• Wow, you should do this for a living

    Singer-People... seriously... How many times for real has someone told you that you need to be singing in "Phantom," or whatever?

    I can understand that this happens. But is it often enough to repost the #10thingstoneversaytoasinger every fortnight?

    I mean... if I had more people coming up to tell me that:

    A) I'd have so MANY wicked replies at the ready

    B) maybe I'd think about auditioning for Phantom.

    But hardly ever like insanely rarely has anyone ever come up to me and said that. Most times these days it's on our the performers' shoulders to break the ice. That's a real skill because I find most people have more in common with Phantom than with say, Norma... much less Wozzek. 

    Our job is not only to carry off the story on stage, but also to remain a genial host after the show.   

    It's a challenge for me because, no matter what anyone thinks, I really am a shy person. I have to push through my introspective self and make myself available to people. The more performances of mine people go to the more we ALL learn about each other. 

    We get get to know the repertoire together and explore together as both audience and performer. I think it's important to have rapport, to share a confidence, to laugh with ... whatever it is. The time in the theater whether it be backstage or on it or after the show at a reception, these times are sacred and special. 

    Maybe ill audition for Phantom. Personally, I'll take Jean Valjean. ;)

  • Twist & Shout

    Twist & Shout

    "Life moves pretty fast..."

    Indeed it does. Or it seems to move pretty fast.

    Things, stagnant for years, finally took its collective toll on me. I woke up and decided to take extraordinary measures, to do something about it, change my life.

    An early midlife crisis. People on the stage don't get a real midlife, we get "mid-career."

    Mid-career. Car ear. Careeeeer. 

    It was an ugly phrase when it was first laid upon my ears, referring to me, as, where I truly was. I mean, even as a student, I'd considered myself in my career. I'd been singing professionally all the way through... singing paid for my education. 

    But, even while I was in the midst of my budding career, I was still regarded as a student, a young artist and finally an artist. Then they threw in the mid-career artist. It's like someone see's your expiration date. I hadn't reached my potential and already I was on the other side of my youthful dreams of HAVING a career! I KNOW you know what I mean.

    It wasn't just my career, my life, my ideals became guidelines rather than absolutes, money was insanely tight. Even less than tight, really. Options were scarce. Retiring for "corporate job" entered into my head. My dream and unshakeable work ethic was pushed to the limit. For years carrying the light... to JUST SING ...

    My dreams weren't dreaming me anymore. 

    This crush took a lot of time. A decade for the settling to commence. After five albums, thousands of performances, weddings, funerals, television... I sang at The Met. Things, dreams I'd never had I got to do. I saw sights great architecture, worked with great artists, sang in world premieres... I was thinking well maybe it'd be okay. They couldn't take what I have done away from me.

    Hm. Mid-career. My ideals are more than youthful theories. My ideas are supported by years of experience and research. I am certainly more canny... but I'm more grateful for what I have, consequently the advantages people take of me are more a gift than annoyance.

    I awoke from my pity party and got to work. I relearned how to sing, reworked my musicality, my attitude and shifted my life to allow for things to HAPPEN. 

    And now they are happening. In a big way. All of a sudden. It's not that I'm at The Met or anything. But more than anything, I am working.

    I didn't care about the fame or noteriety... Fame is a poo-throwing monkey on your back. It's fun and funny when things go well, but when the fun stops, there's prob'bly a little bit o' turd on your face. Just a wee bit.

    SO just starting to work regularly is starting a revelation. The freakish amount of debt I have for school and (artistically successful) productions are on the verge of even being addressed. 

    I'm feeling a bit reborn. 

    Tonight Im singing with my favorite soprano in a town I dreamed of being in for most of my life. 

    Screw the lobster bisque! It's time to Twist & Shout!

  • So Many New Operas

    An Awesome article by columnist Anne Midgette about the state of Opera these days. The piece is two years old, so new pieces have been added to the list. How many? Dunno. I estimate about 35 new works a year.

    Thirty five... produced. In this particular Washington Post article there are over seventy!

    Opera is a weird bird, man. I mean, the opera world. You look across the great spectrum of music performance being created and one would think that for live music, musical theater is the genre getting the breaks, but hold on a second. There is a thriving world of opera music out there that the general populace misses, and then bags on it when hey hear a snippet.

    It's not that the museum pieces need not be produced. Think about it. If you go to a proper museum, there are several wings, each with a different era or collection emphasis. Or go to a number of galleries. Each gallery has it's own emphasis. The vastness of collected memories and thoughts across the globe is staggering. 

    The number of musical venues is also staggering and they are not all rock clubs and halls. There are jobs here. Work to propel us across the universe. From composers to singers, players and ticket sellers... it's a pretty heady time. And for opera, I mean It's not staggering, but the work is substantial.

    Some pieces will pop out and last and others will ebb and flow over time, with some subject or news tossing a title to the stage now and again. So interesting to see how it goes. I'm so interested in being a part of it.

    from Anna Nicole  by Mark-Anthony Turnage

    from The Emperor of Atlantis by Viktor Ullmann with a libretto by Peter Kien

  • Badly Explain Your Profession

    I make loud sounds with my voice. Sometimes I use a microphonic amplification device to make softer sounds I make with that voice, louder.
    Apparently a lot of people like this.
    Attributed to Radio Announcer Michael Byars - Who tells people what people tell him to tell people.
  • Not perfect @ the JOBB

    A new colleague of mine after we had worked a 30top party (top is slang for thirty people) had a great observation. Some people are just unhappy with what you do and there's nothing you can do about it. I cant even think about it. It's out of my mind. One person was really mad at us and the rest had a great time.
    Training at the restaurant has been a robust challenge for me. I have had exactly two JOBBs in like fifteen years. This is one of them. I love the prospect of it, don't get me wrong. It's going to help me pay my rent and be a kind of place where folks can find me. I can also work on some of my singing rep there.
    I took about three tables after the 30top. I had it mostly handled, but made some errors. Came too late to a table to fill their drinks with any decorum. They had to ask... one of my serving pet-peeves. and THEN I woke up last night with the thought,

    "NO ICE in the Pepsi!"

    I gave a guest ice when they asked for none and forgot.... until it woke me up five hours later. Mom, I also remembered the name of that commedian (Jim Gaffigan). Fortunately those two mistakes were fielded with grace by my guests. OH, and I knocked a couple pieces of pizza off the tray and had to bring out a new pie with two few slices. We comped them a new pizza... I was my second evening to have tables since like, the early 2000's. I know what I want to do. I know what I have to do. I'm just not there yet. 

    Certainly it is a reflection on me and my capabilities. 
    But am I ashamed that I'm not the best restaurant server? Well, only somewhat. Only to the extent that I am motivated to be excellent. I am grateful to my colleagues and staff for affording me time to get better. Serving tables should be like performing a role. It must become second nature. ANd it will. There are only just so many buttons to push, only so many times when I get my process and procedure down, only so many people's names to learn.
    BelCanto singing is like this. Once you learn a run, you will see that figure in other works and you will automatically know it. You just have to learn it right, or having to RELEARN a figure is like reading the Terms of Service contract every website has. 
    These tasks, waiting tables, singing BelCanto, tyeing a suture, for you health service people, all take time to learn to do properly. Some people get it immediately and with others, like me, it takes a while. In the end though, I get it. And I'm not saying i just get it, I GET it. I inhabit it. 
    Until then I rely upon the good-will of friends, colleagues and strangers to have the grace to allow me my mistakes. And if not, I will put that ill-will out of my head and move on. There was nothing for me there anyway.
  • Sturgill Simpson's Country Throwback

    Today... Tomorrow... Time is not just an endless stream for me. Time is explosions and collisions of people coming together and tearing apart and coming together again.
    I'm listening to the Sturgill Simpson newest record. If I were not sick to death of the alt-folk-bluegrass-country vibe that is ubiquitous everywhere, this would be a great record... for a throwback Red Dirt country Outlaw lover.
    I remember way-back riding around in our little toyota corona's back seat, my dad forcing this type of janky country music through the speakers and me screaming bloody murder to turn it off.
    Any of you heard Willie Nelson's Skylark? Now THAT's a rare death of the soul... that I secretly played until the chorme wore off the tape. With two working parents (for a time) I had free reign of the contents of our household after school. Mostly I watched TV... because invariably I was grounded from watching tv, because I watched too much tv and didn't get my homework done... or whatever.
    I was an Outlaw Country listener. Waylon, Willie, Colter blah blah, seriously I can barely make myself write this, the top songs and performers got so overplayed. after a while. The movement died off, they died or retired or smoked themselves into irrevalance. New country replaced the serious twang and the public eye of popular alt culture moved on to some other perjorative genre to appropriate and vampyre off of.
    Fast forward to the hipster revolution... 
    I don't know. Being an original hipster, singing music that nobody's heard of and performing it in rock clubs etc. I gotta say we kinda missed the mark. I mean, musically, it's cool to go back and reignite these very specific genre-based mid to late 20th century musical memes. It beats having to listen to tone rows from Webern. OR DOES IT(?) Actually, maybe it fucking doesn't. 
    My whole point in this stream of conciousness blurt is that I'm tired of people bringing back stuff and having it be a kind of plastic mannequin display of it. Sturgis' new record, for all of the really powerful sound and appropriate sounding vocals, misses some of the grit. Scrubs it clean.
    It's not that it isn't there, it's just that it uses someone else's voice. We know how hard it is to live out there these days. It hasn't gotten easier! Where's the real pain? It's pretty. It's thoughtfilled. But it is like our filigried lifestyle we have now. Too ostentations for where we really are. Optimistic grunge.
  • Folia Folia Folia

    i'm outside with a little fire and a coffee listening to Folias as the cars roll by on Sunset Blvd.

    So the academic class we are taking with the Great Robert Winter dictates that we listen to and understand the shapes and forms of music... oh and that we Fall in Love With Music. I'm listing to music. Amazing music. It's mind-blowing.

     The Folia is a Portuguese and Spanish style in the Theme and Variations form. Its 15th century early character is lively, sometimes very frantic and can also be seductive and slow. 

    The entire form is ten measures long consisting of six measures with a two bar coda at the end, used to either return to the top (da capo or the head) or end the performance after a number of sung verses or variations in the same key. This is your blueprint. The relative minor to the major fifth and then swiinging through the relative minor tonic to the relative major and then recapping with the dominant and the tonic at the end.

     Dm - A - Dm - C - F - C - Dm - A - (Dm)

    i - V - i - VI - III - VI - i - V - (i)

    The very distinctive thing about the Folia after it's incessant repeats is the ground bass. You can follow along to this very solid pattern 99.9% of the time with it. Check out the example pictured here from Judith Nagley of the Grove, Oxford Dictionary of Music. 

    Big names for this style are Vivaldi, Marais, Caccini, Frescobaldi, CPE Bach... 

    *Especially remarkable in this collection is the MUSICA NARRANS baroque ensemble. This is how to shoot a classical video... and mic it too, and pick either an amaze/ location or a great reverb patch (ha!).  It's a pretty remarkable cast and crew.

    I wanted to draw your attention to The Liszt 1863 "Rhapsodie espagnole pour piano S254 R90" played by Xiangdong Kong. It is particularly captivating and gives a real semblance of how a then-modern went about paying tribute to a 200plus year old style.

    With such a dominating form, you can really hear Liszt's composition language shine through in his typical bravura virtuosic fashion. Not that Liszt is anywhere near typical, mind you. 

    It's really fun in the beginning of the work. I think to myself, "Wait, where's the Ground Bass?" It is hidden. In what is-from the audience perspective-a blazing number of measures starting with a metallic A major fortissimo BANG on the keyboard (1:31 in the video), in the score is nine measures of the form. Liszt rhapsodizes on measure nine  going from A to F#m - E  F#m E  A F7 A F+  Dm6  Bb A B#m D C7 Gm7 E7. And then as your confusion rises, questioning whet her or not this its really a Folia, he drops the pretense in two seemingly inconsequential C#'s. But AHA! It is that tonic minor that starts the epic ground bass. After that, itsz off to the races following where Liszt goes in the consequent variations of the form.

    At last, what sounds like a typical Romantic period piece can now be seen as the robust interpretation of an historical form, The Folia!