Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stephen Schwartz Opera

Now this is my kind of opera - I hope this works!!!

CLICK HERE for more info on Stephen Schwart'z new opera.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A capella - Africa by Toto

I just thought this was a lot of fun and had to share - thanks Daphne! (sorry, this was the smallest I could make it)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What Classical Singers Can Learn From Rock/Pop Concerts

The other night I was browsing MSN's Internet TV and came across a complete London concert by Alanis Morissette. I was only a few minutes into the concert when I had to pull my planner out and take some intense notes. The concert seemed pretty standard for its genre, but I was riveted. It lasted just over an hour, and she held my attention the entire time.

I want to be able to captivate audiences that way in my recitals, and I am very aware that I have a lot of work to do to achieve that goal. I am in the process of creating a program that incorporates the following ideas, some of which I'm not sure will work - but I'm going to try :):

  1. Alanis' entire concert was upbeat and quick keeping the pacing up with basically no transition time between songs. This did two things: 1) when she did stop at the climax of the night and switched to only piano and her with intimate lighting and a slow song it was that much more compelling, and 2) she kept the momentum up the entire night. I think when we take long pauses between sets we lose our audience.
  2. You really get the sense that Alanis is completely devoting herself to her audience. She keeps a rapport with them the entire night making interjections and expressing gratitude. You never get the feeling that she feels above them - she is part of them having a good time.
  3. There is a constant change of musical texture. Whether she cuts/adds guitars, changes the sound from the synth or drummer no two songs together were exactly alike in their sound. We have so many opportunities to do the same - different instrumentation, duets/small ensembles, etc.
  4. Alanis does more than just sing. Sometimes she sings by herself, then she would play the harmonica, and in some songs she would accompany herself on the guitar. I remember a fun recital I attended where the singer switched with the pianist on a fun upbeat number. I guarantee that's the piece everyone remembers most from that night.
  5. Change up the level of motion - depending on the style/mood of the song sometimes she was running around the stage, other times she stood firm in front of the mic. Why can't we take up more of the stage if we set it up right?
  6. The stage itself was in constant motion. The other musicians kept up the pace, along with lighting, smoke, and other techniques. Most of the performance spaces we use have the ability to use lighting and other such effects - we should use all of our resources.
  7. Alanis was in constant interaction with the other musicians, giving them credit whenever she could. (I remember one of my early recitals when I was so nervous I never really acknowledged my accompanist - I can't think of that performance without a pang of guilt.) The best performers make way and give space to other greats.
  8. I tend to perform with one set that is more well-known to the audience for a little "relief". Alanis spread her standards around the evening and gave them prominence. This was a great way to break up the motion and yet keep the crowd interested. Maybe the concept of sets is a little overrated? Most of Pavarotti's recitals that I have seen don't really incorporate sets.
  9. In a live event we cannot ignore the theatrical element - it is theater. When we go to the symphony part of the experience is watching - the conductor, the coordinated strings, the motion of the players, etc. It is easy to ignore this element in solo recitals much to our detriment. Alanis may have gone a little crazy for my taste, but for her audience it was what they were doing as well.
  10. Every song in Alanis' concert had a unique feel to it, justifying its existence in the program. Instead of having one or two songs in the performance that I remember, or just an overall feeling, I can quite vividly remember the majority of the numbers as they each stand out separately. She worked harder to make the lesser known songs stand out, and then didn't have to do much for the standards.
  11. She didn't hide the "in-between stuff". In my recitals I usually take a break between sets and go off to drink, spray, catch my breath, rest for a moment, whatever. She did that while the band played the little interludes between numbers, or while she was talking to the band. This kept the concert moving.
  12. No programs - this may seem obvious in a rock concert, but maybe we spoil some of the surprise in our recitals when we give them all of the numbers in advance. Part of the fun of the concert is hoping she will do certain songs just for you, not knowing when they will come. For those of us who sing in different languages we can employ the use of supertitles. They are quite easy to set up now, and keep the audience from having to lean over programs during your theatrical performance.
So, now to try to create a program for myself that incorporates those elements and then go from there. I'm even thinking about perhaps expanding our resources in terms of "re-orchestrating" some of our art songs to take advantage of advances in synthesizer and other similar technology. There is just way to much fun to be had :).

Here is the opening of her concert (incidentally, it was fun to sort through all of the cell phone recordings of this before finding the more professional version - the experience obviously meant something to a lot of people):


If you have Vista or XP Media Center Edition (I think) you can watch the entire concert on their Internet TV.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Brain Music - MRI of the "musical brain"

Okay, this just completely blows my mind, perhaps quite literally. Just check it out...