Posts Tagged ‘Dallas Symphony Chorus’

Please be advised that the taking of photos inside Carnegie Hall is strictly forbidden, even during rehearsals, so I have no idea where this came from.

View from the stage at Carnegie Hall

The fact this is the view from my seat on the stage is a cosmic coincidence.

And yes, by the way, that round thing in the middle of the picture is a gong. The stage is not so big and we were practically seated in the percussion section. In my usual back row seat I had four rows of altos to muffle the sound but I pitied the front row peeps.

No matter how many times I perform there, I find it impossible to be on that stage and not think about those who have stood where (or darn close to where) I’m standing. Tchaikovsky conducted the opening concert. The Beatles were there…though they had to scrap the live album recorded that night as the only sound was that of fans screaming. Judy Garland did a show there, with Carol Burnett, I believe. Stars of stage, screen, and every kind of music have been there and done that. It’s an icon, and as the t-shirt says, “If you haven’t played it, you haven’t made it.”
Carnegie quote

So, we played it. Unlike previous gigs, when we performed with the Opera Orchestra of New York, there was no audience for the rehearsal, which was a good thing. At one point someone . . . someone very close to me, possibly in my chair . . . came in two beats early with a perfectly beautiful “K” sound and a rich, ringing tone. I blame Vikki for leading me. . . er, whoever it was. . . astray. But never mind, it was just rehearsal, and as our bass soloist said when he missed an entrance during the recording session, “It may have been early, but it was fabulous.” I’m pleased to report there was no such foolishness from our section during the actual performance.

The piece we performed (with our own Dallas Symphony this time) is called “August 4, 1964” by Steven Stucky. You can read all about it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/13/arts/music/dallas-symphony-orchestra-at-carnegie-hall-review.html?_r=2&ref=arts And when you do, please notice the little vague blob on the very top left corner of the photo. That’s me. My shoulder, a little hair, and edge of my glasses are about all that made it into the frame, but it’s better than nothing, right?

The performance went extremely well, the audience was enthusiastic, the after-party was lovely, and the after-after-party cheesecake was a chocolate lover’s dream. (Benash Deli. Terrible service, yummy Snickers cheesecake.) What more could a girl want?

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I’ve been absent from these pages for a bit, but only because I was gathering new experiences to share–in New York City, no less! The Dallas Symphony Chorus (and our fabulous Symphony) were invited to perform at a little place in the Big Apple called Carnegie Hall. No matter how many times we go there–and I think this was my 6th–walking in the stage door of that place just never gets old.

But that’s later. First, we had to get up in the middle of the night and drag ourselves to the airport for a way-too-early flight. The usual suspects (Vikki & Rosemary) and I elected to fly on our own and stay a few extra days. This earned us bright pink luggage tags with our names and the designation “deviant” . . . er, “deviation.” We arrived at the airport at the same time as another flight, so when I turned my phone on I heard this message:

“Susan! We’ve got a limo! What gate are you at, we’ll come get you.”

A what?

“A big, white limo!”

Sure enough, there was a big ol’ limo packed with chorus friends. Best ride into the city ever!

Inside the limo

A view from the back seat.

Once checked into our hotel, we did what we always do in New York: ran downstairs to one of these…
Hot dog standfor one of these…


with everything, thank you.

And a little something from one of these…

dessert truck

Nutella was involved but my hands were full, so no picture.

Then it was time for a stroll. We popped into the delightful gift shop of the American Folk Art Museum (too close to closing to see the museum itself), walked on the avenue (Fifth Avenue) a while, then wandered into FAO Schwarz® where Rosemary picked up this guy: Rosemary & Muppet friend and we visited these gentlemen made entirely of Legos:

Indiana Jones

Legos. Why did it have to be Legos?

Cap'n Jack Sparrow


By then our feet were tired and it was time to rest up before dinner. Ah, dinner…that gets a post of its own.

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I’m a big fan of Christmas and Christmas decorations. Every year I go with a group of friends to a Christmas home tour in Waxahachie, TX to gawk at beautiful homes and over-the-top décor.

Waxahachie home

NOT my house

Every year I haul out my own collection of Christmas items and spend hours (often days) decorating my house.

