No Song is Safe From Us

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

Last Tuesday I was ready to rehearse Kurt Weill’s Berlin, and I am now ready to play the show on Thursday. But I was not ready for how deep it was going to cut. My soul has gotten a workout this week, in a wonderful way. I guess it all began with my gradual awareness of just how significant the songs were.




 |  Steven Blier

Today we had two visitors: Marianne Barrett, who coaches German at Juilliard, and Jeremy Lawrence, a specialist in the songs of the Weimar Era. He did the translations for Ute Lemper’s CD of Berlin cabaret songs (we’re using two of them), and he also has his own show, Lavender Songs, where he performs material from the era.




 |  Steven Blier

It was a day of highs and lows. Some songs flourished in amazing new directions under the guidance of Mary Birnbaum. As I’ve written earlier in the week, I have had to adjust to seeing stand-and-sing songs I’ve done for years turn into mini-scenes that pull in several non-singing performers. Mostly it’s a revelation, once I let go of my preconceptions.




 |  Steven Blier

Today I invited my friend Jack Viertel to come watch some of our rehearsal. Jack comes from the highest reaches of the theater world. He’s written a masterful book called The Secret Life of the Broadway Musical (a must-read for anyone who loves American musical theater); he is the Artistic Director of the Encores! Series at City Center; he is Senior Vice-President at Jujamcyn Theaters; and he’s taught at NYU. It would seem a bit scary to invite such a person to give notes to the cast, especially after only a few days of rehearsal. But Jack is one of the greatest mensches in the business—indeed, in our entire city. And he’s a close friend—hell, he was the toastmaster at my wedding. I kept anxiety at bay.




 |  Steven Blier

There is a certain thrill—and a certain terror—to watching a beloved song receive a new, honest-to-god staging. I’ve seen these pieces acted as solos by a cadre of great artists in recital and cabaret settings, but this is the first time I’ve seen some of them turn into full-fledged theatrical numbers with choreography and fleshed-out […]




 |  Steven Blier

We had our first run of the whole program today, and it went extremely well. There were plenty of heart-stopping moments where we all felt the sacred fire in the room. And the program has a strong arc, just as I remembered. But I wasn’t quite prepared for how powerfully Kurt Weill and his fellow Weimar songwriters would speak in 2019.




 |  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.