They’re Playin’ Our Song, May 2013

During the 2011–2012 season concerts, I invited audience members to create the Spring 2013 concert with us.  I asked them to send in the songs that had been meaningful in their lives and the stories behind those songs.  I sifted through a lot of standards, out of print pop songs and general junk, but I also found a variety of songs in the submissions—from Faure’s Requiem and Salvation is Created to standards and pop tunes—that were high quality pieces or had been set with interesting arrangements, a la the King Singers.

Meanwhile, I met with a well-known artist in our area and asked her to collaborate with us on this concert experience.  I gave her recordings of the pieces I had chosen and asked her to choose three to inspire companion arts works.  We brainstormed about creating a larger piece live, as an inspiration work from the concert as a whole.  I was thinking 3’ x 4’.  She came up with 4’ by 8’ coupled with physical dance-like moves to the music as she painted!  Fabulous!!

I contacted each audience member whose story/song I was going to program and asked if they would tell the story live and on video.  A videographer from the group then visited these people and recorded the stories.  These videos were edited and shown either between songs or during instrumental openings or even during interlude sections in the piece.  A couple of stories were told over the top of a soloist singing an a cappella opening (like the solo voice in James Erb’s setting of Shenandoah).

Mid-concert, the storyteller told a Russian Jewish story about the power of story.  There was a premier performance of a piece written for us by a local composer—and her story was shown during the whisper opening of that piece.  Some stories were live, others were told in the program notes.  Some other stories of pieces that were not used were included in the program notes as well.

There was movement, small groups, parts of vocal and piano pieces for transitions (singer repositioning).  No one died when we only sang one movement of Faure’s Requiem.  No one died when a soloist only sang the refrain of a song while singers moved. In fact, people not normally found at a choral concert were there, connected with something familiar i.e. a love song or a standard, and heard Chesnokov or Faure for the first time—with a story to connect to it.

Granted, I wouldn’t normally program some of the pieces that were performed, and I DID have a moment of panic about this particular concert…. (see program pg. 6, Message from the Artistic Director)… but the concert was very well received, reviews were glowing, and the magic happened!

The three 4′ x 8′ canvases (three concerts) were sold as a fund-raiser for the engagement programs that Colla Voce has created in the community (music docent program, children’s chorus etc.)  One was sold as one piece, the others were cut in 2 and 3 parts, and sold as separate abstract paintings.  The three works that were created beforehand were sold as direct support to the artist.


I’ve written out detailed concert flow below—perhaps TMI, but if it is helpful, well, then good… AND if you have ideas to share with me, pleeeeease send!!

**When the audience entered, they saw three paintings placed around the room that were inspired by three specific pieces from the concert:  Sleep, In Remembrance and Fields of Gold.  In addition, the audience saw a blank 4’ x 8’ canvas, and artist brushes etc.**

**Artistic Director comes out 10 minutes before concert time, briefly says to the audience that, as usual, they have an important part in the creation of the concert experience… they then warm-up and rehearse their parts** (total of 8 minutes)
…..2 minute down time…. lights lower…

The concert opened with one solo female singing an a cappella line from
Sentimental Journey, (suitcases in hand)
a 2nd woman joined her harmonizing the next line, then a 3rd and a 4th… the choir then entered quietly singing the arrangement from the beginning on “du du du”, while a recorded phone call played of an 80 year-old woman telling her story, set during WWII.

**2 artists enter in front, listen, and begin to paint…. **

The piano segued immediately into the opening of
Fields of Gold
and videos were shown during the opening as well as during the middle interlude and after the ending…
Singers held the D pitch in mind, changed positions while the story from
I Have Had Singing
was told on mic… hand bells slowly chimed over the top of the story to reinforce the “D” then the piece was sung.
The story for
started, a singer got her pitch from a tuning fork, and sang the solo opening underneath the storyteller.  Then the men entered and the rest of the song continued (ending on an E – which was the opening tonic for the next piece) – the segue was immediate into:
In Remembrance
with the story in the program
The whisper opening was the segue, into
Romans 8:38
and it was repeated (with permission from the composer) while the video of the composer played, telling the story behind the composition.
++applause++ (composer bow)

A soloist chanted
Salve Regina (story in program)
as the choir moved to the back of the building in the next position.

**artists are left up front painting…. focus is on them while singing continues from the back**

The pianist started the Faure (story in program)
In Paradisum – segue into the relative minor opening of
Salvation is Created, Op. 25, No. 5 – the story is also in the program, but the woman who sent in the request and story walked into the choir and sang with us.
++ applause ++
Choir moves into a new position during piano intro:
Quand On A Que L’Amour
Choir hums while story is told on mic (by a singer), then piece is sung
Piano segues into intro for
Daddy’s Little Girl – a soloist sings one verse as small group moves front
Video is played for
Loving You, then sung (pitch from singer in group)
video story into
When I Fall In Love
Sleep (pitch from tuning fork)
brief pause…. piano starts intro for
How Can I Keep From Singing?
the choir quietly hums slower 4 part traditional version under video– after video the audience sings their verse, then piano leads into the up-tempo choir arrangement
piano leads quietly into intro for
The Impossible Dream
under video, then piece is sung (1/2 of the arrangement was used)
Video of next story, soloist sings melody from background then piano intro and choir, segue into
Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Soloist and piano starts
I Dreamed a Dream -short version (story told in recorded phone call)
Storyteller comes forward
Just Enough
A Folktale from Russia
small group moves forward (instrumental underscore) for
Mad World from the movie “Donnie Darko”
instrumental underscore into
The Longest Time
video about next song with violin underscore of melody
You Raise Me Up – with audience on two sections of the piece with choir
(music inspired painting is finished…. artists take bows also)
Elijah Rock