Spoleto Festival USA: May 23, 2013

Hominy Grill is one of the choir’s favorite restaurants, and is the home of another Charleston-based, James Beard Award winning chef, Robert Stehling.   As I walked the approximate mile to Hominy with soprano Allie Faulkner and my roommates Mary, Kyle, and Johnny, the dark clouds were gathering.  The thunder started just as we arrived, and we sat at our table enjoying our meal wondering exactly what the walk back would be like…but in the meantime, there was more than enough food on the table to keep us busy.  Between the jalepeño hush puppies with sorghum butter, she crab soup with sherry and of course the Big Nasty (house-made buttermilk biscuit with fried chicken breast, cheddar cheese and sausage gravy), we became more concerned about whether we would actually be able to walk than whether we might get wet from the rain.  

I would be remiss if I did not mention the ice cream at Hominy Grill – it tastes like the homemade ice cream that my grandmother and her sister made when I was little, with the hand-crank machine with the rock salt around the outside of the large bucket-like contraption.  The hot fudge, too, is the kind that is so full of butter that it cracks when it meets the cold of the vanilla, and it is absolute heaven. 

Today was unofficially a choir beach day, where a majority of the members piled into cars to enjoy some sun and surf together.  The afternoon was a rousing, relaxing success, as evidenced by the numerous sun burns painfully on display during our final dress rehearsal for Mese Mariano/Le Villi in the evening. 

Remember the set change that once took 45 minutes and was now down to 8?  Every single time it happens, it seems as though the entire cast and crew behind the lowered curtain are holding their breath.  If the conductor of the orchestra takes a faster tempo, or the principals out in front of the curtain do not hold the fermata’d notes for long enough, the change will not be finished.  And yet every time, every single time, the crew manages to make it.  Many members of the choir are on stage when the walls are being flown in and out – the women are dressed in the zombie-chic patient-wear and are waiting to place themselves and chairs for the final scene, and the men are either pressing fake hands and faces affixed to giant poles against the lycra or holding up the dancers who are pressing their own hands and faces through the fabric.  The effect of the lycra from the front of the house is like a smooth surface on which suddenly appear ghostly hands and faces, pressing themselves toward the principle characters at the front of the stage.  I wish so much that I could see it, but we are always behind them when it happens!

Anyway, all of this is happening on the lycra while behind it, giant, heavy walls are swaying, supported by impossibly tiny rolling carts.  Without saying it aloud, each of the choir women planned our exit strategy for how to not be injured should the wall come crashing down.  So far we haven’t needed to execute any of these plans, but it is a harried reminder that the magic of the theatre is sometimes precarious, and all times requires the skill and strength of many to come to fruition.

After this rehearsal, nearly the entire choir – that is 40 people – went to Kickin Chickin.  The staff this night deserves a huge shout-out – not only did they take care of us, feed us and prepare all of our drinks, but they also allowed us to all sit at a single (very long) table, AND THEY SPLIT ALL OF OUR CHECKS.  They make it so easy to love the South. 

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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