Missin’ the Mox …

Greetings all!

Coming to the end of my three weeks in Phoenix/Tucson! I’ve been Hanging out in Phoenix and Tucson with Arizona Opera, represented by Cenerentola (Daniela) and Ramiro (Alek), AND my main squeeze – granddaughter, Eva (22 months old)!

After eighteen days, really missing the Georgia family – Aija (of course!), Valda, and MOXIE!!!

 

 

A few highlights so far:
♦ Sunday, 03.19 Arrive in Phoenix – a beautiful mini-hacienda in Spanish style – lovely bedroom for the grandpa-nanny!
♦ Saturday, 03.25 – scratched my Spring Training itch by taking Alek to see the Indians/White Sox at Goodyear Ballpark. [Indians up 7-6 with 2 out in the top of the 9th … BAM! White Sox GRAND SLAM! … Tribe loses 10-7!] I coulda seen this with the Phillies in Clearwater!
♦ Monday, 03-27 – load up the car and transfer to Tucson for opening weekend. Staying next to the opera singers plus one, in my own room at the Courtyard Marriott. [Great to see Andrew Owens (Best Man at the Alek/Daniela wedding) again after several years! He’s alternating Ramiro with Alek.]
♦ Saturday, 04.01 – Opening Night for Daniela & Alek – can’t find a review yet – everyone seemed happy!
♦ Sunday, 04.02 – I’m going to the matinee to see/hear Andrew, et al. Good show! Dean Williamson conducting – Andrew was great!
♦ Monday, 04.03 – load up and drive back to Phoenix (We actually did this on Sunday right after the matinee!)

Future highlights:
♦ Friday, 04.07 and Sunday, 04.09 – Daniela/Alek performances
♦ Monday, 04.10 – Everybody to airport; me to Valdosta, the other three to Houston!

If necessary, I’ll fill in details of the above in another post!

Let’s go around the categories!

Reading List:

Spring is only ten days old and I’m well ahead in the Spring 2017 reading list. Two contributing factors – I finished the winter list early, and – I have a lot of time to read here in Phoenix/Tucson when I’m not on Eva duty! I have added several new entries including some novellas which I’m happy to put paid to my complete reading list. So far this Spring,  I’ve investigated diverse crimes with Tom Gabriel (Tim Ellis – Games of the Dead), Hubert Schuze (Michael Orenduff – The Pot Thief Who Studies DH Lawrence), John Rebus (Ian Rankin – Rather Be the Devil), Milan Jacovich (Les Roberts – Speaking of Murder), Joe Gunther (Archer Mayor – The Catch), and now I’m in England with Alan Banks (Peter Robinson – Blood at the Root). Still to come are visits to the Scottish Highlands (MC Beaton – Knock, Knock You’re Dead), England – (Tim Ellis – There Is No Fear in Love), Philadelphia (Jane Haddam – Baptism in Blood), Arizona (JA Jance – The Old Line), Seattle (JA Jance – Ring in the Dead), and finally Amsterdam (van de Wetering – Just a Corpse at Twilight). Lots of adventure and travel. Join me …

Composing/Recording:

Doing some score preparation on the Frog Opera to be ready for the Boston recording session on 4/21. Once I get back in the studio, I’ll continue work on the Georgia Ambassadors repertoire and look ahead to the next holiday publication season.

Real Estate:

I’ve been doing quite a bit of long-distance work from here in Phoenix/Tucson. Several closings and a listing await my return to Valdosta. The learning curve is not quite as daunting as it once was and I’m guided by my brilliant mentor, Aija.

I’ll sign off now, but with anticipation that the next post will have details of the Boston trip, perhaps some vacay sight-seeing, and the recording activities. Cheers!  – Jim

Posted in Authors, Blogging, Choir Directors, Choirs, Choral Music, Church Music, Composers, Mysteries, Opera, Real Estate, Thrillers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I knew February was short, but … did it happen?

Greetings all!

I sit here observing the beautiful rose bush embracing the mailbox in the front yard, and realize that it’s March 7 – egad!

We had a great Minneapolis/NYC trip to hear Alek (Soler – Diana’s Garden), Daniela (Dvorak –Rusalka), and Dorothy (Rachmaninoff – Midnight Vespers). Of course, that was all topped by the quality time we spent with Eva, or, as she calls herself – “Vavi.” We stayed at the Beacon Hotel at 75th and Broadway, a short two block walk to the Alek/Daniela/Eva abode, and a short cab ride to just about anywhere we were going. We also took Eva to Riverside Park and had some great, albeit a bit chilly, outside time. Musically, all performances were terrific! Alek’s physical comedy is second to none and his voice is finely burnished. Daniela had no trouble filling the Met with her glorious sound, even in the small role of the Kitchen Boy. Dorothy and The Westminster Choir were sublime in the a cappella Rachmaninoff. It was a great start to the new season!