Every room gets at least a little something . . . even my kitchen has its own tree.
Kitchen tree
The outside of my place? Well, that’s another matter. I have an angel on the door, a wreath on the window, and a darling wooden Santa stuck in the flower bed.

He lost the tassel on his hat...I'll have to go buy another mop

It’s OK during the day. But at night? Looks like Ebenezer Scrooge lives here.


Part of it is lack of time to get out there and fuss with it. Part of it is indecision: I need new outdoor lights, I want LED lights, but which kind/color/shape? Part of it is fear of heights. Then there’s the whole “I’m not home in the evenings in December so I need a timer but where/how/which one…” Then I bought a timer which worked fine last year but inexplicably won’t work this time so…

At this point I generally go bake something and try to forget the whole thing.

I did try to be festive. I found these cute lights at Big Lots and thought I could put them around my front door. At least there could be one little bright spot, right?
Turns out when I get them around the door they’re so big they get caught in the door and I ran out of staples and my brad nails keep bending and . . . and . . . bah, humbug.

(My friend Vikki had a genius idea to fix that problem, but I’m keeping that for another post. And possibly a small seasonal business.)

The other day I thought I’d try again. No more concerts for me this year, so I could go out and plug in my Santa spotlight every night. Extension cord, spotlight, plug it in, what could be easier?

Nothing! Only problem was when I plugged it in, nothing happened. I took it back inside and tried. Yep, everything works fine. Outside, not so much. Apparently the outdoor plugs have decided not to work.

Scrooges, all of them.

(It’s not the breaker, I checked. But thanks for asking. I think this will require an electrician.)

So on my little corner of the hood this Christmas the inside is all is merry and bright while the outside is pretty grim. That reminds me of the many times Terry Price, who directed the Symphony Chorus this Christmas, told us to smile and look happy, for pete’s sake. It’s not that we weren’t (generally) having a good time. (It’s an all-volunteer chorus, we don’t have to be there at all if we don’t want to.) It’s just that we were concentrating so much on what we were doing we often forgot to show how much we enjoyed doing it.

Which leads me to this question: How do you feel about this season? Does your outside show it?

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Sorry to be conspicuous by my absence lately, but I’ve been spending all my free time here:

Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center

Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center

It’s the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, home of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Chorus. We’re deep into this:


Christmas Celebration
Actually, this is my third Christmas concert event this season. I began with the Christmas Pops concerts (also at the Meyerson), conducted by Marvin Hamlisch. There’s a certain sense of irony—at least I hope that’s what it is, I understand most people use “irony” incorrectly . . .

Where was I? Oh yes, a certain sense of irony about a Christmas concert conducted by a Jewish guy, but as he pointed out, “White Christmas” was written by a Jew. And so, I realized at concert event number two (Stonebriar Community Church), was “O Holy Night.”

Why do you suppose Jewish guys write such great Christmas songs?

Anyway, once this last round of concerts is over, I’ll be back online. Until then, you can find me here:

Inside the Meyerson

Sadly, no chorus in this pic.

I’m generally on the back row under the organ pipes, center section, left side. If you’re in the Dallas area and could use some musical holiday cheer, please join us. No less than MSNBC.com touted our concerts as one of the “Top 10 Holiday Concerts in America!”


And if you do show up, come say hi. I can generally be found hanging around the upper level of the lobby during intermission, waiting for Santa to come by with his basket of candy canes. If he asks, don’t tell him you’ve been naughty or he’ll break your candy cane. Don’t ask me how I know.

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On October 14-16, I (along with other members of the Dallas Symphony Chorus and the Dallas Symphony), will perform the Brahms Requiem at the Meyerson Symphony Center. (I think tickets are still available, check here: dallassymphony.com

I love this piece. It’s Number Two on my list of all-time favorites. The Verdi Requiem edged it out solely on the basis of its “Dies Irae.” Any piece that requires two gongs . . . but I digress.

There’s a lot to love about the Brahms. A requiem is, by nature, a service of remembrance. They tend to all have the same sections and the same words because they’re based on the Requiem Mass. Requiems are almost invariably in Latin.

Brahms’ Requiem, by contrast, doesn’t and isn’t. Brahms chose the text himself from the German Luther Bible and it is, therefore, in German. It’s actually titled “A German Requiem.” But that’s not what I love about it.

