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
The Origin of My Musical Taste | wisskko’s blog

A New Life

fwf

Clearing land, you know, it never ends. My land, and then Henry’s down the road.

Hard work. Real hard.

We came here with our families, see. From the ol’ country. Across the pond in one of them big vessels packed with other hopefuls looking for a new life.

We left everything behind that wouldn’t pack in a steamer trunk or two.

Ol’ Sal, my honey love, not so thrilled to leave behind gran’s antiques passed down the generations. Cupboards, and such. But passage for eight children is dear and sacrifices must be made.

We came here because the Canadian government was giving away land to newcomers to clear and make productive. One-hundred acre parcels in northern Alberta. Things is rough in the ol’ country and we want to give our wee ones a fresh start. So, we took the bait and, after months of planning and saying goodbye to the life we knew, find ourselves ‘ere ~ in this right pickle.

Imagine. Homesteading at my age. In my late 40s with a war wound or two. My hands ‘ave known hard labour, but nothing like this. I was a soldier. The Great War. It was hell, but a different kind. And I was younger then.

Clearing boulders and bush and dead trees by hand in all weathers, with the ‘elp of my wee ones and a couple of old plough horses is gruelling work. Friendly neighbours lend a hand when they ‘ave the extra time, which is rarely. They are farmers, after all. Like me from the old world trying to eek out a living in a new one.

It’s the 1920s. Times are tough all over.

We’ve been at this now for several months. Ol’ Sal cries into ‘er pillow ever’ night wondering why we came ‘ere. Can’t say as I blame ‘er. I wonder sometimes myself. And now we’re heading into winter which, I’m told, is hell frozen over.

So, we knock down all the dead pines and ash and maple, and a few healthy ones too, and break it up to store as fuel. Till the soil, saving some of the smaller rocks to heat in the stove for when we go out in the sleigh. I’m told it gets to 40 below around ‘ere. Neighbours who’ve already been through an Alberta winter are kind enough to ‘elp us prepare.

Ol’ Sal is putting in canned goods; buried in an ‘ole in the ground ’til we get the cellar done. It’s ‘ard times, but we do our best to smile through it. The wee ones, ranging in age from 18 to six, are getting tough with it.

We remember fondly the dear ones we lost and left behind. Five cherubs, all buried in Motherwell. Sad times.

Still, it’s not all bad. Weekly chicken suppers and dancing on a Friday night down at the school house lifts our spirits. Jim O’Malley plays the fiddle, right enough, and Will Grogan tickles those upright ivories with his giant farm labouring hands like it’s nothing. When we’re not dancing a jig we’re singing the ol’ songs around the piano. Kids run around making mischief, as they should. Hard labour is soul destroying when not balanced with a little high jinx.

My music talent lies with the bagpipes, but not at the suppers. Church on Sunday and funerals, mostly. Amazing Grace the most popular choice. I’m ‘appy to do it. Reminds me of my homeland. Brings a tear to these jaded eyes.

But, I must get on. The winter waits for no one and I and ol’ George Ivey from the farm across the way ‘ave wood to pile by the makeshift barn. We’ll fix that up next spring.

Tough times, sure enough, but at least there’s hope in a new life.

~*~

My response to Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday image prompt.

Thanks for visiting.

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

A String of Pearls

images

“What are you listening to?”

Sara, my teenage niece, waltzes into my living room like she owns the place and demonstrates scant interest in my choice of music as she flops in the big leather chair in the corner. I’m sure she’s secretly hoping I’ll turn it off.

String of Pearls.”

“String of what?”

“Pearls, darling … you know, the kind oysters cough up.”

She rolls her big brown eyes and fiddles with her mobile.

“Why would anyone call a song that? And who’s playing anyway?”

“The Glenn Miller Orchestra.”

“Never heard of them. Sounds old.”

I look at Sara with love. My sister’s only child. A law unto herself and now sitting in my living room challenging my taste in music.

“Not so old. 1940s era actually,” I explain. “James Stewart made a rather splendid film about Glenn Miller.”

Yes, indeed he did. Or at least I think so. I haven’t seen it in a while.

“Who’s James Stewart?” the myopic girl asks absently.

“Why only one of the greatest American actors of all time!” I exclaim. “Sweetie, you need to open your eyes. There’s more to life than reality TV and flavoured lip gloss.”

She looks at me somewhat impatiently.