Let’s go round the categories:

Reading:

Well, the Spring TBR list hasn’t even started yet, but I’ve already finished the first book! It was the new Tom Gabriel adventure by British author, Tim Ellis entitled “Games of the Dead.” Ellis is incredibly prolific and writes in a way that keeps me totally absorbed. I’m also reading his Parish & Richards series, the latest tome of which will appear a bit later. Next on the Spring List is Scotsman, Ian Rankin’s new John Rebus mystery, “Rather Be the Devil.” I just started it this morning, but it’s a page turner like most of Rankin’s work. Later on, I’ll delve into fellow Valdostan Michael Orenduff’s “The Pot Thief Who Studied D.H. Lawrence,” which is the latest Hubie Schuze escapade. If you don’t know this series, you’re really missing out!

Take a peek at the Book Page/Reading Lists on this website to see what else is in store for the Spring.

Composing/Recording:

I spent most of the post travel time editing the final scores and parts of my Really Short Opera – Frogs Always Get You in the End (Story by Ian Ruthven). I now have a good set of production materials including a piano-vocal score, a full score, and flute, clarinet, and cello parts. Aija and I will fly to Boston on April 20 to record the opera. I will conduct the recording as well as be involved in the editing and mastering. The session will take place in the beautiful Shalin Liu performance space. The Princess will be sung by soprano, Aliana de la Guardia and the Frog will be sung by baritone, Brian Church. This is a dream come true for me and I am terribly excited about it. After the recording, I plan to make a set of production materials available directly from me, so that hopefully others will produce this little show to the delight of all, especially children.

In other musical activities, I still hope to convince Colla Voce to publish my arrangements of “Watchman Tell Us of the Night” and “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In” for the 2017 holiday season. I think they would have broad appeal to performer and listener alike.

And, I continue to write some new pieces for the Georgia Ambassadors of Music tour of Europe in 2018.

Travel/Opera/Family

I’ve eschewed the traditional Spring Training (Phillies) trip to Clearwater this year! Instead, I’m going to spend three glorious weeks in Phoenix/Tucson with my darling granddaughter, Eva, while Mommy and Daddy sing opposite each other in Arizona Opera’s production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola. I love being the Grandpa-nanny to this wonderful munchkin! I’m sure I will be loaded with tales for this blog – stay tuned! Alek and Daniela met in a production of Cenerentola when they were both in the Merola program at San Francisco Opera. The rest, as they say, is history!

Now, Spring Training is not completely out of site because my beloved Cleveland Indians train in Phoenix! I think I can do two games – Wahoo!

There are many more opera/babysitting travels on the horizon as we follow our two favorite opera singers and their amazing little girl! (I apologize for the over-gush!) More later …

Real Estate

Wow, do I have a lot to learn! Aija is a fabulous teacher and sometimes a tough task-master, but I am slowly figuring out how to do this. In these few short passing months, I have actually listed a house and sold a few more. I find the work falls into two categories, the technological side of figuring out the various computer programs and the servant attitude that brings success with clients and customers. The former presents a somewhat steep learning curve, but I continue to improve and become familiar. The latter, however, is a bit of a struggle for me. This will come as no surprise to those of you who know me. (I think that’s everybody here, I mean, who else reads this stuff?!) Anyway, it’s no secret to many folks that I like to tell people what to do and how to do it! That doesn’t cut it as a successful Realtor! Aija is just about perfect in this profession with just the right combination of pluck and grace. I hope I can come close!

Anyway, money is beginning to come in and my goal of adding to my retirement and social security funds is becoming a reality.

Finally:

I find negotiating the pathways of a life to be interesting, thought-provoking, joyous, terrifying, sometimes depressing, and always surprising.

If you made it to these 900 plus words, I sincerely thank you. I will ask you to like, comment, and all that stuff because that’s what bloggers are supposed to do. It doesn’t really work here, but I do like to hear from you occasionally.

I’m looking forward to doing more regular journaling as the Phoenix trip unfolds. That’s all for now, except to say that Moxie says, “Hi!”  Cheers!  – Jim

Posted in Authors, Blogging, Choir Directors, Choirs, Choral Music, Church Music, Composers, Mysteries, Opera, Real Estate, Thrillers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Well, that was quite a hiatus … !

Greetings!

In case you’ve forgotten, I left you next to the Christmas Tree on December 21! Now it’s January 25, 2017 and much has happened! After Alek, Daniela, and Eva headed for Christmas in Houston, we had a wonderful Yule Celebration with Dorothy and the Latvian branch of the family. Dorothy stayed for the New Years festivities and then we went back into empty nest mode! Obviously given the bulk of my compositional ouvre, Christmas and the Winter Solstice holiday time is very special for us. Added to that was the birth of Alek on Christmas Day in 1981! However, since I haven’t had a church music post for several years now, the holiday has become somewhat private to us which actually makes it all the more special. I carry on my personal tradition of listening to the King’s College Lessons and Carols live every year. I do pull out recordings of some of the Christmas Concerts from my Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Northwestern Oklahoma State choirs. And, of course, those magical holiday services we produced at First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland where I served for 17 years! I cannot complete my holiday without listening to Gil Hellwig’s splendid recitation of the biblical Christmas Story. All those things happened this year. I also accumulated some ideas for new Christmas compositions which will go into the hopper for future endeavors. I’m still hopeful that Colla Voce will consider publishing my Watchman Tell Us of the Night and I Saw Three Ships for next year. You can read about them in an earlier post.

