Are Choral Conductors Crazy? Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride…

I was relating a story to a colleague that occurred during my first week in the CSULA Master’s of Music summer program a few years ago, and she said, “well, choral conductors ARE all kinda crazy, right?”  Yes.  Well I guess so, but not that kind of crazy…

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and delinquent on my blog posts, so I’m cheating here and will share a post from that first week…

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Whatever possessed me to pursue another degree at this point in my life escaped my consciousness this week somewhere between an intense lecture on the value of understanding the hexachords hidden in medieval chant in relationship to analyzing contemporary choral work and a late-night wild-goose-chase through the bowels of LA with an OCD borderline at the wheel.  I’m in an intensive 3 summers masters program in choral conducting, living in LA for the summer… have you lost your MIND you say….  Well, as a matter of fact, yes.

Life is short, I always say.  It is a good answer to most any annoying question.  I was on track in my early 20’s to get serious about choral conducting, but took a radical left turn after my conservatory work and landed in the world of music theatre among other things.  No regrets certainly, but unfinished business has a way of bearing it’s ugly little head and well, it was high time to check that one off the list before I keel over.  Besides, I’m possessed with the music lately and what else can you do when you are possessed, than to do one’s best to drown in it?  My only lamenting happens when my mind wanders to Québec City….. I’ve loved my summers there, studying French and immersing myself in the francophone culture… 3 summers of choral conducting means 3 summers NOT in QC and what a mournful thought THAT is.  Oh my.

I thought that I would be just fine down here without a car… I never have a car in QC and I get around on the metro system just dandy, so I figured LA would be the same ….. certainly navigating the LA freeway system is not my cup of tea to say the least.  Ken, my knight in shinning armor, would have none of this idea.  He insisted that I have a car and not set one foot on a bus down here.  He promptly presented me with a GPS to help with navigation.  Ms. Garmin.  I call her Sal for short.  She is my new best friend.  I just LOVE her.  She tells me where to go, gives me reminders when I’m going to turn, and re-calculates on a dime when I turn too early, without telling me that I am an idiot or directionally challenged.  (It would be the truth, but who likes a mouthy, opinionated, know-it-all around?)  I love Sal.  Have Sal, will travel.  Going to the Huntington Gardens tomorrow for high tea and a stroll.  Me and Sal.

Last night was a welcome party for the conductors.  I ended up riding with a colleague that we will just call Ms. Hyde (as in Dr. Jekell and company).   It started out innocently enough.  The directions had a misspelling of the street name, so I couldn’t program Sal to be in charge.  Hyde was in charge.  She lived down here for a time, so she felt that she knew everything.  Her extensive knowledge lead us through a terrifying area of LA and when it was determined that we should give up getting to the party and head back to home before we were found, robbed, beaten and beheaded, she consented to letting Sal get us out of the mess.  Sal was great as usual, but Hyde, out of the blue, started screaming obscenities to Sal to shut up, all the while driving like a mad, crazy woman.  Poor Sal, although she doesn’t react to that kind of abuse at all, it takes a moment to shut her off so she just continued to tell Hyde to turn left while Hyde was ranting.  Well, here I am, stunned at the behavior of Ms. Hyde—a prominent, respectable, age 50-something choral conductor—and trying to get Sal shut down before she gets tossed out of the window. I was silent (a rare moment, I know) until Hyde came to her senses.  Sal was invited to take over again and we did make it home in one piece, unharmed amazingly enough, but party-less. Nope, not inviting Hyde to tea tomorrow.  How did you guess?

I am on a quest to find the beauty in LA.  Abe Lincoln is purported to have said, “If you look for the bad in man, you shall surely find it.”  So if you look for the good in something, you will find that too, yes?