“No, auntie, you need to open your eyes. Stop dwelling in the past. One hundred years from now no one will remember Glenn whats-his-face and his geriatric orchestra. I didn’t even know him now!” She plays with a length of brunette hair that curls over her left shoulder. “Take it from me,” she continues with all the confidence of her innocent age, “the only musician anyone will be remembering in 2114 is … ”

“Don’t even say it,” I interrupt playfully. I can’t bear to think of where this is heading. “You need to have this conversation with your BFFs, I think. We will never agree on the longevity of that Canadian mischief maker.”

Sara heaves herself from the deep leather chair and gives me a peck on the cheek.

“All I’m saying is that when you lot are gone your music will die with you.”

“And yours?” I ask with astonishment.

“Our music will live on forever. How can you get any bigger or more unforgettable than …”

“No, don’t say that name,” I mock scream and present my fingers in a cross as if to ward off evil. Sara turns and smiles as she leaves. She loves to push my buttons.

As I watch her lithe figure sashay into the kitchen all I can do is sigh. She’s young. She does not yet understand that not everything we perceive as timeless stands the test of time.

I turn up the volume, in the mood to indulge in more of my big band favourites. It may not be one hundred years since ol’ Glenn recorded these gems, but in my book anyway, he and his music are immortal.

~*~

This is my response to Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday challenge.

1477384_696513200380722_443439577_nPure fiction. 😉

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy 🙂

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Traces of Them; Traces of Me

Traces of Them

We are admonished by some that history belongs in the past. And perhaps it does.

I’m here to offer, however, that we ignore history at our peril, especially as it pertains to our family. The people who preceded us were shaped by world events and their experiences. How they were shaped, shapes us.

I believe that if we are to be able to move forward positively with our lives, and leave history behind, it is important to examine the past, how it effects us, and make peace with it.

Allow me to demonstrate, albeit scratching the surface, with my own experience.

~*~

I am well acquainted with my family history.

After a considerable amount of time spent in my early 20s researching through old family documents, records libraries and history books (in the days before the Internet, I might add), and with the help of professional genealogists, I managed to trace branches of my family tree back to the Middle Ages. Perhaps, more importantly, I began to see the ancestral story that is the backdrop to my life and learn to appreciate, for good or ill, its impact on me.

I began to recognize the sources of prejudice and the pain, of strength and courage. Began to see the talents and traits that had passed down the generations and landed on my doorstep. Ideas, beliefs and emotions that had been programmed into me and that I could examine, accept (or reject) according to my own sense of truth.

This is the story in a nutshell. You’ll likely notice some recurring themes:

My illustrious German and English ancestors settled in New England in the late 1600s, and made lives as magistrates, farmers and politicians. At the time of the American Revolution my branch of the family tree sided with the British (United Empire Loyalist (UEL)) and fought with the notorious Butler’s Rangers. With all their lands and possessions confiscated the remaining family walked from Poughkeepsie, NY, to Niagara, Ontario (Upper Canada at the time) to start a new life. My direct line ancestor was the first white settler in Middlesex County (the area now known as London).

Irish PastoralA couple of generations down the road this family linked up with my Irish ancestors who, in the 1850s, fled the effects of the great potato famine to start a new life as farmers in southern Ontario. My Irish great, great grandmother is purported to have been mad (which looks about right when I consult the old photo in the family archives). Her mental instability left its mark on my great grandfather who grew up to be a rather unpleasant man. The upside ~ being Irish, of course, music was part of the way of life so wherever they settled they became a part of the local music scene. In northern Michigan, where they were farmers for a time, they proudly played in the local brass bands.

A generation or two later, in the late 1800s, the family left Michigan and trekked west across the northern US, helping to build the Great Northern Railway along the way. Eventually they settled in Montana, where the railroad ended, and successfully ran a railroad cafe. My great aunt Margaret, an artist in her own right, studied painting with iconic Western painter, Charles Russell. (A little name dropping never hurts. 😉 ) Her natural forté, however, was apple sculpture.

Around 1920 my great grandparents headed north to Canada, settling in southern Alberta. My great grandfather owned a barber shop and pool hall in town as well as farmed. They did well for a few years before losing everything during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 30s. This took a terrible emotional and financial toll from which they, and their three teenage sons, including my grandfather, never fully recovered. They, like many other families in the area, moved hundreds of miles to northern Alberta to clear more land and start again. Music was the main social outlet and a positive focal point in a home filled with strife. My grandfather, a charismatic (mad) drifter, could play any instrument you handed him.

Alberta PrairieIn the early 1920s my genteel Scottish great grandparents, well into middle age, left their comfortable life in Glasgow, Scotland, to give their eight children a chance at a better life in Canada. (My great grandfather was a retired soldier in the Black Watch.) With a 100-acre land grant from the Canadian government at their disposal they made the uncomfortable journey by boat across the pond and then by train across the prairies to begin a new life as homesteaders in northern Alberta. (I am told that my great grandmother once confessed that if she’d known how hard the life was going to be she would have stayed in Scotland.)

