Friday, February 18, 2011

Musical Odds and Sods

I call myself the Musical Gardener, but it seems both music and gardening have been pretty poorly represented in my blogging to date.  

From last night, I finally have three different music items to relate.

The local Operatic Society, of which I have been a part in the past years, decided last summer to tackle Sondheim's Into The Woods as their annual production. 

The girls' high school did the first act three years ago.  At that point, I went on Ebay and purchased the DVD of it, with Bernadette Peters playing the witch.  We wanted it so that daughter number one, who was cast as the narrator, in the school production, could see how it all looked and felt on stage.  I know, you are not supposed to let other productions taint the flavour of your own, but hey that's me, the rebel.

To make a long story short, I don't like the play particularly.  I know it is supposed to be musical genius, but I often find musical genius to be very tedious (well except for Bach, Mozart and Handel).  I just don't find the music and lyrics particularly singable and especially not, if the cast is less than stellar musically.  And it is dark.  It is supposed to be the mother of all fractured fairy tales -- that it is.  But it is a fairy tale that you don't want to take anyone, under eighteen too - nightmares ever after.  My feeling was it was a poor choice for our stodgy old town, that has trouble selling-out the familiar classics (we can fill the hockey arena any night of the week -- did that sound bitter?).

When our Arts Center has performances of this nature, they often ask someone in the community, to play the grand old Steinway in the foyer for an hour or so before the show, just to put people in a mellow mood for the up-coming performance.

Yours truly was the player last night.  I also get to do a repeat on Saturday night.  

Not a lot is expected, just that you fill the hour with pleasant (SOFT) music.  This is the perfect venue for me, as I can sit and compose or embellish oldies to my heart's content.  The big ticket though is to not get rambunctious, because the bar is right behind you, and the bartender and clientel hate to have to shout over the piano.  I gather this is a problem with some of the younger performers, who like to grandstand.  I'm fine with it, because, I just put the soft pedal on and tinker.  The bonus of this, is that you get a free seat for the performance on stage.  Did I mention cheap before?

I saw the first half of the production, played for intermission and then left.  Knowing I would have to teach today, and that I would see it all on Saturday night, I decided to turn in early on the week night.

So the performance was not bad.  I try to keep an open mind.  It was probably about the caliber I expected.  There were weak voices, that could not handle the music and speed of lyrics on a good day, but in a community effort, you are bound to see that sort of thing.  Red Riding Hood, The Baker, Cinderella, The Baker's wife all put in decent performances.  Milking White, the cow was charming -- how can you lose with a person in a cow costume all evening -- oh it must have been hot though!

I usually work on the set construction and painting, and opted out this year.  So did the lead designer and lead construction supervisor.  While I haven't seen the second act, the set was good in the first, but simplistic would be the word that came to mind -- adequate, but nothing spectacular.  Of course after watching the Broadway version, that set leaves me somewhat cold -- too minimalist for my taste.

The pit band was very good - obviously a few professionals brought in to spruce things up a bit.  

The third thing happening musically last night, and for which I wished I had been closer, was daughter number one's vocal recital for the mid term at university.  Just couldn't warrant the six hour drive both ways, loss of income for two days, gas, hotel room etc.

I haven't talked to her since, but I know the Sunday night dress rehearsal was a trying affair.  Twenty of them went through a grueling five hour practice.  She mentioned two were in tears and a third stormed off, vowing not to return.  I asked her if she was one of the ones in tears.  "No, but it was close."  I thought music was supposed to be an enjoyable experience.  Why are these profs so bent on crushing the student's musical joy and creativity - so opposite of the high school experience.

But anyway, she is home tonight for reading week, so I am sure we'll get the whole sordid tale.  I'm hoping there might even be something on Youtube that I can post.

Guess what I'm teaching today?  I will be picking bits of shell, and drying wet ears -- you got it Kindergarten.  Should be a fun day.  I'm thinking by noon, I'll be wanting to change my name to something other than Mr. H. However knowing that our daughter will be coming in on the evening train, will make the day go quickly I'm sure.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

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