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Monday, April 28, 2008

Revisiting an Old Friend

The Pines of Rome (1923) [19:04]
Impressioni brasiliane (1928) [18:03]
Gioachino ROSSINI
La Boutique fantasque – Ballet (1918) [35:40]
Arranged and orchestrated by Respighi.

Philharmonia Orchestra
Alceo Galliera

Recorded at Kingsway Hall, London, 22 January, 1957 (Pines) 28-29 May 1959 (Boutique) 18-21 March 1955 (Impressioni).

MEDICI ARTS MM022-2 [73:19] Stereo and Mono (Impressioni brasiliane)

Medici Arts have been issuing a rather steady stream of classic recordings from the archives of EMI and the BBC. Highly prized as collectable LPs, these recordings of works by Respighi and Rossini by Alceo Galliera have already attained legendary status, and these mid-priced compact discs are welcome for their lengthy programs and their dedication to preserving the work of some great musicians whose recordings have fallen out of regular circulation.

Alceo Galliera was born into a musical family in Milan in 1910. His father was a composer and professor of organ at the Parma conservatory and encouraged his son’s study of music. He first appeared as a conductor in 1941, and would go on to build a career mainly as a conductor of recordings for Walter Legge and his EMI Columbia label. He is most famous for having conducted Maria Callas’ complete studio recording of The Barber of Seville. He was also a frequent concerto accompanist, recording with such artists as Geza Anda, Claudio Arrau, Pierre Fournier, David Oistrakh and others. Known for his disciplined rehearsals, he was particularly at home in virtuoso orchestral showpieces.

In the early twentieth century, two composers were standouts, Puccini in the opera house and Respighi in the concert hall. He was the first Italian composer to make a name for himself in the orchestral realm, and his works stand out as superior to those of his contemporaries even today. The Pines of Rome was a follow up work to the successful Fountains of Rome from 1915-16. Drawing heavily on Respighi’s love of plainchant and folk tunes, these elegant miniatures are masterfully orchestrated, right down to the use of bird calls. Galliera leads a sparkling and taut performance that, in this writer’s opinion, is one of the few to rival Toscanini’s brilliant recording with the NBC Symphony, an account which is without peer. The distinct advantage with Galliera is the stereophonic sound.

La Boutique Fantasque was written for Diaghilev’s ballet company and is drawn from little piano pieces that Rossini either had put aside or were rejected by his publisher. Tuneful and joyous, these splendid orchestrations spill over with great tunes. The Philharmonia dash them off with tremendous aplomb.

Last is the oldest recording on the disc, recorded in mono, but still vivid and quite easy to listen to. The work shows Respighi at his most impressionistic. The unusual middle movement with its Dies irae quote reflects the composer’s thoughts upon visiting a poisonous snake breeding enterprise while traveling in South America.

These are performances of considerable and long standing renown, so there is no need to belabor every detail here. Suffice it to say that there is a good reason that they have remained in the catalogue for over fifty years, and continue to be prized by collectors. They’re good! Well worth the initial investment to hear a master conductor at the height of his powers. If you are seeking an upgrade from your vinyl, you will be most pleased with the quality of these transfers. A winner all ‘round.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hits and Misses in Fluteland

Marc-André DALBAVIE (b. 1961)
Concerto pour flûte [17:07]
Michael JARRELL (b. 1958)
…un temps de silence… (Concerto pour flûte) [18:58]
Matthias PINTSCHER (b. 1971)
Transir for flute and chamber orchestra [18:54]

Dates of composition are not listed in the program booklet.

Emmanuel Pahud (flute)
Orchestre Philharmoniqe de Radio France
Peter Eötvös (Dalbavie)
Pascal Rophé (Jarrell)
Matthias Pintscher (Pintscher)

Recorded 29 November – 1 December 2006 (1) 9-11 July 2007 (2-3) at the Salle Olivier Messiaen, Radio France Studio, Paris.

EMI 50999 5 01226 2 [54:59]

Emmanuel Pahud has quite successfully taken the mantel of the world’s elite flute players from the likes of Jean Pierre Rampal and James Galway. With a double whammy as principal flute in the Berlin Philharmonic and a widely acclaimed solo career combined with impeccable technique and fashion model good looks, Mr. Pahud is one of those rare classical musicians whose every new release is an event. Having covered already a goodly portion of the standard flute repertoire, he branches out here with three new concertos that he commissioned to be performed by him with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Of the three works presented, the opener, a flashy and colorful piece by Marc-André Dalbavie is the most successful. Of the three composers, he best understands form and orchestral color. He alone gives us a soundscape that is interesting and even challenging, but at the same time engaging, original and enjoyable to hear. Mr. Pahud actually gets to play his instrument instead of just producing a stream of sound effects with extended techniques.

