God Save the Hymn

During our worship services, in between speakers, we sometimes have an intermediate hymn–or rest hymn as they’re sometimes called, so that we don’t feel too restless, because listening to people talk for 40 minutes is a long time. So yeah, we sing a hymn in the middle to break it up a bit.

Today the rest hymn was “My Country, ’tis of Thee.” I get that last week was the Fourth of July, and it’s totally fine to keep celebrating our country.

But for some weird reason the congregation stood up to sing this hymn. Which isn’t “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It’s the exact tune of England’s anthem, “God Save the Queen.”

I don’t know, maybe we have English nationals in the congregation? Which might explain the seeming random standing. But wouldn’t we be singing the words to “God Save the Queen” and not “My Country, ’tis of Thee”?

I was confused.

Anyway, there are four verses to this American rip-off hymn. At the end of the third verse Reilly whispered that he was stepping out to use the bathroom. So I sat down with Z while everyone else stood up and sang.

Interesting.

Media Consumption And Stuff Update

TV: Mad Men Season 6; Superstore Season 6

Music: Birds of Chicago

Books: Radium Girls

Podcasts: Cold, Season 2

Clarinet: About an hour of practice that included reed adjusting.

Exercise: Digging around and chopping at some stumps in the yard with an axe for about 30 minutes

I wonder if I can keep this up. I mean, I even squeezed in a nap.

A Letter I Sent

Subject: General Praise for Your Content

Hi Michael,

I am one of many, many, many people who found a ton of spare time during the pandemic and dusted off their clarinets. Getting reacquainted with my clarinet over the past year has been super fun, and since I peaked in 9th grade (I’m old enough to be in 39th grade now), I’ve often reflected on how I reached high notes or tackled a difficult passage so many years ago. I don’t know: maybe I was a better instrumentalist then, but maybe I’m a better musician now? Just cuz life and stuff has reformed my perspective and how I approach goals. And practice. You know?

I hate to say I stumbled upon your YouTube channel, because I try to be deliberate in most of my choices, but you were a significant part of a journey down a clarinet rabbit hole. I found Michelle Anderson, and she mentioned you, and I’ve enjoyed your performances as well as your tutorials.

It’s not much of a leap to say I’m a better player-musician now than I was a year ago. And that’s due to listening to excellent musicians like you. And learning how to REALLY take care of my instrument (I’ve since upgraded from my student model to an intermediate). And adjusting my own reeds. Your content is an invaluable resource, and I hope you keep all of it up.

Anyway, you’ve been incredibly generous sharing as much as you do. Just want to say thanks.

If you’ve wondered while filling orders who you’re shipping to in [City], Utah, that’s me. I’ve loved supporting your business in my little way.

Thanks again, and happy summer!

May

This is Michael Lowenstern’s YouTube channel.

Here is his shop.

This is Michelle Anderson’s YouTube channel.

Here is her website.

These have been my main resources for clarinet advice in the past year. They’re fun and informative and incredibly encouraging. If you relate to the clarinet at all, check out these amazing folks. I’m still contemplating lessons and masterclasses from Michelle. I do know that I need lessons if I want to get better.

That is all.

Good Reeds

There ought to be an app that keeps track of reeds. And it should be called Good Reeds.

There probably is. But maybe Goodreads told them to change their name.

I currently use a little notebook documenting the date I open new reeds, the amount of time in subsequent days I play them (usually five minutes), the temperature, and the humidity of each day I play on them as I break the reeds in. And I rate them on a scale from 1 to 5 according to how the feel as I play them. It usually takes about a week to break a reed in to my liking.

It’s been a decent system so far, and I’m currently using some real winners. But I’m also trying to be patient with what seem to be duds. And since I’ve learned how to sand duds into sounding better, I can’t say that very many reeds would go to waste.

I did purchase a synthetic reed today, Legère brand. Opened the package, placed the reed on the mouthpiece. It was immediately ready to go. And the strength of the reed felt really good. Great response and projection. One of those almost cost as much as a box of Vandoren V12s, 3.5 strength, but one of those should last as long as an entire box of bamboo reeds.

I tested the reed on my student clarinet. I can’t wait to get my intermediate clarinet back from the shop. I can’t believe it took a reed to get me extremely excited again about playing.

