No Song is Safe From Us

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

I’ve just returned from seeing the HD broadcast of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” from the National Theater. It starred a colleague of mine, Janie Dee, as Phyllis. I worked with her when NYFOS brought our P.G. Wodehouse concert to London. She was a delight, and a powerhouse performer. And she was staggeringly good in tonight’s “Follies”—a Phyllis to rival the best actresses I’ve ever seen in the role: venomous, cold, but full of hidden longing and sadness.




 |  Steven Blier

We went back to Katonah today, with Mo Zhou riding up with us in the car. I wish everyone could have Mo to themselves for an hour. She’s a delight, a character, a raconteur, a force of nature.




 |  Steven Blier

We waited till mid-morning to see if we’d be back in our Katonah Zen-garden, or if we’d be working in the homey surroundings of my apartment. We learned at around 10 AM that Caramoor had lost its electricity in the storm. I never knew that Westchester could be so…primitive. The upshot was that we had a second day of work in Manhattan. This had never happened during the ten years of Vocal Rising Stars. No matter what, we always rehearsed upstate. I feared the change of venue would be disruptive, breaking the spell of the retreat.




 |  Steven Blier

We got word yesterday that a major snowstorm was headed our way. It would certainly make the city a slushy mess, and these storms are usually even more severe in Westchester. By lunchtime yesterday, Katonah hadn’t completely recovered from the previous Friday’s monsoon. Several people on the Caramoor staff still didn’t have electrical power at home. There […]




 |  Steven Blier

A few years ago I got a request from the administration at Caramoor to add a fifth artist to the Vocal Rising Stars program: an apprentice pianist. I turned this over in my mind for a while, considering the pros and cons of sharing accompanying duties with yet another person. After all, we already had two pianists on board, Michael Barrett (henceforth to be known by his nickname, Mikey) and me. As I mulled and mulled, the gentle request turned into something more definitive: the program was now to include four singers and a pianist. Any questions?




 |  Steven Blier

Today marked the beginning of the tenth season of NYFOS@Caramoor, aka the Vocal Rising Stars Program. I have always resisted the idea of “rising stars”—it goes against everything I feel about making satisfying, essential music. What I cannot resist is our annual retreat to Caramoor. The unfailing warmth of the people who work there, the calm of the environment, and the feeling of being in a artistic sanctuary feed my soul in a way that few other concert engagements can.




 |  Steven Blier

When I planned “Red, White, and Blues” I thought I was making a light summer entertainment: 10 French songs, 10 American songs, encore, done. A pitcher of musical sangria. Then I started working on the program, and got a little carried way with visions of sugarplums. “Wouldn’t it be great to do the aria from ‘Mme Chrysanthème’? Gosh, this is the time everyone needs to hear ‘Awaiting You’! Oh, we’re by the water, we should do ‘J’attends un navire’!” The result is that my light repast is more like a five-course meal catered by Lutèce.




 |  Steven Blier

Thursday is the last day I can really work on the songs and push the cast to take risks. On Friday our water breaks as we do our first work-through. Reassurance is the name of the game. On Saturday, contractions start as we have our dress rehearsal. We retreat to our corners. And we deliver the baby on Sunday.




 |  Steven Blier

Unlike some coaches I’ve observed, I don’t tend to start my work by manipulating the surface of the music. Sure, I can be a maniac on the first day about language, because those kinds of errors do need to be nipped in the bud. They take days to repair. But I try not to pick away at musical minutia at the beginning.