Monday, December 11, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Openness To Experience
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Friday, November 17, 2006
I hope we'll reach a point where we can hire additional office personnel to cover phones, etc. I'm not getting any grantwriting done because of all the distractions.
Last weekend's ballet generally went well -- we performed Copland's Rodeo and Oklahoma!, a ballet derived from the choreography of Agnes deMille for the original Broadway stage production and danced to a suite derived from the original Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. The audience loved it -- especially the rendition of Oklahoma! (our state song) at the conclusion of the ballet. In Oklahoma our state song always brings an audience to its feet!
Hopefully next week will be less hectic. Maybe I can even get that one grant completed -- I'm constantly getting pulled away to do other stuff. I hope there will be fewer distractions next week.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Calendar today, where Iraq is described as "Shitstorm.” I am reminded of yesterday's mass kidnapping in Baghdad yesterday, where as many as 150 persons may still be detained -- no one knows for sure.
The car bombings continue. We've lost more than 2,800 American lives, and Iraqi deaths are in the hundreds of thousands (conservatively).
And the Republicans are still sticking to their "stay the course" mantra, if Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-CA) comments to Chris Matthews in last night's Hardball episode are any indication.
I'm reminded of the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.
Here Endeth the Morning Rant.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
It took my almost an hour to adapt a template that I liked to my blog, and keep my links. I found the template similar to that Drew McManus uses in his Adaptistration blog. I never realized changing my blog’s appearance would be so complicated. Ugh.
So, my comments on last weekend’s ballet, church stuff and the stupidity of the San Antonio Symphony Board will have to wait. Sorry, but it 7:07 p.m. Tulsa time, and I’ve got a hungry little black cat at home to feed.
I'll eventually post my picture. When I get a Round Tuit.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Today the office closed early due to tonight’s ballet performance. I wish I had known about the early office closing before today – I arrived decked out in my concert blacks and with violin in tow. I considered staying anyway (actually, I am staying to tend to some matters, including this blog post), but I’m tired and want to catch a catnap to be fresh for tonight. Also, grab some sushi on my way home. Phoebe, my funny little black cat, will doubtless be pleased she gets some lap time! Have a great weekend!
I’ve also just e-mailed vestry members a list of my concerns about the direction of worship at Trinity. To make a long story short, I am concerned about the move away from a high church liturgy, and apparent efforts to move away from our Anglican heritage to some generic Protestant muddle. Of course, the Episcopal Church is not Protestant – but that’s another blog post.
So … I’ll just comment briefly on the November 7 midterm elections. To grossly oversimplify my thoughts: The People of America won. I have renewed faith in our democracy now that the Republicans no longer have a stranglehold in Washington. I was very happy to see Gov. Rod Blagojevich was re-elected in my home state of Illinois. Melissa Bean managed to prove that she was better than the smears of her opponent, David McSweeney (why did he have to be from Barrington Hills, anyway?) and win re-election. I wasn’t always happy with her votes (particularly in support of CAFTA and that dreadful bankruptcy package for the mega banks), but as a whole she’s been good for District 8. I was also happy to see Todd Stroger elected as President of the Cook County Board. I hope he’ll be able to prove his worth to the skeptics and emerge in his own right.
I’m sorry that Tammy Duckworth wasn’t able to prevail in District 6. She’s a remarkable woman and would have been an asset to the House of Representatives. She came very close to capturing the seat held by Henry Hyde – but, as they say, no cigar. I can only hope she pulls a Melissa Bean in the 6th. Melissa first ran in 2002, and came the closest anyone ever had to unseating Philip Crane. Well, she spent the next two years building her war chest and walking the district, getting to know citizens. All while Phil Crane was on one lobbyist-funded junket after another. Here’s hoping Tammy will do the same.
