Sunday, April 6, 2014

Some singing for you to enjoy, plus a few thoughts on recent novels

I've been absent from this blog for quite a while!  It's been a wonderful and busy semester, and I'm about halfway through a nonstop month of singing, in which I have a gig of some kind every week or weekend, with more evenings taken up by rehearsals than free to work on homework.  It's the kind of return to a balanced life of research and singing that I've wanted for a while...but the problem is that leveling out singing and academic work doesn't actually mean that my life is balanced at all; it means that I have less time for my husband and less time for self-care like reading, yoga, and bicycle commuting.  It also means that when I catch a cold, like I did three days ago, it's a significant problem (and in this case meant finding a last-minute substitute to sing a wedding).

So what have I been up to?  If you want a sample of the aforementioned singing, you could take a listen to this recording of the Duke Vespers Ensemble singing Orlando di Lassso's magnificent Tears of St. Peter, found here (the concert starts around 6:30).  I'm the second soprano soloist for a lot of the movements featuring smaller forces (which puts me second from the left).  It's a phenomenal set of 21 madrigals tracing Peter's grief after he denied Christ.  Our rendition adds accompaniment by recorders and sackbutts.

I've read quite a lot of children's and young adult fiction books since my last batch of book reviews, most of which were duds but a few of which were amazing and will likely make it onto my top ten list for the year - I hope to write up a few thoughts on those soon.  In terms of adult fiction, three:

Margery Sharp's Four Gardens - a lovely book that charts a woman's path through her first disappointed love, marriage, motherhood, war, and widowhood via the framing devices of the four gardens she loves during these different periods in her life.  I'm not sure I'll ever read it again, but it was a really sweet little book.

Anne Peile's Repeat It Today With Tears - the terrifyingly captivating perspective of a young woman who seduces her father.  The novel in no way promotes incest, but the narrative does force you to understand her reasons.  I thought the first portion was darkly beautiful, but the last section dropped the ball.  Still, I was left haunted, and I continue to think about this book.

Carol Clewlow's A Woman's Guide to Adultery - apparently I was on a little bit of a dark streak, following up incest with adultery!  This novel follows a group of women who basically all have affairs with each others' significant others or family members.  There's a lot of musing on the reasons for adultery, how its participants try to justify it, and how they end up hurting each other.  For a book supposedly about relationships between men and women, there was a tremendous amount of discussion of how women treat each other and themselves.  Not a book I'll read again; pretty much everybody was an awful person.

I'm currently in the middle of Winfred Holtby's South Riding which is taking absolutely forever - three weeks in, and I'm only about halfway done - but I'm surprisingly not fretting about the length of time it's taking, because I'm loving every minute of it.  It's a superbly plotted novel, executed to perfection, and I really care about most of the characters  - it's amazing how she can make you sympathetic to both sides of political arguments and worldviews.  And poor Lydia Holly; I don't even like the girl and I'm desperate for her to have the opportunity to return to school!

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