LWIMusic (Cause Reading Sucked)

Like really sucked. I had to read a book for a paid review that I wanted to murder by the time I finished it. Maybe not to the point of burning a book (I…might have done that once) but I spent the whole week trying to get through it, and then taking the bitterness and making it into real words. *Shrug*

I started a bunch of books the week before last and didn’t get through them, so maybe this week will involve a little of that (though I have another book to read for the same publication, so who knows). I just tried reading Speak Gigantular for the fourth time (and even then, I was only on the third story) and gave up. It’s going back to the library.

SO yeah, all kinds of book woes.

Instead, let’s talk about music!

I mean, this was one of my tweets last week:

We had our first rehearsal for March’s show last week, and the theme is Page to Stage. It’s gonna be hella fun, even if I’m not in most of the show (since I’m also rehearsing with two different choruses—the second was just because they’re doing Faure’s requiem and I can’t live if I know there’s a group performing it and I’m not in it).

So anyway, getting our music for that rehearsal spurred me to do a back-to-back watching of A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel. It got too late to watch A Very Potter Senior Year. I love StarKid so much, even though (ahem) I had never watched either of these and still haven’t seen Senior Year. I’d heard plenty of the music, of course, since more than half of our cast is very big on HP.

Not familiar with this magic morsel of marvelousness? Here’s the opening number of the original:

 

(Turn on autoplay in youtube to watch the whole thing!)

Meanwhile, anytime I drive my husband’s car, I listen to the Broadway station on the preset page he made for me. They played one of Josh Groban’s songs from The Great Comet (AKA Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812) and it was REALLY GOOD. I mean, I love Josh’s voice, but I remember his acting chops of long ago. Just from listening to this one song, I could tell they’ve improved. (Also, I’m really glad he’s not singing weird pseudo pop anymore.) I can’t wait to see the show.

 

Another thing I’ve been doing this week? Discovering deep cuts in my iTunes. It’s like meeting a friend for the first time. Like, I say I love Imelda May, and I have all of her albums, but I tend to mostly listen to Tribal. But “End of the World” from her first album came on while I had iTunes on shuffle, and I fell in love. I didn’t play it on repeat like I have been known to do, but…you know, there’s still time.

 

Other rediscoveries included David Bisbal’s “Digale,” which. Goddamn.

 

But, you know, I have 4,500 items in my iTunes library, so it’s no surprise there are things I might have only listened to once (like right now it’s playing “General Zod” from Man of Steel because hubs auto buys Zimmer soundtracks and I tend to steal them). I’ll do more to not skip things that I should know at least a little.

This is already getting long but there’s one more thing that happened this week: They announced two of the people cast in the live-action Lion King. I’m happy to hear they got James Earl Jones back, but the casting of both him and Childish (ugh, really) means something very significant: this is going to be more of the cartoon than the Broadway show. And that sucks a lot. Not that I don’t love the animated feature, but the musical is so much more grand, and lush, and…well. African.

Lebo M., an exile from South America, helped write some of The Lion King (the chants, mostly) and then became pretty much the man in charge of turning a relatively musically flat cartoon into a 2.5 hour stageplay. He extended “Circle of Life”, wrote some amazing chants and choral pieces, and helped Tim Rice and Friends work on the solo songs that bring depth to the characters and breadth to the story. Songs like “They Live/He Lives In You” and “Shadowlands” and (sobbing) “Endless Night.” (Keep in mind, the musical version was written after Apartheid was dismantled and all of that Zulu music is joyous AF.)  The Lion King is still running on Broadway (it opened in 1997) and has been on multiple national tours. So yeah, there are people who couldn’t get to New York who have been able to see it, but it still doesn’t have the reach that putting it to film could. The fact that neither of the announced actors has the singing chops necessary to do the additional music provided them in the stageplay indicates that Disney is not going that route.

/endrant

What have you been reading and listening to? I think I need to do another Romeo and Juliet adventure to clear my head before I try anything new.

LWIBooks: January 16, 2017

Last week sucked for me, reading wise. I worked on a couple books but didn’t finish much—though what I did finish was pretty darn great. I saw a few movies and reestablished a few head canons, discovered something I want in book form, and got stuck in a Read Harder rut.

I went to the movies twice this past weekend, and watched a movie that hubs saw without me but knew I would want to see. That movie? The Accountant. And now I want a romance featuring someone modeled off of Chris getting a HEA. Is that too much to ask?

