17. May 2006 · Comments Off on Cats Tale · Categories: imported, Ramble

I’m playing for the musical Cats. Yes, I really am.

I know, I know: 1) I should hate musicals in general because a classically trained musician is supposed to, 2) Sir ALW steals from old opera composers and we are to put our noses in the air and 3) … well … it’s CATS, for heaven’s sake. No one is supposed to like Cats.

Oh. Except all those folks who keep going to see it!

But here’s the thing: I do like musical theatre. Yeah, I guess I’ll lose some readers now, eh? But I can’t help it. I see through the predictable writing of some of the composers. I know that the music isn’t as complex as the stuff I play with symphony. I just don’t care. I like musical theatre and that’s that.

Now I do confess that Cats is not my choice for a musical. The story line … well … what there is of it … is weak. It’s mostly about Sir ALW’s music and lots of dancing. And I guess it’s sort of made more serious because a real poet’s words were used (I do wonder what T. S. Eliot would have thought of the whole thing.) But I’m playing it, and enjoying it. And, best of all, our son, Jameson, is doing the production at his high school and this gave me the opportunity to work with him and learn the book at the same time. (He’s Rum Tum Tugger, in case anyone wonders. I’ll try to get some pictures up here at some point.)

But you know what? There is quite a bit of work for me in the show. Lots of English horn solos. Nothing technically challenging really, although why ALW wrote high Gs for the oboe is beyond me; all ll I can say is “yuck” … but he wrote those those in Evita too, so my guess is he’s telling us, “See? I know you can play this high and I’m going to make you do it!” Oh, and in Cats he also wrote a low Bb for English horn which means I have to use my EH attachment; did he not know that the English horn (or cor anglais to the English) doesn’t usually have the low Bb? So anyway, I have a good number of solos and it makes me work. It’s a great, non-stressful way to learn a book. And it’s also good to have this after the end of the opera and symphony seasons, when I’m usually going through a bit of depression due to missing my friends and the playing.

The school doesn’t have an orchestra pit, so we play behind a curtain, where the stage used to be located (the place was a cafeteria/theater before, and has been transformed into a black box theatre). When we began last night I was sitting on one of the theatre chairs which is quite padded and too low. What a difference a location and a chair make! I had to blow SO much to get what I thought was a decent EH sound, and it still felt muffled. I explained to the conductor that when I play English horn I need something higher, so she had someone bring me a hard, plastic Wenger chair. My sound opened up a bit, although the curtain still sucks up some sound, and while I’m slightly higher I’m bringing my seat cushion tonight to raise me even a bit more (and maybe make the seat more bearable for the two hour sit).

The students perform “in the round” (I’m not sure if that’s a correct term): the audience is on all four sides (so maybe it’s really “in the square)? I can’t hear the kids. I can’t see them. I was hoping we’d have sound monitors in the back, but no such luck. There is a video monitor, though. Thing is, I can’t see it. So I might be performing “with” Jameson, but that’s not how it feels. Ah well. That’s show biz.

We have nine shows. I’ll play a total of three rehearsals as well. And yeah, I’m pretty much doing this for free (they aren’t making me pay for Jameson’s costume rental, which is very nice of them, since money is scarce these days for both the school and me). I believe that we folks who are in the profession should offer our services on occasion. I like to do this with students, both in the high school and at the university. I think it’s good for them and for me. I see and hear what they are doing. They see and hear how I approach music. Heck, they even hear that I’m not always perfect! The first thing I usually have to do is get them over feeling intimidated. That’s not hard to do. I’m a goof. They find that out pretty quickly! They also remind me of the fun that is involved in playing. I like that.

Sometime soon I’m going to write about strawberries, asparagus and tomatoes. Stay tuned! 🙂