Previous month:
June 2016
Next month:
August 2016

July 2016

The Public Domain: Putting It Together

IMG_3920At the start of last night's rehearsal of the public domain, our strand leader, Maria Sensi Sellner, said that her goal was to run through the entire piece twice in the three hours we had allotted. As it turned out, that was far too ambitious a goal, given that we had several newcomers who were still learning the movements taught to us during our last rehearsal with Annie-B Parson. Even for the rest of us, there's still a good amount of awkwardness to overcome, trying to stay on pitch and in tempo while following the designated movements, the timing of which aren't all pre-determined. Fortunately, dance captain Lizzie Dement was on hand to guide us through the changes, pointing out when to move and when to stand still, how to raise and lower our hands, whether or not we should place our hands on audience members during the penultimate section. (Answer: no.)

Maria assigned each of us to one of five groups within the strand, which she compared to pieces of pepperoni on a slice of pizza. (I've always wanted to be a slice of processed meat.) Our group leader, Ana, has a fair amount of responsibility, introducing pitches, signaling when to crescendo or decrescendo, even determining at times the text we're going to sing or speak. For most of the performance, we'll be laser-focused on her, though Simon Halsey - who will be present at the next rehearsal - will ultimately determine the overall pace of the performance. It's still a bit murky how it's all going to come together: even with just 150 of us, it's nearly impossible to follow directions through all of the clapping and shouting. But, the leaders all seem to have an implicit sense that it will, which is good enough for me. 

For all of you latecomers, there's still time to hop on board the Orange and Yellow strands - especially if you're a tenor or bass! But, you'll have to attend the intensive singer sessions tonight at St. Patrick's Basilica in NoLiTa, and Sunday at Riverside Church in Harlem. Register asap on the public domain website.


Mostly Mozart Opening Night: The Illuminated Heart

DSC09564
For the opening of the 50th season of Mostly Mozart, you had to guess Jane Moss and the folks at Lincoln Center had something pretty special planned (other than this command performance, of course). So it was last night at David Geffen Hall, when Music Director Louis Langrée led the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and nine of today's leading singers in "The Illuminated Heart": a 90 minute selection of arias and ensembles from Mozart's operas commissioned by Lincoln Center and billed as a world premiere.

In his astonishing 30 year career - which began when he was 5 - Mozart wrote a total of 21 operas, many of which have never left the repertory. Last night's performance drew from seven of these operas: from Zaide, written when Mozart was 23, to The Magic Flute, completed two months before his death in 1791. Taken as a whole, it was a remarkable testament not only to Mozart's enduring genius, but also to the depth of his humanity. As director Netia Jones writes in the program:

"The Illuminated Heart traces fragmented moments of human emotion and interaction in these vivid works - the moral obscurity and exposure of human failure and heartbreak, alongside displays of the greatest strength and resilience...We see the composer in the context of the 18th-century Enlightenment, while also recognizing his characters in ourselves."

Continue reading "Mostly Mozart Opening Night: The Illuminated Heart" »


Jon Batiste and Stay Human at Celebrate Brooklyn

jon batiste and stay humanDue to another commitment, I only made it to the last hour of last night's show by Jon Batiste and Stay Human at Celebrate Brooklyn, but despite being onstage for nearly two hours - not to mention having played their day job as the house band for The Late Show - the band seemed as if they could go all night. Mixing New Orleans jazz with rock, funk, and even a little Für Elise, Batiste is a consummate showman, jumping up and down, easily moving between piano, drums and synth. At the end, he led the band offstage and on a Mardi Gras parade around the entire perimeter, driving the crowd into elation. 

More pics on the photo page


The Public Domain: Adding Movement

IMG_3868As if learning to sing a new score from scratch wasn't enough, David Lang's the public domain also calls for the performers to engage in a series movements and gestures, designed by the celebrated choreographer Annie-B Parson. Parson, who was present at Friday's rehearsal, admitted that this was the first time she's worked with 1,000 people, and more than once she seemed frustrated by our collective inability to follow what I'm sure she thought were relatively simple instructions. But, for those like myself who've never done anything like this before, it's a bit like trying to walk and chew gum at the same time: how do you look at the score, follow the conductor, and pay attention to the position of our hands? (It probably didn't help that this was the fifth rehearsal Annie had led this week.)

Fortunately, her Associate Choreographer, Chris Giarmo, did most of the talking, and was warm, funny and encouraging. At one point, while he was demonstrating a gesture for us, Annie quickly stepped in to correct the position of his hand. They argued quietly for a moment about who was right before Annie put an end to it.

"I know. I created the gesture." Ouch. 

Our next rehearsal is next Wednesday, and we were told to really try to get to know the score by then. Believe it or not, there's still time to sign up, with both the Yellow and Orange strands offering a supplemental New Singer Intensive session intended to get everyone up to speed. More info on the public domain website; registration page here.