Mr. Jarrell states that he set out to compose a work that would require the utmost virtuosity of the soloist. There is no doubt that he accomplishes his mission. But all of this fantastical writing comes across to these ears as more of a spoiled child’s “look what I’ve got” than in a real expression of a set of musical thoughts. I cannot say that the work is devoid of interesting ideas, but its episodic nature gets a bit tiring to the ear. It takes a couple of paragraphs of program notes to explain the work’s construction. I would prefer to get the idea upon hearing the music for the first time.

The Pintscher concerto is another collection of strung together sound effects that would work a good deal better as the soundtrack to a good slasher movie than it does as a concert experience. Rife with one special effects gesture after another, there is little material here that could be carried home in one’s head. That is not to say that it is not interesting to hear just how many fancy tricks that the flute can do in the hands of a Pahud, but the rather modern tendency to compose such structure-less stream of consciousness music is wearing thin. There is really nothing wrong with a good tune, even if it is a disjointed one.

This disc will appeal to the adventuresome and the pseudo-intellectuals who think that only incomprehensible music is good music. And, in its defense, the Dalbavie is indeed worth the price of admission. EMI’s fancy OPENDISC® format gets you access to video content, interviews, previews from other EMI releases and points toward free downloads just by inserting the disc into your computer.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Memories of a Great Conductor

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58 [29:59]
Franz Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 92 in G, Hob: I:92 [24:24]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto in a minor for violin and strings, BWV 1041 [13:58]

Robert Casadesus, piano
Roland Greutter, violin
Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie Orchester (now the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln) (Beethoven and Haydn)
NDR Sinfonieorchester (Bach)

Recorded 6 March, 1970 (Beethoven); 20 April, 1967 (Haydn), 15-17 March, 1992, (Bach). Specific recording locales not given, but were most likely made in the studios of the North German Radio.

PROFIL PH 06006 [68:40]

Profil have been mining the vaults for some time now and have released this nineteenth volume of recordings, most of them from live broadcasts, by the late conductor Günter Wand. Maestro Wand was a modest man whose remarkably long career took him to rather vast reaches of the repertoire, but never particularly far from home. He was not the typical jet setting guest conductor that we have grown at least tolerant of, if not accustomed to in recent years. Rather, he stayed around the house and developed his Cologne Orchestra in to a fine and well trained instrument. This program of well known works by three of music’s ubiquitous names shows just how much Wand was grounded in the classics, and how this mastery of classical structure and form led to his masterful interpretations of the music of Schubert, Brahms and especially Bruckner.

Robert Casadesus, that most elegant of Frenchmen is the soloist in this performance of the Beethoven Fourth Concerto that is characterized by an immense warmth in the string sound, and a beautiful cantabile from both soloist and orchestra. Recorded very near the end of Casadesus’ life, his playing shows a maturity and assurance that few achieve. Never short of virtuosic panache, has Mr. Casadesus also never stepped outside of the realm of good taste. Tempos are perfectly chosen and balance between soloist and orchestra is just right. I was particularly moved by the joyous romp through the concerto’s final movement with its highly decorative melody and its playful banter between the soloist and the various sections of the orchestra. My review copy had one little flaw, however. There was an editing error at the very beginning of the concerto causing a rather jarring and audible blip before the beautifully serene opening solo chords of the first movement. This will hopefully be removed before the next run.

Haydn’s Oxford symphony is a bit too ponderous for my tastes. There could be less weight in the strings, and the allegros and prestos could be a bit more of each. This is a performance more akin to those of say, Bruno Walter, whose turgid tempi in classical repertoire has always made me wonder why people called him a great Mozartean, but I digress. Perhaps I am more accustomed now to period instrument performances of Haydn, but this recording made me think that the music was as stuffy as the institution for which it is named.