—–

It rained today, giving some relief to the land after a pretty intense drought. We hope to get more rain throughout the summer. We hope more people are thinking about water conservation more than they are trying to keep their lawns green.

Fixing Clarinets

Today I took my newer, not-my-33-year-old-student-model, Bb clarinet to the shop. I told the repairman it needed its yearly maintenance tune-up and to look at the transition between open G and B5: the seal might not be completely closed for a smooth jump up the register. He said that my place in the queue puts repairs about 10 days out.

So I can play my student model and/or my A clarinet in the meantime.

I also took my Gretsch metal clarinet apart today. The head on one of the screws had worn completely flat, so I spent some time gently hammering my smallest flathead screwdriver into that screw to form a groove deep enough for unscrewing. It got to where if I pushed hard enough into the screw and turned lefty-loosey, enough of the screw would be above the hole for me to unscrew the rest using needlenose pliers.

Glad that worked.

Gotta look at the springs and clean the keys and screws; replace the rest of the pads. Then put it all back together. I wonder if I have to buy a junk metal clarinet for parts just so that I get screws the right length. The repair kit I have is for modern clarinets, and not all the screws are the same size as those from the metal clarinet. Most of the screws are still good, though–it’s just the one that has a bad head.

It looks cool. Even if I don’t get it playing perfectly or at all, working on it is pretty fun.

Damn, This Album: Outside Child, by Allison Russell

A lot of critical acclaim erupted for this album, which does one of two things for me: makes me wait until the hype dies down, or makes me super excited and listen to it immediately.

I ended up waiting a couple of weeks and listened to it yesterday, back to back. I wanted to listen to it sooner, but I wanted to make sure I had enough time to give it my full attention. And since it’s so fresh on my mind, I didn’t do what I usually like to do when actively listening to an album, which is take notes and jot thoughts that cross my mind as I experience the music.

I will do this, I promise. But for now I’ll post the album here for you listen for yourselves. It seriously blew my mind. I hope you appreciate it as much, or more.

The Passing Evening

It’s 11:33 PM. I totally let the day get away from me.

I do not know what to make of the range of feelings about my baby heading to 2nd grade next school year. First grade was such a blur. Like, Kindergarten blurred into the summer, which blurred into 1st grade. And now another summer is already upon us. We like summer, but time is sure being funky with the pandemic and isolation and then people returning to society. It’s weird.

This evening I multitasked between watching Game 2 of the Jazz-Grizzlies series and piecing together a recording. Whenever I exported a revised version of the video from the editing software to the hard drive, I would peek out of the office into the tv room and check the score of the game. As I was editing, I could overhear Reilly and my brother talk about different players and the bad calls the officials were making. I mean, the Jazz won, which is what we want.

And I finished the video. Could have used a bit more cleaning up, but didn’t feel like it this time. Wanted to revisit my mid-teens again. Enjoy, and good night:

From Instagram Today

For my birthday yesterday we went to Paris.

JK! I got a green screen, and we’ve been playing with it.

I also got some books and cards and music and clothes, and a fun meal out with the family. And time with friends.

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes. You sure do know how to make a gal feel excited to be alive.

Happy Sunday, y’all.

45, let’s go.

Damn, This Album: Blue Heron Suite, by Sarah Jarosz

A friend recommended this album a couple weeks ago and added her own warning of its emotional impact. This morning I finally played it. The songs carved out my flesh and left my soul bare.

This album is a song cycle Jarosz created to contemplate her mom’s cancer diagnosis coinciding with the destruction of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. (See story here.) Jarosz explores place and nostalgia in a Gulf Coast town her family frequented during her childhood. She employs symbol in a blue heron fleeting the coast.

These songs are well-produced, yet its rawness rekindles (revisits? revives?) some of my own grief. It’s not the same initial process of mourning, though: every opportunity to remember death of loved ones lets me see how my grief has evolved over time.

I may try providing commentary of individual songs later. Sarah Jarosz is indisputably talented, both as an instrumentalist and songwriter. She can tap into the heart of our most cherished experiences, our precious memories, our suppressed and neglected heartbreaking moments.

This one’s going into the rotation.