Posts made in October, 2011

Channeling Billie Burke

Posted by on Oct 27, 2011 | 2 comments

I am thrilled to report that after far too long a time, I am going to be back performing on the stage! I found out last night that I have been cast as the Good Witch of the North in Pentacle Theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz. It will be the first weekend of January 2012. I am very excited. I miss performing like I would miss a limb and the prospect of doing it again makes me sort of giddy and giggly.

 

I was terribly nervous to audition last week- ridiculously so considering my advanced age and supposed level of experience. I guess it goes to show that you never really get over the nerves. It is one level of stress to perform; it is a totally different level of anxiety to audition. Auditioning means putting yourself out there, opening yourself up to criticism, judgment, the unknown; in a word, being vulnerable. Will they like me? Am I good enough? And in my case, “Can I still do this? Do I remember how to sing, act, connect?” You try to tell yourself it’s not ME that they are judging, it’s my voice, but come on, who are we kidding? It is you that they are judging. Our singing, our voice IS us. It is practically impossible to untangle the two. And frankly, I’m not sure we should anyway. Our voice is us with all of our beauty, flaws, and individuality.

 

I searched my brain and truly cannot remember the last time I auditioned- must have been at least 5 or 6 years ago…probably some disheartening operatic audition that I never heard back from… Which leads me to sincerely thank Pentacle Theatre and the Oz production staff. The audition process was practically painless if you can imagine such a thing. Everyone was friendly and low-key but also professional. I felt like they were actually paying attention to each person auditioning. What a concept! How many times have I auditioned when the auditioner never even looked up! When they were so eager to leave for lunch that they left the room before I did! (true story) And unless you get the part, forget about actually hearing back from them. Demoralizing and dehumanizing. It doesn’t take that much to treat each singer in front of you as a human with feelings. This does not mean you have to hire everyone or tell everyone how great they are. But the least you can do is acknowledge that they are probably nervous and worked hard to be standing in front of you. And actually listen to them. Watch them. Have some simple courtesy for your fellow human. But, back to my original point before my mini-rant, this experience was lovely. Even the callbacks were as relaxed and positive as could be- they even clapped when each person finished. You felt human and valued. And they got back to you when they said they would! Remarkable.

 

And happily, I got the part! I’m glad to know all those years watching The Wizard of Oz paid off.  Thank you Billie Burke! You were right there with me, whispering inspiration into my ear with your sweet, trilly voice. “Are you a good witch or a bad witch? Which?”  I am honored to follow in your footsteps. The big question is: do I get to wear the fabulous glittery ball gown complete with wings?! Please, please, please…

 

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"He chooses them as he chews them"*

Posted by on Oct 21, 2011 | 0 comments

So, how does one choose the right repertoire? 

1. You do NOT get points for trying, meaning: Always choose a song completely within your ability level. It will not show you off to your best advantage if you attempt to sing something that is too hard for you. This does not mean that you can’t give yourself a challenge. But there are doable, achievable challenges and then there are just plain dumb risks to take at your own peril. My motto is quality over quantity. A beautifully sung “easy” song is far better than a badly sung “hard” one. I know how tempting it is, I do, first hand. And I can tell you, it hardly ever ends well. Believe me, I know.                                                                                    
Keep in mind, unless the piece you are auditioning for requires it, not every audition song has to show how high you can sing and/or belt. (FYI: shouting is NOT belting.)

2. When auditioning for a specific show, choose a piece in the style and from the general era of the show. Unless they specifically ask for it, you should never sing a song from the show that you are auditioning for.  Since most composers have multiple shows and songs to choose from, you can always find a similar song. But the same composer is not always necessary. But do get the era right. Don’t sing something from Oklahoma!for Rent or something from Wicked for Annie Get Your Gun

3. Consider the general mood of the show and the specific character(s) you are interested in playing. If you want to be the ingénue, don’t sing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” (don’t sing that anyway…unless you’re at least 45!). If you want to be the villain, perhaps “Younger than Springtime” is not the perfect choice. If the show is generally fun and comic, probably an uptempo song is your best bet. Singing a “Debbie Downer” song will not help the auditioner imagine you in the show. Conversely, if you are auditioning for, say, Next to Normal, perhaps you should strongly consider a serious contemporary ballad. 

*However, if you are also required to do a monologue, you might consider having the song and monologue being contrasting in feel/tempo.

My final caveat: if you don’t have enough time to prepare “the perfect song” for a specific audition, sing what you sing best and let the chips fall where they may. (Unless it’s totally wrong…ie: if all you have is rock/pop, perhaps My Fair Lady is not your thing or, if you’re like me and attempting to sing something pop/rock is like speaking Chinese, I would recommend bypassing anything by Jonathan Larson.) It’s great when everything lines up just so, but let’s face it, sometimes we have to go with what we have ready and hope for the best. Besides, good singing is good singing. To me, being prepared, polished and comfortable with your material is better than throwing something together at the last moment. Not only will you do better in general, you aren’t likely to be quite as nervous.