Speaking of purists and period instruments, this reading of Bach’s a minor violin concerto will not be one for the HIP crowd. Yet, it is beautifully and elegantly played, even if Roland Greutter turns on the vibrato a bit more heavily than is considered tasteful today, and tosses in a couple of juicy portamenti. It is still kind of fun to hear some meaty Bach, and hearing him played in this style leads me to regret that the music of the baroque masters has all but disappeared from modern symphony orchestra programs.

Anachronisms and all this is still a beautiful hour of music, and we can be thankful to Profil for bringing the work of this fine conductor to a wider audience. One can hope that there is still more material whence came this disc!

The Kevin Sutton Interview

Some weeks ago, I had a long conversation with tenor, conductor and bon vivant Kevin Sutton. He promised me a second interview and I finally pinned him down. Here's a transcript of our conversation.

KS: Well, hello again. It's been some time since our last interview, so I wonder, how's life?

Kevin Sutton: Well, not so bad really. There have been quite a few changes though. My grandmother died in March, and that has caused a number of changes to happen in my life. My mother will be moving to Dallas soon, and there has been a lot of work finalizing her estate and such. I am also leaving WRR Radio, so I have been busy recruiting new students and trying to get my finances and such in order.

KS: I am sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother. How has her passing affected you?

Kevin Sutton: Thank you for your concern. Actually, her passing has really got me to thinking about some things that never before entered my mind. I have gotten really serious about making sure that all of my affairs are in order, for example. She made our lives quite a bit easier by planning for her own end of life needs very thoroughly. I have also had to come to grips with the whole concept of death and the afterlife. I am not sure I am at ease with that yet.

KS: What do you mean?

Kevin Sutton: Well, I am certainly a person of faith, and I believe in God and heaven. But having said that, faith is just that: faith. There are certainly spiritual implications and assurances, but when it comes right down to it, we don't get a pre-death tour of heaven. It's not like I have been there to pick out my room or anything. Until we get there, we really don't know what it's going to be like, and as much as I want my faith in God to reassure me, human beings can't help but to fear the unknown.

I have also come to realize how short time is, and even though I have a good chance at 50 plus more years on this mortal coil, even that's a very short time.

KS: So with this realization that your time here is by nature limited, have you changed anything about the way you live your life?

Kevin Sutton: Oh most definitely. You know, my father has set a pretty good example. He's rather adamant about being in complete control of his life, right down to insisting on driving his own car to church so he's not forced to wait on another driver. Now, he's 77 so he's a little more set in his ways, but we've had many a long talk about choices and how we choose to spend these few years of life on earth. I have gotten to the point where I absolutely refuse to be subjected to anything or anyone that I don't want to. That's one of the main reasons that I left the radio.

The other day, we had to sit through five hours of meetings that were run by idiots and chock full of useless information. As I see it, those people, that is, the people who required me to sit there, stole five and a half hours of my life. Sure, I was compensated with money, but that money is utterly worthless compared to the time that I sacrificed being there. I'll never get that time back. I just won't do that sort of thing anymore. If I am going to spend my time, which by the way is a commodity far more valuable than money, it's going to be on something that fulfills me. Period. I just refuse to live any other way.

The time between youth and old age is fleeting. It goes by in minutes, not years. There is so much to do on this earth that is worthwhile that I just can't justify wasting my time on those things that are of no worth. For as long as I am able, I am going to pursue that which does me the most good, and that which enables me to do the most good for others.

KS: That sounds very pie in the sky to me. Can you give me an example of someone upon whom you model your ideal lifestyle?

Kevin Sutton: Yes, I can. First my father. His is a rags to riches story that didn't even get underway until he was past sixty. He took a life that was in shambles and put it back together again piece by painstaking piece. And now he is one of the most content people I know. My grandmother, God rest her, never got there. She carried the bitterness of past events to her grave, and it took death to release her from them. That's very sad to me.

Second, there is my musical hero, Max van Egmond. While I don't know all of the details of his past experiences, I know that he lives every day to the fullest. He enjoys every minute of life, and he enjoys the company and friendship of people from age ten to ninety because of his open outlook on life and his willingness to join people on their own journey at whatever point he finds them. He calls 'em as he sees 'em, but he is so willing to gain things from others' experience. This, from a man who is as accomplished and respected as any musician in the world, and has nothing to prove to anyone!

KS: Has Mr. van Egmond ever given you advice on how to be like him.