I also saw A Monster Callswhich, jeez. I remember why I didn’t get far in the book. But the movie was beautiful and heartbreaking and incredibly well done and acted—though now we know Sigourney Weaver’s weakness: British.

That same day, I saw Singin’ in the Rain for the first time in a theater, and the spectacle is just magnificent on a big screen. If you’ve got the time and the chance to see it when it plays again on Wednesday, take it. I’ve seen bits and pieces in the past few years but it’s been awhile since I’ve watched it all the way through, and boy, is that OT3 there. I thought it was just me when I was younger, but that was before I discovered fanfiction; and the last time I looked on AO3, there was nothing there. Well, now there is, and over the past 24 hours I’ve read nearly all of it. (I will probably write more thoroughly on this after I’m done.)

Okay, on to books. The reason for this post:

Books Completed

26114524The Only Thing Worse than Me is YouLily Anderson

love Much Ado About NothingLike, probably more than I do Pride and PrejudiceSo when I realized in the first chapter that this was going to be a YA retelling (because that was left out of the blurb! Who leaves that out of the blurb?!) I became even more excited about what this book would be. It had already drawn me in with supernerds who were also super geeky. The snappy dialogue and excellent transference of the plot—while still making it different enough that you weren’t sure how things would go down—won this one for me, and I am eagerly awaiting Anderson’s second book (THIS WAS HER DEBUT, WHAT, AND SHE’S A LIBRARIAN, WHAT) that’s based on The Importance of Being Earnest. If she writes a YA version of Design For Living, she will go down in history as my absolute favorite person putting words together on the planet.

Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds, Kris T. Bethke

This was a cute little novella that was the perfect length to read while twisting my hair on Saturday. Will, a young professional, is drawn out to a meeting at the PFLAG chapter his mother started. She wants him to hear a speech by Joshua, who owns a bakery. Diminutive Will is not usually attracted to big, hairy men, but something about Joshua draws him in. The writing is a bit juvenile sometimes, but it touches on some great things, particularly supportive families and body image in men.

Under Rose Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall

I DNFd this book. I was sad to; the narrator, Norah, is an awesome person and her love interest sounds cute, if troubled. Norah’s mother is great, and the other people that I encountered in the 40 or so pages I read before I stopped were very interestingly written. But Norah has Agoraphobia and Severe Anxiety Disorder, and she is very well written. I’ve been pretty high on the Empath scale this week, and her very extreme anxiety was making my (much lower scale) anxiety and neurosis much more palpable. I actually spoke the words “you know I like having the bedroom door open so I can hear if someone breaks in while we’re sleeping.” Not that it’s ever happened, or that there is a high chance of it happening, but my usual “is the door locked?” followed by my checking three or four times before being able to sleep, wasn’t enough. (This is not the full extent of how anxious this book made me, just an example.)

Still Working

8341567Running InterferenceElley Arden

I don’t know if there’s something about the writing or my reluctance to read second-chance stories, but this one is slow going. I was really excited about the prospect to read about a world in which a women’s professional football league existed, but the other stuff is not making me anxious to pick it back up.

Getting InsideSerena Bell

Okay, maybe what’s really going on is that there’s too much football in my life right now.

The Perfect Play, Jaci Burton

Or maybe not because I was going at this one like gangbusters until I got distracted by Don, Cosmo and Kathy. (Also, see that cover? I bought that one in print.)

Picking Up Soon

30251383Hidden FiguresMargot Lee Shetterly

 I haven’t forgotten about this one, but I’ve been out of the nonfiction mood.

Joyride, Jackson Lanzing et al

I need to get back into comics. This one looks hella fun.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 2, Amy Reeder et al

Luella is my must-buy trade girl. I can’t wait to sit down and savor it.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Angela Carter

I’m doing a group read of this with some of the folks at WWAC, and I finally got it from the library. I think I’m really only going to do one at a time, so I had better get started!

 

Also, because this is going to be available this week!

 

And now I’m going to go finish reading all that magical fanfiction and get lost in the Tucson Festival of Books panel schedule. Sweet Christmas.

Ending on a high note: Favorites 2016

We’re coming upon the end of 2016, and with it, the one-year anniversary of my return to blogging. After about a month of writing on my old blogger site, I transferred everything over here to Books and Beethoven and determined that I was going to write more about both reading and music, which each hold high points in my life.

