December 2005

December 31, 2005 18:47

I have one more Happy New Year card for everyone before it's too late. Happy New Year, everybody!

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My new camera

December 30, 2005 23:18

In a previous life, I spent a lot of time outdoors in the countryside. I would walk for hours, up and down hills and through the woods, with my camera around my neck. People used to tease me and say that the camera was attached to me. They were almost right. I love doing nature photography.

In recent years, I’ve used a digital camera. Digital cameras have some advantages. They’re lightweight, small, and easy to carry around. You don’t have to pay for film and developing. You can post your photos on the Internet and invite people to see them. You can touch up your photos on your computer, so you don’t need a photographic darkroom. There are disadvantages, too. With the digital camera, my close-ups had the fish-eye look, and the flash made all the colors look flat. The zoom was only 4x, and I couldn’t get close enough to my subjects. I’ve missed my “real camera.” I could take better pictures with it. I could adjust the camera settings for best results. Most important, I could use my lenses. Even something as simple as a polarizing lens makes a very big difference in outdoor photography, and a macro lens gives far better close-ups than I could get with my digital camera. I especially missed using my macro lens. For a long time, I’ve wanted a digital SLR camera, mainly so I could use my lenses. However, with a cost of several thousand dollars, I simply couldn’t afford to buy one.

About a month ago, I decided to buy a digital camera with more zoom (10x). Fortunately for me, Cameta, the camera store with good prices, had sold out of them. I got brave enough to check the prices of the digital SLRs, and I found that Nikon’s entry level digital SLR, the D50, costs about as much as the digital camera with the 10x zoom. I bought the Nikon D50, and I’m very happy with it.

When I received the camera, I was so excited that I stayed up half the night photographing things in my home. I knew that I would be able to use my old lenses but I would have to focus manually. I used to do this with my film camera, and I don’t mind doing it again. At first, the new camera felt big and bulky in my hands, but I got used to that quickly, too. Since I enjoy taking close-ups so much, I photographed my violin and my poinsettia plant, and I noticed something important. If I used the camera’s auto-everything setting, the close-ups were often slightly out of focus because the camera was taking readings in several parts of the visual field. When I set the camera to its close-up setting, shown by the icon of a flower, I could do spot focusing, and the results were much better. Of course, when you take close-ups with the lens wide open, you lose a lot of depth of field. When I used spot focusing, I focused on the foreground and let the background go soft. Foreground and background in this situation would be one leaf on my poinsettia and one leaf just behind it or the bridge of my violin and the body of my violin. I don’t know how close I got to my subject, but I know that the lens was almost touching the poinsettia, and the photos looked good. Actually, “good” is a matter of interpretation. My photos showed some of the small flaws on the poinsettia leaves, but I like it this way.

The next day, after getting some sleep, I went outside with my new camera. At first, I doubted that I would find anything worth photographing near the sidewalk or the parking lot near my home. I was wrong. One of the reasons I love photographing things is that it makes me see things better. I took some photos of the dreary winter day with mist in the air and snow almost completely melted, thinking, “This isn’t a good white Xmas.” Then I remembered how much I used to enjoy photographing things on the forest floor, so I looked down at the ground, and I saw some things to go with my photos of the drab and foggy Xmas: some pine needles which had fallen on top of the ice water slush. I also took a close-up of a fallen pine cone nearby.

Nikon is justifiably well known for their cameras and lenses. They are not well known for their software. The software I got with the D50 is pretty crummy, much less user friendly than their older software, which I had to uninstall before installing the newer software. I just use other software packages for viewing, rotating, cropping, resizing, and compressing my images.

Now I’m looking forward to taking more photos with my new camera.



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New camera!

December 28, 2005 18:53

Here are a few pictures of my violin which I took with my new camera. It is an entry level digital-SLR from Nikon (Nikon D50), and I used my old Nikon macro lens. I will write more about the camera and post more photos later. I'm so happy with this camera, and especially love taking closeups with it.

