Saturday, May 31, 2008


Like Sunscreen, advice comes in many shapes, weights, colours and protection factors. The worst kind (as if "kind" was a suitable word here) is totally disrespectful and delirious, focused on the weakness, the failure and All You Don't Want. The most effective honours the joy, the moment, fragility, suppleness and All You Love About Life.

The "(Everybody Is Free to) Wear Sunscreen" video is based on a terrific musing Mary Schmich wrote over ten years ago for her newspaper in Chicago, and it spread like Ebola all over the Internet in mass emails during my late teens, becoming all the rage among my generation.

"Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how." Who wouldn't lend an ear and take to heart such sincere words? Can there be anything less than truth in that?

Tonight I debut as a soloist. Less than four hours to go. My fiancee advised me, "Enjoy it. It's where you wanted to be, and don't worry--we'll be there to applaud come what may". Gavin mentioned studying to relax and shine. My coach reminded me about the hollow and the supple, and our pianist told me to ask tonight's organist to cheat a little and play me the introductions of my solo instead of just the counterpoint.

Living in possibility requires letting go of control. And the afterglow of sound advice feels like Deep Peace.

If you feel like some, try the whole speech:

Then, share. Everybody deserves to grin on a Saturday.

Friday, May 23, 2008


When I first went through "The Artist's Way", what I was looking for was encouragement to pursue Storytelling as a way of emotional emmancipation and spiritual unfolding despite being a stammerer. Back then, I was down in the dumps for many reasons, most of which I have addressed several times in this Book of the Crossroads, and while Feri was the perfect guiding light to the bottom of the pit, it proved fickle, ill-intentioned and uncollaborative for the way back. Julia Cameron had an amazing clarity in her blazed trail, and impeccable kindness and generosity to share it, which are what made all the difference to me.

Upon undertaking her course, a long-dormant Musician began awakening in me. I grew up in a very music-unfriendly environment, for which I blame many defficiencies and destitutions in my character. At 15, I got a discman for my birthday gift, and during the rest of my teens I remember being addicted to Michael Jackson and then the Spice Girls, until later on I discovered other musicians through them. Pop Music was the only musical reference I had back then, since Radio and Television were the only access I had to anything anybody ever dared call Music, even when a visitor to the neighbourhood or somebody at school's sassy cousin or boyfriend popped out of the blue with a guitar.

But still, All that Jazz, Rock or Pop (with the very unforgiving demands for funny-but-empty things to say all the fucking time, expensive clothes and a slick hairdo, ostentation, previsibility disguised as "style", and--UGH!--microphone) was not the kind of Music I wanted to make.

I carried on as a writer and storyteller. As a writer, my talents were already pretty much acknowledged since childhood and even awarded at times. As a storyteller, I became pretty accomplished for an amateur, performing several times to a couple of hundreds of respectful and interested listeners. But something in me craved for the other medium.

I have always loved everything Celtic, even way before I knew they had this name, "Celtic". I love harp, bagpipes, fire bringing people together, memories from the Otherworld, as close as whatever we have behind our eyes. Celtic Music, especially Irish (which to me is the sexiest form of Music in this world), had an irresistible appeal to me. But, as I learnt over time, this type of Music you cannot learn from books and lessons. You need to share the spirit, the spirits, the hearth and the everyday joys and struggles to have it interwoven into your chromossomes like fine Irish lace or those uber-sensual Neocelt knotworks. I temporarily gave up on the Fiddle (but I'll surely come back to it).

When I moved to São Paulo, the vibrant and very fertile cultural life did me extreme good. Joining a choir on Tuesday nights was the trigger to a whole new world that now is slowly becoming the center of my life. I started taking private lessons with the choir's vocal coach, and then moving to Madrid two years later, where the atmosphere is even more appropriate, made me dive deeper into the world of Art Songs and Lieder.

The new path didn't come without its challenges: the radical and complete absence of Music in my upbringing brought me up as a sort of tone-deaf person. Fortunately, it's not the genetic trait that makes it actually impossible for a person to even enjoy listening to simple songs. I just needed patient coaches, dedication and a lot of practice with the keyboard, ear training softwares, new choirs and live music experiences so I could compensate for the lack of what should be the right of every person in this world.
Image: the Chartres labyrinth design on Edin Karamazov's lute.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


...And the solo is mine!

