Thursday, August 3, 2017


Sometimes life surprises you… My surprise this year is that I ended up joining a choir.

Now let's go back a few steps.  I belonged to a choir in Compton Waterville Intermediate School, but most everyone did.  That was it for me singing consistently in a  choir.  I took piano lessons for seven years until I finally convinced my mother that I could quit at age 13.  Those years of piano lessons  put me off classical music for quite awhile.  I did end up helping with choirs and putting on musicals as an elementary teacher.  And I always enjoyed music and singing.  But I have had no desire to join a choir that you had to practice with each week and then put on concerts and try to get your friends attend.

I always figured that my voice was okay as long as I was in a group.  I think my range is quite good but  I have a tendency to change keys without even being aware.  And although I could sight read on a piano, I can't quite imagine doing that to sing without playing along.

program for February concert
So at Christmas time I went to a gospel choir performance and I really enjoyed it.  And when I saw that they had a weekend workshop so that you learned the songs and practiced on a Saturday and performed with the regular choir, I spread the word, and a friend said she would be keen to do it, so i signed up

In the meantime, another friend had heard about a community choir.  She sent me the information.  I looked over the music, which didn't overly impressed me.  But I said I would go along to an session to try it out.

And surprise, surprise, I loved it.  We both did.  Anna Baignoche, the director, has a lovely relaxed manner.  The participants range in age from 20's to possibly 80's.  The atmosphere is non threatening.  And I found myself feeling happy and with songs in my head at the end of the evening.

This reminded me of how my class for a couple of years only had music as appreciation,  and then I had a student teacher who was a musician. I noticed how much all the kids all enjoyed singing.  Fortunately from then on my students all had music that involved singing and they always enjoyed it.

I found myself really looking forward to Monday evenings when I went to Local Vocals.  There was this lovely sense of community.  And we actually sounded rather lovely.  This video was taken at a get together at the end of our official season.  I am always so busy when we are practicing and singing I never took any pictures!

our program 
Then I had my gospel music workshop.  It was fun.  It was challenging.  One lucky thing I had been noticing is that I am actually able to learn songs fairly quickly.  I think those seven years of music lessons actually may be the reason why.  Hmmm…

I can tell you those songs were reverberating in my head that night, especially a couple of beautiful ones that were new to me.

On the Sunday we did perform and it was great.  A couple of friends actually did come and really enjoyed it.  And I fulfilled a goal of performing with a gospel choir.  I love this choir and went to another performance in the spring, but I still think it is a choir with a bit too much of a commitment for  me, plus you have to audition which would still terrify me!

Anyway I have continued with local vocals, and even went to lovely sessions in Dude Chilling Park (only in Vancouver) this summer, and brought some friends along as well.

In all of this, I can't help think of my mother.  She loved to sing and when young sang with all her sisters.  One of my aunts actually did sing at some point on the radio.  My mother was always in the church choir.  She sang when she did her housework.

I definitely plan to continue with Local Vocals in the fall.  And bonus, we don't have formal concerts!  That suits me just fine.  And for the thrill of performing, I can go to the Good Noise Gospel workshop in February.  I went to another concert in June and here are a few favourite video clips

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Great Reckoning

Growing up in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, I never imagined that it would be known throughout the world due to a series of mysteries.  I mean there were well known Canadian writers such as Hugh MacLennan and Mordecai Richler who had summer places but still…

A few years ago someone asked me if I had read anything by Louise Penny, a writer whose mysteries were set in this area just north of Vermont and between Montreal and Quebec City.  I hadn't but recognized her name as she had been the CBC morning program host in Quebec City when I spent three weeks there in a French program and later she was a show host on CBC in Montreal.

Since then I think I have probably read all her books.  I am a mystery lover.  In my childhood I was hooked on Trixie Beldon and Donna Parker.  Much later during a difficult summer spent in the Eastern Townships when we were packing up my family home and my dad had had a massive stroke, I got reading Agatha Christie  mysteries as an escape at our cottage. Then started discovering contemporary mystery authors I enjoyed  such as Sue Grafton and P.D. James.

My love of Tony Hillerman's books sparked an interest in going to Arizona and New Mexico.  When I finally went to Santa Barbara I realized my whole image of the area came from those Sue Grafton mysteries.

I have to admit I have had some issues with Louise Penny's books as I know the area a bit too well.  Just as Sue Grafton's Santa Teresa is not quite Santa Barbara, Louise Penny has manipulated her setting as well, which is totally understandable, but sometimes distresses me I admit.