Here in Oklahoma, it was more bittersweet. We didn’t take back the State House, and came to a tie in the State Senate. Good news is we elected Jeri Askins as Lieutenant Governor, so she’ll be the tie-breaker. No suspense whatsoever in the Governor’s race – Brad Henry was re-elected in a rout of Ernest MisTook. I haven’t always agreed with Gov. Henry, but he’s been a very competent governor (to say the least). Drew Edmondson won re-election as Attorney General handily, much to the dismay of the corporate poultry processors who think Oklahoma is a toilet for their chickens. I was thrilled to see Lloyd Fields unseat the anti-worker Brenda Reneau. In addition, Kim Holland was elected Insurance Commissioner in her own right. Despite the smearing of her opponent in ads and robo-calls, Kim maintained the high road through out – and won handily.
I hope to see our Congress take the following steps in their first 100 days:
Have a great weekend!
Monday, November 06, 2006
JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer 11/6/2006 View in Print (PDF) Format
A bit of history happened Friday night at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center: The Tulsa Symphony performed its very first concert.
"The keystone of the arts in our city is being re-established in Tulsa tonight," said KOTV personality Glenda Silvey as the evening began.
More than four years have passed since the city's first fully professional orchestra, the Tulsa Philharmonic, dissolved into a stagnant puddle of bad debts and disastrous management after 54 years of operations.
It was 11 months ago, almost to the day, when Dr. Frank Letcher first proposed the idea of an entirely new and different orchestra to be called the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra -- a fully professional ensemble that would employ its musicians throughout the organization, not just as performers on the stage.
It is a tribute to the musicians' commitment to Tulsa that this concept was put into action so quickly, because so many former Philharmonic musicians continued to live and work in Tulsa after that orchestra's collapse in 2002.
In fact, Friday's concert was hardly the orchestra's debut. That came in February, when it accompanied Tulsa Ballet's production of "The Sleeping Beauty." The Tulsa Symphony has also performed with the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, and many of its musicians were part of the orchestras used by Tulsa Opera and Light Opera Oklahoma this year.
Even so, Friday's concert, titled "Get to Know TSO," was the real benchmark for the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra -- the first performance it could truly call its own, its attempt to make good on the idea, as Silvey put it in her opening remarks, "that an orchestra is not a luxury but a necessity."
So -- how did they do?
Three words: pretty darn good.
It wasn't a perfect evening, to be sure. Jose-Luis Novo, the guest conductor for this concert, set a tempo for Mascagni's "Intermezzo" from "Cavalleria Rusticana" that struck us as too slow. Some soft high notes from the trumpets during the "Some where" segment of Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" -- tough sounds to produce, we grant it -- were a little wobbly. And one over-eager fiddler hit one note too many at the end of the first movement of the Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven.
Yet, these moments were aberrations (or, in the case of the Mascagni, differences of taste). What made the evening special, on a musical rather than a his torical level, was that the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra lived up to its name on the most basic level.
The word "symphony" comes from a pair of Greek words that mean, respectively, "sound" and "together." That is what the Tulsa Symphony did -- for all the many people and instruments that make up the ensemble, the sound they made was one of complete togetherness, remarkable clarity and unwavering purpose.
That was evident from the first few moments of Shostakovich's "Festive Overture." Interestingly, the city's other orchestra, the Signature Symphony at Tulsa Community College, performed this same work the evening before.
Maybe the best way to describe the difference is this. Imagine a puzzle arranged so that all the pieces are in the proper place, just not fitted together. That would be the Signa ture Symphony's Thursday night performance. Imagine that same puzzle with all the pieces connected, and you have the Tulsa Symphony.
That might also be why Novo chose a slower-than-usual tempo for the Mascagni -- to show off that unity and cohesiveness, to stretch things out so that the orchestra could not simply coast along on the music's beautifully sad melodies.
The Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" gave a number of the musicians a chance to show off a little -- in particular, principal violist Jeffery Cowen, principal flute John Rush, timpanist Gerald Scholl, percussionist Steven Craft and principal French horn J. Bruce Schultz.
And the Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven got an unusually joyous reading from the Tulsa Symphony. The sound of "fate knocking at the door," as Beethoven described the famous di-di-di-dah motif that runs throughout the piece was played here less as something to fear as a challenge to be met -- and overcome.
