The lights dimmed in the chapel before the musicians stepped on to the altar. No central heat in chilly La Sainte-Chapelle, but we were warm enough in our coats and scarves, sitting close together on red-cushioned chairs. The ornate ceiling soared high above us, and stained-glass windows glowed like dreams, even in the darkness. How many shows have you been to in a sanctuary that was consecrated by the Pope’s legate in 1248? A place built by King Louis IX to house the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of Jesus’s Cross. Holy Relics of the Passion. The devout French ruler acquired the artifacts because he “wished to affirm his devotion to God”. We kept our voices low, as you would.
The concert was called “Noel au temps de la renaissance”. Fancy Christmas carols. Performed by a quartet: soprano, violin, harpsichord and flute (the type held vertically not horizontally). The group chose pieces from a variety of composers – Corelli, Bach, Purcell, Monteverdi, Caccini – and also included traditional carols like ‘Greensleeves’, ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘O Christmas Tree’. Half of the songs were instrumentals; the other half sung by a woman named Sophie Pattey. And all of it was beautiful.
At a performance like this in such a hallowed setting, you might expect sternness and gravity, a touch of snobbery. But the musicians were generous and lighthearted. Charles Limouse, who played flute, introduced each song in French and chatted a bit to the crowd. Though I couldn’t understand everything he said, it was clear his mood was warm and playful. The atmosphere felt neither remote nor – here comes that dreaded word for classical music – boring. And at the very end, Ms. Pattey, who had been singing in a variety of European languages, led the audience in two rounds of ‘Jingle Bells’, in English.
There’s nothing like singing carols to get me in the mood for Christmas. My collection of holiday music is extensive, and I look forward to listening to it from mid-December all the way through to New Year’s Day. But this season I experienced something different, something extraordinary.
Towards the end of the concert, Mr. Limouse stepped forward and began playing ‘Silent Night’. Solo flute. The familiar melody floated softly towards us, rising up then down then up again. Due to the chapel’s wonderful acoustics, the notes of the song carried to every corner of the room, clear and strong. Ms. Pattey then joined in, singing the lyrics in German. And in the dim and golden glow, in a place where a king and his family once worshipped in the presence of the reliques de la Passion du Christ, we were a captivated congregation. Motionless. Enthralled. Dare I say, close to holy.
We nourish our bodies with food, exercise, sex, sleep. We fill our ears and eyes with work emails, breaking news, status updates, binge TV, cat videos. For better or worse, I make no judgments, we swim in a stream of constant communication and entertainment. But how often do we get to experience stillness? A singular moment that goes right to our hearts and souls, filling us with a profound sense of possibility, hope, clarity. I believe the yogis and the life coaches and the trendsters call it mindfulness – there might even be an app – and I know the feeling is rare and elusive. I’m a little obsessed with such wonders, I guess, because they are so unexpected. Yet oftentimes these experiences, like a song in a chapel, can be the most nourishing and necessary sensations of all.
May 2016 bring you moments such as these.
Thank you for reading therockmom.
P.S. here’s a playlist, similar to the concert at La Sainte-Chapelle. Enjoy.
It’s been a few days but I’m still buzzed from my Clockenflap experience. Kil Sun Moon, Rachael Yamagata, The Skatalites, Clean Bandit, Earth, Wind & Fire Experience, Swervedriver, cold beer, good food, best friends, EO and YO having a blast. And I haven’t even mentioned Sunday night! Oh Lord.
But before I get to that thrilling climax, let me tell you about a group of très intéressant folks I met at the festival. I spotted them as soon as I arrived on Saturday. Dressed all in black, they stood looking out at the harbor away from the crowds before wandering over to the Yamagata show. There they sat on the ground, passing around bottles of Smirnoff and playfully photo-bombing the family snap occurring in front of them. They seemed to inhabit their own little galaxy of urban style, as if they had landed in Hong Kong from another, cooler (and colder) clime: the West Village, Rue Bichat, Shoreditch, a Fellini sound stage?
Maybe I don’t get out much (truth: I don’t), but this foursome exuded a confidence and panache I don’t see very often in HK. Yet they didn’t strike me as posers. Who were they?
So I asked.
Ashley, Anthony, Carmen and their shy friend all grew up in Hong Kong and range in age from mid-20s to early 30s. The chatty ones were best friends Anthony and Ashley who met at Clockenflap two years. Anthony runs his own clothing store specializing in Korean and European fashion while Ashley is a graphic designer interested in branding and typography. The duo said their coordinated look was not actually inspired by Paris but it was designed for impact. As Anthony explained, “Maybe it’s too hot and no one will wear a long coat today so you think we will look more outstanding.”