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A special winter concert -- again

December 27, 2005 01:02

Hey folks! Where are you? I know this is holiday time, but I’d love to hear from someone about my previous post about a special winter concert. Parents of violin students, violin teachers, students who can still relate to being a fourth grader playing the violin, and anyone else, please respond.

To make it a bit more interesting, here is a photo of my favorite Xmas gift this year. It was handmade by the very fourth grader whose concert I attended.

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A Special Winter Concert

December 24, 2005 22:58

I attended a special winter concert earlier this week. One of my students (M) played with her school orchestra, which is comprised of fifth and sixth graders. However, my student, a fourth grader, was included because she plays so well. (**pride**) The concert was very well attended – standing room only. There were a lot of proud parents there. My student’s contingent included both parents, three grandparents (the fourth was sick), her younger sister, and me. Her grandmother had bunches of flowers for her and her sister; her father had a digital camera with a long lens; and one of the grandfathers had a video camera and a monopod. We took up a whole row in the audience. Before the concert, I remarked to her father, “I don’t think we had anything like this when I was a kid.” He replied, “My elementary school didn’t even have an orchestra.”

We couldn’t see M onstage because she was smaller than the kids in front of her, so her mother moved up for a better view before the concert began. She was chagrined to see that M was crying, so she rushed towards her, uttering the universally understood and respected maternal cry, “Child in tears!” M was crying because her shoulder rest had come off of her violin and she didn’t think she would be able to play. Her mother dashed out in the hall to look for it, and, fortunately, met a little boy who had found it and was bringing it to the orchestra leader. The mother took it and gave it to M just in time. Then she told me, “That’s the life of a mother. Always a few steps away from disaster.” The orchestra conductor -- bless him – had waited for the crisis to resolve before starting to play. The kids played beautifully, especially those in the violin section. Then the school band with its 75 members played, and finally, the chorus sang. M sang in the chorus, and we could see her because she was in the front row. She looked so happy as she sang.

After several rounds of applause, the school principal came out and spoke to the audience. She looked very proud, and she thanked everyone in the audience for their support. I could see and hear that she meant it. I thought about it. There are only 330 kids in the school, and one third to one half of them played in the orchestra or the band or sang in the chorus. That’s a very high level of student participation in the music program. The students who sang in the chorus gave up one day of recess each week to rehearse. (That’s why there were so few boys in the chorus.) Each student who performed probably had several people in the audience, judging from the size of the crowd. It really does take parental support for almost all of the students to participate. Most of the parents of kids who play instruments listen to their kids practice; encourage them; take them to their lessons; pay for their lessons, instruments, and books; and generally stay a few steps away from disaster for their childrens’ sake. The parents, the teachers, and, of course, the kids, contributed to making this a very special winter concert.

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Merry Xmas Eve

December 24, 2005 03:49

Merry Xmas Eve, everyone.


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Holiday blues

December 21, 2005 15:11

The holiday season has its down sides. Depression, traffic accidents, alcoholism-related problems, financial hardships, conflicts at home, and domestic and other kinds of violence are highest at this time of year. For many of us, the glitz reminds us painfully of the ways in which our lives don’t measure up to our own or other people’s standards. I’ve got holiday related depression. I’m far from the place I want to be in my life. I keep saying jokingly, “All I need to make me happy is love and money,” but it’s no joke. I’ve been unemployed for most of the last four years, and I’m running out of money. I’m divorced and, although I have had some loving relationships, I’m still alone. I feel that I am responsible for not living up to my own standards. There are some things that are not my fault, like having no family, but they also contribute to my feelings of emptiness. I know that everyone has their problems and that the happiness I see in other people may be superficial. I was talking to a friend I like very much about her Christmas get-together with her family. She has two grown sons, one with a family. They both live far away, and they won’t be coming home for Christmas. She told me what they had told her and her husband, that the demands of work are high and they can’t afford to take a few days off. Maybe she believes them, but I don’t. I know that there are many, many people in our country and elsewhere who are much more needy than I, and I feel that I shouldn’t complain. Still, I feel very bad.

