Never The Twain Shall Meet

Daily Prompt: Use it or lose it

~*~

“I thought we’d never come back from that one.”

“What one?”

“You know, what just happened!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You were there! You saw it! Experienced it! Didn’t it have any impact on you at all?”

“Honestly, you make such mountains out of mole hills. If I had a clue what you were talking about this might make sense. But you’re always blowing things out of proportion. Making something out of nothing. I just don’t get what you’re on about. It was nothing.”

“It wasn’t nothing! It was definitely something! I felt it in my bones ~ a deep, burning agony of …”

“Of what? You’re fixated on something which, in the grand scheme of things, means nothing at all. Earth calling Charlie … let it go!”

“What are you? Have you no sense? No feeling?”

“Yes, I have feelings. I just don’t squander them on things beyond my control. Evidently you and I function differently. Tom-a-to v tom-aw-to ~ that sort of thing. We obviously look at the world through two completely separate filters and what looks like an incredible feat of escape to you is, well, of little import to me. Neither of us is wrong ~ we’re just different; respond differently based on our individual life experiences and programming.”

“But I don’t understand how you can be so cold.”

“Please, don’t judge me. I am not cold. Things, experiences, people don’t move me the same way they move you. Just as you are not fond of many of the things I adore. It just is what it is, and as long as no one gets hurt, what difference does it make? … I understand how this incident might have had an impact on you. I am familiar with your past and how your responses have been programmed, but that does not mean I feel the same way about them. I’m programmed differently, that’s all. Other things move me to the point of exhilaration. That’s all.”

“But I really feel like we barely made it out of there!”

“Okay… time for a cup of tea.”

~*~

I love a good free writing exercise.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Hallelujah!

Daily Prompt: Buffalo Nickel

Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

~*~

In the desk drawer to my right ~ where I keep paper clips, and pencils and the like ~ there’s a small ornamental bowl where the tiny things dwell. In it I find three coins, and opt to go with the now extinct ~ the Canadian penny.

Poor old penny. A relic from a time when we cared about pocket change.

The date on this penny? Well, there are two. It seems to be a commemorative coin … 1867-1992, it says … signifying 125 years of Canadian confederation.

Since I wasn’t even a hint of a gleam in anyone’s eye in 1867, I’ll focus on 1992 ~ a year on the downward slide, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Indeed, I don’t recall much of it. You know … that dissociation thing.

I was 29 years old and floundering. It was the year my marriage began to disintegrate (the seven year itch is not a fallacy.)

It was the year we tried to have a baby (thinking, at some level, it might help to save the marriage … duh!) Two (or three) failed in-vitro attempts and their subsequent terrible emotional, hormone-induced breakdowns later, my husband’s telling me I belong in the nut house (his exact words) and I’m telling him there will be no baby unless it happens naturally, because I am not going through that hell again.

Well, there was no “nut house” for me (but years of therapy after I left him), and no baby either. Thank god for small mercies. Not that I didn’t want children, just not under those conditions.

Anything good in 1992? Hmmmmm …

I was gainfully employed and on the public relations career track, writing for a living ~ producing a weekly newsletter circulated to a membership of 25,000 realtors. I also produced copy for and edited the monthly employee newsletter and other promotional materials as needed. I loved it! My secretarial years well and truly behind me. This is when I started taking a serious interest in photography as well, as I needed to produce images for these publications.

Musically, I was singing in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. I don’t recall everything we performed that year, but there were at least five Handel’s Messiah concerts at Christmas, and four Beethoven Ninth’s in the summer, all with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall. The choir, though dependent mostly on amateurs (who must all pass a rigorous audition process) supported by a professional core of about 16 voices, has upwards of 30 performances a year. So, my involvement with the choir kept me quite busy learning music and attending rehearsals at least once per week. I believe I was also serving on the Choir’s Communication’s Committee.

The Choir was my sanity; the musical panacea for my broken heart. The only thing I had that kept me sound. For, you see, in those days there were no horses in my life. I’d given them up “for good” in 1990 after an incident that stressed me beyond my will to want to ride again. And, though I didn’t realize it at the time, the stress of not being around horses at all was taking an even greater toll.

So, 1992, the year the Cold War officially ended, Prince Charles and Lady Di agreed to separate, the Summer Olympics were held in Barcelona, The Silence of the Lambs won Best Picture at the Oscars, Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show for the last time and Lawrence Welk died, was a year I’m not inclined to revisit too often.

