Saturday, October 23, 2010

Laziness hurts, tenors, and freedom

Bad things can happen when you're lazy or, at least, good things don't happen.

I came very close to seeing one of my favorite singers sing live today. Because it was the holiday (October 23rd, commemoration of the 1956 uprising, HUGE national holiday -- one of three - I wrote about Szt. Istvan Nap in August... March 15 is the other) there were various commemorative events and such around town. I had been planning to go see what things were like by the Parliament this afternoon but ended up putzing around on the computer instead. My "compromise" was to have MTV (Magyar Televisio... lol not American MTV) turned on. As I was on facebook or something similar and half-listening, I suddenly heard a very familiar sounding voice. They were broadcasting live from outside the Parliament and Dolhai Attila was singing. Why was I so lazy?!?!

Dolhai Attila is pretty high on the list of my favorite singers (especially of those I've not met -- a bunch are people I've worked with at GGO). He's a Hungarian musical theatre/operetta singer who I've loved for nearly 5 years since I discovered Romeo es Julia (the Hungarian translation of the French rock opera of Romeo and Juliet). It also doesn't hurt that he's gorgeous :) Sheesh... Hungarian guys with curly hair, what can I say? He is also the first person to put a crack in my tenor dislike.

I've never really liked tenors. Jokes like "Barbershop quartet: three men and a tenor" pretty well describe the way I felt about them. Of course I appreciated them in a SATB group or as necessary in opera, etc, but I would never choose to listen to a tenor. Especially not over a bass or baritone. Attila started to change this. First it was just him. Then, slowly the list of singers I "forgave for being tenors" or "liked in spite of their being tenors" started growing. Each year at Glimmerglass I would meet one or two tenors with voices that were simply amazing. (This isn't to say they were the only great people I've worked with... just that there have always been one or two tenors that really stood out despite my general dislike.) On the other hand, there were people I was also exposed to (or maybe subjected to is better... or tortured with could work as well) that firmly supported my dislike.

Despite the crazies, my wall of tenor-dislike was beginning to crumble. I've come to accept that there are two types of tenor voices. The "oh dear God in Heaven, please stop your screeching, you sound like a dying moose and I want to rip my eardrums out" type and the "I could kill you with my voice and you would LIKE it" variety. Finally, this summer, it all came together. Although it was difficult, I slowly had to admit to myself, then to some close friends, and now, through this blog, that, yes, I like tenors.

Phew! There - I've said it. I like tenors. Not all tenors to be sure and there will always be some people who I just can't listen to, but I'm done writing off a singer just because he's a tenor.

Back to this afternoon. When I heart Attila on the TV, I was suddenly filled with such regret that I had been so lazy. Because I had an hour before Mass, I left my apartment and went over to the Parliament for a little while. Of course, Attila was long done singing, but I had hardly gotten there when another singer started. I was pretty proud of myself for being able to identify the piece in the first few measures. It was "Hazam, hazam" (My homeland, my homeland), which is arguably the most famous Hungarian operatic aria and also popular as a patriotic song. From Bank Ban by Ferenc Erkel, it is sung by Bank (the husband of Melinda - if you've heard the Hungarian arias I've done) who, believe it or not, is a tenor. I'm not sure who the tenor was, my guess is whoever is playing Bank in the National Opera's new production which opens next month, but he definitely gave me chills. Must get tickets soon.

After the aria, the new prime minister, Viktor Orban, gave a speech retelling the story of the uprising. Although I couldn't understand everything, I did get a bunch. It was really moving to just be there with so many people who lived through it, had family that lived through it, or even just remember what Hungary was like up until 20 years ago. It's crazy to think that people my age, weren't born into a free country. I really don't think anyone who hasn't lived in an oppressed country can appreciate freedom the way people here can. Seeing the commemorative flags with a huge hole in the middle (the protesters had cut out the communist coat of arms) hanging from the parliament, all the people with flag pins (many with a hole) or red, white, and green rosettes, the facial expressions of some of the little old ladies in the crowd at the Parliament, and the video I watched earlier with pictures of Budapest now(ish) and in 1956 juxtaposed spoke volumes. Very much a "this must NEVER happen again" type of commemoration.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Defining me

One of the things that comes up at the Bible Study I've gone to the past two weeks is the definition of the key words for the day. On the way home, I started thinking about definitions and defining things.

According to, the verb "to define" means:
1. to state or set forth the meaning of (a word, phrase, etc.): They disagreed on how to define “liberal.”
2. to explain or identify the nature or essential qualities of; describe: to define judicial functions.
3. to fix or lay down definitely; specify distinctly: to define one's responsibilities.
4. to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of: to define property with stakes.
5. to make clear the outline or form of: The roof was boldly defined against the sky.

How do we decide what defines us? How do we know if others define us in the same way? Why do we let inconsequential or, at best, minor things define the way we see ourselves? Why are relationships one of the key things we place in our definitions? This is something I really struggle with. I logically know that there is no sign above my head stating "This is Rose. She has been single for 6 years. Her one and only ex-boyfriend is gay. She's 23 years old and has never been kissed.. even, on the cheek, by a guy she is not related to (European greetings excepted)" but I still often feel that is a huge part of my "definition."

