Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Olympia New World Waking Pt. 3

All I could think, in my mind, was "Look what we did!"

And we did. From our bumpy first day, it all came together in an emotional, glorious concert experience.

All afternoon that Friday, I worked with soloists. They were so great. They'd come in and work with me. Then they'd go into the lobby and listen to the songs, memorizing, memorizing, memorizing.

To be honest, it was probably expecting WAY too much, asking them to sing by memory. But the truth is that you cannot sing a song with full conviction if you're reading it as you sing. A song isn't just words that line up in a row.

I was so focused on getting them in shape, I forgot to spend adequate time on my own show. And that night, I got into the middle of "The Closet," a song I haven't sung in forever.

And I totally went up. I had no idea what to sing next. So, I just stopped in the middle of the song, chuckled to myself and started "Connected." I always remember "Connected."

Then it hit me that I had printed the words for "The Closet" and had them on the piano! I'm such an idiot!

So, without taking a breath, I said, "Oh! Here's that song I started."

And I started right at the point where I left off. Thankfully, everyone laughed. Afterward, some of the students were talking about it and laughing. I told them if they forgot words to the show that night, to just look over and me and I would take up the slack, that my job was to be there for them.

Several times, it worked perfectly. A few times, I wasn't looking at the words and totally goofed it all up.

But, for the most part, we had a sensational night of theater. Alec wrote about it being a bit "rough" on his blog.

I wrote Jim a note and described it as a "triumph." It wasn't, really, if perfection is necessary for triumph. But after the first day, when I was so concerned whether anyone would even show up for the show, the group that came was totally committed to the project, and said to they were also profoundly moved.

Saturday night, I let a few of them hold music so that we could have a smoother performance. And, now that the chorus had heard the entire piece for the first time, they really got passionate into the staging and harmonies. Alec, again, remarked that it seemed as if we'd rehearsing for months.

There was one really nice thing that happened. One of the chorus members, an adult student who seemed, at first, less engaged than the others, came up to me and suggested a change in the staging of "Lazarus Come Out." She said, "I think it would look really good if you had all the chorus members stand up one at a time."

My initial reaction was negative, that it would look everyone was missing their cue. Some of the others in the room cited similar fears.

But something whispered in my ear. It was the first rule of improv, that you never say no to something. You just go with it.

I said, "Yes. Let's do that." And I told everyone to just stand up randomly in the song. I had no idea how it would look, but I also thought that it won't hurt anything, either.

As we got into the last third and "Lazarus" started, I could see the choir members behind me, at my left hand. And out of the corner of my eye, I could see them starting to stand. One at a time.

Chills went up my arm.

The effect, rather than looking like nobody knew when to stand, looked like people were making their minds up, one at a time. It was really dramatic.

I didn't see her afterward, so I told Don to thank her and to tell her that it's staying in the show from now on.

Here is a brief video with snippets from the workshop and the performance:

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