Kevin Sutton: No. Rather he's given me lots of good advice on how to be like ME, and to enjoy that being. He has disciples, that's for sure, but his advice is always tailored to the best interests of individuals. Maintaining that individuality while still being able to function as a member of a group or a society is at the core of his philosophy, at least as I have interpreted it. He never makes anyone feel ashamed of who they are and where they are in life. But he does help a lot of us to get to a higher level of existence!

KS: What has happened to you musically since our last conversation?

Kevin Sutton: Oh my. Well, I think that I am singing better than I ever have in my professional career. Many thanks to the patience of Nancy Zylstra and Max for that gift! I am getting a good amount of work, and it 's very exciting to have my singing be so well received.

I think too that I have come a long way as a teacher. Just last night we had a studio recital, and it was very rewarding to hear so many of my students sing so very well. I mean that says as much about them as it does me, but I would like to think that I have had a little something to do with their success.

KS: What do you think of the state of classical music in 2008?

Kevin Sutton: I don't think that there has been this exciting a time to be a musician since the invention of the phonograph. Technology as broadened the horizon so much, and it has enabled so many more talented people to be heard! I think that it will still take some time for the music industry to sort out the plethora of delivery media that is out there, but wow!

I really rail against the traditional record labels and concert promoters that are trying so desperately to take up residence in the mid-twentieth century and stay there. That era is gone forever. Embrace the future, or it will swallow you whole!

I am a little concerned about information overload. There is just so much content out there to be explored, and there are so few hours in a day!

KS: Now that you are no longer at WRR, will you have a media presence?

Kevin Sutton: Oh yes. You can still hear me on The web cast will be updated far more frequently now. I will be very active in broadcasting, and true to my life's philosophy, I will make up all the rules as to what gets aired! I'll be writing a lot more too. I hope to expand my blog to make it interactive, and I will be writing still for Musicweb International.

KS: Made any musical discoveries lately?

Kevin Sutton: Yes, one or two. Just the other day I heard the beautiful Serenade for Orchestra by Wilhelm Stenhammer for the first time. GORGEOUS! I have been exploring the music of Stockhausen lately too, and I have really gotten into what I love to call QBDM (queer bar dance music) that is, electronica, trance music, and other synthesized stuff. I always love to explore. I am really into Brad Mehldau right now too.

KS: You are an eclectic bastard, aren't you.

Kevin Sutton: (laughs) Well, yes. I like to keep 'em guessing you know.

KS: Hey, it's been great to talk to you again. Let's do this more often shall we?

Kevin Sutton: Definitely. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nice Music in an Unlikely Place

Georges AURIC (1899-1983)
Cinq Bagatelles (Transcribed by Philippe Lesgourgues) (1925-26) [7:41]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto in g minor (1728) [10:05]
Georges BARBOTEU (b. 1924)
Burlesque (1989) [11:48]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Trio, Op. 87 (1794) [18:13]
Astor PIAZOLLA (1921-1992)
Adios Nonino (transcribed by. Frédéric Barboteu) (1969) [3:05]

Trio Quantz
Philippe Lesgourgues, (flute)
Frédéric Barboteu, (oboe)
Jacuqes Thareau, (bassoon)

Recorded June 1999 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Pierre, Paris.

QUANTUM 7009 [51:01]

This disc is proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover. First impressions would lead one to believe that this was a made on the cheap disc produced and distributed by some local university music department. But no! What we have here is just under an hour of delightful and on the whole, unusual music, performed with great élan and musicianship.

Georges Auric, a member of les Six, was best known for his film music. Yet he left behind some real gems in his concert music; music that is regrettably obscure and rarely programmed. These little bagatelles are chock full of with and tuneful charm. Over in less than eight minutes, if you are not paying attention, you could miss something really important. These are worth a careful listen with headphones!

Next up is a charming concerto by Vivaldi, and the note are unclear as to whether or not this is a transcription, but it could well be a sort of modified trio sonata for winds. Whatever its origins, it works. The Trio Quantz delivers an elegant well balanced performance.

The other real find here is the witty and sometimes acerbic Burlesque Georges Barboteu, whom one might easily guess is the father of the oboist on this recording. This is a tuneful work that is not in the least hampered by its witty dissonances. Mssr. Barboteu uses his harmonic bite with great taste and discretion, and I found this work to be one of the most refreshing and enjoyable of the lot.