Nobody said anything and the rehearsal went on. When it was time to sing the solo, I was there, ready, rough and able. With some punctual instructions from the director afterwards and a brief compliment, a cheering gesture from Carmen, and an appointment with the choir's vocal coach tomorrow evening, it's pretty clear I'm the Primo Uomo this time.

I'll bet the Blues are over for now. It's time for some Baroque!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Dark

I need urgent En-light-enment. For the past months, I've been growing more and more serious and stuck, to the point of shifting from a luminous person to a boring and grumbling not-by-choice hermit. I gained eighteen pounds/eight kilograms, lost my characteristic smirk and can't enjoy the company of people anymore.

I have been extremely self-demanding, unforgiving and obsessive with little routines, singing and the Lavender Society. My stuttering is out of control most of the times. Also, as usual with pathological seriousness and fake maturity, I am feeling leery and unable to concentrate.

I need advice. Or rather, the opposite of it, whatever it is.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Reaching Out

Over the past year, in the many readings Diane has gifted me with the card World Tree of her Celtic divination set has appeared the most. The main meaning, at least for my readings, is healing, freeing and/or integration through Communication, and lately I've finally begun manifesting that.

After some good months of resistance, last Sunday I've given in to Seán's insistance of me joining I certainly won't travel anytime soon to a place where I don't already have a couch to surf, nor do I plan to play host to strangers at this point of my life, and frankly that is what was on my mind about that website. But after a weekend of sheer boredom and violent feelings of isolation, not to mention dullness in the Heroes game in, I signed up and made myself officially available for "coffee or drink" in Madrid.

On Thursday, Madrid's patron saint, San Isidro, had his party. Couchsurfing Madrileans (and those hanging around back then) organised a tortilla picnic in Pradera de San Isidro. It was really cool, totally my environment: a picnic with delicious vegetarian food, lots of subjects and languages, room to roam, music and no dogs. I had a great time.

Because the wheel had began to spin, last night I moved the boys of my gays yoga/meditation group to go watch a movie today. Francisco was raving about this Mexican gay-themed film "El Cielo Dividido" (maybe translatable as "The Riven Heaven"), which turned out to be a great experience. The story, very creatively told in an original screenplay made of repeated scenes and everchanging patterns, rose some very interesting questions and priceless, honest answers in the all-men's group, comprised of me, three boys of the yoga group and Seán (who I just felt like inviting). Francisco later on arrived and in a total twist of plot, we wound up in McDonald's. It was really cool, because not just I had time to process and digest the strong impact the film had on me before rationalizing and interferring with my own processes in a forced way, we also got to talk in a smoke-free environment, which I am very thankful for.

At some point, all of the guys left except for me and Francisco. The conversation then got really personal and in deep tones of confession. Francisco is older, very wise and full of compassion. A real gem to have as a friend. It is very easy to imagine how good it felt to drop the burden of secrecy, isolation and suffocation that I had been carrying. It had been a long while since I last had the time to talk about the topic in question, relationships, in a very personal theme and experience. Somewhat refreshing and very enlightening in many ways. And I really think I have proof of that already because I have checked my weight just now after my homecoming shower and I lost one kilogram. Ah, to see the Light.

For the Neocelts of our times, the World Tree usually means the ultimate crossroads, where everything and body meets beyond time and all choices are made. But one major however subtle quality of the World Tree is that it is organic, it grows ever on and out. It can go in many directions and very seldom in a straight line. Better not hold and direct it, just agree to climb the branches, concentrating on the choices when it splits.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Race

This race for the solo became even more interesting last night.

I did sing it in the church, with the organ accompanying me. Neither my voice nor my technique faltered, but because it was our very first rehearsal in locco, the organ was messed up and not yet configured and I couldn't really measure piano and forte in that brand new accoustic territory, totally unexplored for me. Also, in the last phrase, I lost the key and sang it a bit out of tune, which obviously had to do with the fact that I couldn't hear the organ from the altar. All in all, the rendition was less than perfect, as it was supposed to be, given it was my very first try.

