I’ve been absolutely swamped with a plethora of new activities to keep me occupied. My eldest is back in school – and already on his first suspension today. Oy.
We just finished Chicago, the musical to RAVE reviews and a sold out house. I ended up doing TRIPLE duty on this show. I had originally signed on to play the role of Matron Momma Morton (yes, the Queen Latifah role, but please do not compare!) and help out as vocal coach for the show. About a week before opening, I was also asked to take over as BAND DIRECTOR.
Talk about a humbling experience. I haven’t directed an instrumental ensemble since my college days. For those of you that think you just wave your arms and music comes out, well, you’re partly right.
I was put in front of some of the best musicians our town has to offer – and to direct Kander and Ebb is no small feat – but with a 5 piece ensemble – and at least ONE of them is a band director himself in real life – and did I mention they were all guys?
Yeah, I felt a wee bit intimidated. I mean, the drummer has played with some of the biggest names in modern rock and roll history. The sax player has more years experience than I have been living on this little rock. And did I mention the trumpeter is classically trained and is the high school band director in a Flint Suburb?
My palms weren’t just sweaty because it was hot on that stage.
Opening night was more of a trial by fire for me than anything else I’ve experienced in my life. In my two (Count ’em TWO) conducting classes I had at college – only ONE was for instrumental music – I was taught the very rudimentary basics of conducting:
1. Mark the score for changes in tempo, key, mood, etc.
2. Analyze the music to know what’s going on where (see #1 if you’re unclear)
3. Note any cues
4. Practice conducting the music BEFORE your do it in front of your ensemble.
Well, I could pretty much scrap #4 because I had to jump right in on a dress rehearsal. Being part of the musical already was helpful because I already knew some of the music, but the incidental, between scene music (walk-offs, etc) I had never heard before, and well, let’s just say I’m not the world’s greatest sight-reader.
So I over counted, gave too many prep beats, and tried to be OVER helpful with my band. Some of the guys didn’t mind, but I could tell there was a bit of derision in the ranks.
The whole show was cues – and with actors sometimes coming in on time and sometimes not, it was a new arrangement every night.
And we pulled it off to thunderous applause every single night.
But the guys who deserve the applause sat behind that bandstand. I waved my arms, and THEY made me look good.
And now that it’s over, I’m glad – and I’m gonna miss ’em.
Tom, Frank (and Glenn for one night only), Larry, Gary and Chris: Y’all rock. Thanks for helpin’ a girl overcome herself.
But next time, I want more notice.