Holy smokes! Soprano clef strikes again.

Lately I’ve had the luxury of lots of practice time to polish the music for my next month’s worth of gigs:

Bach and Purcell scores

and work way ahead on some of my repertoire for next season:

Handel, Keiser, Jacquet de la Guerre scores

These are the tasty musical treats I alluded to in my last posting. This is all such good stuff! Every time I sidle up to my piano I have trouble deciding what to dig into first.

I’m particularly excited about the aria from Keiser’s opera Croesus. I decided I needed a German baroque opera aria to round out my rep list for period group auditions. Um, there’s German baroque opera? you ask? It’s certainly not in the canon of mainstream opera companies, but it did exist (check out the praise the Boston Globe and  NYT heaped on Handel’s Almira this year at BEMF), and luckily my trusty network of Facebook friends who are baroque opera nerds helped out with several suggestions.

I chose Elmira’s aria “Liebe, sag’, was fängst du an?” primarily because I could get my hands on it without leaving the house; there’s a decent full score of the opera on IMSLP (let’s take a moment to give thanks for IMSLP). It also happens to be fabulous, with a beautiful lyrical A section and a fiery B section full of coloratura. It’s not long, and leaves lots of opportunity for flashy ornamentation on the return to A. Pretty much the perfect audition aria. You can listen to Sandrine Piau’s rendition here:

But, I haven’t gotten far in learning it because the vocal line in this score is written in soprano clef. Drat!

Copyists and printers of the past must have really hated legder lines, because they used a number of now-obsolete clefs to keep most of the notes on the staff. In facsimiles of original scores or even in 19-century editions like this one, soprano vocal lines are frequently written on soprano clef, with Middle C being on the bottom line instead of on the first ledger line below the staff.

soprano clef

Everything’s just one line higher than it would be in your everyday treble clef, but it’s amazing how reading everything a third off from normal can make your head want to explode. I’m sure singing from soprano clef is one of those brain-exercising activities that can help you stave (oh heavens, no pun intended) off Alzheimer’s.

And I eventually get good at it. Actually I can sing the A section of “Liebe, sag'” just fine. But then the B section begins, and here come those 32nd-note runs:

fast notes

Yikes is right. I can’t decide which would ultimately be more work, learning the whole aria in soprano clef, or teaching myself Finale and creating an edition I can read. It’s seriously a toss-up. I’ll let you know how it works out.


Tasty Traditions

Last week my mother came to Raleigh to keep me from getting lonely during N’s last week away and to boss me around about taking care of my back (which is getting a lot better). Charlie was in heaven with one of her favorite belly-scratchers in the house,

Charlie in heaven

The leaky light effect is supposed to make it look like heaven; get it?

and I was very happy for the company. Moms are the best.

We ate well all week. First we had to gobble up all the leftovers from the cooking spree I wrote about in my last post. My mother bought a bottle of delicious New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and prepared a couple of her signature meals which have become standbys in the Mueller kids’ houses thanks to a spiral-bound book of family recipes my parents put together several years ago.

We had Vegetarian Chile (I love this recipe which features the unexpected ingredient of squash),

vegetarian chile

and Sweet and Sour Lentils, a souvenir of my parents’ California years in the ’70s.

Sweet and Sour Lentils

She also made wonderful grilled veggie sandwiches which we devoured before I thought to photograph them. Luckily, and intentionally, plenty of chile and lentils remain.

This post was also supposed to feature the musical treats I’ve been enjoying in my leisurely weeks of summer practicing, but I’m getting hungry so I think I’ll work on those leftovers and leave you waiting with bated breath for my next post.

Fruits (and pastas, and soups) of Labor

During my time on the ground I’ve been busy…making food! When I arrive home from a gig one of my greatest joys is getting back to cooking and baking. Food is my only real hobby, in the sense of something I do regularly outside of work (music, although it’s my greatest passion, doesn’t qualify since it IS my work). When I started this blog I thought that a lot of postings would be about food, and I imagine that day will come soon, but so far delicious edibles haven’t featured much except in the case of my tragic smoothie disaster.