It was a rude awakening from Old World charm to New World insanity ~ clearing fields, building barns and log homes, battling hungry mosquitoes in the summer and enduring long and fiercely cold winters. It was a difficult life that tested the family in many ways. My grandmother, an independent spirit and therefore considered the “black sheep” of the family, adored her horse and sang like a bird. She married the charismatic (mad) musician of Irish descent and endured 27 years of emotional abuse before leaving him and striking out to successfully rebuild her own life. It was at this time she discovered her talent for oil painting. (Theirs is a compelling story that I started to put in a novel some time ago. I might finish it one day.)

They had one daughter, my mother, who excelled as a singer and miraculously found her place on the international operatic stage based in London, England, which is where I grew up. You’d have to know her parents’ story to understand why it was such a miracle she had this career. I wish she’d write a memoir.

My Hungarian roots were planted in southern Alberta in the 1920s. Peasant stock seeking a new life in a new land. Hardworking but dysfunctional. My nagymama was not allowed to learn English. I recall, however (and I only saw her twice when I was a little girl) she had a lovely productive garden, was a wonderful cook and created the most beautiful lace work. Still, like my other grandmother, hers was a troubled marriage. Nagypapa was a troubled soul. My father ran away from home when he was 14. He became writer; a musician; jack of all trades and master of none. A deadbeat dad. (Though I doubt he’d ever see it that way. If he ever disputes me on this I’ll be happy to engage.)

~*~

Again, this is the tip of the iceberg but, perhaps, you notice the general themes: a lot of starting over; a lot of emotional and financial hardship. Good, hardworking, industrious people with their share of trials and tribulations. People of courage, strength and character. Music, the panacea; the source of joy, of laughter and relief.

Traces of Me

And here I am ~ a veritable melting pot of all of this, plus everything I brought to the world, plus all the things I’ve experienced since I was born.

The marvellous thing is that understanding my family’s story has helped me to understand myself.

Dance Like No One's Watching
Dance Like No One’s Watching by Dorothy Chiotti

Coming from a long line of musicians, artists and writers has been a great blessing. I have sung in one of the world’s great symphonic choirs. Performed in my own vocal group and recorded three CDs. I have been a commissioned animal portrait artist and produced a number of veil paintings. I have written all my life and presently pour my creative focus into the writer’s path.

I have a passion for the land because it is in my blood. We were never city people. My passion for horses rises from this love of the land.

Several years ago, while I was going through divorce, I had an intense dream about my ancestors and awoke in the early morning to write a 20-page journal entry about family history. In the process I realized my purpose ~ to stop the pain. To give myself a chance of a new life unencumbered by the weight of the past. In the ensuing years I have worked tirelessly to make this happen.

As I have no children (my brother and I are the last twigs on this particular branch of our family tree) my focus must be to blossom to my full potential while reclaiming my right to thrive. To go out in a blaze of glory, honouring my place in the world while remembering those who came before and made my journey on the planet possible, is my sincere desire.

Me and BearI have worked extremely hard over the past several years to release the past, so the traces of me that live on in the lives of those I influence are positive, uplifting, meaningful and joyful.

My own journey of moving on and rebuilding a life is not, perhaps, the arduous geographic and physical challenge of my ancestors. Nevertheless it tests my mettle and proves my character, and it is my choice to reclaim the triumph of spirit demonstrated by generations past who lead me by their example.

My mother and late grandmother, each in their own way, escaped emotional tyranny to rebuild their lives on their terms. They are my inspiration as I continue to rebuild my life and endeavour to inspire and move, through art, music and the written word.

Traces of me leaving traces of inspiration in others.

At least, that is my wish.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Other Traces

WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE: FADING TRACES AND OLD MEMORIES | SERENDIPITY
Traces | Kansa Muse
Breadcrumbs | Master Of Disaster
The Art of War | K beezy is viral
Wet cement | Margaret Rose Stringer
She was a memory | thinkerscap
Traces: DP Challenge | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
Arrogance Insults My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
The Lavender Flowers | Stories From My Mind
Trace | MindMeld
Lavender and Rain | So This Is Writing?
Like Flowers on a Grave | loveletterstoaghost
Day Twenty-Four: Veteran At Death | Clearing My Voice
it’s veterans day | Musings of a Random Mind

