Traditions (rituals) are such an important way of keeping grounded, on so many levels. They tell us what season it is, they remind us what's ahead and how we must prepare for the journey, and they help us process what has happened. Our New Year's Day party, and all the preparation we go through to clean house and cook for guests remind us how lucky we are to have a nice home, and how important our friends are to us. A trip to Chinatown the day before to shop (fresh, inexpensive seafood and lovely produce) are capped by purchasing one of those wonderful roast ducks you see hanging in the window.
As I finish preparing the orchestra parts for our upcoming production of Anna Bolena, it's useful to imagine each player and their needs for getting through the score. There was a conducting teacher who once taught me to isolate each player's part and how it would look in front of them to remind me of just how little they really need from me (and how specific that little detail might be). Humbling, but useful. The ritual in this case is reading through each part and doing just that. It's a great way to learn the full score and it's amazing to see how many little details get corrected in the process. When I get to this final stage of an arrangement prior to the actual printing, it always gives me a little case of the butterflies thinking ahead to the rehearsals and actual production.
Preparing for guests, preparing for orchestra players: cleaning up and looking forward. A good start to the year ahead.