That, in a real sense, is what this "Get to Know the TSO" concert was all about. It has met the challenge of creating a new musical entity for the city of Tulsa, of taking its first steps on what it hopes to be a long and fruitful artistic journey.
The challenge now is to make certain that those present at the start of this journey -- the 1,000-plus season subscribers, the organizations that have contributed to getting the TSO to this point, the orchestra's musicians and staff -- will keep moving forward once the feel-good glow of this "opening night" has passed, to make certain that the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra "sounds together" for a long time to come.
James D. Watts Jr. (918) 581-8478
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The big night’s tomorrow – the official debut of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra!
This has been a productive week on a number of fronts. Our conductor for the week, José-Luis Novo, is clearly a gifted conductor. He conducts with a great deal of musicality, and makes efficient use of rehearsal time. It also helps matters immensely that he has been a professional orchestra musician, too. So many conductors don’t know how they come across to the musicians seated in front of them!
We’ve also seen success on the fundraising front. The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation has announced a $100,000 challenge grant for the orchestra. This grant is predicated on not only our raising the money, but also broadening our base of support. One of the problems of the Tulsa Philharmonic was the over-dependence on a small group of wealthy contributors. When the contributors starting dying off, the orchestra was left in the lurch. The Schusterman family is providing a terrific incentive to expand our contributing sources. Bravo to the Schustermans!
We also received a significant contribution from another local family foundation that had been one of the Tulsa Philharmonic’s most loyal supporters. I cannot divulge the name of the foundation or the amount at this time, but they will be made public soon.
Both of these contributions will further legitimize the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra in the minds of skittish contributors, who are afraid of being burned they way they were with the abrupt shutdown of the Tulsa Philharmonic in 2002.
Therefore, it’s small wonder that our founder, Dr. Frank Letcher, was pleased to the point of giddiness at last night’s rehearsal. I spoke with him at intermission, and he raved about the sound of the orchestra. He’s incredibly excited about tomorrow night’s performance. He’s not the only one – I’ve spoken with a number of patrons who tell me they can’t wait to hear a real professional orchestra on the stage of Chapman Music Hall at the Performing Arts Center! (Incidentally, the PAC staff is excited, too.)
Dr. Letcher is certainly entitled to his giddiness. To be honest, I’m glad he’s so thrilled – it is indicative of his commitment to the orchestra. He’s seeing the fruits of his labors and determination. We have a full-time professional orchestra in Tulsa – an orchestra of artistic integrity, being received with enthusiasm by Tulsa’s arts lovers.
This is the result we've been seeking since 2002.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
This choir cookbook has grabbed ahold of my imagination (if one's immagination can be grabbed). I've become downright obsessive/compulsive about gathering recipes to contribute. I may ask Casey if I can issue a choir challenge, because I know Mother's going have a few things to say about the many recipes that will bear my name in the cookbook! Hopefully someone in the choir has access to recipes from Tulsa's past, like Pennington's Black Bottom Pie, Nelson's Chicken Fried Steak and/or Fried Fish, and the Bean Chowder served in cafeterias in Tulsa Public Schools.
At the weekly Trinity choir post-rehearsal Happy Hour at Kilkenny's, someone else suggested gathering recipes from local celebrities. We've got more than a few of them at Trinity -- our current mayor, two former mayors, a former state senator, former chair of the local Democratic Party, and the former chief of the Cherokee Nation.
Things are gearing up for the Debut Concert of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra. It's hard to believe that a week from tomorrow we'll be making our public debut. Every day we get calls asking about tickets. I took a call today from a local allergist who wanted to make a donation. I really like calls like that. :-)
Not long now until the elections. Hopefully we'll throw the Republican bums out in both the House and the Senate. My mother lives in Dennis Haster's district in Illinois, and would love to see his sorry ass booted out. Make my mother happy and donate to the campaign of John Laesch.