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My new website

December 20, 2005 21:13

I just put up a website for myself, and some of its pages are about me as a violin teacher. You can see it here. Please take a look and give me some comments on content, layout, or whatever. I thank everyone here who has already helped me with my techie questions.

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Revenge of the nerds

December 20, 2005 02:04

I gave myself the night off from doing my work and relaxed. I read, ate some ice cream, listened to music, played my violin, took photographs, and cruised around the Internet. I have loved doing these things since I was a kid, except for photography and the Internet. I didn’t own a camera, and the Internet hadn’t been invented yet. My mother always gave me a hard time for my solitary pursuits, especially reading. To her, reading was an antisocial crime. “You’ve always got your nose stuck in a book,” she’d tell me. “You’re going to be an egghead just like your father!” That was serious. She didn’t like my father, and saying that I resembled him was the worst insult she could give me. I know now that reading probably preserved my sanity. It was my escape from an unpleasant reality, and it prevented me from becoming hateful like her.

I was a nerd long before the word was invented. I just looked the word up to see where it comes from, and I was pleasantly surprised. It comes from a Dr. Seuss book, If I Ran the Zoo, published in 1950. "And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo A Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!" Dr. Seuss didn’t define the word, but the picture of the nerd in his book was a “comically unpleasant creature.” The word nerd was defined years later as “a square,” “someone with objectionable habits or traits,” or “an uninteresting person.” I was all those things. I read a lot; I got good grades; I played the violin; and, eventually, I majored in chemistry. In recent years, though, we nerds have acquired a somewhat better image. We are people who like quiet time, enter almost any profession we want, and shamelessly admit that we play the violin. There is a community of over 3000 registered users on, and probably many more who just lurk and read. We read, and we write, and we become each other’s friends.

Aaaaah, it feels so good to come out of the closet. Thank you, v.commies.

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December 20, 2005 01:09

A Christmas wish from Pauline

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December 19, 2005 01:00

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Beethoven's Birthday

December 16, 2005 02:42

December 17 is Beethoven's birthday.

See my my birthday card.


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Alice's Restaurant Part II

December 15, 2005 02:55

Now the story takes an unexpected turn.

But that's not what I'm here to tell you about. I'm here to talk about the draft.

(During the 1960s and 1970s, young men were conscripted, or drafted, into military service. Many of them went to extreme measures to avoid being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam.)

Arlo was sent to get a physical exam to determine whether he could be drafted. He was

injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected!... hung down, brung down, hung up and all kinds of mean, nasty, ugly things.

Arlo was instructed to report to the psychiatrist on duty. He did so and told the psychiatrist

Shrink, I wanna kill. I wanna kill! I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth! Eat dead, burnt bodies! I mean: Kill. Kill!"
And I started jumpin' up and down, yellin' "KILL! KILL!" and he started jumpin' up and down with me, and we was both jumpin' up and down, yellin', "KILL! KILL! KILL! KILL!" and the sergeant came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said "You're our boy". Didn't feel too good about it.

At the end of the day, Arlo was interviewed by one more official who asked him whether he had ever been arrested. Arlo

proceeded to tell him the story of Alice's Restaurant Massacree with full orchestration and five-part harmony and stuff like that, and other phenomenon.

When asked whether he had ever been to court, Arlo replied in the affirmative, and then he was told to join Group W.

Group W is where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committin' your special crime. There was all kinds of mean, nasty, ugly-lookin' people […] there . . . there was mother-rapers . . . father-stabbers . . . father-rapers! FATHER-RAPERS sittin' right there on the bench next to me!

Then a sergeant came by and asked Arlo whether he had rehabilitated himself, and Arlo said

I'm sittin' here on the Group W bench, 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug.

The Sergeant told Arlo that his fingerprints would be sent to Washington DC, and on his record album, Arlo noted that

somewhere in Washington, enshrined in some little folder, is a study in black and white of my fingerprints.

