arrival. The Lord Mayoress would also be joining us. She led me to the front door to welcome him. They arrived at 7:30. The Lord Mayor (Chris O’Leary) was wearing his traditional Livery Collar ~ or Chain of Office ~ which signified his office. It was very old, he told me later, after I commented on diggin’ his bling (yes, I said that to him….he laughed, but he wouldn’t let me wear it). Angela, the Lord Mayoress, as she is called, was lovely and we got along splendidly. When the Lord Mayor was invited to speak at the beginning, it was very clear he was a supporter of the arts in Ireland, and seemed genuinely happy to be a part of this wonderful performance!

11698654_866514346736892_6870196949198786429_nThe Parting Glass with the Cork Choruses

Caz’s groups sang first, a lovely concert of Irish folk songs; then we stepped up and sang. The moment the women opened their mouths to sing Purcell’s Sound The Trumpet, the audience was right there with us, listening attentively to every note, every nuance the women delivered. I could not have been more proud of them as I was in that moment! (There were more of those moments to follow in the upcoming performances!) From the Purcell to the Italian Renaissance O Occhi Manza Mia to Gwyneth Walker’s Sisters to Michael McGlynn’s Cunnla (which we sang in the Irish Gaelic), the women were just spot on! Throughout our portion of the concert, I spoke to the “packed house” about our experiences in Ireland thus far and even taught them some “Texanese”, such as “Hi, Y’all!” and “YeeeeHawwww!”. That was a big hit!

DAY SIX/SEVEN ~ July 7/8, 2015

I will post the narrative of our last 2 1/2 days. Cliff Notes:

~Tuesday –

We left for Dublin and made a wonderful stop at the ruins of The Rock of Cashel.  Thankfully, it is being restored.  It was a dreary day, but with only the threat of showers and we explored the grounds and Cashel, this once cathedral, once castle structure and gave an impromptu performance in the center of what could have been the dome of the cathedral.  There was a wonderful small and scattered graveyard with Celtic crosses ~ called Irish High Crosses ~ everywhere.  There were secret stairways, gated off to the public, and restoration was going on while we were there, as they were uncovering mosaic work in the small chapel, dating from the early 12th century.  There were death masks carved into the stone over tombs, and examples of medieval architecture everywhere.  Best preserved, was the Hall of the Vicars Choral from the 15th century & totally restored in 1975.

Rock of Cashel Death Mask Rock of Cashel High Cross Rock of Cashel Impromptu concert Rock of Cashel secret stairwell 099 Ceiling of Vicar's Choral of Rock of Cashel Rock of Cashel Exterior Rock of Cashel ruins2 Rock of Cashel

 

We arrived in Dublin and, in an arrangement (several weeks ago) between Adrian Farrell (Austin’s Irish Consul General) and I, arranged to sing for Austin Mayor Steve Adler & the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Criona Ni Dhalaigh (a lovely woman!), who had only been elected 6 days prior. Also present was the Lord Mayor of Fingal, David O’Connell, who also sings barbershop, as well as a former Lord Mayor of Dublin, now on the Dublin City Council, Mr. Montague. It was an impromptu performance in the Mayor’s Mansion House and we were well received! Lots of photo ops there! The women sang in stunning fashion and Mayor Adler was so very proud of us!

Lord Mayor's Residence 7.7.15 Mansion House in Dublin

 

~Wednesday (7.8) – Most of us toured Trinity College where The Book Of Kells is housed in a glass case in a very dark room for preservations’s sake.  From there we moved into the Trinity College Library where many old first edition books are held on floor to [very high] ceiling shelves, each section with its own ladder to the top.  At the end of each section were marble busts of great writers and orators.  It was pretty impressive!

Following our visit to Trinity College, we drove to St. Patrick’s and sang there……let me tell you, the acoustics there are heavenly. And the women sounded ethereal and other~worldly! My personal band of angels…… the audience there was not as committed to staying for the whole thing and I believe it was slightly unsettling to the women, who saw all the things behind me that I could not. All I know is they sang so beautifully and once again, filled up St. Patrick’s Cathedral with their brilliant voices!  It was lovely to Adrian Farrell and his partner Ralph Jung attend our concert there!

Trinity College Library Trinity College Library2 Irish Blessing at St. Patrick's Final at St. Patrick's

 

With the St. Patrick’s performance, we officially ended the singing portion of our tour…… It’s bittersweet………..we’re all exhausted, but content, I believe, knowing that we gave it our all. I’ve heard “professional”….”angels”….”spot on”….”beautiful voices” and every variation of those compliments!! I cannot say enough good things about these women…..I don’t have the words….they drive me crazy and I adore them…..LOL! They give back to me what is required: a lovely musical soul, 24 voices united in a common goal of presenting music not only with their voices, but with their hearts and spirits.