When I asked what’s been the reaction so far to their collective chic, Anthony laughed and said people wonder, “Do you feel hot today?”
Style knows no pain (or heatstroke).
In a town where business dress rules, you’ve got to admire the modish quartet – celebrating, enjoying and perpetuating the long relationship between music and fashion. And by the way, Yamagata was also dressed in all black so they were in good company.
I saw a lot of great bands over the weekend, and judging by their comments, they had a fun time here too. Many acts were Hong Kong newbies, and they seemed a bit surprised and overwhelmed by the dramatic setting as well as the enthusiastic crowds. The festival was incredibly well-organized, and the staff super friendly. I mean, if the beer sellers are still smiling at 9pm on Sunday night then you know some positive vibes are permeating the Clockenflap grounds. My only complaint was that I couldn’t be in two places at once!
But as the sun set on Sunday evening, there was only one place I wanted to be: as close to the front as possible at the Harbourflap stage. That’s where Nile Rodgers and his talented, airtight band were tearing through dozens (and I do mean dozens) of songs that he wrote, co-wrote, produced, played on and/or infused with his magic disco touch. A collection of hits and acts that span four decades: CHIC, Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Daft Punk. Rodgers spoke of surviving cancer and realizing every day is a gift, and he was generous in praising his bandmates. When he introduced the last song, ‘Good Times’, he said the tune always inspired a disco party on stage. And then he brought out Unsung Heroes, a Hong Kong domestic worker choir, to dance, sing and take selfies with him and his band. It was a party, absolutely.
I had a half hour to grab a beer and a box of Vietnamese noodles before the last act of the weekend, New Order, took the stage. My day had started at 5:30 in the morning, and my knees were aching from a.m. hiking on DB and p.m. dancing to CHIC. But I didn’t want to go home early because hey! how many times will I get to see New Order? My hardcore-fan friends made their way to the front, but I moved over to the left with another friend, strategically close to the exit, and on a set of stairs where I could rest my weary legs. The location afforded us a view of the stage, the crowd and the entire HK Island skyline across the harbor. The pano function on my phone camera just couldn’t do justice to the surreal and wondrous night.
When New Order gifted us with an encore of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and ‘Blue Monday’, we ascended to another plane of existence – somewhere between the suburban innocence of the ‘80s and the vibrant metropolis that is Hong Kong, 2015.
I haven’t witnessed this much ecstatic mopey-head dancing since prom night.
Thanks Clockenflap and see you again next year!
Randy from Baton Rouge
Randy from Baton Rouge who was a great dancer not so great kisser took me to the Propaganda concert Fall semester which I thought was a date but asked me after to reimburse him for the ticket not that I would have minded if the evening had been prefaced by this request and if the band had blown my mind instead I resisted paying for weeks and was relieved we weren’t running in to each other on campus until I heard he’d taken medical leave before finals due to emotional issues which my roommate said was despair at being outed by a Classics major who’d broken his heart and he ended up transferring anyway so that I never did pay him back and we truly stopped running in to each other, Randy from Baton Rouge I’m sorry.
Consider seriously if I really wanted to get back together or did I say yes because he had sixth-row seats to David Lee Roth’s first solo tour and I was curious to see if Diamond Dave was going to be better or worse than the Sammy Hagar-led Van Halen which I’d seen less than two weeks prior with my best friends not that either of those bands were my absolute favorites not even top ten but it was almost summer and I missed having a boyfriend and I thought maybe just maybe those old feelings would return but in the end what I realized was obvious, nothing could ever be as good as Van Halen circa 1984.
That Velvet Jacket
You try going to a Bryan Ferry concert where the theater is Art Deco and the cocktails are strong and Bryan’s singing in a maroon velvet jacket and not feel something for your date who happens to be the consensus best-looking guy in the graduate film program what with his dark ponytail and the way he wears a tool belt and gloves when he’s gaffing though you know you shouldn’t even call him your date because he has a girlfriend and you’re practically engaged and you’re just going together because you both love Roxy Music and no one else can afford tickets or wants to skip that night’s seminar on Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, did I mention how strong the drinks were?
A little flash (absolutely) fiction on a Friday night.
