No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  Steven Blier

One tiny step for mankind: I finally finished the program for NYFOS’s Tchaikovsky concert next January. It had been about 82% done for several months, and I kept swearing I just needed a weekend to polish it off. But the longer I looked at the playlist, and the more I listened to the songs Antonina Chehovska and Alexey Lavrov and my colleague-slash-student Nikolay Verevkin had suggested, the more I waffled.




 |  Steven Blier

I gave the recording a spin the next night. It’s called Beyond the Sky, and that it exactly where it sent me. I was bowled over by Rob’s musical prowess. People use the word “humbled” a bit too often for my taste, but that is what I felt: humbled. Rob is a master of the 88s—and a fine composer—and a modern jazz wizard (some of the tracks sound like Alban Berg with a backbeat)—and he can even play a theremin in perfect tune. “Oh, he’s a better pianist than either of us,” Michael Barrett said breezily the next day. My hackles quietly went up, of course. My motto is “Never compare, never compete,” and it has served me well. But I had taken the measure of my new colleague, and I was in awe. A breathtaking musician, and a man of warmth and generosity.




 |  Steven Blier

There are two histories of the Rodgers family that run parallel to one another. The first celebrates the dazzling musical gifts that propelled three generations of artists, giving birth to a century of groundbreaking musicals and hundreds of indispensable songs. The second is the shadow history of three composers triumphing over tremendous adversities, some from without, many from within. Tonight we celebrate that triumph with a selection of their songs, some of them chestnuts, many of them rarities…. Notes on the Program by Steven Blier for Rodgers, Rodgers & Guettel, November 1 & 3, 2016 at Merkin Concert Hall




 |  Steven Blier

Today is definitively the first day of autumn. I cannot ignore the fact that the days are shorter, that deadlines are growing tighter, and that I never seem to have enough time to get everything done. My mood must have something to do with this endless election, which is like a 29-month pregnancy—at the end of which you might be giving birth to a monster. On days like this I need a re-set button. Bill Evans and Tony Bennett come to the rescue with a song I find very reassuring at this time of year: “You Must Believe in Spring.”




 |  Steven Blier

My teaching week has mixed coaching sessions with auditions for the January NYFOS@Juilliard show: an all-British program called “From Lute Song to the Beatles.” I had asked the students to bring in English song, suggesting they they might offer one art song in tandem with either an operetta aria or a popular song. It’s only Tuesday and I’ve already heard Finzi, Quilter, Britten, John Ireland, and Purcell—




 |  Steven Blier

My Tchaikovsky concert isn’t till early next year, but I want to get it squared away now before the autumn hits me like a ton of bricks. Having decided to include a little group of songs by Tchaik’s teachers and students, I received some expert guidance from Antonina Chehovska, the soprano soloist for the project. She had wonderful ideas for Rubenstein, Arensky, and Taneyev, and I appreciated her promptness and her enthusiasm.




 |  Steven Blier

“Awaiting You” has all the Adam trademarks—a gorgeous harmonic progression, a lyric that provokes and stimulates, and a white-hot opulence that never fails to conquer me. Here is the unbridled Billy Porter, who gave the first performances of the song.




 |  Steven Blier

The last few days before a concert are always a little tricky to handle. I want to build confidence. I want to fix the little errors—notes, words, rhythms, dynamics—that seem to be repeat offenders. I also want to keep the cast reaching for the heights of expression from depths of their souls—while keeping their work simple, direct, and open. No navel-gazing allowed.




 |  Steven Blier

I have always had a complex relationship with the piano. But I have an especially complex relationship with the piano I am playing this week at Poquatuck Hall. Oysterponds Community Activities, the hall’s parent organization, proudly bought the piano several years ago, and it was a major upgrade from the weather-beaten wreck it replaced. But when I first sat down to play it, I had the oddest sensation of déjà-vu. In fact, I felt as if I were seeing a ghost.