Captain Fantastic: The First Walk Thru

After a relaxing holiday season. The students in SPG1 and I returned to work knowing that our next performance, Captain Fantastic and the Piano Man will hit the stage at the Community Arts Center in just 3 weeks.

Yesterday we went through our first walk thru. This one involving all of the songs in the first set of that performance, which is comprised of 14 classic Billy Joel songs. Pulling songs from nearly all of his greatest recordings.

Although we were all on a break for over two weeks, most of the performers were clearly working hard on their music and planning their performance. The fruit of that labor for most was on clear display in yesterday’s first walk thru.

Billy Joel’s music is challenging. The forms are often long, the arrangements are at times complex, and all of it is requires a bit of sophistication and great storytelling. Putting a lot of the pressure on the vocalists to articulate the story lines, while also reproducing the beautiful melodies this music is built around.

To get to the bottom of the stories, and to improve the phrasing. I have made a habit of having all of the vocalists write work from a lyric sheet with phrase markings, articulations, and accents marked. As well as preparing a paragraph or two detailing the meaning of the song. I have especially learned a lot about the songs from reading what they discovered. Particularly about songs origin, and I always find their interpretations of the meaning of the lyrics to be interesting as well.

Yesterday, when we got to the 90’s classic, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and I was amazed at the amount of research completed by Leah Batman, the vocalist on the song. When we had discussed it months ago I told her that I expected her to know what all of the historical references in the song were… To my surprise she presented me with a 20 page historical thesis containing each historical reference and a paragraph about its meaning. This completely blew me away.

I could tell in her subsequent delivery of the song that having a solid understanding of the depth of the history described in the song gave her performance of it a strength that wouldn’t be there if she hadn’t put that depth of work into her research. This is the type of dedication to craft that I seek in all of my students, and one of the things that fills me with pride about what our program brings out in them.

While not all of the performers were as prepared as I would have liked. All in all it was a really good start, and points once again to what will undoubtedly be another great show by this great group of performers.

Today we will tackle the Elton John set and the challenges inherent in his music. Then we will record 4 of the shows songs for future promo videos. If you haven’t gotten your tickets for this performance, get them now. You don’t want to miss what certainly is going to be a very special performance.