Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sisterly Love

As I sit and type this bloggity blog, my two girls are quiet. Almost too quiet. They both sit in Goonie’s room trying on the eldest’s clothes & costumes. How adorable little Bobo looks with a Tinkerbell hat. A perfect picture of sisterly adoration.

But I bring you exhibit A to the left. This happened last night. This, dear parents and parents-to-be, is the result of sibling love. Our big girl Goonie became tré upset over the most trivial matter. Details are unimportant, but the Goon has a tendency to be a little bit ‘Rain Man’ sometimes, and if matters don’t work out exactly as she had planned in her mind she goes, well, I think the precise parental term is Ape Shit.

As the Goon was throwing her little tantrum and screaming (I’m most impressed with her high C) little Bobo decided to join the “game” and screamed in unison with her big sister. (They will be an adorable little Patience & Prudence someday) But Goonie didn’t appreciate Bobo’s attempt to share her tantrum so she lashed out and scratched her sister’s face real good. My my my – what Irish tempers both these children have.

Goon is now grounded until she’s 12.

But there is an upside – I am confident when Goon is a teenager, she and her Irish temper will be able to fight off those pesky, horny boys who think they can take advantage of her. My shotgun is safe.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

I Feel Like an Evil Bog Dweller

For two years I’ve been stretching the chops on nice high baritone & tenor-ish repertoire like Sweeney Todd, the tenor solo in the Hoppe Requiem, musical reviews with Broadway favorites like Music of the Night and Bring Him Home. Now I have the distinct honor of re-joining the ranks of my Basso (Canadenis) Profundo friend, Campbell Vertesi, and have been assigned to sing low bass for the Portland Opera Norma chorus.

BAD: when the full ensemble of Sops & Tenors scream fortissimo (the actual technical music term is balls-to-the-wall. Really! Look it up in Groves!) on High A’s, Mezzi belting somewhere in the top of the treble, and basses…you got it! We’re trying to force a mighty D root in the middle of Bass Clef. Do you think anyone is going to hear a handful of basses huff on a note placed in the middle of bass cleff with 35 other trained singers screaming 2 & 3 octave higher, AND a full 60 piece orchestra blaring from the pit? No way, Jose!

GOOD: But, ohhh, it feels good to rumble on a low G for a page and a half of pianissimo chorus. That’s when having the low notes pays dividends. Ahhhh…it’s nice to be back home for a while. Tenors, eat your heart out.

THE BEST: Who wouldn’t want to add ‘Bog Dweller’ to one’s opera resume already littered with, but limited to, Guard, Lowly Slave, Noble, Evil Assassin (I like that one), Soldier, Priest and Gypsy? Besides, the pajama and robe costumes are the most comfortable I’ve worn by far.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Overdressed at KFC

So, all morning & afternoon I faithfully sum the beans, ya know, the boodle, the moolah, the gravy. Then suffer the slings and arrows of a long and crowded bus commute chock full of crabby, inconsiderate schmucks trying to make their way home, all of us with white iPod earbuds stuffed in our heads isolating us from the cruel world. And I arrive home just in time to jump in my car and turn around to go back downtown to the opera for rehearsal. Don’t even have time to prepare a meal at home. Even a ham sandwich would take too much energy.

So I think to myself, “self, there’s a KFC right here in the burb. Stop on by & enjoy a hot meal and a fresh Coca Cola.” When I arrive I stand behind a pair of twenty-something-or-others and notice they are both wearing flannel PJ bottoms. Yes, pajamas. AND SLIPPERS! I think to myself, “self, I should have thought of that. Be comfortable & wear PJ’s to rehearsal. It’s what all the cool kids are doing these days” But civility overruled that argument. How could I possibly wear my bedclothes in public?

As I pondered these thoughts on top of whether to have extra crispy or original recipe, another patron enters, a motherly type, with two kids in tow. She also dons a comfy flannel bottom. I’m now sandwiched by folks who clearly just rolled out of bed and headed to the local grease factory for breakfast.

What? Is this world your private living room? As much as I admire a woman in a nighty and a loose robe, I believe those clothing items were intended to remain at home, and more particularly, IN YOUR BED!

Ok, alright! I admit it…yes, I wore those crazy but comfortable Joey Buttafucco pants in the early 90’s. And sure, I was a teenager who on occasion wore parachute pants in the 80’s. What’s my point? My point is fashion. It was fashionable to look like a dork in the 80’s & 90’s with clothes designed and meant for the purpose of being worn and displayed in public. Pajamas, to my knowledge, are still designed with the notion that they be worn in the home. Nobody wants to see your saggy flannel butt with Homer Simpson and a thought balloon which reads, "Mmmmmmm....donuts" in public.

