07 December 2011

Teaching Music

My job as a music teacher is to tell my student what is wrong with her performance, make sure she understands how to correct it, and then send her away to drill on her own, or supervised by her parents or nanny. Later, I will see her again, and find out whether her practicing has been fruitful.

My job is NOT, contrary to the opinion of the mother of my newest student, to supervise her drilling a song for half an hour. Especially not when the student is barely seven years old, is only having a few lessons to learn ONE song to sing for a special occasion, and can already sing the song perfectly. I made a decision to cut the lesson short, even though the nanny was there and I couldn't talk to the mother. Irate mother called me later and asked why I didn't give her child the full half-hour as agreed. Because I was paid to teach her one song, and she learned it! Why punish her by making her repeat it until she hates it?

Said mother also thinks that half-hour lessons are awfully short. Not for a one-on-one lesson with a small child, they're not! When you're seven, half an hour is a really long time. I'm glad that I will not be teaching this child for long, even though I could use the money. The kid is great, but the mother...yeesh!

06 December 2011

Project Vegetable, Day 2:

Breakfast: Veggie omelette (2 servings vegetables)
Lunch: French Onion Soup (1 serving vegetables)
Dinner: Chicken stir-fry (2 servings vegetables)
Dessert: Banana, peach slices and yogurt with honey (2 servings vegetables)

I tried something new in the chicken stir-fry: beet greens. I prefer to buy golden beets rather than the purple/red kind. I know they probably lack the nutrient that gives purple beets their color, but the golden ones taste the same and don't stain my fingers. The only golden beets available here are organic, and they come with long stems and leaves. I knew the leaves had to be edible, I just...wasn't sure what to do with them. So after throwing away the leaves of two bunches of beets, I decided to cook the leaves from the third batch. I just sautéed three leaves (they're pretty big) and added them to the other vegetables. They are delicious! Fairly mild, and a bit like spinach once cooked. I followed the advice of several on-line recipes and cut out the stems and cooked them first, adding the leaves once the stems had been in for a couple of minutes.

Even my husband, who eyes all unfamiliar vegetables with suspicion, gave them a try and said he'd be happy to eat them again, as long as they were mixed in with other things. Yay! Now I don't have to feel guilty about throwing away perfectly useable greens.

I also realized that the golden beets at our grocery store are sold by the bunch, not by weight. All bunches have three beets, but the beets seriously vary in size. There are some bunches with three tiny beets and some with three huge beets. So, of course, I try to buy the huge beets.

The beets themselves are for dinner tomorrow night. They and a turnip will be roasted in the oven with some pork chops. If the pork chops are defrosted in time. *sigh* Nothing seems to defrost overnight in my fridge, and I always forget to take things out earlier. Maybe we will be having bacon and pasta tomorrow night and pork chops on Thursday.

05 December 2011

Project Vegetable

I've looked over all the diets and examined how what I eat and what my husband eats relate to each other, and also what our food budget looks like (important because sometimes healthier foods cost more--sad, but true). I've figured out that the easiest thing I can do is eat more vegetables. If I eat more vegetables, I won't be so inclined to reach for desserts. I was also kind of inspired by watching a TEDx talk by a doctor who has MS talking about her vegetable regimen and what it has done for her. I'm not, at this point, going to be able to eat 9 cups (!) of vegetables a day the way she does, but I am aiming for 5 servings of vegetables and 2 of fruit per day.

Today I had vegetable quiche for breakfast. 1 serving of veg (broccoli, squash and carrot). A large salad (2 servings) and peach slices (1 serving) with lunch. Small salad (1 serving) and broccoli (1 serving) with dinner. Peach (1 serving) and yogurt for dessert. And probably a gingerbread cookie as well.

My husband keeps teasing me because I have been eyeing Paleo Diet websites, but I know I can't give up grains and starchy vegetables entirely. I couldn't do something that radical unless he went along with me, and he won't. The day he gives up eating Nutella is probably the day he dies. But I can look at websites for other kinds of diets for hints. I am fed up with looking at a lot of low-carb diet sites because so many advocate alternative sweeteners, which I'm just not going to do. There are enough chemicals in food these days as it is without deliberately seeking them out.

