Friday Fun: Climbing Uphill (Jason Robert Brown)

One of the really great things about my singing lessons is that every fortnight, we have a performance class, in which we get to hear what all the other students are doing.  Some of the others are studying for exams; others are working on audition pieces, or on pieces for performances that they will be doing, and you never know when someone stands up whether you’re going to get opera or lieder, music theatre or gospel, Adele or Janice Joplin.  What you do know is that the odds are that someone will be doing something that you’ve never heard before and really like.

The other delicious thing about this class is that there are a handful of truly phenomenal singers and performers who always leave me mesmerised.  One of them, S, is also a particularly talented actress, and she is the one who brought this wonderfully clever song to class a few weeks ago.

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Friday Fun: Les Mis in 6 minutes (Natalie Weiss / Daniel Rein)

Yeah, I seem to be going though a bit of a Natalie Weiss phase, but this one had me in hysterical laughter when I listened to it. Also, we have to celebrate our freedom from grant applications – this is the music of a people who can finally get back into the lab and do some real science!

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Friday Fun: The Alto’s Lament (Zina Goldrich, Marcy Heisler)

I’m currently obsessing – and I really do mean obsessing – about every Shakespeare-related opera ever written, but I am trying to resist the urge to write about every single one of them here this week, because I’m reasonably certain that nobody in the world is quite so fascinated by them right now as I am.  Instead, I bring you this rather amusing bit of Broadway send-uppery that speaks to my heart right now, all about the sad lot of the alto.

Isn’t it brilliant?  I love the way she really is singing the alto line in every one of those songs, and in all honesty, those low notes are fabulous.

(and should my favourite choir director be reading this… well, I wouldn’t stoop to leaving hints in my blog, of course. That would be wrong.)

Music for a Monday: C’est Pour Demain (Boublil /Schönberg)

I escaped the heat on Friday by going to see Les Misérables in a nice, air-conditioned cinema.  I had a lot of misgivings about this film, it must be said.  Firstly, as a singer in training myself, I have Opinions about how things should be sung.  But more importantly, I absolutely loved the musical when I saw it as a teenager.  I learned all the songs, bought the sheet music and learned all the accompaniments, read several English translations of the text (learning, in passing, what a difference a translator can make), then saw the musical in France and bought that recording and learned all the songs in French, too.  I even tried to read the novel in French, but got stuck a couple of hundred pages in, when Hugo goes off on a digression about Napoleon.  This had been hard enough to get through in English.  In French, it was a bit too much.

So the film had a lot to live up to, musically speaking, and while it was far better than I had feared, it didn’t quite get there for me.  On the other hand, the acting, staging, and general quality of the film really were excellent enough that I could forgive the occasional vocal weakness and the deep strangeness of finding the chorus voices more appealing than those of the leads.  It made me cry in all the right places, and only made me wince a handful of times (and let’s face it, one of the reasons I don’t go to films very much is because most of them manage to fill me with ire one way or another, and it is antisocial to express this in a cinema).  Overall, I’m glad I saw it.  But it has left me with a deep craving for the French recording, which I now have only on an obsolete cassette tape.

Not much of the version I saw in Paris back in 1991 seems to have made it onto YouTube, but some of it has.  And it still makes me cry.

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Friday Fun: Too Darn Hot (Cole Porter)

Everyone in Melbourne knows exactly why I’m posting this clip today.  And it’s not because Ann Miller is gorgeous and brilliant, though that is certainly the case too…

This is Ann Miller as Lois Lane (the Bianca character) in Kiss Me Kate, the music theatre version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.  I have to admit, much like Shrew itself, Kiss Me Kate leaves me longing to shake the author / composer, but Ann Miller is always wonderful.  She is also invariably typecast as the fun-loving and decidedly sexy brunette friend in every single musical I’ve seen her in.  And she is a truly incredible dancer.

Here she is as Claire, the anthopologist with a close, personal appreciation for pre-historic man in On The Town.  Possibly the silliest dance routine I’ve seen in a while, not least because it involves dinosaur bones.

I’m off to find a shopping centre with air-conditioning.  See you when it cools down!

Friday Fun: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Kern / Harbach)

Advent is over, and while we are technically in the Twelve Days of Christmas now, I suspect that we have all heard as many carols as we need to for one season. I myself have participated in three carol services, one midnight mass, one Christmas Day mass, and four rounds of workplace (and hospital) carolling, along with all the attendant rehearsals that these entail, so I’m feeling just nicely carolled out for the time being, and ready for something a bit different, musically speaking.

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Friday Fun: Could I Leave You? (Sondheim)

Let’s have a change from church music, shall we?  One of the girls in my singing performance class on Monday got up and sang this piece.  She underlined the rather evil nature of the song by singing it very sweetly, and the class – all women, as it happens – was in tears of laughter.  I went looking for a similar interpretation, and found a version sung by Julie Andrews…

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