I guess the best that can be said about this year is that my eye’s were beginning to open … and I had my music.

As George Frideric Handel and the angels would say, “Hallelujah!”

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Violetta Unleashed

Daily Prompt: The Transporter

Tell us about a sensation — a taste, a smell, a piece of music — that transports you back to childhood.

~*~

One of my clearest and happiest memories of childhood takes place just before my family disintegrated.

As I’ve mentioned before, exposure to classical music was an integral part of my upbringing. When I was five years old the family lived in Toronto while my mother was going to opera school. Because she also worked in a hospital lab by night we rarely saw her. Dad was there for my brother and I, but I have no memories of him being that devoted.

Naturally, because of mom’s career trajectory we listened to a lot of opera. And, I fell in love with it.

Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni) was among my favourites. (Yes, imagine that as a five-year-old’s memory). I can even remember the record cover and studying the intricate details of the graphic design.

However, my strongest memory is powered by the profoundly beautiful dramatic opera, La Traviata (Verdi).

Mom had a record of highlights which I remember we listened to quite often. My favourite soprano aria was, and still is, Sempre Libera ~ Violetta’s big vocal moment. When I hear this incredible aria, I’m transported back to a Sunday afternoon (might have been Saturday) in our apartment living room when my parents were having friends from the opera school over for a visit.

Though I don’t recall exactly how the moment unfolded or even if I sang the whole thing (that would be asking too much), I do remember Sempre Libera playing on the stereo and me at centre stage in the middle of the room, commanding attention and singing my heart out. I believe I even did a little dance toward the end. My own Violetta unleashed.

Of course, everyone clapped and for that moment ~ a rare moment ~ I felt special in the eyes of both my parents at the same time.

Lois McDonall, my mother, as Violetta in Guiseppe Verdi's "La Traviata." English National Opera production.
Lois McDonall, my mother, as Violetta in Guiseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.” English National Opera production.

As the years went by and my mother’s career blossomed, she performed the role of Violetta in London and beyond. This, naturally, only increased my love for, and connection with, this opera .

The last time I saw/heard La Traviata “live” was in Prague in 2008. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to go and a wonderful production that only added to my special memories.

I live for these kinds of memories.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

My Week in Music

Daily Prompt: Playlist of the Week

~ Five songs that represent this past week for me ~

~*~

Oh, a music prompt! I love these …

Having given a few moments thought to my week, these are the musical selections that come immediately to mind:

Selection #1 ~ Right here, right now (Jesus Jones) ~ this could easily be changed to Write here, write now as I have felt quite motivated to follow the daily prompt and write every day to get the ol’ creative juices flowing. Having said that, it’s a song that also reminds me to take each moment as it comes, non-judging and totally open to the road that lies ahead, wherever that may lead. Be here, now. Feel and process feelings as they happen and respond mindfully and accordingly. I’m reading a fascinating book ~ Mindsight by Dr. Dan Siegel ~ which is helping me to be even more cognizant of my life in the moment. I’ve made remapping my mind and breaking old patterns of negative behaviour one of my goals for this year, replacing these old ways of being with more positive and holistic ways that allow me to live my life more fully and completely. It’s all good.

Selection #2 ~ Boogie Nights (Heatwave) ~ part of managing adrenal fatigue for the past few years included drastically reducing the amount of exercise I was doing. Over-taxing the nervous system was a bad idea, so karate had to go and my focus had to become gentle (yin) exercises like dog walking, quiet rides on my horse and Pilates. Now that my nervous system appears to be on sounder footing I want to expand my exercise regimen, still, I need to be mindful about it. Since his retirement my husband has taken over dog walking, so what am I left with? I can dance! Boogie Nights, a great disco song from the 70s, starts my Fun mash-up (of more 70s disco and some rock) and I just move to the music. About 20 minutes stretches muscles and gets the heart rate pumping in a way I can manage. I try to do this two to three times per week. So far I’ve gone all disco once this week, but I think today will be a good day to add to that.

Selection #3 ~ Baby, It’s Cold Outside (pick an artist) ~ selected because it’s been &^#% cold outside this week (-16C yesterday with windchill). My horse has an injured suspensory ligament so I go every day to nurse his wound and keep him company, but the barn and arena are not heated so I am, essentially, in a frigid outdoor environment for two-three hours at a time. The art of dressing warm without overheating is lost on me, so I usually end up in a sweater with a down vest over it and my winter breeches, which is not really warm enough. My feet are always cold, no matter what boots I wear or how many layers of socks I don. So, by the time I get home I’m ready for a nice hot bath. I just don’t get warm until I’ve immersed the damp out of my bones.

