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April 8 – eustress or distress?

Nothing new on the weather front. About +7, i.e. pretty warm (we had +7 a couple of midsummers ago, that is around June 21…)

Today is the Petraloysio concert, after which I hop on a plane and head for Lapland for two concerts with CCF (the choir of the Finnish Lutheran cantors). I feel stressed. Even though I believe the concert this evening will be fine and I always have a lovely time with CCF. But I guess stress isn’t exactly a rational strategy or a voluntary reaction.

What does is it feel like? It is difficult to relax, my pulse is probably a little higher than usual and my mind is constantly hopping from one thing to another, and especially to what should be done next. It’s pretty clear that my mind and body are in a some kind of state of overdrive, prepared for extraordinary challenges.

I came across the concepts of eustress and distress while thinking about these things. Simply put, eustress is the positive side of stress; the side that helps us overcome demanding situations. And distress the permanent feeling of agitation, which is not directed at a specific situation. Feeling agitated, restless and edgy before a big concert is eustress, lying awake at night thinking about undone things the latter.

What I feel now is probably somewhere in between. For me, the burdening thing is having many simultaneous big challenges hanging over me – this causes a feeling of being in sufficient, of not being able to take care of everything I should. Conductors tend to some extent be control freaks and I am no exception. And when there is too much out of control or too much to control, I react with stress.

It is not all that serious. I suppose I am pretty good at dealing with this feeling, even if I don’t like it. And it always helps when you can get down to the music-making – at least then I have the chance to make a difference.


After the Petraloysio concert (at the airport). The concert went well, many of the pieces actually were better than in any preceding rehearsal. And it is wonderful music (all from the Medici Codex of 1518), even if it is devilishly difficult for the simple reason that there are so many notes and it is 90% polyphonic. A small lapse in concentration and you find yourself lost. But there fortunately was little of that and some passages really took off (my way of evaluating Renaissance music performances…). And my stress levels dropped about 252%; singing works miracles.

The audience, was Paul Hillier once put it, small but appreciative. With Petraloysio (we were eight singers, mostly two per part), I run everything. My energy is sufficient for the artistic stuff, but administration and marketing tends to be somewhere pretty far down on my to-do list. Ergo, I was happy that at least some people had heard of the concert and made their way to the (fairly spacious) church. I know I should arrange the administration and outsource, but that also is somewhere in the nether parts of my long to-do list.

And now the small matter of moving myself 800 km northwards. I should be flying into pretty much perfect late winter. How that works out, you will hear from me here tomorrow.

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