Academy Awards: Reflections and Book Nominations

Hello, dear readers! Did you have fun watching the Oscars tonight? Our family tuned in for a few parts. Ellen DeGeneres was hilarious as host, and there were some touching speeches and pretty dresses. 🙂 (In particular, Lupita Nyong’o’s speech made me cry! I need to see 12 Years a Slave.)

Of course, I had to participate in Ellen DeGeneres’s request for the world to make this the most retweeted photo ever–the set-up was pretty cute:

View image on Twitter

I was SO happy Frozen won for Best Animated Feature:

Photo: Frozen just won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature! Congratulations to the entire team at Walt Disney Animation Studios! #Oscars

…and that it also won Best Original Song for “Let It Go”:

Photo: "Let It Go" just won the Academy Award for Best Original Song! Congratulations to Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez!

The film was one of my favorite movies of all time (the power of love between sisters; the courage and then reward of being yourself; such good lessons!). You can read how much the song means to me in my previous blog post about it, but each time I hear the song, I feel like I get more and more out of it. I think it’s a fantastic message for anyone who is afraid of sacrificing a perfect image to embrace who s/he really is–the beauty of finding out your own unique talents when you finally “let it go.” After my traumatic brain injury, I struggled so much with this concept, since I wanted to be just like my old self and achieve the exact same goals I had for myself before–goals set intentionally by me, and goals set artificially by society (you must look like ___; you must achieve ___ by __ age, etc.). It’s been quite the journey, but I reached a point where I realized I had so much more to offer as a survivor, as the true *me*, than I ever could by completing some outdated checklist.

Idina Menzel’s performance for the show gave me goosebumps. It was extraordinary. She’s one of my very favorite singers; her range, emotion, and style are gorgeous. I actually felt a little bad for her tonight, because I think something was going on with the synching of the background music (not to mention how John Travolta butchered her name in her intro). The music sounded way too loud for her, and she had to almost shout-sing over it–shocking for such a powerful singer–I can’t imagine how bad it must really have been, then! I also think the pacing was a little off. I couldn’t tell if she was wearing an earpiece to hear the music, but if not, that might have been the problem. From my own experience as a performer, I know that music sounds a lot different when you’re onstage and it’s reverberating throughout the hall versus when you’re hearing it directly out of a close source. Still, I think something even more was going on, since Idina is such a seasoned Broadway performer. I guess we’ll have to wait for the news stories to come out! I haven’t found anything about it yet. Of course, it was still a beautiful, passionate performance, and I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t already.

A special congratulations to the film Her, which picked up the Oscar for Best Screenplay. It’s another film I have to see, especially because my friend Marcy‘s sister, Natalie Farrey, is the executive producer! From everything I’ve heard, it’s a well-done film. I’m perhaps a little afraid of its being sad…but we all know that sometimes that’s good for you, right? 🙂

Photo: Congratulations to Spike Jonze on his Best Original Screenplay win for #Her! #Oscars

What did you think, dear readers? Were you particularly happy or disappointed in any of the wins? Were there performances or moments you enjoyed?

The people at had a really clever idea: they made an Academy Awards-style nominations list for their favorite books of 2013. They are taking votes for YOUR favorites until 10 a.m. E.S.T. on March 3 (today), so make your vote now!

Vote here for the best novel; protagonist; supporting role; graphic novel; cover design; nonfiction; film adaptation; and short story collection of 2013. All you have to do is comment. 🙂

You can see my votes below, and I’d love to see yours!:

Amanda Fowler • 5 minutes ago

Best novel: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Best female in a supporting role: Lettie Hemstock (The Ocean at the End of the Lane)
Best graphic novel: Hyperbole and a Half
Best film adaptation: Hunger Games: Catching Fire

“Let it Go”: Inspirational Song from Disney’s “Frozen”

Hello, dear readers. Thank you for your warm response to my last post; it means a lot to me. Tonight, I wanted to share a song with you that I’ve been listening to nonstop (mobile users, click here): “Let it Go,” from the Frozen soundtrack (available for preorder on Amazon). It’s making me even more excited to see the upcoming Disney movie. I love almost all Disney movies, especially the princess ones, but I can tell this one is going to have special significance to me–especially for the reasons I described in my last TBI postFrozen is not only based on a classic fairy tale (Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”), but it also focuses on the power of the love between sisters.

the power of family is the strongest magic of all

Via TangledDisneyFrozen on Tumblr

This song is a bit more poppy than I usually lean towards (at least this version of it; I suspect Idina Menzel’s movie version will be less so); however, it’s very catchy and uplifting. Demi Lovato’s voice is amazing, as always. I do love the message in it, too. These lines were especially significant to me, in light of yesterday’s post/my TBI journey:

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small,
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.
Up here in the open* air, I finally can breathe;
I know I left a lot behind, but I’m too relieved to grieve!

*I can’t tell if she’s singing “open” or “cold, thin” here–I prefer “open,” for my purposes. 😉

I so relate to that feeling–that feeling of perspective and being relieved when you let go of your worries and embrace your gifts, as unlikely or troublesome as they might initially seem. ❤

I’ll post my reaction to this movie once I’ve seen it; hopefully, I can see it for my birthday next week (cementing my princess status, I think). I’m hoping the movie will be as good as I’m imagining it to be! 😀

A Song of Beautiful Sorrow: Kung Liljekonvalje & Chicago a Cappella

A week ago, I had the great experience of going to a Chicago a Cappella concert with my mom. I actually won the tickets on WFMT, my favorite classical music station, for answering a quiz question correctly. 🙂

Listen at work.

Click to listen to WFMT streaming.

I’d never really been to an a cappella concert before, save for the ones my friend Kara’s choir sang in high school. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but if WFMT was promoting it, I knew it would be good. I invited my mom to go with me.

Embedded image permalink

My mom and I snapped a picture during intermission. We had such a great time! 🙂
I’m looking a little severe in all black, but let’s just say it’s festive for Halloween season. My mom, of course, looks beautiful as always! ❤

We were blown away immediately. The nine voices of the choir blended together so richly, yet you could still hear individual qualities. We were impressed not only with the immaculate quality of every selection, but also the wide range of genres they chose. Since it was their 20th Anniversary celebration, their theme was “best of” from the last 20 years of their performances.

Chicago a cappella

The musical director gave a short explanation before each piece, just enough to get a sense of the song. While all the songs were fantastic in their own ways, there was one in particular that my mom and I really liked. It was the second one they sang, and we were transfixed by it. The song was in Swedish, but the music was haunting, and with the snippet beforehand, we felt the song just as intensely as if we knew all the words. I even had tears in my eyes.

I wanted to share the translation with you, since I found it so beautiful. The lyrics come from a poem, and apparently, the song has become extremely popular in Sweden.

From the Chicago a Cappella program notes:

David Wikander: Kung Liljekonvalje

This song takes place in a miniature world conjured by a poet’s imagination. Gustav Fröding’s finely-wrought poem creates a single beautiful scene, so complete that it feels like it was cut in whole cloth from a Swedish cousin to JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. (In fact, Fröding and Tolkien both used medieval images and style in their works deliberately, so the kinship is an overt one.) The soaring, plaintive melody and exquisite counterpoint are by David Wikander, a Swedish church musician of the early twentieth century. The piece has carved out such a firm place in Swedish hearts that it is virtually considered to be folk music—a high honor indeed for “composed” music [likely, of the 20th century].

I’m going to post the translation first, since I’m assuming most of my readers speak English over Swedish. 😉 The original lyrics will go after it, though. Please do listen to the audio excerpt available on the Chicago a Cappella website, too; I hope they will include the full version on a CD or MP3 soon.

File:Lily of the Valley (2528553648).jpg

Lily of the Valley (photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

King Lily-of-the Valley

King Lily-of-the-Valley from the grove,
King Lily-of-the-Valley is as white as snow,
now the young king mourns
over Princess Lily-of-the-Valley-Maiden.

King Lily-of-the-Valley, he lowers
his sad head so heavy and weak;
and the silver helmet shines
in the pale summer twilight.

