Music & Miscellany

Lessons from Opera – Passion and the High Output Life

Two nights ago, I got to hang with the cool kids. Bloggers, artists, and social media influencers. Tempo (Young Professionals Group) movers and shakers gathered to preview The Minnesota Opera’s superb new offering, The Elixir of Love. Hushed and awestruck, we were ushered backstage to witness the weeks of behind-the-scenes high output work plied by 197 people devoted to telling a story that’s captivated audiences since the 1840’s.

It’s a good story. A story of a hero with a passion so encompassing that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it. Wiling to tell the truth, to try new things, to play full on, to play the fool, to take a risk, to reveal the fullness of his heart. In the audience, we clicked and tweeted and laughed and opined and collectively decided: we loved it.

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A moment of passion perfectly captured by Lee Blauersouth
of Studio Interrobang.

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Jolly Holidays Guv’na!

This morning I awoke to the classic winter wonderland out the window, Minnesota making good on her climatic commitment to give us that freshly powdered-sugar look in time to get jolly for the holidays.

It makes me wistful and want to build a snowman, but I don’t have time… I have to get my hustle on. And my bustle.

I’m a professional Christmas caroler, one of a group of five. The good old-fashioned Victorian-costumed kind. We start rehearsing Christmas in July. We know the names of all the reindeer and all the verses to Good King Wenceslas. We know your favorite.

We sing at Brit’s. Have been for years. We’re the holiday house band.

It’s the kind of traditional British pub where you can enjoy fish & chips or bangers & mash and watch the match on the telly with your mates. There are lots of photos of the Queen Mum. They offer a proper tea, with little pots of jam and fancy sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Warm, welcoming, Brit’s is always packed, merry and full of cheer.

Yesterday we were back in our old green room, laughing and reminiscing and stepping on each other, dressing and getting theatrical. We took a minute before taking stage to tell each other why we love to carol, why coming back to Brit’s is so vital to our holiday celebration.

We’re singers and actors, for certain. Practicing our craft for an engaged audience is key. But it is more. The music reminds us of that halcyon holiday, the sugar-plum-fairy, spun-sugar, yes-there-really-is-a-Santa celebration that so often seems relegated to the movies. The music makes it real. People sing along, strangers smile at each other, folks scoot a little closer together and make room for one more person at their table, someone sneaks a kiss under the mistletoe.

The fruits of our labors are even better than fruitcake. We’re friends. We make music. We make new friends.  Jolly Holidays!

Rise and Shine

Sunday sunup. Blurgh. Are you kidding me? Blinking unreasonably early. 5:30. Not even Hugh Jackman putting on a bucolic show in the old barn outside my window would make getting up at this idyllic hour worth it.

Well… maybe. It may be a beautiful morning. But I can’t tell. For one thing, it’s halfway dark. For the other, my windows are FILTHY!

A window is a wonderful thing. For you young whippersnappers, a window is how we used to gaze at the world before we found the “flat thing” (AKA electronic communication device) into which we currently face plant.

Today, I tell myself, is a big bright opportunity for fresh perspective. (This is how the motivator motivates herself to tackle a daunting task like washing the windows.) I dig in, but can’t figure how to get the storms off. And I’m too stubborn to ask for help.

For those of you in clement climates, “storms” are exterior plates of glass that protect your windows from the elements. “Storms” are another layer of energy efficiency. Very useful actually. And an apt allegory to my ability to armor up, add an extra layer of defense distancing me from the outside world when I feel like I might not present a pristine façade, or fall down, or look dumb, or not be in the know.

You wanna’ know what I know?
The less competent I feel, the more armor I pile on. Additional protective layers that provide me thicker insulation and isolation, and therefore make it tougher to ask for help.

You wanna’ know what I don’t know?
I’m elbow deep in squeegees and glass cleaner and I don’t know how to Wrassle. The. Dang. Storms. Off. These. Windows.

I’ve only wrecked one so far. Pretty good for just under an hour. Out of breath and patience, I sit down for a coffee and some perspective. Search YouTube for “How to clean a double hung window”, where I find this:


(I don’t know who this fella is, but he oughta have his own television show. He’s a hoot and a half.)

I get me some learnin’ right quick, and a laugh. I calm down and consider changing my name to Bubba. I still don’t know how to wrassle the storm windows from their casing, but I don’t care. Armed with fresh perspective, I take a fresh approach.

Go outside. Get a ladder. Shift to a new vantage point.

While I’m balanced on shaky ground, trying not to tumble into the soft patch of cypress between my cottage and the neighbor’s, or over-traumatize her yapping pug, she comes out to investigate. Turns out she has the same windows. And an owner’s manual. Which she offers to lend me.

We look at each other; shake hands across the short fence dividing our yards. I pet the pug, which remarkably stops barking and seems to like me fine. It is the closest we’ve been since I moved in. Up until now, we’ve just waved from a distance, through the window.

You go where you look, so look where you go.

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.

Oh, what a beautiful Mornin’
Oh, what a beautiful day.
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s goin’ my way.