I’m sitting here at the sitzprobe for Meet John Doe. So much to say. First of all, we have the honor and luxury of having Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar-winner Jonathan Tunick orchestrating. The rehearsal is over in Virginia at the beautiful new Signature Theatre (our director Eric Schaeffer is artistic director there, of course) in the Shen Rehearsal room, named after Ted Shen, a very good friend of Signature’s and of Meet John Doe, so there’s a lot of love in the room!
10 players including Music Director Jamie Schmidt at the piano. The entire cast waiting to sing their tunes, sound dudes, music contractor, Andrew and Jonathan sitting together pouring over the scores editing a part here, correcting a note there. That’s the scene.
Observations throughout the day:
- Overture: hearing the trombone bust out with the “Lighthouses” theme to kick off the overture was tremendously exciting. And something I think is particularly neato is that two of the latest songs we wrote made the cut to be featured in the overture. Makes me think we’re writing strong songs late in the game…well, we better be! Guy Paul, who sings “Lighthouses”, perked right up when he heard his theme kick off the show.
- In the opening sequence, when Ann first sings, the brass really kicks in and tells us a lot about who this character is. Rockin’!
- Jonathan came over at one point and we talked a little bit about orchestrating. He said that he prides himself on reading the lyrics (Yeah, baby!), and that he does to the music what lighting does to the physical production; his orchestrations highlight, color and warm.
- “I Hope You Can See This” is glorious.
- “Perfect Days” there’s all this trombone in it that strikes me as very MALE (the song’s sung by John). I’m sure there’s all sorts of other fancy-dancy stuff going on that gives this song’s orchestration it’s particular flavor, but to my ear, it’s the ‘bone that puts the backbone in it.
- Wow! The orchestration on “Be More” is so hot my ears are blistering up! Honestly, the entire room just sat up straight in their seats and started bobbing their heads and tapping their feet and looking around at each other as if to say “Whoa, that’s what this number is all about!” And that’s one thing I’m getting from today, the orchestrations to a certain extent tell our ear “Hey! This is the kind of song this is! Get ready to [fill in emotion here]!” I’ll bet that when Andrew composes the song, he hears a fully expressed palette of sound in his head that a piano, though very expressive, cannot hope to get across entirely. Well we’re all hearing the score in Technicolor today!
- “Money Talks”: Here’s comedy, folks. After Joel’s line, “Syphilis”, a baritone saxophone kicks in with this ompha sort of thing. That’s some funny stuff right there.
- Hey, a lyricist does have something to do at the sitz! There was one little section of the beautifully orchestrated song “He Threw Me” that had a hot brass lick that covered the end of a rhymed line I couldn’t hear. I humbly approached the music table for some help there, and they just taceted those measures so the sung lines were completely in the clear. Yay!
- I never knew that brass could be so warm sounding. I always just think of them as big blasting horns, but they’re so versatile! Makes me want to study trumpet.
OK, I’m going to stop typing and just enjoy the rest of this coolness.
Bowing the Vibe!