© Jennifer S. Deayton
You are merely auditing this class. You are not in control. You are here for the ride.
This is not your party.
You know that going in. You barely know any Imagine Dragons songs. They’re a young folks’ band. But so what. There’s no need to criticize the band name (which is kind of kids’ cartoon silly) or get all snarky about their connection to the Transformers movies. They work hard and deserve to earn a living, don’t they?
However, try as you might, the atmosphere at their concert makes you feel old and cynical and angry – angry mostly about the lack of anger. A rock band with songs called ‘Tip Toes’ and ‘I’m So Sorry’? Whose lead singer never utters a four-letter word? Where’s the edge? Your memory takes you back to a scrawny, strung-out Guns N’ Roses opening for The Cult. Now that – that felt dangerous.
You grump about the sea of smart phones and the ADHD tension this creates. Documenting is not experiencing. But then you find your own self, posting a snap, and you vow to put away your phone and enjoy the show. Let the music wash over you – close your eyes, come on. They’re a tight band, and their live experience and skill shows. They’re not bad. Yet you can’t quite relax and embrace the spectacle due to the random thoughts in your head, such as:
- Did he just sing: Dream maker / Heart breaker*? Because that would be a total crib from Pat Benatar.
- I blame Coldplay for this aggressive earnestness. They’re all so sweet! Jeez, for all their higher power positivity, at least U2 wrote ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’.
- Rock guys don’t take off their shirts anymore, do they?
- All this man-bun lead singer needs is an indie film girlfriend and vegan cookbook tie-in.
- ‘Forever Young’ is a truly lame cover tune.
What’s happening? Have you really become some misanthropic music snob? Let go, let go, let go. Lose the sarcasm. Swim with the spirit of the band’s 2.5 million Spotify followers, the 300 million plays of ‘Demons’.
Behind you, six true believers bring hope. They wave their glow sticks in solidarity and sing the words to every song. They are sweet, undaunted, and they’re having the time of their lives.
So is your youngest one, who hip bumps you and hugs you and stands arm in arm with you during the slow songs.
It’s then you realize why you’re here. This is her party.
But you’re still invited.
*The line is actually: Dream maker / Life taker from ‘Smoke and Mirrors’. I heard what I wanted to hear. A little imagination 😉
Thanks everyone for reading and participating in my quiz: Trending Baby Names or James Spader in the ’80s?
Here are Spader’s muy beloved characters from the ’80s. Do you have a favorite?
Let me know!
2. Fenwick – Diner (TV short), 1983
3. Lowell – Family Secrets, 1984
5. Morgan – Tuff Turf, 1985 (Kim Richards was the love interest, FYI)
7. Dutra – The New Kids, 1985
8. Richards – Mannequin, 1987
11. Digby (I inadvertently wrote Dutra twice, so changed this later. Sorry for the confusion!) – Greasy Lake, 1988
13. Steff – Pretty in Pink, 1986 (Those deconstructed linen suits and loafers, no socks)
17. Graham – Sex, Lies and Videotape, 1989 (his most normal name for arguably the weirdest guy in the bunch)
18. Deforrest – The Rachel Papers, 1989
20. Rip – Less Than Zero, 1987
As for those trending baby names, most of them came courtesy of The Huffington Post. But there are three baseball-loving boys in North Carolina who deserve a mention:
Price, Grey and Preston (future attorneys-at-law) – you rock!
Hi all & welcome back to a bit of weekend fun. A rockmom quiz inspired by a group of young boys we encountered at a minor league baseball game over the summer.
The trio sat in front of us the whole evening: chatting, wearing their giveaway jerseys and eventually – inevitably – pouring ice cubes down each others’ backs. As local boys and fans of the team, they knew a lot about the players, such as who’d been called up to the bigs, who was the team’s best left-handed pitcher and what the heck OPS stands for (on-base plus slugging, a sabermetric i.e. ‘extra fancy’ stat). Their parents were sitting several rows behind and would periodically call out their names. As you can imagine in 2015, the Year of Our Whole Foods, there was absolutely no Tom, Dick or Harry in this group. They all had names that sounded like partners in an accounting firm. Or, as I realized a few weeks later when Pretty in Pink popped up on cable (you can’t not watch it), the names of James Spader characters from the 1980s.
His best roles, IMHO.
But I won’t say any more. See if you can identify each name as either a James Spader movie character from the ’80s or a current popular boy’s name.
Enjoy yourself and please, no fair consulting IMDB! I’ll post answers on Monday.
