Friday, February 28, 2014

The Perfect Alignment

Yesterday's Post focused on the idea that anything we create in life is valuable as long as it comes truthfully from us. Even if it has been done before, like a song or a role in a play/movie, it still has validity. And I still hold that to be true. But, I can't help but think that there are times when the stars align and we get to witness the perfect union of an artist with certain material. The performance is so aligned that those that play the part afterward or cover the song are always compared to that "one" performance, or it may seem that no one can come close to doing it as well...EVER.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section, but for me, I can think of a few performances that fall into this category. Now, before I share this, please keep in mind that other artists have and do perform these roles I am about to list today and do such an amazing job. I hope you understand that I do not discount their performance, but the list below falls into a category of that perfect alignment, where it is hard to top and hard to forget.

My List (in no particular order):

Mandy Patinkin (George) and Bernadette Peters (Dot) in Sunday in The Park with George

Judy Garland (Dorothy) in the Wizard of Oz

Donald O'Conner (Cosmo Brown) and Gene Kelly (Don Lockwood) in Singing in the Rain

Barbra Streisand (Fanny Brice) in Funny Girl

Julie Andrews (Maria Von Trapp) in The Sound of Music

Do you agree with this list? Who is on your list?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Let It Come From You. Then it Will Be New."

The other day as I was practicing for my recital I had the thought, "What am I doing? Am I just a glorified karaoke singer? I sing to tracks, most of the time, I cover songs instead of write them, and my background is in Musical Theater. What am I doing trying to sing these country songs?" I am sure we have all had moments in our lives when we feel like a fraud, a hack or "poser"...not the real deal. But, this bothered me. I have so many friends, people in my family and famous (or semi famous) artists who I look up to who play an instrument, and write their own songs. They are playing clubs and networking to get their original material out there. I can't tell you how much I admire that. Where do I fit in though? Can my vocal offering still be somewhat valid or even equally valid?

When I sing in church or perform a character on stage I feel close to the real deal. At church I am the vessel that is helping to bring the Spirit to the meeting through music. I am bearing testimony of what I am singing about. On Stage I have worked for months to create a character and I feel I can transform into that person and go on an intimate journey with an audience as the play unfolds. I feel like an "artist" in the sense that I created something (with the guidance of my director) from a blank slate.

But, here I am, singing a genre that I admittedly do not know much about and I am expecting people to come and sit for close to an hour listening to me whale away in my ignorance...Yet, as I have thought about this over the past few days, I have gained some confidence. True, I didn't write these songs and I will sometimes sing with a track, but these songs are coming from me. There is a phrase in the lyrics of "Move On" from Sunday in the Park with George (Sondheim) that says, "Anything you do. Let it come from you. Then it will be new. Give us more to see."

As I work on these songs, my goal is to not be a carbon copy of the original artist. (that is another talent for a different platform) I listen, learn the song, ingest it, and then let it rest in that truthful place inside me where it begins to become a part of who I am as a performer.

Everyone of us is unique and special and has something wonderful to offer the world. I have learned with a certainty that when something comes from that honest place inside ourselves, whether original work or not, that it will be beneficial. Maybe not to everyone in the crowd, but even if it touches one person and helps them become better for was worth it.

Here is the song I referred to in this post. Pay particular attention at minute: 3:15: Enjoy!! 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Challenge: Putting It Together

As I get ready for my recital I am finding the challenge of being able to play the guitar well and sing well at the same time. The artists that I admire make it look so easy that I thought it would be easy. And I know it will get easier and more natural with time, but initially, it can be frustrating. I don't want to lose the integrity of the vocals as I focus on hitting all the right chords and strums on the guitar. The songs I have chosen to play are fairly easy so I know with practice it will all work out.

The other factor is getting too nervous in front of an audience when I put the two elements together. I will try and play for my family and close friends as I go so I won't be so nervous for the final performance. The trick is to get "out of my head". When I play piano scales for my students I find that I mess up the scale when I am thinking about the scale, if I just allow my hands to do the pattern and trust that they will do what they will and I mainly focus on the student, I mess up less or not at all. The same thing will apply to the guitar and vocal performance if I just allow myself to learn it and then forget it. When the performance comes I need to focus on the more visceral experience and let everything else go. It will be interesting to see what happens, but I am up for the challenge.

I can't let this post end without showing you one of the "greats" when it comes to joining the guitar and vocals as a perfect pairing. Miss Bonnie Raitt....enjoy!