It opens with a whisper, as if afraid to intrude on one’s grief, with Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Later, in movement two, there’s a sense of the inevitability of loss (for all flesh is as grass . . . the grass withers . . .) before proclaiming “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” (I Peter 1:25) with a moment of optimism about the “everlasting joy.” Still not my favorite part.

Movement three ponders the brevity of life on earth and the inevitability of death: Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days. Not exactly cheery, but lovely music nonetheless.

Movement four must surely be one of the most comforting pieces of music ever written. It’s often performed at funerals, reminding those left behind that “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will always be praising thee.” Members of the DSC sang this at my mother’s memorial service, so I can personally attest to its soul-soothing qualities. I neglected to warn my extended family that it would be in German, which left them terribly confused as to why they couldn’t understand the words.

And no, that’s still not my favorite part.

Movement five, more comforting text and music. Good stuff. But not my favorite.

Movement six, however . . . this is the moment I wait for all night. This is the movement where we kick butt and take names. The text is 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; it’s the passage about how we shall not all sleep but shall all be changed “in the twinkling of an eye.” And the absolute best part (in my opinion) is the triumphant shout that demands to know, “Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory?” In German it’s “Tod, wo ist dein Stachel? Hölle, wo ist dein Sieg?” We repeat the “Wo” (Where?) several times and there’s often a tiny rest after the question, as if waiting for an answer that never comes. Each time I get the mental image of the risen Savior grabbing Death by the shirt front, lifting him off the ground, and giving him a good shake. “Death! I’m talking to YOU. Grave? You got something to say? I DON’T THINK SO!”

Honestly, at that point everyone else may be at a concert but I’m my own little worship service up there on the top row of the choral terrace.

Once we get through slapping around death a vocal dance party breaks out, Brahms-style. I like to think of it as a warmup for what we’ll someday sing around the Throne of heaven, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power.”

We’re not done yet, though. There’s one more movement to settle down all those heightened emotions and send everyone on their way in peace. It reminds us once again that “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord…” and it’s so beautiful that surely it’s the sort of thing Shakespeare had in mind when he penned these words for Horatio to say to his dying friend Hamlet, “Good night, sweet Prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

But don’t take my word for it: come hear it for yourself. And if you’re not in the Dallas area, fear not—we’re recording this concert for future release, so you’ll eventually be able to experience it, too.

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Hangar Hotel sign, Fredericksburg, TX

South Pacific? Naw, just south(ish) Texas.

We now return to the Hill Country: I don’t remember now where I found out about this place, but who could resist? Not my group of foodie friends, that’s for sure! So off we went to the Airport Diner.

Airport Diner, Fredericksburg, TX

Airport Diner, Fredericksburg, TX

When they say “airport” they mean it—we had a view of the runway right outside our window. Yes, city folks, I said “runway” in the singular sense. It’s a small airport. We watched people land and take off in their small planes (and one helicopter) before/after their diner lunch.

The inside is a loving reproduction of a railway diner and it’s all gleaming and gorgeous. The food was . . . fine. Chicken fried steak was quite good but the sides were forgettable. Cherry cobbler had an excellent pastry-to-fruit ratio, but the fruit was obviously pie filling from a can. But what the heck. The food is only part of the experience, I guess. Besides, I rather like cherry pie filling from a can.

Next door to the diner is the Hangar Hotel, a plush place that looks like the setting for an Agatha Christie mystery.
Old car outside the Hangar Hotel

OK, so it’s only plush on the inside…and we were busy chatting with the manager and didn’t get any pictures so you’ll have to trust me on this one. They have a party space that just cries out for a Dallas Symphony Chorus party complete with big band orchestra. (Of course, we’d all want to sing with the big band, but that might could be arranged…any DSC-ers out there up for that?)

Alas, all too soon it was time to head home. But not without stopping at Grape Creek Winery…
Grape Creek Vineyard, Fredericksburg, TX

And one of my faves, Becker Vineyards, which is especially pretty when the lavender is blooming. I bought a lavender plant there in the spring and it’s doing nicely, thank you! Alas, lavender season is long over, so we could only buy lavender soap, spray, and wine. (Not lavender wine.)

