Friday, December 24, 2010


I remember exactly when I encountered this poem but won't relate the circumstances here because they really don't matter. What matters is the beauty of it, whether one believes or not. Sometimes belief--or lack of it--is best suspended at times and this may be one of those times: stoned out of my mind with jet lag after flying 16 hours east, awake way too early and looking forward to flying up to a White Christmas in Wisconsin with Erin and her family, while at the same time wishing I could also be with my daughters, son-in-law and grandsons.


Apparently there is/was an old English/Celtic/Anglo belief that on Christmas Eve at midnight all the animals in all stables and mangers throughout the world get on their knees in devotion to commemorate the birth of the Christ child. Who knows? Could be . . .

You will have to look up 'barton' and 'coomb,' but otherwise the piece speaks clearly beautifully to all of us, even those among us who doubt or don't believe at all.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
'Now they are all on their knees,'
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
'Come; see the oxen kneel,

'In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,'
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

--Thomas Hardy

Monday, December 13, 2010


Am having an absolutely marvelous time here in Taipei with a superb chorus, the Formosa Singers. Their conductor, Julian Su, did a stunning job of preparation prior to my arrival, leaving only some Poulenc notes to fix and some harmonic minor seconds and major sevenths to get in tune. All the rest has been fun, though I still sweat. Have had three very productive three-hour (!) rehearsals with them, working primarily on phrase, musicality, drama, and English diction, of course. Four more rehearsals to go, then the two performances, the second of which is in the National Concert Hall, where I performed with the USC Chamber Choir in 2006 on our tour of East Asia. That was a mountain top experience and I am looking forward to another one in that wonderful hall.

The singers and accompanist/translator are great, the hotel is first-class (Ritz Landis), the food is fun, and all seem to be enjoying my work. There's even a big concert publicity poster of me in my hotel lobby, just to the right of the Christmas tree. I'm famous again.

They only put up the tree yesterday and I heard Christmas carols (ala quasi-techno-Euro-funk) in the dining room just this morning, so they don't work it to death here like they do in the US. Then, too, most of these people are doomed, godless Buddhists, so what do they care? Only three of the 32-member chorus are Christians. What a relief! Such a delightful contrast compared to the sanctimony of the US and even Korea. I know, I know: I'll burn in hell.

Julia Tai's mom and dad have already taken me out to dinner twice, and I'll have lunch with dad again on Friday. They have been really sweet to me. I guess they think I did OK with Julia during her master's degree work at USC.

Looking forward to the big concert on the 21st (winter solstice), then fly home to Bama, pay bills and repack, and fly up to Green Bay on Christmas day, joining up with Sam, Erin and her family.

Glad to be here; glad to have music in my life; glad that I'm still highly potent in front of a really good ensemble; glad to have so much to look forward to.

Merry Christmas, y'all.