It is no accident that they are here in Ireland. Everything is and was as it should and should have been: a musical journey of friends together, bonded forever.voices, a unified sound, dedication to the score, a passion for singing and for each other. This trip has brought us even closer together than before. We took care of one another on this trip and no one stole my black & white puddin’.

I love these women more than I can describe and more than they realize. It will be difficult to say goodbye this evening ~ our farewell dinner.

 

DAY 10 ~ Thursday, July 10, 2015

It is my last day in Ireland. We had our Farewell Dinner last night and it was a bit overwhelming for me…..I looked around the room at all the happy faces and it occurred to me that this time 3 years ago, SoCo Women’s Chorus was still a dream for me…..and that these women (and men) sitting in a lovely restaurant in Dublin, laughing and joking and writing limericks and taking pictures, were my dream come true! I’m afraid I began to cry right there in front of everyone. (I’m crying now just thinking about the magic of the moment!)

We are bonded now by this journey. There is no question about that. We have made friends along the way and have left our musical mark in the lovely country of Ireland! (I mean, the Lord Mayor of Dublin favorited one of my Tweets, for heaven’s sakes! I would totally go for coffee with Criona! She’s so genuine! And Austin Mayor Steve Adler is now following us on Twitter, too! We are SO BLESSED!)

All I can say is this……there will be more LIFE~CHANGING EXPERIENCES on the horizon for SoCo Women’s Chorus. With the help of many people, more dreams will become reality.

Slainte!!!!! LIFE. IS. BRILLIANT!

Guinness

 

 

APRON STRINGS & WOMEN WHO SING

Apron strings

 

 

When I was a young mother, it gave me a lot of joy to see my children learn new things….sitting up, crawling, walking, that first tooth, their first word…..you get the picture. Those days turned into independence for them.  It was exciting and melancholy at the same time, but I knew deep down I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I wanted to raise strong, independent women, and I wanted them to be better than me, stronger than me, smarter than me, more of a risk~taker than I was.

SoCo Women’s Chorus has just turned 3!  We never did have the “terrible twos” thing, and come to think of it, my girls never experienced that, either.  Or else I was just in denial because I always thought toddlers got a bum rap by that term.  But I digress…..

One of the things I’m seeing is this amazing women’s chorus becoming more independent of me.  In the beginning, I did everything (along with Karen James) to get this chorus started:  the website (which really is so funny to me when I think on it as I’m SO not a geek by any stretch of the imagination!  But I worked on that website until it was pretty decent for an anti-geek such as myself!), building our first Board of Directors, getting a rehearsal venue, I managed the first auditions all by myself  (I have SO much help now with that process, it’s hard to remember doing it all alone!  Thank you, Chuppie!), making lists, checking them twice, blah, blah, blah…..you get my drift.  Nothing gave me greater pleasure (and still gives me pleasure which I embrace with a fervor!) than giving birth to SoCo Women’s Chorus, my 3rd daughter!

However, I have to be blatantly honest with you:  I’m not sure I like seeing them not need me so much! <laughing>  Oh, I still ‘run the show’ and select the music and rehearse the chorus and make the musical decisions.  And I have always SAID I want this to be THEIR chorus and take charge of the jobs that I once did myself.  Yet sometimes, I have to ask myself the hard question:  Janey, did you really MEAN that?  Is it TIME to cut those apron strings a little bit and let them really take some ownership of this chorus?  The RIGHT answer is YES!  I believe with all my heart that most of the singers embrace my vision for this chorus:  to be an artistic force in the world of women’s choral music, to give back to our community in ways that are important to young musicians in the Austin area, to take care of each other and other women who may need our help, and to just enjoy the creation of stunning and delicious music!  And it is in the knowing of that fact that I can step back (a little bit) and watch them own their chorus.

I have learned (I’m still learning) to let go.  ACK!  Many times, I have HATED letting go.  They can’t possibly get inside my head to really know…..and yet some of them are brave enough to climb right on into my brain….and they DO know.

This is hard for me to write this.  I don’t want to look like a control freak….or vulnerable, like I might be human or something.  And yet, here I am.  Being controlling and vulnerable and human (or something).  Of course, there are some things I will not let go of until I retire from this amazing group of women.  The total creative process, musical selection, musical direction, pushing, pushing, pushing for continual improvement in our sound and musicianship, and eventually, a major voice in the selection of my successor  (around 2037 or so).  That’s my job.  More importantly, it’s my passion.  And it’s in my blood.  SoCo Women’s Chorus is in my blood.