I also cam across this website today -- great fun for Bush haters like me! Worst T-Shirts and Gifts. Come to think of it, my mother just might like one of these for Christmas!<
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
On Sunday night, I asked Mother for a few recipes – including the recipe for the Texas Eggs she made every Epiphany for the choir brunch she hosted at our house. (This was her way of thanking the St. Mark's choristers for their hard work over Advent and Christmas.) Mother seemed a bit surprised, since this recipe includes a can of cream of mushroom soup.
I told her to send it anyway. The eggs were good (we never had any leftovers) and there’s a good story attached to them, as well. I asked Mother for several other recipes that I remember throughout the years.
But not the Bloody Mary punchbowl that was part of the Epiphany brunch. There was no recipe for that – Mother just poured vodka, tomato juice & added her spices. Everyone liked it, including the rector – there was never any left over.
And the rector presided over the punch bowl! That was an inside joke at St. Marks for years.
Yes, the Trinity Choir is definitely going to England in August! Casey has been working with a tour company that specializes in these trips. We’ll spend a week at Ely Cathedral, singing Evensong and a Sunday morning Eucharist. We are also slated to sing Evensong or Eucharist at York Minster, Lincoln Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral. We’ll be spending a couple of days in London, as well – and we’ll be there during the Proms at Royal Albert Hall!
Mother will definitely be joining us on the trip. Deep down I knew she was going to come along by hook or crook, but I didn’t breathe easy until she informed me she had sent in her deposit check. Mother was concerned about her ears and the long flight. Her doctor told her about a treatment that can help Mother handle the pressurized cabin on the flight, and Mother’s cousin gave her some hints on how to handle the long trans-Atlantic flight.
Mary Matthews, the widow of Trinity’s former organist/choirmaster Dr. Thomas Matthews (the much-beloved OCM, not Mr. Please Do Not Consider Me To Be Your Friend) informed me that her daughter, Sarah, will also be joining us. Mary’s positively thrilled – and so am I. Sarah’s a lot of fun to be with – and she’s a good singer, too (to put it mildly). We’ll have a good group on tour!
Last night I had a good conversation with my sister. Matthew, her son (and my godson) is being a typical six year old boy – hard to get him to bed on school night! Already he knows every trick in the book to delay bedtime. John (Ruth’s husband) then has to deal with getting a sleepy, cranky kid to school the next morning, since Ruth has to leave early for work. Fortunately, Matthew is really enjoying school.
Back to the cookbook – I welcome your recipes! Now, if anyone has any cucumber sandwich recipes out there, they would be most appropriate for a cookbook put out by an Episcopal church choir!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Had an interesting conversation with Marc, our principal bass & librarian. He asked about listing string players alphabetically in the program. I told him I was all in favor. I'm frankly not a fan of the outdated hierarchy system in the string section, and I much prefer the revolving string section so musicians aren't stimagtized by years on the last desk. About 20 years ago in the former Philharmonic our music director at the time pondered switching to revolving string section seating. Boy, did he get blasted by some musicians! (Mainly long-time players who happened to occupy some of the higher positions.) Some string players get very territorial when it comes to their seating, to say the least.
My thoughts? If revolving string section seating is good enough for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, then it's good enough for the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra.
Oh, check out Stacey's Panic Room from fellow Bush-hating Episcopalian Stacey. This is such a funny, smart, blog!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
On October 8 I attended St. Paul's, which I customarily attend while in Fayetteville. I was entertained by the bumper stickers I saw in the parking lot before the service-so much so that I decided to write them down:
- What would Scooby do?
- What if the Hokey-Pokey is really what it's all about?
- I Miss Bill
- Remember In November
- Another family for peace
- (Peace sign)
- Keep Fayetteville Funky
I'm not sure what the last one was all about, but if I remember correctly, I think it had to do with a local initiative to encourage artists to remain in and relocate to Fayetteville.
