Monthly Archives: March 2016

Game of Tunes

The politics of a local community choir can be as complex as any ancient fiefdom. We have our King and Queen, Mark and Crystal, as firm but gentle rulers. We, the choir, don’t ordinarily vote on things, but we do offer opinions, a staggering weight of them. When speaking at inopportune times, Crystal can easily silence us with the phrase, ‘A little flat…you’re sinking, there.’ As she points at the altos, tenors, basses or sopranos, she might as well say, off with their heads! It’s very chastening.

Crystal is not afraid to mix it up with other fiefdoms. She easily calls on the top dogs in London or New York, casually mentioning that she’s sent in her application for a certain musical to be performed in, yes, Flin Flon. Greeted with hysterical laughter or cold silence, she presses on, winning hard to get scores and months of crippling work for herself and Mark.

Our monarchy is aided by faithful knights and nobles, ie: the people who sing really well. It’s a great social equalizer, choir. You could be homeless and sleep in a box, not having showered for a month. But if you have a beautiful voice, we worship at your feet. People will fight to stand beside you, knowing that your golden notes will help them swim, if not with the big fish, at least the medium sized ones.

Then there’s the rest of us.  Though Crystal denies crying herself to sleep at night, I’m sure the desperation of trying to bring us up to snuff, especially when we’re not getting it, is like being water boarded. But our fearless leaders never surrender to despair. At least, not to our faces. And somehow they manage to whip us into shape again and again before we land in Winnipeg, or New York, or on our very own stage in town.

We’ve had some challenging pieces over the years. One of the hardest for me was the Alto part to the song, ‘Where the Boys Are,’ that we sang during our ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ show. It sounded so wonky and off key. I might have wept a bit as I hit the wrong notes again and again. I can’t remember how it all ended…perhaps with a bit of lip syncing on my part. But hey…bragging rights. You show me your Mozart’s Requiem, I’ll show you my Verdi. Much harder, in my humble opinion, yet still a favorite.

We have joyfully performed, for the last twenty years, everything from ‘Schubert’s Mass in A’ to ‘Les Miserables,’ with plenty of Christmas concerts and Cabarets in between. At the moment, we’re learning Morten Lauridsen’s ‘Lux Aeterna,’ a piece which has insured I wear my big girl panties to choir. There’s strange timing, high parts, fast parts, tricky parts, and some that make me want to cry, they’re so beautiful. I wanted to quit, seriously. But our faithful king and queen never lost faith, and we’re slowly sorting it out. And after all that, there’s the real blessing, the better than silver lining of being in choir.

When I head to McIsaac School on a Saturday morning and sing for two hours, it lifts my life out of the every day and makes it, pardon the pun, sing. Perhaps its the act of pushing air in and out of my lungs. Joining others in learning difficult pieces. Hearing our voices united in song. Or all of the above. Whatever it is, its all due to our wonderful Mark and Crystal Kolt. We who are about to die, I mean, sing Lux Aeterna, salute you. We thank you for your gift, this crazy group, this amazing experience, the Flin Flon Community Choir. And did I mention that you don’t have to audition? Someone please high five me on that one.

The Mirror

The other night I dreamed that I had no skin. Just bones, so you could see all my dental work. I looked at my skull in the mirror and wondered if it was really me. When I woke, I kept thinking about it. Who am I, anyway?

We are all the sum total of our physical and mental parts, our upbringing and experiences. Then there’s that ten percent of uncertainty. Like the burger you buy from a street vendor, and are almost certain its beef. We get our ideas about ourselves from parents and friends, but also from the things we like to do. For me, this has changed over time.

When I was in my forties, I became obsessed with decorating. Like the poor woman’s Martha Stewart, I gave my house a makeover. Ripping out carpets, replacing them with fake hardwood, repainting all the walls. I even recovered the sofa, which, believe me. Don’t ever do it. There are at least ten thousand staples in there and no way to stretch the new material quite as tight. The whole experience was strangely satisfying, though. When we moved, we had to renovate the new place, but I never took the same joy in it. It was just something I had to do.

