The last 2 months+

Nightmare Man – A Musical (August 5-14)

Rehearsals for this Fringe Festival show begin next week, and I’m totally psyched!  Nathan Schilz (music director/composer/writer/etc.) approached me some months ago and got me interested in this production.  What I do know I’ve gleaned from Nathan’s emails and the Nightmare Man’s Fringe Festival web page (including an amazing promotional video that the team shot).

Look below for show dates/times/location.  I’ll be playing amplified acoustic cello and if I understand correctly I’ll be featured quite a bit, so it’s sure to be challenging and a great opportunity for my sound to be heard.  So far I’ve met Nathan, director Paul von Stoetzel and lead actor Derek Meyer and my first impressions have been very positive, so I can’t wait to begin work!

Music Jam Week (July 2-9)

I’ve been up in Northern Minnesota for the last three weeks at Camp UniStar, a family/summer camp that I’ve been attending since I was 11 or 12.  My final week there I had the pleasure of leading the program along with my wonderful family!  The program was billed as ‘Music Jam Week’ and just as expected, all sorts of passionate musicians from many different backgrounds showed up to share their musicality.  It took a couple days to figure out how to break up the group into ensembles and establish a rhythm, but once we hit our stride it was a total blast.

(Grant Wacker/Owen/Nikki/Cory Grossman)

Music making was by no means confined to the 2 hours of official ‘program time’ set aside ever day before lunch, manifesting in impromptu jam sessions, rehearsals, errant humming/whistling of tunes and all sorts of other subtle/insidious ways that music inhabits everyday life.  On Friday we put on a concert during which everybody had a chance to showcase the music they’d put together throughout the week, and I was blown away at the quality and enthusiasm of the performances.  The more time I spend at camp UniStar the more of a leadership role I feel inclined to take, and organizing/facilitating this music week proved to be a dream come true; I can’t imagine a more rewarding scenario than sharing music with my friends and family on a beautiful island in northern Minnesota!

(me/Greg LaLiberte/Evan Slack)

Free Improv, Samba, and Camp Harmon (June 10-12)

I’ve been truly blessed to play music with and get to know bassist and improviser Brian Roessler, and shortly after our first session together he invited me to play a couple sets of free improv with him over at the Black Dog Cafe.  Brian’s part of a local improv group the Fantastic Merlins, along with founding members Nathan Hanson and Pete Hennig – a group I’ve been watching eagerly since I moved back to the Twin Cities.  We couldn’t find time to rehearse before the gig, but as the plan was to make everything up on the spot that didn’t seem like a big deal.  There wasn’t much of a turnout so we didn’t get a lot of tips, but I had a total blast playing with Brian, drinking free beer, chatting with the fabulous friends who did make it, and flirting with the excessively cute cashier.  I didn’t get her number, but I’d still consider it a successful gig, hands down.

The next day I had my first gig with a Brazilian percussion ensemble here in town called Batucada do Norte, led by the fabulous brothers O’Keefe, Tim and Pat.  We were marching in a parade celebrating the 25th anniversary of Patrick’s Cabaret, and I really felt at home among all the like-minded artistic weirdos.  We had some pretty embarrassing marching issues with the tamborim section sprinting ahead and having to wait for the rest of the band, but it was no big deal and we had a great time.  It was only about a mile that we marched, but by the end of it my wrists and left pinky finger were totally exhausted from flipping that dumb little drum back and forth.  I can’t wait to do it again!

I actually drove directly from the gig to a 3-4 hour long chamber music rehearsal in New Richmond Wisconsin to prepare for another installation of Clare Harmon’s Chamber Music Midwest festival.  And even though my hands were sore from drumming, I can’t imagine a more pleasant rehearsal experience, as I was fed cake had the pleasure of hanging out with composer and clarinetist Larkin Sanders, who happens to be one of the most charming and hilarious people in existence.  We began work on rehearsing her new composition, Jane Eyre, for its premier that Sunday and I instantly fell in love with the piece.

(Luke Foster/Larkin Sanders/me)

We also had the pleasure of collaborating with flautist Alysa Treber who played with us for Mozart flute quartet, and ended up sitting in on the Mozart clarinet quintet as well, playing the 1st violin part.  On flute.  haha.  Not an easy task by any means, but she pulled it off and it sounded fantastic.

(Alysa Treber/me)

Beyond the musical portion of my visit, the sense of community and close friendship was thick in the air.  Larkin and Alysa had been staying with Clare and her family for weeks, along with various other short-term tennants, and the house had taken on the unmistakable atmosphere of ‘music camp.’  We spent the majority of each day eating fabulous home-cooked meals, drinking wine/beer and enjoying each others’ company, which was near impossible to leave.  Clare writes briefly of this in her blog, Chamber Music Midwest, so you should check it out along with her other posts!

(Larkin Sanders/Clare Harmon)

Corbett, Mozart and the Mississippi Megalops (June 1-5)

This was a crazy whirlwind of amazing music and people and subtly bizarre elements, beginning with an hour of morning rehearsal for the Mozart oboe quartet.  The rehearsal was frighteningly efficient even though the oboist, Joe Peters, had forgotten his music and was rehearsing by memory – starting and stopping while merely glancing at the violin part and consistently nailing entrances.  What a beast.  When we performed the next day the lights inexplicably went out in the middle of the 2nd movement, but all four of us played right through the darkness until the lights came back up in 5 seconds or so.  It was all I could do not to laugh, but we pushed on and made it through.