Let’s do a roundup of the categories:

Author Stuff –

It gives me a touch of melancholy to announce that I have suspended my activities as a writer of mystery novels! Nick Flemons and Adrian Stone will be in a state of suspended animation for the foreseeable future. They have become victims of time, or rather, lack thereof! I really wanted to sink my teeth into authorship as a logical companion to my avaricious reading habit. Alas, the lacunae between writing sessions became wider and wider until the momentum was lost. I still hope to return to see where my two acquired friends go and whether they are successful in their crime-fighting solutions, but, for now, I must bid them farewell.

Reading Stuff –

I am well into the Winter TBR List by now. I will probably finish before the March 21 deadline. So far, I have enjoyed anew the adventures of Parish & Richards (Ellis – Dominion of Darkness), The Pot Thief studying Escoffier (Michael Orenduff), a brilliant Jack Reacher (Child – Night School), Bruno, the French policeman (Walker – The Children Return), Gregor Demarkian (Haddam – One to Grow On), and currently I’m about to finish a new adventure with Inspector Bill Slider and his team (Harrod-Eagles – Body Line). Only one more on deck and that’s another UK Inspector, Alan Banks (Robinson – Innocent Graves).

I’ll illuminate the Spring 2017 TBR List in a future post. I hope you will consider reading along with me. There are some really good new books coming from some of my favorite authors – stay tuned!

Composing/Recording Stuff –

I am into the third edit of my “Really Short Opera” – Frogs Always Get You in the End. You can see and hear a production over on my opera page. The reason for the slight revision and new edition is that I will be recording and conducting it at the end of April in Boston. This will be under the auspices of PARMA Recordings and I, with them, am trying to collect enough recording minutes to develop an entire Shrader CD. I have really drilled deep into the eight minute piece and paid attention to every nuance on the written page. The marvelous story/libretto is by Professor Ian Ruthven. We have yet to choose the instrumentalists and singers, but we will begin that process as soon as I can complete the editing and prepare the piano-vocal score. It’s very exciting and I’m thrilled to be working with PARMA again!

I’m also working on some choral things for the Georgia Ambassadors of Music Choir, a group which I hope to lead and conduct a bit on the 2018 European Tour. More about that later …

Travel/Opera/Family Stuff –

Well, you know about Alek’s Japan visit (Cosi fan tutte) and Daniela’s Fort Lauderdale jaunt (Carmen). Now we’re off to Minnesota where Alek is singing Endimione in Martin y Soler’s Diana’s Garden with Minnesota Opera. We leave very early on Saturday morning and we’ll see two performances. Then we’ll join Alek and fly to New York to be with Daniela as she makes her Metropolitan Opera debut in Dvorak’s Rusalka. We’ll be in the house for opening night (always very exciting at the Met). I’m also really looking forward to hearing the Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais in the title role. To sound out this family musical adventure, the next night we’ll get to hear Dorothy sing with the Westminster Choir in the Rachmaninoff Vespers. Of course, the highlight of our NYC days will be the quality time spent with our darling Eva! The adorable munchkin just passed her nineteenth month. She’s been in  New York with Dani and Dorothy and we’ve had many, many facetime sessions, but there’s nothing like the real thing!  I can’t wait …

There’s a lot more opera/travel/grandpa stuff coming later in the year, but that’s for another post.

Real Estate Stuff –

It’s quite an escalation and education as I learn this new (I’m certainly not retired any more!) phase of my remarkable life. Aija has been an incredible mentor! I have been taking videos, showing houses to prospective buyers, and I actually have a listing! Getting me up and running with all the necessary accoutrements has been a time-intensive activity, but it’s starting to fall into place. It looks like I really will be able to pad my social security and pension allotments and continue to be a contributing member of the family! If you want to see my listing, click HERE. (BTW – Wanna buy a house?)

Conclusion –

Well, friends I’ve reached the 1000 word limit I set for myself in these tomes, so, until next time, I wish you all the best for a blessed and prosperous 2017. Please tell your friends about this website and like or leave a comment. See you on this page in a few weeks!  Cheers!  -Jim

Posted in Authors, Blogging, Choir Directors, Choirs, Choral Music, Church Music, Composers, Mysteries, Opera, Real Estate, Thrillers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

There I sat, all broken-hearted …

Greetings!

So, if you remember from last time, I was stuck on side of I 75, 39 miles from home, with a blown tire. I had just passed the state realtor license exam, and, with license in hand, was on my way back to take my place among the legions of realtors in the pursuit of happiness.

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was a locked lug nut, I had to call for roadside assistance to solve my dilemma. After a bit of a wait, help arrived, I embarrassingly discovered that the key to unlock the lug nut was in the glove box, and, after due payment, I was on my way!

