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Love is why (we tell the story). Yuletide 2009

yuletide signups are now open through Thursday the 12th. If you haven't signed up, I strongly encourage you to do so. Yuletide has become the gift that I give to myself every year, as much as to other people. I love it so much.

This is my "Dear Santa" letter. It's also a healthy dose of fandom pimping & introspection. I beg my flist to indulge me a little.

I nominated 6 fandoms for Yuletide (that list w/some notes on each fandom is here), and then promptly fell in love with a 7th Yuletide fandom just after nominations closed.

Narrowing down the list this year is extremely hard for me. Yuletide in the past, for me, has mostly been about my experience as a writer. (In fact if you skim my yuletide tag from years past you can kind of see me transform from this, like, casually snooty outsider (who defaulted her first year and then felt so guilty she has pinch-hit every year since to atone for it) into this over-eager fangirl who comments on every single admin post and spends hours making geeky spreadsheets of the requested fandoms. And flow charts. I've loved all the fics I've gotten, but I've done the challenge because of the amazing freedom I feel every year as a writer, and the fact that I always learn a new fandom in the process of pinch-hitting and going out on a limb and offering rare fandoms I'm not too familiar with.

This is my 5th year participating in Yuletide. I was thinking about what I'd like my nominations/requests to be about this year, and realized that more than anything I just want my gift-writer to have fun & stretch your limits a little, and feel like you've grown from the experience of writing the challenge, because that's how I always feel.

I think I want my fandoms this year to feel very fluid. I want you, dear Santa, to feel that you could easily move from one of these request to another without losing much enjoyment, because ultimately it's all about what you bring to the story, and the canon doesn't matter so much. There's no order of preference - I honestly will be thrilled to receive any of these. What I want most of all is for you to have fun and maybe experience something new. :D

So, with that in mind, these next posts are going to have tons of fandom promotional stuff, for everyone, and for you, dearest Santa, if you're thinking about checking out any of the other fandoms on my list.


Yuletide 2009

Fandom 1: REQUIEMS


The Requiem mass, as you may know, is a mass for the dead. Its original structure is very specific, but composers over the centuries have deviated from it, sometimes quite radically. The cornerstone movements are those which are also found in the regular Latin mass: the Introit, Kyrie, Sanctus, & Agnus Dei. You can read more about the musical significance & development of the Requiem here - particularly note the bit about the 'Dies Irae' because, well, it's rly cool and really ~epic~. The Dies Irae is how you know the composer of whatever Requiem you're listening to means business. Day of judgment, day of wrath, oh em gee. Other noted common additions are the Pie Jesu & the Libera Me, but everybody tends to put their own separate spin.

The Brahms & the Schnittke requiems are my two favorite choral works, and, excepting the opera Peter Grimes & the works of Bernstein & Sondheim, my favorite musical anything. I've been fortunate enough to perform them both, and they both more or less continually change my life. One is famous, the other obscure; like all the Requiems on this list, they have the power to transfix and overturn the soul, if you let them. I've been fortunate enough to perform four of the six Requiems below. These aren't the only Requiems that exist (there are well over 3,000), and not all of them are as well-known as others, but these are my favorites, and I think that in terms of becoming embodied in text (ie fanfic) they have the most potential.

    Verdi, Messa de Requiem - 1874

    I feel like this mass is so well known that I don't even need to say much about it. It's huge, it's blustering, it's thundering, it's laden with doubt and fear and guilt and remorse and trepidation. This is a Requiem for the Day of Judgment. It's a Requiem for sin and salvation. It is a requiem of extremities and ferocities, of huge dynamic contrasts and sudden mood swings, and unforgettable images of humanity attempting to comprehend the divine, and finding it almost more than the soul can bear. It's the grandaddy of all requiems.

    The only performance of this mass that I love is this one, conducted by Claudio Abaddo, who is amazing and who is totally all about letting pppp and ffff dynamic markings actually be pianissississimo and fortissississimo.



    Brahms, Eine Deutsche Requiem -1868
    I went to music school in and lived in a wonderful, beloved town for many years, and on the day I moved, one of the last things I did was buy the full score to the Brahms Requiem, because symbolically it was one of the things I most wanted to take with me. This is one of the most beloved choral works of all time. Brahms forewent the traditional latin text of the mass. The idea was to give the world exactly what it says on the tin: A German Requiem, using the German Lutheran Bible as source, as inspiration. What I love most about this Requiem is not just its complete beauty, and it is one of the most beautiful masses ever composed; but its clear sense of humanity. It makes me believe that God is just a fingertip's touch away from each of us, that God is in each of us, and that heaven, too, is within and around all of us. Wie lieblich, wie lieblich sind Deine Wohnungen.

  • Text with English equivalent text from the KJB. I don't think you necessarily need to know the text to understand the meaning, but it makes the experience that much richer.

