NYFOS@North Fork 2022: Day 3

Written by Steven Blier

Artistic Director, NYFOS

In category: Blier's Blog

Published August 25, 2022

Wednesday is always the day of grace. The performance still feels pleasantly far off, so we’re able to keep performance anxiety at bay. Sure, the cast is concerned about memorization, I am concerned about the places where my hands are not cooperating. But these remain distant thunderstorms.
Wednesday is also a slightly awkward transition day. We’re like fledgling birds, not quite ready to fly.  All the notes are there and the majority of the lyrics too, but we’re still working on the suppleness, the colors, the dynamic build, and most of all the musical spacing.  There’s nothing like a moment’s pause to lift a key change from the humdrum to the heart-stopping. It’s the kind of thing a younger singer might not perceive when they are studying the music on their own. They just want to make sure they’re learning the correct rhythms, not the poetry of spaciousness. 
We had a guest today at our first work-through, and it felt good to share our rehearsal process with a receptive listener—in this case, the aptly named Lela Love, my friend and houseguest. She was digging the music, and that gave us confidence. We could tell that the songs were landing. (Lela also took today’s photos.) 
Both César and Shelén are deeply musical people, so it strikes me as odd that I would ever have to remind them to sing with more expression—to bend the line like an alto sax, to end phrases with a jeté and not a foot-stomp, to go from the insistent to the insinuating. Because I am blessed with such talented artists, it’s pretty easy to get the results I want quickly. With Shelén, I usually sing a phrase or two in my mellifluous, somewhat limited baritone, and she knows exactly what she needs to do. (Sometimes I think singers will do anything just to get me to stop singing.) With César, I have to remind him that his voice is a lot fuller than it was two years ago, and that he can afford to ease off here and there—especially in a small, resonant space like Poquatuck Hall. 

It’s always tricky to guide someone without inhibiting their impulses, but in our rehearsals I feel that I am actually reminding them to follow their impulses, to keep hearing the music actively, to keep absorbing the piano accompaniment like blood plasma, and to remember that they are no longer flying solo in a practice room. Every song has its own color, its own style, its own romance. The López Buchardo song is tangerine; the Piazzolla is blood red; the Villa-Lobos is cobalt blue. Fantasy, regret, joy, fulfillment, failure—fifty shades of  love, none of them grey, waft through our concert. We’re up to about 37—and we have plenty of time to get all the way there. 

author: Steven Blier

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Called “the coolest dude in town” by Opera News, master collaborative pianist and coach Steven Blier is the co-founder and artistic director of New York Festival of Song. Here on No Song is Safe From Us, Steven blogs about the NYFOS Emerging Artist residencies, writes the engaging and erudite program notes for our Mainstage concerts, and contributes frequently to Song of the Day.


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