Sunday, April 14, 2013

How Can We Keep from Singing?

Last night, I went to a fascinating dinner where Rich Melheim was the guest of honor.  I expect to write a post or two about him in the coming weeks; today, we spend the whole day with him, so I expect to have more to say. 

Over dinner last night, we talked about technology, time, sleep, and how to be effective families, whether we have children or not.  Melheim has done a lot of studying of neurology.  Some of what he brought up was familiar to me, like the importance of exercise to creativity and problem solving.  Some of it was not.  Did you know that your brain produces the most neurons between hours 6 and 8 of sleep?  Me neither.

So, what does it mean if we only get 5 hours of sleep a night?  We should probably get more.

I was lucky in that I was part of a small group.  Two of us had other evening commitments so the time of the dinner was moved back to 5 p.m. so that we could participate more fully.  I enjoyed my 2 hours and 20 minutes, and then I went over to the Central campus of Broward College to enjoy the spring concert of the Broward Chorale.

My spouse has been singing with the group for two semesters now, and what a neat experience it has been.  The Chorale group is like a church choir, in that anyone can participate, regardless of musical skill or talent.  I have been to two concerts now, and I'm amazed at the fabulous concert possible, given the range of the talent and the fact that people have worked on the material for just one evening a week.

Last night was even more impressive than the holiday concert back in December, which I wrote about in this post.  The group sang a varied collection of folk music from around the world; they sang in 9 different languages, and with some pieces, wondrous musical instruments accompanied them.

My spouse always makes practice CDs from concert clips that he finds on YouTube, and then he spends months singing along.  Our car trips mix NPR, practice music, and CDs that we've both loved in the past.

Last night I was intrigued to realize how much better the music sounds live.  Not an astounding revelation, I know.  But one of the practice pieces, from La Traviata, was sung by Pavarotti.  It sounded SO much better sung by the Chorale's tenor lead.  Of course, I'm one of the few humans who doesn't much care for Pavarotti.

Last night I also marvelled at this community resource, the performing arts center at a community college.  Last night's concert was the quality of many a professional concert that I've been to, but it cost much less ($8 a ticket--what a value!).  And it amazes me to think about the performing arts center, which isn't decorated as elaborately as some of the ones that have been built later, but it's perfectly functional, and so much more than most community colleges have.  Our community college has a planetarium too.

I know that our community college isn't typical, but it did make me mourn the loss of that enthusiasm for learning that fueled the building and subsequent growth of so many community colleges across the nation in the 1960's and 1970's.  It's tough for me now, being in a time of compression and shrinking.

Let me hasten to add that it's only the funding that's compressing and shrinking.  We have more students than ever who need what a community college, or other kinds of higher education for that matter.  But we don't have the commitment to funding that we had in earlier decades.

I thought of all the changes that this community college has seen, and not just funding challenges.  The school now offers several B.A. and B.S. degrees, so technically, it's no longer a community college (although the music stands are still have a big, white BCC painted on them).

I sat beside two older men (at least in their early 60's).  I first saw their wedding rings and assumed that they were two friends out together.  Perhaps they were relatives of the same Chorale member.  After all, the audience is mostly comprised of students who come for extra credit and family members.  But as the evening progressed, the two men were more open about holding hands, and I realized that they're a couple.  Or they're two men married to women who are having a secret affair--but I like the idea that they're a gay couple much better.

Again, I'm in a different part of the country, and I know I'm more likely to see an elderly gay couple out for the evening down here than I am elsewhere.  But it made me observe a minute of gratitude that they felt comfortable expressing their love outwardly that way.  Even in a darkened theater, it's not always safe, but it is getting safer.

So, today will be an interesting day in a different way.  We spend the day with Rich Melheim.  He's preaching at 3 services at church and then leading an afternoon workshop and then there's an evening comedy kind of event.  I'm not sure what to expect, but I do expect to return home with much to write about in the coming days.

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