The next few days were spent in various technical meetings establishing business emails, joining realtor groups, getting my lock box card verified, printing temporary business cards, and, in general, completing the final preparations to begin actual work. My first assignment was to take a series of ten videos of properties under consideration by a military couple moving to Valdosta (Moody Air Base) from Alaska. They bought one!

Family:

The next big event on the calendar was the arrival of Dorothy, Alek, Daniela, and Eva who rented an SUV and drove in from Jacksonville having flown from Newark. Dainis also arrived that day flying in from Baltimore. All had assembled for the Thanksgiving Day festivities and then Alek, Daniela, and Eva would stay on to have a very early Christmas celebration since that were spending the actual Christmas holiday in Houston with the Mack family. At least that’s what we thought was going to happen!

Immediately after the Thanksgiving feast and the next-day hanging of the outside Christmas lights (Dainis and I had our traditional cigars!) as well as the trimming of the
tree, the following events unfolded quite rapidly!

Alek was called to replace a colleague in Cosi fan tutte with the Tokyo Symphony. That’s Tokyo, JAPAN! This involved driving a rental car to Atlanta, getting papers at the Embassy and flying to Tokyo the next day! To top it all off, the next day Daniela got a call from Florida Grand Opera in Ft. Lauderdale to replace a colleague in the title role of Carmen. Daniela flew to that assignment and Aija, Valda, Eva, and I rented a mini-van and drove to Southern Florida to see the show and allow mommy and daughter to be together. Aside from spending quality time with Eva, there were other great perks! I got to see the show on Thursday night, Aija and Valda saw it on Saturday night, and all day Friday we had a great time at the beach!

We hadn’t abandoned Christmas plans altogether, and, after returning to Valdosta, Dani and Eva stayed with us until December 9. This gave us an opportunity to have a lovely Christmas with Eva. Alek and Dorothy even face-timed in so that, thanks to cyberspace, we were all together for the gift giving. The next day, Dani and Eva flew to Houston where they met the returning Daddy and settled in for the rest of the Christmas holiday.

We were now almost half-way through December, we had made adjustments to holiday plans, there was a new president-elect on board, the real estate business continued to prosper, and we looked forward to another Christmas celebration with the Jirgensons side of the family (plus Dorothy) right here in Valdosta. That is actually underway as I write these lines. But that, friends, is the topic of another post – hopefully before Santa gets here!

Ho, Ho, Ho!  -Jim

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November? What November … ?

Greetings long, lost friends!

Here I sit in my new home office, Christmas Tree up, outside lights a-glow, and a frigid 73 degrees ushering in the season to be jolly. To be fair, today dawned very overcast and rainy (after weeks of drought).

November literally took away the time spent on my computer in the pursuit of this series of epistles. Here’s how it happened …

Since I last entered these pages dealing with hurricane Mathew, there has been a new category in my life – it is REALTOR!

We have often talked about how I might help Aija in her burgeoning real estate business which she has steadily grown for the past ten years. I have occasionally accompanied her on missions to erect signs and other ministerial (that’s real estate terminology!) designed to be helpful. However, without a real estate license, I was not able to take on any significant tasks. Sooooo …

In mid-October, I enrolled in an online class dedicated to providing me with the necessary brain material to successfully pass the final exam for the class, as well as be prepared to pass the state board exam.  Now remember, for the past 30 years or so, I have been GIVING exams, not taking them! The difference was illuminating for me. After finding the first few lessons of the class somewhat daunting, my OCD kicked in and I devised a daily schedule where I would work the class material in several different ways.

I was chained to my computer.

The first of November arrived and I drove to the Valdosta Board of Realtors office to take my final exam. All by myself in a large room with two pencils, a calculator, and a question/answer sheet – I was surprisingly nervous! This was the qualifying exam to become eligible for the state board. I needed 75% correct answers to move on. When finished, I checked my answers and predicted that I would pass – but barely. I waited for the test to be graded and, to my amazement, I received a 96%! Now, brimming with new confidence, I began preparation for the state board exam which included national and state topics – 159 to be exact. I needed to get 109 correct to get my license.

Once again, I created a work calendar to prepare for the exam. I also invested in two practice exam modules to try to be as thorough as possible. Diligent study ensued!

In the afternoon of November 14th, buoyed by a good final exam grade and many hours of study, I set off for Macon, GA – the site of the state realtor board exam in my region. We had decided that I would stay in a hotel the night before the exam and take the 9:00 am offering which would allow me (if I passed!) to actually receive my license before returning home. One-stop shopping, no waiting!

I had assembled all my credentials before departure and, after a good night’s sleep mixed in with a little review, I drove to the testing location. No cell phones were even allowed in the building! Upon entering, I was given a lockable black bag and instructed to put everything in it including watch, keys, wallet, etc. Before entering the testing room, I had to pull out my pockets to demonstrate that I was free of any means of cheating. The bag was locked and I took it with me into the room. I was allowed my approved calculator, two pencils, and provided ONE piece of scratch paper for notes and calculations. I was seated in an individual “cubby,” much like in a university library. It had a computer with a mouse. This is where I would take the test. The room was monitored via video camera. There was a rest room available, but rest room time counted as part of your test time limit which was four hours. To begin the test, you took a selfie which then appeared permanently in the upper right corner of the monitor (creepy to take an exam with yourself looking on!).

