Friday, September 26, 2008

Broadway In South Africa


Monday, October 6th at 7:30 pm
Peter Norton Symphony Space
2527 Broadway at 95th Street
Tickets here.

I have written a new song.  Kendra Kassebaum is singing it.
Read all about it here.


Announcing: the release of a new choral piece!  Thanks to Judith Clurman who approached me about submitting a choral piece to be included in her choral series, De Profundis is now available from G. Schirmer.  This is the first a cappella piece of mine to be published, and it was premiered by my friend Jeremy Faust and his ensemble, the International Orange Chorale.   The voicing is SATB, the text is by Christina Rossetti (1930-1894 and yes, she's a favorite of mine), and the music is by yours truly.  Enjoy.

Here's the poem.  

Oh why is heaven built so far,
Oh why is earth set so remote?
I cannot reach the nearest star
That hangs afloat.

I would not care to reach the moon,
One round monotonous of change;
Yet even she repeats her tune
Beyond my range.

I never watch the scatter'd fire
Of stars, or sun's far-trailing train,
But all my heart is one desire,
And all in vain:

For I am bound with fleshly bands,
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my score;
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
And catch at hope.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Set: Week after Week

I was having a really great time blogging about my TV show until we got deeper and deeper into the process.  For starters, my time at work got busier as more and more singers advanced week after week (so there wasn't as much sit-around-and-blog time as there was before), but also, I started to realize that most of what I was doing on set was more or less confidential.  Something interesting would happen on set and I'd think, oh, I can't really write about that without getting in trouble with the network.  So I seem to have stopped blogging.

I will say this:  I am incredibly proud of all the singers who appeared the show.  The final performances aired last night and America voted.  I have no idea who won, and I'll likely find out on the air next week, the same as everyone else.  I sometimes get flack for working on reality TV shows like this, but the coaching I do with these singers is the same coaching I do with everyone else.  Don't forget to breathe.  Think about your phrasing.  Make sure you have enough air to land in the center of the pitch.  Who are you talking to?  What can we do to justify that key change?  How can you earn the high note at the end?  I am a proud mama backstage when one of my singers goes out there (in front of twelve, thirteen, fourteen MILLION viewers) and 'nails it', as David Hasselhoff would say.  May they all have exciting opportunities as a result of the work they've been doing for the last two months.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On Set: Week Two

Walking around a TV set all day, you begin to wonder who all of these people are and what they do.  There are the obvious jobs:  the hair and makeup people who carry their tools of the trade on their belts, the camera men with their cameras on their shoulders, the stage managers with their headsets and walkie-talkies.  Even the guy who maintains the snack table (bless him) is usually holding a bag of chips or a case of water bottles.  But my new favorite job, and one I never knew existed until I started working on TV shows, is the celebrity stand-in.

Of course it makes sense.  The celebrities are way too busy, I'm sure, to sit around all day while everyone is making all the elements fit together.  Things happen over and over in rehearsals.  Sometimes they go wrong, and you have to do them again.  Yesterday the baton twirler came out to do his twirling routine and his batons were pre-set in the wrong place.  Today one of the pyro sprays sent sparks in the wrong direction.  We run a number, and then we sit around while the director watches the video playback to make sure all the camera shots are correct.  We adjust the mic levels.  A lighting cue is changed.  Frantic PAs run around looking for a missing hat or a misplaced prop.  (How do you think I have time to do all this blogging?)

And while all that is happening, there are three people sitting in the judges' chairs.  I'm told you can make a whole career out of being a stand-in (though I don't imagine it buys you a house in the Pacific Palisades).  These are the same stand-ins who do everything in town -- the Grammys, the Oscars, American Idol.  Two of them I even recognize because they were the stand-ins on "Grease: You're The One That I Want."  The best part is when we rehearse the "judges comments" and the stand-ins get to speak directly to the performers.  They're directed to say only positive comments for the rehearsal run-thrus, and they say things like "Wow, that was so amazing, so original.  You have obviously practiced so much and I'm sure you're going to be in the top five."  And then the real judges come out, two hours later, and rip the contestants to shreds on national television.

The stand-ins even kind of look like the celebrities a bit, too.  The more the show goes on, the more they try to say things the actual celebrities might say.  And what's amazing is that each contestant seems so relieved that someone liked his performance.  Even if it's a celebrity stand-in.  Even if the stand-in has been directed to say only nice things.  Even if none of it is true. 

I continue to think it's such a weird time we live in, when reality shows rule television and everyone around is looking for his fifteen minutes of fame.  A job is just a job, I guess, but if for two or three hours a day you get to pretend to be someone famous, well then perhaps that makes your job just a little more glamorous.