Monday, December 31, 2007

Devotion Evolves

In the last couple of months, I’ve had several meetings, usually over tasty dinners, with people who have been my advisors on The Bhakti Project. This fall was a bit of an incubating period, I think, as we all - performers, organizers, composers - thought about what was created this year and how we wanted to move forward. And so we are moving. And shaking and scheming and planning and hoping...

Funny, but just a few months ago, I was really discouraged, even using the word “failure” to talk about The Bhakti Project. All I could see were the goals I hadn’t met, the things that hadn’t worked out just as I planned. Here’s what didn’t work:

1. We didn’t raise $18,000 or complete the three phases (commission, recital, recording).
2. My idea of blog-generated “micro-financing” didn’t really get off the ground.
3. I still owe my composer 80% of his fee.
4. The attendance at the initial recital was terribly disappointing.

Then last month I had to file my end-of-year report for Fractured Atlas. This, together with the above conversations and the clarity that comes with time and distance, made me realize that there were many, many things that did work:

1. We raised $4000, most of it in six weeks, and successfully completed Phase 2 (the recital) under budget.
2. Not including proceeds from recital tickets, 20 people made donations - including six whom I have never met, some of whom have never heard me sing in person.
3. The recital program itself was a success, even the risky elements like a silent meditation and reciting texts and singing Leonard Cohen.
4. We got a fantastic review that will be great material for future press releases and donor materials.

It’s easy to forget that projects evolve, that things change. This doesn’t mean that the first idea failed. It just changed. I bit off WAY more than I could chew when I started this project, naively hopeful that “everything would just work out!” Heh. And things are working out in their time, and along the way I’ve learned a lot and made some wonderful contacts that will aid in the future of the project.

So what’s next? Well, I think JD and I agree that the recital we presented last May, “I have some light: Songs of Spirit,” was unique to that time and that our original idea of presenting that program repeatedly doesn’t feel right. It feels proper that the first Bhakti Project recital was so personal, such an intimate expression of our spiritual relationship with music, but I think we both feel that we said what needed to be said. Now we can use the structure of The Bhakti Project to present new programs.

Hillula is still on the table, of course, and in our last meeting with Judd he mentioned a work that was a major influence as we was writing. The idea came to pair the two pieces on a program, and then those two works together made us think of another cycle (one that was briefly considered for “Songs of Spirit”)… And all of a sudden we had a new program! Three works, each about twenty minutes long. No titles yet, but I will say that it will be a challenging program, both for us as performers and for the audience. We hope to take our audience on an exhausting emotional and spiritual journey. The program feels very “grown-up,” very professional, and we think it would make a killer CD...

We’re also talking about the bigger picture, or “life past Hillula.” We would love to be able to present one recital program a year, maybe touring it, and we plan to include one premiere on each program. Rather than focusing exclusively on new music, we’re hoping to find new works that will stand side-by-side with works that have become “standard” recital repertoire. It’s easy to present new stuff all the time; it’s a bit more of a challenge to show an audience that new music can fit seamlessly with works they already know and love.

That is the new mission of The Bhakti Project. If that interests you, it’s never too early to make a donation for the 2008 program.

(Hmmm… one “new” composer each year. Should it also be one new dress designer each year? I think it should.)


Melissa said...

I love this! And, as someone who had a performing group that did only new music, I can tell you it's much easier to get an audience (both physically and emotionally) with a good mix. Happy New Year! :)

Yankeediva said...

So great to see you finding all the positive elements to the year - what a difference that makes, eh?!?!? Congratulations on all your achievements this year, and here's to an abundance of joy in 2008!


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