I lost momentum over the summer, but I’m determined to try again—new year, new me and all that. I started using a planner, and I’ve got a great Trello board for all of my writing plans.

I can do this.

Earlier today, Sarah asked the BR blog support group what our blog resolutions were, and I really had to think about goals that I might actually be able to keep up with. (If you remember, I wrote a whole post about goals for October, and then didn’t write anything until the end of November…)

Here was what I determined:

  1. More straight reviews of books and music
  2. Regular check-ins for Read Harder 2017
  3. Regular check-ins for Read My Own Damn Books 2017
  4. More writing about music as I encounter it

I will try my best to pull that off. If nothing else, monthly check-ins will continue, and random mental meanderings about music and books will come up.

Right. Favorites.

Here are some of my favorites of this year, in books, music, film, and TV. I’ll post a regular December wrap-up in the next few days, but I wanted to get this one out of the way when I was thinking about it.

Favorite Book Published in 2016

the-geeks-guide-to-unrequited-loveHands down, no question:

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash.

This book was just adorable and heartwarming. I loved the voice, and the characters, and all of the geeky goodness in this three-day story that takes place over the course of New York Comic Con.

Favorite Backlist Book Read in 2016

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

I started reading this in 2012 after it started getting peppered with seals from ALA and all the rest of the book people. I got a few pages in and just wasn’t into it. But I needed a book to listen to and this one was available at the library, so I went for it.

What magic I had been missing. Lin-Manuel did a perfect narration, bringing to life the type of prose that I occasionally just don’t process the same when I’m reading it.

Favorite Read Harder Challenge Book

30688435So I didn’t actually complete the RH challenge, but I got close, and came across some really good books because of it. There are a lot of books I would have read anyway, but Exit West was one that I probably would have put on my Want to Read list, never to be seen or heard from again. It takes place in an unnamed country, but sounds like it could be the Middle East (and the author is from Pakistan, so it’s not a far leap). I probably wouldn’t have read this book if it hadn’t been dropped in my hands by someone from Riverhead Books, but I’m so glad I did. It doesn’t come out until March, so  I was glad to be able to read it so early, but I want to talk to people about it!

Favorite Read My Own Damn Books Book

The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan is the second book in the Brothers Sinister series, and it is Historical Romance Perfection. It’s Victorian instead of Regency. The hero is a duke’s “natural son” with severe political aspirations, and the heroine is an heiress who will do anything to inspire disinterest (and even dislike) in gentlemen who need to marry for money. And the secondary romance is the sweetest.

It does things with stuff.

Goodreads tells me I added this to my to-read shelf in July of 2013, and Amazon says I bought it March of 2015. It was time. (I also owned the first one. Which I also read. It was wonderful, but this was so much better.)

Favorite Movie Seen in the Theater

MOOOOOAAAAAAANNNNAAAAAAA

I saw so many good movies this year; all of Disney and Pixar’s contributions were excellent. Rogue One was perfect. Loving was magnificent. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was tons of fun. But Moana was all of these things, not to mention it had amazing music (also written in part by Lin-Manuel Miranda) that I went home and downloaded and still can’t get enough of.

maxresdefault

Favorite New TV

Shadowhunters.

No, really. Seriously.

It took all the good parts of City of Bones and made them better. The writing improves as the season does, and Dominic Sherwood is a very attractive Jace. And of course, Malec. All the Malec. I can’t wait for it to come back; except now that I don’t have a DVR anymore I’m not sure how I’m going to work my way around that.

exclusive-first-look-of-malec-shadowhunters-season-2-01

Favorite Hulu/Netflix TV

Luke Cage was magnificence personified. I’m looking forward to more Defenders TV.

And I finally got around to watching Season 1 of Crazy Ex Girlfriend and it was worth it to just binge. I am in love with Rebecca Bunch (and Rachel Bloom). Also I bought the season one soundtrack and will never be able to watch Frozen without hearing “I Gave You a UTI”. Thanks, Hans.

Also, I’m four seasons into Smallville and I can’t look away.

Favorite Popular Music Discovery

Post Modern Jukebox is definitely the royal music maker of 2016. They were around before this year, sure, but this was the year they made it on my radar to the point where I had PMJ music playing in iTunes. Some of their covers are songs I know better than the originals, like Radiohead’s “Creep”. Man, that song.

