Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ein Abschied bis 2009

   2009 has been a most difficult year for our country, and for the people around the world who have been stricken hard by the global recession. But I feel that it is best to focus on the positive happenings rather than the negative, as it is better to face the New Year with hope than dread.

   I'm very grateful to have been given another year of health and happiness. Since I turned 23 last week (Gurang na ako!), below are 23 blessings from 2009, for which I am most thankful. (Note: These aren't listed in any particular order.)

   I'm grateful for...

   1. The 2 weeks of enforced voice rest I had to undergo as a result of getting laryngitis. You know the saying, "You don't miss the water until the well runs dry?" Well, I didn't fully realize how precious and delicate the human voice is, until that nasty wake up call. It was extremely stressful for me, at the time, as I had to beg off singing engagements and I hated to do so. But I learned so many precious lessons along the way. I've consequently made adjustments in my lifestyle, such as switching to decaf coffee and using my voice more sparingly when I teach. I'm happy to report that my voice box is doing just fine today. :)

   2. The first meeting with Meewa! :)  Dear, is there really no chance of you and your family ever living in Metro Manila again? Hehe.

   3. My job... one that is draining yet exciting and allows me to learn and grow as a person every day. I am especially thankful because it allows me to keep coming back to my beloved CMu!

   4. Passing the Licensure Exam for Teachers!!?! Our oathtaking ceremony was one of the proudest moments of my life. Now I can truly say, "I am a teacher."

   5. Discovering Nutella. 'Nuff said. :)

   6. Discovering Cafe Mary Grace in Serendra, the site of several book sessions with Ex Libris Philippines. Too bad it's so small, it's very difficult to get seats as it's usually full of hungry clients! But if ever you get the chance to eat there, DO drop by. You won't regret it.

   7. The graduation ceremony of friends and college-mates that I was able to witness and be part of. Our whole lives are ahead of us!!!

   8. Witnessing the love lives of friends and learning from their godly examples... learning to be patient and joyful in expectation.

   9. Books. They comfort, uplift and nourish my soul, even when I can't use the piano or am surrounded by people and can't sing. And of course, this includes my book org, Ex Libris Philippines, and the incredible people in it! Looking forward to an exciting 2010 with you guys!

   10.The Rockwell Powerplant Fire in April that taught me never to take safety for granted, and to respect the incredible faith and courage of my Father.

   11. Being able to study part-time in a beautiful, working-student-friendly environment, where I'm able to observe a whole new culture that deepened my appreciation for the one in UP.

   12. Being able to register for elections!! Yay!

   13. The Boy Scout experience in Makiling. Life-changing.

   14. My twin sister, my soulmate, who has joined the faculty at RMM, and is now my seatmate and co-teacher. 

   15. The fourteen hours that I got stranded in the midst of Ondoy. It was the ultimate lesson of seeing the proverbial glass as half-full.

 
   16. Friends... some of whom have gone far away but still exert a great deal of influence on my life. I am a better person because of you guys!

   17. Music... most especially the voice of Ian Bostridge, whose lieder albums are fast becoming the soundtracks of my life.

   18. My students. I really do believe that I'm learning more from them than they learn from me.

   19.  The new Casio keyboard that replaced our 25 ++ year old one. Now the RMM Choir can make more beautiful music during the mass!
   
   20. My beautiful family!!! Including our two rottweilers.
   
   21. Facebook! And multiply. They allow me to keep in touch with friends and relatives abroad.

   22. Avatar and 3D Imax theaters! Life is more beautiful!!!

   23. My "bilbil," because it means that I have more than enough to eat. :) Now my 2010 resolution is to eradicate it.
 
Happy New Year everyone!!! *toddles off to gaze at the fireworks from our glass ceiling*

2009 In Books

   The obligatory annual book list! Really more for my personal memories than anything else. Titles in bold are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! :)

January 2009
 
  1. About A Boy by Nick Hornby (a present from my friend, Domini)
   2. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
   3. The Savior by Eugene Drucker
   4. If On A Winter's Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino
   5. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
   6. Death In Venice by Thomas Mann
   7. The Associate by John Grisham (TJ! I have yet to return this to you!)
   8. Till Debt Do Us Part by Chinkee Tan
   9. Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
   10. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

February 2009

   11. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
   12. The Firm by John Grisham
   13. Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
   14. Obama: From Promise to Power by David Mendell
   15. That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
   16. Defying Hitler by Sebastian Haffner

March 2009

   17. Watchmen by Alan Moore/ Dave Gibbons
   18. Cries of the Heart by Ravi Zacharias
   19. Introduction to Critical Theory: From Horkheimer to Habermas by David Held
   20. Songmaster by Orson Scott Card
   21. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles (waves to Meewa)
   22. Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy by William Barrett (waves to Meewa again :)  )

April 2009

   23. The Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori
   24. How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill
   25. Mr. Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn
   26. The Maggot by John Fowles
   27. The Last of the Just by Andre Schwartz-bart
   28. First Meetings in Ender's Universe by Orson Scott Card
   29. Empire by Orson Scott Card
   30. Slumdog Millionaire by Vikram Swarup (generously lent to me by Christian)
   31. The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori
   32. Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster
   33. French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano
   34. Without Reservations: The Travels of An Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach
   35. Daily Grace for Teachers: Devotional Reflections to Nourish Your Soul
   36. Darcy's Story by Janel Aylmer (I regret wasting my time on this one... it's like Pride and Prejudice, copy paste version)
   37. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
   38. Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
   39. How to Be An Effective Teacher: The First Day of School by Harry Wong et al
   40. Book Lover (aka Literary Longing in L.A.) by J. Kaufman and K. Mack
   41. Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
   42. Blindness by Jose Saramago
   43. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
   44. Why Do Catholics Do That? A Guide to the Teachings and Practices of the Catholic Church by Kevin Orlin Johnson, PhD
   45. Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser
   46. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
   47. The Cave by Jose Saramago

June 2009

   48. Letters to a Young Teacher: The Art of Being Interesting by Joseph V. Landy, SJ
   49. Everything and the Moon by Julia Quinn
   50. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
   51. Birds Without Wings by Louis De Bernieres
   52. Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
   53. The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis (Volume 1)
   
July 2009   
   
   54. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
   55. All the Names by Jose Saramago
   56. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
   57. Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man by Steve Harvey
   58. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
   59. Dune by Frank Herbert
   60. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
   61. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
   62. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

August 2009

   63. Bright Arrows by Grace Livingston Hill
   64. All Through the Night by Grace Livingston Hill
   65. God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert
   66. Romain Rolland's Essays on Music, edited by David Ewen
   67. Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman's Soul
   68. Confessions of An Impatient Bride by Rissa Samson-Kawpeng
   69. Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey by Perri Knize

September 2009

   70. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte
   71. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
   72. Georges by Alexandre Dumas
   73. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
   74. Counseling Friends In Need by Dr. Harold J. Sala
   75. Camelot 3000 by Mike Barr / Brian Bolland
   76. The Red Prophet (Graphic Novel Version) by Orson Scott Card
   77. Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card
   78. Red Prophet (novel version) by Orson Scott Card

October 2009

   79. Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card
   80. Alvin Journeyman by Orson Scott Card
   81. Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias
   82. Ex Libris: Confessions of A Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
   83. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
   84. The Portable Matthew Arnold edited by Lionel Trilling

November 2009

   85. The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson
   86. To Fly Again: Surviving the Tailspins of Life by Gracia Burnham and Dean Merrill
   87. The Coming of Conan The Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard
   88. Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn
   89. Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher's First Year by Esme Raji Codell
   90. The Little Book by Selden Edwards

December 2009

   91. A Russian Journal by John Steinbeck
   92. The King of Torts by John Grisham
   93. The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
   94. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
   95. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
   96. Vlad: The Last Confession (The Epic Novel of the Real Dracula) by C.C. Humphreys
   97. Dancing at Midnight by Julia Quinn
   98. How to Marry A Marquis by Julia Quinn
   99. Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley
  100. Brighter than the Sun by Julia Quinn
  101. The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person In the World by A.J. Jacobs
  102. Clara by Janice Galloway


Links:

2007 in books (only the last quarter ... Total read = 29 tomes)

2008 in books  (Total read = 66 tomes)


Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Joyeaux Noel : The Meaning of Christmas

   "Joyeaux Noel" is a movie inspired by true events during World War I. On Christmas Eve of 1914, soldiers from opposing sides met in No Man's Land met peacefully to celebrate the birth of Christ. 

