26 July 2014

In Relief

As those who track my movements via social media know, I have just completed a stint as the percussionist for the chamber orchestra for Silver Finch Arts Collective's 2014 Capitol Fringe production of the original opera "A Fire in Water." The co-composer, a good acquaintance (and now I think I can say friend, as we have bonded over a quintet of commutes to and from the theatre over such topics as men's footwear, Batman, where to get the best food and what the Hell is wrong with drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians in DC) and Facebook friend Michael Oberhauser put out a call last month for anyone who knew of a percussionist that could do as I have just done. I was hesitant at first, but when I saw the schedule and knew that my dear Francesca would be out of the country for July that it was just the thing to keep me busy for the duration.

I speak with no false modesty when I say that I played but a small part (well, several small parts if one is pedantic about such things*) and was a last minute addition to this amazing roster of talented performers and artists. And since we are firmly ensconced in baseball season, I am working with a baseball metaphor for the purposes of this essay, so dial in your context. Got it? Great; moving right along. Like a player called off the bench. You know, the World Cup did just end, and these days I'm more into futbol  than I am baseball. Either way, consider the general sports metaphor. What I am at is that there was already a well-oiled team in place and I came in late in the game to do my part to get the team to the end of the season -- through all the performances on the schedule.

What an amazing group, from the seed, the root, the hauntingly beautiful material that is the score and libretto of this modern opera -- yes, I have a few snippets that have wormed their way into my brain, but this only makes me want to replay the mp3s I have of the music over and over again; gone too soon this music is from my life -- and the material is just the start of it all.

The minimalism that Fringe requires to meet time and cost restraints was not only embraced but wielded like a master's brush. The sets showed up as some folding tables and chairs, but they became the tents rimming the battlefields of Greece and Troy and even Olympus itself. The actors who sang those lines, those sternum-piercing, laser-like, heart-shredding lines, had me feeling a bit misty-eyed on stage during performances,  a dangerous thing when one is playing a tuned wine glass: tears in the water would undo all the effort of tuning those glasses. But the actors with their talent and their singing, and the amazing direction they received from acquaintance, previous artistic collaborator, and dare I say friend (I considered her a friend from the moment she made sure I was not hungry manning the check in table at the Hub Opera auditions a few years back) Courtney Kalbacker.

At the end of this ramble (I like to think of it as a poetic essay), I want you to take away the awe, gratitude, and pride that I feel from working with such powerful young artists, and knowing that they are out there stoking the flames of that greatest of art forms, opera.

Thanks Michael, for accepting my offer to play and giving me the opportunity to dust off my old snare drum (even though my middle school band teacher is likely rolling in his grave after the lecture I got when he found drum sticks in my trumpet case) and to use my own meager talents (okay, a little bit of self-deprecation, but this isn't about me! Geez) to help guide "A Fire in Water" through her performances to receive all the great reviews, both printed and social, with my sticks and a drum head that has some how lasted 25 years -- seriously, how long should a drum head last when it's just sitting there for a couple of decades?

Remo, folks: they make good drum heads (and they didn't even pay me to say that).

*snare drum, low tom, suspended cymbal, wine glasses, and fidgeting**

**That last was my own value add.

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