Selection #4 ~ Ein Deutches Requiem (Brahms) ~ This is what I’m listening to right now, as a matter of fact. As well as being a writer, artist and equestrian I am a singer. Singing was another one of those things I had to let fall by the wayside because of adrenal fatigue. It’s an activity that requires an extraordinary amount of energy to do well and because of the adrenalin involved can tax a compromised nervous system to the point of extreme debilitation. (Just before I quit singing I was working with a coach and attending workshops but had to stop because doing so literally made me sick for days after.) Now that I’m feeling stronger I’d like to (try to) incorporate a structured singing program into my life again. I’ve been spoiled though. I sang in one of the world’s premier large choral ensembles, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (TMC), for 12 seasons, and having been raised by an opera singer I’m picky about the quality of singing I lend my voice to. Does that sound awful? Shouldn’t it just be enough to sing? Perhaps, but if I’m going to expend my now precious energy doing something I love than I have to love it. So, in my internet search for a local choral society at 7 a.m. yesterday, I found a local chamber choir that sounds about right. I sent an inquiry expressing my interest and giving some of my background, and received a response telling me I was welcome to try out in March when they would start rehearsing Ein Deutches Requiem. This just happens to be one of my favourite choral works and one I’ve performed many times with the TMC. Is this a sign? I will make my final decision about trying out for the chamber choir once I’ve heard them perform at their next concert on March 1. I’m hopeful. Of course, if I try out they may suppose I’m not right for them. It’s always a risk, but I won’t know until I try.

Bear SmiingSelection 5# ~ Jump (Pointer Sisters) ~ Yes, from the sublime to the totally ridiculous. Yesterday the vibe at the barn was a bit unsettled and Bear, my injured horse who’s on 120-day stall rest (we’re at day 25) and daily rounds of hand walking in the arena, and who’s been quite sensible about it, had a jelly bean moment. That is, after a roll in the arena footing to get the kinks out (which I didn’t mind because I knew he hadn’t had a chance to roll in a while) he launched to his feet and leapt/jumped/bucked in the air like a Lippizaner stallion. I thought I was going to have heart failure. “You’re not allowed to do that!” I yelled at him from across the arena. “You’re injured, remember?” He just looked at me with an element of surprise and stood there noncommittal. Within moments I finally regained my composure and he walked over to me looking sheepish. He knew he’d abused my trust. We had a good talk during the ensuing walkabout, during which I reiterated how inappropriate it was for him to jump about at this time. If he was allowed to do that I would be allowed to ride him, and I’m not, so he needs to stick with the recovery program and stop acting like a four-year-old. He smiled … he really did … and I couldn’t stay mad at him anymore. Look at that face (yes, a nice summer image). Could you?

So, there you have it. My week in music …

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Music Never Dies

 

fog
Credit: Favim

~*~

Abandoned in the woods of my mind

The music I used to make.

The songs I used to sing.

The choral symphonies and

A cappella wonders that resonated

So deeply at the time I could never

Imagine my life without them.

Then life happened.

A new chapter unfolded.

A change of direction.

The company of composers

Receded to the heart chamber ~

Gone, but not forgotten

So that when the music played again

Every note; ever nuance

Every syllabic turn

Emerged from the foggy forest of my mind

To live and lighten again.

The pleasure of musical moments

Shared and memories of

Glorious music made live as though

Created yesterday.

But then, I realize, the music we inhabit

Never dies ~ it simply dwells

And resonates in every

Cell of our being to live another

Day, to uplift or

Devour the spirit according to

Our desire. Of course, only the

Heart knows the

Difference.

~*~

Music has always been an important part of my life.

I’m a singer. A soprano. Not of the operatic variety ~ that’s been done in my family. No, I’m a soprano hybrid, I guess I’d say. A little bit of everything.

For 12 years I sang second soprano in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir ~ Toronto’s esteemed symphonic chorus ~ and loved every minute of it. The rehearsals, the performances, the way 180 people from different walks of life could all come together and create music magic together. Swept away by Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Faure, Vaughan Williams, Gabrieli and so many more of the classical and modern repertoire ~ for those moments our troubles disappeared as we focused our minds and hearts on giving voice to music that never dies.