Favorite Musical Theater Discovery

Waitress. I really loved seeing the long performance on the Tonys. Jesse Mueller is fantastic, and it was fun to watch Sara Bareilles glide in on her piano. (And the album is only 5.99 right now, what!)

Favorite Classical Performance

There were only two for me this year, and it was definitely the Fall performance of the Haydn Lord Nelson Mass and Mozart’s Solemn Vespers. I’ve done both of them before and preparation for this one really tightened up my knowledge of them. Also, they’re both just magnificent pieces of music.

Favorite Song of 2016

Is it any surprise that it’s “How Far I’ll Go”?

 

 

What were your favorites this year?

November Wrap-Up: Thanks, I guess?

Oh look, it’s December!

November was an interesting month. I finished a few books, but left many more incomplete or barely started. I spent Thanksgiving and Black Friday putting more words to paper than I had the entire rest of the month; and I was so worn out I couldn’t stick to anything else, really.

I “discovered” a new author, though I own four of her books. I’ve been collecting Courtney Milan’s books for years, but when I went about writing a historical romance series list and realized I couldn’t include hers because I couldn’t explain what made them different, I knew I had to remedy that.

And holy crap.

Not only does the Brothers Sinister series take place in the Victorian era instead of Regency, but her characters are witty and smart and have a much more worldly point of view than our favorite regency dukes and their heroines. Even the necessary duke wishes the aristocracy didn’t exist. Sadly, the second one got caught in my slump, but I don’t plan on abandoning her ever. I’ll make it back soon.

Other highlights from October and November:

The Soldier’s Scoundrel  – One of the nice things about M/M historical romance is the breadth of types you discover. Even in Regency and early Victorian stories, these gentlemen are often middle class and lower gentry. It’s refreshing.

Princess Princess Ever After – I can only squee. It’s soooooo darling and wonderful. If only there had been more of it. There needs to be a grown up version.

Beethoven’s Hair – After several years of meaning to read it (since I did work a floor below where the titled lock of hair lives now) I finally got around to this. It works works as a science book and a biography, as it alternates between describing Beethoven’s life and the story of the lock of hair, which they used to potentially discover the origins of many of his health problems.

The Accidental Movie Star – This one surprised me! It had been sitting in my kindle app for however long and I finally decided to try it out, completely expecting it to be one of those mediocre badly-designed-covered self-pubs that I find myself interested in. But no! I was almost immediately emotionally invested.

Under a Painted Sky – YA friendship-centered historical fiction about a Chinese-American girl and an escaped slave pretending to be boys? Yes, please.

The Midnight Star – This was the final book in the Young Elites trilogy and whoo doggie. Danger ahead.

Keeping Her Secret  – Cute and sweet, and bonus music!

Romancing the Inventor (with bonus review on Women Write About Comics!)

Goldie Vance – I haven’t been reading a lot of comics recently, but I’m glad I picked up this one.

Inferno – Once I discovered they’d continued the Robert Langdon film series, I realized I probably needed to read this. I had hate quit The Lost Symbol about 150 pages in, but it doesn’t seem to matter for continuing with the series. And Inferno was the book that brought me back into Dan Brown discipleship. Florence, Dante, Mystery, and Unexpected Twist Endings are all things that will make me either hate or love the shit out of a book, and this one managed to get me to go in the direction of the latter. If only the movie had been so kind.

The Boy is Back – This is the one book in Meg Cabot’s trilogy of nostalgia (she put out new adult books in the Princess Diaries universe and the Mediator universe this year, too) that I made it through and enjoyed. It helped that it wasn’t really part of a series; it was a completely new book with new characters, just done in the same tradition as the other Boy books.

Truth or Beard – Surprise book of the year, you guys! The Winston brothers are my new favorites. I am kind of waiting for the series to be done to continue, though. Just in case.

Four Letter Word  – J. Daniels is a new favorite. I was intrigued by the premise of this book: woman calls BFF’s cheater married boyfriend to curse him out and ends up calling the wrong number, and then starts a phone relationship. Talk about a twisted meet-cute, right?

Exit West  – So I was a featured Riverhead Loves Librarians librarian a while ago and a few weeks after that posted, my interviewer told me she’d be sending me something she thought I’d enjoy. Little did she know how much I would, and how I wouldn’t be able to finish a book again for a week.

