Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Guess I'm a Choir "Parent"

Choral/piano rehearsal with Maestro Krzysztof Urbanski in attendance-Verdi Requiem, October 2013, Hilbert Circle Theater

Sometimes I'm asked what it's like to be the guy who prepares the choir for another conductor.

I understand the curiosity--the singers and I work together for a month or six weeks, sweating over every detail, getting it just right. And then, at the moment it all is about to happen, I take my place on the sidelines, and the maestro takes over.

Ok, I'll admit it...I love to conduct concerts myself. Sharing the moment with the musicians, plumbing the spiritual and musical depths of the world's great masterpieces of Bach-Handel-Mendelssohn-Brahms-Britten-etc. And a bit of a control "freak," it feels good to have the chance to see "my" vision to completion.

But, I've been blessed by the chance to work with really great orchestra conductors...sure, they have their own individual perspectives. And of course we don't always share the same opinion or manner of doing things. But that's what keeps it interesting.

This week, we are in final rehearsals for our performance of the amazingly powerful Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi. And just in time, too...the world will note his 200th birthday the night of our final dress rehearsal.

We are honored to share the stage with our amazing orchestral partners at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. And I am very happy to be preparing the chorus for Maestro Krzysztof Urbanski, music director of the ISO, and a truly gifted musician and conductor.

Watching Krzysztof work is a joy. His ears are incredible...he hears everything. And his conducting is powerful yet clear, inspiring and full of music. Then there's his brain...usually working completely from memory, he knows each detail of the score, and often brings fresh, even new, interpretive ideas to our rehearsals. The result is a new and interesting way to look at the music we know well, sometimes from years of previous performances. It never gets old.

Training the choir, working with them, encouraging the singers...then turning them loose to do their best with someone else. Sometimes I imagine this is what parenting feels like. Raise the kids, teach them best as you can, then hope for the best as they make their way on their own, just out of reach. Risky at times? Sure. Rewarding to see when it "clicks"? You bet!

If you're there at Hilbert Circle Theater on Friday or Saturday (and I hope you are...it's going to be simply stunning), you'll see me in my usual place in the side box. Hanging on every note, trying desperately not to be too obvious as my hands and arms involuntarily conduct along with the music. And beaming with pride when it's over, watching my happy singers receive the applause of the crowds.

Just like my brother at his kids' cross-country meets and basketball games, I'm lucky to be the "parent." Great music, terrific singers, learning from the maestros, and the chance to scale the peaks of the musical mountains together, savoring the view and lessons learned.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

From the Podium of Dr. Michael Davis

(Note: as part of our preparations for the upcoming MOOD INDIGO performances on September 15, we welcome the genius behind these sold out performances, and ISC Assistant Artistic Director, Michael Davis a moment on the blog to share his thoughts about this delightful concert.

MD: Thanks, Eric, for your very kind comments.  Can you believe we are about to kick off our 12th concert season together?  And this year's repertoire will be just as exciting as the first one for me to be sure! 
Hearing 180 singers rehearse the Verdi Requiem is nothing short of breathtaking, but hearing 22 singers rehearse all of those familiar melodies for the upcoming Mood Indigo is equally thrilling.  And as much as I'm enjoying it now, I can hardly wait to hear what the amazing musicians in the Combo will bring to the musical party!  
This show continues to be all about connections, and our guest artists are a perfect example. 
When I was participating in the Robert Shaw Choral Workshops in NYC almost two decades ago I would always visit the Iridium Jazz Club where the legendary guitarist and innovator performed every Monday night--Tom Doyle was the producer and sound engineer.   Les and the Les Paul trio, with Tom pulling multiple aspects together at the back of the room, took Cabaret entertainment to a new level.  I was fortunate to see their shows over 15 different times and it was inspiring each and every time.  
Fast forward to 2013.  After 46 years working with a cavalcade of musical icons behind the musical curtain, Tom is going to be at the front of the house sharing his extraordinary talents on guitar and sharing a few personal highlights from those 46 years with Les.  Joining him will be his equally talented wife Sandy, who is a singer, guitarist, flutist, percussionist, and all around great person too. 
As for me, you'll find me pinching myself each time I realize we are creating our version of those very special evenings in Manhattan for our friends right here in Indianapolis one more time.  I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do!!  See you at the Landmark Center soon!

Monday, August 26, 2013

How Well Do You Know Michael Davis??

ISC Assistant Artistic Director Dr. Michael Davis with board member Peter Fellegy

With our MOOD INDIGO concert fast approaching, it seems a great time to shine the spotlight on the artistic genius behind it. Dr. Michael Davis conceived of and led the first all sold-out MOOD INDIGO series of performances during the 2012-2013 season. The success (and fun!) of those concerts convinced us early on to repeat them in the current season.

Lady Be Good...the inimitable song styles of Michael Davis

Michael, MD, "Doug," ... he goes by many names around the ISC shop. But all who know him love his warmth, sense of humor and affable demeanor. What some may not know as well is the incredible musical history-decades, really, of professional music making-Michael has amassed. It's a wealth of smarts about musical style and repertoire that continues to serve us all so well.

Born in Arkansas, Michael's musical talents manifest themselves very quickly, learning piano, organ, guitar and violin (well, he says "fiddle" as you might guess) at a young age. Playing regularly with local professional swing band musicians, Michael learned the rep and the style before he got his drivers license. 

Michael brings his amazing talents to the stage for us in our MOOD INDIGO performances on Sunday, September 15, 2013, at the beautiful Indiana Landmark Center. Next week, watch this space for a special article about the concert itself, by guest author Dr. Michael Davis.