Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Flowers, Chocolates, and Booze

Tonight was the final concert for a chorus I play for. Before the concert, the conductor winked and indicated the bottle of liqueur she'd slipped into my bag. After the concert, the choir members presented me with a box of chocolates and an enormous bunch of red and white roses.

It was a pretty casual concert - dress code all-black with just a hint of bling.  On this side of town, a few blocks east of the theater district, people don't immediately take me for a performer. Lone passersby shot me looks of envy; happy couples nodded and all-but-cooed (gross) in knowing comprehension. Two teenage girls on the subway kept pointing and eyeing my humongous bouquet until I finally assured them:

"Oh, this isn't from a boy, it's from a performance."

"Do you dance?" asked one of the girls.

I explained I was a pianist. "But it's fun to pretend they're from a boy. And the keep the riff-raff away while I'm shopping." And, wouldn't you know it, all three of us mimed holding the flowers out like a cruxifix.

Who says there are no perks to being a musician?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekly Wish 05/23/11: FAIL

I played Nat's recital last week, and we did enjoy performing "Every Time We Say Goodbye."  I also played "'Round Midnight" at In the Pocket's recital yesterday.  Both performances were videotaped.  I don't really feel like posting either performance.  They were ok, audiences enjoyed them, but I didn't accomplish what I'd wanted.  That's what happens when you only put an hour into something very detailed like music - audiences will still dig it, if you're a pro and manage to make it musical. But You the Pro will not be satisfied with the details of an hour's work. 

The two main reasons I'm doing this Weekly Wish project:
I wanted to continue growing as a musician the way I did last year with my song-a-day project, but
A) I wanted flexibility to have a little more of a life
B) I wanted to go into deeper musical detail. 

I have gotten to have a little more of a life, since I'm not constantly thinking "I gotta go home and learn my song".  I know you all really miss how much cathartic personal stuff leaked onto my blog last year.  Maybe sometime I'll share some haiku I've written over the past few months. 

Regarding deeper musical detail... it's great.  Yeah, it's awesome.  WHEN I put the time in, it's fantastic.  But I haven't been real clear with myself on what my goal is every week; it's kinda open-ended.  Consequently, it's real easy to just... have a life. 

And of course, it's easier make the choice to focus on career-work than it was last year, with my maniacal but simple directive to memorize a pop song every day.  So these past couple weeks haven't all been fail: aside from being busy enough that I can afford a couple slower weeks during the summer, I got to music direct, play and "orchestrate" (for piano, violin and cello) a production of The Secret Garden.  I got to meet the composer and original music director, both of whom seemed pleased with my work. 

But until I'm working at a level where I'm constantly being challenged to grow at my paying work, I need these little projects.  So this week's catch-up week (Oscar Peterson, and maybe Nat and I can re-record), and then next week I start again. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thinking... or not

You know, I secretly like these weeks where there's no time to think.  Yesterday was a four-show day of Secret Garden (dress rehearsal and performance with each cast).  The week leading up to it was filled with writing charts for my string players, figuring out what I was going to play (since that was a bit different from what I had been hammering out during rehearsal), a few regular gigs and students, and, oh yeah, rehearsal.  I haven't overthought anything for several days! Amazing!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Oh, The Heck With It

 I am taking a break from coaching and organizing people and rehearsals and madly writing charts to bring you this bulletin:

Life does not fit neatly into hours or weeks right now.  Just GOOOOOOOO! The deadlines are coming, the deadlines are coming!  (Russians? Post-Cold War era summer camp games? Anyone?) So no "Weekly" - but I still have a couple ways to play my little deadline game with myself: On Thursday May 19, Nat and I will perform at her studio recital.  The following Sunday, I will play "'Round Midnight" at In the Pocket's recital.  I'm in crazy madness until this Sunday with Secret Garden.  So... what gets done will get done.  The rest... won't. 

