Monday, June 7, 2010

Date With a Pianist

I have a date tonight!  With a collaborative pianist!

It occurred to me as I was getting ready, that in much the same way as woman, like Snow White, will dream "Some day my prince will come, " an avocational singer will dream "Some day my collaborative pianist will come!"

When I was growing up, one day my mother surprised me and told me she was sending me for guitar lessons.  She was a pianist, and liked to sing herself, and she explained to me that it's hard to accompany one's self on the piano while singing, but it might be easier to do it with a guitar.

I was fortunate to have a pianist for a mother because I always had someone to play songs for me while I sang.  I could grab her when I wanted to and I never knew what a luxury it was.  I took it so for granted.  As a singer, I have never had it so good since.  Here we are c1989.  Lucky me!

In recent years, I have approached a couple of friends who are fabulous pianists, with overtures of forming a little collaboration together.  This has mostly met with a lack of success, mostly due to the fact that schedules are very difficult to coordinate.

Whenever I hear that famous question -- "What would you do if you won the lottery?" -- the main thing I could think of is that I would buy a really great piano and  hire a pianist to come every day to my house for the rest of my days.  I read a book written by Enrico Caruso's vocal coach and accompanist for a time, Salvatore Fucito (Caruso and the Art of Singing, Including Caruso's Vocal Exercises and His Practical Advice to Students and Teachers of Singing).  In the book I read about how they worked together every day, and what singer could not long for such a luxurious benefit.

Mr. Salvatore, says in his preface that it was the greatest honor of his life, when "my distinguished friend Enrico Caruso called me to New York to be his coach and accompanist."

Well, as an avocational singer, there is no one waiting and excited for me to call them to come be my accompanist.  I have to chase them down, like ambulances.  I forget that, as much as I want to work with fine musicians, they do as well, and I may not be an exciting prospect for them.

Mr. Salvatore  goes on to say that he "always eagerly awaited Caruso's arrival in Berlin," (where they often worked together) "because it was an inspiration and a musical education to work with the great master of song."

Dreamy sigh!

All these years of dreaming and fantasizing about working with a pianist, it never occurred to me that when I finally had a chance to work with someone good, I might not be worthy of the experience, or that it wouldn't be less than dreamy.  I did -- last year a few times --  get together to try to sing "Erbarme Dich" with a high level pianist.  However, my decision to do this was premature, and I did not have the technical ability to sing the song properly, and she had a hard time sensing my pulse and putting it together with me.

Since then, I have been dedicating myself to achieving better results with "Erbarme Dich," and recently I have gotten a handle on it.  (You can hear it in Frescamari's Practice Room: "Finally, A Halfway Decent Erbarme Dich")

I think I am ready now to work with a pianist, and -- lo and behold -- an opportunity has snuck up on me.  Remember in a blog post when I told you that I was "Singing Tenor?"

Well, the organist for that quartet I was in happens to love Bach, and I happened to mention that I was working on "Erbarme Dich" and he happened to be interested, and he has offered to collaborate with me on it, just for fun, and at no charge.

And that is with whom I am meeting tonight in just a few minutes.

Off I go!

(Psst!.  I have made an extra copy of "Quella fiamma", the most recent of the 24 Italian Arias I am learning, to bring along just in case things go well and it seems right.)


  1. This is great!!

    I know how you feel, although for me it's to do with finding another singer who's eager to concertize with me. So far I have one person, really my only peer, a man who began studying opera in his 40s, who previously had only sung MT. Most of the singers I know are all chummy with each other either from conservatories where they studied or taught or whatever, and since I came (back)out of nowhere in 2004 I was kind of lost.

    Regarding instrumentalists, I'm lucky that the church where I sing has a lot of professional caliber string players so I've gotten to sing, for example, "Laudamus te" from the Bach B Minor Mass with a violin solo.

    But my best news is that my voice teacher, who has moved from baritone to tenor back to baritone and is now singing tenor again, said we can do a concert of duets together next year!!

    Good luck with Ebarme Dich! It's a beautiful piece.

  2. Oh, yes, you remind me about a longing for other instruments too! A violin! A harp! In our recent choir concert, a soprano performed a piece with just bass cello and I thought, "wow, wouldn't THAT be nice!" But for now I'll be content with having a piano. Maybe things will evolve.

    And other singers would be nice as well. I collaborated a few years ago on a Pergolesi Stabat Mater and I immensely enjoyed singing with another singer.

    You have a lot of great stuff going on. Good luck with it!