“With the coming of spring, I am calm again.” Gustav Mahler
During the first part of my choral career, I was also a dancer, ballet teacher and choreographer. My ballet background, coupled with understanding and the ability to read complicated scores, made me a natural to choreograph musicals on all levels. I specialized in making singers who were NOT dancers, look like they were dancers. I worked on many musicals; it wasn’t difficult for me, and I loved doing it.
I made it my business to learn everything I could before I started to actualize any show. One musical I had seen, both the movie and on stage, was “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and I adored working on it. Clever lyrics, funny (“funny” is in the title, right?) and farcical premise and what’s not to like about ANYTHING Stephen Sondheim wrote? Some of the numbers were challenging to stage because they had multi-level meanings. This particular show was being produced for a high school, so some of the more clever, double entendre could not be emphasized and that was a bit difficult to pull off.
One of the numbers I had THE MOST FUN staging was “I’m Calm,” sung by Hysterium. He’s trying to remain calm, while things are not exactly remaining calm on stage behind the closed doors, and he’s IMAGINING the worst. He’s saying (singing) all the right words—”I’m calm, I’m calm, I’m perfectly calm, I’m utterly under control” but of course, he’s NOT calm, and NOT under control by any means! So, how did I convey that? By having my young performer mime calm movements, with a misstep—or two—judicially placed to remind the audience he’s faking his calmness and feeling opposite to what he’s singing about. It worked out well, and my young performer had a few good ideas of his own I encouraged him to include with my movements.
At this time of year, we’re all a little like Hysterium, aren’t we? As the concerts and recitals pile up on our calendar, we “remain calm” while inside we are FAR from calm. It might have seemed like a good idea last August to have two weeks of back-to-back rehearsals and concerts at the end of April and the beginning of May, but now it just seems like a lot, too much really. Two semesters work packed into fourteen days, sigh. I’m tired just thinking about it! It seems like a gift, this year especially, to have the opportunity to have more of a “normal” April and May instead of the nonexistent, abbreviated years we’ve had the past few years.
But how should we handle it? We can fake it as best we can, the way Hysterium does, with a breakdown SCREAM at the end. We CAN get anxious and worried and let the hecticness carry us to the end of the rehearsals and concerts, ready for a nap and a bottle of scotch. Or we can admit this is a hectic time and just roll with it. It’s your choice; how will YOU handle your busy concert season, end of the academic year, and the culmination of all your hard work?
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