   The first video shows the most powerful scene in the movie, while the second features the movie's theme song, "Hymne des Fraternises." Both are very beautiful and powerful, and I couldn't hold back tears when I watched them.

   Truly, they embody the meaning of Christmas. 

   Here is the blurb on the 'homepage' of the first video:

   "The "Christmas truce" is a term used to describe several brief unofficial cessations of hostilities that occurred on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day between German and British or French troops in World War I, particularly that between British and German troops stationed along the Western Front during Christmas 1914. In 1915 there was a similar Christmas truce between German and French troops, and during Easter 1916 a truce also existed on the Eastern Front.
The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The Scottish troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts were exchanged — whisky, jam, cigars, chocolate, and the like. The soldiers exchanged gifts, sometimes addresses, and drank together. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects. At one funeral in No Man's Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there are many stories of football matches between the opposing forces.

In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but in some areas, it continued until New Year's Day.

The truce occurred in spite of opposition at higher levels of the military. Earlier in the autumn, a call by Pope Benedict XV for an official truce between the warring governments had been ignored.

British commanders Sir John French and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien vowed that no such truce would be allowed again, although both had left command before Christmas 1915. In all of the following years of the war, artillery bombardments were ordered on Christmas Eve to ensure that there were no further lulls in the combat. Troops were also rotated through various sectors of the front to prevent them from becoming overly familiar with the enemy. Despite those measures, there were a few friendly encounters between enemy soldiers, but on a much smaller scale than in 1914."








I hear the mountain birds

The sound of rivers singing
A song I've often heard
It flows through me now
So clear and so loud
I stand where I am
And forever I'm dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I'm dreaming of home

It's carried in the air
The breeze of early morning
I see the land so fair
My heart opens wide
There's sadness inside
I stand where I am
And forever I'm dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I'm dreaming of home

This is no foreign sky
I see no foreign light
But far away am I
From some peaceful land
I'm longing to stand
A hand in my hand
...forever I'm dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I'm dreaming of home.


Monday, December 21, 2009

My latest musical discoveries

   There are so many reasons why I love Christmas break. One of the top reasons is that I have leisure time to indulge in my personal Music fests, utilizing YouTube for all its worth as I listen to old favorites and discover new ones.

   My latest musical find is the pianist Freddy Kempf. 

    His rendition of Beethoven's "Pathetique" touched me the most. And I'm now a fan!! :)

    Here are excerpts from an interesting interview of his that I came across.

   Interviewer: You seemed to feel entirely “at home” on stage during your concert in The Hague – is performing live the best thing about being a musician for you? 

Freddy: For me music is the stage. I find it so wonderful and so exciting. I know that there are many different types of great musicians. I would never neccessarily claim to be one of them! My aim is simply to touch someone in the audience and give them as intense as an emotional experience as I can. I feel that it is now only through music, because of the constraints and pressures of normal life, where we can experience these “fantastic” emotions – the feeling of love that Robert (Schumann) had for Clara: the feeling of desperation that Schubert must have felt towards the end of his life... These composers documented their feelings in their writing and for me it is a dream to try to communicate this emotion on the stage to the audience.

What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

I think that in some countries the government, because of their own personal education, may not realize how important the Arts are. In that case they may not be putting enough stress in promoting the Arts. However in other countries the government has seen how important it is and are doing a big effort to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy it. I think classical music in many places is doing far better than it has done before. 

Do you feel that Crossover Projects are “part of the solution or part of the problem”? Or to put it differently: Should the worlds of Classical and Experimental Music remain seperated from each other or open up?

