5.26.2010

Putin' On the Ritz


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You may get a wide variety of reactions from musicians if you bring up the topic of Broadway show tunes. There's definitely a strain of Music Major who will shake their head in disdain and repulsion, lamenting the sad state of popular musical choices, and then turn around and listen to Babbitt's 
Philomel: "I feel trees in my hair!"

Now I have nothing against serial music of the 1960s. That's neither here nor there. An argument for or against "classical" or "popular" is a sad and silly point of departure. Let's just enjoy music for what it is in all its spectrum of individuality. It's all part of humanity.
I love my job. I work at Bear River High School as the Assistant Director and Accompanist to their quite impressive choral program. Two women's groups, a men's group, a jazz group, and even a show choir (which I don't accompany for). Last weekend was our large concert traditionally called Putin' on the Ritz. This year my boss/good friend Alissa Aune structured the concert around the idea of "Broadway, Class of 2010". All the songs were selected from musicals from the past 18 years: Mamma Mia!, Aida, Avenue Q (what wouldn't get us fired), Wicked, RENT (what wouldn't get us fired), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Producers, Urinetown (again, no firing!), Boy from Oz, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Spring Awakening (you guessed it, what wouldn't get us fired), and more.
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I am very impressed with Alissa's ambition. The concert pushed two hours long, filled with everything from cane choreography and riser movements, to student specialty acts and a conga line around the audience. Alissa gets it done and makes it look good! My favorite piano moments of the concert began with a medley of Gershwin songs from a musical called Crazy for You. We grafted the main theme of Rhapsody in Blue to the beginning and the end to great effect. The Elton John power of "The God's Love Nubia" from Aida, while in the long run potentially highly damaging to the hands, is such a blast to play with a full chorus of testifying high schoolers and Tom Agar on the drums. The last wonderful moment was an eleven minute medley of Schwarz's Wicked: driving rhythms, crashing low C-sharps, memories of Jess and I with Alissa in San Francisco. Good times.

I will always play my Byrd and Shostakovich and Bach in my home and for my own deep and personal pleasure. But there is nothing like playing music that inspires some 130 high schoolers to sing their hearts out. I love my job.

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