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
  2. When You Need to Drown Out The Noise | My Days In A Song
  3. Drown it Out In A Good Tune | My Days In A Song
  4. Moved by Music » Kryson’s Kreations
  5. How the music sounds: Then and Now (With a nod to The Roches). | Jaye’s Brain
  6. cooking & culture |
  7. Bill Evans and the Real | cheri grissom
  8. What a Wonderful World | The Crone’s Apprentice
  9. 1989 | Ramblings of a Creative Mind
  10. Music, Inducing Words | tuckedintoacorner
  11. Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music | Writing Canvas
  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
  15. My love will fly to you each night… Godspeed (Sweet Dreams) | betweenfearandlove
  16. Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music | Nola Roots, Texas Heart
  17. Addicted To Love | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
  18. Music as a Medium for Communication | melodymo
  19. Discovering Serenity with Gheorghe Zamfir’s “The Lonely Shepherd” | SIM | ANTICS
  20. Bead of Jade | Duo Tell

A Life Unravelled

A Life Unravelled

I am of an age

When the formative years

Speak.

“Remember me?”

They ask.

It starts with

Music.

A song.

A memory.

A feeling.

Hmmm …

I had forgotten.

Lost in

Tumultuous times of

Twenty-plus years.

Tumult covered by more

Tumult.

A child overwhelmed;

A teenager confused;

A twenty-something

Ungrounded,

Until in the thirties

Unravelling begins.

As it must ~

Or die bitter.

~*~

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m seeking professional help to unravel and make peace with my life.

Starting in my late 20s I began to experience wake-up calls. People and events emerged to shake things up, most often sending me into an emotional tailspin.

My initial response was always that of the victim.

“Why me? What did I do?”

Then one day something started to happen.

I started to wake up.

My grandmother’s death when I was in my early thirties snapped me out of a career malaise. Instead of being bitter about the loss of someone I loved I was going to honour her memory by honouring my heart’s desire.

I embarked on my true journey with the horse. Granny would like this, I thought, as she was also passionate about horses. More importantly, however, she’d want me to be happy.

My two years as an equestrian coaching intern were a refiner’s fire. The veneer of my “happy” married life began to be stripped away until I could finally see the truth of its dysfunction. The victim was alive and well and absorbed into the drama of another who, I quickly realized, resembled my emotionally distant, self-absorbed and delinquent father.

Within a few years we divorced. I sought my first round of counselling and avoided dating once I realized I was attracting variations on a negative theme. I was determined to relinquish emotional baggage and find a healthier way of being.

My eyes were opening.

Eighteen months later I met my future husband. A kind, gentle, thoughtful, caring and emotionally mature man. (What he was doing with me took me a long time to understand.) The road was rocky. I’d had no experience being with such a person. But  unlike the previously dysfunctional men in my life, he was genuinely interested in my well-being and demonstrated through deed, and not just word, his devotion.

I learned to accept I might be worthy of something different than my normal experience.

My eyes opened further.

Two years later, tragedy in the riding arena as a school horse I’d been riding died following a freak jumping accident. Getting back in the saddle was difficult. The silver lining came a few months later with the opportunity to part-board a beautiful thoroughbred mare, Murphy. This lasted nearly three years.

And then Murphy died of cancer. More blinding misery, but the courage to look for a silver lining.

Five months later, a dream come true when Bear entered my life. Finally, a horse to call my own. But I wanted to be an aware horse owner. I wanted to build a relationship based on trust. I turned to natural horsemanship and enrolled in Chris Irwin‘s Train the Trainer program. While I was fine tuning my horsemanship skills the horses were reflecting back to me how broken I was, my insecurities rearing their ugly heads and demanding my unbridled attention.

Another wake up call; another realization that I needed more help.

Wise Old Equus

Enter art therapy and meditation. I became more grounded and a beautiful collection of veil paintings was born of my unburdening. This journey lasted about 18 months.

And I was still working with Bear ~ the experience of self-awareness around him bringing greater depth and meaning to our relationship. A new self-confidence was emerging; the victim was beginning her retreat.

And then my eyes opened some more.

A week in Sarajevo in February 2009. Panic attacks. Anxiety. My inner personal hell rising to the surface and reflected in the sad, unhappy state of a recovering war-torn city.

Within weeks I was sitting in a therapist’s office, the depression and anxiety, the feeling of being stuck and weighted down by things beyond my understanding more than I could bear.

The true work of unravelling a lifetime began sitting in a chair opposite a stranger whose only desire was to help me along the road to wellness.

The pain, anger, bitterness, grief, shame, the trauma of abuse laid bare. The broken-ness of my life lying before me like the scattered pieces of a puzzle waiting to be re-assembled, but with awareness.