What changed? I’m not sure. All I know is that I don’t care what colour my walls are anymore. I’m feeling nostalgic for the lightness of my youth, the lack of possessions. Fixing broken things, putting in a new lawn (remember the cinch bugs?) Changing the odd window. That’s what I’m willing to do now.

I’m not a big shopper, either, but the dressing room mirror does provide some role play opportunities. Is this me, I wonder, as I try on something sporty. Or am I more classic? Goth? Does this fringed dress work? How about fishnet stockings or jeggings? Hmm. The problem with self definition by wardrobe is that it only lasts for about five minutes. Then you’re back to being you.

On bad shopping days, nothing works. When I feel that happening, I look in the mirror at my own boots, jacket and jeans and say, good enough. What’s wrong with looking like someone who lives in northern Canada, anyway? After all, its a huge part of my not so mysterious ten percent. At least I got that figured out.

The Massage

My sister took me to a spa in Fort Garry called Thermea. In bathing suits and white bathrobes, we sashayed between the outdoor hot pools, warm and cold pools, dry and wet saunas with accompanying scented oils, an outdoor fireplace where we read our books, and indoor mats that lulled us to sleep in the warm heat.

We had lunch with wine, then scurried back to the pools. By the time we showered, I felt limper than an overcooked noodle. I left my sister and headed upstairs, where my massage therapist waited. The obvious offspring of a village pillaging Viking and an orthodox Jew with tattoos, his curly side locks seemed completely appropriate. Plus, he was huge. And I’d never had a male therapist before. By had, I mean… You know what I mean.

I’ve never really understood the rules about this stuff. We have society’s permission to be naked in front of opposite sex strangers if: a) you accidentally end up on a nude beach, like Clarence and I did, or b) they’re doctors and nurses. Was this the same thing? Is there a panel of people who decide the protocol of nudity? I did have a sheet and blanket for a covering. And this guy was a master at arranging them around my legs, upper torso, lower torso, like some kind of sheet genie. Whenever I started feeling uneasy, he’d work the tension right out of me.

Because he was so large, he didn’t have to glide around the table like a regular therapist. Instead, he would hip check the table, sending it wherever he wanted it to go. With hands the size of my back, he could have snapped my neck like a chicken. Between the sheet arranging, his breathing instructions and the moving table, I should have been flustered beyond the point of relaxation. But I wasn’t.

It helped that he kept calling me dear, like I was his ninety year old grandmother. And he had a way of breathing that was hypnotizing. My breath just kind of fell in line. Before I knew it I was completely relaxed. So if you’re lucky enough to go to the Thermea spa in Winnipeg, ask for Justin. Don’t be alarmed by his size. He’s a kitten packaged like a dinosaur. But with really good hands.

Leap Year

Forget New Year’s resolutions. Twelve months? At my age, that feels like two weeks. Not nearly enough time to reach for the stars. My new plan, uncovered this evening, allows me four whole years. So by the next leap year, my mission(s) should be accomplished.

First on my list is to stop falling down, at least physically. I’ve decided to quit seeing this as an impossible goal (due to my keystone cop-esque ineptitude) and begin viewing it as a decision. Ergo, no more falling down. I’m done with it. I made it all the way home tonight on very slippery roads. So.

In four years, I plan to be ten pounds lighter. When you break it down, that’s less than three pounds a year. Very doable. If I tried to make it happen in twelve months I’d be up eating cheese at three in the  morning, with a glass of wine or two on the side. Don’t drink without eating…that’s always been my motto. But this kind of pacing, four years worth, it will work for sure.

I like the idea of a leap. A decision to go for what I really want. Since I’m not quite sure about all of my end goals, four years gives me a little time to figure it out. Some things are too secret to share (even for me) but I promise that in 2020, I will give you all a full report.

And please… join me. Make a wish for things that feel so far out of reach, they’re practically impossible. Believe you can make them happen. Take a picture of them with your mental smartphone. Now, see yourself taking the hand of a friend. Then take my hand. We’ll head over to the cliff edge together, our pockets filled with dreams of things we never dared to hope for. If we leap together, they have a better chance of coming true. I don’t know what you’re wishing, but I’m very excited about not falling down anymore. What do you really want by 2020? Figure it out, then come on. One, two, three. Jump.