Monday, January 7, 2019

Bocelli Backstage

From a colleague after hearing  23 June 2018 Concert with Andrea Bocelli, Oregon Festival Orchestra and Portland Symphonic Choir:
Hi Gary:
I sure enjoyed seeing you at the concert last night! 
I LOVED it!  I was blown away by the "back up band" being a full symphony, and choir!   I'm not an opera buff, and would have preferred a few more super-text lyrics, but my, what sound!  He can be a difficult performer to watch, since he does not use his body as sighted people do, but if you close your eyes, you find he puts everything he has into the song, great sensitivity and a purity of emotion.  I imagine even non musical folks connect with him at that aesthetic level. Of course, all the "encores" were rehearsed, but so satisfying for his fans.  I'm assuming the little girl on the edge of the stage was his daughter.  
It was fun to run through the choir with my field glasses and be surprised to see someone I know.  Inquiring minds want to know:
-- How long did you have the music?
-- How many rehearsals with the choir did you have?
-- How many with the orchestra?
-- How many with the talent?  Was it the same day as the concert?

-- Did you enjoy working with Andrea Bocelli? What was that like?

Well, just had to write and tell you how much I enjoyed the wonderful concert.   Well Done!
Kudos, V.
Hi, V,

I'm glad you had a great time.   Here are some answers you may certainly share:

Portland Symphonic Choir accepted the contract to provide 60 singers for the June concert in mid-April after negotiating since March.  As PSC's tenor section leader, I appointed the choral tenors and helped my colleagues in the other sections chose theirs.  There were a few substitute choristers on standby, and we needed them due to unexpected illnesses and such at the last minute.

We first had access to our music as online scans on May 29 and got paper copies during our first choral rehearsal on Monday, June 11.  We had one more choral rehearsal on June 18.  We learned some details about the conducting and tempi  from Doug Schneider, PSC's usual accompanist, who ran our rehearsals:  he'd been to their first rehearsal playing keyboards for the orchestra on June 17.

Our only rehearsal with the orchestra, conductor, and guest performers was at 4:00 on the day of the concert.  Andrea himself wasn't there as expected because his flight from Las Vegas had been delayed due to the president's flight commandeering the LV airport that day.  We only could only press on Andrea-less and hope he'd arrive on time for the show.  

The conductor had already toured with Bocelli and knew precisely how to predict his tempi and rubati.  I myself was asked to fill in for A in rehearsal, but I declined the nomination: Italian opera isn't my forte, I don't know A's typical nuances, and I had to practice my own job in the show.  The conductor wheezed some of the tenor phrases when they mattered for timing.    For us choristers, though, it was the usual game of FOLLOW-THE-STICK,  since the hall was so large, amplified and wet that we couldn't trust our ears for the beat. (Actually, we followed his right wrist - his stick technique is unusually florid.)   Rehearsal ended at 6:00  with no sign of Andrea.

Andrea arrived at the MODA center slightly after 7pm in a cortege of limousines, had a supper in his dressing room (we all got a catered a meal of cannoli and chicken piccata), and you saw what happened after that.
It's uplifting and inspiring to witness humans doing such remarkably difficult and and exacting artistry, even when you cannot hear clearly, cannot see their faces, and have your own part to play in the production.  Andrea's mezza-di-voce above the staff is well known and regarded, but hearing it done in real time is breathtaking.  I can do that sort of thing well about one time out of every ten tries:  he got it perfectly every time.   In the hundreds of notes he sang, I heard only two that were less than perfect - they they only proved that the fellow was human and doing this live. 

I kept (stole?) my music and backstage pass as memorabilia.

Yours, Gary Shannon
( 8-{D} balding, bespectacled, bearded happy guy, usually open mouthed.
I teach voice lessons online:  My Passion:  Your Art.