Monthly Archives: June 2009

45 hours of travel…and thanks

I am back in Bozeman after 45 hours of travel. Wes was quite humored by my exhausted 30 second mini naps that resulted in some wild head bobbing.

I was wondering what it would be like to return to Bozeman. And as the bus lumbered into town and everyone around me exclaimed with joy that they were home, I had a very clear experience of not being home. In fact, the wide plain and severe mountains, the bright and close sun, and the dryness all feel as foreign to me as the wild streets of Vietnam with the motor bikes.

I began to think about our little house in Ashfield and how I wanted to plant fruit trees, and where to play concerts and teach.

But I love my students here, have good connections to the faculty, and have committed to this next year in Bozeman.

It will be fun to have a whole community to interact with on a daily basis that has shared in such a fun overseas adventure.
I have syllabi to write, tours to plan, a house to re side, and an audio journal to edit.
But meanwhile I will be hatching plans on how to step into the performing career I have always dreamed of. Grants? Booking conferences? auditions? freelance? I need to create a business plan and start now heading in the direction of my dreams, even while I make good on my current financial and institutional obligations.
It is never too early to live the life that brings you joy!!

Thanks to all of you who have supported me to go on this trip. I am so incredibly grateful for your support. I will be sending along the audio journal as soon as I can edit it, and when the PBS documentary comes out, I will let you know if it seems worth it to purchase and watch (who knows if I will make it into the final cut)

Finally, I have to admit, writing this blog has been a blast for me. I have always enjoyed writing, and if you don’t mind, I think I will just keep up with it, although perhaps less frequently.

Heaven and Earth

Since my afternoon on the beach a powerful and steady joy has filled me. I feel happiness radiated through all the fibers of my being. Every now and then I try to imagine why I am feeling so much peace and then I just laugh at myself and surrender. Who cares! Maybe it was the ocean, or having passed a large hurtle in my career, or maybe it is simply a grace, a gift. So I am soaking up this inner sun and feeling in love with life for as long as this feeling lasts.

I think the unpredictability of this adventure, the heat and sweat and the playing under strange circumstances has exercised my surrender muscles, and I am sinking into a beautiful place soul that knows that I can trust my life, my destiny and the divine.

I think part of my craving to play solo is to know this place in myself, and now that I have discovered it on stage, I feel it radiating out into simple things like brushing my teeth, or admiring a strange light fixture!

This craving to discover my own soul may seem somewhat narcissistic (sp?), self indulgent, a passion for the self in love with the self. So I ask your compassion and forgiveness in this. I think in the process I have found and released piles of shame, regained trust, and played some good concerts too.

I wonder if life will ever be about something other than healing that great rift between our knowing and the divine. At least now when I feel the joy and ectasy of music flow through me, I will trust and love it, knowing that a part of me, like the gaurdians for the Buddha will be watching out, staying connected to this earth, watching my intonation and rhythm.

Walking to dinner today I saw a green tea beverage in the cooler. It’s label described the crux of my journey; “Heaven and Earth”.

white sand, emerald water and a pina colada

So this is the part in the part in the tour when I get to forget that I am a musician, or a professor, or really anything at all other than a woman in with a silk wrap and bikini walking on white sand with toes in the emerald water.

If it sounds amazing that is because it is. I have almost burst into tears at the pure beauty of these beaches, and the pampered luxury of a five star beach resort.

Of course the downside is that emailing costs an arm and a leg, I guess they assume you can afford it, so I will not be writing another blog entry for two days after this one.

This morning at breakfast I had carrot juice, smoked salmon, fresh papaya and pineapple etc etc. Then I headed off on a boat to snorkel around some tiny islands off the island of Phuket.

I am sad to say that the coral is badly damaged by the Tsunami and by tourism, and garbage floats around some of the rock outcroppings. Despite all this, it is still breath takingly beautiful, and I saw a puffer fish, a small shark, a parrot fish, a sea sponge and sea anemones. I didn’t want to get out of the water, even after 2 hours. Towards the end of my swim excursion Stephanie took her video camera out with her, so we will have underwater video footage!

Last night I had one of the best pina coladas of my life. Only one I had in Costa Rica compares. The key is teh fresh pineapple and coconut. Delicious, and not too much rum, so I could actually taste the fruit.

Tomorrow I will give a masterclass at the music school in town, so I will have to remember that I am a cellist tomorrow.

