Tuesday, 20 March 2012

More Singing

I was really surprised at the number of hits the previous blog post recieved you know. I really didn't think folk would be that interested in it, but it seems you are, so if you'll indulge me, I'll ramble on.
So, my very ggod friend James Williams played me the original cast recording of Chess. It absolutely blew my mind and its still something I love to listen to if I ever have time on my own. It introduced me to the way of telling stories using music and words. I have the greatest respect for songwriters and lyricists. To convey emotion and further a story using this method is amazing in my opinion.

Without giving the whole plot away, Chess, is a fictionalisation of the Bobby Fischer - Boris Spassky chess match back in the early seventies. If you have a chance to watch the documentary "Bobby Fischer versus the World" you will understand why  this musical was written. Bobby Fischer was a tormented genius, but also one of the finest chess players to ever play Pawn to King four. He was a Brooklyn Jew and summarily beat every other chess grandmaster on the planet to get a crack at the Russian world champion Boris Spassky. It was the height of the cold war and America versus Russia. Big news on both sides of the globe. Fischer destroyed Spassky and there was much trumpeting from the American side. It is also said that Fischer played the "perfect" game of chess during that tournament.

Back to the singing. There is a song in Chess at the end of the first act called Anthem. It is about 3.5 minutes long and for me as perfect as musical theatre can get. The Russian player defects to the west and sings a song about loving his country. The line "I cross over borders but I'm still there now" conveys a vast swath of emotion that couldn't be done with words alone. It's heartbreakingly beautiful and I have had the pleasure of singing it many times.

The thing about being a singer is that once people get to know that about you, at gatherings and parties people ask you to sing. I have always thought that it is rude to refuse, though sometimes I have as politely as possible. Its weird, I don't really like blowing my own trumpet very much. Singing has a time and a place, sometimes I think its not appropriate. My family love Anthem and I have been asked to sing it at gatherings for the past twenty years. My fathers father Ron was particularly fond of it and I was asked to sing it at his funeral. It was without question, the most difficult thing to do. We are a big italian family and emotions were high to start with. I had to hold it together and sing that song without losing it. I'm proud to say I did and knocked it out of the park. I don't think that I could ever sing that song as well again and as a result I don't sing it anymore. When I sat back down I was uncontrollable for about ten minutes.

I dallied with going professional for a while. I went to college to study performing arts, but as I was a mature student, I found it increasingly more difficult to turn in college work and work part time to pay the bills. I couldn't finish the course and left early to get a full time job in an insurance company. I did my fair share of amateur dramatics, some very bad and some very good. The last amateur show I did was play the American in Chess on tour to Ireland about ten years ago. It was great and I'd do it again in a heartbeat, but life goes along its way and I'm afraid that I can't spare the time now.

Now, I sing in a covers band. That is a whole other story, which will be told another time.


  1. Like what you say about a single song encapsulating musical theatre for you. My pick would possibly be "Someone in a tree" from Pacific Overtures - but I admit I change my mind daily on this one.

    Nice to meet you, and thanks to Mark for pointing me this way.

  2. Hi Amanda.

    Many thanks for stopping by and reading. I find it fascinating that people like what I write and also quite flattering. It makes me work harder at the content and that can only be a good thing.

    As you have probably guessed, Chess is and will always be my favourite piece of musical theatre, though there are a few that come a close second. Stephen Sondheim's Pacific Overtures is a wonderful score and full to the brim of great songs. If you haven't heard much of his stuff, you should have a listen to Assassins, Sunday in the Park with George, A Little Night Music and Into the Woods. All wonderful.

    Nice to meet you too!

  3. Amanda.

    I have just read your profile, seen what you do for living and realise how patronizing my response was!

    My apologies!


  4. Not patronising at all :)

    I love Sondheim and have directed a few of his shows for various groups. It's a pleasure to meet a fellow blogger who enjoys musical theatre. As an art form it's very often under-rated or dismissed - quite unjustifiably.


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