No Song is Safe From Us

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

It never ceases to amaze me how significant a concert can be, especially in an intimate environment away from the urban hurly-burly. When we make music in Orient—way out at the eastern end of Long Island’s North Forth—we feel the immediate reward of feeding people who are clearly hungry for song, hungry for artistic stimulation, hungry to be addressed with kindness, humor, and intelligence.




 |  Steven Blier

When I first did “The Art of Pleasure” at Wolf Trap I shared piano duties with a man I treasure, both as a musical partner and friend—Joseph Li. He’s an almost intimidatingly beautiful artist, versatile and virtuosic. In Orient, alas, I am going it alone, which makes “The Art of Pleasure” a lot more art but somewhat less pleasure for me.




 |  Steven Blier

Wednesday is pretty much the last day I can work intimately with each singer. From here on in, we need to put a show together, bash away at memorization, and fit each song into the longer arc of the program. So I scheduled a bunch of individual sessions to talk through big ideas and correct small errors. An almost-negligible flaw in a phrase sometimes reveals a larger, more important issue, something worth discussing. And it always takes me by surprise, the tiny blip that leads to big progress.




 |  Steven Blier

My NYFOS residencies are intense, but they’re also short—just a week long. We have a practical task in front of us: getting an intricate concert on its feet, memorized, staged as necessary, and absorbed artistically. But I also want to give something new to the very talented singers: an even higher level of expression, a sense of style in genres that may be new to them, a glimpse of my unconventional artistic process. It’s a delicate endeavor, kind of like musical laser-surgery or whipping up a soufflé.




 |  Steven Blier

Today was the much-anticipated first day of NYFOS@North Fork, our sixth annual project in Orient, NY. The town is at the very east end of Long Island’s north fork (hence the name). If you kept going, the next piece of land you’d see would be….Europe. Our concert has become quite a tradition out here and the town is excited. People rush up to me—well, rush is a slight exaggeration, but they saunter up to me purposefully and tell me that the NYFOS show is always the highlight of their summer. It will be on the last Sunday of August—the 26th—right before we start to gird up for the fall season.




 |  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.