But for this afternoon I will wander the white sand beaches alone, missing my husband, but enjoying the full happiness of the sea and sun.

Gold buddhas and the king of Siam

A whirlwind tour of the Kings palace (where Anna the school teacher taught the king’s hundred or so wives English) and many golden Buddhas, large and small. The heat was almost unbearable, and I felt myself suddenly quite religious, because the inner sanctuaries were the most cool and shaded. As I was sitting in lotus position in front of the glimmering display of Buddha, surrounded by his protectors, offerings and sparkling adornments, I had a student of mine lean over and ask me if I “felt anything”. “It is just so glitzy”, she said. I will admit, the talking tourists and hyper tour guide (whose only remnant of a failed acting career is her melodramatic high pitched voice) did detract from the sense of sacredness and peace of the place. But even more than this, I thought about how different the smiling peaceful figure was to the image of a man pinned up to a cross with a crown of thorns digging into his forehead.

The truth is, I DID feel something. I felt a sense of radiant peace, if this makes any sense, or at least the sparkling awesome piles of gold, colors and mirrors encouraged me to surrender to the notion that such an experience is there for me whenever I ask. Even a year ago I would have thought this whole spectacle was absurd. But I liked the idea that here is this enlightened being who is revered and protected from harm by a whole host of creatures. Maybe I am just getting too old for all this “suffering equals spiritually goodness/ martyr” business

It made me think of my concert. The inner Buddha in me, for lack of a better explanation, sang out through my music, while meanwhile some part of my mind was busy driving away any thoughts or fears that would interfere with the focus and peace I needed in order to successfully offer my gift of music.

Of course, I know very little about Buddhism, so forgive me if I am extrapolating from an image. But when we kneel before a representation of something, it seems we take in that image deeply.

But maybe the jesus story has something there for me too.
Certainly performing can have an element of sacred suffering. And the ego strains under the heavy weight of fear of criticism and judgement.
Maybe my ego, if it doesn’t step aside, is nailed up to the cross bleeding with a crown of thorns. Crucified until the most valuable part of who I am can come forth.

Well, I never meant to get so philosophical. But the image of Buddha really impacted me, and my student’s innocent question.

On a lighter note, one of the camera guys overheard that we were going to a pharmacy and asked us to pick up some unlubricated condoms, if we found them. My friend and I were taken aback momentarily by the request, and slightly put off, (buy your own contraceptives, dude!) until he explained that they were for the microphone. evidently they protect against rain while allowing the sound to still be fairly decent. after recovering from the shock, we both joked about details of size and style, commenting on how he did have a rather LARGE microphone….

A very delicious ice cream bar here is called The Magnum Bar. So powerfully good and large it can blow out your brains, I guess? strange English phrases show up everywhere and create quite a bit of amusement. Equally amusing are the Thai desserts which are a whole assortment of colored jellied, slobbery, snotty, wormy things. If you are looking to play with your food, this is your chance!

Lorenzo Sanguino, orchids and gold shoes


Today was a magical day. Picture the setting; a large cathedral with vaulted painted ceilings and ornately decorated gold detail, large colorful stained glass windows.

Some opening comments about shared friendship, good will and reaching across cultures and oceans through music set a feeling of deep respect and honorable purpose.

As the first number of the concert starts I am running my fingers through some passages, one hand playing, thinking to myself, “why do i do this to myself”. and all the while breathing in and breathing out…trying to calm my mind. Video cameras from PBS, video cameras from Thailand, about a dozen people taking photos. But don’t think about it….There’s the applause, the chair on stage, my rock stop and seat cushion for extra height so that I don’t hit my left leg during the fast passages in the third movement. Okay here we go….

I step up the marble steps in my gold high heels, holding up my crimson gown. I bow and shake the concert masters hand. The audience applause dies down. I adjust my rock stop to be sure it hits the gap where the two large marble slabs don’t quite line up so that my end pin doesn’t slip, I wipe my forehead for some extra lubrication for my fingers.