We even got to try their amazing “Raven” malbec/petit verdot blend (sold out now, too bad for you!) and yes, there are a couple of bottles in the box…

Vikki & Rosemary with our haul from Becker

Looks like it's time we headed home, don't you think?

By this time the trunk was full and time was a-wasting, so there was nothing for it but to head home. So that’s what we did.

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Last week I (along with a couple hundred of my closest friends) performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as part of “Spotlight Sunday” at the Dallas Arts District. The whole day was quite a success—I gather some 45,000 people showed up to see the new Opera Hall and Theater, and to wander through art museums, the sculpture garden, and the Meyerson Symphony Center (where we perform). Sadly, all those people did not make it to our concert, but the Meyerson was respectably full.

We, the members of the Dallas Symphony Chorus, have sung Beethoven’s 9th roughly a gazillion times. From a singer’s perspective, it’s a bit of a marathon, since we have to sit still and stay awake in front of the crowd through three full movements before leaping to our feet to sing at breakneck speed for the last 15-20 minutes. I’ve done it as both a soprano and an alto, and I am never more grateful to be in alto-world than when doing this piece. Beethoven was deaf when he wrote it and I suspect he was trying to write in dog whistle range.

Back to the point at hand: we’ve done this thing so often we could do it in our sleep—were it not for our conductor, Jaap van Zweden. He wanted us to do things differently, for pete’s sake. He wanted this part legato (smooth) not, as he put it, “like chopping salami.” He wanted another part soft where it had always been blastissimo before. Instead of sailing along on cruise control, he wanted us to take a different route—one that required paying attention at all times.

I’ll admit, there was a wee bit of “But we’ve always done it this way…” in the ranks, but we got on board. It helped that it wasn’t just us who got shaken up; he did the same thing with the orchestra and even (gasp!) the soloists.

The result? According to the review in the Dallas Morning News, the performance was “electrifying.”

One thing the Maestro said during rehearsal particularly caught my attention. Referring to a section of short words separated by rests, he told us to pay attention to “the music between the notes.”

See, music doesn’t stop when the sound stops…silence is an important part of music, as well. It’s easy to live for the notes—they’re the fun parts. Between the notes, it’s tempting to just mark time, waiting for the next chance to sing. But I wonder if we’re missing out on a lot of music by not paying more attention to what’s going on between the notes?

I wonder if we miss out on a lot of life that way, too? It’s so easy to live for the next big thing; getting out of school, the next career move, the next vacation, etc., etc. What about all those ordinary days in between? Isn’t there music in those days? I think there is. We just have to listen for it.

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Several years ago, Jill and I were on one of several trips to New York with our Dallas Symphony Chorus buddies to sing at Carnegie Hall. (I just had to throw that in there, sorry.) This particular time, I talked about 15 of the group into going on a ‘foodie’ walking tour of Greenwich Village. It was fabulous! So when I saw that Alexandria had a similar tour, I knew we had to go.

Alexandria, VA

Alexandria, VA

First of all, Alexandria is beautiful. Folks have been living here since well before the U.S. of A. was as much as a twinkle in Sam Adam’s eye; as early as 8000 B.C. according to archeologists. “Old Town” is the 3rd oldest historic district in the nation. You have to love a place whose Web site announces, “Dogs are optional but always welcome.” Alas, we’re dog-free on this trip.

Gadsby's Tavern

Gadsby's Tavern

The Old Town Alexandria Food Tour combines historic landmarks, art, and good food, all in one fell swoop. We visit Gadsby’s Tavern, where George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all lived for a spell. (George Washington slept here!)

Torpedo Factory Art Center

Torpedo Factory Art Center

Another stop is the Torpedo Factory Art Center. The, er, “factory” part goes with “torpedo,” it’s not a reflection of the kind of art produced and sold there. It’s three floors worth of open studios where you can watch artists at work and buy the art they produce.

Then there’s the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop Museum, which went under in 1933. When they did, they just locked their doors, leaving everything in place. Over 8,000 objects, including pill rollers, mortars and pestles, drug mills, and hand-blown medicine bottles with gold-leaf labels, were left in place. Back in its heyday, their customer list read like a Who’s Who in Colonial Washington: Martha Washington, James Monroe, and Robert E. Lee all patronized this fine establishment. We also toured a . . .