The three of us had driven directly from a rehearsal of a piece by Sidney Corbett called Yael, which could be described as a stone’s throw away from the most disorienting music to play just before performing Mozart – and I can’t forget to note that both pieces mentioned were for concerts organized by the lovely Clare Harmon as part of her music festival, Chamber Music Midwest.  Yael features some of the most difficult counting I’ve ever attempted, since there’s a combination of local polythrythms and enduring/outlandish hemiola.  If you don’t know what any of that means, just picture steam coming out of my ears while I frantically count to five over and over.  As torturous as that sounds I absolutely loved rehearsing and playing the piece, and we were lucky to have Akira Mori conducting and leading rehearsals; he can definitely be a bit curt at times but when it comes down to it he gets shit done.

The night before the Yael dress rehearsal I had a gig with two musician friends of mine, Zac Crockett and Solange Guillame (super cute couple).  All I knew was that we’d be playing some lullabies that we’d arranged and rehearsed, we’d be on a riverboat on the Mississippi and we went on around 5am the morning.  I’d been going to bed around 2 or 3am anyway so I didn’t bother sleeping before loading onto the boat at 4am that morning/night/whatever you want to call it.  But by the time we shoved off at 5am I was groggily scolding myself and looking around for a place to get vertical and lose consciousness.  But that wasn’t much of an option since the boat was teeming with wide-awake senior citizens who were completely unfazed at getting up an hour earlier than usual.  We didn’t set up until we’d turned around and begun our return trip around 6am, by which time I was pretty damn cranky.  We played from 6:30-7am for a delightfully appreciative crowd and although I was certainly playing sloppier for the sleep deprivation, when the brain starts to shut down certain artistic tendencies rise to the surface as inhibitions and faculties start to go dormant.

As the sun rose and morning established itself as daytime I realized just how few hours I had to sleep before my rehearsal at 1pm that afternoon.  In New Richmond Wisconsin.  And I had to organize a carpool with somebody I’d never met.  So I ran off the boat, threw my stuff in the car, sped home and jumped in bed – got about 2 hours of sleep and woke up to deal with one of the most last-minute/convoluted carpool scenarios ever.  Once we got on the road it was just fine and my one passenger was an absolute pleasure, so I drank a lot of coffee and we got there plenty early without hardly any problems at all.  Rehearsal went very smoothly even though one of the cellists (my passenger, actually) was rehearsing the piece for the first time – quite miraculously.  The venue is a remodeled barn called the St. Croix Artbarn, and as one might expect the atmospheric controls are not sufficient, so on stage it got up to about 85 or 90°F and I nearly burned alive in my long pants and long sleeve shirt, but the performance went great nonetheless.

(the St. Croix Artbarn with scenery from recent production)

It was actually the world premier of Corbett’s piece so we ended up shooing the audience out the door after the concert to playing through excerpts of Yael again to splice into the recording we’d made of the performance.  I got a kick out of how unconventional the whole thing was, and considering how backwards a lot of it seemed the level of musicianship was absolutely astounding.

(Larkin/Alysa/Ben Davis/Laura De St. Croix/Erin Lawson/Zach Sawer)

Harold Crumb – short film (May 18-24)

The above date is only the time that I spent on this project, whereas my friends Adam Conrad (music composer) and Christoper Jopp (writer/director) have put in COUNTLESS hours to create this film.

(cello part)

Check out the trailer on <vimeo> and the video Chris shot of our recording sessions <here>.

(Adam Conrad/Dylan Jack)

I’ve done extensive work with Adam playing his compositions and he provided me with crucial emotional and intellectual support on my first composition project, so I was thrilled to have the chance to work with him on this production.  Rehearsals and recording were a lot of work, as is necessarily the case with film scoring, but the musicians, recording technicians and other supporting artists made it an excessively positive experience.

(Ben Kelly)

The unexpected MVP of the whole process was Ben Kelly who Adam had enlisted as our ‘rehearsal assistant.’  His job was to follow along in the score and take notes on reoccurring mistakes, rough patches, other problems, and to offer an outsider’s opinion on which takes were good, or how they could be better.  Employing Ben was a stroke of genius on Adam’s part, and Ben was absolutely the hero of each recording session – and he plays a mean bass guitar in gangster jazz band Sexy Delicious.  Come check out the premier on Wednesday, July 27 · 7:30 at the Heights Theatre.  <google directions>

After the Quake – play (April 18-May 21)

This show was a huge deal for me since it marked the first gig for which I’ve been hired to compose music, and on top of that I performed my compositions solo with live looping.  It was a nail-biter to say the least, but a fantastically well-spent month of hard work.  My music was written to accompany a play put on by the Walking Shadow Theatre Company, directed by Amy Rummenie.  The play was adapted for the stage by Frank Galati as a mashup of two short stories by Haruki Murakami, and the script left tons of room for artistic license to run wild – especially the musical aspect.  I was lucky to find clear starting and ending points for the musical accompaniment, with only very brief and infrequent descriptions of what it might sound like.

I reigned it in a fair amount since I’d never actually performed with a loop pedal or composed for the theater, but simplicity suited the production perfectly and I think I just brushed the outer edges of my capabilities.  I would have learned a bit more if I’d fallen flat on my face, but I made more friends this way.  haha.  The cast and crew were absolutely effortless to work with and superbly artistic/creative/competent across the board and I’d jump at the opportunity to work with any one of them again (their names can be found <here>).

As proof of that statement I’ll be playing background music at a fundraiser for Walking Shadow on the evening of August 28th at moto-i on Lyndale, and I’ll probably do some vignettes of my compositions for After the Quake so mark it on your calendars!  If anybody deserves your money, it’s these people.


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