I got back this morning from my second workshop of the summer. I was in Seattle for 2 weeks, attending a baroque opera workshop. We learned and performed a program of scenes from various 17th C operas.
This particular workshop was started by a totally famous and important lutenist, and besides the impeccable musical coaching and teaching, the strengths lie in the areas of drama and movement. The 3 stage directors are all remarkably good at dissecting archaic texts, guiding the students as they discover the nuances of the language, the best ways to express that language verbally and physically, and the movement and gestures that will best accomplish that.
2 of the 3 directors also run a movement class every morning, focusing on de-stressing and ways to kindly use one's body.
I haven't written anything about this yet, mostly because I was processing so much information that it was hard to stop and dissect. Also, the internet filter on the campus blocked anything with the word "bitch".....oops!
One thing I've noticed at past workshops is that some participants manage to get to know the faculty far better than others. I've always been in the "wanting to get to know, and therefore get everything possible out of faculty, but too introverted and shy to actually do it" group. I vowed to change that this year, so I made a point of just hanging around outside the theater after the last rehearsal of the day, and asking to have dinner with the out-of-town directors. The locals seemed to go home to their families in the evenings, but the non-locals were staying on campus, just like the students.
So, it turns out that one can learn loads from just sitting around the dinner table or the bar.
I made a point of asking "what next?" or "who should I sing for" or "do you have ideas about how to carve out a career that synthesizes text, rhetoric, history, drama, movement, dance and singing??" (you know, just the little, inconsequential questions.....not!) It really isn't quite as scary as I thought, this whole being outgoing thing, and I'm soooo glad that I put in that effort.
I've come home with loads of ideas and inspiration. That's the good part. The terrifying part is going to be implementing them. Because it turns out that, according to G, the guy who directed my scene, and who has a fascinating and multi-faceted career in early music, the best way to go about all of that synthesis stuff is to found my own company.
Most "early operas" that get performed are actually 18th C, almost a full century later than the repertoire that most interests me. These earliest operas get performed at the Boston Early Music Festival, and occasionally in student productions, but not usually other places. G suggested that I start with memorized concerts with a continuo team, then move up to memorized concerts with some movement, then work up from there.
yeah, yikes. Not intimidating AT ALL!!!
I think that a certain amount of my terror stems from the little gremlins, which have been awfully active this summer. They've been nagging at me, telling me that I'm not living up to some ill-defined ideal, or something. The feedback that I've gotten from faculty members at all these workshops, however, has been very, very positive. I'm trying to listen to the objective feedback, and trust that these are the foremost experts in early music.
Now, just to torment everyone with knowledge of awful teen gross-out movies from about 10 years ago:
I advertised my show, but didn't get into much detail about the Amherst workshop. It's taken some time to digest the experience, and figure out how to apply all of the information to normal life.
It was a one week workshop, where participants could choose up to 4 classes. In addition, there was some free-form music making (although one of my classes, the theater project, basically nixed any free time for those opportunities), and things like English country dancing (for the geriatric hippies) and concerts in the evenings. I, like many of the other younger people, paid my way by doing work-study jobs.
I took 3 classes: Vocal Masterclass, Baroque Gesture and the Theater Project (the Lute Song Extravaganza)
Masterclasses and gesture were both taught by a wonderful Early Music soprano. I worked with her before, 3 years ago, and I was very nervous about seeing her again. She had wonderful things to say at the time, and I got all scared that she would think that I hadn't progressed, or something.
(I was dealing with a lot of self-loathing the week before I left)
It turns out that the opposite was the case. She was very, very complimentary. She said that she was extremely impressed with the work I have done, and loved the way that my singing has developed.
That was great to hear, as I'm sure you can imagine.
My work study job was "bartending" (really just pouring wine and sodas at post concert receptions) and was actually pretty fun. I do have to say, though, that if I've got one criticism of the program it's that they expect work study students to make the work their first priority. That seems a little backward to me, but whatever.....
I got lots of good feedback from the faculty, and have a good sense of what needs working on and how to go about doing it. I'm also a bit more focused on productive work, instead of stressing about work without really doing it.
As you can imagine, there's also the let-down after these kinds of things. One has to go back to normal life, where it's not all theater and singing all the time. One has to figure out how to stay this focused while working a day job and getting sucked into job drama and frustrations, and that's never easy. Especially since for the first time ever, I'll have a full time job this year. Well, full-time in the school realm, which means 8am-3:30 (but really more like 3:45), every day. I do get more vacations than most schools (we get a week of in October and February--European style, as well as Winter and Spring breaks).
Truthfully, I'm very ambivalent about that. I signed the contract because I wanted the guaranteed income and the benefits, and because day-to-day subbing has gotten very frustrating. I was sick of never knowing where or with whom I'd be working. This way, I know that I'm working with a fantastic head teacher, and the new English teacher in our class is a friend of mine. I know that I'll have money, even if the musical scene is very sparse this season (which it looks like will be the case....damned economy). I also will be able to, you know, get an updated prescription, so that wearing my glasses actually accomplishes something.
The good things are all very good, but the thought of working all day every day is rather daunting. I always end up feeling like this after a summer of workshops and festivals, though. Even if I didn't have a day job, life wouldn't be like the programs, so I should probably just get over it!!
So there it is. I'm here for another week, then it's off to my next workshop. This one will be 2 weeks long, so the recovery will likely be even harder (which should be interesting considering that I go back to work the day after I fly home!!).....
I'll leave you with a photo from the dress rehearsal of our show. It was taken during my song "If Thou Longst So Much to Learn, Sweet Boy, What 'Tis to Love"