So I will continue to cut the apron strings little by little…..until all I will have to do someday will be to lift my hands, give the downbeat and I will be met with the sound of angels on a perfect day.  Similar to the way it is now.

And out of sight from the chorus, I will tuck away those cherished apron strings and hold on to them forever.

 

One Juicy Apple

Juicy red apple

I’ve been eating a Honeycrisp apple for the last 15 minutes.  If you’ve ever eaten one of those, you will know it is one of the juiciest, sweetest, crispest apples around.  It makes me giggle to bite down into it and have the juice of it run down my chin!  It is a decadent, self-indulgent pleasure!  I spent good money on those silly things and this is the last of the 3 I purchased.

Are you wondering if I’ve lost my whole mind?  Don’t I know this is a blog post about SoCo Women’s Chorus?  Yeah, yeah, yeah…..

But I have to admit, there is not much I can say or do that doesn’t bring me back to these amazing women of SoCo Women’s Chorus.

We’ve had 3 rehearsals now, as I write this.  We’ve also had 2 sectionals, separate and apart from regular rehearsals.  We have tackled French, Italian, Russian, Medieval English and Gaelic with a fervor I have not seen from any chorus I have ever conducted!  We are singing Rachmaninoff and Broadway, we are singing Italian Renaissance and Country & Western.  (Did that make you cringe just a little?)

And many choruses just cannot wrap their brains around such a diverse and eclectic repertoire.  But THIS chorus can.

Many choruses would not approach as many languages in a single concert.  But THIS chorus does.

There are choruses who would shy away (and possibly stomp their collective feet!) from singing anything out of their comfort zone.  Does this chorus?  Not on your life!

THEY are my juicy red apple.  Their sound is sweet, crisp and delicious!  When I hear them grasp a song, it’s like they have each taken their musical hands, scooped it up and tucked it away in their hearts.  And it is all I can do to not drool over their glorious sound!  They have given me chills & brought tears to my eyes on several occasions in the past three weeks! (Ok, ok….the apples don’t do that to me!)

Seasons Of Love ~ our spring concert theme ~ is off and running!  The songs are of glorious love and heartbreak, a mother’s love for her child, love gone wrong, flirtatious love and lust, narcissism and love of life…..it’s all there.  And, I dare say, when we master (MISTRESS!) the notes, the feelings of the words will become deep, meaningful and overwhelming.

That’s how love is.  You bite into it and sometimes, it’s messy…..but the taste is oh, so sweet!

The Whirlwind that is BELIEVE!

Believe_Flyer-1

We are two weeks away from our wonderful winter concert, BELIEVE! It’s hard to believe! But here we are!

I always find it interesting to look back on the beginning of a rehearsal period for any given concert…..the excitement of a new beginning, the anticipation of getting started and hearing our sound come together, the growth, the set~backs, the steadfastness of many, the attrition of a few (that heat/kitchen thing). And I look back on this “class” of singers (the class of BELIEVE….Winter 2014) with such happiness and pride! I asked a lot of them this go ’round with 18 songs. And they have stepped up to the musical plate and delivered with their normal, classy selves!

And now, things are happening! Really wonderful things……

First, we’re going to be performing in the historic and iconic State Theater. They renamed it “Stateside at the Paramount”….but as any native Austinite can (and will!) tell you, it will ALWAYS be The State Theater! I do believe (there’s that word again) The State will wrap us up and deliver our delicious sound to an appreciative audience for a once~in~a~lifetime musical banquet!
Tickets are on sale NOW! Saturday, December 13th (7:30 PM) or Sunday, December 14th (3 PM)! Come hear the delicious sounds of SoCo Women’s Chorus and you, too, will BELIEVE! http://www.austintheatre.org/site/Calendar?view=Detail&id=42321

Second, I’ll be interviewed soon (Tuesday, December 9th) by another icon, John Aielli of KUTX~FM (98.9). I love that his show is entitled “Eklektikos” and that my programming is also eclectic. I cannot wait to share this chorus and our dreams with Mr. Aielli! 8 AM, 12.9 on 98.9! You can listen to the live feed on~line at www.kutx.org

Thirdly, SoCo Women’s Chorus will be singing at the traditional Trail Of Lights on Wednesday, December 17th at 9 PM. Come on out and get a mini~concert, your own personal deja vu of BELIEVE!

