Spoleto Festival USA: May 14, 2013

No rehearsal for the Giordano/Le Villi folks this morning, so we had the morning free for writing, sleeping, or running.  Soprano Katy Lushman has started a Charleston running group that took their first trek around downtown this morning.  I understand they had a good time and successful runs, but I certainly can’t tell you from personal experience how it went. 


The Matsukaze set under construction.

The eight singers involved in Matsukaze (sopranos Madeline Apple Healey and Anna Lenti, altos Mary Hewlett and Elizabeth Hermanson, tenors Jeffrey Cutts and Joshua Wanger, and baritones Will Berman and Ryan Brown) did not have it so easy.  Since we arrived in Charleston, they have had rehearsals every day from 9 a.m. to noon, from 3p.m. to 6 p.m., and from 7:30p.m. to 10:30p.m.  This contemporary opera, in German, is based on a Japanese play, directed by a Chinese director, and features Korean principles and an American chorus and orchestra.  There is a rich world of musical influence for you!  The work is extremely challenging for the singers, and sadly for us, we don’t get to see very much of these eight people.  I am looking forward to seeing the production – Mary, one of the altos, is also my roommate and dear friend, and she has described standing in water, kneeling for long stretches of time, and learning how to hiss for lengthy intervals. If you don’t have a chance to see the production at Spoleto, you will have the opportunity to see it this summer at Avery Fisher in New York.  By all accounts, it will be unique and unforgettable.            

After lunch at Kickin Chickin, we met at the Sotille for the afternoon Le Villi rehearsal.  The six professional dancers have an evocative, eerie, and broken feeling dance just before the ladies of the choir take the stage in the asylum scene.  The dancers are local, from a company in Charleston, and they are frighteningly good at contorting themselves.  It is interesting to get to know them, to learn their motivations for creating their art, and then to watch them work. 

While we are backstage between scenes and entrances, we also have a chance to get to know the crew.  Many technicians come back to Spoleto year after year, including Lauren Pennington, the stage manager.  She was with the choir last year for Kepler, and though she hadn’t seen the Westminster Choir for a year, she remembered the names of each of the returning members and learned the rest by the second rehearsal. 

I am not embarrassed to say that I went to Kickin Chickin again for dinner.  It certainly was not my intention to eat there twice in a single day, it was just that for both meals, different and interesting groups of people went there for meals, so I did too.  Over dinner, we discussed teaching philosophies, what it takes to build a musical community, and how to use what we learn to affect change for the better in the next chapters of our lives.            

The evening rehearsal of Le Villi brought the choir women back to the asylum, this time with necks and backs that were still sore from the contortions learned and practiced in previous runs.  Back stage, we look like a group of really beautiful primates, grooming each other by braiding one another’s hair and offering and freely receiving neck and back massages.  This contact is so easy, and is evidence of community of friends that have a great amount of trust and respect for one another.  There is also a huge amount of laughter, and we show each other the latest ‘crazy moves’ that we are going to try out in the asylum scene, or maybe at a night club.   

About Westminster Choir

Westminster Choir is composed of students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, a center for music study in Princeton, N.J.
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