Measured Extravagance

22 May 2004 - 4:19 p.m.

Tomorrow afternoon, my church (which was profiled in yesterday's Tennessean) will ordain its music director, and it's shaping up to be a spirited, lively ceremony: the president of the UUA will be preaching, and the choir is premiering a new piece written by our minister and Clif Hardin. (The piece is being kept a secret from Jason, so I can't talk about it yet. All I can say is I'm all for putting it into the next hymnal once Clif is done revising it.)

Various other music directors and professionals are joining the choir for the event - it's so cool having a full tenor section! - and I'm glad to finally meet Clif, whose setting of "The Work of Christmas" ranks as one of my favorite holiday anthems. (First impressions: generally low-key and quietly friendly-respectful, but also fully capable of thumping on his chest with both fists and ululating a la Tarzan in order to get the basses to deploy full chest voice. I hadn't quite expected the low-key-itude given that (1) he's close friends with Jason (our very exuberant and extroverted director), and (2) he's known within our choir for music that gallops along at a breakneck pace (specifically "Seize on Today" and "Song of the Open Road") - it was fun mentally comparing elements of his conducting-teaching style with Jason's (not in terms of either being better than the other; more in terms of thinking about which techniques/examples a director chooses to get the sounds he's seeking).)

Speaking of getting results, I was reading a bit of Stephen M. Silverman's biography of Stanley Donen last night, and this passage was the one that grabbed me:

In its war to have the picture turn out looking its way, Paramount arranged for [Richard] Avedon to be prohibited from exerting any of his influence on the Funny Face soundstages by order of the unions. "They banned me from setting the lights, because I wasn't the lighting director, and I was told I could no longer speak to Stanley." Rather than surrender, said Avedon, Donen and he "worked out a system using my necktie. First I'd swing it over to the direction of the light in question. I'd look at Stanley, Stanley'd look at me. Then, if I opened the know in my tie, it meant he should widen the aperture of the light. If I tightened my tie, it meant to narrow the spotlight and move it to the left, so it would flare, but not too much. You know the smoke in the [cafe] scene? Well, I was working my tie and found that I was losing consciousness. The last thing I remember seeing were all the grips who were working the beeswax blowers coming at me and smoking me out."

One year ago, I quoted a rabbi who claimed, "I have found two things in every city I have ever visited. . .Coca-Cola and Lubavitcher Hasidim."'

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