- Richards (with an ‘s’)
Hi rockmom friends,
In case you haven’t come across any of my shameless self-promoting tweets and posts, I’ve started writing for a site called Expat Living Hong Kong, sister site to Expat Living Singapore. You can read my first post here. The super coolio thing is I’m getting paid. Crazy, I know!
Without mentioning any names, I’ve done the whole ‘write for exposure’ thing and found that I got about as much exposure as a mainland woman wearing a face-kini.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful for the experience but after 5+ years of rockmom writing I’m ready for the big leagues. Or at least a decent AAA team in a mid-sized market.
The other nice thing, aside from the do$h, is that I’ll be writing about the same range of topics I’ve covered here at rockmom: raising kids, living in Hong Kong, raising kids in Hong Kong (a very special kind of pressure cooker). Expat Living might not want my post about the latest Father John Misty album – dammit! – but I’ll learn to live with that. In fact I’ll continue to post here, and not just about the oh-so-fabulous work I’m doing elsewhere. Fear not, this site isn’t going to turn in to some platform-building, writer’s promo machine, even if I knew how to do that!
Many moons ago, I started this blog to write about music but then it kind of morphed in to a place where I can clear my head of inane theories about parenting and education and why the next generation has been unable to produce a David Lee Roth. But what’s been most gratifying is realizing there are other people out there (and not just my sister) who worry as much as I do about the pressure on children in today’s world AND the future of One Direction!
So I thank you, dear readers, as always for your support. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy therockmom and I hope you’ll feel that this is where you can connect with like-minded individuals and be yourself – much like these women:
Have a wonderful summer – try the beach! See you in August!
All photos courtesy of the fantastic photographer, Philipp Engelhorn, from his series Qingdao Beach No 1.
Philipp lives in Hong Kong – right on! – and his work has appeared in publications around the globe. Find him at:
Hi all. My apologies for the radio silence but I’ve put aside the blog for the moment in order to finish a novel. My first. Normally I don’t like to talk about these things until I’m done because I don’t want to jinx the process or predispose myself to illusions of grandeur. But I’m far enough along (I won’t say how many rewrites I’ve done) to share this bit of information.
As anyone who works from home knows, it is HARD, DAMN HARD to focus on your own creations, especially without deadlines and a guaranteed income stream. So many distractions surround you: dogs that need walking, cats that need cuddling, dishes that urgently need washing because you can’t figure out a transition from the front to the back story. Not to mention people who email, text or call requesting this and that because Hey! You’re a SAHM, what do you do with your time? Well, I’m here to tell you, you’ve got to be selfish with your time. Guard those hours when the kids are in school and you’re alone, with your life! They are gold. If you have any desire to create, start a business, learn a new skill, leave a mark in this world then don’t waste those hours. And if you’re prone to volunteeritis, you need to nip that in the bud. The PTA is going to be fine without you.
Thanks again for reading. I’ll be back soon with rockmom thoughts on the brilliant Laura Marling, BabyMen, fashion documentaries and how our apartment has morphed in to a cruise ship for cats.
It’s the little things, you know? Like finding real (not UHT) cream in the grocery store, on sale. Or the smile on EO’s face after she touches the wall and sees her time in the 100fly. Or the fact that YO will still hold my hand.
This week I’m adding to that list the fricking awesome song “Giant Peach” by North London band, Wolf Alice.
Long live guitar rock is the first thing I want to say about this tune. “Giant Peach” begins with an extended, driving intro before lead singer, Ellie Roswell, spins images of the push/pull connection to her hometown. She says: What the hell keeps me here / In a dark old town another door through / It don’t seem so clear / And changin’ feels like fear. The song plays like equal parts meat and potatoes rock and psychedelic jam – all guitars and drums – all the while building to Roswell’s climactic lyrics and a squalling heavy metal meltdown. In the video’s finale, there’s even a nod to the band’s Spinal Tap brethren as the smoke machine spews out of control and the costumes scream ‘Stonehenge’!
Recent reviews have compared Wolf Alice to ’90s bands like Hole and Garbage, which is just a simple way to say: this is a rock band with three guys and a female lead singer. Lazy! With their ear for melody and shred-tastic (yes, had to say that) guitars, I hear more similarities with Veruca Salt and another lupine band: Wolfmother.
Wolf Alice have released some EPs and their debut full-length, My Love Is Cool, is expected in June. Check them out when you can and have a good week!