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

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.