 * Thank you Singing in the Rain

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Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity | Video on TED.com

Posted by on Oct 13, 2011 | 0 comments

Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity | Video on TED.com:

‘via Blog this’

Do your job. Show up and do your job. It’s hard work, consistent work that is required. the inspiration and the miracles come only when you show up and do your job. why can’t I remember this?
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The Right Rep, Part 2

Posted by on Oct 12, 2011 | 0 comments

The subject of selecting repertoire resurfaced in September after I judged the Youth Division (10-17 yr. olds) at the Oregon State Fair talent competition. There were two basic problems with 99% of the singers’ song choices:

  1. They almost all sang inappropriate repertoire for their youthful ages.
  2. The difficulty level of their songs was generally just beyond their abilities.

The other 1%, well, that young lady won the competition.  Not only did she have a solid belt, a strong stage presence and personality, she was successful because her song was age appropriate and totally within her abilities. She looked comfortable singing every note and understood what she was singing about. This familiarity and ease freed her to focus on the performance; she had fun and therefore so did her audience. Every other singer, mostly young women around 14-15 years old, sang about how their man ‘done them wrong’, how ‘there ain’t no good men left,’ etc… Um, no. I didn’t buy it. They were just strutting around the stage pretending to be at least 10 years older than they were, awkwardly imitating their favorite adult singers. Just a little more research and thought and most of these young singers would have been far more successful and competitive. Especially for Musical Theatre, but I would argue in every genre, age appropriateness is so important. There is so much repertoire out there to choose from, for every age, voice type, personality, ability and style. All it takes is some research, time and thought.

And frankly worse in my mind than inappropriate subject matter, there was always at least one note or musical phrase that took these young people beyond their vocal limits. This caused them to resort to basically shouting which in turn caused them to sing out of tune. Oh the strained necks and contorted faces, the notes that didn’t quite reach their mark or pushed horribly sharp. (Not to mention that few of them knew how to use a microphone effectively which is a totally separate problem and skill set!) The minute they started to strain, push and go out of tune, they irrevocably tainted the rest of their otherwise good performance. Especially in pop music and especially with today’s technology, you should always have your music transposed into a comfortable key. It makes all the difference and it’s thankfully not like classical music- no one cares that it’s not in the original key! It’s whatever works for you, whatever sounds best that matters. (Oh how I wish that were true for classical music…oh to be allowed to sing Glitter and Be Gay down a half-step!)

Case in point: there was one young man who had the beginnings of a great young tenor voice, a wonderful stage presence and engaging stage personality. When he started to sing, I was ready to give him top marks. And then the song started to go way too high and he struggled for more than half the song to hit the high notes. Furthermore, he was no more than 12 and singing about how he wanted his ‘baby to come back.’ He mugged his way through the piece but it had a false ring to it and his vocal fatigue took its toll on his natural charm and abilities. He would have been delightful (and infinitely more successful) had he sung something from Aladdin or Oliver, or even, forgive me, High School Musical. But no matter what, certainly not as vocally challenging. (If he just had to do the song he did, at least transpose it down a few steps!) I was disappointed for him. He had really positive performing qualities that just can’t be taught but a bad repertoire choice did him in.

 

 

 

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Frederica Von Stade

Posted by on Oct 9, 2011 | 0 comments

Not a dry eye in the house as HGO honors Frederica von Stade after final performance – 2011-Feb-09 – CultureMap Houston:

‘via Blog this’

Ok, so I am woefully behind the times with this news. But it caught my eye since Ms. Von Stade is another one of my favorite opera singers; another American opera singer who sings opera and Musical Theatre equally fantastically. I fell in love with her voice the first time I heard her sing Debussy’s Ariettes Oublies; a transcendent experience. And then seeing her on-stage in the role of Octavian sealed the deal. She is as phenomenal an actress as she is singer. Octavian is a teenage BOY played by a woman. And then in Act 3 Octavian dresses up as a girl. So now we have a woman playing a teenage boy playing a teenage girl… and she was completely believable. There was not one moment, not one gesture that took you out of the fantasy. The suspension of disbelief was complete. It was one of those theatrical moments I will never forget, one that inspired me to persue this crazy profession. To be able to THAT, well, what could be better?

And then I just stumbled upon this as well:

Saint Flicka: Frederica von Stade | The New York Observer:

‘via Blog this’

This passage in particular caught my eye: “It seems to me a much crueler business than it was in my day,” she said. “When I first went to the Met, I felt like I was led around like a child in third grade. Now it seems a bit more brutal. You’re not allowed to fail at all. And every career develops. You’re going to make mistakes and have bad times. Sometimes I don’t feel the business today allows these kids to do that.”

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