Part IV: Field Notes

What the hell was she writing? Here is some of it…and as I pull out melody lines, I’m actually listening to Ensemble Galilei… I have the youtube video on that appears below.

From the concert: (3/30/19, 7 PM, Baltimore, MD)

Jackie looks quite a bit more Irish tonight….Preston has the most expressive fingers: I couldn’t see that before….The men are already watching each other a bit more than they did [in rehearsal].

Everybody got their hair did.

Sue looks like she is watching the tune….When Anne and Neal perform dialogue, they move a lot more than when they read straight narration….The NPR joke gets a big laugh.

What do we [in the audience] do with these stories?

“Everyone is 6 years older.” TIME TIME TIME….EVERYTHING IS LIVE: Sue plays something, stops, Ryan–the showman: Pick a different key. The show goes on.

Music after the piece on the sniper is beautiful, Jackie has a very different sound there.

Sue somehow IS her instrument, Ryan wields his instrument, Carolyn lives through her instrument, Preston wakes up, enlivens, through his, Jackie feels at home with his. Anne steps into other people’s experiences–carefully, yet confidently. Neal hosts us.

When they sing Babylon together, a siren goes off in the distance.

From rehearsal: (3/30/19, 10 AM, Annapolis)

Drove here on a wooded road with no lines on it. Sunny day, car falling apart. Arrive on a scene already in progress…all musicians so far….The pipes breathe for themselves like Frankenstein’s monster….The group is coming up on its 29th year as an ensemble….Carolyn: Are you available next Christmas?….Ryan: Who gets the rocking chair? Carolyn: You know that’s my great-grandmother’s rocking chair.

There is a laptop on the piano–the other instrument–has their running order, recordings–…Ryan: Can I get your A?….Sue: Let’s do the whole thing.….Preston: A folk music program? That’s not even a thing!

Carol calls out the B section–second time is plucky….No one stops playing when new people come in…until the song is over…. Some hug, some shake hands….Lindsay: The Chesapeake Bay was created by a meteor…Biblical reference…Odyssey reference…I understand his references…

Speakers and players sit in a circle with each other. An instrument case has a tartan cloth, a playing card, a program inside. You feel the timekeeping through the floorboards. New punctuation–the dishwasher.

Weird G–I’ve been on the lookout/listen for that–shows me where they are in the running order. I find the harp crazy compelling to watch.

Veterans–Carolyn via Anne: Never Christmas music…they wanna hear Irish music.

Coffee break: Anne: Did you build the house? Sue: We barely saw her that year…. Neil, Jackie and Ryan stand apart, chatting together, make a triangle.

Rehearsal resumes.

Neal: I was wrong, as usual.

Carolyn gets younger when she plays, Sue becomes effortless, Ryan is free. Preston is thoughtful. Jackie retreats into himself, extending as far as the instrument, listening. Neal puts his hand over his ear, does a radio voice: “Christmas Eve 2010.” Sue checks in with Anne as she plays. Sue plays collaboratively with the speakers often.

Figuring out the repeats–third time the biggest? Ryan makes some take charge moves, Preston does the clarifying, Carolyn does the stopping, re-directing. Neal and Anne read the next one together–Ryan and Carolyn are bowing throughout–how did they decide what would be collaboratively spoken?

If the speakers are observers, are the musicians a conduit? Their playing is not an observation. Eyes v. ears, is that how this works? How do you define accompaniment?

Veteran: could play every instrument. Now he can’t.

They sing Babylon, Jackie: We were all standing up last time–they stand. Sue’s hands are behind her back, Jackie’s head is up, Ryan’s hands are in his pocket, Carolyn balances on her instrument, Preston holds his pipes. What is the significance of singing words?

“They are warriors still.”

Break again–Neal mimes the crowd going wild….Ryan: I love that tune. Preston: Both beautiful and gritty at the same time….Jackie: So–we should work on something?Ryan: Can you read bass clef, is the question?….Fat kitty cat (2 over 3)….Reading music from off the floor.

More rehearsal to come at the church. That one is a secret.

Preparing for dinner:

Gallery image of this property

I sit in my car in Pennsylvania. I’ve driven up here after a rehearsal (in Baltimore) of my own. On that show, there are several cast members who have never performed before. And yet, there’s much of the theatrical language, the musical language they seem to understand anyway, without me having to translate. There are children and adults in the show–it is a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with a female Joseph, a female Potiphar and Potiphar’s wife, an emphasis on enslavement and the plight of refugees–it also has a very silly five year old in it who plays a sheep, sheaves of corn and a maitre d’ in the Canaan Days restaurant of no food…in his spare time, he lives with me. Some of the adult members of the cast are on the autism spectrum. I am learning new languages, new ways to use tone and gesture, I must make new decisions about when technique is absolutely necessary and when I need to let go…in order to lead this show. Many cast members have solos in Close Every Door–“I do not matter, I’m only one person.” “Do what you want with me, hate me and laugh at me.” “If my life were important I would ask will I live or die.” “Hide all the world from me. Bar all the windows and shut out the light.” The whole cast is either in jail or jailers. Lines automatically mean different things when sung by people of different ages, races, perspectives. The lock in during the final verse where they all sing together–they have much more power and purity in their sound than any of us has a right to expect because they know what they are talking about and because they have a voice…in two weeks we’re going to surprise the audience.

But in the immediate moment, Ensemble Galilei has just done another show. I look down at the list of questions that I may or may not ask them. I text Carolyn to figure out which restaurant they are at. I find them after one false start–all seated around one large table. This is the only thing I will (audio)record. I don’t want to intrude/I’m wildly curious/I came all this way…

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