I sang Handel’s Messiah 60-plus times. I know the soprano line (solo and choral) in my sleep. Every Christmas we go to hear the Choir and symphony perform this incredible oratorio and the part of my heart where this slice of heaven dwells opens up and I feel the joy of its presence in my life once more.

And this is so for many, many more wonders of the choral repertoire I had the privilege to perform.

But it doesn’t stop there.

All the music I’ve ever experienced in my life ~ opera, jazz, country, rock, blues, bluegrass, folk, R&B ~ resonates within and reflects who I am.

To me, the type of music we invite in to inhabit our world is every bit as important as the books we read and the people we choose to associate with. It colours who we are and our life experience.

I have heard of people who choose to live their lives without music and I am, frankly, floored by this notion. Still, each of us must walk their own path and live according to the dictates of our own hearts.

Among the music I miss singing the most is a cappella. To me, little can match the purest form of the human voice. “Hear My Prayer, O Lord” by English Baroque composer, Henry Purcell (1659-1695) has long been one of my favourite a cappella pieces, and the first time I sang it with the Mendelssohn Choir it moved me to tears. If you would like to experience this short piece, click here. It’s lovely and meditative for a Sunday morning.

I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. It’s part of who I am and one of those things that reminds me how good it is to be alive.

And as long as I am alive this music will live in me.

Thanks for stopping by …

Dorothy

~*~

1477384_696513200380722_443439577_nPrompted by Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday.

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

A Simple Message

This post is written in response to a challenge offered by Lana of Living with Post Concussion Syndrome. Please take a moment to visit her inspiring blog.

The challenge: What Dreams Are Made Of … For this writing event, share a dream or two that’s had a great effect ~ even after waking.

~*~

Full moon

I always pay attention to my night time dreams. I write them down. Review the more dynamic ones with my therapist to find the meaning and application to my life. The subconscious has a lot to say and I want to know what it is.

There have been a few times in my life ~ when I was at my most distressed, as it happens ~ when my dreams have actually proven to be of some comfort.

The first one I recall occurred when I was 12 years old.

I was staying at my grandmother’s at the time and one night had gone to bed quite distressed. A much anticipated trip to a farm to see horses and make a new friend had been cancelled at the last minute by my second cousin who had arranged the excursion. Her husband wasn’t able to go so they’d decided to postpone and arrange to go another time.

I was grief-stricken, sobbing myself to sleep on the couch that served as my bed for the two months of that summer at granny’s trailer home. Inconsolable, actually. Burdened heavily by my life in survival mode (though I didn’t know it at the time) I looked at the chance to be with horses, and maybe even ride, as an escape from the unhappy circumstances in which I found myself.

During the night, a dream. Nothing elaborate. A simple message. An angel, it seems to me, appeared as an ethereal, comforting presence and a gentle voice spoke the words “everything will be alright.”

The next morning I awoke feeling much better; my heart lighter. I recall getting off the couch and going over to my grandmother, who was making breakfast in the galley kitchen, and telling her about my dream and how I felt that everything would, indeed, be okay.

Within moments the telephone rang. Granny answered. It was for me.

It was my cousin. She had changed her mind. We were going to the farm after all. Her husband could go another time.

To this young distraught girl it was a total miracle. Just as the voice in my dream had spoken, everything was going to be alright.

We did go to the farm. I did spend time with, and ride, the horses. And I met a girl the same age whose friendship I would enjoy until several years later when life got in the way.

It has occurred to me since that my grandmother, realizing how distraught I was by the change of plans, may have called my cousin after I went to bed and asked her to reconsider. And that it might have been her standing over me in the night, the angel that she was, with a reassuring voice telling me everything was going to be okay.

It doesn’t matter how it transpired. I have never forgotten those gentle and oh, so important words ~ words that have comforted, guided and consoled ever since, during times of sorrow, grief, uncertainty and pain. At times that simple message was the only thing I had to hold on to, giving me the strength and the understanding to know that whatever happened I would be fine.

In recent years I have come to admire the supremely talented Canadian singer/songwriter Jacob Moon who, a few years ago, penned a song called, believe it or not, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” When I first heard it I was reduced to tears by its simple melody and moving words. Jacob had put to music the song in my heart. Now whenever I hear it I am moved to remember that moment, long ago, when a simple message comforted the heart of a distraught young girl. Words I continue to lean on as my life unfolds and realize that in my trials I am not alone.

