Friday, October 31, 2008

So, what does the musician do in the winter, exactly?

Funny you should ask... another good question that I seem to be getting a lot lately...

The answer is, I'm not sure. I am the first musician they've ever had stay through the winter, so no one is quite sure. I do know that one possibility that I'm trying to work out is for me to go to Glasgow and work with the Wild Goose Resource Group / John Bell / Graeme Maule during January.

We also have guests for at least 3 weeks in the winter, including Christmas, at which time there is a big celebration leading up to Christmas and including a Christmas eve service, Christmas morning service, etc.

Resident staff also often take their vacation during that time.

And I plan on practicing as long as I can in the refrigerator-like abbey (last night as I was teaching the songs, I could see my breath... thank goodness for the portable electric heater by the piano and my housemate who is an expert at knitting fingerless gloves...), and I have a lot of investigating to do before I am familiar with what all is available to me in the loft in terms of resources. I also want to do some more organizing and planning of possible Big Sing and Wee Sing and workshop material before the season starts in earnest. It's been very easy so far to work 60 hour weeks, so any pre-planned stuff I can do during the season will be good.

And then, if all that happens and I'm still bored (doubtful, but...) there will only be two housekeepers, so I might just help them a bit...

Winter schedule starts in a week. Here we go! =)

By the way, I'm loving my job (in case you were wondering). I get paid to do all the stuff I love to do, especially the teaching about sacred music and the playing piano and directing choirs. More later. I'm off to take a nap.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So what does the musician do, exactly?

Funny you should ask... I seem to be getting this question a lot... ;)

Here's what I've figured out so far:

1) Arrange music for all services each week -- 2 services a day, 13 a week that require music
1a) that means accompanying hymns myself and / or get someone to fill in for me (on my day and a half off each week)
1b) and that means getting people (resident staff, volunteers, and guests) to help me with music, adding instrumental or vocal solos or ensembles where appropriate.
1c) and that means that I rehearse those groups / solos
1d) and it also means that I arrange parts for instrumentalists when there are no appropriate parts for the songs

2) Lead a Big Sing every Sunday -- this is an overview of the music of the Iona Community (or some subset of that)

3) Lead one or two Wee Sings every week -- these are essentially choir rehearsals for guests, with the added adventure of never knowing how many people or how good of musicians I will have at any given rehearsal

4) Lead workshops on how to teach music / incorporate music into worships at home... or how to take Iona Community music with you.

5) Be available in the shop once a week to answer questions about Wild Goose Resources

6) Keep the music loft organized and continue to gather resources, keep all musical instruments in the loft in good working order

7) Collect and transcribe any music that people give me from other cultures (to pass along to the Resource Group)

8) Lead a Staff Choir every Saturday -- this is especially fun because (as opposed to all the rest of this) I generally know who's going to show up and what to plan for, and the staff this year are really quite good singers.

9) Be a good community member -- including doing dishes when needed, leading activities (ceilidhs, concerts, pilgrimages), chairing meals, leading meetings now and again, going to meetings, and going to at least 11 of 14 community lunches and dinners, etc.

And I probably am doing other things that I'm forgetting to list... and am probably not listing things that I'm supposed to be doing but haven't figured out yet... But that's the gist of it. =)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Winds of Change on a Small Island...

So you realize just how isolated island life can be when the power goes out...

The winds have been very strong -- 60-70 miles an hour (and fairly sustained... no wonder there are few / no trees) and they have been from the south. South winds are a problem because they mean that the ferries can't run to take people to the next island over (Mull). It also means no "post" (mail) or food deliveries... and this week it meant no guests for an extra day or two. Besides that, we were without power for 26 hours on Friday and Saturday because the wind knocked down one of the transformers on Mull.

During that time, with no ferries running, no phones working, no e-mail or skype, no mail, I wondered how people lived on an island like this in weather like this without electricity... Incidentally, by the time the power outage was over we had burnt most of our candles and no ferries also meant no candle deliveries... And then I realized that people do it / did it by living in community -- people really band together during those times because no one has any other choice.

And at the end of the power outage, when the lights came on in the middle of a candlelit dinner with friends huddled in coats against the cold, people immediately groaned in disappointment and rushed to the light switch to turn the lights back off... We were, however, quite thankful that the power outage didn't last much longer than it did.

Today the winds have changed. We now have regular ferries and more guests arriving (a tad grumpy at first but glad to be here at long last). Today's wind is from the north, which is the cold but dry wind. Perhaps tomorrow we'll get the wet east wind... It certainly is another way of living close to the land -- again, without much choice in the matter, but certainly with much blessing.

The saying "my rock of refuge, my stronghold in times of storm" has grown in meaning for me over the last couple of weeks. The temperature is not that cold -- we are supposed to have snow tomorrow, but I think this is the first time in many many years that snow has been in the forecast. Generally the temperature is in the 40s. It's the winds that make it feel cold. I haven't been knocked completely over yet, though I came close once. And when the wind is from the south, on my way to the abbey to work, I come to a place where I can't breathe when the wind is whipping around the side of the abbey. But five struggling steps later, there is no wind at all because of the shelter of the giant stone building. It's an amazing feeling. Rock of refuge, indeed.

PS -- Have you ever thought of what a strange word "outage" is? I never had until some Brits pointed it out... leave it to the Americans to make a noun out of an adverb by tacking on a suffix...