St. Benoit du Lac
But I still do enjoy her books and love that she has made so many people aware of a very special and beautiful area.  I somehow like the idea that Hillary Clinton knows about the Eastern Townships from these books (she is a fan who just had Louise Penny as a weekend guest).  Penny's  popularity is incredible. Her fans are devoted and she has won many awards as well as being recently named to the Order of Canada

Morrin Centre English Language Library
I laughed at myself on my last trip to Quebec as I ended up in a few settings or inspirations for settings in her novels.  I went to the English Language Library in Quebec City that I learned about from one of her mysteries, Bury Your Dead.  I heard the monks chant at St Benoit du Lac Abby, the inspiration for A Beautiful Mystery, and I had dinner at Hovey Manor, the inspiration for the setting in A Rule Against Murder.

If you haven't read her novels they focus on her hero Gamache, a detective with the Quebec Provincial Police who stumbles into the little village of Three Pines (fictional but in the vicinity of Sutton where she was living in the country until her husband's illness forced a move into nearby Knowlton). Here Gameche meets a motley crew of villagers and finds himself drawn here with his police colleagues again and again sometimes due to crime, others for a need of clarification.   He and his wife end up buying a home there.

Penny is a prolific writer.  It may have taken her five years to publish her first book but she has been writing a book a year for quite awhile.  In her Facebook posts, she shares her writing process with her readers, as well as her daily life.  This life has become increasingly difficult in the last few years as her beloved husband developed Alzheimer's and died a few months ago.

Hovey Manor, North Hatley, Quebec
A Great Reckoning is her last published novel.  She has now finished her third draft of the latest.  I really really liked this one.  It takes place at the fictional Police Academy for the Quebec Provincial Police where her hero, Gamache, supposingly retired to Three Pines, has now become the Director.

 I found the mystery quite engaging and there are many layers as we find the reason that Gamache has agreed to take the position and of course, the unravelling of a murder.  We are reunited with familiar characters as well as meeting some interesting young trainees.  The townspeople of Three Pines become very involved  and a parallel mystery in the village is examined as well.  This novel had a poignancy, and I wondered if perhaps it was because she wrote this as she nursed her ill husband in his final illness.  I found myself in tears as I finished the novel, not usual when I read a mystery.

Anyway if you haven't checked out this author, why don't you see how you like her.  And you just might be inspired to visit the Townships.

North Hatley

Sunday, March 5, 2017

What have I been reading…Everyone Brave is Forgiven

I was so impressed in January when a friend sent me an annotated bibliography of all the books he read in 2016.  Now when I belonged to a book club I used to write a response to each book so I actually would have something to refer to when we had our book club discussion.  Also it gave me a record of my reading.  And I knew that writing does clarify one's reading, at least that is what I told my students at all levels.

This blog became a place I could talk about my reading, often children's, young adult novels and picture books.  But in retirement I have slacked off on this.

Because everyone knows I like to read, people often do ask for recommendations and I really hadn't had that many books that had been sweeping me away lately.  I had one book I had begun in the summer and then it was giving me nightmares although it was a good book so I had set it aside.  I began a book recommended to me when I went away for a short holiday and enjoyed it, read half of it, and then haven't picked it up again in two months.

I read a lot of detective novels.  In fact I have one going now.  I also quite happily read chick lit.  And I still happily read young adult books.  I am also not an organized reader.  I don't put holds on library books often.  I often rely on fast reads at the library.  And this is how I read Everyone Brave is Forgiven.  I had heard Chris Cleave interviewed about this book telling how the idea for it came from one of his grandfather's who was part of the Siege of Malta and his two grandmothers, one a teacher and one an ambulance driver in the Second World War.  Little Bee, one of his earlier books, was one that simply swept me away so I was thrilled to see this as a fast read.  That means you have to return it in a week or pay $1 a day.  No renewals usually.

This was a book that I couldn't stop reading.  I was swept away by the story as I watched how the war changed each of the main characters.  I always was struck about how when I met my mother in law at my age she had been a nurse in the Italian campaign.  Many of my friends' parents had spent their youths in the war.  The Vietnam war raged on in my youth but it didn't really touch me directly.

This novel puts you in London during the Blitz.  It puts you in Malta when they are trapped there by the Germans.  The book is also unique in that it looks at class and racial issues and even drug addiction.  
I definitely was swept away...