(Fingerprints were made by applying ink to a person’s fingertips and transferring the ink from the fingertips to specially treated paper. These fingerprints were believed to be different for every human being and were consequently used as forensic tools before the advent of DNA fingerprinting.)

Arlo concluded by explaining the raison d’etre of his record album.

And the only reason I'm singin' you the song now is 'cause you may know somebody in a similar situation.
Or you may be in a similar situation, and if you're in a situation like that, there's only one thing you can do:
Walk into the shrink wherever you are, just walk in, say, "Shrink, . . . you can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant", and walk out […]
And can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day . . . walkin' in, singin' a bar of "Alice's Restaurant" and walkin' out? Friends, they may think it's a MOVEMENT, and that's what it is: THE ALICE'S RESTAURANT ANTI-MASSACREE MOVEMENT!

You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant

Fast forward to 2005.

The church that was once home to Alice and Ray Brock is now the Guthrie Center, founded by Arlo himself in 1991 as a place for spiritual service and cultural and educational exchange. Its mission is described on its website (link):

As the world becomes smaller we must find ways to embrace the spiritual journeys of those whose traditions are different, without abandoning our own.

A plaque on the door reads:

One God - Many Forms
One River - Many Streams
One People - Many Faces
One Mother - Many Children

The Guthrie Center’s programs include the Walk-A-Thon to Cure Huntington’s Disease (the genetically based disease that claimed the life of Woodie Guthrie, Arlo’s father); the "Thanksgiving Dinner That Can't Be Beat" for families, friends, doctors and scientists who live and work with Huntington's Disease; interfaith yoga, meditation, and prayer for families and friends of people with HIV and other fatal diseases; art, music, and dance for children institutionalized and recovering from abuse; weekly free community lunches; Food Service Rescue, which delivers free food to those who need it; and Helping Hands Program for those who are homebound. The Guthrie Center’s income comes from donations and Arlo’s benefit concerts. The Guthrie Foundation, a not-for-profit educational foundation which shares space with the Guthrie Center, provides local cultures with the means to preserve traditional music, stories, medicine, dance, and spiritual practices in the face of an ever-encroaching globalization.

Arlo posted Season’s Greetings on Nov. 17, 2005.

The 2005 season is just about over here at the church. We got a lot done this past year - new construction - almost completed ramp - updated kitchen - all kinds of fabulous improvements. We are in our mostly dormant period at this time of year because we have no heat in the sanctuary, but there still programs going on

Before the year is gone I wanted to personally thanks everyone who came, who helped, who volunteered, all the above and more. Without you there would be no us. I am thrilled that we are still able to create and sustain the kind of community we have with all the abundant creativity and open hearts. Thanks to all who have helped with whatever tools were available - your hands, your hearts, your minds and your pocketbooks. It all comes together.

The beat goes on.

You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.

The Guthrie Center

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Sweet (shutter) release

December 14, 2005 01:57

Aaaah. Sweet release. I finally finished my term paper. It wasn’t really a term paper. It just felt like one. When I read blogs by people studying for exams, writing papers, or doing projects for school, I always say, “I’m so glad I’ve finished school.” Now I’m writing to earn money, and that’s quite a motivator. I got a short gig as a science writer with a company which has a contract with NIH (National Institutes of Health). A year or two ago, Congress passed a law to foster research and development of drugs for children, and they charged NIH with implementing the law. NIH put together several small groups of experts in the field. They communicated with each other by conference calls during the past year, and last week they came to meet face-to-face, have workshops, set goals, and make recommendations. The groups are preparing documents, but NIH also wants a written record of the discussions to show how the groups reached their conclusions. I worked for the Taste and Flavor Group, attending their breakout sessions, taping the discussions, and writing a detailed (term) paper summarizing the discussions. The taste of pediatric drugs is very important. If kids don’t like the way a drug tastes, they’ll just spit it out. Even the greatest drug won’t accomplish anything if the kids won’t take it. The discussions were fairly technical, and that is why they hired scientists like me to write about them. The discussions I heard were also very interesting. The staff at the hotel where the workshops took place taped the sessions, but, just to be safe, I bought a very cheap, crummy tape recorder to use as a backup. I’m very glad I did, because the hotel screwed up on the taping. When it was time to write my term paper, I did some world class procrastinating. I finally got around to doing the writing, and then I did some extensive editing for style. That’s the boring part. I was given a style guide with lots of picky little rules about formatting and word usage. If I write for this company again, it will be a whole lot easier next time. I stayed up late last night, finished the paper, and emailed it to the contract company. Then something great happened. I slept a whole lot. Now I feel so much better.

