Sunday, March 9, 2014

And then... sometimes you DON"T fail.

Well you knew there was going to be a flipside, right? I mean, there usually is, if I wait a few days.

(No, I didn't hear from Loserface. That's going to be his blog name, unless he gets his act together and calls me soon. I know it's probably not nice or fair to call him that, but it makes me feel better. So.)

I started rehearsals on Thursday afternoon. Always a nerve-wracking thing, to be playing my music in front of strangers. Like being naked. I sweat tons, I mangle words. Really I'm kind of a wreck. Didn't help that it was bucketing down rain and I had nothing to carry my guitar in since my case got stolen a few months back. Nothing says Your Music Director Is A Bag Lady like turning up in rain-sodden clothes clutching your guitar in a dripping garbage bag.  I had no idea what would happen, it's always a bit of a gamble.

The first few minutes were rough, but then my guitar players started picking up the groove. Ukelele players joined in. A while later I was teaching them another groove and somehow singing seemed like a good idea and suddenly I had several pieces in the show with vocals, which was not my original plan at all. Now they're some of my favourite moments in the show.

Three days later I am in love with this whole cast and they seem to love me back. This play with the terribly dark subject matter (it's about the trial and conviction of Steven Truscott. Look it up. It's very sad.) has some major flaws: very narrative-driven, not a lot of action, depressing subject matter. Which means it's crying out for music to underscore the narration and help create a haunting, eerie mood. And it does, and the cast and director are very happy to have the music, especially since I joined the company late in the game, once they'd staged it all. I thought that would be tough, but it was actually the perfect moment because they'd got the basics out of the way and we could slot the music into the show quickly since the structure was already in place.

Bonus? All my obsessive Felicity-watching finally paid off! My music owes a lot to "Snuffy" Walden's guitar-driven score of that series, with its gentle harmonics. It's unlike anything I've written before, although I should put "written" in quotations since mostly I recorded the music to get my ideas solidified. I didn't score much at all, and relied on the recording 'sketches' as I call them, plus verbal descriptions, and my own inept guitar playing to get my point across. I like working that way, especially with musicians whose level of experience and music-reading ability is pretty varied. It's kind of the antithesis of the way our music director in Barkerville works- he's extremely meticulous about scoring every little thing. I get that, and for some shows it's the way to go, but this show was about giving the music to the actors and letting them run with it. And they have. I couldn't be happier.

If I may nerd out here for a minute: Underscoring text with music is one of the most generous things you can do as a musician. If you do it well, people should notice the music but only insofar as it supports the text and evokes a mood. If you do it badly, people will find it distracting and annoying. So it feels right to hand this music of mine to a young cast of student actors and let them fill it out with their ideas and embellishments. This is a really great acting school, one of Canada's best. Some of these guys might be hiring ME one day. So it's been great to see what they've done with the play, the music, all of it.

One last thing: it's been a few years since I last worked for this theatre company and working for them again I can really gauge how much my confidence has grown in the last few years, which is wonderful. Part of that I'm sure is down to my seasons in Barkerville, and maybe part of it is also due to having a particularly hard year last year and learning that the best moments and the worst times are both fleeting: you can savour the good stuff and endure the bad and both will pass before you know it. Whatever it is, I'm grateful and proud. Of this show, of this cast, and most of all, of myself.

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