At the Eucharist I paid attention to their rector, Rev. Lowell Grisham, who was celebrant. I have long admired Fr. Grisham for his liturgical skills (I always enjoy the broad-high church liturgy of St. Paul's), his excellent preaching skills (lectionary-based, and applicable to contemporary life), his ability to speak prophetically (an unabashed progressive, he's not afraid to speak out on controversial issues), and his sense of humor. Plus, I know he is much beloved by St. Paul's parishioners. Anyhow, given my dissatisfaction with my own rector, I thought I'd pay attention to why Fr. Grisham appears to be so successful at St. Paul's. I noticed in the processional how he made eye contact with parishioners, but not so much as to be disruptive. Very subtle, but I could see how parishioners were made to feel that they were "home." When conducting the liturgy, Fr. Grisham was truly praying, as opposed to rattling off words by rote from the BCP. When Fr. Grisham gave the announcements, the word that came to mind was "engaging." (In all fairness, I think of "engaging" every time Fr. Joseph gives the announcements at Trinity.) And at the conclusion of the service, Fr. Grisham warmly and sincerely greeted me. Maybe someday Trinity will have a rector with the above attribute-one can always hope!
One brief word for a commercial: While at St. Paul's I purchased a bag of Bishop's Blend coffee for the office. Bishop's Blend is Certified Fair Trade, organic, shade-grown coffee from Central America and Indonesia, plus they received the Better Business Bureau Award in 2004. Not only all that, but every purchase helps support Episcopal Relief and Development, a wonderful organization that provides emergency assistance worldwide.
On Sunday I got good news-my mother has decided to join us on the Trinity choir tour to England next August! She had been concerned about the long flight to England, as well as walking (due to her arthritis). Evidently she's been assured her concerns are all manageable, so she sent in her deposit check to Casey. I'm thrilled she'll be going. I know this is something she's wanted to do her whole life, and I'd hate for her to miss out.
Well, it's now about 6:20 pm Tulsa time as I write this. I need to get home to do the laundry - one of my favorite chores - NOT!
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
For those of you unfamiliar with this opera, I encourage you to find a recording of the opera. It’s one of the most beautiful ever written (and one of the most enjoyable to play). I don’t have a particular recommendation as to which recording – perhaps someone will chime in with a recommendation in the comments section.
Or, you might want to contact one of the staff members at Tulsa Opera to give you a recommendation.
On the office front, I’m having a frustrating time trying to field an orchestra for a local church’s Christmas concert. Just about every church in town is scheduling stuff – on top of The Nutcracker and other holiday entertainment. This church’s music director contacted me at least one month after the other big churches in town had already committed musicians for their concerts. Then, last week, he informed me he was no longer employed at his church. So, I contacted the musicians I had already hired to let them know the gig had fallen through (in hopes they might be able to pick up some other work). Then on Monday, I got another call from the music director saying he’d managed to work things out and was back at the church.
So, I’m trying to get caught up by about 1-2 months now…
I spoke with my sister in Maryland last night. Her son (my nephew and godson) has just started kindergarten. Ruth told me that Matthew already has homework. At least Ruth is working with Matthew on his homework, which is probably the teacher’s rationale, come to think of it (parents being involved in their children’s education). I’m happy to hear that Matthew likes school and is making new friends. Ruth is happy that Matthew now has more contact with children his own age, since the children in his neighborhood are mostly older kids. Matthew’s already had two “girlfriends” – sheesh!
Ruth was quite upset at the Amish school shooting in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She has traveled to that area to purchase organic meat and dairy products from Amish farmers, and is very fond of the Amish. Now we hear of the goons (that’s what they are, folks) from Westboro Baptist “Church” in Topeka, KS planning to show up with their vile hate signs and create further grief for the people who’ve already been through so much. As my ex-boyfriend would say, “There’s sickness everywhere.”
