Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ward Thanksgiving Dinner: Four Dollars for Two Rolls

Sometimes I do silly things, like signing up to bring rolls to the ward Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night even though I don't get off work until half an hour after it starts, which means I will be an hour late by the time I get there. However, my better Betty side tells me to participate in ward events once in a while, so I signed up to bring rolls (with a note telling them I'd be an hour late).

Thus, after work on Friday I brought my two bags of King's Hawaiian rolls (delicious!) to the Institute building. Inside the gym, the tables had been pushed end to end to create one really big long table, which I thought was a fun idea. There was another long table that held the food neatly in uniform aluminum pans. Luckily, there was a lot of food left, enough that I would still be able to have a good full meal even though I was late.

But alas, it turned out it was the wrong ward. My ward was in the other gym. I think it was the bishop's wife who saw me putting the rolls down and asked what ward I was from. Turns out theirs was a catered dinner (that explained why it looked so nice), but she did offer, "You're welcome to come back if you don't like what they're having." She was a nice woman.

La la la, I traveled to the other side of the building, where round tables were cramped into half of the other gym, and two tables held the remains of what had once been standard Thanksgiving dishes. I put one bag of rolls at each table, and surveyed the slops. I guess I shouldn't call them slops. There were a few shreds of turkey left, a dollop or two of mashed potatoes, and a couple dozen various rolls, which made my two dozen seem that much more superfluous. I suppose anything but dessert would seem superfluous though, if it's an hour late.

They were just about to cut into the pies. I was not in the mood for sweets (rare, I know), so I took one of my rolls and another roll, and nibbled them from a corner, staring at nothing and contemplating what to do. It didn't take long to contemplate. After a member of the bishopric approached me to ask about a substitute organist for next week, I figured it had been noted that I appeared at the ward Thanksgiving dinner, and I left.

My Hawaiian roll was good, but that homemade crescent roll, which I ate on the way to my car, that was really good. Too bad I didn't grab two of them, eh?

Hooray for ward Thanksgiving dinners.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

To Kill A Mockingbird

I can't remember why, but I decided I should read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee again. I'd read it in high school, but honestly... the only book I actually remember from high school is Lord of the Flies, probably because it was the one most like juvenile literature. I also remember reading not just the Cliff's Notes for Pride and Prejudice, but my friend's printed-out copy of the Cliff's Notes, made more ironic because I was acting in the play at the same time yet had no idea what the heck it was about (I've since repented, and own and love both the book and the forever-long BBC DVD version).

At any rate, I picked up To Kill A Mockingbird from the library, as well as a million Sharon Creech books and some picture books. I think I went through five or six Creech books in the same time it took me to read the first fifth of Mockingbird. I enjoyed parts of it when I read, but I couldn't see the point; I felt no motivation or compulsion to keep reading. I found the plot amusing, but not gripping.

Then I talked to Olive about Mockingbird, and she didn't even say much about it, but she told me some reasons she liked it.

When I got through with all the Sharon Creech books I'd borrowed, I picked up Mockingbird again. I decided I was just going to go with it. I wasn't going to worry about plot threads or motivation or anything, I was just going to read it and enjoy it. Guess what happened? I loved it!

To Kill A Mockingbird is beautifully written. Harper Lee paints such perfect descriptions, made even better because half the time the protagonist--as narrator--doesn't even know what it is she's describing. The children are portrayed well, and in fact, so are all the characters. I mean, listen to this description of Scout's aunt's appearance: She was not fat, but solid, and she chose protective garments that drew up her bosom to giddy heights, pinched in her waist, flared out her rear, and managed to suggest that Aunt Alexandra's was once an hour-glass figure. From any angle, it was formidable.

Giddy heights? Goodness, that makes me laugh!

When I was in high school I also didn't quite make the mockingbird connection. This was probably because I read the book too fast and didn't pick up half of what I read. (I sometimes wonder that I'm a writer when I consider the things I did in my high school English classes.) This time, however, I got it. It's pretty obvious, actually, if you read at a regular pace.

I will leave you with the few lines that drew the greatest emotional response from me:

"Atticus--" said Jem bleakly.

He turned in the doorway. "What, son?"

"How could they do it, how could they?"

"I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it--seems that only children weep. Good night."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grad School

I'm going!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

First-timer’s Guide to the Symphony

I recently attended the Utah Symphony's performance of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony. Aside from the music, which was phenomenal, this small page at the end of the program booklet made me laugh. It was written by Spencer Clark, the former Communications Manager for the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera.

7:49 pm

You've arrived safely at Abravanel hall and the helpful ushers assisted you in locating your seat. Take a look around at all of these culturally-aware people. Can you believe you are one of them? You are probably starting to feel like you're better than the people outside of Abravanel Hall. You are. You've invested your money in more than mere "entertainment." You've spent it on a cultural experience that will enhance your life. Start thinking of phrases to use on Monday morning. You know, like, "Yeah, I decided to head over to the Symphony. They were playing some (insert composer) which I found enjoyable since (insert phrase from program notes)." Your associates will be compelled to look up to you now. But don't abuse this new-found respect.