So begins Project Vegetable. I'll let you know how it goes!

ETA: I didn't have peach slices and yogurt for dessert last night. I had a banana-Nutella milkshake. It was delicious.

03 December 2011

The Chant Guerrilla

Today, for the first time in a year, I helped plan the music for a Mass as well as execute it. It was a retreat day, with a visiting priest whom we know and who is fond of chant. We knew we'd never be able to get away with a chant-only Mass, but we did the best we could. We sang an actual Graduale Romanum chant, the Kyrie was chanted, the Psalm used an actual chant psalm-tone for the verses, and the Introit was a Proper text in camouflage. We waited until the last possible moment to tell anybody what the music for the Mass was going to be. We were like Gregorian guerrillas, firing off a few surprise rounds and then disappearing back into the forest. And you know what? We made a couple of hits.

Being First Saturday, we had a Votive Mass for the Blessed Virgin.

For the introit, we sang the hymnodized version from "Introit Hymns" by Christopher Tzietze. When we bought that book, I didn't think we'd ever actually use it. But here we are. I don't like a lot of the hymn tunes chosen for that book, but this particular one was set to the tune of "The Angel Gabriel Came Down," which is cute and seasonally-appropriate

Psalm was the Magnificat, in a setting from the Chabanel site (of course). The Ordinaries were from the Mass of St. Frances Cabrini, which was chosen as the setting for all diocesan liturgies, and we've been using it in our parish since September. It's one of the few things that all the parish musicians, guitar-lovers and chanty-types alike agree on: we all dislike it. Oh well. It could have been worse.

Offertory hymn was "The God Whom Earth and Sea and Sky." A nod to using the parish hymnals, but as solid a hymn as you could choose: a translation of a 7th century text, with a 17th-century melody harmonized by Bach. And although it's not a proper text, it does at least say all the same things as the Offertory options from the Common of the Blessed Virgin. Finally, for Communion, I sang the actual Graduale chant, Ecce virgo concipiet. It felt SO GOOD to sing that.

I have to share what one of the congregants said to me about the Communion chant. "It was beautiful and peaceful and so meditative to be able to receive without being expected to sing, without all the clutter of trying to prepare and also find the page in the hymnal. And if I hadn't experienced hearing the chant, I never would have realized that the other way was clutter."

You should have seen her face when I told her that the parish Liturgist didn't want me to sing that chant. Not that he voiced his displeasure to me; he took it out on the lovely lady who organized the retreat day, who didn't have anything to do with the music other than asking us to plan it. She told us about it later. I don't think the Liturgist would ever confront me. I suspect he is secretly a little afraid of me. If he weren't, he probably would have asked me long ago not to wear a veil when I am a cantor and not to kneel at Communion, or told me off when I refused to announce the hymns at a funeral because the words and music were all in the worship aids anyway. But he didn't do those things. When I said I wasn't going to announce the hymns, he just said "Ok" and scurried away. Ha!

The Liturgist is a menace. I'm not sure if he's worse than the Business Manager, but they both need to go. We're losing one of the best staff members because of their behavior, and the parish will lose three more as soon as other jobs can be found. People are refusing to pony up their pledged money for the new building project because everything has been so mismanaged. The place is falling apart, and it could be fixed so easily. The pastor could fire the Business Manager, Liturgist, and Music Director. He could hire an accountant, a part-time sacristan, and a secretary for the other two music staff and save the parish tens of thousands of dollars and a lot of grief. But he won't. He'll just watch the rest of the staff leave, and be sorry to see them go but not in a hurry to rectify the problems that are causing them to leave. He's a good priest, but an awful manager, and it's sad. He could take some lessons from his parochial vicar, a take-no-prisoners type who might run over some toes but would ultimately have a tightly-run ship that better fulfilled the spiritual needs of the parishioners. I guess they all need prayers.

I hope some of the people who heard our music today will go to the pastor, write to the music department and to the Liturgist and tell them how much they liked it, and exactly WHY it was so great.