The problem is, I forget that it's not my job to define myself. That was taken care of long ago by the One who created both me and the very concept of definitions. And the way He defines me is vastly different. It reads more like, "This is Rose. She is my daughter and I love her. She is created in My image so anything you use to define her (or she tries to define herself with) carries over to Me. No matter what she may do or experience or anything else in her life, she is Mine. Because of that, she is precious and I will never leave her and she could never do anything to make Me love her less."

Wouldn't our definitions be so much better if we would leave them to the One who writes them best!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Assorted rambling thoughts

I've officially lost my heart in Budapest. Well, to be completely honest, in Pomaz. "My" kids at the kindy are absolutely adorable. Yes, we have a few that cause problems but even those can be very sweet when they want to be. I am one of the English teachers for the Happy Owls group at Treasure (I think that's the translation) Kindergarten. The Happy Owls is the youngest group consisting of eight kids who are 2-2.5 (technically the 2 year-olds aren't allowed but I don't know the full story because they are there). Six of the kids came in with no English knowledge, one is being raised bilingually by her parents, and the eighth has had some exposure but I'm not sure how. This kindergarten just opened this year with about 30 kids in three groups. That is MUCH smaller than Daisy Kindergarten, the Foundation's other kindergarten, where I worked five years ago. At Daisy, there are more than 20 kids in each group. I can't imagine having 20 of the kids I work with now... eight is enough to handle at the moment. There will be more posts about work/kindergarten/the kids/the (crazy) parents in the future, but I've got some other random updates.

At the beginning of daily Mass this evening, the priest started talking about something apparently pretty serious. I wasn't paying particular attention but it sounded like someone had died. We continued with the Mass and at the prayers of the faithful the priest prayed for something related or so it sounded. I was wracking my brain wondering if this was something I should know about or if there was some recent tragedy I'd missed. Finally, when we stood for the final hymn, the first few notes of the introduction to the Himnusz (Hungarian National Anthem) put the pieces together. October 6th is a day of remembrance for "The 13 Martyrs of Arad" who stood up for a parliamentary government and were executed by the Austrians in 1849. Once I realized, I felt pretty silly because not only had I gotten an email about an event at school today, there was a display at school which I had recognized for the day. Oh well... at least it wasn't something like October 23rd or March 15 (two of the three major Hungarian national holidays... on the level of the 4th of July).

Speaking of the Himnusz, I've known it for years (actually sang it at my high school senior recital) but hadn't had any reason to sing it recently. However, I've definitely heard it lately. The 7th grade music class had to memorize it, so I heard all their rehearsals in class and then the singing tests. Knowing the words and being able to sing it in Mass tonight gave me another reason to know other national anthems. When the students were learning the Himnusz, I was teaching about the 4 anthems of the USA, Britain, Australia, and Canada. Some of the students complained about how it was crazy to learn about other national anthems (they didn't have to memorize them, just learn about them). We discussed some reasons in class - the beauty of being able to understand what they say... the complaining was in Hungarian but I was able to address it when I started teaching. These reasons mostly involved respecting the other countries and the respect that their citizens give to the national anthems. Tonight I had another reason, so that when you are at church (or any other public event) on the day of a national holiday/day of remembrance you know the words and can sing with everyone else. Take that, 7th grade!

Oh, 7th grade. After English class today, I am pretty sure that if you shaved their heads at least a couple of them would have 666 tattooed there. They were wild, unwilling to do the assignment, one student refused to do basically anything besides disrupt the class. I, for the second time in my life, wish I had been an ed major at SHU (the first was after hearing reports of the way a particular teacher gave a lesson on giving detailed instructions :-) haha). Yes, I know that much of what they learn isn't particularly useful for teaching music, but general classroom management principles would be really helpful. As it is, I'm learning this teaching thing as I go along.

Even if I had had ed classes in school, they still wouldn't have prepared me for some of the cultural differences. I ran into one of those during the Year 6 music class today. We were writing the solfege for a Halloween song in dminor. After the class, my coteacher came up to me and told me it was entirely wrong. Apparently, they don't use relative minors with solfege. I was "wrong" because I had started the song (in d minor) with d as do. What an idea! Evidently, the "correct" way to do it is only to use the solfege for Fmajor (so in a relative minor the first note of the scale is "la") ... because that's not confusing or anything. Anyway, while I would debate the "correctness" of starting on do rather than la, looking back, I was still wrong because in my hurry to write the solfege in (she suggested I do the song about 30 minutes before the class), I had forgotten to use te, le, and me. Oops. Kids, if you don't get into the Liszt Academy because your inept music teacher in Year 6 screwed things up, don't blame me... you have 6 more years to have someone correct it - HAHA! Oh well, live and learn.

Things that I have been living and learning - if I don't get enough sleep, I'm really cranky the next day. Since I have to be at work before 8am and it takes about an hour to get there and I need "wake up time" so I am coherent, my alarm goes off at 5:30am 3-4 days a week. That means, to get 8 hours of sleep, I aim for bed around 9:30... talk about feeling old. Well, that time is fast approaching so I'd better sign off. Hopefully, next time I'll have more stories that don't involve me being a fool :) At least I can laugh about it!