On the mystery of hotel rooms

FullSizeRender (1)I’ve been on the road for the last few days, first doing a C Minor Mass with Robyn Parton (pictured) in Canterbury Cathedral, where a big crowd gathered to watch the rehearsal and I almost got away with consuming fish with a cream sauce for lunch… nevertheless, a glorious concert. Then I flew to Munich to do the B Minor Mass with the Monteverdi Choir, and now I’ve had nearly a whole day off in Frankfurt after this morning’s train journey. It’s all been extremelIMG_0025y pleasant, not least because singing with this group involves seeing lots of old friends. But it does mean a lot of time in hotel rooms.

Hotel rooms are funny places. Apart from those weird hangers that they’re clearly afraid you’re going to steal, they can be (especially in Holland) any combination of bizarre, barren, comfortable, and completely inadequate. I find them sometimes freeing, sometimes desperately lonely. I always have a podcast playing in the background – I find the sound of NPR to be extremely comforting, even though I’m very much a displaced American who now has a confused cultural identity. It’s hard to figure out what to do in hotel rooms when you’re by yourself and you have a few hours to kill. Normally I paint my toenails, or read, or work out, or (more often) watch YouTube videos for hours, and in this golden age of nearly-always-adequate wifi, it’s easy to download thousands of episodes of magical things like Freakonomics and the Slate Political Gabfest (and Invisibilia, my most recent joyful discovery), to which one can listen while slap-dashedly applying concert makeup.

This week, though, having started some freelance work that can be done on the hop, I’ve been using every single hour of my hotel-room time productively (apart from when I’m spending a surprisingly large number of minutes arranging window-gazing tableaux involving the Tiny Frog). It’s a strange feeling.

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Lately I’ve started worrying that all this productivity might be getting to be too much to handle – in total I have about four projects on the go at the moment, and I’m starting to lose weight. I’m not sure if it’s stress or just calorie-burning from having to think about so many things at once, and I’m hoping it’s the latter, but I’m feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed. As my husband pointed out last night, though, I do thrive on being busy, and it beats the alternative. January and February were a despairing swamp of inactivity, during which I mostly baked apple cakes and plum cakes and moaned about the lack of work in the anaemic classical music industry. The neighbours liked the baking, because I took things round to stop myself from eating them. But being unemployed is not fun, and living as a freelance singer means that I do occasionally have periods of stultifying boredom. Now that it’s Passiontide, of course, things are in full swing, and there’s enough for everybody. But there are always free hours in hotel rooms.

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So having small, ongoing projects is a good way to keep going, and it’s a very agreeable alternative to teaching, which is the mainstay of the freelance musician — but something I don’t especially want to do. This blog is a particularly useful way to keep the writing muscle working, and it’s a fun way of chronicling my travels and putting up photos of cathedrals (and tiny frogs). Long may it continue.

Let me know if you think of interesting names for the amphibious little guys. Suggestions so far have included Katsu and Bento.

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