If there are any real flaws to be found in our ensemble’s playing, it is in the Beethoven trio, in which our flutist cannot quite come to grips with the scale and arpeggio passages at the group’s chosen tempi. Gestures that should be crystal clear are often muddied, and this messiness stands out in rather stark contrast to the clear and punctuated playing of the double-reeders.

That minor quibble out of the way, we conclude with Piazolla’s lovely tribute to the memory of his father, an improvisatory work that can last up to a half an hour. This arrangement comes in at just over three minutes, and makes for the perfect conclusion to this musical string of pearls. One could wish for better packaging though. The sepia tone photo on the front cover looks like it came out of the sixties, and the rather dull presentation would not entice a casual buyer to try this out. The typos in the program do not help matters either.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Concerning WRR Radio and My Departure from Same

Dear friends,

I am flattered by the many responses that I have received concerning my departure from WRR radio. I think I should explain.

When I agreed to take the position of evening host, it was under the condition I would be able to voice track, or record my programs when I had to be away either to teach my students or to perform. This set-up worked well for some time.

Recently, upper management has decided that voice tracking is detrimental to the station's ratings, and I am no longer allowed to record shows except in rare cases. This has caused me to have to concoct a rather convoluted work schedule and it is eating up a great deal of my time, forcing me to make the 20 mile round trip to the station twice per day, often in heavy Dallas traffic.

By the grace of God, I am experiencing a really good run of singing engagements and thanks to the wonderful teaching of Nancy Zylstra and Max van Egmond, am singing at the top of my form for the first time in years. I have also been blessed to have created a steady and profitable business as a voice teacher here in Dallas.

Recently, I lost my grandmother. She was very influential in my development both as a musician and as a person. Her sacrifices helped put me where I am today, and I have a deeply held determination to honor her memory by making every effort to further my career in music.
The radio position, wonderful and fun as it is, does not pay well enough to justify the 25 to 30 hours per week that I spend there. Further, it is becoming harder and harder to travel to the extent that is necessary for me to have a national or international career as a singer. The time obligation has also detracted from my teaching, and my students are extremely important to me.

Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided to leave the radio so that I can devote my full energies to my other professional interests and callings. I will remain on the staff as a contract employee, filling in from time to time for vacations, and producing long form programs.
I am in no way burning a bridge at WRR, and I hold the institution in the highest esteem, and am very fond of all my colleagues there. There are absolutely no hard feelings from any one over this decision.

I will still be a presence in broadcasting. You my listen for free to my webcast 24 hours a day at When I leave the radio, I will be updating that program every three days for your enjoyment. You can also read my regular record reviews at and at
Thank you for all of your support and for being a fan of the show. I am very grateful to all of you. But, since music is my first love, it is vital to me while I am still in good voice to make the most of the years I have left to sing professionally.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Some Rough Beethoven

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Six Bagatelles, Op. 126 [20:19]
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in C, Op. 15 [37:49]

Piotr Anderszewski, (piano and conductor)
Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

Recorded 5-9 October 2007 in the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Concert Hall, Bremen.

VIRGIN 50999 5 02111 2 [58:37]

Having thoroughly enjoyed Piotr Anderszewski’s recent recording of three of Bach’s solo keyboard partitas, (Virgin 5455262) I looked rather anxiously forward to hearing his interpretation of this, my favorite of Beethoven’s piano concertos. Alas, I was roundly disappointed.

Let’s begin with the six little bagelles, Op. 126. There is no doubt that Mr. Anderszsewski is a talented pianist. He has technique to burn, and is most often very musical. Yet, in these little pieces, his youthful exuberance gives way to some pretty bad taste. The elegance of the classical period is lost on this pianist as he thunders away in the loud passages in what seems to be a misguided homage to Beethoven’s notorious string breaking. One must remember that Beethoven didn’t have a big Steinway that could withstand the force of a jackhammer, let alone a pianist with great physical power. When he tones it down in soft passages, his sound is quite charming indeed, but the abrupt and overly robust outbursts of forte are a rather jarring distraction.

The same ills plague the performance of the concerto. Mr. Anderszewski tends to pound the keyboard in loud passages, particularly at the end of the first movement cadenza. As a conductor, he fails to adequately shape phrases, rushing through moments that are in need of a bit of repose. Most maddening is the absolutely obnoxious tympanist, who, using what to these ears are his hardest mallets, pounds away every time he is required to play, sticking out above the orchestra in a way that is most unmusical. Beethoven might have been deaf, but the rest of us do not need to be beaten about the head and shoulders.

