Mt Vernon, my old backyard!

When I got to Baltimore, the first thing I realized after landing at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport was that nothing changed in the nine months that I was not there. Even the homeless guy that lived across the street from the light rail station was still there.

With that realization, I came to notice the minute differences that had taken place in the nine months. Stafford (my old apartment complex) painted and re-carpeted the entire first floor. Indigma, my favorite Indian restaurant that had burned down in a huge fire with Donna’s (a favorite coffee and chill-out cafe) had moved across the street, and now served self-serve buffet (it used to be a la carte buffet before.) Minato, my then-favorite Japanese restaurant, now serves Chinese soy sauce with their sushi [I did mention it to the manager.] The Midtown Yacht Club where we usually went for Thursday Karaoke nights has changed hands, and is now called the Midtown BBQ. The huge ditch in front of Penn Station is now a big glass University of Baltimore building. H&M opened in the Harbor, and Filene’s Basement is no longer. The Green Route of the Charm City Circulator started service, and Chipotle finally opened a branch near Mt Vernon (we had been hoping for this since 2007.)

I guess a fair amount of things changed, but Baltimore still felt like Baltimore and that was in part because all my friends are still there, and there was still good sushi (found Aloha Sushi a few more blocks away.) Besides my sushi, it was the people and community in Peabody that I missed so much. Don’t get me wrong, life isn’t absolutely awful at the ‘Deis, but it surely isn’t Peabody (or at least I haven’t been in school at 2am to hear people practicing Dvorak’s Cello Concerto yet.)


Gem and I at the post-concert drink at Maisy’s

The first thing I did when I hopped off the plane, was to go for a 12.30pm rehearsal for frigia with the Lunar Ensemble. Now, I’ve worked with most of Lunar Ensemble before. In fact, they’ve premiered a piece of mine [circum]-perceptio even before they even became the Lunar Ensemble, and Gemma conducted the premieres of all my music at Peabody – [circum]-perceptio, trans-[migra].nation and Generations – with the exception of a flute and harp duo. The musicians of Lunar are a dedicated and fantastic bunch to work with, and boy am I fortunate to have the opportunity to work with them. However, first rehearsals are usually really stressful for me. I sometimes have nightmares where I walk into the first rehearsal, full of confidence about a new piece, and the piece just fizzles and flops. Thankfully, there weren’t many problems (or the problems were previously fixed via email-tag) and the rehearsal went by with few hiccups. *phew*, since it was the last rehearsal till the performance on Tuesday.


Lunar Ensemble during the performance at An Die Musik!

Other than Lunar’s rehearsal, I was just waiting for the performance to come. Just kidding! My days were packed with breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner meet-ups with old friends, teachers and students! It was awesome! I miss my everyone so much, and it is so very comforting to be able to carry an almost-three-hour-long conversation with my old theory professor about almost everything under the sun, and to still have friends in the area who bothered to drive from Virginia to Baltimore just to have dinner with me. I also took an evening off and made a trip to DC to meet an old chum for the night. I had so much fun being back in the old hood that I completely forgot to work on my Lulu (Berg’s) presentation while I was there. *oops* Bad me!

I guess it was a good break from my hectic (and pretty lonely) life of composing, cooking, studying and teaching up North. I enjoy all that, but I think that this trip was a healthy and fruitful (hey, there was also a premiere of a new piece you know) way to de-stress before diving back into that lifestyle again.


Huiling and I at the St Patty’s Day Parade

Now, the main reason I was in ol’Balty was for the St Patrick’s Day Parade premiere of frigia, the piece Lunar commissioned for the concert. The concert was incredible! I am still living in the awe that I made them play quartertone sextuplets at quarter = 160, and they pulled it off! Not to mention, the string players had to sing glissandi quartertones while playing double stops too. Yes, I am one mean composer, but a cool composer no less. Bravi Tutti, Lunar! I’m sure we’ll work together again soon!

To end this post, I want to quote Gemma, “Your music looks absolutely frightening on paper, but sounds so cool if you’re listening to it without the score.”