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Sweden: semifinals part two and rehearsals for the final

I don't think I am cut out to be a full time blogger. Phew.

So... Where were we?

The second day for the semifinalists was a bit blurry for me. All performed Der Geist hilft by Bach. I do wonder what the early music folk would think. These performances highlighted the consistently beautiful sound of the choir but I do wonder if this old German music has been colored overmuch to a Swedish ideal. This ensemble was very responsive and the conductors sppeared to really enjoy the extra contact. This second session offered more insight into each conductor's temperament and priorities. There is a big benefit to those familiar with this tradition as evidenced by the choice for finalists. All three finalists led good rehearsals on complicated rep in a rehearsal that felt all too short. The Radio Choir is amazing and are completely up to the challenge. Tomorrow's concert will be very exciting. I think I would like to come back and observe more here (and I need to not chicken out -- people are offering to help). I also want to take time to absorb and digest this experience before I make more concludions about what this means I should change.

I have had some time to see the city, the old town and Skansen (sort of a Swedish living historical museum complete with zoo). I find the cast iron steeple of the Deutsche Kirche to be one of the most attractive features of the "skyline." I also enjoyed getting more insight to Sami culture and to see reindeer. I'm certainly not in LA anymore.

The fish here is delicious here by the way. I assume they don't have the same mercury problems or I might be in trouble.

I am maybe a little homesick but feel better after meeting Andreas, my sister's boyfriend's brother who lives here. We can gossip a little and I can experience a slightly more normal view of Stockholm. I have also really enjoyed meeting the other conductors both personally and professionally. I hope to stay in touch with some of them after we return home.

What else? Too many things for this platform but I'll have a lot of stories when I get hone. Miss you guys.

Sweden: Stockholm and semifinals

It has been a full day. This morning we had to pack and be ready to leave right after breakfast. Thanks to the generosity of several organizations (Gehrmans publishing, swedish music information center, and rikskonserter) my luggage is overflowing with music and recordings and even an old Eric Ericson video on DVD. I could hardly zip up my suitcase much less carry it down the stairs.

Before we left Uppsala we were given a peek into some of the manuscripts stored in the library. I need to check into the tablature notation used in some particularly the Duben collection. We also saw an early polyphonic work that Taruskin cited as an example of "Viking harmony" in his history of western music. It is inspiring to see these ancient texts and feel some connection to music lineage. It makes me want to go to Paris and see the Faure Requiem manuscripts in person all the more. This library has an impressive and unique collection. Who would have known? I want to learn more.

Today all six semifinalists conducted the same choir. They all started with Brahms Warum ist das Licht gegeben. This work reaches the deepest part of me. I can imagine how taxing it was to sing it six times (alongside all of the other repertoire no less). And it does help the observers make comparisons. Of course some things are more taste than right/wrong. I certainly appreciated the many good qualities in each person's work. I do have my favorites chosen as well as my guesses for the jury's picks, but tomorrow is another day (with another set of pieces to perform).

I did receive feedback from two of the jury. It's hard to subject myself to a stranger's assessments over something about which I care so much, but it does begin to offer a picture of the view "from the outside." I am not sure I can summarize yet withou a few more conversations and more thought but I have been reaaly surprised by what I am hearing.

What a difficult art this is and how do I love a challenge.

Sweden: quarterfinals part two

To spare you the suspense: I was not selected for the semifinals. It is a disappointment, but I try to believe the cliches. When it comes to competing, not everyone can be a winner. I do believe that these kinds of experiences offer immense opportunities alongside there challenges. These include opportunities for personal growth just as much as musical. And in that way I do feel like a winner. For being selected and having most of this trip funded by the competition, by being exposed to new and challenging repertoire, by meeting many talented musicians from around the world. But still... I'm disappointed.

Last night was another sleepless in Sweden story. Considering the late hour here I trust I may have more luck tonight. I got in the smallest amount of sightseeing today: the huge church in the town center (with its new blue and yellow organ) and a few ancient manuscripts in the university library (including music by Mozart and the very unique "silver Bible").

