No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  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.




 |  Steven Blier

The first day of a project is always fraught with excitement and fear and questions—how prepared will everyone be? Is this program any good? Will all my practicing hang in there in the heat of the moment, or am I going to be a total klutz? But this year’s NYFOS@North Fork residency had more unknowns than usual because I’d hired two people I didn’t really know.




 |  Steven Blier

We weren’t sure we’d be able to make it to Westchester today. They predicted a lengthy snowfall with five to seven inches accumulated on the ground by noon. So we made a bunch of contingency plans, and were prepared to load the singers onto a Metro-North train to work at my house in the afternoon. But it turned out to be a fairly benign snowfall in above-freezing temperatures. The roads were clear (and blessedly empty) on the way up to Caramoor, and we managed to stay on course.




 |  Steven Blier

Something has been missing for me from the last few Caramoor residencies: one-on-one time with each singer, the kind of interaction where mountains get moved and new artistic ideas get planted. It’s mostly been a question of scheduling: when we have a guest coach, the singers are all in one room with Michael and me and the imported guru, and we simply have less one-on-one time. And this week we’ve had guest teachers every day. Until today.