Here’s a link to Jacob Moon performing “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” via YouTube. Please take a moment to listen and hear the beautiful words.

Thanks for visiting. And thank you, Lana, for the opportunity to share this special moment from my life …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

The Unluckiest Moment

Some might have said it was an unlucky end to her illustrious career. A grand dame of the Bel Canto repertoire forced to exit the international stage prematurely for health reasons. But she knew, if anything, that the situation was quite the reverse. She’d enjoyed her many years in the spotlight and now it was time to help raise the next generation of singers.

Standing stage centre in the English country garden turned temporarily into a private outdoor concert venue, the diva’s porcelain features formed a sad smile in preparation to sing the first note of the last song of her last public performance.

The moment choked her a little, as she knew it would, but gathering her wits about her she turned her head in a practiced fashion to the poised accompanist and nodded for the intro of the “Vilja-Lied” from Franz Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” to begin.

For a moment the sparkling soprano closed her eyes, the vision of a clutch of ardent fans dabbing at their tear-filled adoring eyes almost more than she could bear. They’d followed her around for years ~ to radio broadcasts; symphony concerts; opera ~ and with the close of this exclusive and intimate gathering she would see them no more.

The anticipation of her final public rendering of a beautiful aria for which she’d become famous was palpable and to her, indeed, almost overwhelming. As the diva awaited her final opening note she inhaled deeply of the fragrant red roses that festooned the beautiful garden ~ in the vast flower beds, in voluminous garden urn arrangements strategically placed ~ and that matched the signature colour of her gown.

Scarlett, her fans called her. Early in her career, Scarlett the Starlet. She exhaled a sigh of resignation and caught a hint of peppermint from plants that wove their refreshing magic wild around the beds.

She took another deep breath and opened her mouth to sing.

Nothing. No sound. Her throat seemingly coated in gravel. She spluttered; tried to recoup. It was no use.

Devastated, the diva raised a hand to silence her accompanist and reached for her water glass.

Empty.

Now a feeling of desperation washed over her. The audience could see it and began to murmur.

A young man in the front row rushed the stage with a water bottle, unopened. He twisted the cap and offered it to the adored. The thirsty soprano glided toward him and gladly accepted his kindness. She placed her ruby lips around the mouth of the bottle and drank while the throng of concerned onlookers waited.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Keep it,” he responded, and smiled.

She smiled in return and in a moment of spontaneity offered him her hand and invited him up the few steps and onto the stage so she might sing of forbidden love to him directly.

To rousing applause the diva signalled once again for the piano intro to begin and, beaming brightly in the rays of the setting sun, serenaded the one who had turned the unluckiest moment of all into a golden moment of immortality.

~*~

1477384_696513200380722_443439577_nOpera is on my mind now as I gear up to write the final chapters of my light-hearted murder mystery set in the melodramatic world of divas and dysfunction that is opera.

Thanks to Kellie Elmore for another great Free Write Friday challenge.

Prompt:

Word Bank – Use one or all. Whatever inspires you.

Red – Mint – Gravel – Sing – Unlucky

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

The Fabric of Music

Daily Prompt: Papa Loves Mambo

Music has always been a part of our family fabric.

From the ancestors who played in the brass bands of northern Michigan in the 1800s to my grandfather who played a multitude of instruments in his living room, to my grandmother who warbled like a bird while painting portraits of her beloved mountains, there was never any lack of music in my family.

It was only logical then, that at some point a generation would cultivate the gift of music and do something with it.

One side of the family inhabited the rock genre for many decades, touring the west coast of Canada and the U.S.

On our side of the family my mother Lois McDonallin the early 1970s, burst onto the international operatic stage as a dramatic soprano specializing in the Bel Canto repertoire.

It was her career and a vital part of our formative lives. Divorced and raising two kids on her own in a land far from everything she knew, mom was the sole breadwinner and worked long hours to provide for my brother and I. We enjoyed a comfortable, but not extravagant life.

Lois McDonall, my mother, as Violetta in Guiseppe Verdi's "La Traviata." English National Opera production.
Lois McDonall, my mother, as Violetta in Guiseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.” English National Opera production.

