A Soprano's Scratchpad

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Face 2 Face !!

Eric and I saw Billy Joel and Elton John in concert tonight on their Face 2 Face Tour. It was AWESOME! Their voices sound great, their stage presence is great, the music has always been great, their bands are amazing, the energy in the room was through the roof, it was unbeatable. And Eric and I got to enjoy it side by side, which made it that much better.

They opened with four songs together at their "face to face" full size grand pianos. (Gosh, yes, the PIANO playing we heard tonight was out of this world!) They started with one of my favorite songs, "Your Song"... and it was just hit after hit all night with stuff going back to the 70s. After their four together, Elton John sang about 90 minutes of his favorites, after which Billy Joel sang another hour of his favorites, and then they closed with another set face to face, concluding with "Piano Man", with Joel playing piano AND harmonica simultaneously, of course!

Their styles complement each other very well, and it's fun to hear them sing one another's songs. They have very different stage styles, though. Elton is more serious and doesn't talk much, while Billy likes to make amusing small talk with the audience (and he's very good at it). He had us laughing a lot. One of his quips was about how he had been wondering if there was a certain age at which singers were supposed to retire. The audience started to rumble and boo, but he came back with "then I watched the Superbowl half-time show with The Who and decided there must not be!" He also stopped halfway through "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", panting, and said, "It's frickin' high up here!!" hehe.

They also had unique set-ups. The two pianos were on separate lifts so that at any time, they could have either, both, or neither piano on stage. Elton's had a regular piano bench and four monitors surrounding him; Billy's had a swivel stool and only two monitors, but his piano was on a turntable and had some kind of unusual thing in it - it looked like it might be a computer monitor or something where the music stand would usually be. I'll have to do a little scouting online and see if I can figure out what made that piano so unusual.

Partway through, I became aware of a strange echo, and realized that most of the 20,000 or so audience members were singing along for the whole concert - but it wasn't bothersome since the sound system was loud enough to almost completely hide it. But it always made it cool when the artists stopped singing to let the audience sing because they didn't even have to indicate they were going to do it - the audience never missed a beat because they were already singing.

It was just a stellar evening. Three and a half solid hours of exceptional music. I'd go again if I had the chance.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

Tonight, I took my students caroling at the hospital. Even more than usual, I could see how much our music meant to the patients and their families. One woman sang along with us as she waited for her husband to be returned to his room. A young woman holding her sick two-year-old daughter wiped back tears as we sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to cheer her up. Another was crying even as she invited us into the dark room to sing for her husband, and as we sang, she gave me a big, long bear hug and cried on my shoulder. It was all I could do not to cry myself. It is humbling to see how such a simple gift can mean so much and how just a few ordinary people can have such a positive impact on so many others in just 90 minutes of walking the halls of a hospital at Christmastime.

Tomorrow night, same gig, different singers. Really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

First dress rehearsal

Tonight's preliminary dress rehearsal for Hoffmann was quite an adventure for me!

First of all, having come to the conclusion that I really needed to be able to see the conductor better than was possible without my glasses, I drug out my old contacts from my senior year of college (10 years ago). I haven't worn them at all since my wedding (7 years ago). I was impressed with how few problems they gave me, considering I previously stopped wearing them because they were fussy. I might have to reconsider the contacts idea.

The other thing that made the evening interesting was that I had some of the worst wardrobe malfunctions I can remember experiencing personally. The hat that I wear as a gondola in Act IV was so tight that we couldn't get it all the way onto my head, and the gals working in the wig room said they knew how to fix it, but would lose their jobs if they did so without express instruction from the head of the department. So, for the short term, we put it on as far as it would go and pinned it on. It didn't feel too bad at first, but it wasn't long before it was giving me a headache.

In Act IV, the first time I had to move off of my rolling staircase, the snap that holds my gondola piece around my middle unsnapped, causing it to fall off. I took the opportunity to step off stage to fix the problem - one-handed, since I had my cane in the other hand - and found myself in an even bigger pickle when my hat fell off, too. The stage hands finally came to my rescue and I made it back onstage for the next staging change. The gondola piece unsnapped again as I got back onto the stairs at the end of the scene, but in a sitting position, it was much easier to be discreet. Hopefully the costuming angels will have everything resolved by tomorrow night. Umm...okay, tonight!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Staging continues...

