(See also: Singing.)
Speaking English yet having a lot of cultural references, and having songs stuck in my head on a regular basis, led me to translating song lyrics from Russian into English, just to get across to my friends what I am thinking about. Since I consider the melody an inseparable part of the song, I always try to have the translations be as singable as I can; learning how to play guitar and thus about chord structure has improved my results significantly in this.
Most notably, I translate songs by Vladimir Vysotsky (spelled multiple different ways) most notably, since his music and poetry has been a part of the culture I grew up in as far back as I can remember. (I don’t think of it as fandom. I guess I think of it more as a means of communication.)
In 2010, a friend pointed me to the Wysotsky Project, which strives to assemble translations of Vysotsky’s songs into various languages. I sent them a file of all the ones I had completed so far — I did not count at the time, but this resulted in 39 songs (I was vague on the actual dates, since many of them I had been working on and changing for several years, so my entries have ? by the copyright date in their database).
If you have no time to read all 39, my favourites are
- Fires Over The Land
- Ballad of Love
- Battle Ballad
- “We Would Fly Up Like Geese…”
- Song of the Downed Airman
- Song of the Microphone
- “Here Pine Branches…”
- The Old House
- White Waltz
- A Heaven in Hell
I still translate new songs from time to time, and will eventually send the Wysotsky Project another file. Occasionally, I have also translated the lyrics of other songwriters and poets, such as Bulat Okudzhava, Victor Tsoi, Yuri Shevchuk, Andrei Makarevich, Nikolai Gumilev, and various songs from movies and pop music.
I have been known to perform some of these, with guitar but without financial gain; if you hear me singing a translated song, the English version is almost always my own.
People often wonder how to react to me sharing poetic translations when they do not know the original language. Basically, think of it this way: “Here’s something I like; you like?”
(See also: theatre.)
I started studying classical voice in 2009, with the reasoning that since I sing all the time anyway, I might as well learn how to do it right.
Classical singing is both more difficult and more awesome than I could have possibly imagined.
(For the first few years, I was a mezzo-soprano, and had grown used to singing in that repertoire. Lately, my voice has been sounding better in the soprano range, although I can still sing low-voiced parts. It’s a really strange experience to transition that way in your late twenties, but apparently not uncommon.)
I currently study with Patrice Michaels. Previously I have studied at the Opus Institute affiliated with the American Chamber Opera of Chicago. I was in the chorus (alto) for their 2012 Messiah production, an amazing experience to work with very experienced and talented singers and musicians. (Technically, it was a professional production and the singers got paid, but I waived any payment because of my US visa status.)
Of the things the Internet may know, I have previously sung with the Saugeen County Chorus for their 2010 Messiah production, and with the Kincardine Community Singers for their Spring 2011 season. Currently, I sing with the University Chorus at the University of Chicago, as well as in recitals at the University of Chicago from time to time when I can get them.
I have occasionally been known to set my own verse to music, and even perform it, and very occasionally have experimented with setting classic English poetry to music. It’s virtually always in a minor key; Russian music, and therefore I, do have a huge sociocultural bias towards the harmonic minor mode.
In early 2009 I moved from Ottawa, the city where I grew up, to the town of Kincardine, Ontario, to work in the Power Marketing division of Bruce Power. Looking for a community, I joined the Kincardine Theatre Guild. Thus began two years of me learning a whole lot about theatre, direction, stage management, music direction, and many very kind, dedicated and brilliant people.
I ended up involved in almost every play KTG produced from spring 2009 until spring 2011. These include
- singing in “Up For Grabs” (Maud LeBepp);
- assistant stage manager (ASM) in “Annie” (Charles Strouse; Martin Charnin; Thomas Meehan);
- ASM in “Kiss The Moon, Kiss The Sun” (Norm Foster);
- ASM in “The Mousetrap (Agatha Christie);
- front of house of “A Christmas Carol” (Charles Dickens);
- ASM in “Caught In The Net” (Ray Cooney) and stage manager for this play’s performance as one of the finalists in the 2011 Western Ontario Drama League festival;
- acting the role of Sylvie in “The Odd Couple (Female Version)” (Neil Simon).
The last role required me to play a woman who is very, very bad at Trivial Pursuit. This was amusing because see also: quiz games.
My first year of high school at Lisgar Collegiate Institute, Ottawa, coincided with the resurrection of a high school team to play Reach for the Top, a Canadian quiz show format. I was the youngest member of the team that year. The next year, 2001, began a long streak of Lisgar being in the top 10 teams in Ontario in this tournament.
I played Reach throughout high school, and then as an undergraduate at the University of Ottawa, I joined the university quiz team playing in the National Academic Quiz Tournament (NAQT) format (quiz bowl). I was on the University of Ottawa team that went to the Intercollegiate Tournament in 2005 (New Orleans) and in 2006 (College Park, MD), as well as various sectional and recreational tournaments.
I do not read online quiz fora, and so cannot comment on anything mentioned there about me.
I find coaching more rewarding than playing, though, and so after high school I continued to return to Lisgar to coach the high school Reach team, with the help of teacher-supervisor Ruth Crabtree, and they continued to be one of the top ten teams in Ontario.
In 2005, the Lisgar team branched out to play in the NAQT format at the high school level as well. We were the first Canadian high school team to qualify for the High School National Championship Tournament (2006, Chicago) and then we qualified again the following year (2007, Chicago).
To pay for travel to Chicago (that was before I knew I would end up living there) we organized several trivia nights for the community. I usually wrote most of the questions and prepared the slides for them (that was how I first taught myself LaTeX Beamer) and signed the paperwork (that was how my signature got illegible). The students found sponsors and did much of the rest of the work — and it is a lot of work.
In 2008, the Lisgar team qualified for both the NAQT championship in the U.S and the Reach championship in Canada (Edmonton) — which happened to take place the same weekend. We chose the Canadian tournament, fortunately, as the weekend ended with Lisgar the Canadian champions in Reach for the Top for 2008.
I will just tell that my proudest moment in my coaching career came not with the championship win. It was when the students decided that they will organize a tournament, inviting schools across Ontario, without any previous history, in their own spare time.
I said that I admired their vision, but I would bet a bottle of Coke no more than four teams show up. And if they manage to get more than twelve teams — I’ll make that a case of Coke.
And when they worked to the bone to accomplish an incredibly successful tournament, I happily lost that bet and got them a case of Coke. The tournament and trivia nights continued to be annual events after I left Ottawa, and I have never found the stereotype of the “lazy, unmotivated teenager” to be at all true.
I am not in any way guaranteed to win at pub quizzes.
I occasionally attend science fiction conventions, so if my name is listed among the attendees, that is most probably me.
If you search for my name using Cyrillic characters, you may find a Ukrainian public prosecutor. That is not me.
If you find mention of my name that does not fit into any of the above categories, feel free to ask. If it’s really outlandish, I may be tempted to claim it’s me.