One of the things that slowed me down was studying for something entirely different on the Internet. I love doing photography, especially nature photography. I’ve been using a Nikon digital camera, and I’ve been frustrated with its shortcomings for a long time. The cheapest reputable camera company is Cameta, and they sell on ebay. For years, my dream camera has been a digital SLR, but they were way too expensive (thousands of dollars). This time I decided to buy Nikon’s top-of-the-line digital camera. I could buy one which had been a factory demo for considerably less than a brand new one. Fortunately for me, Cameta was out of stock on this. I gathered my courage and looked at Nikon’s entry level digital SLR camera, the D50. It wasn’t much more expensive than the digital one I had originally tried to buy. I have three lenses for my old film camera, and I can use them on the digital SLR I’m getting. I’m so excited! I got out my film camera, which I haven’t used in a few years, and it felt good just to hold it in my hands. I’m really eager for my new camera to arrive. Be prepared to see some great photos from me.

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Alice's Restaurant Part I

December 13, 2005 01:45

Arlo Alice's Restaurant

This song is called Alice's Restaurant, and it's about Alice, and the restaurant, but Alice's Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant, that's just the name of the song, and that's why I called the song Alice's Restaurant.
Arlo Guthrie

So begins Alice’s Restaurant, a song, recitation, record album, movie, and cultural phenomenon which commenced in the 1960s in white, middle class America. It can’t be paraphrased, and I wouldn’t even try. Instead, I’ll write about it and explain some of the historical terminology and obsolete technology.

Alice’s Restaurant is an 18 minute long song/recitation written, sung, and recited by Arlo Guthrie on a record album produced in 1966. (“Record album” is a recording on a flat, disc-shaped piece of vinyl commonly used in the first half of the twentieth century before tapes, compact discs, and mp3s became common.) Arlo has since noted that the length of this opus is almost exactly the same as the length of the infamous deleted section of the Watergate tapes of Richard Nixon. (For information Watergate, see the book All the President’s Men by Woodward and Bernstein or the movie by the same name starring Robert Redford. For information on Richard Nixon, see Liars and Other Scoundrels in the White House in the Twentieth Century.)

You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant
Walk right in, it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant

The saga was based on events which occurred in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving Day in 1965.

I wanna tell you 'bout the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where this is happenin'. They got three stop signs, two police officers, and one police car

On that fateful Thanksgiving Day in 1965, Arlo and his friend Rick had dinner with Alice and Ray Brock, teachers at the high school Arlo had attended, in the Brocks’ home, an old church building in Stockbridge. The Brocks had accumulated a lot of garbage in their home, and Arlo and Rick agreed to haul it to the city dump in a bright red VW microbus (a vehicle commonly used for hauling equipment before minivans and 4WD vehicles became prevalent in suburbia). They loaded up the microbus with garbage and some

shovels and rakes and implements of destruction

(Implements of destruction preceded weapons of mass destruction.)

but when they got to the dump they saw

a big sign and a chain across the dump sayin', "This dump is closed on Thanksgiving"

so they drove around looking for a place to dump their garbage, and

we didn't find one till we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road was another fifteen-foot cliff, and at the bottom of the cliff was another pile of garbage.

They dumped their garbage on top of the other garbage and returned to the Brocks’ home, where they had a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner. The next morning, officer Obie, of the Stockbridge police force, called Arlo and said

"Kid, we found your name on a envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage and I just wanted to know if you had any information about it." And [Arlo] said, "Yes sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie. I put that envelope under that garbage."

