March 27, 2017 by Jean
Regular readers may have noticed that I’ve been A.W.O.L. from this blog in recent weeks. The reason is that all my time and energy was absorbed by other responsibilities and activities. This was not what I expected my retirement to look like.
When I was anticipating retirement, one of the things I was “sure” of was that I would go away for a couple of weeks each year in late March or early April to enjoy the pleasures of spring in some more southerly place. Late March is “still winter” in Maine, where I live; and at this point in the season, everything about winter is old, old, old! I am more than ready for the snow to be gone and I am eager for spring flowers and work in the garden. I can get pretty impatient and grumpy about the weeks still remaining until that happens. So going away to some place where spring has already arrived seemed like a good solution.
What I didn’t anticipate is that, because so many people in Maine experience this winter-into-spring period with the same impatience, many activities are planned at this time of year to help people get through it. The Maine Music Society, whose chorale I am a member of, has its big classical music concert each year at this time. The McLaughlin Garden, of which I am a member, has a winter lecture series that begins in late February and runs through March. The spring session of classes at the local Senior College begins today.
As many of these activities ramped up in recent weeks, my schedule seemed to get more and more hectic. Singing Bach’s great masterpiece, the Mass in B Minor, was a glorious experience. But, oh my, what a lot of work! In the past eight days, I had three rehearsals, each several hours long, and two performances. During the intermission at our final performance yesterday, a concert-goer asked me how long we had been working on this music. When I told her that we began the first week in January, her eyes widened, her jaw dropped, and she said, “That’s all?!?” To put this in context, you need to understand that the vocal score for this work is 240 pages long. About 65 of those pages are solo arias that I could just sit back and enjoy, but that left almost 200 pages of music for chorale members to master. Several weeks ago, I realized that I needed to increase my practice time from an hour a day to two hours a day. By the last week, I was practicing music on my own 3-4 hours a day (even on days when we also had a 2-3 hour rehearsal!).
Right smack in the middle of this week of intense concert preparation, I gave a talk on garden record-keeping as part of the McLaughlin Garden lecture series. (All I can say in my own defense is that I believe this was scheduled before I knew the dates for the Bach concert.) The talk also required many hours of preparation, including a fun little research project I did during the winter months plus analyzing and organizing the information from that research and preparing PowerPoint slides.
With both the concert and the talk behind me, this week feels luxuriously relaxed. Next weekend, I’ll take time to attend both the Portland Flower Show and a fundraising dinner for the local farmers’ market (both activities designed to help us look forward to spring). Next week, the chorale will begin rehearsing for our late spring concert of popular music (this year, songs of Carole King and James Taylor). This afternoon, I was supposed to attend my first class of a Senior College course on “Solving Everyday Problems with Physics”, but didn’t because of freezing rain and icy roads. (I know enough about the physics principles of momentum and friction – or lack thereof – to shy away from driving curving, hilly back roads on ice.) By the time that course ends, it will be May and spring really will have come to Maine.