Now, please excuse me while I go slide into my Garfield house slippers and practice Largo al factotum on the street corner…

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Just When I Thought I Was Out...

…they pull me back in!

And so it goes. After spending a decade with the Portland Opera AGMA Chorus I somehow got out of the “family” two years ago. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the best paying gig in Portland. Union wages are hard to beat for singers. But it’s not a full time gig. It don’t pay all da bills, know what I mean? For two years I’ve been successfully keeping busy with other performing gigs on cruise vessels, musical theatre, and interactive dinner theatre. But last November I got the call…

Sometimes, in way out towns like Portland, Ore-GONE, singers do not realize the responsibility and privilege it is to be in a performers union. This ain’t community theatre folks. Sure, the Met Chorus members may earn six figures a year, and we earn enough to make car & insurance payments (‘course, I understand six figures in NYC is just enough to keep you riding in a taxi) but we all work for the same union with the same rules. A professional opera company expects their performers to work hard in the allotted time, be ON time, memorize music, learn staging, etc.

Well, a new bass they hired this season found that the responsibility of actually showing up to rehearsals was too great. He managed to miss enough rehearsal that he was promptly booted. Hmmm…who can we get to fill this AGMA spot for the rest of the season? Oh, I know! Let’s cal Evil Baritone. He may be evil, but he’s professional and dependable. So they called me. And I had an open schedule. So I’m back in the chorus for three more shows.

But I had forgotten how entertaining music rehearsals can be. P.O. has a new young Chorus Master who emigrated from Great Britain. His accent is charming and he can insult you with a smile and you’d ask for seconds. I think England is more open with their sex talk, whereas here in puritanical America we prefer subtle innuendo. Well, the following is a list of comments made to a professional chorus in music rehearsals. Mind you, only an occasional snigger ensued after some comments, but for the most part we have kept our professionalism very well. These are MUSICAL notes, people. Interpret them how you will…

Ah, coffee…fluid of life.

We kinda want the audience to go to sleep here.

Pucker the lips. Make it pure.

Hold your mouth open and fill it.

Put it in the back of your throat.

You don’t want to move from the long to the short.

You have to sit perfectly on the root.

Please mind your labial proximate.

Take a snatch breath.

And my personal favorite:
It’s not the length…it’s the strength.

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My Favorite Stage Manager-isms

People, be nice to your stage managers. They can make late for your entrance, “forget” to place your props, or innocently miss the “go” for the spotlight during your solo. With a simple raised eyebrow they can make you feel lower than a toadstool. They can make a large group of grown adults feel like a class of misbehaving kindergarteners. They can give a complex to an actor or actress, a singer, dancer, diva or yes, even an evil baritone. I’ve seen egotistical tenors toss their diet cokes in a huff because the SM didn’t allow beverages backstage. I’ve witnessed diva’s worship the SM because of a quick fix to their ripped costume. In general, the SM rules, and they can make your life hell.

Sure, a director directs the show and gets all the credit, but the SM keeps record of ALL staging, and is usually the only one who remembers when the diva is supposed to cross downstage left during her aria. During production the Stage Manager is GOD.

Finding a good stage manager is hard. Getting a great stage manager is like Boise State skimming past Oklahoma State in the Fiesta bowl…slim chances but not impossible. I have had the pleasure of working with some fabulous stage managers.

Recently I wrapped up a holiday show with one of the best local stage managers in Portland, Jim Crino. Before the curtain the SM makes sure to give calls to let the performers/musicians know when we start. Crino has a very unique call process. Better late than never, I bring you the best of pre-curtain Crino-isms from Christmas of Swing:

“Two minutes…maybe three.”

“If I’m not back in five minutes, that’s your 20 minute call.”

"Did I call five yet? I did? Ok, make it five from now."

"We should have started ten minutes ago but they're still putting the walkers away"

“Why don’t we take our places.” (Not a question)

“Let’s call it five minutes. No wait! No, I’m sorry, let’s make it 5.”

(my favorite…It’s 1:30 pm for a 2 pm matinee. Our audience is 99% over 60 yrs old)
“The last [elderly] patron just parked in the lot. We should be able to begin by a quarter after.”

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