16 September 2008

Band Camp for Operetta Geeks

"...the all-time nerdiest thing I've ever been involved in, and I say that as a person who has been involved with public radio and marching band." Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot

I don't know which of my geeky hobbies would win for all-time nerdiest thing I've ever been involved in, but I suspect that the hot money is on either the historical re-enactment, the D&D, or the G&S Sing-Outs.

Or, as I put it in an e-mail to David:

Doug is also talking about coming. Largely, I bet, because in our ongoing "you are such a geek" conversations, he thinks that witnessing me singing G&S will count as a critical hit. As if. Anyway, he'll probably come to his senses and bail but if he doesn't, I can introduce you and you can protect each other from the G&S freaks and their show-themed t-shirts.*

Before I go any further, of course, I must mention that my D&D, G&S, and Re-enactment friends are among the finest, kindest, loveliest people I know. Smart and creative, too. And I do not make fun of them while standing superiorly apart. I am deep in their midst where I am happy and at home. But let's face it, any hobby you have to explain to people...

So the 4th Great Gilbert & Sullivan Sing-Out was held over the last weekend in August and I got to immerse myself in a full weekend with friends who get most of my references and are not only willing but happy to hang around talking about G&S and bursting into song. We infested the Rockville Civic Center's F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater and sang our hearts out.

Some highlights:

- Seeing Long-Distance Kate. I haven't seen Kate since she moved to Louisville nearly a decade ago. Since last we met she has acquired the love of her life and two daughters. Her sons - who I knew as little boys - are men. Good-looking men. One of them is engaged. Where did the years go?

- Seeing Local Kate. She lives less than five miles from me and yet we never see each other. Kate brought her daughter Ali who was 8 the last time I saw her a few minutes ago. She is now 15. Fast few minutes. I caught up with Kate and Ali and asked about Kate's other daughter, Sammy. "So how is the Fairy Princess?" "Exactly." As a toddler and little girl Sammy was dewily emerged from under a drift of flower petals. It seems that at twelve she hasn't changed. Look close in the pictures her mother carries and you can still see the wings, I swear.

- Seeing Debbie. Again, lives here. So we had to pay a bunch of bucks and commit to spending a beautiful weekend indoors to run into each other, but now we have a lunch date for next week. Completely worth it.

- Memorabilia. I finally bought a copy of the third edition of Harry Benford's G&S Lexicon which lists me in the acknowledgements. Why did Harry include me? I dunno. But he did and I feel all famous and learned about it. I've been meaning to pick up a copy for a while (I have an earlier edition), and now I have one. That fact that I am thanked and Larry isn't is probably the most surreal thing about G&S that I can think of.

- Buttons. We - of course! - sold buttons*** that VLOC folks made. When we were planning the last Sing-Out Denise mentioned that we'd need ideas for buttons. "Hand me a pen." quoth I. And a couple of minutes later I had listed a dozen which had sold handily. This time I e-mailed my suggestions in and ditto. Buttons are how geeks self-identify.

- All that singing. We sang all of them. All thirteen operettas. Sometimes I sang from the back of the house, sometimes from the stage, sometimes from the front of the house. But the absolute best was sitting on the risers during Pirates and just listening to the men. The men's chorus music in Pirates is so lovely, so lyrical, and from where I was I could hear those gorgeous, gorgeous harmonies. And this Baritone-preferring soprano just fell in love with the tenors because they earned it. They were glorious. And I could turn around and tune into each voice as I chose, so I got to hear old and dear friends like Les and Lyle because no matter how glorious the tenors are, a baritone's a baritone.

- And more singing. Sullivan might just as well have written in an alto and soprano line for certain pieces. "Cat like tread" and "The March of the Peers" are two of them. Tantantara! Tzing! Boom!

- The re-writes. Gary had a verse as the Major-General's song, which he has given me permission to post here. He and Local Kate wrote the lyrics together and smartly decided that as Pirates would commence somewhere after 10:00 at night, he would sing this instead of the traditional 3rd verse, not after it. Fabulous!!

When I can be a part of VLOC's Sing-Out here in Maryland,
And yodel thirteen op-er-as, from piracy to Fairyland,
When I can wrap my tongue around the issues in this patter song,
And listen as Kate Huntress-Reeve contributes to the Matter song...

When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern scholarship,
When Blair Eig sings the Roulette song and pockets a ten-dollar chip,
And when the Sing-Out's finished, all the fun and games will melt away...
When I am in my Lexus doing 80 on the Belt-a-way!

(When he is in his Lexus...)

It's often hard to think of rhymes that make the lyrics up to date,
But Kate and I collaborated! Now I fear it's getting late,
And so in making up a verse to (hopefully) amuse you all,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

I'm already looking forward to the next one in, I think, 2012. Must start warming up.

*As it turned out, Doug did have to bail, largely because his schedule was OBE. Rather a pity as he missed some damn fine singing** by some damn fine people.

**None of it, alas, by me. I clearly need to sing more as I was sorrily out of voice.

***Or, as I think of them now, "real live Flair."

1 comment:

Maureen said...

I happily sang 1st tenor for both Sighing Softly and March of the Peers. Tantantara indeed! :D

And sitting on stage during Pirates and hearing all those voices coming at me in Hail, Poetry? Glorious!

You wanna sing more? Snag a pianist who'll tolerate my electronic keyboard and c'mon over.