Another great rehearsal. We reviewed and fine-tuned the first two acts this evening, and I seem to have redeemed myself after my sad dance audition -- I was one of four people the director praised publicly. That made my night!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Staging rehearsals for Hoffmann

Have I ever mentioned that I just love staging rehearsals with Opera Colorado? They are so much fun!

The first thing the stage director said to us at the first full chorus staging rehearsal was, "We begin with a dance audition!" Ugh. All my hopes of making a good first impression went out the window with that opening statement. So, I am not a dancer (duh!), but I still have very busy staging, which makes me happy, and it has given me a chance to redeem myself from the dance audition. Some choristers have had the misfortune to be assigned to stand on the top platform and react to what happens on the floor. I think I would be bored to tears in that situation. Instead, I am happily chasing Arthur, the robot, around the stage for the entire act and operating his right arm (which happens to be made out of an egg beater...). We rarely stop moving - as soon as we reach one position, it is time to move to the next one, so it keeps me on my toes. I think the audience is really going to enjoy it!

Saturday, we added the principals to the mix. They are excellent, and it is truly a privilege to share the stage with them. Pamela Armstrong is particularly impressive, though I might not think so if I didn't know how extremely difficult Olympia's aria is, because she sings it as though it is the easiest thing in the world. And I'm all of three feet away from her when she sings it - sweet!!


Saturday, April 04, 2009

NATS vs. Blizzard....


The phone started ringing at 5:00 AM exactly, and I fielded 5 phone called before 6:00 AM. The reason was that all the Wyoming highways were closed all the way to the Colorado border due to the blizzard, which stranded all of the UW contingency, among others (and brought the total to four schools withdrawing in the last 24 hours). In the end, 17 judges (out of 50) cancelled less than 24 hours before the auditions, with 10 of those canceling within 3 hours of the start of the auditions. This meant some ridiculous reorganizing of the judging schedule with most rooms having only two judges for the preliminaries. God alone knows how I managed to pull that off. That would be the power of prayer. Truthfully, I felt like God granted me the peace, patience, strength and wisdom that I prayed so hard for almost constantly over the last three days.

I spent the day with a great team of tabulators who worked diligently and carefully while maintaining a spirit of fun, and my colleagues were tremendously supportive. (At the teacher’s meeting, one even jokingly moved to remove the term limit on the Audition Chair’s office so that I could stay Auditions Chair forever! Hehe.) The teachers all communicated really well with my office, too, so that all the little issues that arose throughout the day, I was able to deal with quickly and effectively. They were so awesome. And our hosts at CSU were so hospitable and organized that I had nothing to worry about where they were concerned.

As for the “blizzard,” it hit a lot of the region and made life difficult for several participants in various part of the CO & WY, but overall, its impact on Fort Collins was minimal. The roads in town remained clear, and by the time I left at 6:30, they were even dry.

To put the icing on the cake, one of my students took first place in her division, the advanced open category, which thrilled me to pieces. She’s worked very hard and she deserved it. It is exciting and encouraging to see one's students succeed in a competition.

So, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the event came off better than I could have ever hoped. We even stayed right on schedule and ended on time! I’m still in awe of all that my colleagues and I accomplished today. Imagine how well it could go next year with cooperative weather!

P.S. An interesting tidbit... the building at CSU where the auditions were held is the newly-renovated building of the old Fort Collins High School, where both my husband and his almost-102-year-old grandmother went to school! Granny is the oldest living graduate of FCHS, and the school building was originally constructed while she was a student...there are photos of the construction in her yearbook! I took some pictures of the interior to show Eric, but I doubt he will recognize any of them... it's a state-of-the-art music facility now and surely looks worlds different than it did when it was a public high school.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Comedy of Errors

Ever have one of those days where everything that could possibly go wrong does? Well, I actually had a pretty good day today, but I had one hour where one thing after another didn't go my way, to the point that it became absurd, and therefore funny.

I finished my voice lesson at 2:00. I had an hour to run three little errands and get back home in time to teach my next lesson at 3:00. The first errand actually went smoothly.

