Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nathan's National Anthem

Last week was the All-State festival, and it was the second year in a row that Nathan was asked to be the chorus accompanist for this event. This year, they also asked him to write a choral arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner to open the concert. Then, just a few days before the performance, the chorus conductor asked Nathan to conduct the premiere himself.

Of course I'm biased, but I think what he came up with is quite stellar. It's traditional enough to be the national anthem as we've all heard it and sung it so many times, but has plenty of Nathan-ish moments that lend it flair and uniqueness of its own. (I'm particularly fond of "And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air...") Well, someone at the concert videotaped the performance and put several of the chorus pieces up on YouTube, including Nathan's arrangement. Here are a few selections from the chorus program this year, performed in Boston's Symphony Hall:

The Star-Spangled Banner, arranged and conducted by Nathan:

The Seal Lullaby by Eric Whitacre:

(When I was in choir in college, we did a work by Eric Whitacre that I just loved, Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine. I've been a Whitacre fan ever since. The piece is, for lack of a better word, epic. It pays homage to the Renaissance man not only through the fascinating text, but also through many Renaissance musical techniques embedded in a distinctively contemporary choral work. If you want to hear Leonardo, there are many recordings on YouTube... I rather like this one, with the man himself conducting. There's also a wonderful commentary on the piece with the BYU Singers here - you should definitely check it out. Choral music is so amazing. Eric Whitacre is so amazing. But I digress, because this post is supposed to be about how amazing my husband Nathan is.)

Shine the Light by Raymond Wise:

The students at All-State seemed to like Nathan; they've created a facebook fan page for him. Is there any greater indication of success in life? (He's definitely surpassed the time I played a violin solo with the All-State chorus.)

I'm so proud.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Julie and Julia

I can't remember the last time I watched a movie that made me smile, laugh, cry, and feel completely involved with each of the characters.

Julie and Julia is just such a movie, and as I watched it tonight (alone, since Nathan is at a rehearsal) I kept bursting into smiles and looking lovingly (and no doubt stupidly) at the beautiful people on the screen. Meryl Streep is wonderful, of course. When she cries, you will cry, and when she smiles, you will beam right back at her. Amy Adams is the sort of character you just feel instantly connected with, and possesses a certain Meg Ryan-esque charm. And Jane Lynch makes a cameo appearance! Need I say more? And when was the last time you saw a film that depicted solid, down-to-earth love between married couples? Not a movie that starts with attraction, middles in affection and passion, and ends in marriage (isn't marriage the beginning of love rather than the end, anyway?), mind you, but a movie that starts in the middle of long and lasting marriages (one of them lovely and the other quite imperfect, as I suppose many marriages are) and celebrates the everyday from the mundane to the extraordinary.

Watch the trailer here. Then watch the whole film - it's available on Netflix instant viewing! And the blog that launched the book that launched the movie, while no longer being updated, is still up.

The Great Flooding Disaster of 2010

Two weeks ago I worked a 50+ hour week with only one evening all week long where I was at home with Nathan to relax. The following Monday, I was altogether euphoric to have an entire morning to myself. I headed down to the basement to do a bit of laundry, only to discover that due to torrential rain, the old-fashioned soapstone triple sink behind our washer and dryer was overflowing onto the poured concrete floor.

I did what any sensible girl raised in the country would do: I grabbed a bucket and started bailing. Still in my pajamas, I carried bucket after bucket out the basement door and onto the back lawn. Nathan was heading out the door to work and told me to call him if the situation didn't improve soon.

I became increasingly suspect of the nature of this liquid quite literally bubbling up the sink drains, particularly since there seemed to be trace particles of disintegrating toilet paper floating about in it. The more I bailed, the faster the water seemed to be coming up, and no sooner would I get one of the three connected sink basins down to a reasonable level than another one would pour over. I began to realize that this wasn't a simple clogged sink and overflowing water from our own water pipes. I didn't quite make it an hour of this bucketing before I was crying aloud to no one at all, "I don't want to be doing this! This is so disgusting!" It was quite disgusting. I called Nathan and said, through tears as I recall, "Please come home!"

He was quite heroic about the whole thing, and helped me set up a siphon (or rather, I helped him). By this point the sewage coming up from the sink drains had clogged the sinks partially and slowed down the bubbling of water significantly. Nathan called the town water division and had our fears confirmed: yes, due to the massive amount of rain we were getting, and the fact that it had been a high tide, it was altogether possible that the town's untreated sewage was backing up into our personal sink.

If all good things must come to an end, the good news is that the bad things do, too. I was eventually able to shed my wet pajamas and take a hot shower, and while for the rest of that day I had to check the sinks every half hour, I only had to completely bail them out three or four more times before the waterflow finally stopped altogether. By the next day I could even do laundry without fear of drainage repercussions. It could have been a lot worse. I discovered the whole disaster shortly after the sinks filled and began overflowing, and only one small corner of our unfinished, concrete-floored basement was actually under water, and not really too much of it in the broad scheme of things. It dried out, and I poured a bottle of bleach over it to regain my sanity. Between the bleach and the passage of a week, I can now venture into that corner of the basement without fearing the immediate onset of disease.

I didn't get any pictures taken of the basement situation itself, but the tiny trickling creek between our yard and our neighbor's became a rushing torrent, and the area beyond the lawn became a swamp, and I did photograph those.

Several local papers wrote about the flooding, such as this article and this one. Oddly, no one called us for an interview. I would have gladly posed for a picture, in my pajamas, with my trusty little bucket.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Long Day

It was one of those days where I left the house at 7:30 a.m. for violin studio class and other such events, got back at 3:00 p.m. only to leave again before 4:00 to conduct my children's orchestra, got back again at 6:30 only to leave again at 8:00 and finally return home from a recording session in Boston at 1:00 a.m., drenched from walking four blocks in the rain from the studio to my car.

Only to discover my underwear had been on inside-out all day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Free Subscription to Martha Stewart

If you act quickly, you can get a free one-year subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine! I have done these free magazine subscriptions before and they really do work! No credit card required, no special offers to complete or fulfill... just a free magazine.

Thanks for the tip, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Car Inspection

I suspect that my car just passed inspection because the mechanic who worked on it thought I was cute.

I'm not sure whether to be flattered or deeply disturbed by this turn of events:

I had been dreading getting my car inspected because, well, my horn doesn't work. At all. So I knew it would fail, and then I'd have to spend the money to fix my horn. Which I obviously need to do for safety reasons, but I don't have a pile of money sitting around, and if I did, I'd rather spend it on this amazing new violin bow I've been trying out and am completely in love with. But my inspection sticker was expired, so off I went to a little garage in Danvers.

The mechanic who took my car asked for my registration papers, and glancing over them, said, "Sarah... what a pretty name." I smiled and thanked him, and waited inside with two other mechanics while my car was inspected. In about ten minutes, the mechanic pulled my car up alongside the office with a new sticker on it - it had passed! He made a couple of borderline flirty comments while I paid, and then walked me to my car, where he winked at me and said, "Sarah, please come see me again soon, and bring me this car, so I can fix your horn. It doesn't work."

The moral of the story, I think, is that there are certain occasions in life for which you ought to get dressed up and put on a little makeup. Concerts, recitals, church, professional events, and going to the car mechanic are all among these events.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


How to make me feel like a million bucks:

Be a seventh-grade violinist with a terrific personality in a string quartet I've been coaching since January, and invite me to your school strings concert. See me there, light up with excitement, scream my name, run toward me and throw your arms around me. Then thank me profusely for coming, and ask if you can introduce me to all your friends and teachers.

Yep, that'll make me feel like a million bucks.