May 5th, 2008


"LET the sun shine! LET the sun shine in!"

I have emerged on the other side of a week which featured two three-hour rehearsals (one in another state) and three concerts (one in another state, another actually farther away but still in the same state). Concert three was a paid gig as part of a church's concert series; we sang in the afternoon, then attended a reception hosted by the church, complete with coffee and tea poured from silver services into china cups with saucers. Given that this particular church has Tiffany and other artists' stained glass, it didn't seem strange. Then, the end-of-year party, at the home of a couple who live relatively near the church.

As usual, we have several people departing for graduate school, returning to school, etc.., but this year we are also losing our best soprano soloist, who is moving to Boston over the summer because of its larger early music scene. So, after the socializing had slowed and the crowd had thinned out, we moved into the traditional singing/piano portion of the evening, starting with noodling, moving on to a few people's show pieces, then to group singing, with a lot of improvisation when we didn't know the words.

We had two-handed ragtime-ish piano; we had solo "real" ragtime; we had solo jazz standards ("Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "On the Street Where You Live"); we had an Elizabethan song about the glories of tobacco, because our conductor is an inveterate smoker; we had Beatles songs. Pretty soon, the hosts' box of assorted hand percussion, tin whistles, and recorders was handed around, which eventually resulted in a long rhapsody of two-handed piano and tin whistle solo in an improvised Irish style alternating with loud choruses of the "Ode to Joy," sung as "da da da da da da da da," and assisted by maracas. One of our sopranos, who used to compete in Irish stepdancing, danced to piano and tin whistle and maracas, managing to miss the wineglasses on the coffee table with her high kicks. We did not one but two lusty renditions of "The Age of Aquarius" (there was a giant selection of songbooks) and, finally, "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen" from Brahms' Requiem, from memory until the key changed and the piano went wacky because he couldn't remember it. Of course the score then had to be dug out, and we finished the movement, then went on to the next, and our departing soloist sang "Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit" with choral accompaniment, then a break, then to cheer everyone up the big "Herr, du bist Würdig zu nehmen Preis und Ehre und Kraft" fugue except it was hard to see our couple of copies and also read the words and see the bits you couldn't remember, so it was...amusing, a mix of German and random syllables. After we finished it, our conductor, who'd been playing piano, said admiringly, "That was the worst Brahms' Requiem ever."

My voice is a wreck today. I don't even feel like talking.

WisCon 2008 schedule

WisCon 2008 Schedule

Porn Crushes the Patriarchy!
Saturday, 10:00-11:15 A.M.
"Erotica for women is coming into the mainstream--novels from the pioneering Black Lace line are now available in trade paperback editions, shelved among the romance novels, which have long been described as 'porn for women,' and several major publishers (Harlequin, Avon, Kensington, etc.) have begun lines of women's erotica in the last couple of years. Publishers go where the money is, but what made the market favorable for erotica right now? Who's buying the books? Was the renaissance encouraged by online publishers such as Ellora's Cave? And does reading (and writing) porn really crush the patriarchy? "
M: Victoria Janssen; Mary Anne Mohanraj, Leanne Shawler, Connie Wilkins, Diane Greenlee

Captain Jack's Big Gay Torchwood
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 P.M.
Capitol A
"The 21st century is when everything changes, and you've got to be ready.' Is Torchwood breaking new ground, or just depending on our prurient tastes to grab viewers? Or both? Or neither? How do the gay relationships on the show compare with the straight ones? Finally, let's hold a comparison among the various gay kisses portrayed on the show. "
M: Naamen Tilahun, Jennifer Pelland, Mary Kay Kare, Penny Hill, Victoria Janssen

Being the Heroine of a Romance Novel Doesn't Make Me Weak
Sunday, 2:30-3:45 P.M.
"Romance novel heroines of today match their male counterparts in careers, magical powers and even sex. These aren't your grandmother's romances! Come discuss the empowered women of the modern romance, and how their presence has or hasn't changed the romance narrative -- and why."
M: Victoria Janssen, Lori Devoti, Chris Merrill, Diane Greenlee, Betsy Urbik


Meredith Duran, The Duke of Shadows: I really, really liked this book, and was irresistibly reminded of Judith Ivory as I read it, particularly in the second half, which was set in London. It wasn't the prose that reminded me, but the setting and tone, and perhaps something of the characterization.

I noted in the author's bio that she's a doctoral student in cultural anthropology, and I think it showed in her portrayal of the 1857 Sepoy War, and how she demonstrates the war's effect on both the Indians and the British colonialists. There's another level of tension going on in the two characters themselves, both between them and society, and between themselves: Emmaline is an artist who chafes at the strictures placed on women, who doesn't fit in England and doesn't fit in staid British Indian society either, and Julian is the mixed-race heir to a dukedom who fits nowhere and is trying to make his own place in the world, formulate his own identity. (Cue "torn between two worlds!" blurb.) I really loved the evolution of their relationship, and especially the way Emmaline has to struggle to see the Indian point of view. I loved that the war tore them apart, leaving them both devastated and angry, and that it took time for them to reestablish their relationship. I loved that both of them had terrible, terrible angst and the best remedy for it was each other. I loved that Julian was a good guy, who never tried to trick or take advantage of Emmaline, and that Emmaline felt what she felt and was whom she was. I also liked that Emmaline's cousin, in the second half, was a real confidant and friend to her, a nuanced character, not just the usual "flighty chaperone" type.

Things I didn't like as much: yet another Evil Plot related to Evil Person Who Is Easy To Identify. Related to that, I would have liked to see a bit more prejudice directed at Julian--a lot of what we see comes from Evil Person, which doesn't seem realistic to me. It's true that being heir to a dukedom would counterbalance, but I still imagined a lot more casual racism from other peers and talking about the issue in oblique ways, which would lead to more juicy plot tension. Ironically, there's more of the British characters taking issue with him being part Indian in the first half, which takes place in India, than when Julian's in London. To me, that made the first half more uniquely interesting than the second, which had a more standard plot wrapping the tension-filled reunion of Julian with Emmaline.

I haven't enjoyed a new author this much in a while. I would buy another Duran book in a heartbeat. I hope she writes more!