Wish-wise, when I can snatch a few minutes, working on Nat's stuff first because we have to rehearse (ha! oh yeah, that!) before Thursday - chillin' with Oscar Peterson and "Every Time We Say Goodbye".  Then back to hang with Monk.  Then schedule will be downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm.  (Being too busy = excellent problem.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Plan B - Oscar Peterson

We pianists can be eccentric.  Musically self-sufficient - takes longer to get bored playing solo on a piano than on an instrument that can only play one note at a time (I would think, anyway).  Not portable - guitarists can take their instrument to the park or wherever the other humans are.  Yeah, we can be real weird, locked in the garret with our 88-key orchestra.

It was one of the oddest pianists I ever met who introduced me to the music of Oscar Peterson.  Must have been freshman year, because we were in the dorms.  He pulled out a CD and insisted, in his vaguely Slavic accent (my friends and I never could pinpoint his country of origin or sexual orientation, and he never deigned to clarify), that I had to listen to this.  "This" was Oscar Peterson Live. 

"Bach's Blues", what!?!?   It was Bach, but it was blues!  It was the real thing - jazz - but it had roots in "real", respectable, classical music.  To us weird maverick classical pianists, it was a little rebellious, but still safe to respect because it had Bach's name on it.  It was like being told you can have tiramisu for Communion, and it still counts.

So - I downloaded "Every Time We Say Goodbye" from the album Oscar Peterson Plays the Cole Porter Songbook (and subsequently, the rest of the album), and started playing along yesterday afternoon. Plan B, commence!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo - the Mexican version of St. Patrick's Day, when everyone assumes a particular cultural heritage for one day as an excuse to wear bright colors drink large quantities of beer.  I'm playing for Trish LaRose is Bulletproof tonight, and will either be wearing my Virgen de Guadalupe t-shirt w/ jeans & boots (for a funky downtown look) or my bright blue Mexican-ish embroidered dress (for a faux-Mex look).  Thus I celebrate my New Mexican roots - that, and the black beans & rice w/ honest-to-goodness, from-the-bodega Mexican hot sauce.  I honestly don't remember how big a deal we make of Cinco de Mayo back home, but here, even the Irish pubs are rocking the Corona specials.  Ah well...

I have been sick this week - little cold/flu/allergy bug, not sure what, but I definitely had a fever during Epic Wednesday yesterday.  I sound like I've been smoking since I was three, and I can't breathe through my nose.  But I feel much better than I did yesterday.  Way to go, fever, cooking the germs! 

Anyway, I've done the bare minimum of activity this week - ie, no social life and no wish.  I'm bored with my wish anyway.  I really need a specific song and a pianist to imitate, otherwise it's so vague and I can't motivate myself to do anything.  So I'm working on a Plan B for goodbye songs - Nat suggested "Every Time We Say Goodbye", so I'm gonna see what piano-ey versions I can find of that song.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Weekly Wish - Farewell Songs

I wish there were time for everything. For instance, writing and performing with Nat.
Photo: Farrell Goldsmith

Nat is my opera singer/playwright friend, next-door neighbor, erstwhile writing/cabaret partner, force of nature, Fire Under My Ass (nickname Fuma).  It's been far too long since we've done a creative project together.  We're both too busy with individual projects now to, say, write, self-produce and perform a children's musical about time travel, but a little medley to close her studio's recital might be just the ticket.  I wish Nat and Kat could ride once more on the D.S. al Coda to the past! (You will get that if you were one of the...60 or so people who saw our show.)

So... I'm going to learn "So Long, Farewell" from The Sound of Music, and explore a few other goodbye songs, including the Donny Osmond song "For All We Know".  This is step one in arranging a medley. 

I should note that I decided about this week's wish a couple days ago, and am not choosing this theme because of Bin Laden's death.  While I have great respect for the people who devote their lives to serving the country, and for those who lost loved ones in 9-11, I can't quite bring myself to celebrate a violent death. 

I heard about the president's address via - where else - facebook, and, like many other people in the 20-45 demographic, was glued to my computer screen for the better part of an hour, watching news results as they came up on screen, and waiting impatiently for NPR to switch to live coverage from the White House.  This morning, many of my facebook friends who are parents were wondering "out loud" how to explain it all to their children. 

I'm glad I don't have to figure that one out.