As I wrote, I won’t be posting daily, but I will post every so often.

Gibbons: This is the Record of John

Sung by the Maxim Family as part of the Advent Carol Service from Great Malvern Priory 29 November 2020

I won’t be posting daily, but I will definitely attempt to post on Sundays, and I’ll put things up when I find the time to post other advent music.

Veni, Veni Emmanuel
The Gesualdo Six | Owain Park

Traditional, arranged by Philip Lawson

Recorded September 2014

The Gesualdo Six | Owain Park

Patrick Dunachie, Guy James – Countertenor
Joseph Wicks, Hiroshi Amako – Tenor
Michael Craddock – Baritone
Jonathan Pacey – Bass

Shortly after I got into San Jose Symphony (RIP) I became music librarian, and I also worked in the box office for a time. At one point the organization’s offices moved to the basement of the building pictured here. It was a windowless and rather dreary place, but I did love some of my colleagues there.

Today the building is being demolished. Some group tried to stop it, saying that it was part of the “Brutalist Period” or some such thing. They lost. So down it goes. I can’t say I’m sorry. It’s not exactly a gorgeous thing. But seeing it and thinking about those days I did have a flood of memories come pouring back, and I wonder where some of the people are that worked there way back when. I lost touch with nearly everyone.

(These photos are a bit crooked but I’m lazy and so they will just remain crooked!)

The oboe embouchure can differ from person to person. I am a “corners forward,” “flat chin,” and “less reed!” sort. If you look at videos on YouTube you will find many who play with gobs of reed in their mouth (my sound is horrible then!). I simply can’t play with what I call a “bunchy chin” yet I see others who do that. I just heard from Barry Kroeker (Hi Barry! Very nice to “meet” you.) and I’m with him on embouchure, so I’m sharing his video here.

I think those who play on a short scrape reed might do things very differently: I play, of course, on the longer, American scrape. I think this might also be the reason that you see many of us here play with our oboes closer to our bodies, while those in other countries play with their oboes further out … some nearly like trumpets. But having never played on a short scrape I’m only guessing on that.

New York Times Article

These two, Diana Doherty and Alexandre Oguey, are a married couple, playing in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. This is just a wonderful way to start my day and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The start of the video is such fun, and the music making is glorious!

I forgot that I said I would fill you in on the changes …

We have new chairs.
We have new stands.
We have new sound shields.
AND WE HAVE A NEW NAME!

I’m delighted to say we are now Symphony San Jose. (I hope they change the website soon.)

I am not a huge fan of reviews, but yes, I do check them out. Usually my heart starts pounding as I read, fearing I’ll be mentioned in a negative way. This time I can rest easy.

From Paul Hertelendy:

The beloved hit number here is the slow movement with the spiritual-like theme (later in a vocal adaptation dubbed “Goin’ Home”), rendered with exquisite poise by English hornist Patricia E. Mitchell.

And on San Francisco Classical Voice, from David Bratman:

Patricia Emerson Mitchell’s English horn solo here, vibrato-filled and emotional, was a highlight.

… and I’m honored. Truly. Thank you both.

But of course if I accept these positive and kind words, I must also accept the negative. And the ONE review I have by memory, from 1975 or 76 is this: “The Overture was marred only by the bland English horn playing.” (She was right: I had water in a key so I had to play Berlioz Roman Carnival’s English horn solo softly and not do ANYTHING with dynamics, for fear of a huge wrong note coming out. The water had completely covered the key hole and it was as if it wasn’t opening!) I don’t remember any positive reviews. Only the bad stick in my head. I know another negative one, but don’t have it by memory: we were doing Sibelius’s Swan of Tuonela and I really just couldn’t grasp the work at my young age. The reviewer wrote something like “even Patricia Mitchell wasn’t at her best” or some such thing. (He was right.)

But anyway, being back on stage was frightening for the first night’s rehearsal, but after that I felt as if I managed to find my sea legs (or I guess stage legs!) and things fell into place. The English horn felt like “mine” again … as if it was part of my body. That’s what I want. And I could do things with dynamics that I love to do.

I had mentioned somewhere (Here? I can’t remember!) that I would write about the kind words I received after rehearsals and concerts, so now I’ll ‘fess up.