I love cooking, eating, and dining out. And taking photos of food so I can remember it or post online or email to family to share. The (very amateur) food photography offshoot of my hobby began during my 2009 tour to Indonesia with the Swara Sonora Trio, when I couldn’t help but document every amazing meal we shared.

But back to the present. Over the past two weeks I’ve made:

my best-ever fried rice (turns out you need a lot more oil than I usually cook with);

fried rice

my favorite made-up soup, curry lentils and greens;

curry lentil soup

a pasta with meltingly roasted eggplant and sautéed squash;

eggplant-squash pasta

spice cupcakes (The Joy of Cooking’s quick spice cake recipe is a standby for me);

spice cupcakes

Cacio e Pepe, a favorite from last year’s honeymoon in Rome;

cacio e pepe

the tastiest 100% whole wheat bread recipe I’ve tried (thank you King Arthur);


half-sour pickles (Parenthetical Aside 1: N and I love these so much and we get the best pickling cucumbers here in NC. Parenthetical Aside 2: This recipe is great but I recommend halving the salt unless you want to start taking blood pressure medication);

half sour pickles

And bagels! (Really Bruegger’s are better but these were fun to make and I might try again with proper bread flour instead of all-purpose).


That’s not to mention the chocolate chip cookies, peach caprese, oatmeal cookies, from-scratch microwave popcorn (did you know you can just put kernels in a glass bowl, top with a plate, and press Start?) ravioli–not from scratch–with olive oil and sage, and probably some other things I’m forgetting.

I thought cooking was okay for my back since it involves neither sitting nor standing still, but I think being on my feet that much, twisting around to stir and chop and transfer things, isn’t ideal. I decided to cool it for a while and eat my leftovers. The decision was also precipitated by a fridge that looks like this:

full fridge
Good thing my mom swept into town to help me eat them. But more on that later. Right now I need a snack.

Independence and Adaptation

Happy Fourth of July!

I won’t dwell on the fact that today I was supposed to be traipsing around Oregon with N and friends, but instead I’m hiding from the swamp-level Carolina humidity outside and will probably celebrate tonight by lying in bed with my heating pad and Beverly Hills Chihuahua on Netflix, after I wrestle Charlie into her Thundershirt so she doesn’t suffer a heart attack from the fireworks outside. I mean, that would just sound like whining.

Cancelling my trip was disappointing on many levels, one of them that I didn’t get to put into practice all my brilliant new travel ideas. I had thought through every step of my travel day, deciding how I could make adjustments so that I could get across the country by myself without hurting my back further.

I think I had some pretty good ideas. Already I have a set of carefully honed travel protocols, and my mind loves exercises like trying to make them even better. The first part of my plan was to pack in my very smallest piece of luggage:

small suitcase and Charlie

N calls it my bowling bag. I love it; it’s a duffel with wheels and impressive storage capacity for its size. I was maybe even going to place it, empty, inside my car and then fill it, so that I didn’t ever have to lift the full bag. The helpful employees at FastPark & Relax would get it from my car into the airport, and then I would bat my eyelashes at the US Airways check-in agent — male or female — to heft it onto the scale for me, tag it, and send it on its way.

Then I’d be flying with only my purse, which I was quite excited about. No carry-on suitcase, no computer, no binder of music, no digital recording equipment, no serious novel — just a pocketbook with the July-August issue of The Atlantic rolled up into it and a granola bar for emergencies. I adore my earth-friendly glass water bottle, made by lifefactory:

water bottle and Charlie

but to save on weight I planned to leave it at home and buy a bottle of overpriced airport water at the last minute before boarding. Then I could throw it overboard (into an Oregonian recycling bin, of course) after my flights if necessary.

I’d carry, as always, my lumbar support pillow for sitting on the plane. I intended to check-in online exactly 24 hours before my flight and see if I could switch my usual window seat for an aisle so that I could get up and stretch whenever I needed to during the flights. During my layover in Philadelphia I would, without shame, get down on the floor and do some press-ups (super-wimpy pushups) to take the pressure off my back.

I had it planned down to a T, but alas, it was not to be. Maybe I’ll get to put some of my new travel inspirations to good use in the future. Have you ever made extreme modifications to accomplish travel under less than ideal conditions? Leave me a comment.

(btw, thanks to Charlie for modeling in my photos for this post)