After I sang, the director said he was really sorry, but we only had two weeks before the performance, so he thought it would be better for me "to rehearse for another time". I think I handled it pretty well, and just told myself I could survive this. Then he asked Monsieur Volontaire to do the solo. It was really obvious he didn't have studied the piece, and sang it even worse than me, even though he apparently has an enviable musical education and background, and plays some obscure historic instrument in a professional Baroque camerata. So, again the director said it was "less-than-good".

Then, he asked Carmen to do it one octave higher, in Soprano register. She did it, and frankly pretty well. She rocks. But because "Et Exultavit", the song with the solos, was written for first Soprano, then Alto, then Tenor, it sounded really odd to return to a soprano after the alto part. The director scratched his chin, then his bald scalp, then his chest, and said he was so sorry none of us did it well. Then he scratched his head again and told the three of us to study it really well at home, and then on the 29th, our last rehearsal, he would select one of the three to do it.

Carmen insisted with the director that I do it, that she would whisper very low the melody for me to sing it louder before the audience on the day. She's a big fan of Baroque music, especially Vivaldi, and is all anal about having everything done as the score demands. And the score says "Tenor solo", not "Soprano 2 solo", nor "Baritone solo". And she probably won't study because she wants me to do it at all costs.

The rest of the rehearsal was pretty good. By the end, our voices were adjusted to the space, and we sounded good enough as a choir. The only bad thing was the reek that exhaled from Monsieur Volontaire, who by disgrace is placed just next to me. He must have farting issues because most of the times he smells like he doesn't wipe his ass after pooping. Also, he is a terrible fellow singer as he doesn't respect the score, and because he can sightsing so well, he moves up and down through all the four voices (and sometimes hum the organ or the basso ostinato, too!), doing weird and unpredictable experimentations all the time, and making it hard for me to concentrate on the tenor part.

Then when the director paused to fix something with the altos. Monsieur Volontaire the Reeking Ogre poked me to say he thinks there shouldn't be a competition for the solo. I said it was all fine. Then he insisted and said he thought it was wrong. I smiled and said he should let the director know in case he doesn't want to candidate for the solo anymore, and I dropped the smile when I said I wouldn't give up on it, that I wanted to do this solo and that I was going to study and work for it. Then turned to the director and the rehearsal continued.

After the last round of the whole "Magnificat", we went to have some beer'n wine with tortilla, olives and meat somethings for the carnivores. Monsieur Volontaire held Carmen captive out of the bar, complaining about the "competition" all the time. Bad sport, bad smell, little patience, little flexibility, a colossal vanity. Something tells me his days in this choir won't be many.

Now, we're short of time to study and the race is on. Time's on my side, which means I have an advantage. I am a super-fast learner for Music, and I'm really keen and focused. And not afraid to lose.

Speaking of being moved by Will and choosing Love over Fear, I've decided I'm taking a Solfege course beginning next Autumn. I really miss a background in Musical Theory and I know I lose many great opportunities because of that. I'm really short of money, and no perspective of getting another job soon, but I'll leap, and the net will appear when I need it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

God Can

Because I am approaching the little stream and it's time to jump, it's growing fast, and more and more it looks like the Grand Canyon of Doubt. So I have turned last night to my personal Book-I'd-Take-To-A-Desert-Island-With-Me. "Supplies", by Julia Cameron, because with that one, I just definetely cannot go without.

Within the last fourty minutes before going to bed of intense, familiar mining work, I digged lots of shit, realised and digged, among many disturbing things, my God Can. The original concept is "God Jar", but because a glass container looks too revealing, too frail and too unsettling, increasing anxiety and a feeling of vulnerability, I decided to have a metal version, opaque and flexible enough to bend, a conduit for heat, electricity and magic. This time, I picked one of the tea cans Jose has around the house. A blue one, with cranes, reeds, a full moon and stuff printed in Kanji, reminding me of most of The Guru's book covers.

A God Can (or Jar, or Bag, or Bin, or Folder, or Chest, or Drawer) is a sanctuary of incubation. It is basically a vessel for everything you can't (and therefore shouldn't) work out on your own, your larger-than-life aspirations, your anxieties and needs. It's the link between Fetch and Godself, conveying the intention and the prayer you send up with Manna when you align your Triple Soul. The God Can is like an altar in many ways, but it's way less ostensive or distracting, and brings in less work, opening up space for play.

The best thing about last night's night in is that I realised that over the past year I've recoiled and shrouded myself with an armour, closed and unavailable to many forms of help and blessing, and unable to let go of control. Probably due to wanting too bad to succeed here in Spain. And the real reason to own a God Can is to ditch all that craziness, reconnect ("religare") and live free.

Now, I'm it. No. "The miracle is one artist living with the other". So, tag. You're it.

Image: Captain Davy Jones having retrieved the chest with his heart.

Friday, May 09, 2008

One Year Later

May 9th is the anniversary of my literal Long Journey Over Water. Today, I celebrate one year of living in Madrid. Over this past year, many things happened: I had to let too many things go, the prince became a frog, faced radical loneliness, I put my skills, my tools and my allies to the test and I've managed to maintain some level of commitment to my goal of becoming a classical singer, with some amazing achievements. I realise that I haven't done brilliant most of the time, that I shouldn't have had so many expectations when I did the Crossing and that I should have taken everything more lightly. And maybe here is the key to the next year.

Today, we went to the Civil Registry to book a date for our wedding. Yes, we are marrying, which is fabulous news. We did not have the witness with us, and the clerk advised us to return after the San Isidro holidays, when it will be easier to book and to get the process to run faster, arriving very early in the morning and leaving the building before four p.m. We will do, and my ex-office colleague Javier had asked me once to be the witness. I'll give him a call today.

I am dying to be able to travel abroad, to visit my tribe, to start an actual career here, to study Spanish and Solfege. Let's see how the next year unfolds.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Today, I almost lost my solo on that new choir. It was the first rehearsal where I was supposed to sing the solo part with the pianist, and I wasn't feeling so sure. To be honest, I almost never do, but especially this time, my vocal coach on Tuesday told me she didn't see me ready to sing such a hard piece all by myself. I forgot she was just that, a vocal coach, awesome as she is, but her job is to spot weaknesses, and trust that they can be fixed with work, time and technique. So somewhere in my mind, the seed of doubt germinated and sprouted at the exact time I was to sing the part.

It helped that I anchored to my Core Worth, as Starhawk teaches in her "Twelve Wild Swans" book, but I didn't help that there was a newcomer who knew the whole Magnificat up and down, all four voices and the five solo parts and was offering to do it all, all the fucking time. The 1st soprano solo, the alto solo, singing basses or alto where tenor didn't have a melody, driving me crazy. When I started singing my solo, I slipped into a minor rallentando, and slowed down a bit compared to the piano. He was singing together with me, even though he wasn't supposed to, and he gradually grew his voice to swallow mine. I lost my anchor, froze and stopped singing altogether. Then the song ended, the piano stopped and the jerk started whispering things to me. Because he is French and has an awful accent, and because I was shaking like I was high on some outrageous new drug, I didn't understand a word of what he said, I just smiled and nodded. The director then asked me if we were "negotiating" the solo. I was shocked and couldn't reply. The new guy then said that he would gladly do it if I couldn't do it. In front of everybody, after I had failed on my very first try. Ever.

I was really frustrated and angry. I know from experience, from intuition and from my studies that I shouldn't stick so hard to and hold so tight a single opportunity, that it's not healthy, not smart and not my style, but singing is currently the only thing actually "working" in my life, and it seems so right for me to do this solo. It's like the next natural "small" step. I don't want to let it go, and most of the time, I believe I must not let it go, either.

I'll be studying harder the solo part now. The next rehearsal is on Tuesday, and I'll sing the solo again. This time, way better, I promise. So, I'll tell the director I WANT to do the solo and I'll do my best. If on the day of the performance I can't, Monsieur Volunteer will be there by my side as my substitute!