NYFOS@North Fork: Day 1

Written by Steven Blier

Artistic Director, NYFOS

In category: Blier's Blog

Published August 16, 2016

The first day of a residency has a particular energetic charge. We all try to act low-key and normal, just swinging into an ordinary day’s work. But each of us is carefully monitoring everything that is going on. I am hoping that all of my hours of practice will hang in there when I have to focus on the singers and think about something besides my own hands and feet. The singers hope their interpretations are in the ballpark, and that they can have the concert memorized in time for the show. I worry about the way I have divided up the group numbers, they worry about learning incorrect harmonies from my chicken-scrawl handwritten arrangements. I hope I have chosen good material for everyone. And I hope they have studied it.

unnamed-2Today was first day of school, and it went extremely well. All of us were tired, and some of us actually had good reason: Kelsey came to Long Island directly after moving apartments in Manhattan. Christine and Miles had flown in from Europe Saturday night, and were probably quite jet-lagged. You wouldn’t know it from the clarion sounds they were making, or from the positive energy they brought into Poquatuck Hall. But Miles was a bit loopy today. He had a fabulous malapropism in “A Miracle Would Happen,” when he mispronounced “exacerbates” and “exasturbates”—a word that really should exist.

It’s interesting to see which English expressions and witticisms need explanation. In a duet from Bolcom’s “A Wedding,” the character sings, “I was married twice, first a red then a Republican….” Christine said, “Red? Like, Native American?” “Um, no. Red, like Commie.” “Oh…” The line goes on to say, “And neither one knew where the trash is.” “You get that, Chrissie?” “Yes. Well, no. Not really.” “Well,” I search for words, “trash, like, junk, you know…?” “Ohhhhh. So she’s saying that…” “She had two husbands, one radical left wing and one conservative, and they were both lousy in bed.”

That whole song is full of double-entendres, and a lot of them come from old slang expressions. “Neither one knew where the trash is” rhymes with “someone to haul the ashes.” I mentioned it was a phrase you might see in a classic blues song. By this time Christine pulled out her phone to look it up online. “It says: ‘to have sexual intercourse.’ Wait, here’s Urban Dictionary: ‘to have sex, homo or hetero, usually casual, but wild, hot, monkey sex.’” “OK, well, then, you get the picture?” She did.

The afternoon wasn’t all Masters and Johnson. We actually worked through the whole program except for the three pieces that belong to our bass, Alex Rosen, who arrives tomorrow from Ravinia. For the final forty-five minutes all of us were running on fumes, which made our not very difficult encore by—well, I don’t want to give it away, but it’s a classic pop tune first recorded by Dionne Warwick in 1963—seem as if we were trying to sing the final fugue from Falstaff.

An encouraging day’s work, egged on by sensational weather. The world is a very chaotic place right now. The peace of Orient, the stimulation of 20 great songs, and the privilege of being together couldn’t be more welcome.

A lovely way to celebrate my mother’s 102nd birthday. She would have been proud, though she could not have explained about “hauling the ashes.”

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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