March Madness (Non-Basketball Version)


March 30, 2018 by Jean

imageI am finally coming up for air after my own version of March Madness (which had nothing to do with basketball). March is the month when my commitment to choral singing reaches peak intensity, because it is the month when the Maine Music Society performs its annual classical music concert. Our season also includes a holiday concert in December and a pop music concert in May, but the late March classical concert is the most demanding. This year, we sang Mozart’s Requiem, along with one of his settings of vespers (Vesperes Solennes de Dominica). Many members of the chorale had sung the Requiem before, and a few had also sung the Vesperes, but I was learning all of it from scratch. As March began, I realized that I needed to spend more time practicing music on my own between rehearsals. The rehearsal schedule also ramped up as the concert dates approached. The second weekend in March featured an extra three-hour Saturday morning rehearsal (in addition to our usual two-hour rehearsals on Thursday evenings). The third week in March included an extra-long rehearsal on Monday evening (our first rehearsal with the soloists), an extra-long rehearsal on Thursday evening (our first rehearsal with the orchestra), a dress rehearsal on Friday evening, and performances on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Whew!

Performing this music was a high point in my life. It was amazing to be in the middle of all that wonderful music, to be part of creating the sound, and to sense that the audience was enthralled. An acquaintance who attended the Sunday performance told me that the only time he’d ever been part of a longer standing ovation was at a Tony Bennett concert. At the end of the performance, I was simultaneously exhausted and wired. Days later, I still have snatches of Mozart running through my head when I wake up in the morning.

I couldn’t kick back and relax after the last performance, though, because I had to immediately shift gears and prepare for a talk I was giving later in the week as part of the McLaughlin Garden Winter Lecture series. I had asked the organizing committee not to schedule my talk during the week of my concert, and they didn’t. But three days was not a lot of time to shift my focus and finish preparing my lecture. The talk was about a topic I didn’t initially know a lot about, so preparing it involved quite a bit of research (mostly done during February and March). I went through phases in my preparation that are typical for me – from “Why did I ever agree to do this? I don’t know enough about this to give an hour-long presentation” to “This is too long; what can I cut out?” There were some tense moments as I scrambled to finish my preparation, but in the end it all came together beautifully.

This is the third year in a row that March has been so busy as to leave me breathless, which has led me to wonder about the reason for this pattern. I’ve come to the conclusion that March is a “winter-into-spring” month socially as well as meteorologically. Winter activities (like preparation for the classical music concert) are still going on in March, but spring activities are also beginning. Although it is called the “Winter Lecture” series, the weekly talks at the McLaughlin Garden each March really mark the beginning of the spring garden and garden club season. I didn’t even try to attend the Maine Flower Show this year, which was the same week as my concert. But I did attend my first Senior College class of the spring, on the day before my McLaughlin Garden talk.

As March turns into April, winter activities are winding down, even as spring activities replace them in my life. The spring and summer will be busy, mostly with garden-related activities, but they will never reach the crazy-busy pitch of my month of March Madness.

6 thoughts on “March Madness (Non-Basketball Version)

  1. Heidi Taylor says:

    Hi Jean, Great update!
    As you probably recall, March is incredibly hectic at Bates too. A colleague and I have come up with a new term, that you may want to borrow. We’ve turned March into a verb, as in “I’ve been Marched!”

    Glad things will be settling down for you in April, and it was great to see you last weekend. The Requiem was indeed glorious!

    • Jean says:

      LOL, Heidi, I like the use of “March” as a verb. I confess that my memories of the calendar at Bates are more of being “Apriled” when I had only one week to grade final exams for all my classes, turn in final grades, and prepare for an intensive 5-week short-term course.
      It was great to get a chance to catch up with you at the concert.

  2. Jean R. says:

    “Performing this music was a high point in my life.” Considering all you’ve accomplished over the years and how busy you pack your days, this is quite a statement to make. I can’t imagine how beautiful the choral music was. And what a LOT of work required to be part of the group! I’m glad it was all worth the effort and the March Madness.

    • Jean says:

      Jean, A friend asked me why performing this music was such a powerful experience, and I didn’t know how to answer. On reflection, though, I think it has to do with the age of our choral group (median somewhere in the sixties and many in their seventies). The text of the Requiem is a funeral service, and I think that music can be sung with much more emotional power by those who have faced their own mortality. (Mozart was dying when he wrote it.) It’s not just that we were technically good (we were!); it was the emotional power that made the performance so memorable.

  3. Diana Studer says:

    I remember that flying high feeling. Today I could be a delighted audience instead.

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I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

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