Again I think that there are too many sides to this to give a clear decisive answer. I feel that if someone is playing a classical instrument like the ‘cello or the flute they are only doing “crossover” stuff if they’re not playing the normal classical repertoire. I think one of the great helps to classical music is where people do play the core repertoire but manage to reach people that don’t normally listen to it. 

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.

Can’t answer! Some people may be able to appreciate Mahler 5 on first listening, others won’t understand it at all. I think that like anything – wine, food, football, partners – we learn by experience. We can love something straight away but usually we appreciate more the more we learn.

~ ~ ~ ~ 

   For the entire interview, go to this page.

~ ~ ~  ~

   I was browsing in FULLY BOOKED the other day and came across two great "musical books:"

   Temperament by Stuart Isacoff: How Music Became A Battleground For the Great Minds of Western Civilization ---> 


   Clara by Janice Galloway --> It is a novel about Clara and Robert Schumann. I've scanned it and I love how she starts each chapter with a line from "Frauenliebe und Leben," the subject of a previous blog post. She also sprinkles it with musical excerpts, in some parts it reads like a Forms and Analysis paper! :) I'm very excited to read it!


   Reviews to follow! :)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Stranger's Tribute to Regalado Jose

STRANGER: 
 –noun
1.a person with whom one has had no personal acquaintance 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
 
   

   The first thing that was said to me by the people in the CMu office when I reported for work last week Tuesday was, "Alam mo na ba yung nangyari kay Regalado Jose?"

   In truth, I was mentally preoccupied, running through my lesson plan for the Diction class that afternoon... so I didn't hear the sentence properly, and I thought they were asking me if I had seen him. It took about five seconds for it to hit me... Professor Emeritus Regalado Jose was gone.

   (Later, I thought: no wonder the people in the office seemed so gloomy and depressed! It was reminiscent of the atmosphere after Ondoy.)

    The sense of sadness that overwhelmed me was inexplicable, especially since he was a stranger to me. Don't get me wrong, OF COURSE I knew who he was, he was a living legend in the Piano Department, and even as an undergrad I heard of the mythic tales told of him, summarized in this CMu web page. He was a stranger to me, in the sense that I had never gotten the chance to be personally acquainted with him, or to talk to him.

    But I knew of him only as a famous musician. I did not get to know him as a man... not until last Friday evening when, after work,  I made the trek from Paranaque to Mount Carmel, New Manila, where his wake was held.

   I entered the room a bit timidly, as I was alone and knew no one. I was greeted by a weary but wonderfully warm and welcoming woman who introduced herself as the youngest daughter of the Maestro. I introduced myself as well, and shyly confessed that I had never been a student of her father's, that I had never gotten the chance to be acquainted with him and that he never knew of me, but that I wanted to pay my respects.

   She was so kind! She led me to a chair, and made me feel so welcome that before long, I found myself talking easily with her.

   For some reason, her eyes filled up and she shed tears after I told her my simple story. She said she was touched that I had come, and told me stories about her dad. I think she sensed my regret at not ever having known him, and regaled me with stories of the maestro... of how he was the best Father a daughter could have... of how he would always go home at noon to have lunch with his family, regardless of how busy he was... of how he would drive her and her five siblings to school and pick them up everyday... of how he was THERE for them, for every important event in their lives... of his being the most approachable teacher and how he started teaching in UP at 19 years old... and didn't stop teaching up until his death.

   And as she talked, my respect for her father grew more and more. 

   Here was a man who "had it all"... a successful career, a great family... but between the two, undoubtedly, it was clear to me which triumph was greater.

   Here was a man who raised his children well, so well that his daughter would be angelically caring and warm to a perfect stranger who came at her father's wake.

   As it turns out, I wasn't the only stranger who came.

   Before me was an old gentleman, who had likewise never been personally acquainted with the Maestro, but faithfully attended his concerts for over forty years.

   And a few minutes after I came, two gentlemen filled in the guest book and paid their respects to the family. I found out they were the Maestro's piano tuners!