Given her humble beginnings in the middle-of-nowhere, Alberta, and the difficult upbringing she had as an only child in a deeply troubled home, her success in her chosen field of music  was nothing less than miraculous. (Some day, when I feel so inclined, I may write about it.)

As you might imagine, then, our home was filled to the brim with classical music.

All through my formative years my mother’s career base was the English National Opera in London’s West End. My brother and I went to the opera a lot, so our memories of music revolve heavily around this experience.

To bring balance, I guess, my personal tastes leaned toward the country rock of the Eagles and other contemporary bands of the 1970s and 80s.

Both my brother and I learned to play the piano. He eventually moved on to the clarinet.

My musical training finely tuned my ear and to this day if an artist in any genre is the least bit sharp or flat, I cringe ~ turn down the sound, change the channel, turn the dial, walk out of the bar. My ears are spoiled for true sound. I suppose that’s why I’m not a big fan of auto-tuning.

Does this make me a music snob?

Perhaps. But I know what I like and I don’t like my ears assaulted. I’d rather listen to no music than be offended by something I don’t like.

Of course, I sing. Both my brother and I do.

Our small family enjoyed sing songs around the piano of a Sunday evening. Mom took the soprano part, I sang alto and my brother switched between tenor and bass. He’s always been clever that way.

In my late 20s I had the privilege of joining the 180-voice Toronto Mendelssohn Choir as a soprano and relished 12 seasons of pure music joy.

I’d always loved choral music and it was on my bucket list from a young age to sing in a large choir. This particular choir is one of the world’s great symphonic choral organizations, and one of the oldest. It’s noted for its pureness of tone and versatility. Singing with this amazing institution is one of the great music highlights of my life. Handel’s Messiah, Mozart Requiem, Brahm’s Requiem and so, so many more amazing choral standards and contemporary works resonate so deeply it’s like soul food to me.

Following my tenure with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir I spent almost 10 years in a vocal trio ~ ChoirGirlz ~ so called because we met in the choir and decided we wanted to try our vocal chops on something new. Bluegrass and country was our first experiment, which went so well we expanded our repertoire to include a little bit of R&B, vocal jazz, as well as a lot of original material written specifically for our finely tuned voices.

ChoirGirlz' third, and final, CD ... "Livin' It."
ChoirGirlz’ third, and final, CD … “Livin’ It.”

We performed in bars, at fundraising concerts, at festivals, and recorded three CDs. We had a blast.

In 2010, we disbanded. We’d all had enough and it was time to move on.

I haven’t performed in public since, except for a hair-brained attempt at rock music in a temporary band a couple of years ago. Not my vocal genre at all, but fun. Through it I met a great voice coach with a jazz background and thought I might nurture myself into jazz. I enjoyed workshopping that for a while and have a great voice for it, but sadly adrenal fatigue put a wrench in the works. I just don’t have the extra vitality it takes (at this point, anyway) to sustain a performance to the standard I like and an audience deserves.

On one level this makes me sad. Still, if I was focusing on singing I wouldn’t be writing and that, to me, is where the thrust of my creative energy lies at this point in my life.

I have many fond memories of singing and the good fortune to have had it all start in a home filled with love and glorious music.

Once music is woven into our hearts it’s part of the fabric of our lives forever.

And what could be better than that?

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

More Music

Sabbatical Songs: growing up in Oxford | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
One Crazy Mom » Growing Up With Music
Papa Loves Dylan | The Magic Black Book
To Run in a Dream | The Nameless One
Hats, spurs and belts | Kate Murray
The One That Could Have Been [Ndifreke’s Story] | She Writes
Songs Of Yesterday | Awake & Dreaming
Wednesday’s Run | Oldman
A Dream: An Open Letter to Air Supply | Kosher Adobo
Punk | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
Will The Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?! | Life Confusions
281. Hee Haw and Soap Bubbles | Barely Right of Center
Daily Prompt: Papa Loves Mambo | Basically Beyond Basic
Do The Diversity Dance. | Asta’s Space
The Greatest Generation Had The Best Music | Just Visiting This Planet
Daily Prompt: Papa Loves Mambo | A Mixed Bag
Minutely Infinite | Rewinding the mixtape
Let’s Not Go to the Beach | Green Embers
My Score ::E.N.Howie’s Motivational Moments
DP: TRIOS | DANDELION’S DEN
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Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music … The Music in Me

Pipes

Music moves me every day. Sometimes in subtle ways; sometimes the emotion of it is almost more than I can hold.