I just wonder if the Fred Phelps goons ever really read their Bible. God doesn’t hate anybody – God loves everyone. Even the Fred Phelps gang.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Well, it’s been over a year since I posted. Things have changed dramatically. Concerning the title of this blog, there’s been some good news. A new full-time professional orchestra – the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra (http://www.tulsasymphony.org/) – has been organized. We’ve planned a season of six concerts, we’re partnering with other Tulsa arts organizations, we’re raising money, and we’re gearing up to do a massive mailing announcing our premier season. In short – we have a real orchestra in Tulsa! At last!
Best news – I’m working full time for TSO! I’ve been at my new job for about six weeks now. I was approached about doing grantwriting back in March or so. At the time, I put this off, since the upcoming months were a crucial time for grantwriting at my then-employer. Well, things started getting difficult with my supervisor at the Housing Authority. I concluded my supervisor may have been laying the groundwork to push me out. She was setting me up for failure by an excessive workload, no assistance, failing to respond to requests for information, deadlines continually being moved up, nitpicking work to death, and increasingly hostile (to the point of being downright nasty) e-mails – one message going so far as to threaten a write-up. I knew I wasn’t incompetent – as a matter of fact, my previous supervisor had given me consistently favorable performance appraisals. Nevertheless, I also saw the writing on the wall – Robin wanted to get rid of me and put in someone of her own choosing. There was an opportunity for me to move on – Dr. Frank Letcher, the retired neurosurgeon who founded TSO had expressed interest in bringing me on board. Therefore, I decided to “get while the getting was good,” as they say.
More on my ex-boss later – in another post! Suffice it to say that things got even more interesting after I left…
What’s it like working for a symphony orchestra in its infancy? Pretty interesting! There are the inevitable bumps in the road that go along with any start-ups, but the successes are outweighing the negatives. As of today, we’ve accompanied Tulsa Ballet Theater in a highly successful run of Carmina Burana (to the Carl Orff secular oratorio, choreographed by TBT’s own Ma Cong) and Serenade (George Balanchine’s first American ballet, to the wonderful and sadly under-performed Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings). Jim Watts’ review in the Tulsa World included kudos for the orchestra. Our conductor, Carmen DeLeone (music director for the Cincinnati Ballet) gave high praise for the orchestra. Nevertheless, the heartfelt cheers from the audience as we took our bows after each performance said it best – as well as the comments from parishioners following the Saturday night performance.
Tickets are going very fast, too. We’ve sold in excess of 700 tickets – and this was before any formal marketing campaign got underway! At times, our phone lines have been overloaded with people wanting to buy tickets. Numerous times, after I’ve answered the phone “Tulsa Symphony Orchestra” I’ve heard responses along the lines of “It’s so good to hear that!”
Tulsans are hungry for a professional symphony orchestra. To use an old cliché, the stars are in alignment. It won’t be easy – those things that are of high quality and are truly worth having never come easily – but it will happen. It is happening. And we will not be stopped.
As far as other matters – I’ve been doing some traveling lately! In late August, I went on an Alaska Inner Passage cruise with my mother, and spent two days post-cruise in Seattle. More on the cruise later -- I hope to post pictures as well. And there’s more travel to come! Next summer the Trinity Choir is slated to do a 12-day tour to England. We’ll be singing Evensong and Eucharist at a number of cathedrals, including Ely, Lincoln and York (I think). I’ve never been to England before, so to say I’m looking forward to this trip would be the understatement of the century!
Well, I’m going to have to make a personal discipline of making regular entries to my blog. I’ve lately seen the blog, AKMA’s Random Thoughts, http://akma.disseminary.org/ of Rev. A. K. M. Adam, professor of New Testament at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and an assisting priest at the wonderful St. Luke’s Parish in Evanston, IL (http://www.stlukesevanston.org/) I’ve also been enjoying the morning meditations on the Daily Office lectionary posted by Rev. Lowell Grisham, the outstanding rector of St. Paul’s, Fayetteville, AR. Fr. Grisham’s meditations can be found at http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id132.html.
I commend both blogs to you – spiritual sustenance offered by two of the best priests (IMHO) in the Episcopal Church today!
Now, I’ve got to think of a new title for my own blog…