No Song is Safe From Us

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

This kind of self-doubt and brain flatulence is familiar to me, and playing at Juilliard has always made me especially nervous. I have learned that I need to start my confidence-building program the night before—affirmations, Zen koans, visualizations. And it will also help me to play for a few hours at home before heading out tomorrow. I was totally un-warmed-up when I started this afternoon. No wonder I was all thumbs.

The rehearsal actually went quite well. The singers are on top of the material and ready to deliver the goods to the public. Some people give reams of notes after dress rehearsal. Not me. Having been to this rodeo a few times, I have learned that I have to pick my battles carefully. For one thing, we only had twenty free minutes at the end of our three-hour hall time in which retrace our steps. I chose four trouble spots to focus on, and we got to three of them. Some of the singers are discovering new things in their songs that require slight changes in the music (extending interludes between verses in one song, and a new key for another). I am hoping I remember everything tomorrow.

I am experiencing separation anxiety already. It is going to be hard to let go of this show. One performance and boom, we’re on to our next projects. I hope I have the wit to be fully present tomorrow evening when we finally share Kurt Weill’s Berlin with the public. I don’t want to cheat myself of the payoff for all that hard work.

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above, some people I treasure: Shakéd Bar, Chance O’Toole, Mary Birnbaum. In the mirror, Greg Feldmann and Nikolay Verevkin. Photo by James Russell.

Steven Blier

Called “the coolest dude in town” by Opera News, master collaborative pianist and coach Steven Blier is the co-founder and artistic director of New York Festival of Song. Here on No Song is Safe From Us, Steven blogs about the NYFOS Emerging Artist residencies, writes the engaging and erudite program notes for our Mainstage concerts, and contributes frequently to Song of the Day.

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