   They didn't stay long, but like me, they felt compelled to bid farewell to this simple man, whose skills and talents were such that he could have had a successful concertizing career abroad if he wanted (in fact, I later found out that he was offered a place at the faculty of Peabody)... but whose love for his country and for UP was such that he went back to Manila, and became an institution in its musical community.

     I wish, oh how I wish!! that I had gotten to know him, and talk to him. As a father, a husband, a pianist, a conductor, and a teacher... the man behind the name proved to be so much more than the sum of his outstanding career. And though I cannot claim to have received mentoring under him (how I envy those who can!), my own life has been touched, in the same way that those strangers who paid their respects to him were affected by his life, though they had never exchanged words with him.

    I am comforted by the knowledge that he passed away peacefully, surrounded by family and friends, and the knowledge that his legacy will live on for as long as there are music lovers in the country.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On Massacre and Music

   I join the millions of Filipinos who mourn for the Ampatuan massacre victims. :( A lot has been said about it, but for me, the best-written piece was the one by Patricia Evangelista. She captured the horror of it better than other statistic-bearing columns.
   
   The horror. The living nightmare. Things will never be the same.

   I was in a semi-daze for several days following the tragedy. Oh, how to explain what I felt? It sort of felt like I had shrunk, like my soul had dried up. Like a candle lit within has died. Out of self-preservation, I acted. I shall tell what I did, although the full import of my actions hit me after I had already done them.

   Firstly, I was driven to wear a scent. You see, I normally spritz on some eau de toilette only during very special happenings like the rare dinner and night out. But somehow, I felt compelled to spray some all over, twice or thrice during the day! It's as if I was trying to banish the darkness by smelling good things, sweet and innocent things, like flowers and baby powder.

   I found my olfactory savior in Durance's eau de toilette (Rose). 
   
   Secondly, I attended a concert.

   How to explain the near-desparation I felt when I received an invitation to attend the Litany for the Coming Messiah: An Advent Concert for Organ & Oboe to be held at the Union Church of Manila? 

   I HAD to attend the concert!! I simply HAD to!!!!
   
    I stumbled across this quote from "The Little Book" by Selden Edwards the other day, and it makes me realize WHY I felt the overwhelming urge to watch the concert:

   "Music's principle function is to organize the details into harmonies that are intended to make us forget that there is randomness all around us. It wards off the chaos." (emphasis mine)

   And indeed, last night's concert brought both catharsis and healing to the wounded souls who attended.

   The programme was as follows:

   Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 546 (J.S. Bach)
   Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele (J.S. Bach)
   Pastorale, Op. 19 (Cesar Franck)
   Toccata in B minor (Eugene Gigout)
   Praire (Alejandro Consolacion III)
   Litanies (Jehan Alain)
   Improvisation (Alejandro Consolacion III)
   3rd Romance for Oboe and Piano (Robert Schumann)
   Concerto for Oboe : 1st movement (W. A. Mozart)
   Suite Rural (Alejandro Consolacion III)

   The organist, Alejandro Consolacion III, was in superb form last night and thrilled the audience when he improvised on the wedding anniversary date of one of the couples present: March 27, 1982. He must have improvised for about twelve minutes, I've never witnessed anything like it!

   The oboist, Franz Miguel Ramirez (who shall forever remain my dear "Mikko"), was beautifully accompanied by Mary Anne Espina on the piano as he gave his flawless performances, interpreting the Mozart concerto with a slightly daring "Romantic" edge, but always with impeccable phrasing and with such musicality that his playing brought tears to my eyes more than once.

   Of course, the crowd favorite was the organist's own composition, the Suite Rural. He wrote the Prelude after the Visayan lullaby, Ili-Ili Tulog Anay. The Habanera was the Ilocano song, Osi-osi, while the Chanson was the Pangasinan love song, Malinac lay labi. He finished off with Pen-Pen de Sarapen written in Rondo form.

   Truly, as Sir Eudy said in his pre-concert speech, musicians have a ministry of their own, and it is a mighty, powerful one. Last night's beautiful music DID ward off the chaos that threatened to overwhelm me, and for the first time in several nights, I slept peacefully.  :)

   How did you cope with the terrible news?
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