I’m here at home, getting ready for today’s rehearsal (I still can’t believe I’ve finished staging!!) where we’ll do a bunch of runs of the last scene we staged yesterday so we can put it on video for our lighting designer (Alexa), a chorus & orchestra rehearsal, and finally a stumble-through of Act II. Tomorrow morning, we’ll do our first stumble-through of the whole show. That we’re here already, almost a week away from tech, feels like a miracle, yet there is no question of what we’re doing to do with our time.
One of the things that’s been absolutely wonderful about this year’s process is the addition of our musician/coaches Shayne and Wallie to the mix, which is what allowed us to bring teen violinists into the project for the first time. In some ways, this opportunity is unique to Purcell, whose music is much more playable for students than any of the stuff we’ve done in the past. But it’s also a testament to the two of them, specifically, and what they bring to the table.
It’s kind of funny, really, because the idea for all of this came largely from necessity. It looked like a dire year for us, musician-wise, just a few short months ago, when I was having a hard time hiring string players and had just come to terms with the fact that James David Jacobs, my long-time collaborator who has been heavily involved with the workshop for the past two summers, was probably not going to be available to join us this year, at least in person. I was on the brink of throwing in the towel and resigning myself to piano-only, when James suggested I try to hire his former student (Shayne) and his girlfriend (Wallie) to come from NYC to be the lower half of our string quartet. And hey, he wondered, what if we could find a couple of exceptional student violinists for them to work with for the summer?
The idea seemed impossible (even more so when I actually tried to find student violinists who were going to be around for the summer), but somehow it all came together at that last minute—our second student violinist signed on officially less than a week before Shayne and Wallie were to arrive—and it has been such an incredible gift to the workshop. Not only has it been wonderful to see what Shayne and Wallie have been able to bring out of this pair of fifteen-year-old musicians, but it’s actually revolutionized our rehearsal process.
In the past, when we’ve hired all-pro quartets, our rehearsal time with them has been (understandably) limited. They’d have a few rehearsals separately from the cast, and then the musicians and singing company would be thrown together during production week for a sitzprobe, a dress rehearsal, and *boom* it’s showtime. That’s the normal process for professionals, and certainly what I was used to from my years in the biz. It’s how things are done, and it makes sense.
This year, though, we have these teen musicians going through their own intensive rehearsal period, in the same building, at the same time as our singers. And it shouldn’t have surprised me when Shayne suggested that they should play in rehearsals with the cast, but somehow, it did! 😂 And it’s been AMAZING. That stumble-through of Act II we’re having this afternoon? The orchestra will be there. Tomorrow’s stumble-through of the full show? It’s with orchestra. We have rehearsals scheduled with both singers and orchestra nearly all day, every day this week. The look on our musical director’s face when he realized he could actually take time to really work things in detail with the orchestra and chorus together was pretty fantastic to behold. It feels like an incredible luxury.
Don’t worry, I won’t get used to it. I know this experience may be unique to this year. Handel (next year’s composer) is not Purcell, and there was so much that had to magically fall into place for this to happen at all. It really does feel like magic. True serendipity. But today, I’m right here, right now, and I’m relishing every moment of it. 💜💜💜
— Melinda Beasi (@mbeasi) July 28, 2018