No Song is Safe From Us

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

Yesterday was a trip to the moon on gossamer wings. But today I could see why Wednesday is known as “hump day.” I tried very hard to conceal my fatigue from everyone (including myself), with the clear intention of replicating the buoyancy of Tuesday’s session.




 |  Steven Blier

One of the luxuries of the Vocal Rising Stars program is that I am encouraged to invite guest teachers in to work with the cast. But it wasn’t easy to locate the right people for this crazy multilingual program. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what I needed—should it be another musician, a director, an actor, a language coach? Early in February I had a few wonderful prospects on the hook, but they got other gigs and had to bow out. And then I remembered a very moving conversation I recently had with Bénédicte Jourdois in the Juilliard lobby.




 |  Steven Blier

This is our tenth anniversary at Caramoor—which means it’s my eleventh season as Artistic Director of the Vocal Rising Stars Program. I look forward to these residencies with a mixture of anticipation and fear. The work is intense, and the week’s success depends a lot on the chemistry of the cast. Not only do they […]




 |  Steven Blier

After all that work and all my crazy anxiety, I am happy to report that the show went quite brilliantly on Thursday. The place was packed. The cast was on fire—seven vibrant personalities, set free in a way you don’t always see at my school. Mary Birnbaum’s staging (even the parts that had worried me) worked like a charm. And the song lyrics seemed to be clear—when I looked out into the house I saw that the audience did not have their heads buried in their programs. They were getting what they needed from the stage.




 |  Steven Blier

Dress rehearsal. This is usually when I have my worst day at the piano, when every ounce of grace and fluidity is replaced by gristly tendons and a rotating display of tiny memory slips. Imagine a light case of arthritis accompanied by a series of mini-strokes—that is how I experience it. Apparently it felt worse than it actually was today. I apologized to some of the cast members at the break and they said, “What? You’re sorry…? We didn’t hear anything go wrong. You sound perfectly fine.”




 |  Steven Blier

We had our first day in the hall today. This move is less disconcerting these days than it was when we started NYFOS@Juilliard in 2006. Going from a small room—in those days, my apartment—to the 1000-seat Peter J. Sharp Theater used to feel like a Great Disappearing Act, a kind of “Hey dude, whadja do with my SHOW?” Everything that had been vivid suddenly seemed tiny, everything that had been colorful suddenly seemed pallid in the larger space.




 |  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.