Can't Stand Still

 

If you’ve been to one of our concerts, you’ve noticed that we don’t like to stand still while we sing. “Lenny, Lenny, Lenny!” is no different. As we move through vignettes of Bernstein’s life, we are using his music to create a picture of his human impulses and struggles. In order to engage our audiences in the narrative, we incorporate movement and moments of interaction during pieces and in transition. Our concerts are not fully staged, costumed, or choreographed. That already exists; it’s called opera. However, as we change positions and exchange energy on stage, we make intentional choices that guide the listener’s ear and eye.

Here are the three aspects of movement and interaction that we consider when creating staging for a choral concert.

1. Theatrical Movement. The most obvious kind of movement we do on stage is literally connecting us to the character or emotional landscape of the music and usually happens while we are singing. We use this sparingly, but intentionally. For example, on “Simchu Na,” a mostly unison, full-throated song of celebration, we move to encircle two soloists in movement reminiscent of the Hora dance, a communal dance of joy in Jewish culture. As the circle opens, the two soloists are exposed, bringing to mind a couple celebrating their love.

2. Transitional Movement. This program is performed straight through without applause or intermission. We avoid breaking the spell of the narrative until the final cut-off which allows our audiences to get completely caught up in the program. It’s essential that we move from piece to piece in a way that maintains the magic of the story. As we start the program, a tenor sings “A Simple Song,” leading the choir into the space from the back in movement reminiscent of a church procession. We gather in the front in a mixed cloud of singers for “Hashkiveinu,” and then move smoothly to our voice part formation for the next piece while humming the opening of “Warm-Up,” the next piece. In order to avoid the dead-air of silent, awkward transitions, we  maintain a flow of energy as we moved from piece to piece by using vamped or improvised incidental music.

3. Singer Interaction. The final aspect to our movement on stage is less obvious, but most important. The way that singers interact on stage, in planned or unplanned ways, captures the attention of the audience as they watch humans creating powerful sounds together with genuine connection. We have several moments of planned interaction. When the two soloists are revealed in the center of the “Simchu Na” circle, they share a moment of joyful eye contact, making clear to the audience the thread of romantic connection weaving together the next two solos. Throughout other parts of our concert, Verdigris singers interact with each other across the choir, expressively sharing the joy or sorrow of the music we perform.

We perform our final Lenny concert this Sunday at Temple Emanu-El in collaboration with their choir and cantors in the incredibly beautiful Stern Chapel. Buy your ticket today to see us put these ideas into action.


 
Erinn Sensenig