Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"So, how did it go?"

Steve Schalchlin at Davies Symphony Hall.Photo by Colleen Mullins.
From the stage of Davies Symphony Hall.

I've had so many emails from people asking me how it went last night.

I'll try to find words, but now I know why people take drugs. The adrenalin coursing through my body last night had me floating about six feet above the floor and I couldn't feel anything the whole night.

I was literally numb. I sat there listening to the music, but not hearing it. It was scary and frightening. I tried to relax, but then I'd look down and see that I was pitched forward in my seat, tense and knotted up.

It was happening on that massive stage with that huge chorus and the 50 piece orchestra, but I was listening to the audience. Let me tell you what I did NOT hear. I did not hear throat clearing. I did not hear coughing.

This is a very good sign.

What I did see were tear-streaked faces. And intense faces, actually listening. I looked up and behind me at this magnificent room and saw the seats packed to the ceiling. Before the show, they had to announce a 10 minute wait because the line was streaming out the doors into the street.

In my pre-concert chat, my mind went totally blank. I think I was coherent. But that's about all, just trying to hit the bullet points I had been rehearsing in my mind. Not too many people were there for that part, which is about what I expected. Few people want to sit and listen to someone talk about something they haven't yet heard.

Photo by Bev Sykes of the pre-concert chat.

The chorus was on FIRE. My favorite enjoyable moment of the night, aside from Piper and Jennifer, was "War By Default." Probably because it was so unexpectedly fun, yet serious. And the words!

These songs were done in the context of a serious, chorus/orchestral/tuxedo event, the lyrics sounded so contemporary -- even edgy. I have never thought of myself that way. In the rock world, I never fit in that well. But it doesn't mean that that's not who I am.

I don't think choruses are used to this particular kind of social commentary. Not like this. Words like "start a blog and do a dance and smoke another joint." And "Why does it take five great big guys to beat up one little queer." A chorus member mentioned how he loved singing, "So she went out on the Internet" and, discussing violence, "We watch it like football game and wait for it on CNN / Cuz winning's somehow everything and they'll rerun it all again."

The whole piece skewed really young. And yet the philosophical themes are mature and complex. Just hearing Piper Laurie say, "Imagine if America's Christianity came from the Martin Luther King side of the family instead of the TV evangelist side. Where the TV evangelist Gandhi?" from "Holy Dirt," another song that sustained long applause.

In many ways, there was so much for the audience to take in, I think they were still analyzing it as it ended. New World Waking, I was told, hit some people like a sledge hammer.

I've poured nearly 8 years of my life into this piece.

I almost couldn't enjoy it. Seriously. Now I know why writers go insane. In my mind, instead of just enjoying the concert, I was thinking, "Okay... is ANYONE GETTING THIS?? DOES IT REMOTELY MAKE ANY SENSE???"

I didn't know. I couldn't know. It made sense to me, but it was too overwhelming.

The night was too overwhelming.

In act two, they brought out a local critic and tv personality, Jan Wahl, who just stopped the proceedings and said, "I think we just witnessed the birth of a new Cole Porter and Gershwin and Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim all rolled up into one." And she had me stand. And the audience cheered me.

But I couldn't absorb it.

Yeah, Jan tends to get hyperbolic and she's a friend, so I took all that with a grain of salt. It was really kind of her to say those things, and I'm reporting it because it did happen, but I know better. 10 years ago I might have wanted to believe it. I might have even tried to believe it. But I'm older now.

I know better. Yes, reader. I really do.

I also know that our car needs another $1000 of work on it because the transmission blew out. And I have no idea where we're going to find it.

That's the reality of a "famous" composer. I stand in a concert hall and take a bow, and the next day, I'm sorting through every last credit card looking for a way to get home.

Welcome to show biz.

Oh, and here's Bev's video from the event:

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