So, still confident, I pushed the button to begin the exam.

About three or four questions into the test, I had some serious doubts. This was not the material I had studied. Stifling panic, I began to wonder what was going on! Then I had it – I had been given the wrong exam. Surely this was a mistake! I looked ahead at a few questions. No, this seemed to be a test about the duties and responsibilities of a real estate salesperson. My confidence was gone! I plunged into the abyss.

I finished the 159th question with one hour to go in the time limit. I was positive I had failed badly. I decided to use my final hour to review each question to ascertain whether I wanted to make any changes. I did make a few, but not many.

Filled with dread and remorse, I picked up my locked bag, calculator, pencils, and piece of scrap paper, and left the room. The test facilitator, had me come sit in front of her desk while she was typing and printing at her workstation. Making a feeble attempt at small talk, I said, “Wow! Those questions were very different from my final exam and my study material.” She replied, “Yes, they can be very tricky, but, you must be a good guesser because you passed!” Time stopped, the angelic choir sang a C major chord, and a spotlight filled the desk area! I was a realtor!

She processed my credentials and printed my license. I called home, shared the good news and headed back for the two hour drive to Valdosta.

About 39 miles from home, on the outskirts of a small town called Adel, I had a flat tire! It was November 15. So you can see how the first half of the missing month transpired. Next post will pick up the excitement from there!

I do hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and, like me, are looking forward to a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’ll be back soon …   Cheers!  -Jim

Posted in Authors, Blogging, Choir Directors, Choirs, Choral Music, Church Music, Composers, Mysteries, Opera, Thrillers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Big DASHING Contest!

nv6055 dashing - front coverStarting December 5th and running through December 16th, Naxos will be starting a #12DaysofNaxos giveaway where viewers can have a chance to win holiday albums from the Naxos library and their distributed labels. DASHING (featuring two pieces by James Shrader) was chosen as one of the albums advertised in this special promotional giveaway.

YOU can enter to win these fantastic #Christmas albums, including DASHING on NAVONA RECORDS by clicking on http://woobox.com/9m3hh7 

Merry Christmas and Good Luck!

NEWS FLASH: The promotion for DASHING closed on December 7 – the other three albums are still available. The contest ends on December 16. Sorry for the confusion!

-Jim

Posted in Authors, Blogging, Choir Directors, Choirs, Choral Music, Church Music, Composers, Mysteries, Opera, Thrillers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Waving at Matthew …

Greetings!

Happy October (and Columbus Day, BTW!). Last post I detailed our visit by the tropical storm Hermine. Since that time, and a few days ago, we were paid a fleeting visit by an outlying part of hurricane Matthew. Thankfully, Matthew remained off the coast of Florida for almost it’s entire northerly activity. Of course we watched the weather channels and kept track of the radar. If Matthew had made landfall in central Florida and moved just a few miles to the west, we probably would have had a more complete visit. As it was, we had no power outage, no fallen trees, no torrential rain – a little wind that pushed our garden umbrella into the pool, and on and off sprinkling for one afternoon and evening.

However, having spent considerable time in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Savannah, I certainly do sympathize with the folks there, especially after seeing the video reports at the height of the storm. So, thanks for sparing us, Matthew – now get outta here!

Many things going on right now – here are the snippets:

Fall Reading List: It was supposed to go from September 21 to December 21 – BUT – I’ve already finished! I confess I did get an early start. So, if you navigate over to the Books page and check out the Winter Reading List (Winter TBR), you see several books that will hopefully last until March 21. There is a new Lee Child/Jack Reacher book (Night School) that is to be released on November 8. It will be on the list along with some of my other favorites. I hope you will read along and enjoy a mysterious holiday period.

Music Publishing: I’ve submitted two new pieces to Colla Voce, Inc. It’s a little late for this Christmas so we’ll probably need to wait a bit to see if they will appear in print for next year. I’m pleased with these arrangements. They are both for unison choir with a small instrumental accompaniment.  I Saw Three Ships is for unison choir with flute, clarinet, guitar, percussion, and piano. It’s the traditional tune with a clever quod libet accompaniment that incorporates several familiar carols simultaneously. The guitar and percussion parts are designed to be played by children.  Watchman, Tell Us of the Night is the familiar Aberyswyth tune set for two antiphonal unison choirs. The accompaniment is for double bass and vibraphone with an incidental oboe solo. The bass/vibe parts can be done on a single piano. It has a rhythmic, even jazzy feel and works particularly well for Advent.

Music Recording: If you read these pages, you already know that the compilation CD Dashing was released on September 9. It includes my In the Bleak Midwinter and Balulalow performed by The Stanbery Singers under Paul Stanbery. You’ll find complete information over on the music page under choral music.

I have a new and exciting recording project in the works!  In March, I’ll be traveling to Boston to conduct and record my “really short opera,” Frogs Always Get You in the End. It’s an eight minute piece for soprano, baritone, flute, clarinet, and cello. The charming libretto is by Ian Ruthven and is a re-do of the traditional Princess/Frog fairy tale. After the recording sessions, I’ll spend some time in New Hampshire at the Parma Recording studios where I’ll be involved in the editing/mastering process. The goal will be to eventually produce a complete CD of my music. Watch these pages for forthcoming details.

Retirement/Real Estate:

Retirement is proceeding nicely. After 40 years of having an office, the prospect of being “office-less” was a bit troubling. Thanks to my wife, the result is that we’ve converted the dining room to the best office space I’ve ever had! I have a writing station and a composing station with a complete renovation of the room. The writing desk faces the front garden with the magnolia tree, rose and camellia bushes. The music station has my midi keyboard on a pull-out shelf and new Bose speakers.

Currently I’m studying diligently to pass my Georgia state real estate salesperson exam. I’ll be joining the Aija Shrader team associated with Real Living Realty Advisors here in V-Town. We haven’t worked together since moving to Georgia in 2006. It feels great to be collaborating on projects and focused on working with each other again. The only problem is that, for so many years, I was the person who was GIVING the exams – not TAKING them! There’s a lot of information to digest, but I’m working hard to be successful. For a senior like “moi,” this turns out to be a short-term memory challenge!

As you can see – retirement can be quite busy!

Writing/Author: The one area that has fallen off the desk is my novel writing. It always seems to be the first thing to go to make room for everything else. My two protagonists are frozen in time as they pursue the bad guys. Nick Flemons is in Clearwater trying to figure out the attempted shooting of a pro baseball player, while Adrian Stone is in Cedar Key working on the strange case of the human skull discovered atop a Native American midden. Hopefully I will soon have the opportunity to breathe new life into these stories and bring them to a finish.

The family:  London – Daniela was Rosina in Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera House; Alek did a Wigmore Hall recital with pianist, Roger Vignoles. Alek is now in Oviedo, Spain singing Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte. Next month, along with my darling granddaughter, Eva, they’ll be here for an extended stay including Thanksgiving!

Dorothy is working on double master’s degrees at Westminster Choir College in Princeton while simultaneously doing lots of other creative things, including administering the young singers program at the summer Ravinia Festival in Chicago.

So life goes on … hectic, joyful, and very rewarding!  Cheers …  -JAS

Posted in Authors, Blogging, Choir Directors, Choirs, Choral Music, Church Music, Composers, Mysteries, Opera, Thrillers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kissed by Hermine …

Greetings!

By  now we can barely see Hermine’s derriere as she dissipates into the North Atlantic and beyond, but for about 24 hours a few days ago, South Georgia felt the brunt of her fury.

Having lived here since 2006, we’ve been spared the hurricane drama that occasionally plagues both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. When we moved here, we rejoiced in the fact that we could get to either Gulf or Atlantic beaches in about two hours – and we have! Also, the weather threats seemed to calm down and even vanish by the time they made landfall and traveled inland to us. We certainly didn’t miss the regular tornado threats and debilitating ice storms that we encountered during eleven years in northwest Oklahoma. Then along came Hermine!

We watched in escalating trepidation as the weather models seemed to draw a path directly through our location. Sure enough, when she finally arrived, she seemed to be looking down right over our house!

The power went out just after we bedded down for the night. It would be out for just a little over twelve hours. For two prior days, the winds had escalated and the rains poured down, but the rear garden gazebo survived and I only siphoned off the pool level once. Still, the weather reports and the radar models had looked dire.

When the power did finally go off, I awoke to Moxie joining us in the bed (she doesn’t do well in storms). After realizing that the power was off, I focused on the sound of the storm – lots of thunder, lightning, and heavy rain rattling the windows and creating a sizable din. I grabbed my preset nightstand flashlight and the trusty iPhone and headed downstairs to investigate. I confirmed that the power was off, I tried to peer out the windows, but the horizontal rain path prevented me from seeing much. In order to check the gazebo and pool levels, I braved opening the back door. Sure enough, it was a powerful storm. The gazebo seemed to be allowing the wind to pass through without danger. The pool was quite high, but I made the decision to not brave the onslaught in order to drain it a bit – but wait – there was no power for the pump! Duh!

So, it was back to bed – no AC, no ceiling fans, no nothing. While trying to sleep, I thought of what the next day would bring. The water was still on and we had converted to a gas cook top when we did our kitchen renovation. That meant the morning coffee service was safe! Whew!

In the final analysis, we fared pretty well. We closed the blinds and the house stayed relatively cool. We did not close the refrigerator doors and, subsequently, lost no food. The power did come back on thanks to an army of power trucks from Georgia and several surrounding states. The gazebo came through unscathed and I leveled the pool depth with no problem. The power had messed with the computer settings for the irrigation system, but that was eventually resolved.

new-treeThe only real casualty was a beautiful, full, evergreen tree at the wall in the back of the property. The gale force had pushed it over and wrenched the roots right from the ground. After considering several plans to replant it, we opted for removal/replacement. We now have a lovely little evergreen ready to beautify the garden through the coming years – I think I’ll name it “Hermine!”

As you can see, Eva’s swing set, the gazebo, pool, and house, all survived as well! AND Moxie too! Cheers!  -Jim

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And the heat goes on …

Greetings all!

It’s a hot, sunny Saturday here in South Georgia. I just had a nice swim and float in the pool and am now ready to take care of some items on the todo list. During the floating part of the “dip,” I finished reading Michael Orenduff’s “The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein.” That’s actually the first book on the Fall TBR list which doesn’t start until September, but I finished the Summer list early and plowed ahead into Fall. Michael is a Valdostan and recently opened a coffee shop downtown called “Books and Table.” His Pot Thief series is completely absorbing and easy reads filled with all the stuff we mystery buffs look for: lots of red herrings, a continuing cast of interesting characters, great descriptive location writing, and a plot that keeps you guessing until the end! Bravo Michael!

The first week of classes at Valdosta State is now in the books. It was an interesting time for me. For the first time, I didn’t have to prepare classes, organize class lists, choose repertoire, adjust syllabi calendars, and a plethora of other things that accompany the equivalent of “opening day” in the academic world. What’s interesting is that, for my entire teaching career, I really looked forward to going to work. Not being able to experience that was an interesting emotional conundrum. In the days leading up to the start of university, I would think, “right now I would be doing this or doing that,” – but I wasn’t! My first thought was that something had been taken away from me, but somehow I didn’t feel that way. For years I have tried to be an agent of change, promoting it as a good thing. I truly believe that change is an opportunity for growth above everythnig else. Now, here I was in the midst of one of the greatest changes in my life – retirement! So, while I’m terribly interested in how the academic year will unfold, I’m not bothered to be apart from it. I have my retired faculty card, my reserved parking decal, my seasons tickets to football and basketball, and my all-sports pas for the rest. I’m good to go!

This change has allowed ample opportunities for me to grow in exciting ways. I embrace the path ahead and look forward to new destinations!

AND … we’ve converted the dining room into a spectacular office for me! I have two desks and two chairs from which I can fulfill my double or triple life styles. The big library table on the left, Jim Home Officefacing the front yard view, is the general work station mostly for the upcoming real estate functions. On the other side of the room is the creative workstation with the composing and writing equipment. It’s simply the best office I’ve ever had. It’s wonderful to go to work every morning at the bottom of the stairs. And, particularly, right down the hall from my darling Aija. We haven’t worked together in close proximity like this since 2006 at NWOSU!

I have more to report, but I’ll leave that for Monday. Aija is in Princeton helping Dorothy get ready to begin her Masters; Alek, Daniela, and Eva head to London tomorrow; Valda, Moxie, and I are holding down the fort and enjoying the Olympics. All is well – more later …   Cheers!  -JAS

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August changes and news …

Greetings all!

My long hiatus seems to be over! Welcome to August and the closing days of summer with the accompanying expectations of the approaching fall. All kinds of changes are taking place and exciting events have already transpired. Here’a a summary:

Family: The Hotel was open throughout most of July! Alek, Daniela, and Eva arrived on July 3rd and stayed for more than two weeks! It marked their longest sojourn here in quite a while. Grandma and Grandpa were so thrilled to spend every day with the exquisite Eva! File_000 (7)In  preparation for her visit, a new swing set was erected in a shady spot in the back yard, It was ready for the arrival on July 3rd. and used by everyone, but especially during Grandpa and Eva morning time when we did lots of swinging, threw the frisbie to Moxie, did some faux gardening in the empty pots surrounding the pool, generally explored the back yard, and spent some quality quiet time in the gazebo.

File_000 (8)Grandma came up with a special treat that she put together during the visit and it proved to be a huge hit for mini-trips all over the house, around the pool, and even around the block! There’s so much more to tell, but that can be saved for later …

A few days after they arrived, here came Aunt Dorothy (Dee Dee), to join the family fun! Dorothy has left her position at Opus 3 Artists to go back to Westminster Choir College to pursue her Masters degree. She’s not totally out of the arts administration business as she has taken a summer position as artistic administrator for the young vocal artists at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago. As a matter of fact, as I write this, she is hard at work there right now.

Dovetailing with the above visits was the arrival of the Jirgensons including Aija’s siblings Dainis and Nora and niece Andi. It worked out perfectly as they got to spend some days with the Shraders and particularly Eva. They stayed for another week enjoying the pool, the sun, and the incredibly hot weather! The Jirgensons side was particularly happy to spend time with their mother, the matriarch Valda who is a hardy 93 years old!

The plan is to see everybody again in December as part of the annual holiday celebrations!

Opera/Singing: Both the professionals are appearing this summer in the Mostly Mozart Festival in NYC with Daniela standing in for her friend Sasha Cooke in The Illuminated Heart and Alek as tenor soloist for the Beethoven Mass in C and the Mozart Requiem.

