Day 4: August 20
Days that have drama are easy to describe. Days like yesterday are more difficult. No one cried, no one blew up, no one had a meltdown. No one stopped in to hear rehearsal and supply a cute anecdote. But in a quiet way, mountains were moving. This was the day when everyone began to stop thinking about their songs, and made the first steps towards letting them have their own inner life. It’s one of my oft-repeated maxims: first you work on a piece, then you let the piece work on you. I’d privately scheduled that turnaround for today’s session, but it began to kick in yesterday.
For Chelsea, it had to with something non-vocal: I asked her to concentrate on what she was doing when she wasn’t singing. “Don’t look at the audience for approval. Stay with your story, stay with your privacy.” The first time she tried it, I admit she looked a little immobilized. But thereafter…magic. Every song had its own special aura. This woman has a unique sound: sweet, bright, clear, free, but also imposing, like a lyric soprano on steroids. Intonation from God, vowels clean enough to eat off of. I swear she’ll sing Elsa and Desdemona by the time she’s 40. She’s perfect for these Grieg Opus 48 pieces, which were originally written for a Wagnerian soprano but really need an innocent, girlish timbre.
The same thing happened to everyone. Theo began to inhabit the gallery of Gabriel Kahane’s Craigslistlieder characters effortlessly—from effete intellectual to bluff bear, clueless teen to highstrung neurotic. It helped that the cast started to hang around and listen to each other’s rehearsals, probably in an effort to keep me on schedule (which sort of worked). Theo instinctively understood he could do more with understatement than with jabbing at the comedy. Lauren turned off her brilliant Canadian brain to find the duende, the paella-scented Spanish soul, of the women in Granados’s Tonadillas. And William, a Rossini virtuoso who also has a beautiful gift for British music, found he could own, not just rent, the Frank Bridge songs I gave him.
It was a day when barriers started to melt. We celebrated by having drinks with Max Rudin and Amy Schatz, two of my dearest friends and the first of our family group to buy a house out here. On the way up Youngs Road, the cast recreated the cover of Abbey Road. Max served figs on a salt block.
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