Eyes ever opening.

And with this a sense of liberty. The freedom to begin to see myself differently. The triumph of survival and a new-found understanding of what it means to thrive. The tools to rebuild the puzzle of my life into something more functional. An opportunity to create a clearer picture of who I really am while releasing the illusion forced upon me when I had no concept of self and no choice but to absorb and reflect the drama and dysfunction of the adults around me.

A life unravelled.

A life reclaimed.

~*~

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

#FWF Free Write Friday: Image Prompt … The Musician

This week Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday prompt is an image.

walmart-man

” … tell me his story.

By the way, his name is John.”

~*~

The Musician

I’m told his name is John, but he actually prefers Jack.

It’s what his mother called him.

Not that he was a mama’s boy, but she had this idea in her head that if John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States could be called Jack, so could her son … John Fitzsimmon Kennedy ~ named after said President but not so close as to be tacky.

Jack had always hated it. He wanted to be his own man.

His mama’d had hopes for him … big hopes. Hopes he did not share. All he wanted, from the time he was 10 years old, was to be a musician. But not just any musician ~ the best darn harmonica player in the country.

His mama had been none too thrilled with this notion when he’d told her at age 17.

“A musician!” she’d wailed as he finally came out of the career closet. He was cradling his precious harmonica in already farm-weathered young hands. His mama about yanked it from him but he held it closer. She glowered. “And when, pray, did you start entertaining this notion when all along your daddy, God rest his soul, and I have had plans for you to go to law school?”

Jack just shrugged.

“Just come to me, mama,” he shrugged again. “Called me, like. … Saved every penny I could to buy this lonely pipe from the pawn shop after I heard an old fella play his at the local fair. … I been practicin’ in secret in the old cow shed down by the river meadow for years.”

His mama was livid.

“Well, you can’t play it no more, you hear? We got big plans for you, your daddy and I, and you ain’t gonna be no musician.”

“A musician!” she repeated, bereft, with one hand on her heart and the back of the other brushing over her brow with dramatic effect. “Jack Fitzsimmon Kennedy you may as well just shoot me.”

Jack rolled his eyes and walked away. He was going to be a musician whether she liked it or not.

Ever since his daddy had died several years before his mama had ruled with an iron fist, feeling she had to be both parents to the fatherless boy. It was a terrible thing, his father having bled to death after getting his hand caught in the thresher. His mama never got over it. Jack’s uncle and a couple of farm hands  now ran the farm, but Jack had no interest. He’d do his chores grudgingly, waiting for the day he turned 18 and he and his harmonica could high-tail it out of there and travel the country with a rockin’ country band.

It was all he wanted.

His mother didn’t live long enough to wallow in her disappointment. Just before he’d turned 18 she slipped on a frozen cow pat hitting the ground with such force that she broke her neck, dying instantly.

Sad as he was he knew it was his ticket to freedom.

Within days of her burial he’d begun the long trek by greyhound bus from Bantry, North Dakota to Nashville, Tennessee. He was going to be lead singer and harmonica player for a band, any band … come hell or high water.

And he was … for The Rambling Wranglers. Travelled all over the country. Played all the big shows and festivals through the prime of adulthood. His heart’s desire.

But somewhere along the way he’d lost his way. The parties, the women, the drugs. On the road so much he became Jack Fitzsimmon (he dropped “Kennedy” cos he was his own man) of no fixed address.

When I saw him last he was unkempt, unshaven and looking lost, perched on a step looking wistfully into the distance, perhaps remembering better days. In protective hands he cradled his precious harmonica. Slippers replaced his cowboy boots; a battered fedora his stetson.

Perhaps his mama and daddy had been right. Perhaps he should have taken their counsel and become a lawyer. He might have made a hay wagon load of money and lived the high life.

But he’d followed his heart. He’d lived his own high life. The bank account may be almost empty, but his heart was completely full. His hope for a brighter future, even at this stage of the game, clutched in his weathered hands.

Jack turned to look at me. His expression neither happy, nor sad.

“I broke my mama’s heart.” He spoke with an absent neutrality. “But she broke mine worse by not believing in me and my dream.”

Jack turned away. He removed his hat and placed it bowl up at this feet, and then he cupped the harmonica to his lips and played the lilting tones of the haunted soul. I placed a token in his hat and left.

I understood him only too well.

~*~

free-write-friday-kellie-elmoreDon’t know where that came from. Edited a little because it was so long and sentences were running on.

Thanks for the challenge, Kellie!

~*~

Herewith an update to The Guarded One as well as the first letter to The Critic.

~*~

Thanks for stopping by …

Be well,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013