First rehearsal: Some folks complimented me. I didn’t deserve it. I played “okay”, but it wasn’t really me. Not even close. So I worried. The next day I spent in a bad place as I fretted over what I felt was very under par playing.
Second rehearsal: Ahhhh … felt so much better. Compliments accepted BUT … well … I always have a “but” … if they complimented me on the first night when things weren’t good, perhaps things weren’t as good as I think for this second night?! Hm. Still, it did feel better. BUT because I was complimented fear set in: what if I disappoint these friends who had kind words for me? What if this was the only night I was happy with things? What if I do something absolutely horrendous at a performance and am entirely humiliated? (Yeah, I honestly go through all of this … it’s kind of a lose-lose situation I put myself into sometimes!)
Dress rehearsal: I played 22 notes. There was no time for more. It felt fine, but I didn’t really have a chance to figure out if it was what I wanted to do.
1st Concert: Felt great. Played as I like to play. But was it just my imagination? I received very kind compliments. OH DEAR! What if I disappoint everyone tomorrow? (Can you believe I do this to myself? One friend who used to play with us got it … she used to always come up ONLY after the final performance, because she completely understood my neurosis!)
2nd Concert: Felt even better. But again, insecure and ridiculous me wonders if I only imagined it. But I trashed those thoughts. I was happy with my playing and I know I have to hang on to that!

Yes. That is how crazy I am! I may as well be up front about it. I’ve been this way forever. There is just this constant inner conflict between the “I think I’m pretty good!” and “I’m a sham!” It’s always been that way, so I doubt it will change.

What HAS changed is that I can tell the negative voice to shut up. It still sticks around, but at least I talk back to it now. I think that’s what many of us have to do — I don’t believe I’m the only one who struggles with this. We have to acknowledge the negative voice. We have to accept that it is going to show up. But we can yell at it. We can tell ourselves that that voice is, very often, a lie. We can tell ourselves, when it’s true anyway, that we DID do a good job. And then we can go on. No matter what, we have to go on. There are more concerts to be played!

At last night’s dress rehearsal I played twenty-two notes. Granted, I don’t have a ton of notes, as I only play the English horn solo in Dvorak’s New World Symphony, but in this case I played four measures out of twenty-one. This happens sometimes, when another work simply requires more time, and I’m not complaining. Just pointing out that a dress rehearsal doesn’t always mean we run a program.

Getting back on stage (we began Wednesday night) wasn’t the emotional event I thought it would be. It really was merely “back to work”. I’m wondering if tonight’s concert will be the emotional moment. I won’t be surprised if it is. Since it’s opening weekend we play the National Anthem to begin. Normally I don’t do that if I’m not on the next work, but I want to be there for the start of our season, so I’m going to play that, and then go sit for over an hour as the orchestra plays the first half of the concert. Last night I didn’t bother to rehearse it (I don’t exactly need to, having done it so many times!), so I was in the audience and took some photos. I won’t post anything until after tonight’s opening, but we have a few changes coming … stay tuned!

I’ve enjoyed these for a while now and here is a new one:

From the YouTube page:

The Stay At Home Choir presents ‘Locus Iste’ by Gareth Malone, performed by 1500 singers from around the world, accompanied by Gareth Malone on piano and Gabriella Swallow on cello.

‘Locus Iste’ was specially written by Gareth Malone for the Stay At Home Choir to perform. This moving but optimistic piece is a new setting of a traditional Latin text used to consecrate churches: “locus iste a Deo factus est (this place was made by God)”. Written during lockdown, the song inspires us to find the sacred in our everyday spaces.

Our global choir took part in the ‘Locus Iste’ project over four weeks in April-May 2021. This final video is the culmination of online rehearsals, masterclasses, and global socials led by Gareth Malone, choirmaster Graham Bier, and Stay At Home Choir co-founders Tori Longdon and Jamie Wright.

JOIN THE STAY AT HOME CHOIR

The Stay At Home Choir is a global community of 27,000 members from 75+ countries around the world. Our mission is to make high quality music-making accessible to a worldwide community of musicians. We welcome all singers with any level of experience.

To learn more and join our next project with The Swingles, visit https://www.stayathomechoir.com.

We provide opportunities for our members to learn from, and perform with, some of the best artists in the world. We’ve collaborated with I Fagiolini, Gareth Malone, The King’s Singers, The Swingles, VOCES8, John Rutter, Marin Alsop, The Sixteen, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @stayathomechoir

SUPPORT US

Our projects are Pay-As-You-Feel and, thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters, we’ve provided hundreds of free places to those who need them.

You can support the Stay At Home Choir by donating here: