Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The reviews are in.

Hey, it's my blog, started because people wanted to know how I felt about performing my first lead. (And no, I won't tell you who they are or where they live.) This is still new enough to me that the novelty has yet to wear off. A few folks who "reviewed" the Summer Sing I attended had this to say about my performance (extracted from their comments on the day as a whole):

"I finally had the chance to listen to Maureen, as a well-meaning Melissa with a round and mellow voice."

"Maureen as Melissa (with gilded toy axe!) deftly managed her mood shift in 'Death to the Invader/PleaseYou, Do Not Hurt Us' "

"I thought you did a great job with Melissa all the way! I especially loved the way you handled my favorite part, the "please, sir, do not hurt us" section, into that transition for the reprise of Death to the Invader. And good on you, as the Aussies say, for going for the high G--it was solid and sounded great!!"

I'm particularly chuffed, as the British might say, about that comment about my high G; nice to know the note I was so worried about came off so well.

Let's see, where was I...

Ah yes, singing G&S with a roomful of G&S fans. Did I mention yet how much fun it was? Our hostess did an impressive job - even had binders for each of us with copies of the individual choruses and finales from the shows we weren't singing in toto, so that no one had to schlep a dozen vocal scores. She even let us keep them. A also had nametags, a "program" listing who was singing the principal lines for the various shows and excerpts, a separate listing of participants, their points of origin, even their home company or companies where applicable (e.g., WS Gilbert, London, The Savoy Company). A. really did a bang-up job of organizing the whole thing; I hope I can do half as well when I manage to try putting one of these together!

Anyway, back to the singing: After Princess Ida we sang the Act I and II finales from HMS Pinafore, then our next full show: Trial by Jury. Trial was a great deal of fun, in large part due to the unabashed mugging of the Learned Judge, who flirted with any female within range, and the way V literally threw herself into the role of the Plaintiff, flinging herself quite literally at the Defendant, clinging to his leg as he dragged her across the floor in his attempts to escape her importuning. Oh, and everyone sang well, too. :)

We sang two more Act I finales, from Yeomen of the Guard and Iolanthe. More exhilarating Sullivan choruses to sing, though I was disappointed in myself at how much I'd forgotten since doing these shows. ("Ah, but recently?" "Oh no, years and years ago.") Guess I'll just have to get into more of these productions to remind myself of the music. ;)

On to our last "full" show (all the music but none of the dialogue) of the day: Utopia, Ltd., the 13th of Gilbert & Sullivan's 14 collaborations. I've done a cut-and-doctored production of this show about 5 years ago. While I feel it's deservedly obscure, it does have its moments. In this case, some of those moments came from the performers. Most of the soloists had done solo turns earlier in the day, a few were reprising roles they'd performed when Savoynet put together a production of Utopia for the Int'l G&S Festival in England a few years ago. But far and away the delightful surprise of the day for me was the young lady singing Nekaya (w/ the newly-returned-from-Buxton R as her twin sister Kalyba). S is a 10-year-old with a beautifully clear soprano who's going to be a show-stopper when her voice develops. She was also a charming performer, working beautifully with her "sister" R on their duets. Their bits of "business" were largely ad-libbed and almost completely stage-worthy.

We closed, an hour late (but is it really possible to have too much music?), with the Act II finale from The Gondoliers. We were all fading by then, 8 hours after the first note, but the day still managed to "leave [us] with feelings of pleasure".

Seeing familiar faces and meeting new folks are as important a part of these events as the singing, and I was glad of the opportunity to match faces with names I knew only from Savoynet (http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/savoynet/), to hear them sing and watch them perform at last, and in some cases to work with them. These events seem to be proliferating - I think there have been 7 or 8 up and down the East Coast (from Maine to Florida) this year - so if this sounds like your idea of fun, keep an eye on Savoynet for the announcement of the next one. I know there's one on Nantucket the weekend after Labor Day, though I don't know whether it's full.

It's a girl!

I've been waiting and worrying for several months about my sister's first little one. J was safely delivered of a beautiful baby girl last Tuesday. It was a C-section, so no conehead baby, but mother & daughter are both doing well. Little Girl is our parents' 9th surviving grandchild but a first grandbaby for her daddy's parents, who I'm told are absolutely over the moon about their new status as grandparents.

My oldest niece is thrilled to have another girl cousin and apparently also delighted to learn that she & her new cousin share a middle name.

Thanks to modern electronics, we already have at least a dozen photos of the newest addition to the family. Now to start lobbying my other siblings for current pictures of the rest of my nieces & nephews for the multi-photo frame I have at work...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

All but perfection

Ah yes, spending a day singing Sullivan's gratifying music with about 70 like-minded individuals - what could be better? Well, if TW were similarly inclined, and therefore willing to go with me, that would have been better. As it was, he stayed home and puttered - house cleaning, second-coating the front door, etc. It also would have been better if I'd had more time to go over the choruses; I found far too many places I didn't remember. Ah well, I still got to sing myself silly, which is why I went.

We were gathered in an empty office space. The low acoustic ceiling and commercial carpet weren't great for the acoustics, but there was plenty of room for all of us, our semi-circle of chairs, tables at one end for food and drink, and a space in the semi-circle for the keyboard and soloists, who were occasionally rather numerous (as many as 7 or 8).

"And how did the singing go?" I'm glad you asked! (Relax: I won't attempt a full review because this entry would be three times as long as it already is and, more importantly, I'd be sure to overlook someone.) We opened with 2 choruses from The Mikado: "If you want to know who we are" and "Comes a train of little ladies". Having just done Mikado, these were very easy and a great way to dive into the day's vast, inviting pool of G&S.

We then went on to the double chorus "In a doleful train" from Patience. "What's a double chorus?" That's when Gilbert has the men's and women's choruses singing different things - in this case, the women mooning about over a romantic poet and the men upset at being neglected by their onetime ladyfriends - and Sullivan sets the texts to different melodies and - here's what makes these so difficult and rewarding to sing - at different tempos or meters (in this case, the women are singing solemn half notes while the men are expostulating in outraged eighth notes). You know you're in a room of folks experienced in G&S when you can run through such a number without rehearsal and the group as a whole manages to finish together without a train wreck or even a near miss.

Perhaps in tribute to Savoynet's August 9th production of Iolanthe at the International G&S festival, our gracious hostess then let us all sing the March of the Peers (women could sing along if we behaved ourselves and sang in the men's register; easy for the altos & mezzos, not really an option for the sopranos, poor things). I've always loved that one - another exhilarating Sullivan chorus! (The man really wrote some of the most gratifying-to-the-singer choruses it's ever been my pleasure to sing.)

Next up: the first full (musically - no dialogue) work of the day - The Pirates of Penzance. This one has long been one of my favorites, and my friend D (she & her husband were my traveling companions for the weekend) was singing Kate. She was nervous, not having attended these things before nor sung the role before, but she did just fine. Being familiar with the show, she was also able to do a bit of acting. D and I became friends while singing together in the alto section of many a chorus, so I'm just a bit biased, but I thought she did a fine job. Also in Pirates, I got to hear W's lovely, lyric mezzo as Ruth. I knew her only from Savoynet, so I was glad of the chance to hear her in person, as well as to see her in action. E was a delightfully over-the-top Mabel, mugging fit to beat the band and popping out shamelessly high cadenzas with wild abandon. Her interplay with the tenor playing Frederic was great fun to watch, and they were both obviously having a great deal of fun. Yet they were completely capable of being serious; their "Ah, leave me not to pine" was probably the most moving piece of the day, all the more remarkable for the fact that they'd never laid eyes on each other before that morning. The Sergeant of Police was a true bass, with wonderfully rumbly low notes; the first time he hit one, Mabel abandoned Fred and fluttered at the Sergeant! :) My only problem w/ Pirates was that, in my eagerness, I had foolishly oversung and my throat was already feeling the strain. Not at all good, given that Princess Ida, up next after the lunch break, was the one with "my" music in it, and of course there was still plenty and plenty of singing to follow that!

Apparently the lunch break was sufficiently restful, as I wasn't noticing any vocal problems when we resumed. My first, very brief solo line as Melissa ("Pray, what authors should she read who in classics would succeed?" - that's the whole thing) may have been a bit shaky from nerves, and the fact that the personwho was supposed to sing Psyche, who was supposed to answer my sung question, wasn't there. F jumped in to cover Psyche, which helped immensely thereafter, as Psyche has a lot of music to sing. F either knows Ida well or is an excellent sightreader, as this seemed to give her no trouble. My next set involved a quintet and a duet back to back. The quintet, which A had warned me about because it was so easy to accelerate during the refrain, went well. A told me later that the 3 of us originally scheduled to be singing it did a good job of "anchoring" it for F and one of the men, who were last-minute substitutions and therefore hadn't had time to prepare. At any rate, while I had my nose in my score far more than I would have liked, I was able to interact with the men on either side of me when I wasn't singing, which was fun. I had taken my hair out of its ponytail for Ida (long hair just seemed to suit Melissa) and J, who was singing Melissa's mother, Lady Blanche, decided to let down her own, which is about as long, to heighten the "family" resemblance. The funny thing about that is that "my mother" is only a year older than I am. The duet, which I'd had fun singing w/ K in my voice lessons, went well, though both of us agreed later that we wished we'd had time to practice a bit together. The one piece I was worried about was "Death to the invader". The chorus sings, then Melissa has a verse (with chorus response), then the chorus finishes. Melissa's verse is written with both a high and a low option. I wanted to take the high road, so to speak, but having oversung by lunchtime, I was not exactly optimistic. However. By the time we got to that song, I was re-warmed up after lunch, and by the end of the verse I had enough of a running start that I decided to go for it. Never underestimate the power of adrenaline! :) It felt good, not screechy or strained, and I'm told it sounded "great"! This was the one number I knew well enough to do without my score (I'd sung it in the chorus several times), so I was able to "perform" it, not just sing it. At the end of my last voice lesson, K had dug thru her props collection and come up with a squishy plastic battleaxe, which I used to (I hope) good effect. If nothing else, it helped me with the switch when Melissa shifts from "Death to the invader!" to "Please you, do not hurt us!" Along with F singing Psyche on the fly, special kudos to R, barely off the plane from the Int'l G&S festival in England, where she'd sung Phyllis in Savoynet's Iolanthe less than 48 hours before, who sang the eponymous Princess Ida, and did it beautifully - wonderful voice, excellent emotion, not a trace of jetlag!

And K's battleaxe saw more action than I'd expected. I almost didn't pack it, thinking it silly to pack it for one number, but I'm glad I put it back in the suitcase. When Ruth and the Pirate King were trying to threaten Frederic empty-handed, I handed the weapon to Ruth. In Ida, one of Ida's three brothers used it for one or two of their songs, and of course I used it for "Death to the invader". Thanks, K!

To be continued...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"Adventures in Babysitting"

From one of the blogs I follow: http://www.livejournal.com/users/thirdbase/

Before you go to the link, you need to know that the children's parents are both theatrical people, as is the babysitter. I'd've paid good money to see that show!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bad news travels in packs.

Last night wasn't one of the better ones. I got home from a wonderful time singing myself silly in NJ and started checking e-mail, from which I learned that:
  • R's mom had been moved into the ICU because her breathing problems were getting worse;
  • L wouldn't be able to have lunch w/ TW after all because he had to make an emergency trip to NJ to take care of an elderly aunt who'd had a bad fall.

But wait, there's more. Called my parents and Dad noted that his back (on which he had two major corrective surgeries last year) was hurting like (expletive deleted) and he was thinking about having the doc up his pain meds. Dad has a very high pain threshold, so he must really have been hurting!

Then TW talked to his brother and learned that he thinks their mom might be having some mini-strokes, as she seemed to think she was back teaching again, so P was going to take her to the doctor today. When we talked to her later last night she sounded OK, but I'll feel better when we know what the doctor said.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The dust has settled.

Or perhaps I should say the trench has been filled back in, the daylilies replanted (not where they were before, but no matter), and grass seed laid down and covered with a generous bed of straw. I had to water the stuff Friday so it wouldn't completely dry out in the summer heat, but we've had enough rain since then that I haven't needed to water it again. They warned us it could take upwards of four months for the dirt to settle back in, so we probably won't replace that torn-up section of walk until spring. TW's already talking about going with paving stones instead of concrete, which sounds good to me.

I should be packing. My friends are coming to collect me around 2 p.m. tomorrow to head off to to NJ to spend most of Saturday singing to our hearts' content. I just pulled a double batch of brownies out of the oven; that's going as my "contribution to the cause". It won't feed all of us, but it'll add to the festive air. (Hershey's Triple Chocolate brownie mix, bought at Sam's - awesome stuff, much better than the Ghirardelli's brownie mix, which I found rather disappointing.) My scores are already in my suitcase, along with my Savoynet T-shirt, but I still have to pack the boring stuff - toiletries, PJs, etc. I also need to set aside the provisions for the drive: a bottle of wine for tomorrow night, bottles of water, munchies, etc.

This is going to be fun. I always enjoy singing Sullivan's music, and I love singing in groups, the bigger the better. Singing G&S with 70 or 80 people is going to be quite a thrill! We'll get to cut up, renew old acquaintances and make new ones, wish our gracious hostess a happy birthday - this is gonna be one heck of an all-day party!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

It could have been worse...

Yesterday was a bad news/good news day with the plumber. The bad news: the estimate did not include the cost (think 3 or 4 car payments) of replacing the original, galvanized-steel water service pipe from the house out to the street. The good news: they were able to do everything from outside. In other words, they didn't have to break up any of the concrete basement floor, so no concrete dust all over the house - hooray!

I got lots of pictures of the trench. Interestingly, they dug up the two huge clumps of daylilies that were in the line of fire and placed them out of harm's way and also were careful to pile up the dirt so it didn't engulf one of the little boxwoods in the front yard. I had offered some of the daylilies to our next-door neighbor because that double clump has so very many, but admitted that I didn't know what time of year you're supposed to separate them. When we were talking this evening, we joked that "well, I guess we're separating 'em now!" Another side benefit of all this trenching is that the stump of the tree the daylilies surrounded is now history, as is the stump of another, smaller tree we had to cut down last year.

The guys were very careful about the daylilies but those impatiens I planted back in June are a lost cause. The guys who installed the neighbors' fence didn't exactly work around them, and the plumbing work pretty much finished them off. This was obviously not the year to plant anything in that bed!

After two days' work, the job is nearly done. All that remains is to cement the hole through the foundation where the pipes leave the house, have the inspectors give their approval, and fill in the trench. Oh, and pay for the whole mess. Which didn't quite come to 5 figures, but still would have paid for a very nice vacation indeed!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Starting to get excited...

When I mentioned to my voice teacher at my lesson yesterday that I'd decided not to audition for Company, along with the reasons, she commented that it was very "self-aware" of me to make such a decision, "And I mean that in a good way, of course." :) And since I'm not prepping audition pieces, we were able to spend the whole lesson working on my music for A's Summer Sing in NJ just 11 days from now.

I'm really starting to get excited about the Summer Sing. The other day I pulled out all the vocal scores I'll need to take with me. Although we're doing the complete music from only 4 G&S shows, we're also doing selections from 7 others. I had thought I'd just xerox the excerpts and put them into a single binder, but when I realized how much that would end up costing and how long it would take (the Iolanthe Act I finale alone runs 55 pages!), I decided lugging the scores around wouldn't be so bad after all. We'll be singing from late morning until evening, after which many of us will descend on a local eatery and likely subject the unsuspecting staff and customers to a bit more singing. Boy, will we be warmed up by then!

This will be only the third one of these I've ever attended; the last was 5 or 6 years ago. It will also be my first solo outing at such an event. I tried singing Pitti-Sing (IIRC) at the first one I attended, 8 years ago, but not being much of a sightreader, that didn't really work too well. This time will be better: I've now worked "my" music in 3 lessons, and have several years of voice lessons under my belt, so I'm in much better vocal shape now.

In such informal settings, it's perfectly OK for the women to sing along w/ the men's chorus and vice versa, to make all the punny, silly or smart-alecky comments you could never get away with in a performance situation, to mug and make melodramatic gestures; in short, to have a grand time in a room full of people of a similar bent. This is gonna be so much fun!

I'll be traveling with a fellow mezzo & her husband and won't be the least bit surprised if she and I end up singing all the way up, reviewing our respective solo turns and reminding each other of the alto lines in the choruses. Good thing her husband likes to sing along; that'll make it easier for him to put up with the two of us. TW, on the other hand, is completely and utterly not interested in any of these proceedings, so he'll be spending that weekend at the cabin, or working on the shed, or perhaps drooling over his woodworking books and magazines, designing and redesigning the workshop of his dreams.

The trial is almost upon us

This is the week the plumbers come to dig up our original sewer line and replace it with a new one, one that isn't corroded and which has the correct slope. I'm taking off work today and tomorrow, TW is taking Thursday & Friday. Naturally, the company called to say they didn't think they'd need all four days, so they won't start until tomorrow. Since I was already scheduled to be off work, I'm using the time for "fun" stuff like grocery shopping and laundry. Especially laundry, since we need to get the clean stuff out of the laundry "room". After all, that's where the sewer main comes into the house and therefore where they'll have to break up the concrete basement floor to replace it. I've experienced the "joys" of concrete dust before, when my parents added a bathroom basement (there's nothing quite like being awakened early on a Saturday morning by the sound of a saw ripping through 6" of concrete!) - I'm not looking forward to this.

Two small mercies: they won't be showing up until 8 tomorrow so I'll have time to sleep in a little and still finish breakfast before they start tearing things up, and they assured me they'll be turning the water back on after they finish each day's work, so we will be able to do dishes and take care of personal hygiene between Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon.