happy happy


I shiver down to breakfast in the Hotel Mercure in Salzburg, the land of Mozart. (Poor old Mozart, from whom they have wrung Mozart perfume and mobile telephone rings.) It is eight degrees, quite a shock from the thirty at home, and I have, as always, packed the wrong clothes. It is hosing down with icy rain and I am wearing Birkenstock sandals. At the buffet, Bircher muesli is the only healthy option and I order a cappucino from the bar. The cereal is over-sweet and the coffee mediocre. I am fumbling with having to speak at all first thing in the morning, let alone in two foreign languages -

"Gruss Jour";"Bongott";" Haben si gut dormiert?";" Je voudrais gerne eine caffé boiren"...

- when suddenly everything begins to rattle and shake. Glasses teeter on table edges, six-seed rolls tremble and whirlpools appear as if from nowhere in coffee cups........ The singers have arrived! Their booming salutations ring like giants through the room rendering our small talk insignificant. The aerobics class for the four prize larynx', with its timbre and acoustic testing on "Pass the milk" (How deep in my belly can I feel it? Are my nostrils vibrating perfectly?....), has begun and the waitresses quake to their milky alpine core. What a hell it must be to live inside your instrument!

Five minutes is about as much as I can take this early in the day so I return to my room with a schwarzbrot and sausage lunch wrapped in a napkin to attempt a loving kindness meditation on divas.

Later, we work our way through Handel's glorious score. We are asked by the Maestro to play arias about tender love like a huge Salzburger Knockel; he invites us to have a token titter about the aria called 'free and gay' at his expense ("It's a good thing", he adds) and, since sheep must always appear in Handel somewhere, he produces an on the spot woolly lollop on his rostrum to illustrate the bass line he is searching for ( "you know - like the end of the arte program"). The 'happy happy' aria, with it's stream of finger-twisting quavers will hopefully be happier in the concert once we have learned the notes.....

We arrive at the fugue, and the bass, the indomitable Alan Ewing, enters softly from right behind me. I am trying not to push the sexual metaphor here, but his voice actually does pour into my ribcage like schlagsahne, lubricating my insides, and it's celtic ring actually does inject golden decibels into my soul like royal jelly... The tears come at last - a crystal fountain released from within. Any breakfast annoyance is, naturally, instantly replaced by adoration.

The next evening we share this moving tale of Galitea's grief (and, as far as I understand it so far and I may be wrong, consequent transformation by a toad into a fountain....?) with 2400 music loving dirndles (yes they even make them in Indian silk check) and lederhosen in the Grosses Festspielhaus. It is electric: The happy quavers fly, gay crotchets bop, grief-stricken minims wail. We have a standing ovation. The Maestro holds up the score in the age-old tradition of conductors and Handel takes his much merited bow with us.


...to attempt a loving kindness meditation on divas.This is the best laugh that I've had today. I also love the imagery of singers living inside their instruments. When I'm singing a lot, I love that intimate connection, a sense of oneness, between my voice and my self. (Not so much fun when I'm out of practice, and my voice feels like a separate thing.) I feel that connection with my violin as well, but it's more complicated, and more fleeting.

I, too, would love a copy of your "loving kindness meditation on divas" ... we have plenty of them in the church, too! It would be fantastic if you could get an audio thing going on your blog, so we could actually listen to pieces of your performances ... but that is probably a copyright issue.

Lovely.I soar with you. Vicarious as ever.

You know that sexy response you had to Alan Ewing's singing? Well, the thing about living inside your instrument is that you can have all those kinds of feelings on your own, and then when you duet, it's intensified (in a way that being accompanied by an instrument doesn't achieve), and good small ensemble singing... well, I can't say whether it's like group sex because I've only done one and not the other, but when it goes well it feels like I imagine good group sex would feel. I played instruments but couldn't get on with any of them (wind instruments were best, probably because they're nearest to singing) - I didn't like the separation, the inanimateness - I couldn't feel the instrument's vibrations well enough to get in harmony with it. When I sang this wasn't a problem. I can see how the loud speaking voices of trained singers would be hell for other people to live around. Or, maybe I should say, I've been told.Oops, I appear to have come out!!! (But it's not much of a revelation as I haven't sung for years and years.)I loved this post. I so enjoy the way you look at things. And, yes, the vicarious pleasure of your musical descriptions.

zinnia you are an ex diva!!! you know what they say - lapsed catholics are always the worst....(and of course singing is the ultimate!)

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