music and mediterranean food

Here in the Frels household, music reigns supreme.

Anyone who has ever met us can attest that we both consider ourselves to be music nerds of the most exclusive variety. My nerd label mostly comes in the form of degrees and careers: I’ve been a pianist and a choir member since I can remember and even pursued a career in arts management just so I could fight for [and be around] the art form as much as possible.

Jason, on the other hand, is what I would call an “organically grown” music nerd—the kind whose music immersion is already so sound that he doesn’t need a career or degree to prove his appreciation. His entire family is musical, obsessed with all things symphonic and opera and blessed with a particular affinity for oboes, pianos, and trumpets. My years of classical training pale in comparison to their innate yet humble talent.


Jason practicing his trumpet at home

The story goes: on our first date, Jason casually mentioned on the drive to dinner that he was a descendant of Schoenberg, the person I just so happened to be writing my thesis about at the time. Let’s just say he secured his second date right then and there, no questions asked.

I’ve always loved this about Jason… that despite being a scientist and realist, he has just as much [if not more] appreciation for the transformative power of music as I do. It’s molded our lives as individuals, and it now plays a huge part in our marriage.

Whether it’s the Saturday matinee broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, the blues guitar slides of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the newest Broadway musical soundtrack, the latest list of NPR’s All Songs Considered indie favs, one of my dad’s old country vinyls, or the local public radio jazz station – music always playing in our house.

stevie ray vaughn

Jason and Stevie… a match made in heaven

But within the last couple of weeks, two major life events have caused our home repertoire to undergo a seismic upgrade:

  1. We became proud piano owners!
  2. Jason joined a choir.

Owning a piano has long been on our list of “adulthood goals” and now, we find ourselves sitting at it and plucking away at what we once thought were long-lost melodies, from Debussy favorites to the X-Files theme song.

piano owners

The second life event—Jason’s new choir—is somewhat of a baffling curve ball. Here we are, already singing in our church’s choir, when Jason stumbles upon Vittoria Ensemble, a chamber group specializing Renaissance Polyphony, Gregorian Chant, and even 21st century sacred standards. This is the kind of choir where half of the members own tuning forks and analyses like “F dorian” are frequently thrown around. These, in a word, are Jason’s people.

vittoria ensemble

Vittoria Ensemble at one of their recent concerts. 

You might wonder why, as a lifelong choir kid, I didn’t opt to join him on this musical journey. Well, first of all, I’m already in a choir [our church choir], and second of all, I place immense value on my Thursday night freedom.

Which means that the tables have officially turned: Jason is the performer, and I am the audience member. It’s a strange place to be after so many years of role reversal, but nothing compares to witnessing Jason’s joy and enthusiasm of diving into such niche subjects as the Latin language and chant annotations. [It’s pretty adorable.]

The last couple of weeks have been filled with his summer performances and have thus provided us with every excuse in the book to gather with friends for pre-concert drinks and appetizers. This weekend’s performance was particularly special, as it served as the final installment of Vittoria Ensemble’s summer series and allowed us to host a few lovely friends before walking over to the concert venue: our church next door.

It’s been a humbling experience to see our friends support Jason in what is certainly a very rare choral art form. The music isn’t for everybody, but those who experience it firsthand are likely to get a few harmonically imposed chills, as well as a food-related gesture of appreciation from us.

To thank them and to celebrate Jason, we served up a Mediterranean inspired antipasti spread full of homemade crusty bread, olives, cured meats, cheese, stuffed grape leaves, and an easy Mediterranean salad — the type of food that doesn’t necessary require plates and caters to more conversation than chewing. [It’s our favorite kind of spread, if we’re being completely honest.]

mediterranean mediterranean

So to those who attended one of his many concerts: THANK YOU. Your unwavering friendship and willingness to experience something completely different yet insanely beautiful is the biggest gift of all. And for those who missed the summer concerts, don’t worry — the November performances will be here before you know it!

In the meantime, here is the recipe for the super easy Mediterranean Salad that we prepared for our pre-show gathering. We hope that you appreciate the food, but more importantly, that you never stop enjoying the music.


Easy Mediterranean Salad


  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, quartered, and sliced
  • 5 – 6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/3 large red onion
  • 1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 Tbs. white vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prep vegetables and combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl.
  2. Let chill for 1 hour before serving.

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