One of the exciting things about our winter concert? We’ll be recording it LIVE for our very first CD! We will pre~sale this CD at our concert and soon, there will be a link on our website here!

Those of us in SoCo Women’s Chorus want to say Happy Holidays to you all and we look forward to seeing you in two weeks! If you don’t have the good fortune to join us, we thank you for your support!

If you’re still holiday shopping ~ or even later ~ you can go to www.smile.amazon.com, choose SoCo Women’s Chorus as your charity of choice (we’re a 501c3 organization!) and we will receive 0.05% of every purchase you make!

BELIEVE and BIG LOVE!
~Janey

Believe

What would we do without you!?

 

 

DEBUT CONCERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 12.1.12

We’ve been a busy buncha singers!

We have successfully launched our very first chorus~wide Yard/Bake/Art Sale (September 27th, 2014) and we’re going to do it again in early March! The money raised from this sale (over $1200!) will go toward helping our Ireland travelers next July as they cross the Big Pond to spread the SoCo sound throughout the Green Isle!  (HINT:  You CAN go with us, you know!)

Our next fundraiser ~ which will benefit the entire chorus ~ will be the Rocky Horror Picture Show (October 27th, 2014) at The Alamo Drafthouse on So. Lamar. We are SO excited for this event, as it not only will help the chorus, but it will just be so much FUN! Dress up! Bring your toast! Sing along! Laugh a LOT! Tickets are $15 and all ticket proceeds will go into the SoCo Women’s Chorus General Fund to help us out with things like music and scholarships! Come join us on Monday at 7 PM!

Your next opportunity to help us out will be our annual Sponsor~A~Song, where you are able to sponsor a song we’re singing for our BELIEVE concert in December at the historical State Theatre on Congress Avenue in downtown Austin! The cost of a song is $150; and remember….SoCo Women’s Chorus is now a 501c3 non-profit organization, so your donation is tax deductible!  You can find the link here on our website to sponsor a song. Below, you will find our program with a brief description of each song. Select a song for a special person in your life, whether it is “In Memory of…” or “In Honor of…” or to congratulate or convey some other thoughtful message. Sponsor~A Song is appropriate for all of these things and your dedication will be listed in our BELIEVE Playbill.

BELIEVE
1. Alleluia ~ An upbeat, contemporary song of praise, gratitude and joy.
2. Breath of Winter ~ A lovely, romantic song of winter on the outside…..as felt on the inside.
3. Sleigh Ride ~ The traditional carol we all know & love, in a jazz setting.
4. Ani Ma-amin ~ Sung in Hebrew, the translation means “I believe”.
5. Ding~A Ding~A Ding ~ A silly, happy song about the ringing of the bells.
6. Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind ~ With a Shakesperean text, this song is hauntingly beautiful with a touch of sarcasm.
7. The Winter’s Night ~ A lovely,  musical description of a winter’s evening.
8. Monotone Angel ~ For a little schlocky humor, this song is perfect for the jokester in all of us.
9. Throw Open Your Shutters ~ This song is a carefree invitation to open up your windows and listen to all the sounds of winter.

INTERMISSION

10. Festival Gloria ~ An exiting song of joy and praise.
11. Betelehemu ~ A fabulous Nigerian carol in the Yoruban language, complete with an African drum line. Title translation: Bethlehem
12. The Seal Lullaby ~ A stunner of a lullaby by Eric Whitacre to soothe any baby’s tiny heart…..and yours. Lovely text by Rudyard Kipling.
13. Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town ~ This traditional carol is just plain fun sung with a touch of jazz.
14. Ave Maria ~ By contemporary composer Franz Biebl, this variation of the traditional Ave Maria is written with Gregorian Chant stylings of the late 6th Century.
15. Kling, Glockchen Kling ~ We have bells all over the place with this traditional German carol…..about bells!
16. Hot Chocolate ~ From the hit movie Polar Express, this jazz arrangement of our favorite fireside drink is brought to life!
17. Believe ~ Our concert title song, this is a touching song about believing in the impossible….and in yourself! Magical things can happen… if you just believe!
18. The First Noel ~ Our concert closer is the traditional carol you all know & love, in a fresh new arrangement.

So there you go! All of our songs in a sound capsule for your choosing! Thank you in advance for supporting SoCo Women’s Chorus! And as the blog title suggests ~ and as we BELIEVE ~ What WOULD we do without YOU?

I look forward to seeing you at The State Theatre in December!
~Janey