Then it’s off to Europe where Daniela is Rosina in Barbiere at London’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and Alek sings a recital at Wigmore Hall accompanied by Roger Vignoles. Later, Alek sings Ferrando in Cosi fan tutte in Oviedo, Spain. (Grandpa is lobbying for European “nanny” duty!)

Recording: My copies of Dashing arrived a few days ago. The official release of this holiday compilation CD is scheduled for September 9. It features the work of nine nv6055%20dashing%20-%20front%20cover[1]composers and is an eclectic opus from symphonic to jazz with mostly choral works in between. My contributions were In the Bleak Midwinter and Balulalow performed by The Stanbery Singers under the direction of Paul John Stanbery. The recording is under the umbrella of PARMA Recordings on the Navona label. You can peruse the details at http://www.navonarecords.com/catalog/nv6055

This past summer Alek recorded some lieder and melodie by Nadia Boulanger which will be coming out later in a CD shared with soprano Nicole Cabell. The recording sessions are currently being mastered and there is no release date as of yet. I have heard some of the work in progress and I can tell you that it is very fine singing!

Finally, I have signed on with PARMA Recordings for another project. This time it is a recording of my “really short opera,” Frogs Always Get You in the End with a libretto by Ian Ruthven. This is an eight minute piece for soprano, baritone, flute, clarinet, and cello. You can see and hear a school performance of it over on the music/opera page of this site. We’ll record it in Boston next March. The personnel has yet to be selected, but I will conduct!. Following the recording session, I will go to the PARMA facility in New Hampshire to be involved with the editing and mastering of the session results. I’m very excited about this opportunity. This will become part of a longer term project to produce an entire CD of my music. Stay tuned …

Composing/Publishing: The new Christmas piece this year is my arrangement of my own On Christmas Night, originally for SATB choir with keyboard. The new arrangement is for TB choir with flute and harp (or keyboard). The text is the traditional Sussex Carol.

My SATB/Keyboard setting of The Sussex Carol. Perfect for small choirs:
http://www.collavoce.com/catalog/item/on-christmas-night-15-95950

My arrangement of the same piece for TB choir with flute & harp (keyboard):
http://www.collavoce.com/catalog/item/on-christmas-night-15-94300

I’ve done several Facebook ad campaigns touting some of my published Christmas pieces. You’ve probably seen them. I’ll keep them going for a while. If you have any influence on holiday music selection, I would appreciate your help in getting some of these pieces performed this year. Let me know if you’re successful. Dr. Carol Krueger and the VSU Choirs are considering recording my Love Came Down at Christmas which would fill a void in my recorded opere.

I am currently working on a setting of the hymn tune Aberyswyth which you probably know as Watchman Tell Us of the Night. It’s for two antiphonal unison choirs accompanied by double bass, vibraphone, and oboe (the bass and vibe parts can also be done on one keyboard). It’s a cool, jazzy setting that I messed around with back in my Cleveland days. Another choral piece in progress is my original setting of There Is No Rose. It’s currently in an embryonic state with a melody and some ideas of chord structure. The tune’s been rattling around in my head for quite some time. Of great interest to me is the resurrection of a piano piece that I composed in 1984 and has been lying dormant in a number of boxes and garages since then. It’s called A Simple Adagio. It’s my only piece for solo piano and I really like it! I don’t yet know what I’ll do with it, but at least it is now living again!

I’m still constantly on the lookout for an opera libretto …

Retirement: As of July 1, I am officially retired! Before then, I was just tired. Frankly, my skills were not being used in the music department and I was not going to be allowed to continue in the Honors College. Administrators can be stubborn, jealous, self-serving, and difficult at times! I know – I used to be one …

At any rate, after wending through reams of paperwork, all is finally in place. In addition to writing, composing, reading, watching TV, etc., I am studying to take my state real estate agent exam. In so doing, I may be able to help Aija, who is one of the top realtors in town,  and continue to add to the coffers. Plus, we worked together for the first 28 years of our marriage, but not the last 10 since moving to Valdosta. Therefore, I’m really looking forward to teaming up with her again in this next chapter of our lives.

In short, retirement is good! I find I don’t miss academia very much at all. I would still like to do a few masterclasses, a little conducting, and maybe direct an opera now and again – but time will tell. One thing that retirement definitely is – BUSY!

This post is turning out to be longer that many of my novel attempts! So, I’ll quit. If you’ve read this far, congrats and thanks for your interest. I would ask that you visit the music pages, particularly the choral page. Also, if you’re interested in what I’m reading or writing, please visit the books page and particularly the reading list page. I’m on my last book of the summer list and I will finish early. The fall list has some great authors. I hope you’ll join me for some cracking reads!

IMG_0148Until then, my friends – Cheers!  -JAS

Don’t forget to reply or comment on any page!!!!!

Posted in Authors, Blogging, Choir Directors, Choirs, Choral Music, Church Music, Composers, Mysteries, Opera, Thrillers, Uncategorized | Leave a comment