Friday, October 12, 2007

Shimmering, Sparkling

What do Rachmaninoff, The National, and red skinny jeans have in common? They were all part of my night last night, making for a great NYC experience.

Looking again, I guess that opener should be more along the lines of “one of these things is not like the other,” since skinny jeans and indie rock go together like classical music recitals and formal gowns. Ummm…. wait a minute.

Last night I sang on another concert in the VIM series at a great little gallery in Tribeca. This series has always (in its now two seasons of existence) been about breaking the mold, so to speak, of chamber music and recital presentation. I talked with several people throughout the night about this, musicians and non-musicians alike, and we all seemed excited about this trend towards making chamber music intimate and familiar again. I’m sure people have been talking of the “rebirth of the salon” for a while now, but I know that among my peers, we’re doing our damndest to make it happen.

So, to that end… I looked at my schedule for the evening: sing Rachmaninoff songs in a recital in Tribeca at 7pm, then hoof it uptown to catch The National give the inaugural concert at Terminal 5, the new venue operated by The Bowery Presents. It was rainy and gross, so I wanted to carry as little as possible with me, which meant: no change of clothes. What could I wear that would be appropriate for both events?

I checked in with Kimball, the recital’s host, to see how he’d feel about something a little less than standard, and as I hoped, he was all for it. A few weeks ago, I picked up an amazing vintage sequined top at a church sidewalk sale: black and silver, a big butterfly design on the front and back, loose-fitting and fun. When I saw it, I thought, “That is either the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen, or the coolest!” Since it was $5, I bought it, immediately picturing it with skinny red jeans and black heels. Disco lives, babies! I found the jeans at Urban Outfitters, of course, and voila! Hipster recitalist.

I cannot tell you how much fun it was to perform in that venue, for those people, in those clothes. It was so relaxed, so comfortable, so intimate – but not a drop of professionalism or musicianship was lost at any moment, by any of the performers. Intimate doesn’t have to mean sloppy, relaxed doesn’t have to mean lazy. There were no program notes or translations, so I got to introduce each song, further breaking the wall of formality. (There were some Russians, in the house, incidentally, and they said they understood every word! Phew!!) I met some great new colleagues and friends, and discussions were begun about possible future performances (stay tuned for news of a possible Bhakti revival!).

It goes without saying that the concert uptown was awesome. I had no idea a violin could rock like that… And JD and I got to see the first champagne spilled on the stage at this fantastic new venue, which just happens to be five blocks from my house. I’ll see The Shins there in two weeks! A midnight snack at the diner up the street – where we were joined by a dear friend & colleague who had his own performance in Midtown that evening – and a brisk walk home through the October mist wrapped up what was an unforgettable night. Friends, Fashion, Food, indeed. Oh yeah, and music, too… Fabulous.

Oh, and? The evening was professionally videotaped (taped? what do we call this now?!), so stay tuned for some YouTube action. See the sequins in all their glory!!

**Disclaimer, NIB, etc: I'm not at all proposing that we do away with the formal concert gown! Far from it; you know I love me some Badgley Mischka. If I am ever lucky enough to present a recital in Weill or Alice Tully, you can bet I'll be glammed out to the max! But, every now and then, let's relax a bit; let's bring some rock star glamour to this fantastic art form.


Anonymous said...

I love it!! How I envy you getting to do this. I'm all for taking that wall down and actually connecting to any audience. We are, after all, real people. Yes?

Now ... I WANT PICTURES! :-)

El Doctorcito said...

Funny! I am not sure if we are looking forward to the you tube MORE for the singing or the outfit.

musicscribe said...

Yes, I'm always amazed at how so much recital garb by some classical musicians looks nothing like what average people wear when they dress up. I recently saw a young 20-something violinist playing with the NY Philharmonic and she was wearing this rather gaudy full length gown with lots of bows and poofy things. It seemed like she was wearing it because the old fogies in the crowd expected it. But such an outfit would be totally off-putting to a young audience member who turned up. Yet another way classical music can make itself more accessible to new audiences: look tasteful but also look contemporary!

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