Around the bier, a spider weaves
from the “incense place” with floral scent
an incense [that] slowly flows;
the entire forest is full of fragrance.

From the birch’s rocking crown,
from the wind’s waving green house
small songs of sorrow sound;
the entire forest is filled up with whistling.

A message is whispered through the valley
about a king’s sorrow among whispering leaves,
in the wide kingdoms of the forest,
from the capital of the Lilies-of-the-Valley.

Original Swedish lyrics:

Kung Liljekonvalje av dungen,
kung Liljekonvalje är vit som snö,
nu sörjer unga kungen
prinsessan Liljekonvaljemö. 

Kung Liljekonvalje han sänker
sitt sorgsna huvud så tungt och vekt,
och silverhjälmen blänker
i sommarskymningen blekt. 

Kring bårens spindelvävar
från rökelsekaren med blomsterstoft
en virak sakta svävar,
all skogen är full av doft. 

Från björkens gungande krona,
från vindens vaggande gröna hus
små sorgevisor tona,
all skogen är uppfylld av sus. 

Det susar ett bud genom dälden
om kungssorg bland viskande blad,
i skogens vida välden
från liljekonvaljernas huvudstad.


An accurate selfie of how I’m feeling right now.

Aren’t those lyrics so lovely and haunting? And “haunting” fits the seasonal theme so well; I just had to share them. I think this elegy is a sweet example of how love transcends time and life itself. All of the nature symbolism shows us that the princess isn’t really gone; she is everywhere, in everything. Her people, especially her father, keep her memory alive. ❤

Happy Birthday to You (Two): Ray Bradbury & Claude Debussy

This Thursday marked the birthdays of sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury and impressionistic composer Claude Debussy, two of my favorite artists.

I must confess something truly embarrassing for such a dedicated sci-fi fan like myself: I only recently discovered Bradbury. During my speculative fiction writing class at DePaul, there was one day of our class that everyone was in mourning: Ray Bradbury had passed away. Everyone was really upset, and we spent a portion of class time discussing his influence. I knew the name, but honestly, besides the short story “There Will Come Soft Rains” (a short story excerpt from The Martian Chronicles), I had never read him. I kept quiet, because I sensed this ignorance might very well invalidate my status as a sci-fi fan–but I did add him to my “to read” list.

A few months ago, I finally got around to listening to the audiobook for Fahrenheit 451. Every single person I talked to couldn’t believe I’d never read it before; apparently it’s a high school curriculum staple. I quickly discovered why.

I was so excited when I found one of my favorite books with an intro by one of my favorite authors! Read Gaiman’s touching memorial to Bradbury on his own blog here.

I’m almost not sure where to begin when I talk about how much I love Fahrenheit 451. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. It has a timeless quality to it, seeming more relevant now than when it was published in 1953. The action, plot, and content still cause this classic to be banned even now, let alone in the conservative 50s. But so many important, revolutionary ideas are controversial, and it’s often a badge of honor to be put into that category now.

So why do I love it? I was immediately drawn in from the very first chapter. The language was like candy to me, every word vivid, creative, and evocative. Every image had a purpose, and I found myself longing to jump into the story. I kept rewinding again and again to hear favorite quotes that still stick with me (one of the only inconveniences of audiobooks!). There’s so many good ones, but here is one of my favorites:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

I also love the story on a plot and character level, too. I will try not to be too spoilery, but my favorite parts might give away a little. However, as I seemed to be the last person on the planet to read this book, hopefully it won’t matter. 😉 Montag is an interesting, appealing character, and his development through the course of the book is fascinating. He becomes a righteous, noble, imperfect hero, as lovable for his ideals as his flaws. Yes, so lovable that I still pine for him as a top literary crush.

This is not me but it could be (with Montag).

THIS PARAGRAPH HAS SPOILERS, so skip it if you haven’t read the book yet. The only things I wanted “more” of were some of the other characters, namely, Clarisse. She was one of the most interesting characters in the whole book, yet she had minimal coverage, other than being “ignition” (pun intended) for Montag’s change. I also wanted more of a conclusive ending; I actually thought I was missing a CD from the audiobook when it ended. I felt left hanging, on the brink of the most exciting part yet. However, with what we are given, we can definitely derive an emotion, which I’m sure was Bradbury’s goal: hope. [/END SPOILER]

In my research for this post, I was ECSTATIC to discover there was a sequel of sorts: a video game of the same title, released in 1984, to which Bradbury contributed heavily. Although I doubt a playable version is readily available, this website plays a video walkthrough of the whole game, just over an hour long. I can’t wait to watch! I’m really happy Bradbury worked on this, because otherwise, I don’t think I’d be able to watch it. This book has become so sacred to me that I don’t even trust any movie adaptations to get it right, something I’ve never felt with any other book. It is such an intricate balance of language and emotion and action, glued with wonder, that I feel it’d be easier to spoil than get right. But I will gladly, heartily participate in other levels of fandom:

Fahrenheit 451 T-Shirt

Now, it’s even easier to display my intense admiration of this book, with this treasure I found exclusive to my favorite bookstore, Anderson’s Bookshop.

Google commemorated Debussy’s birthday by dedicating their homepage to him with a beautiful video. When you clicked “play,” the button floated away as a balloon and the song “Clair de Lune” played. A nighttime turn-of-the-century river was the backdrop for the adorable animation of people finding each other, with lights flickering in time to the music. I was captivated. It’s a special song for me, one that my dad and I have always loved. The Washington Post (yes, the newspaper from my previous post) wrote a great article about the video, praising it as a surprising and poignant cinematic direction for team Google Doodles. Although the song has been a favorite of mine for years, TWP taught me of its origins: “Debussy, like fellow French composer Faure, himself found inspiration in a countryman, Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, and his 1869 collection ‘Fetes galantes.’ The poet even seems to beckon musicians with the lyric: ‘Their song blends with the light of the moon.’” Maybe that’s why I’ve always found the song so transfixing; it captures the majesty of the night, ripe with poetry and music (I’ve always been a night owl myself; you can’t time inspiration, I say). It’s interesting to see yet another layer of adaptation added: scenery–>poem–>music–>video, now, all-in-one. Google’s homepage changed at midnight, but luckily, the video has been added to YouTube, and many articles have been written about it.

How lucky we are to have all the great works these talented artists have left behind for us. If you haven’t experienced them yet, I hope you get a chance, soon.

An Epic Kind of Night: “Lord of the Rings” at the Ravinia Festival

Happy Friday, readers! I wanted to tell you about the amazing daddy-daughter date I had last night. ❤

My dad and me pre-concert; cannot contain the excitement!

My excitement often overwhelms any hope of being photogenic in pictures, but such is the curse of a fangirl. (See my confession in my last post.)

Every morning I work, I wake up to Chicago’s classical music station, WFMT, on my radio alarm clock. Earlier this week, I heard an advertisement for an event at the Ravinia Festival: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra would be playing Howard Shore’s soundtrack while screening The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Whoa! Was early-morning grogginess causing auditory hallucinations? Could this meld of my favorite things actually be taking place?

Was there some kind of planetary alignment I was unaware of? (Illustration by EvilOverseer on deviantart)

After checking on their website, I realized it was true!

I’ve been going to the Ravinia Festival with my family since I was little. We’ve seen many fantastic performances there. Ravinia is a unique concert experience, open during the summer near Chicago, where you can hear the music inside their pavilion or out on the lawn. Both options have their merits: The lawn enables you to have a picnic and be more immersed in nature; Ravinia’s sprawling grounds are surrounded by huge trees, which provide a great platform for cicadas and birds to chime in. Inside the pavilion, you get to see the orchestra/performance, and you can hear the music directly, as opposed to amplified through speakers, both of which are difficult on the lawn.

The outside experience at Ravinia

The inside experience at Ravinia

By the time I’d heard about the performance, the pavilion seats were already sold out, so that made the choice easy. I knew immediately whom I would ask to go with me: my dad! We have always geeked out about Lord of the Rings together, texting each other quotes during the day, making important life decisions based on what the characters would do, etc.

You Shall Not Pass gravy meme

My dad also happens to be my classical music buddy, the one who always listens to it, critiques it, and goes to see the concerts with me. So it was a perfect arrangement.

For something this epic, obviously, I had to go all-out.

Boromir knows.

In high school, one of my best friends Kara also frequently obsessed about LOTR with me, to the extent that we made iron-on shirts for our favorite LOTR races. I chose Hobbits, and she chose elves.

I <3 Hobbits shirt

We had to cut out and iron on each letter individually. So worth it.

We had to cut out and iron on each letter individually. So worth it.

I got stopped many times at the concert by people wanting to know about my shirt; I was proud to say my friend and I had made them. You see, I know how much work goes into making clothing/accessories, and I take it as a compliment when people ask me if I’ve made something. Unfortunately, not everyone does, as I learned at the opening night of the Lyric Opera when I asked a lady if she’d made her hat. It had the extreme opposite effect; whoops.

I topped off the shirt with this necklace:

Arwen’s Evenstar

which the ticket guy complimented, as he handed me my ticket, wearing this ring:

Aragorn’s Ring of Barahir

at which point I knew we were entering a festival with other LOTR superfans. This was confirmed when we saw someone dressed in a Gandalf costume. 🙂

When we walked in 1.5 hours prior to the performance, believe it or not, the lawn was already packed. We lucked out in finding a prime spot for viewing, the screen only slightly obstructed by a light pole. Ravinia had fogged for bugs beforehand, which was very nice; we both escaped the night with 0 bug bites, which is positively unheard of for us.

One surprising element I found very fun was the pre-concert entertainment. On the screen, they displayed a live Twitter feed of people Tweeting @RaviniaFestival. This was a great touch, since so many people were there so far in advance of the concert. It was also great marketing, IMHO, because they got tons of new followers and looked super popular with people mass-Tweeting them for hours.

The @RaviniaFestival #LOTR Twitter Stream

Everyone tried to out-humor each other, and many were quite clever. Some particular gems I enjoyed were: “One does not simply park into @RaviniaFestival. Its black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. #LOTR” and “Every time Legolas or Gimli says a number, take that many shots. #drinkinggame”

Mine didn’t make it onto the wall, but I did feel honored that @ChicagoSymphony (Orchestra) “favorited” it: “It’s feeling more crowded than Helm’s Deep here!” with this picture, which was only part of the front lawn section:

To make the night even more fantastic, there was a Lou Malnati’s pizzeria five minutes from the park, which just so happens to be our favorite food ever. My dad and I picked up a veggie pizza for a picnic on our way there.

Ambrosia: Lou Malnati’s veggie pizza

with carrot cake we bought at the festival for dessert. Another favorite!

When the screen changed and the orchestra started playing, everyone cheered and clapped, followed by audience silence–nice. I have to say the audience was wonderful, with no jeering, cursing, or drunken debauchery. The most disruptive it ever got was to whoop whenever Gandalf kicked butt, which we were all doing mentally, anyway.

The set-up was done quite well. The dialogue was toned down and captioned so that the music took the forefront, which was a really neat experience. The performance was flawless–perfectly in time and in tune, with heaps of passion from the orchestra, choirs, and vocal soloist. Even though I own the soundtracks and have listened to them countless times, it almost felt like hearing the music for the first time when I saw the visual scenes the songs matched. The regular movie version plays the music more quietly in the background so that the dialogue takes precedent–makes sense–so you don’t notice the music as much. Shore’s soundtrack is so fantastic that it is standalone, but having the meld of the two together was pretty magical. It was like having insight into the composer and the director’s heads.

It was also neat being an audience member looking in. My high school orchestra played parts of this soundtrack once for a “Pops Concert” we did every year, and it felt so awesome to play violin in this epic music. Combining my love for the story and music with the “performance high” (mentioned in this post) of playing wonderful music on a favorite instrument–it was sublime. Hearing what something like that sounds like on the outside was a different kind of wonderful, too. For the next concert, I definitely want to try to get a pavilion seat, because part of what I love about concerts is seeing the energy of the musicians. I actually found out afterwards that one of my friends from my writing program at DePaul, Angel Barrette Underhill (no relation to Frodo’s pseudonym), was singing in the choir, and that Kara was in the audience, too! What a small world. 🙂

I hope you have a fabulous and epic weekend, readers. In closing this post, let me share the best part of this daddy-daughter date:

Sweet Sounds: Taylor Swift Concert & Pediatric Musical

“Oh my, what a marvelous tune. It was the best night; never would forget how we moved. The whole place was dressed to the nines, and we were dancing, dancing, like we’re made of starlight.” –“Starlight,” Taylor Swift

“Sparks Fly” Photo courtesy of The Agency BR

Last Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity to go see Taylor Swift’s “Red” tour with some of my friends. (The same people from this post.) I wasn’t originally planning to go, because Taylor’s Chicago tour stop was at Soldier Field and I thought the acoustics would be bad. But when my friends told me they had an extra ticket because someone else couldn’t go, I jumped at the chance, realizing Taylor’s concerts are always awesome, and she wouldn’t let the acoustics be bad because she puts such pride into her sound quality. And I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

Taylor Swift on her “Red” tour. Photo courtesy of CBS Local.

You may already know of my Taylor obsession, from several posts I’ve made in reference to her. I’d been to her “Fearless” and “Speak Now” concerts, and I’m so glad I got to go to “Red,” too.

Let me start from the beginning with a brief explanation of my love of Taylor. As you probably know by now, though I try to convey the utmost professionalism on this blog, I cannot hide that at heart, I am an obsessive fangirl. I can’t just “like” something; it’s more like this:

Stephen Colbert “fangirling” on

And when I’m disappointed, it’s like this, for at least a week:

Dr. Who is disappointed on Outspokentoken’s Tumblr

So, you see, I am a certified fangirl of Taylor Swift. Her string of relationships aside (I think she needs to focus on a “steady burn” rather than continual “sparks flying”), I think she is a fantastic role model for girls and women everywhere. She’s not afraid to express herself, advising us all to “speak now” or else we might never get the chance. Sorry for the constant song-title puns, but she’s so quotable. I love that her music is empowering for women, telling us not to embarrassed to be silly, in love, lonely, depressed, giddy, etc.—that the only bad thing you can do is stifle an emotion. She celebrates all the highs and lows of life, teaching us that even sadness can bring a gift: a brilliant song (she’s so jelly-side up!).

For me, what I love most in a song is the lyrics (unless it’s instrumental only!). Though I usually stay away from pop music and thought I hated country, Jennifer introduced me to Taylor Swift with “Love Story.” I resisted at first, but I was hooked. There’s something about the way Taylor captures emotions with words, like a scent in a bottle. It’s always raw and honest.

So now that you understand why I love Taylor, let’s talk about her concerts. “Fearless” and “Speak Now” were both mind-blowing for me, especially the latter. Her performances are very theatrical and engaging for the eyes as well as the ears. I think “Speak Now” is my favorite record of hers, probably because it’s the one that she wrote completely by herself. The songs, and thus the performances, were explosive and dramatic. Although I do love all her records, I think she branched out the most with “Red,” creating an eclectic mix of rock and pop–not so much the fairy-tale country she’s been known for. I was very interested to see how she would make these songs come to life on the stage. 

As I mentioned, I was worried the acoustics would not be good. I’d seen a previous concert in a baseball field, and it was hard to understand the band. (Also a country concert; yes, surprise surprise, it is now my favorite genre, outside of classical/Broadway.) I think a stadium is just not designed for music presentation; the sound goes into the air instead of bouncing off the walls and ceiling in that just-so way. I was very impressed with the results versus my expectations, though. I could understand Taylor, though it wasn’t quite as good as the sound of her previous concerts. I did have to use earplugs occasionally, whereas I didn’t have to in her previous concerts (I have extremely sensitive hearing; it is my blessing-and-curse superpower, like my 24/7 editorial mode.) Usually, though, I had a pretty good warning of when I’d need to insert them. “Chicago,” she said. “Do you know what I’d really like to hear?” *a murmur crescendos through the crowd* “I’d like to hear what 50,000–” *insert plugs* fans screaming for ‘Red’ sounds like!” *50,000 fans scream*

With that level of enthusiasm, with so many tens of thousands of fans, I understand why Taylor chose a stadium for her Chicago show. I’d still give the sound a 7/10, whereas her other concerts would get a 10/10. I’m not putting them on the same scale as a classical concert, of which I’ve been lucky enough to see dozens. For classical concerts, you go to hear the music, crisp, clear, pure. For any other concert, I think you go for the energy, to scream and sing and dance with a community of people who also love the icon you’ve come to see.

And with Taylor, you don’t just see her singing. You see her pouring her heart out with every single word. How she does this night after night on tour is beyond me; I can’t imagine how emotionally draining it would be.

Taylor performing the heartbreaking “All Too Well.” Image courtesy of Lilmissnotperfect’s Tumblr. I wish I could find a more clear photo. Taylor had tears in her eyes explaining to us how sometimes an emotion is just so raw, so painful that all you can do is tell the story of what happened and hope for healing through the telling. I think this makes her a poet more than most musicians. ❤

But it was only a touch of sadness, offset by the glamour of pieces like “Lucky One”:

60s-esque glamour in “Lucky One,” complete with dancers and lots of staging. Image courtesy of

And downright fun in pieces like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”:

The set for this piece included her band dressed as woodland creatures, with Taylor and the dancers dressed in circus attire. Lots of sparkly confetti, a perfect finale for Taylor’s affinity for all things sparkly (another reason I relate to this girl!). Image courtesy of

It was beautiful, all of it. The visuals were outstanding and flawless, just like the music. I can’t help but wonder, though, what visual aspects we were missing by being outside. For most artists this might not matter, but at Taylor’s other concerts, I’ve seen her and dancers hang from the ceiling in different contraptions, snow/confetti fall onto the audience (not just the stage), water pour down onto the stage, pyrotechnics galore, etc. It would be interesting to see this tour at a different venue.

My friends and I had a long but fun day for the festivities. We went downtown early, which was good, because at 2:00 p.m. (7 hours before Taylor was supposed to be onstage), the line to get into the parking lot was already 45 minutes. Luckily, we took the train, which meant less hassle but 6 miles of walking–but it was a beautiful day with fantastic company, so that wasn’t too bad. 🙂 We ate at a local pub before heading to the concert.

Megan, Lindsey, and I from our section as the stadium filled pre-concert. Alex was camera-shy but took a great picture. 😉

We had great seats! The other benefit of being so early was we got to explore the venue and see all the opening acts. Austin Mahone began the night, making us all feel extremely old as the prepubescent girls around us shook from excitement, screaming at the top of their lungs, for this teenage pop star whom we were entirely unfamiliar with. There was a target audience for each of the three opening acts, however, culminating with Taylor’s duet partner, Ed Sheeran, whose music was decidedly more adult.

Taylor played for almost two hours, which was quite impressive. We were delighted, exhausted, and a mix of silly and silent on the train ride home, having already tired our voices and energy out with extreme dancing and singing at the concerts. We had to show the eight-year-olds how it’s done. SO, I love Taylor more than ever and can’t wait to see her next tour! ❤

Another review in the news, if you’re curious to read.

In other musical performance news, I got to see the most adorable musical tonight. Several of our pediatric patients at Marianjoy put on a performance of “E-I-E-I-Oops,” under the direction of several of our therapists and volunteers. It’s a story about a cow who can’t “moo,” and the other barnyard animals try to help him find his voice. It’s adorable, and the kids did a wonderful job.

Image courtesy of

I got to see many of the same kids in the performance last year, and it’s wonderful to see how much they’ve grown and blossomed. I love that Marianjoy gives them a stage on which to shine; I think it helps them build their confidence for life outside of Marianjoy, too. It’s one of the staff’s favorite events all year; seeing such lovable results reminds us how important and fruitful all our hard work is.