Hilltop Diary, Feb. 22, 2021

Crystal in snow

Welcome to the frozen tundra of Hilltop! Or, as of today, the rapidly melting tundra. I have no idea what a tundra is, to be honest. We are thankful that we never lost our electricity or water and had plenty of food and firewood during last week’s nationwide blizzard, and we offer sincere condolences to those who did lose them, or worse. We had already bought a supply of emergency food in those packets that are supposed to last twenty-five years (but did not need to use them). Today, hearing about all the people who lost their drinking water, I ordered a filtration container that can be used even with non-potable outdoor water sources, should it ever be needed. If it can happen in Texas, it can happen here.

This week portends the further appearance of little green tips of tulip and daffodil leaves peeking up in our yard to see if it’s okay to come out. I already need to apply deer repellent! Meanwhile, I caught Crystal trying to get a taste (see photo) of what might possibly turn out to be our only snowfall of the season with any accumulation, and that was only a few inches.

In professional news since I last wrote, first, there were  a couple of new articles of mine in two publications. I will just share this rather nostalgic one in praise of the “Chestnuts” of classical music that everyone used to know, published HERE. If they will not let you see it all, you may have to sign up for a free trial, but can easily cancel it. (Sorry about that.)

I’m really excited to share that I have now interviewed and agreed to teach weekly private lessons in composition to two terrific students, via Zoom. These two people have both done Master’s degree study in music composition and fit the bill perfectly. They would like to learn traditional tonal composing techniques, which is what I use in my composing, and which is not typically taught in universities any more.

I have been reading and have almost finished the book, All Creatures Great and Small, and we have been watching the new version of it that is now on Masterpiece Theater on PBS. What a wonderful book and show, especially for animal lovers, Anglophiles, and lovers of the English countryside! I recommend it without reservation for the whole family. Please share any comments below, if you have seen it.

20210222_082643At last, a preliminary, trial plan for my new radio show has been implemented, to be produced under the umbrella of long-time radio man Mike Church. It will be available on an established online Catholic channel and I believe on Sirius XM radio. I’m just not sure when it will air or exactly what the tune-in details are, but I will update this when I know. Keep watching this space or my Facebook page. My show is called “Catholic Adventures in Great Music” and is essentially a classical music appreciation show for people who listen to Catholic radio, including Homeschooling families. The opening program will be on English composer George Butterworth, who lost his life at the WW1 Battle of the Somme (authors J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and composer Ralph Vaughan Williams all survived that battle); and the second show will be on Frederick Chopin. Most of the one-hour show will simply be listening to beautiful music, with my explanations and interesting biographical tidbits narrated in between. Though it is marketed to Catholics, I think pretty much anyone with an interest in classical music would enjoy it. Here is a photograph of a corner of my home composing/ recording studio showing the microphones I’ll be using to record my narration. The disc in front of the mics is called a pop screen and is just a layer of foam that keeps your words that begin with plosive sounds (“P” or “T”) from making a popping noise with a burst of wind on those letters from your mouth into the microphones.

For Valentine’s Day, I did order and pick up two big lobsters (2 lb. each) from our local grocer, and it was quite an adventure to do that for the very first time. I put them mostly to sleep in the freezer for 30 minutes before plunging them into our big three-gallon camping pot of boiling water. We simply had some melted butter on the side, plus some three-cheese ravioli in sage-brown-butter on spinach, with a few shrimp for good measure, with Rossini cocktails before (like a Mimosa but with muddled strawberries instead of orange juice; a Bellini is with peaches). Here are some photos. We had to take a few pictures! Left to right: live lobsters, still moving (they come with rubber bands to keep them from snapping those claws at you); cooked lobsters, now bright red; the presentation with lobster shells cracked and made easy to eat.

Lobster tryptich

Now we have entered the more austere season of Lent, leading up to Easter. Beyond our usual readings, we are doing some readings aloud together from a wonderful book applying St. Ignatius of Loyola’s “Rules for the Discernment of Spirits” to married life. It is called, oddly enough, Discernment of Spirits in Marriage by Father Timothy Gallagher, OMV. With so many self-help Christian books swimming all around today, it’s hard to know what to read. My experience and advice is “the older, the better”, in terms of depth and actually telling me stuff I don’t already know. Ignatius wrote down these timeless principles almost exactly 500 years ago. Another great classic favorite of mine is Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, written in 1619. Anyway, if you are observing Lent, I wish you a joyful and thoughtful season, and if you are not, I wish you the same!

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