Every holiday, there's at least one relative who's bound to look me doubtfully in the eye and say, "so...what exactly is it that you....do?" I know every coach/accompanist/cover conductor/prompter/large ensemble musical assistant of any kind knows that question and the feeling that ensues.
Well, these are some of the things that have happened since my introductory post. Each of these events requres a pianist, preparation time, a room to be scheduled, a tuned piano...multiple events happen just to make the following list possible.
(Monday and Tuesday: voice lessons for each Studio singer).
Tuesday: chorus music for BALLO, sixth floor of the Wortham. Men arrive from all over the city: students, working guys, new parents. Men who are making it as freelance musicans, and men who give us some of their precious time away from a 40-hour-per-week job. Maestro Richard Bado has them sitting in a circle, intoning Verdi's music on spoken counts: "and one and two-ee-and-a..." Setting aside for one moment text and expression, the chorus internalizes the rhythm that will keep them performing as a unit no matter how much or how wildly they are asked to move onstage.
(Wednesday and Thursday: Studio rehearsals with pianists. How close to memorized am I for this small part in the first opera? What about that recital next month? There's a patron event that needs a duet. I have to sing an audition in New York this week, can I learn this music in time?)
Thursday: all the Studio singers and pianists perform for the senior administration for the first time. Audition clothes, headshots, resumes. General Director Anthony Freud and Artistic Administrator Diane Zola choose arias, and everyone makes their first impression. It's a strong afternoon, well done on all counts.
(Friday and Saturday: learning solo parts in THE REFUGE. An original and a revised version are haunting the building - is everyone's music up to date? Difficult rhythms get taken apart, scores are compared. David Hanlon, the principal coach, keeps a list of questions for the composer).
Friday: a recital at the Museum of Fine Arts. Two of the Studio singers brought Duparc and Schubert into a large, solemn space with the resonance of a thousand bathtubs. A crowd of several hundred people dampened the acoustic to cathedral proportions, It was our first time in this space for this crowd, and a success. I was worried that our program was too serious, but the space demands serious performance and concentration, it was designed for that.
(Saturday: children's chorus auditions. Highlights include a six-year-old with beautiful pitch and absolute confidence and a nine-year old who announced, just as the piano introduction to his piece was fading: "I never agreed to this! It was my mom's idea!")
Sunday: Special Projects coordinator Susan Elliott, David Hanlon, and I visit a church, searching for African singers to be part of one of the REFUGE movements. This group meets in a motel on the Southwest highway, in a room redolant with ancient cigarette smoke down the hall form the karaoke bar. There are sixty people. The pastor has the tenor voice of a strong and carefree angel, and every voice is lifted in the call and response. One impossibly talented teenage boy is the de facto music director, running synthesizers, calling out instructions. While the eldest members of his group converse only in Swahili, and their children in Swahili, French, and English, this young man has copied every move of 'N'Sync, and even performs a Christian rap in English over one of the choir's African songs.
The next time you ask a musician "What is it exactly that you do?", be patient when she hesitates in answering. It's complicated...and wonderful.