What’s that? Oh, the FOOD! You mean the baby back ribs, fried oysters, fish & chips, tapas, Thai dumplings, truffles . . . that food? Oh yes, there was plenty of that, too. The way it works is your group and your guide walk a little, learn a little, go into a restaurant to sit and eat a little (or not so little), then repeat. And keep repeating, for about three and a half hours. Mmm-hmm. Did I mention the Jelly Cake? No? Well, then…



“Old Town’s Famous 125-year-old Jelly Cake” was as good as advertised. Actually, better—from that title one might assume the cake itself was 125 years old, which would undoubtedly be a little on the dry side. The recipe is apparently an old Alexandrian specialty, beloved by many and specially requested for none other than Queen Elizabeth (II) herself (though at the time she was only Princess Elizabeth) on one occasion. It consists of thin layers of buttery pound cake slathered with red currant jelly, dusted with powdered sugar. I couldn’t worm the recipe out of them, but I think I can probably recreate it at home. I’ll let you know how that works out.

So in a nutshell, we walked, we ate, we walked, we ate, and then we walked and ate some more. I’d like to think the walking cancelled out the eating…I’d like to think that…

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Today was David’s memorial service. It involved members of the Dallas Symphony, the Symphony Chorus, the Highland Park UMC choir, several soloists, and a variety of conductors. There were, by my count, some nine instrumental pieces and eight choral works, plus three solos—and I may have missed a piece or two. Of course, a number of people spoke, too.

David planned the service himself, which made it all the more special. (Though when I reach Heaven myself I’ll have a few words with him over that arrangement of Holy, Holy, Holy. “Seriously. Could you not have warned us? You know how tricky Gary Fry pieces are, and sight-reading through tears is NOT easy…”)

As I listened to the orchestra play Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings—surely the most passionately mournful piece ever written—I was struck again by the way music expresses our emotions in a way that words cannot. I think the Holy Spirit must live in music; Romans 8:26 says, “But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.” Deep feelings that words cannot explain describe today’s service beautifully.

Listening to and making music together—music that testified to the awesomeness of God, the assurance of His love, and the comfort of His eternal presence—was a comforting and healing experience. I’m sure David knew it would be so when he chose the songs. The spoken words were also a comfort. I had to restrain myself from waving my soggy tissue and shouting “Amen!” at a crucial part of the message thanks to Dr. John McCoy and his passionate confidence in Christ’s resurrection and what that means for believers. (It didn’t seem quite the place and time for that kind of outburst, but I was waving and “amen-ing” on the inside.)

And so, we move forward. I’d like to end with the Affirmation of Faith from today’s service, taken from the Heidelberg Catechism:

My only comfort in life and death is that I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ;

Who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yes, that all things must be subservient to my salvation.

And, therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready henceforth, to live unto Him.


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David R. Davidson

David R. Davidson

I first met David when I auditioned for the Dallas Symphony Chorus in 1995. He had a ponytail at the time and I thought, “Oh girl, you’re hangin’ with the artsy crowd now.” (I didn’t get out much back then.) I’ve been singing for him ever since—up until last Monday night’s rehearsal. Yesterday the days ordained for David were completed and he left us for Heaven, where I can only imagine the Lord immediately put him in charge of rehearsing the heavenly choir.

After all those years in the Symphony Chorus and three years singing in his church choir at Highland Park Presbyterian, I can’t begin to tell all that David taught me about music, performing, life in general and myself in particular. And I mean that literally—I’ve been trying to put it into words for some time now and nothing I’ve typed so far has made any sense.

So let me put it this way: Early on in this blog I described how a “foodie” tastes food—how it’s a richer, more complex experience than the average eater enjoys. David did that with music—savoring each note, pulling out the deeper meaning of the key signature, working to get every aspect of every phrase of every piece just right. He constantly strove to create the highest and best possible musical experience, whether we were singing the Verdi Requiem or Jingle Bells. He wanted to honor the audience . . . to honor the composer . . . to honor God. I will spend the rest of my days attempting to do the same. I suspect many of my fellow singers will, as well.

Requiem sempiternam, David. We miss you.

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