Friday, December 5, 2008


Grrr... I've been writing this post and trying to finish it for over a week. I'm posting it... FINALLY!
Since October I have been assistant director and a singer in a choir that was organized by one of my old friends from school: a small group of twelve people getting ready to sing a short a cappella Christmas concert at a local Cathedral Christmas festival thingy. Most of us are former singers in a college choir or some other active musical group who have had to move music to the back burner for a while because of other pursuits (like children, families, jobs and otherwise "real life"). So basically the idea is that we are all trying to get our musical fix crammed in between the overwhelming busy-ness of everyday life. We have been rehearsing on an evening for 3 hours every other week, preparing for this Christmas festival and a couple of other minor gigs.

When my friend first called me and invited me to participate I really wasn't sure if I had time for another commitment. Much as I love to sing in choirs, I'm already directing the ward choir and can hardly get my laundry folded within a week of it getting washed, let alone have my brain in place to be second in command for a choir that actually wants to try to do challenging repertoire. But the practicing every other week was the clincher for me- I decided I could handle that small of a time commitment and should at least give it a shot.

And so I did. It has been so great to be singing and directing choir again (much as I love ward choir, it's not exactly the same thing...). I didn't realize how much I missed singing until I had it back again. A few weeks ago we had an amazing rehearsal. We have one piece that my friend is directing that is a lot harder than the others. We really buckled down to work on the difficult passages, fix the tuning issues and lock the piece in to place. It was an intense session, but the result was so worth it: there is something amazing that happens when you get a group of people together, you set aside egos and just work to be completely unified and in tune with the others in the group.

But, two weeks in between rehearsals is a long time... and by the last rehearsal before our first concert things were rough again and I was getting flustered. We had very little time and a lot to cover. It didn't help that I had had a crazy week with different commitments almost every single night as well as rehearsals during the day on some days and I had raced off that night after getting a babysitter with nary a moment to gather my thoughts. We were rehearsing one of my pieces and came to a spot where the singers wanted to know what I wanted: did I want a pause with a breath or to continue straight through. A fair enough question... and as I stood there, in front of everyone, on the spot, I didn't have the faintest idea what the answer to that question was. I was sure that I had an opinion- or would have one if I had time to think about it- but at the moment all I could muster was to stammer, look stupid and say, "Uh, you know what, I really don't have any idea right now."

In retrospect, this wasn't such a very big deal, but at the time I felt mortified. I went home bemoaning the fact that now that I have children I have lost my brain and all of my former professionalism with it. What is it about having children that makes it so impossible to be organized, well-prepared and "together"? At what point did I go from being the uber-professional piano teacher to one who gets stressed out with 2 students? But I digress....

We did get through our rehearsal and even our first two performances. On the first Saturday of December we had our first performance at a festival that displays Nativity scenes. Our first piece is a processional that we sing as we walk in. This went quite smoothly until I realized that in a few bars I was supposed to deftly move out in front to the music stand, conduct the last few bars of the piece and be in place to conduct the choir for the next piece. This in itself was not unsettling except for the fact that the music stand, instead of being a few feet away where it was when we rehearsed, was down in the audience in a row of benches-- not exactly a place to which I could deftly slip out. No matter, I slipped out the back of the group, went down the steps, got into place, laid down my music and lifted my arms to the choir... and for some reason unbeknownst to me (and perhaps to the singers for that matter) at the end of the section they stopped... mid-song. It was just before the ending and maybe they thought I was gesturing for them to stop. So we had an unplanned and uncalled for and um, quite dramatic pause before I was able to bring them in to sing the final lines of the song.

Ignoring that and a few other minor glitches, the performance went quite well. It was actually a relief to get through a full performance and to realize that we didn't completely fall apart if something unexpected happened. There was one piece where one section had a botched entrance and I was afraid we were going to lose it- but to my amazement we held on, pulled it together and finished the song well. Maybe that is what professionalism is all about, right? Taking the funky things that inevitably happen, making the best of them and keeping things going as smoothly as possible.

At least that is what I try to tell myself. But part of me still struggles with feeling like everything I do is half-baked, by the seat of my pants. It's hard to feel professional and "together" when I sit down to work in my office -which I have neatly organized several times- and cannot even find a pen, let alone the floor (which is buried in piles of paper scraps and sundry bits of litter from several uninvited "guest artists"). I like to plan and prepare and feel in control, but too often parenting makes my life feel like a series of reactions to unplanned events and catastrophes. And did I mention interruptions? I can't start a project- let alone finish one- without being interrupted, usually several times. I feel like a can hardly keep a coherent train of thought sometimes amidst all of the environmental noise, chaos and alternate demands for my attention.

So is it any wonder that sometimes I feel less confident in my artistic and professional abilities than I once did? Is it any wonder that despite wanting to teach piano again, the thought of having a piano studio fills me with dread and trepidation?

Part of me says that this is a natural consequence of parenting- that this is just a phase and season in life that requires patience and will eventually pass. But part of me screams in rebellion: "NO!!! I'm really not a slob and I can prove it! I CAN BE ORGANIZED!! I can be neat and tidy! I could get things done, once upon a time..." But part of me secretly wonders, "Maybe I really am I slob. Maybe I'm just using this as an excuse and a cover to protect myself from having to face my own incompetence." Maybe it's too late to be up blogging. Or maybe I'm really just annoyed with my printer and that is making me wax woeful about my life.

(Can I just say that I am really annoyed that I have been trying to print a document for 30 minutes and despite the fact that the printer is plugged in to the computer and the computer shows that the printer has been sent the job the stupid thing won't print! Do you know how many hours of my life have been wasted by malfunctioning or half-functioning computer equipment? And crappy software that is slow and doesn't do what it's supposed to do? Can I just say that I should probably stop complaining and go to bed?) =]


LCM said...

You are totally not a slob. It is nearly impossible to maintain a certain level of cleanness when you have little people following right behind you wrecking everything you just straightened. I love seeing our study/my office cleaned and straightened and literally less than an hour later there are crayons and scraps of paper and missing paper from my printer, etc. Don't even get me started on what everyone else does in the kitchen. I think sometimes you just have to try and let go. I used to think I had to maintain a certain level of spotless house because certainly someone would stop by and no one hardly ever popped in.
Anyway, my ability to keep the house clean and feel more than adequate at my job waxes and wanes. Currently it's a haz mat zone (in my opinion) because I can't do anything.

Rebecca said...

That is quite the post. But I hear ya. I hear ya.

I'm just SO glad you are doing this with me. I'm be lost without you Karen!