First off, the gamelan has already started rehearsals for our spring concert. We've got Indonesian Macho Man back, unfortunately, and we had another all-day rehearsal on Saturday. I have informed the leadership that, for this concert, I will play any instrument I know how to play, except for the hanging gongs. If they, or Indonesian Macho Man, ask me to play the gong or kempul, I will politely decline. Should they persist in their requests, I will get up and walk out of the door. So far, everyone seems to be clear on this, which is good. I've had a couple more tries at the drum, and Indonesian Macho Man has started to teach me how to play the bonang (reference this post for pictures of the various instruments), which is one of the elaborating instruments. I've had a hankering to learn that one for a while now. So far, I've learned elaboration patterns for a couple of different kinds of pieces. It's a challenging instrument, but I think I can learn it. It's fun, anyway, and does not involve me being trapped in the cage o' bronze gongs.
I got to leave the rehearsal early, though. I had to get home at a reasonable hour in order to make potluck food and get changed for the second big event of the day.
The second weekend in January is also the traditional weekend for the New Year's Ball hosted by the Chicago Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. I once asked them why their New Year's Ball was two weeks after New Year's, and they said, and I quote, "Because the bands are cheaper then." I love when people stereotype themselves. It saves me the trouble. Of course, being my own ethnic stereotype in this regard, I have to agree wholeheartedly with this reasoning.
In any event, the ball was a lot of fun. We had Laura Risk fiddling, which was a treat, because Laura Risk is one of the best traditional fiddlers I've ever heard. I have a CD in which she performs with Cordelia's Dad, one of my favorite folk bands ever, and hearing her and Peter Irvine, the Cordelia's Dad drummer, go to town on a set of Canadian reels is amazing. And she was playing for our dance!
The ball was held, as usual, at the Ukrainian Cultural Center. It's a lovely venue, with a real ballroom -- chandeliers, curtains, parquet dance floor. They provide a banquet to go with the ball, which makes this one of the few Scottish balls to feature borscht as the first course of the banquet. I wore my shiny purple party dress, and I did up my hair in elaborate braids. Sometimes I leave it down to dance (the Hobbit look), but that gets all sweaty and tangled in my necklace. Speaking of necklaces, when Dot came to visit me this fall, she gave me a lovely little silver harp pendant on a chain. I decided to wear that to the ball -- it seemed appropriate. I danced so hard that I sweated, and the sweat did something to the chain, and it started to turn my neck green! I think that's a sign of a good night! The pendant itself was okay, just the chain reacted. The lesson from this is not to wear that chain on bare skin while dancing, I think.
I won a CD at the raffle, which was thrilling, and I was very thoroughly danced with. I left just before midnight, so I didn't turn into a pumpkin. Which was a good thing, because I had to get up the next morning.
In the traditional weekend turn-around, I got up at the butt-crack of dawn and headed off to the Irish-American Heritage Center for the Chicago Anniversary Singing. They'd taken the room we usually use and turned it into an auditorium with fixed seating, so we had to choose another room. Our first choice turned out to be too small -- a hundred people tried to crowd in, and there was only one narrow exit. So the chair made the eminently sensible decision to move us down the hall to a bigger room.
Aside from that minor bump, it was a glorious singing. We had a powerful class, and cycled through leaders quickly and efficiently. Watching lcohen lead is always a treat, and rhobike's tzimmes was especially fine. I led "O Come Away," which is a temperance hymn that uses the tune to a German drinking song called "Krambambuli." This choice was inspired by the fact that our second singing room featured a bar, though not a stocked one.
Because I was kind of tired from the ball, the singing passed in something of a glorious haze, where I just sat back and allowed the music to carry me along. I was completely wiped at the end, but it's worth it for that wonderful feeling of singing and dancing all weekend long. A great ball and a great singing!