It depends on the day … and on the piece of music.

The Weekly Writing Challenge has asked us to write about being moved by music. This is a challenge for me as much of my life has been moved and shaped by lots of different kinds of music. In this post I can only touch on a few things.

I love how music lives in us forever

As I negotiate the middle years it amazes me how the memory of a moment from my past, and all the feelings that go with it, can be triggered by a simple melody and a few memorable words.

I don’t understand the science behind hit. All I know is that the music (as well as books, movies, etc.) we absorb lives with us forever. It is a powerful emotive force that can build up or, tear down. Like all living things it has its good, bad and ugly. It is why I am so careful about what I tune into. These vibrations colour my life forever.

Lately, I’m finding myself downloading from iTunes songs I’ve heard on the 70s satellite radio channel. “Oh, I remember that song!” And I sing along as if no time has passed, the words and vocal nuance as alive in me today as they were 35 years ago. I tuck the tune in the forefront of my memory band for replay whenever the spirit moves. I am 15 again.

1977 seems to be a key year. Hotel California (The Eagles); Dance with Me (Orleans); Reminiscing (Little River Band) and, of course, many, many more. Their music was a panacea for me at a difficult time. I don’t focus on the angst. I focus on the melodic turn; the harmonic counterpoint; the catchy words, and smile.

Though I loved the popular songs of the day, I was raised in a home glowing with classical music. All through my formative years, my mother was a soprano on the international stage, with a base at the English National Opera in London’s West End. Opera was the music culture I grew up in. Rock was my rebellion.

I made my own operatic debut at the tender age of five in the children’s chorus of the Canadian Opera Company’s 1967 production of Harry Somer’s Louis Riel. I might have had a music career of my own were it not for a series of unfortunate events that quickly followed, including my parents’ divorce and our move to London. Mine was not a happy childhood.

I was a child lost in shadows.

Later in life, however, I found my own venues for musical expression.

I’ve always loved music that begged me to go fishing

In the rock genre Genesis, Pink Floyd, and the Eagles provided lots of opportunity to dig deep for the incidental lines, or hum along with a rhythmic bass. I loved singing along with the Eagles’ harmonies. I’ve always loved the harmonic line.

I loved the blending of voices creating layered depths of beautiful uplifting sound. My dream was to sing in a large choral ensemble.

I started in church choirs. I had some training (grade V piano and some theory), but it was my natural musicality that always saw me through. Though I can read music I’m terrible with the numbers behind it all. Math was never my strong suit, so I learned a lot by feel. After all these years I still don’t get how a time signature works. I’m a feeling singer. I can’t explain it.

Still, at the age of  27, and after years of slogging it out in church choirs, I finally had my chance to audition for a large choral ensemble. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Canada’s premier large choral ensemble, was looking for singers to join its ranks.

I’d done few auditions in my life. Growing up in a shadow makes it painful to step into the light. But after humming and hawing for a couple of days I finally concluded “If not now, when?” Did I really want to live to regret a step not taken just because I was afraid of it? I didn’t want to look back 10 years later and wonder “What if?”

So, with some coaching from my mother I prepared the set soprano audition piece  (Rejoice Greatly from Handel’s Messiah) and gave it my best shot.

I’d never acted so confident in my life. Elmer Iseler, the Choir’s conductor at the time, was a larger than life character, yet somehow I felt at ease. Perhaps it was my nothing-to-lose attitude that saw me through. I struggled with the sight reading test (never my strong suit); nailed the ear tests and delivered the aria with relative confidence. Even if  I received a rejection letter six weeks later I at least had given myself the thrill of the chase.

The letter arrived. “Congratulations on being welcomed into the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for its 1989/90 season.” Talk about being moved.

I sang in the Choir for 12 years, re-auditioning every year. It was the standard requirement of all returning choristers and it never got any easier. Unless life got in the way everyone wanted to come back for the next season. No one wanted to be released because the conductor didn’t think they had the pipes anymore.

I’ll never forget my first rehearsal

The rehearsal venue at Roy Thomson Hall was filled to capacity with 180 singers all set out in their respective sections ~ Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass. The great curtain of sound descended first with the singing of Godfrey Ridout’s thrilling arrangement of O Canada, followed in short order by the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah ~ and this was just the warm-up.