Shuichi nods at me. My heart pounds. The first tutti note is like a gun shot and I am propelled into a series of triplet runs. I focus on being centered and in control, yet passionate and expressive. I keep the tempo slower than the other nights due to the very echoey hall. I navigate the first section with no trouble. I breathe a sigh. The next section I miss a shift, but I don’t care. I can already tell I am in the right place for this to go very well. My focus is just the right kind of sharpness, and there is no fear now, only awareness and intensity. I notice the clergy in the front row staring at the red butterfly temporary tattoo on my left foot. I think about the crimson gown I am wearing and the passion in my music. It does not match the pious images and sculptures of the virgin Mary in this cathedral. Mary Magdalene? My mind wanders for a moment, wondering what she was like and if she might have a place in the church after all, a passionate and earthly sort of devotion to the divine……

I feel myself swept back up into the music, the elegance of the second movement, and a well executed little spiccato cadenza. I can hear the dark rich sound of my cello vibrating through the magnificent space of the cathedral, and the intensity of my love for music filling that sound.
The third movement scares me a little and I miss a few notes in one of the fast passages. quick recovery. The coda has me in a state of joy.
I finally played my best!

I stand up, bow, and smile, a big genuine smile. The senior vice provost, president of Assumption University and other big wigs in the front row rise to their feet. The rest of the audience stays put, evidently standing ovations are extremely rare in Thailand. The tears begin to well up, but I hurry off stage before anyone can see.

When the long concert ends I am gifted a large bouquet of purple orchids, with pink and purple ribbons. I feel like I am a bridesmaid. We line up for shots with all sorts of important people in front of the orchestra. The cameras roll and flash from all directions. After wards, talking with Assumption University faculty and fans I turn and notice that my friend, the camera lady Stephanie, has been capturing my conversations. I feel like a star! Several of the faculty are Italian, and the director of the performance program flirts with me as only Italian men can. But something good comes from the conversation. I am finally offered a name that fits perfectly for my cello. Lorenzo Sanguino…….which is the name Lorenzo which has both an elegance and power to it, and Sanguino, i hope I am spelling it right, which means basically hot blooded, passionate.

The rain outside has just stopped and I lift my dress to avoid the puddles. The hem gets wet anyway. I think of my wedding day with the mud on my dress.
We ride the trolley down the line of blooming trees, past the wild horses water fountain and over the arched bridge to a five course Thai meal in another magnificent building.

downtown bangkok

For the last two days we have been staying in a five star hotel in downtown Bangkok. It has been quite luxurious, and the breakfast had the most diverse assortment of foods you could imagine from oatmeal to fried rice, eggs and fruit etc etc. Yesterday we played at Mahidol University. They had a huge and very selective music conservatory. The hall had great acoustics, but the orchestra was a bit skittish since we arrived about 15 minutes before the doors were opened, and we were scrambling to get to our soundcheck. This was due to the most amazingly bad Bangkok traffic. I think it took us two hours to travel from one end of Bangkok to the other.

One things Bangkok has to offer is inexpensive good massages. But you have to be sure to got to the right kind of place or you will end up with a suprise happy ending you had not intended.

I went to the Asian Herbal Massage place and had an orange oil massage. The woman was quite good, if a little forceful. at the end she practically bent me in half over myself to stretch out my back, and this didn’t feel so good.

One of the things I have been feeling lately is that it is unbelievably hard to tour with a concerto. With chamber music or even a solo recital, I can handle the stress of travel and multiple performances and manage to sound good most of the time too. Touring with a concerto is much harder, probably because the pressure and necessity to be totally accurate and excellent is much more with a concerto.

Tomorrow I will have concert three with the piece, here at Assumption University outside of Bangkok. The venue is a gorgeous cathedral with amazing stained glass windows, a large pond and water fountain outside, and a six second delay. With such an echo, the tempos all need to be a little bit more slow, or the whole thing will become mud.

What I love most about the space is that it is heavily air conditioned, which means that I might make some headway in the constant battle with the humidity and the affects that it has on my cello. With strings one inch off of the fingerboard, even with forehead grease, the fast passages can be challenging to facilitate. This place does not have power outages, so with the air conditioning running constantly I may be able to get the 90 percent humidity down to an all time tour low of 50 percent!!!

After tomorrow I will be home free and almost to the beach and swimming snorkeling!
I hope to have my best performance yet tomorrow. So far i had a very passionate intense performance, with less accuracy than I would like, and a more scared performance with more accuracy but less passion. If I can be accurate and passionate tomorrow I will feel like I have accomplished what i have set out to do.
Hopefully my intestines will settle down soon!…………..time for more curry.