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Musings on m
y life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

'Scuse this interruption

This post has nothing to do with singing, parenting (2- or 4-foot), photography, or any other stated brief.

It's about paint.

You know, that stuff that people put on their walls because it's "cheap" and (as the magazines cheerfully say) "such an easy facelift!". I have friends who paint regularly. And by "regularly", I mean pretty much as often as the Pottery Barn catalog comes out, or a new colour-scheme suddenly takes their fancy.

In theory, I think this is a great idea. But the reality of it is that we are not "paint to change your mood" people. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if we're even competent homeowners.

Apparently, I completely and totally SUCK at choosing paint. When we did our renovation four years ago I went through about 15 sample pots before I found one I really liked (love, in fact). This time round, our weird variable light was complicated by a need to sometimes use the living room room for photoshoots, meaning I wanted to avoid a marked colour-cast. I also wanted it to be different enough from the dining room that they didn't just blend into each other. The rich, creamy beiges that looked so fabulous on the chip turned foundation-makeup pink or sickly-sage on our walls.

Finally, however - after a lot of paintchips (four years worth, in fact. No, seriously. The living room looked so sad next to the freshly-painted walls of the renovation, that I was determined to do something about it. FOUR YEARS AGO. We have lived for four years with paintchips on the walls, much to the amusement of my family and friends) - I landed on Benjamin Moore's Muslin, aka OC-12 or 1037. No, it isn't the rich milky-chocolate I'd love to see (IF my room weren't tiny, and IF it wasn't occasionally used as a studio). Yes, it's a neutral - boring, some might even say. BUT... it is NEUTRAL. No. Colour. Cast. It goes on beige, and stays beige. Score!



Our home is small; we love it, but we live in every square inch of it (and then some). This makes painting a furnished room more like a slider puzzle than anything else, and the Rubik's Cube involved in getting AT the walls in a small space is infuriating. The armchair went on the porch, and the dog in the yard which gave us a few more square feet to move but even so, it's been a very complicated dance to get the job done. A huge bookcase and media cabinet had to be emptied before we could even start, and the heavy pieces then had to be shifted (and let's not even mention the dust behind them!) so we could get at the walls themselves . Comments like, "Ok, after I've done this little section, I can move the sofa over and then you can slide the ladder past me to get at the bit in the corner" have been a common refrain over the last two days.

It seems to have paid off, though. Boring Beige or not, I absolutely love the results (we're not quite done, but near enough that I can see what we've got). No longer the dirty white the previous owner put up when selling, it actually looks pretty darned classy.

And I noticed that when I went to pick up the second can of paint we needed to finish the job, I found myself no longer looking at beige and tan, but at blues and purples as possible options for the bathroom and then bedroom. Apparently I need paintchips somewhere in my house for it to feel like home. Maybe this time I'll manage to pick a colour in less than four years....

Monday, January 2, 2012

And now it's 2012

I am regularly reminded by my Dad that I have taken blogging Epic Failure to a whole new level. Five months without a post? Pathetic.

I've thought long and hard about why I've found it so hard to write this year. I've half-started any number of posts (at last count, I think there are at least 6 in my "drafts" folder, and those are only the ones I actually got so far as to start writing down), but none of them seemed to gel.

Part of the logjam has been diverted attention: 2011 was unquestionably our "Year of the Puppy", and that young, fluffy bundle of energy has taken up A LOT of time. Last puppy we raised was in 1994, and we lived in the middle of nowhere in the UK, with loads of footpaths and hills at our disposal; there's no denying that doing the same thing (with the same high-energy breed!) in a US suburb has been a very different - and time consuming - experience!

It's been wonderful, though. For those who've only known me since university and, more specifically, since our return to the US the year our daughter was born, I think it's been a bit of a surprise seeing me go into full-blown animal-focused, outdoorsy action. That was something never entirely set-aside, but certainly put on the back burner in 1998, when a new baby and frantic career schedule put the other stuff on hold. But, really, this is in so many ways been a return to something that was always a focus of my life. As a teenager, at least 4/7 days a week (7/7 during holidays) were spent out at the stables training and prepping, and my weekends hubbed around my showing commitments. Sure, that was horses instead of dogs, but there are a lot of similarities, not least of which the extensive time spent outdoors.

What's most interesting about this change is how perspective shifts along with it. Any pet owner will tell you that animals are wonderfully grounding - it doesn't matter what else is going on in the world, they still want their needs met without reference to politics, recessions, or artistic merit. Given the huge shift in my professional-personal landscape in the last 2 years - there's no way around the fact that the operatic industry is at best changing, at worst crumbling away under our feet - the certain and simple needs of our furry young boy have been a welcome "fixed point in the universe".

About that artistic landscape. So hard to know what to say. I've been lucky in having a ridiculously full teaching schedule as well as continued performing work - if not as much, not booked as far ahead, and certainly with far fewer opportunities to pursue - but it's so difficult to stay upbeat and optimistic when there are clear signs things are still in flux (at best) and at times being a classical singer feels almost like being part of a species extinction. There have been bright spots - the phoenix of Lyric Opera Baltimore rising out of the ashes of the former Baltimore Opera Company - but there has also been so much terrible news in this industry as well. NYCO is in dire straits, Boston Opera and Opera Vivente both look to have closed their doors for good in the last 3 months, and there's grapevine gossip about any number of other companies which are rumoured to be facing significant financial difficulties. Not to mention the universal message to donors, audiences, and even singers that they need to pony up to ensure that other companies don't go the same route! As an "in the trenches" singer - employed and employable, but certainly not famous or well-enough established to ride out this storm like those at the very top of the profession - it's uncomfortable knowing just how precarious the situation is.

And so, another new year. I hesitate to assign any particular hopes and aspirations to 2012; I feel like these days making plans is a surefire recipe for disappointment! I suspect that 100 years from now this period will mark a transition to something new, although I'm not yet sure what that will be.... In the meantime, we press on. We continue to believe in the power of music, and the power of the human voice. There is still a song to sing, even if it may not have quite the same refrain as before.

And no matter what, there is always, always a furry mountain of unconditional love at home. Somehow, that makes everything right again.