Sunday, April 02, 2006
Happy thing one: I have been reading Fiona Buckley's Ursula Blanchard mysteries, which is an odd thing in and of itself, since I hate mysteries. But Ursula is so well-drawn, and the books don't fall into the familiar traps of other mysteries: scattering the landscape with obvious red herrings, or taking up more time with plot exposition than character development. Still it's odd for me to be this taken with a mystery series.

Answer: Fiona Buckley is actually a pseudonym of Valerie Anand, the British author whose "Bridges Over Time" series had me hooked about 1994-7. The series (NOT mysteries) follows one English family from 1066 to the 1950's, and is extremely well-written; I've always recommended it to friends, despite the fact that it was never published in the U.S. (luckily, the UW-Madison buys considerably overseas).

So THAT's why I adore these mysteries. It's not some kind of softening in my addled brain, convincing me that mysteries are lovely things. It's some seriously amazing writing!

Happy thing two: the space in Midvale Plaza that used to house RZ, two doors from the Sequoya Branch Library (my childhood--and current--library), has big honkin' Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream signs in the windows. When I was a kid--probably up until I was in high school--there was a 31 Flavors next door to the Sequoya Branch; Dad would take us to the library sometimes in the evenings, and we'd get ice cream before going home.

This means that two of my favorite things--library and ice cream--will be together again! (Okay, two doors down. Let's not nit-pick.) I am even MORE convinced that Sequoya Branch, not the Middleton Public Library in whose district I technically live, is MY library. (I don't care if the Middleton PL is next door to the Hubbard Avenue Diner. Not the same thing.)

Happy thing three: Bardic Madness went remarkably well. The site was perfect, with comfy private rooms for all the classes, and a small ballroom with great acoustics for the challenge room. I haven't heard from the event staff on troll totals, but when I checked at about 1:15, they were only up to 70. I'm sure totals never went above 90 or so, which turns out to be a comfortable size for the event. Only about 45 sat feast, and the hotel staff pushed the feast tables all together so we were all sitting around the same big "table", which was very cozy. (Her Majesty couldn't make it, so we had no head table. Quite frankly I'm a little sick of getting stuck at head table. I would rather the Royalty honor someone who came from the farthest away, someone who's at their first event, or some random "I thought you did a great job on the song you sang" performer. I have to keep popping up and down doing event stuff, so I can't really do the honor to head table that it deserves, or enjoy the tidbits it gets.)

As usual, I had a really good time with the event, but remember very little of it now. Several people surprised me by participating a lot and doing a great job. Owen performed his "The king has called, and I must go" poem, which I always love. Sir Aaron, who has an entertaining sing-y speak-y performance style, wrote and performed songs for Valencia's birthday, and in honor of Ciara's love of the color pink.

A reporter showed up mid-afternoon, asking to take a picture of a local person; I scanned the list for that challenge and we called up a fellow from Western Keep to stand up for a staged photo. I didn't realize that the reporter then did quite a nice interview of Hrothgar, the site autocrat. That is, I didn't realize it until 4 am, when, after a long and satisfying bardic post-revel, I stumbled up to my room to find that the daily paper had already been delivered to each room, with the large front-page headline, "Medieval Mania", photo, and article! See it at:". It's one of the nicer short articles I've read about the SCA. I hope it garners some interest for the group.

We did get behind during the 2nd Fyt, which meant that thereafter, we kicked one challenge forward. It worked fine, but it serves to point up the problem: if we're still getting behind with under 100 attendees, we are seriously going to have to change the format in the future. Much discussion will have to take place about that. Not right now, though.

Clara turned out to be a fun person to travel with. We have overlapping tastes in music, and similar senses of humor. Problem: we do not have overlapping sleep schedules. She is used to sleeping all day and working on her writing all night. So she missed a lot of the event, then was up and restless most of each night (which was okay; she had her laptop, and the building had free wireless, so she hung out online). Plus she slept for a chunk of each trip. I had music to keep me awake, but she wouldn't have gotten away with that if it had been snowing...!

I'm still recovering from a post-Bardic-Madness cold, so I'm moving a tad slow. Trying to get a lot done that I have been unable/unwilling to tackle recently, though. Yesterday I cleaned my room (doesn't that sound like I'm twelve or something?) and vacuumed it. (Friday night I remarked to Dad that I had cleared off the floor of my room, and was planning on vacuuming, soon. He laughed just a leetle too hard at the word "soon", I think...) Since Thursday night I've done about six loads of laundry, dishes twice, grocery shopping (preceded by an informal cleaning out of my fridge), and put together this spaghetti casserole recipe, which I'm having right now for dinner.

I also wrote a Chatelaine letter for the Northwatch, put together and sent out the attendee list for BM (turns out it wasn't such an amazing idea after all; only 30 people bothered signing up. But we tried it, at least.), and attended the spring concert of the Madison Chamber Choir. It's only about a 20-person group, but they have nice sound and LOTS of stamina--they did a full six-piece first half, then Bach's entire "Jesu, Meine Freude" in the second. TOUGH stuff.

I recall auditioning for MCC when I came back to Madison for grad school, and not getting in; the conductor then called me a year and a half later to assist in swelling the ranks for a Mother's Day concert in Olbrich Gardens. This struck me as a moderately impolite thing to do (reject me, then call me back when it turns out I'm needed), but I was free on the rehearsal night and anyway, I was never one to turn down the opportunity to sing. I still remember that season's music fondly, but the conductor never really impressed me. Nice to see they have moved on. The current fellow is apparently an early music specialist, and seems to be very good. (I like a conductor who makes eye contact with his choir while they sing. I mean, they're always telling US to look up; what's in THEIR score that's so fascinating they can't look up at us?)

This the second spring choral concert I've seen recently. The first was the Festival Choir, which seemed like a nice size (45 or so) but did not have quite as polished a sound. They split into thirds so each smallish group could tackle a madrigal, but obviously had had no guidance whatsoever in appropriate style, because each was ponderous and heavy: they were trying to bring the 45-person sound to their 15-person groups, and it didn't work.

It's no secret that I'm...auditioning choirs. So to speak. Come fall, I'd like to be back in a local choir one day a week. So far the Chamber Choir is my preference, but I know it might be tougher to get in than a larger group. I'll find out if I can give it a try. Community choirs don't usually audition until the fall, but I can wait. Still haven't heard the Philharmonic Chorus; I remember their director, Pat Gorman, as a genial section leader around the time I was home from college every summer and participating in Summer Choral Union. But I don't know if I want to commit to the big Tudor Holiday Dinner Concerts every year. I haven't been to one, but it sounds like they might require that I sing while surrounded by people in polyester crushed velvet gowns and acetate satin doublets with lame' trim. I mean, a person has to have standards!

Kidding, kidding. Lord knows I put up with other people's bad garb in the SCA (and, to be fair, enjoy other people's good garb, too). I'm sure I can deal with it outside the SCA.

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