If the purpose of starting with these two iconic pieces was to blow the new-comers away, it succeeded. It was overwhelming to the point of tears. There I was, nestled in the soprano section with the altos singing from across the room, and the basses and tenors booming beside me. A vast, warm melange of vocal harmony enveloped me.

Pure magic.

With each rehearsal I found myself more enthralled. That I should be part of such an experience was incredible to me. I recall all the happy, studious, joyous faces eager to make beautiful music together. One hundred and eighty men and women from various walks of life, of various political and religious stripes, leaving their differences behind and moving each other, and audiences, through the great choral masterworks. Beautiful, heart warming, rapturous, uplifting, life affirming, glorious music.

The journey to performance was a veritable roller coaster ride. Studious exasperation during difficult passages. (The roller coaster runs in any Bach work come to mind, or anything exposed in a cappella). Relief when we got it right. The scratching of pencil lead across the page as we all made notations ~ lines through edited passages; circles around difficult notes; changes in vocal colour, tempo; switches from one vocal line to another ~ all things designed by the conductor to convey to us, his instrument, the vision he had for a particular work.

Consider Messiah, for instance

During my 12-year tenure with the Choir we worked with many esteemed conductors all of whom had their own interpretation of how Messiah should sound. Large orchestra or chamber orchestra. Up tempo and sprightly, or profoundly slower and stately. We even performed the Mozart version. Choruses were included and excluded according to the considered whim of the conductor.

And then there were the up-stands and the down-sits. One conductor might want us to stand in an appropriate moment several bars ahead of the upbeat of a particular chorus, while another preferred us to rise to the occasion with only notes to spare.

Every season a new set of notes scribbled over the erasure marks of an old set. For many in the Choir, including myself, Messiah was such old hat we welcomed a new conductor’s interpretation just to keep us sharp. (No pun intended.) 😉

I had the same score for 12 years and sang the work in more than 60 performances. When I left the Choir and returned my score to the librarian it was like parting with an old friend.

Universal language

Music is, of course, a universal language that speaks to us all. One of the great challenges of performing the great masterworks is singing in a variety of languages.

It is a privilege, I feel, to experience the beauty of language through music. Even the English language takes on a delicious flavour when peppered with notes in a choral feast.

I loved singing in Latin. It’s such a lyrical language and wraps around the notes so easily. The requiem masses were mostly in Latin. Among my favourites are the requiems of Mozart, Verdi and FauréBrahms’ gorgeous requiem is in German.

Other languages we tackled frequently included French, Russian and, occasionally, Czech.

To move our audiences through music and word was an incredible feeling.

Perhaps some of the most memorable moments occurred when we performed a capella. Keeping such a large choir tuned while performing without instrumental support is no mean feat. It’s incredibly stressful, in fact. However, it’s also magical. The washes of vocal sound so potent; so powerful that sometimes it was all I could do to stay focused on the music and not trip in a puddle of rapturous emotion.

Among my favourites: The Rachmaninov Vespers particularly the Ave Maria; Henry Purcell’s Hear My Prayer, O Lord; C.V Stanford’s Beati Quorum Via, and Morten Lauridsen’s divine O Magnum Mysterium. Listening to these lovely pieces makes me so wistful for my choral days.

I miss singing this beautiful music, but it’s not where my life is right now. So, I allow it to reach me through listening, and that must be enough.

To close, I’ll leave you with The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in rehearsal under the direction of their current conductor, Noel Edison, singing Eric Whitacre’s divine Lux Aurumque a piece, regrettably, I never had a chance to sing.

I know classical music, or even choral music, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it lives on in my heart and continues to colour my life in so many beautiful and uplifting ways. It will continue to do so until my days are done.

If you have read this through to the end, thank you. I have had fun reliving some music moments that have moved me. Now you might have a sense of how music has shaped my life. And this isn’t even the half of it … 😉

If you have listened to any of the links I’ve furnished here, please comment on how they might have moved you.

Thank you for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Others Moved by Music

  1. Return To Planet Claire | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man
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  8. What a Wonderful World | The Crone’s Apprentice
  9. 1989 | Ramblings of a Creative Mind
  10. Music, Inducing Words | tuckedintoacorner
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  12. Songs of Innocence and Experience* | Menomama3’s Blog
  13. Music…and a New Adventure | Lori’s Life and Other Stuff
  14. Chasing Down My Memory Lane | Your Smile is Priceless
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  16. Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music | Nola Roots, Texas Heart
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