Hilltop Diary, November 29, 2021

Below, if you want to skip the gossip from Hilltop, is an audio mockup of my new (5½-minute) ballet movement that you can stream for free – just click on the play arrow. But first things first: Thanksgiving Day was blissfully simple and peaceful, maybe because Crystal did all the cooking this year! I did contribute my famous marsala turkey gravy, and all was delicious. Secret ingredients, a touch of Worcestershire and Dijon.  Crystal got all the side dishes done the day before, which took the stress off of her on the day. I managed to have just one helping of everything – yay for me, but starved a bit the next day to compensate for it. Crystal’s parents were here to share the feast, having driven up through the nightmare that of late has become the traffic coming from Atlanta, to stay Wednesday and Thursday nights, before going on northward to see other relatives.


So, it’s now Advent at Hilltop, which entailed lighting the first candle on our Advent wreath (shown here) and opening the first door of the Advent calendar. Once again we will be doing the fun Jacquie Lawson Advent calendar online together on the computer, this year set in London. Worth every bit of the $5 price. We usually try to observe Advent by itself, first, and wait to put up a tree and celebrate Christmas later, but this year we are trying something new. We put up the tree yesterday and only put the lights on but no other ornaments, so we’re calling that our Advent Tree. Then we’ll decorate the tree with Christmas ornaments just before Christmas to make it a proper Christmas Tree.

Since I last wrote, our regional Broadway World began its annual contest for the past year’s shows in sixty or more community and professional theaters in greater middle Tennessee. Anyone can quickly vote online, and the winners are determined by the number of votes cast by the public. Crystal and I are happy to be running in a respectable third or fourth place out of several nominees in our respective categories (Dear Miss Barrett for “Best Musical” and Crystal for “Best Performer in a Musical”). Of course, we are not losing any sleep over it – It’s all in good fun, and many of the nominees are good friends – So we’d be happy for them to win. But if you’d like to vote for us, just click HERE. It only takes a minutes, and you don’t have to sign up for anything or get any e-mails, beside one asking you to confirm your vote.

On November 11, we were so happy once again to host for dinner six of the dynamic young breed of Catholic priests in the Diocese of Nashville. A couple of times a year, we cook a good meal and eat ours in another room, leaving the priests alone to laugh and visit with each other in an informal setting, which they rarely get to do, as their parishes are widely scattered. This time I made authentic Swedish Meatballs with gravy, mashed potatoes (“sinfully” enriched with cream cheese), along with the traditional Lingonberry Sauce and fresh green beans almondine. The meatballs are not like Italian ones. Rather than Italian flavors like basil, they have things like allspice, nutmeg, and Worcestershire, really delicious. Crystal made a sumptuous apple and blackberry crisp with crème anglaise sauce for dessert. Different priests come each time we do this, but this time we had all our regulars (and all quite young, in their 30’s, I think), listed from left to right in the photo below:


Left to Right: Father Andy Bulso (pastor, St. Edward Catholic Church, Nashville); Father Andrew Forsythe (pastor, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Lawrenceburg, TN); Fr. Ben Butler (pastor, St. Martha Catholic Church, Ashland City, TN); Father Richard Childress (pastor, St. John Vianney Catholic Church, Gallatin, TN); Fr. Michael Fye (pastor, St. Ann Catholic Church, Nashville); Fr. Rhodes Bolster, Assoc. Pastor, St. Philip Catholic Church, Franklin, TN.

Meanwhile, I have completed my second fully orchestrated sketch for my current project, the ballet tentatively to be called Raffaella. I gave this new piece the working title, “The Land of Nod,” just to have some concept to focus the music on. That title will get changed when plugged into the actual ballet story, of course. Ballets consist of many short pieces, and as I’m just starting this project, this is only the second piece to be composed.

This one begins rather “floating,” like falling asleep and beginning to dream as you enter the land of Nod, but it is also warm and loving, thinking perhaps of a small child asleep. In this vein, there are also moments of cuteness and whimsy in the music. You might then imagine, as the musical narrative grows more emotional, that it is taking you on quite an adventure through dreamland, one with a happy and victorious ending. I most love composing and orchestrating for a large symphony orchestra like this, because of the wide range of expression and colors I can use. This is a pretty realistic sounding virtual instrument mockup to use in dance rehearsals. At the ballet performances we will of course use a live symphony orchestra. Just click the arrow, and please use headphones or good speakers, not a phone or laptop speaker, for the bass and best sound.

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