Today I conducted Sven-Eric Back's Natten ar framskriden and Wikander's Forvarskvall. Both appear to be staples of the Swedish repertoire. All told I felt more comfortable today (though was taken aback to discover that we were working from different editions - theirs with no measure numbers and different pages - ah well). The repertoire is more straightforward, and I felt more comfortable asserting myself. I can imagine at least some of the judges' comments, but I really had fun making music. Forvarskvall depicts a Swedish spring evening and the beautiful snow covered landscape. What a treat to be serenaded by this young charming group.

It took the jury 1.5 hours to deliberate. I know this could not be easy on them. How difficult it is to be objectively measuring something so subjective. Personaaly I just want to think I've grown in the 6 years since I was last here. I do begin to realize that this is for me to decide. And I know my journey does not end here.

Sweden: quarterfinal part 1

What a strange day... I ended up waking up around 12:30 this morning and not being able to fall asleep again until nearly 5. When my alarm went off at 8:30 I barely had a coherent thought in my head. I considered skipping breakfast but couldn't go back to sleep. I guess this is what they call jet lag... So I got visit with a few other participants and one of the organizers. From this I learned that they are closing the Swedish choral center, riksconcerter, due to a withdrawal of government funding. How sad. I guess I had assumed European arts organization had funding as a matter of course. Helen said that other organizations would pick up the responsibilities, but they certainly had been the central organizers of this competition.

They held the opening meet and greet last night. I have realized that I had already met two participants in Vienna (and two judges, one when i was here in 2003 and one when I auditioned at her school in 2000). But for some reason I was a little shy. We were introduced to everyone formally in the middle of the festivities for the drawing. So of the 14 pieces for the quarterfinal everyone conducts 4, two required of everyone and two drawn out of literal hats (provided proudly by Stefan Parkman).

Today I conducted Furchte dich nicht by Sven-David Sandstrom and the Trois Chansons of Jean Martinon. Neither piece has been recorded to my knowledge, and it was hard to know what to expect. I particularly had fears about both of these pieces: the extreme effects/tempi in one and the quasi-surrealist poetry of the other. And I can't really evaluate how it went. yesterday we were told to conduct only the first half of the Sandstrom, and that we should be prepared to take it under tempo. I was told, while entering the room, that the chorus was really most familiar with the second chanson and it might be best to begin with it. These were definitely adjustments. I feel a less than confident that I had the choir with me (but this does not seem to be unique to me). I basically tried to insist on only a few ideas (and only those fixable at the time and under the circumstances). We'll have to see how tomorrow goes. I'm hoping for more sleep in order to be ready for two works in Swedish.

Sweden: Uppsala--I'm here

I feel like I should begin with a disclaimer. I am writing via my new iPod touch and am not sure I'll be able to avoid errors. Plus I haven't figured out how I can review what I've written before I post, so... Reader, beware!

I'm in Uppsala after a 12 hour (maybe more) dash halfway around the world. LA to London to Stockholm to Uppsala. I almost want a prize just for that. After all that time on planes (and near crying twin infants no less) I foolishly chose public transportation to get to the hotel. Fortunately it isn't raining (though the ground is wet) as I carted my bags the half mile or so from the train station to the hotel. And to my surprise they put me on the second floor with no elevator.
Needless to say I feel like I got a workout.

The walk did give me a chance to see some fall color. It has certainly been a while. I think the LA-Sweden contrast will be pretty striking. The cobblestone streets gave me an "old city" vibe. I'll try to avoid being the inflexible American (though I am really surprised that the hotel room had only 2 hangers and no washcloth, and I had to laugh at the space age bathroom - I'll probably post pics on facebook when I get back :). I'll be okay I think, but I am eager to get the ball rolling tonight with our meeting/repertoire draw. As they say on American Idol, song choice is everything. I've got the jitters...