“The best comfort food will always be
greens, cornbread, and fried chicken.” Maya Angelou
November begins today and so does our November Choral Potpourri/Choral Ethics series on Self-Care. As we head toward our busy season, I thought it might be good to give you some ideas on how to take care of yourself during this time. I am including two previous Choral Potpourri Blogs from years past this month, simply because they are so applicable for this series. Self-Care is never out of fashion; even if we don’t think we should have to take care of ourselves, we must in order to care for other people, and that includes our choirs.
This is my Fall Concert week. I’ve planned the repertoire for years because this concert will be part of a long scheduled regional arts festival. I’ve invited a local children’s choir to sing with us. We’ve commissioned a new work with the composer in attendance. My accompanist is playing two solo pieces and we are singing music both challenging and easy for us. In short, there are many moving parts to this concert and I am exhausted!
To get through this week, I am doing a few things I hope will help me cope during the “home stretch.” One of my sons made an apple pie last weekend and yesterday I made a pumpkin pie in honor of Halloween. We ordered favorite take-out earlier in the week and I made my Mom’s Famous Meatloaf. I have been doing morning stretches almost every morning for months now and have doubled up on the mornings I feel especially stressed. I am listening to music having nothing to do with this concert; I’m writing program notes for other performing groups, due in a week or two, so Handel and Vivaldi are helping me take my mind off this concert as well as helping get stuff done. I’ve been watching my favorite solo from “Mikado” (I’ve Got a Little List) on YouTube on a daily basis. All of these things seemed to take down my stress-level a bit but the ONE THING that has helped me the most is…..GRILLED CHEESE!
I’ve been making a grilled cheese lunch almost every day for the last few weeks. My Mom would make grilled cheese for us all the time (as I did for my sons) and before this fall I never thought how, well, comforting that was. The act of getting out the cheese and bread, finding the grill pan, buttering the bread slices and checking the first side for crispy brown perfection before flipping has become so calming. The gooey cheese, the perfectly grilled bread and the combination of crispy and melty takes down the stress like nothing else. It makes sense; something comforting, homey, familiar and simple makes me feel better when stress begins. Family members step up and cook (and the best part, they CLEAN UP too!) a dinner of frozen pizza or soup or something easy or we order out as concert time approaches. I am usually the one taking care of everyone and being taken care of for a change helps with my stress as well.
Listening to music I will NOT be conducting in a few days also helps lower stress some concert cycles. I’ve been engaged to write program notes, so this fall I am listening to music I need to as research. The fact is the works are music I want to listen to. Other concert cycles I listen to many different things; after researching and practicing my repertoire for at least 18 months, “cleansing my palate” before a concert is a way for me to feel “fresh” for concert time. You could think of listening to familiar, loved or new music at times of busyness and stress a type of “comfort food” too.
To maintain the marathon of music we begin this month, we must be fed. So I hope you are able to take a minute or two in the next few weeks and think about your own “comfort food;” both actual food and the food that feeds your soul.