Officer Obie told Arlo and Rick to come to the police station. As soon as they got there, Officer Obie handcuffed them, put them in a patrol car, and drove them to the scene of the crime, where Obie and his colleagues collected evidence.

They was takin' plaster tire tracks, footprints, dog-smellin' prints and they took twenty-seven 8 x 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explainin' what each one was, to be used as evidence against us. Took pictures of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner, the southwest corner . . .
and that's not to mention the aerial photography!

(Colored glossy photographs were taken with film cameras. They could be annotated on the back side with verbal descriptions. This crude but effective method was used before the development of digital photography and Adobe Photoshop. Aerial photography, once considered sophisticated technology, has been replaced by satellite photography, which has far greater resolution at lower cost.)

Afterwards, Arlo and Rick were taken back to the police station, and Alice came and bailed them out a few hours later. The following day, the young men were tried, convicted, fined $25 each, and ordered to pick up the garbage.

Now the story takes an unexpected turn.

But that's not what I'm here to tell you about. I'm here to talk about the draft.

To be continued………………………..

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Happy holidays

December 10, 2005 22:50

This little gem is about 2 1/2" x 3", and it is a music box, too.

Happy holidays, everyone!


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December 6, 2005 20:30

I recently posted some photos of some of my friends having fun. Since people didn't think the photos look like they were having fun, I'll post a fewe more.

Can't help but waltz Omani bagpiper dancing with woman from the audience Omani dancer with audience member

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December 6, 2005 00:41

Sunday I played in our annual Messiah concert and sing-along, and it was great. Every year since the first two, I get bored with practicing for it. The second violin part is very easy and very boring. Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da followed by dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum. I’ve been told that the singing parts are not that easy. I always remind myself that it will be fun to play with the singers, and it certainly was.

The music is full of high drama. In Handel’s day, centuries before high tech films and shows and audio, the drama was encoded into the score. The music bounces around from dark to exultant and from gentle to thunderous. There are dialogues among the instrumentalists, chorus, and soloists. There is no action by the performers, but the emotions conveyed are always active and rapidly changing.

The dress rehearsal was fun. We rehearsed on the stage where we would play the concert, and the acoustics are much, much better there than in the hall where we have most of our rehearsals. It makes a big difference when we can hear ourselves and each other play, and I always play better and enjoy myself more that way. On the day of the concert, one of the violinists in the first chair of the second violin section was unable to attend, and I volunteered to sit in her place. This was a temporary promotion for me, and my friends in the rear of the second violin section were impressed. I had even more fun playing there. I could see the conductor (not just the silhouette of his hands), some of the other orchestra members, the soloists, and even part of the audience. One of our regular soloists (bass) could not play in the concert because he had a paying gig that day. One of our horn players took his place and sang admirably. (It’s good to know that one of your friends has multiple talents.) In one of the first parts we played, I heard singing from people in the audience in front of me in addition to the chorus behind me. I saw our conductor turn part way towards the audience and conduct them for a few seconds before turning to face us again. It’s always a thrill when that happens. There were some strong male singers in the audience, and I heard them loud and clear. Everything swelled to the grand climax in the Hallelujah chorus. What a great feeling! After all the self restraint necessary to keep musical balance, we finally let loose – instrumentalists, chorus, and audience. During the very last measure, I glanced quickly at my bow to see why I had suddenly stopped making a sound with my violin. Of course, my violin was making sound, but so were a lot of other instruments and voices.

A bonus for me was having a few of my students and some of their family members in the audience. I spoke with them at the reception which followed the concert, while I indulged in the brownies I had made and many other confections. It was all over way too soon! I always have a post concert letdown and yearn for rehearsals to begin again in late January. One consolation is that some of that happy music, in its low tech way, keeps playing inside my head.

Every valley, every valley shall be exalted

And the glory of, glory of the Lord shall be revealed

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion

Glory to God on the highest

Rejoice greatly daughters of Zion

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given

Hallelujah hallelujah!

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