Second errand: Drop off sunglasses at eye doctor so they can be sent to the lab for new lenses. Sounds easy enough. So, as I give them to her she says, "And just so you know, because you're using your old frames instead of new ones, the lab will not be responsible for any damage that could occur to them while they are in their possession." Now, if I had this to do over again, I would say, "okay, fine" and go on with my day. But instead, I said, somewhat jokingly, "Well, I am assuming that if someone dropped them and then stepped on them that the lab would compensate me for them," thinking this was a no-brainer. She said, no, even in that circumstance they would not compensate me. I was incredulous, so she decided the verbal notification wasn't good enough and had me sign a waiver. Still looking at her like she must be joking, I informed her that if my frames came back ridiculously broken, I would sue, waiver or not, as a matter of principle. The waiver is designed to protect them from lawsuits that result from damage that occurs due to fact that older frames are often well-worn and and thus more fragile than new frames; the document is meaningless if one can prove that the company was negligent. Again, as it's not likely to be an issue and I didn't gain anything by explaining this to her, I should have kept my big mouth shut and saved some time, but when someone looks you right in the eye and says they won't compensate you if they carelessly drop your glasses and step on them, you start to question the integrity of the company and whether or not you actually want to give her your prescription sunglasses. It got my dander up, but I was not too bent out of shape when I left their office.

Third errand: Drop by the grocery store to pick up my prescription. I had actually stopped by there on my way home from church on Sunday. I was fourth in line when I got in line. I was still fourth in line 15 minutes later, so I decided I could come back another day. So, I went back today, and this time I was first in line. And I was still first in line 15 minutes later. There were SIX people behind the counter, and none of them could be bothered with the line standing in front of the counter. When it was five minutes to 3:00, I was almost in tears, and finally went up and nicely asked someone to please retrieve my prescription because, while I was not in a hurry when I got in line, I was now already late for my next client. She was very nice and helpful, except that my prescription wasn't ready...!

Now, contrary to my usual procrastinating, I called my doctor 10 days ago to request a refill. They said they would prefer that I have my pharmacy contact them directly for the refill request. So, I asked the pharmacy to do this, and the pharmacy apparently did, but hasn't heard back from my doctor's office. So, first of all, I'm thinking that the pharmacy should have followed up by now either with me or the doctor's office or both. Secondly, I decided that it is truly time to find a new family doctor because this is not the first time my doctor's office has been well outside their 24-hour turn around time for refill requests. So, I will have to go back tomorrow, and if they still haven't gotten the approval, I will have to a) get a "loaner" prescription of three days worth and b) call and read my doctor's office the riot act about not being prompt in responding to refill requests on drugs for which one can be admitted to the ER if one has to stop the drug cold turkey because the doctor's office couldn't respond to the request within TEN DAYS. (Yes, one of my readers has experienced this nightmare firsthand, and I am happy to take his word for it that it isn't fun.)

Again, I was very nice to the lady at the pharmacy because she did all she could (including refaxing my doctor), but the cumulative effect of all that nonsense was that I was fuming when I left the pharmacy. I pulled into my driveway at exactly 3:00, which makes me officially late because that's when the lesson is supposed to begin.

As I sat down to begin the lesson, I grabbed a bottle of red Gatorade thinking a nice, refreshing drink would help me recenter myself so I could teach, but I was shaking so much that I spilled red Gatorade all over my skirt!

This is where I finally started to laugh out loud. This was unmistakably a message from my God that I was taking myself way too seriously. I changed my clothes, and after that, the rest of the day was wonderful again. But that one hour was something else.

The most ironic part of it all was that before last week, in seven years of private teaching, I have never had to change my clothes during a lesson, but today made two weeks in a row that I had to change my clothes during the same student's lesson! (Last week, Lucy jumped on my lap after having stepped in something yucky and smelly.)

Yes, I have been told that I get long-winded. Sorry. I guess I figure it doesn't sound nearly as exciting in print as it did to me at the time. My husband will tell you that I am incredibly patient with people as a rule, so please don't think I'm every service representative's worst nightmare. Besides, I wouldn't want to take that title away from my husband... just kidding! Honestly, I consider myself very blessed to be able to consider these trifles to be upsetting - I know most people would gladly trade their troubles for mine in a heartbeat, and I praise the Lord that I am so fortunate.