  • Download: Brahms Requiem, op. 45, Giulini conducting the Weiner Philharmonic (.zip file, extract as mp3s.)
  • Detailed listening guide accompanying the Giulini performance
  • The most famous movement from this piece, movement four, conducted here restlessly, over-fast, and wonderfully by Herbert Kegel:


    If you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend the beautiful Robert Shaw/ASO recording. The choral work is sloppy in some moments, but on the whole, it's sublime, as just about everything by Shaw is. <3

    Fauré / Duruflé Requiems - 1888 / 1947
    I am pairing these together, despite their many distinct differences, because
    a) they're both french
    b) the composers both have little french accent thingies over the 'e';
    c) Robert Shaw conducted them both together on a single recording for Telarc, so it makes sense to present them together along with the uploading
    d) they adhere to a nearly-identical structure regarding their incorporation of the traditional requiem mass text
    e) they're completely stunning
    f) they're both very much focused on the uplifting, transformative sections of the Requiem mass
    g) Duruflé took the Fauré Requiem as his structural and thematic model
    h) they both utilize melodic lines that are rooted in the structure of plainchant.

  • Text of the Fauré Requiem, with translation

    The Faure Requiem is arguably the most popular requiem in modern history, so it naturally figures that there's not a decent performance of it to be had on Youtube, and I'm really loathe to link to anything inferior. But here is a decent rendition of one of the most famous movements, the ethereal and beautiful Sanctus, performed by the Kings College singers:


  • Download: the Fauré Requiem, Robert Shaw conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (.zip, extract to .mp3)

    The Durufle Requiem is orchestrated for large & small orchestras and also organ. I have no idea which one I like better. I love them all, but mostly what I love is singing this piece, and how parts of it just seem to float and take on a harmonic life of their own. I think the best word for this work is exquisite. Of all the Requiems on my particular list, I think that the Duruflé is the most beautiful, and certainly the most enjoyable for me as a singer to sing because of its fluid melodic lines and sumptuous harmonies.

    Please, please, by all means do listen to this absolutely profound and enchanting performance by the Swedish Radio Choir & the En-Aichi-Kay SO, conducted by Charles Dutoit, who is amazing, holy cow:


  • Download: the Duruflé Requiem, Robert Shaw conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (.zip, extract to .mp3)


    Mozart (and like 15 other guys), Requiem Mass in D minor - 1791.
    There's no way you can't request this requiem. Any classical work that has a wiki section on MYTHS & CONTROVERSIES is hot stuff, even 200 years later. Wikipedia describes the history of this work as "fraught with deception." Specifically, it was:
    - commissioned in secret
    - worked on in a frenzy right up until the composer's death
    - taken over by numerous lesser composers who would alternately try to take all credit for and/or deny their own involvement in the work (details here)
    - "edited" and published in varying versions over the years following
    - presented in its one extant form at the 1955 World's Fair and then promptly vandelized & the composer's autograph stolen & never recovered
    - implanted into the myth of murder & jealousy surrounding Mozart & Salieri which culminates in Peter Schaeffer's Amadeus.

    As Requiems go, this one is pretty generic in formula, if you can ever say "generic" about Mozart, who just imbues everything he writes with this restless frenetic energy. This is considered to be his greatest masterpiece (and he had a lot, ok). After the eighth movement, the missing bits are filled in by... someone, but overall, it turned out okay, and what we are left with is beautiful.




    Alfred Schnittke, Requiem - 1975

    This is Alfred Schnittke. I'm including a picture of him bc you'll probably never see one again. And you'll probably never ever hear of his Requiem again, either, so pay attention.

    *FLAIL* *HANDWAVE* *WORDLESS POINTING* *RAPTUROUS HEAVENWARD GAZING* *CLUTCHING OF HEART*
    I don't know what to say about this piece that doesn't come down to my basic inability to articulate how much I love it and just wanting to shove you at it. I was lucky enough to perform it, and everything about the experience was one I will treasure for the rest of my life. It was the most rewarding choral experience I have ever had. And I've had quite a few.

    The contemporary choral group that I sang this piece with joined forces with a much more traditionally-inclined elite choral group. We were used to modern choral works, but they were less so. They were routinely horrified by this piece. They didn't know what to make of it. It features a GONG. and a snare drum. and lots and lots and lots of atonality. And movements that sometimes fail to make a traditional amount of sense. It contains shouting. It contains shouting.

    Sometimes our rehearsals nearly did, too.

    And then in spite of all that, or more accurately because of all those things, the two groups banded together and became a dynamically powerful ensemble that delivered one of the best performances (under the amazing direction of Carmen Tellez) that I've ever been privileged to be a part of.

    And here it is, if you would like to listen to it.


    And you may also download it.
    Upload: Flemming Windekilde conducting the Danish Chamber Choir Hymnia. (.zip file, extract as mp3s)

    I feel like the Schnittke Requiem embodies everything that I want music to be. To me, this piece is the Requiem experience. There's nowhere you can't go with the emotions in this piece, nothing you can't find inside the hauntingly beautiful introit and the mesmerizing Credo and the outrageous Tuba Mirum and everything in between. You might think of it as a story told in drabbles, each one slightly different in mode and mood, but all of them coming together in a unified whole to astound you. I love this work so much.



Dear Santa,

What was I thinking with this request? I was thinking that if albums were allowed as fandoms, how much more transformative could fictional works based on musical works that were themselves based on religious texts be? I listed each of the works above as characters because they all do have different characters: the thunderous, bold Verdi Requiem, the sensuous and warm Duruflé Requiem, the careful refinement of the Fauré, the edged restlessness of the Mozart, etc. etc. Lol, now I'm picturing them as characters ala Hetalia, but that's not really what I'm getting at here.

I think of religious music as Bible songfic. What are hymns like "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Were You There?" in essence, if not fictive interpretations of pre-existing texts? I'm not asking you, Santa, to necessarily head in a religious direction with these, though obviously if you wanted to consider expanding on biblical themes and stories, that would be completely welcome. You could write original fic that takes its emotional moods, tempers, and settings from the ideas in these works. You don't have to try and write something based on all of these Requiems, certainly, but you could if you wanted to! Or you could just pick the one that you love the most and see where it takes you. You could write really anything and I'd love it.




Fandom 2: Once On This Island


Ti Moune's journey begins as the storytellers enter dressed as birds, trees, frogs, and breezes. They introduce Asaka, Mother of the Earth, who promises Ti Moune "Mama Will Provide" all the things she is likely to need on her way. (Photo credit: Robert Day)


Once On This Island is a 1991 all-Black musical set in the Caribbean and very loosely based on the Little Mermaid. It is written by Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty (better known for Ragtime. Ahrens also wrote many of your favorite songs from "Schoolhouse Rock!") I've been in love with this musical since it was created. It has beautiful music, a beautiful original cast, a plot unique to the stage, and a powerful, uplifting message of transformative love that I come back to over & over again. It follows the story of the orphan peasant girl Ti Moune and the journey the gods send her on when she falls in love with a wealthy son from the other side of the island.

I grew up with this musical. The first time I ever heard it I was so surprised and delighted by the ending, and over the years it's only grown on me. This is a story and a world that I just want to continue to live in. It's such a rich, vibrant universe, and I love its theme of love & healing that can transcend & overcome generations of hate. And I don't know anyone who knows this show who doesn't love it! It's truly one of those shows that sticks with you and builds a home in your heart.

  • There's a great audio preview/overview of the musical with selections from the OBCR here. The energy of the original cast is one of the reasons I love this show so much. I highly encourage listening to the OBCR recording, because this score is just joy personified. If you dig around you also might be able to find bootlegs of the amazing original cast Reunion Concert that took place last year.

    A couple of live performance clips to give you an idea both of the cast and the beauty of the score:
  • Part of the Human Heart, performed by the original cast at the 1991 Tony Awards.

    Lyrics


    "Waiting for Life To Begin." LaChanze, Tony winner for The Color Purple & one of the most engaging Broadway artists of the past 20 years, was the original Ti Moune on Bway. This is the signature showstopper from this musical, but nobody does it as well as her. ♥ You can also see her performance from the reunion cast here, but it's sadly out of sync.

  • ♥ Mama will Provide ♥ (this is from the original '91 perf so it's a bit blurry but still awesome <3)

  • On Lachanze's website under "Sound Check" you can stream her performance of the song "When Daniel Marries Me" which was cut from the show but is very much in keeping with the rest of the score, as is Audra McDonald's signature performance of "Come Down From The Tree", also cut.

  • Synopsis of the show

  • I would talk about this show a lot more, but to experience it you really need to listen to it, so here is the complete Original London Cast. (I will replace this with the OBCR as soon as I can dig out my copy.)

    _______

    Dear Santa,

    I would love to see futurefic! I would love to watch what happens to future generation as they live under Ti Moune's spell and her legacy. What happens if two girls from the opposite sides of the island fall in love? Or two young boys? Will Ti Moune's transformation reach them all? Or would they each find themselves restricted by the past, and by the social divisions that Ti Moune herself could not escape? And what of the gods? Do they still reign over both sides of the island, or does their power receide over time? Do they still squabble over mangos? Do they have their own troubles? And do the children of the island still dance?

    I would also love to see pastfic, or in-canon fic, about any of the characters from this wonderful show. What I want most is something that captures the sense of folklore and generations passing on the island, the inhabitants meeting tradition and change and each other, and above all that all-encompassing sense of love and adventure and communal roots that help Ti Moune on her journey. ♥

    I really would love anything you'd write for me in this fandom, Santa dearest. And in any of these fandoms. <33333333

    Thank you for reading!



    For non-Santa readers, if you only check out one thing in this entire post, please take the Robert Shaw recordings, and of the Schnittke Requiem, which is a) my most beloved of all Requiems, and b) such a rarely performed work that until the 2000s, only one professional recording of it even existed. If you only check out two, watch Charles Dutoit conducting the Durufle, because it is, just, wow. Breathtaking. <3

    I am tired, going to bed, will do the other 2 fandoms when i decide what they are later on this week. <3
  • Tags: fandom, music, theatre, yuletide
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