I had a bit of hope for the second movement, which shows Beethoven at his lyrical best, but was here too disappointed. It was almost as if the musicians regarded this work, which is not as technically challenging for skilled players as others, as a blow-off, and merely phoned it in. For reactions to the rondo, see the preceding paragraph.

With the plethora of fine recordings of this music available, the market has little room for new performances that are anything less than stellar. This performance has been tried and found wanting.

Kevin Sutton

Monday, April 07, 2008

An Old Friend Gets a Fresh Coat of Paint

Georg Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)

Water Music (complete) [49:27]
Solomon: Overture [7:45]
Solomon: Sinfonia (The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba) [2:53]

Les Violons du Roy
Bernard Labadie

Recorded at the Salle Raoul-Jobin, Palais Montcalm, Quebec, June 11-13, 2007.

ATMA ACD2 2569 [60:04]

A number of fancy tales exist to document the relationship between the man who would become George I of England and his court composer Georg Frederic Handel. They are all great tales, but alas, none of them seem to be true, and it would be more accurate to say that the former Elector of Hanover cared little for music, and could not have cared less about the goings on of his young and celebrated court composer. It is said, of course, that the Water Music, one of Handel’s most famous works, was composed for the King’s boat trip down the Thames, but there is little documentation as to the occasion for its composition, and whether the King actually participated in any boat trip that required a musical accompaniment is doubtful.

Regardless of King George’s travel plans, we are left with a magnificent set of orchestral suites, largely patterned after the example of Lully, in which an overture, begun by a highly ornamental dotted rhythmic gesture was followed by a fugue, and followed thereafter by dances in pairs with varying orchestrations.

Maestro Labadie leads one of the most energetic and most French performances of this much recorded music that I have heard in some time. Particularly in the overture to suite one, the excessive use of the French style trill with its long opening appoggiatura started to make me sea sick. Perhaps that’s appropriate. That little quibble aside, Labadie chooses near perfect tempi, none of the frenetic rush that is the downfall of many a Musica Antique Köln recording, nor none of the hyper-romantic slowness that occurred when this music was left in the hands of a Karajan or a Bernstein.

This is lively, spirited playing and Les Violons du Roy make the music fresh and alive, truly a new listening experience. It is easy to pass off the four hundredth recording of a work like the Water Music with a big “oh no, not again!” But these musicians make you listen as they exploit the vivid colors of Handel’s imaginative and for the time, far reaching orchestrations. (The use of hunting horns was a relatively new innovation in orchestral writing at the time, and he used both recorders and transverse flutes for more variety in the winds.)

Rounded off with two tastefully played selections from Solomon, this is an entertaining disc, and a good choice of performances when you want go revisit such favorite pieces as these.

Kevin Sutton

Friday, April 04, 2008

Some Things I Have Learned

As I write this, I am back in Indiana, preparing for my grandmother's funeral and burial. It has been a very interesting week of emotions, memories, annoyances and frustrations. Here are some things I have learned from this experience.

1. My grandmother was an extremely meticulous lady, going so far as to plan and pay for every bit of her final needs years in advance. This is something that I encourage anyone who is able to do. There are dozens of ways that you can take care of your end of life expenses without bankrupting yourself. These include signing over certain types of insurances polices. My grandmother even went so far as to pay for my travel. She was amazing, and my mother and I have had a much easier and less stressful time of it thanks to her thoughtfulness.

2. When you need them, your friends will almost always be there for you. I have been amazed at how thoughtful and helpful so many of my Indiana friends have been.

3. Don't wait until someone you know and love dies to catch up with the important people from your past. I have had two wonderful evenings of conversations this week with high school friends that I haven't seen for more than a decade. They were important in your life when you were a kid, and they probably are still. Keep those you love in your circle.

4. Don't keep stuff that isn't important. My granny, God rest her, was a major league pack rat, and it will take weeks to sort through it all. If you don't need it, and it's not of important sentimental value to you...give it away!

5. Take the time to make that extra weekly phone call or send another card or letter. My grandmother lived to be 91, which wasn't nearly long enough to know her well. The years went by too quickly, and before I knew it she was gone. With her passing, I am feeling the burden of full adult responsibility for the first time in my life. I now know how much she did for so many people, and what she gave up to be who she was. Growing up isn't easy, especially if you wait until you're 44 to get started.