8:00 pm

The orchestra is seated and warming up, and suddenly the concertmaster walks briskly onto the stage as everyone applauds. Let's not judge the concertmaster too harshly for being the last one to show up. It is far preferable that he arrive now than skulk meekly onto the scene halfway through the first piece.

8:01 pm

The concertmaster doesn't sit until he has an opportunity to play a note and tune the strings. There seems to be an understanding between the strings and the winds that the tuning must be segregated. You're entitled to your own opinion on this matter, but I still have a dream that someday the orchestra will tune together and not base their tuning on the timbre of their instruments.

8:02 pm

Now everyone is applauding as the conductor comes onstage. Don't you wish you were applauded just for showing up? I mean, imagine walking into your dentist's office and receiving such a reception. Unlike your favorite Looney Tunes episode, a real life conductor rarely raps his baton on his stand before beginning. Sorry—we do realize the baton-tapping would be much cooler.

8:05 pm

It's time to relax and enjoy… and to pull your hair out as you desperately try to assess whether applause is appropriate at any given pause. It is important to know when to applaud so that you can smile smugly at audience members who applaud at inappropriate times. Relax. There is a simple rule for applause: You can be sure it's time to clap if the conductor turns around to face you or hugs the soloist.

8:27 pm

Most guest soloists do not look anything like the photo that is inside your program. Take time to study the photo and guess how long ago it was taken. Make sure to appear to be thoughtfully reading the artist's biography when engaging in this activity.

9:00 pm

Intermission lasts about 15 minutes, so decide now if you want to stretch your legs by strolling out to the lobby, or if you would rather bask in the simple elegance of the concert hall.

9:15 pm

Now that you're back in your seat, take a look at those chandeliers overhead. They were made from 18,000 hand-crafted, Czechoslovakian crystals.

9:36 pm

The major work of the evening is underway by now, leaving you with a few choices. You could focus on the visual aspects of the performance, examining the 85-100 musicians who are pouring their souls into this work, furrowed brows and all. You could also focus on the music alone. Your last option is to reflect on the endless inequities that pervade our plodding journey through this dreary life. I suggest you stick to the first two options.

9:56 pm

As the thrilling performance ends, some people will feel obligated to give a standing ovation. If you are exceptionally impressed by what you've heard, please join them. If not, take pride in your act of dissent as you sit while applauding. Still, you've never felt more culturally in tune. You sense that you are not only better than the people outside of the hall, but most of the patrons inside as well. I hope this feeling will bring you back to enjoy the Utah Symphony again and again.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Music Committee

I'm on the music committee at church.

Actually, right now I think I am the music committee.

Our music committee chair was released in May, when she moved out of the ward. No one else was called to fill her spot. This meant that no one called me to tell me the hymns anymore (I'm the ward organist), which is not so terrible, but it is nice to have some advance warning instead of showing up and hoping I wouldn't mess up too badly. Incidentally, she returned to the ward in August, but she's since been called to something else.

We used to have a ward choir pianist, but I'm not sure we do anymore. She might have moved out too. The last two times the choir sang in church, the people who accompanied on piano were myself (asked to do so the night before) and the choir director (I think he might have been expecting me to play that week, but I didn't show up to choir rehearsal).

We have a ward chorister. I'm also not sure who that is. She wasn't at church yesterday. Thankfully, the former music chair mentioned two paragraphs ago filled in when she noticed (as I stalled in starting the opening hymn) that there was no one to conduct.

We had an assistant organist at one point, but I never actually knew who that was. When I told the bishop I needed to stop playing for a while because of my tendinitis, he asked the choir director to play, rather than the assistant organist.

And now the choir director just sent me an email saying that he moved.


I'm also the music head for Relief Society, and guess what? My pianist just moved.

We also got a new bishopric on Sunday.

This is scaring me. Why? Because a) I explained the situation to the bishopric (we need a music chair!), b) they asked me to pick the hymns for next Sunday, and c) because of a and b, the bishopric knows who I am.

Could this be premature worry? I really hope so. I'm sure there are lots of people in the ward who know how to direct a choir or pick hymns or coordinate musical numbers and those sorts of things. I enjoy my calling as organist. It's just the right amount of stress for me.

This has happened to me a few times before, actually. I move to a new place, they find out I can play the piano/organ or conduct, I get put into a decent calling like choir pianist or ward organist or choir conductor... then someone moves and Super Betty is called upon to fill in while they can call someone else (which usually doesn't happen until I move a few months later).

Hopefully in a few weeks we'll have things settled down and have a new committee chair and choir conductor and Relief Society pianist and all that. And if I happen to receive a new calling too, well... it may just be time to move.

P.S. I would not actually move to avoid a calling. Sheesh.