Sunday, August 2, 2009

Scrapbooking and Singing

There is a lesson learned from the time I have spent trying to make scrapbooks that is going to be helpful in deciding what to do with my singing.

When I first learned that I loved to scrapbook, I went a little crazy with my new hobby. I slammed full speed ahead into this past time with visions of shelves and shelves of beautifully decorated albums loaded with stories and memories of our family life together that would be read by my grandchildren and even their grandchildren.

I plunged headfirst into this hobby.I bought excessive supplies, tried excessive techniques, and spent excessive time adhering precious photos to pages, decorating them and writing their stories.

After my total immersion into this most enjoyable pursuit, without really coming up for much air, or to even stop and think, I finally came to my senses and took a good hard look at what I was doing.

I had made a few albums, but they were not to my satisfaction. One of them, the first one, was randomly arranged, in no particular order, and had blank pages in between carefully crafted layouts. I didn't know what to do, really, with those blank pages. They looked kind of weird, and broke up the flow of the album and the story, but I just left them there.

I also had the problem that I sometimes spent three hours working on a page that had three photographs on it. The page came out gorgeous, was beautifully embellished with hand-designed and hand-cut lettering, and was so satisfying to work on and produce, but ...

At a certain point, I woke up. I glanced over at the collection of more than 8000 photographs I had at the time, and I looked at those three photos on my masterpiece page, and I started to do the math.

Without even calculating it out yourself, I'm sure many of you can see immediately what I hadn't been able to "see" while immersed in my enthusiasm: that I was not even making a dent in my photograph collection, nor would I be able to in my lifetime should I proceed as I had been. Instead of leaving the story of one's family's adventure together for future generations, my grandchildren would find "Grandma's Few Pretty Pages."

I needed a plan, and I had to get real. I had to decide, from all the possibilities, what was important to me, and start making some choices. What my overall objective going to be was important to decide, so I could figure out how to best use the time.

Well, the same thing is happening right now with singing. I am 48 years old, and I have been told by some reliable advisers that it is possible to still get out there and do a little "significant" solo singing somehow somewhere. But, like the scrap booking, I have to do the math, and figure out exactly what I want to be doing with the limited time that I have.

I just spent an intoxicating and wonderful week being a student again. I took a class in Baroque Ornamentation with Dr. Julianne Baird over at Westminster Choir School. The students enrolled in the class were extraordinary and committed. The instructor was extremely knowledgeable, and had a brilliant way of connecting the work the students were doing with that knowledge. The atmosphere in the class was intense and enlightening. I felt like I was in a corner of a kind of musical heaven.

Yet, despite a natural curiosity and interest in the subject matter, I have realized afterward that it was a total indulgence for me. As great as it would be to creep and crawl into all the corners of music history, style, form, theory, genre, etc... it something that I simply don't have time for right now if I want to get some singing done.

My voice is a dramatic voice, and even if I did want to take a baroque piece and spend all those hours ornamenting it and spend months getting a dramatic voice to perform the ornaments in the style that is recommended right now(which CAN be done), I have to sit back and acknowledge the reality that if I want to get out there and do some singing that is right for me in the "little" time I have left, then this is probably not the way I should be spending my time.

I just realized something as I was writing this. There has been a theme going about my relationship with "decorating" things. My blog from a few weeks ago was about decorating cookies. My blog today is about decorating scrapbooks. And the class I just took was all about decorating music. I have been exploring the conflict within me between the person who admires and enjoys decoration, but is dismayed by the amount of time that it takes to indulge in decoration. I think that I have been learning that I prefer simplicity. Basic, truthful, and unadorned simplicity. This knowledge of self is a starting place.

Like working on the fancy scrapbook page. As fun as it is, and maybe I could do a three-hour page now and again, the final effect of what I want to produce is not served by this approach. I will have to decide what is important and work toward that end in a focused and intelligent way.

We ALL have limited time. Even young people, though they may not fully realize it. It can actually be calculated out, assuming no tragedy, and making a reasonable plan that you might live to be 80 years old. Taking time to stop and think about where to focus one's efforts can be a very wise move.

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