Artistic Director of Schwab Vocal Rising Stars and New York Festival of Song, Steven Blier gives insight into the week of rehearsals at Caramoor.
March 10, 2016 – Today was a very satisfying day, Caramoor Rising Stars at its best. The tentativeness of the beginning of the week has melted away, and the place was really buzzing with energy. Everyone brings high quality eyes, ears, and minds to the project, and I was struck all day by the way everyone pitched in—an amazingly high level of of cooperation and generosity. Technically it’s a tricky endeavor: at Caramoor we’ll have audience on three sides of the playing area, and we need to make sure our listeners can see the singers’ faces and understand their words. There are one or two places near the piano where the performers are equally visible to the entire hall. But inevitably most of the floor space favors some sections of the audience over others. This means that the singers have to stay in motion, broadly or subtly, angling their bodies, staying fluid but not fidgety, singing over a shoulder. The result is fantastically bracing and alive, but everyone has had to get used to singing on our faux-thrust stage.
While Alison Moritz, Michael, and I are in charge of the concert, there was a moment when I realized that ideas and solutions were coming from all sides of the room, and in profusion—singers and pianists. Alison continues to wow me with her command of style, space, and time. We are working fast, but because the singers are involved in creating the show, they tend to remember the intricacies of the staging. And Alison is like a laser surgeon of staging, slicing out what’s not quite right, preserving the healthy stuff, and (unlike most surgeons) explaining what she sees and what she wants.
Highlights? The “Swan Lake” moment in Justin and Galeano’s duet (pictured above); Liv, Abi, and Galeano cowering in a corner as Justin delivered a really savage rendition of Bernstein’s “Tavouk Gueunksis”; the staggering clarity and warmth of Liv’s voice in everything she sings; Galeano’s instant evocation of a therapist’s office in John Bucchino’s manic “Painting My Kitchen,” using only two chairs; Abi’s Queen Bee hauteur in Villa-Lobos’s “Food For Thought.”
Another thing I remember from today was the way Michael and Will looked out for me. Without discussing it, we quietly divided up piano duties and covered for one another like brothers. They know what I’m good at, I know what they’re good at, they know when I might need a little help, and they are always two steps ahead of me making my life easy. I only hope I was able to be as generous and useful to them.