Back when I was a Silicon Valley consultant (multi-dimensional database design…seriously nerdly) I worked on a project for a company that sold things by the case. Each case held the same number of their products so keeping track of sales was pretty easy. Things started to come apart, however, when they started selling half-cases and I was brought in to help figure out why. It turned out that it was a simple mistake that had been done incorrectly for so long that nobody even noticed it until the data was needed for something really important and it was a train wreck. Once the mistake was found it was easily corrected but the old data was still a mess.*

In singing as in databases, a mistake that is repeated over and over again becomes a permanent part of the singing (Bob Ritchie shared a great line from a former conductor of his: practice makes permanent). I’ve heard it more than once, the single note that was wrong the first time through and stays wrong forever. Because it’s only one person doing it, the mistake is often lost in a choir as large as ours but 1) it’s still wrong and 2) everything that’s not in sync, no matter how slight, will detract from the overall quality of our sound.

So what to do when you hear such a thing happening? Ya’ gots ta tell ’em, there’s no way around it. If it’s not a disruption in the flow of the rehearsal ask Susie to go over that passage and, when it gets to that spot, turn your head toward your neighbor that’s singing it wrong to emphasize how it’s supposed to sound when you’re singing it. When there’s a break in the action or as the rehearsal is breaking up, point it out and go over the notes in detail and then, when it comes up the next time, once again sing towards your neighbor to help break the habit that’s been formed. Given the way that our choir works and the way the people are I guarantee there won’t be any feelings hurt. We’re all striving to be the best we can and this is part of that effort.

On the other hand, if you notice that there’s one particular part of one particular piece of music where the entire section seems to turn their heads and sing at you…well…

* So what was wrong with my client’s data? It turns out that there was a report that one of the big shots looked at every day that was rounding numbers WAY to early in the data-munching process and, to make a long story short, it ended up that the error looked like this:

1.5 cases (rounded up to 2) + 1.5 cases (also rounded up to 2) = 4 cases (instead of the correct number of 3)



Totally not about singing…

I’ve mentioned in the past that I enjoy my time in the kitchen and wanted to pass a couple things that have made me (and Mrs. Blogmeister) happy. I’m a big fan of scratch sauces and the bechaumel (cream) is one of the most basic. It’s also a pain in the neck and easy to screw up. Building a roux, getting the thickness just the way it’s supposed to be…bleck. There has to be a better way.

So here it is. I found the basis of this online and experimented with ratios and this seems to get me right to where I want to be:

Melt 6 Tbsp butter (this would also be the time to add something like roasted garlic…yum)

Add 1 3/4 cup heavy cream and bring it to a simmer

Whisk in 1 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (or any similar hard cheese like oregiano or pecorino; manchego works but the flavor is really different) and whatever spices/herbs you’re using for whatever the sauce is going to go on; simple black pepper is never a bad thing. Add thee no salt, the cheese will take care of that for you.

In a separate bowl, mix together 2 tsp flour and 1 Tbsp heavy cream into a thick paste…no lumps, please. This replaces the finicky roux with something a lot more stable. Add this last thing to the pan, whisk it together and >ta-da!< a sauce is born. If you want to thicken it up a little you can simmer a little. I guarantee you that NOBODY will know you didn’t fight the bechaumel fight but you can pretend you sweated through in on their behalf.

Another thing I messed with that worked: alternative pestos. You probably know the tried-and-true version with fresh basil, garlic and roasted pine nuts. Yummy. However, a nut swap gives a whole different awesome thing. Toasted pecans? Epic. Toasted almonds? Also epic. Warning: pistachios make a pretty nasty pesto. Too much green I suppose.