Monday, October 03, 2005

what happened to me?

i went in for an audition today at chelsea studios for a production of "once on this island" that's going up this winter in a cool theater in baltimore, maryland. i'm thinking if i get it, that's something like 10 weeks towards the 20 weeks required for me to get health insurance through equity. twenty weeks, folks. that's five months! can you imagine? in other words, go away -- we don't want to give you any health insurance. when i joined equity in '96, it was 8 weeks. what happened?

out of the four people in the room, i already knew and worked with three of them. there was kenny roberson at one end of The Long Table, big as day. he looked wonderful, of course. the last time i saw him, i practically walked into him as i was zipping down 42nd st. to b.b. king's -- renee and i were singing back-ups for edgar winter at the moog festival. we were to rehearse with him backstage in his dressing room. of course as a child of the 70's, i already knew his music (and his brother, too) but renee had no idea who he was. all the musicians said they were him until i got there to say that no, they weren't edgar, edgar is an albino, they're all pulling your leg. it was very "i am spartacus" which was kind of hilarious after the fact. but i digress.

kenny's assistant brian was at the other end, with the director between them. and d. the longtime house pianist for the duplex in the west village also worked with us as the rehearsal pianist for harlem song (what song doesn't he know?), well, he was the accompanist. i breezed in and gagged, we laughed and chatted a bit, then i sang "on a clear day" -- it was very barbra streisand. in musical theater auditions, i like to sing with a clear tone, a strong belt and as much feeling and as little melisma as possible. melisma is a joke to me. i'm sure it meant something once upon a time, but now it's usually so over the damn top whenever anyone does it that it's become an affectation. it turns singing into vocal gymnastics. that means that when melisma is overused, singing is a sport and as a vocalist, you are an athlete -- not an artist. you are competing, for crying out loud. and that's not the point! most singers usually do this melisma thing when they want to let you know that they're emoting. that's also your cue as a listener to let you know that they can really sing. to my ear, that's usually when they're not doing anything at all. hear me, people: all that hollering and screaming is NOT singing. they're not sharing anything with you on a spiritual or an emotional level on American Idol. they just want to "outdo" each other. whoever's the most bombastic vocally, that's who wins.

good grief. i'm nothing like that.

hey. what happened to me? i certainly have the vocal muscle to sing like that if i wanted to -- but i categorically refuse to do it. where did i get this sensibility to damn the torpedoes and embrace what's really real? who taught me how to cut through the crap the way that i do, as an artist and as a person? did God put that in me or did i find it along the way? how can i be this young and this old at the same time? *sigh*

here's the kicker for the day: i transposed the song for the audition in pencil on the way to chelsea, on the subway. and it was totally correct! yippee! are my piano lessons kicking in or what??!!

my big freak-out was when i caught a cold this past weekend. i was so afraid that it would wreck my voice for the audition -- but that didn't keep me from going out to the slipper room on saturday night to see some good ol' neo-burlesque with renee and ralph. land sakes! i didn't get home until 5am...i took care of myself, though. i didn't eat anything at night, so i kept my laryngeal reflux in check. i reached into my singer's bag and took all of the medication that dr. kessler prescribed, which kept the mucus off my vocal cords and i took medication for the cold itself. i drank lots of tea, tons of water and i cranked the humidifer in my bedroom. the emergen-C helped an awful lot.

thank Jesus i don't drink or do drugs or i would have looked (and sounded) a hot mess by monday morning.


piu piu said...

youre ill a lot. girl, sounds like u need a holiday!

queenesther said...

you have no idea...i would give almost anything to go away somewhere for a week.

le barb said...

didn't know what melisma was. now that i checked it out i know - and i go along with you. i've always hated it because it's nothing more than a show-off of technique. it's like saying 'hey, i can really sing, i mean really' in such a way that even those who didn't even want to know have to notice. apart from that i think it just sounds awful.
by the way, i got the blues & grass album yesterday. didn't find the time to listen to it yet, but i'm looking very much forward to it!
bye, markus

queenesther said...

gregorian chants do melisma very well, actually. and so does aretha franklin. so there's a place for it. but most singers that do it don't seem to know this.

oh, and let me know what you think of the cd "blues & grass" -- the good news is that we're probably going to make another one soon.

Erik Mann said...

Hi - I really like your blog. I have a website on shotokan karate kata that you might find of interest. Here's the link. Have a look at it and let me know what you think.