Matilda  – Until I got to this one! Which I finished in a few hours. It helped me get closer to completing the Read Harder challenge, both as a book published in the decade I was born and a book that was adapted into a movie (I love the narrator of the book, but I like the way they expanded the movie’s plot).

November was also a heavy music month. Tucson Masterworks Chorale did two Austrian Masters concerts, featuring Mozart’s Somemn Vespers and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, which is one of those that I unapologetically geek out about. My favorite movement is one with a million words that I still remember after doing it in 2008 with Symphony Silicon Valley, and I had been jonesing to do it again for years.

Mayhem did our usual second Sunday of the month, and I didn’t completely fail, which is always nice. Also, I found a new wig in the box that I will fight to use in every show. I might have to get my own, but I dunno. It’s a nice wig. Who knows how expensive it’ll be.

But it contributed to an awesome Captain America costume:

15123232_10210661568353141_3661142402730138919_o
photo c/o Tracy Lester

I musically ended November with a Messiah Sing-In, which reminded me that, with the exception of the Hallelujah Chorus and Part Three, I don’t actually know The Messiah. So it was…interesting…to sight-sing all those runs. Someday I’ll be forced to actually learn it and then I will be….UNSTOPPABLE!

Or something.

So yeah, I’ve got a little less to deal with musically this month, but I’m still not ready.

Business as usual.

Horrible stories with amazing music

WARNING: SO MANY SPOILERS

Not so much horrible as in “badly told”, like, say Love Never Dies or Batman vs. Superman. More like, this is horrendous, why would someone write a musical about this? Take, for instance, the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein. You’ve got The Sound of Music,, an uplifting story about an Austrian family escaping Nazi Occupation. And then you have the musicals R&H based on 20th century plays like Green Grow the Lilacs and Liliom.

That’s Oklahoma and Carousel, you guys.

 

Oklahoma-DVDcover Carousel_film_1956

I grew up on these musicals. They both had the honor of having Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae as their stars, so my mother and I watched them constantly on the weekends. I didn’t really pay much attention to them as a child; they had great music.

Enter adulthood (I was probably in my early twenties), and my first time watching Carousel since I was eleven or twelve.

From Carousel
Here is Billy and Laurie (shit, is she Laurie or is Laurie in Oklahoma?). The night they meet, singing “If I Loved You.” Basically, they’re both in a bind and decide the best way to get over the fact that they’ve both gotten fired is to go get married.

Saywhatnow?!

I have since watched it several times, and I just can’t get over the fact that this is a show I’ve watched since birth. I can only say the only reason my mother let me watch a movie about an abusive asshole of a man who fell on his own knife (TUCKED INTO THE FRONT OF HIS PANTS! Billy Bigelow is not very smart) while trying to get money for his unborn child (his heart was in the right place, I guess?) was the music. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is probably her favorite song, ever, so take the good with the bad, huh?

I don’t know what to say about Oklahoma. The music is catchy, I guess, but it might have just been force of habit. The love story is cute, and the ballet is beautiful. Until it’s destroyed by the dark imagery of Jud Fry. The sexual predator. No, seriously. Even if what was left in the 1955 movie was more of a Rebel Without A Cause-style misunderstood antihero, Jud Fry was intent upon committing sexual violence. Rod Steiger might not have been able to pull it off, but here’s the song they cut, performed fantastically by Shuler Hensley:

Yeah. It’s probably best I didn’t grow up listening to that song. Though learning “I Caint Say No” as a child was probably not the best thing for my development, but you know.

Lest you believe I am prejudiced solely against good ole R&H, let’s talk Fiddler on the Roof.

Topol always reminded me of my dad growing up. He’s always had the beard and they look the same when they smirk. I dunno.

I turned this movie on just a few hours ago during the denouement. The townspeople had already been informed that the Tsar has evicted them. They have already sung “Anatevka.” Tevye and his family are packing things up to leave. He has already said “Maybe that’s why we always wear our hats.” All of the happy times have ended. The Russian Jews are leaving the Ukraine. They are moving west, some to Palestine, some to Europe, some to America. Their children may suffer persecution and prejudice to an even further extent than they might have ever seen in the Ukraine. We don’t know. Hope is gone, all is lost. The wandering people must wander again.

THIS IS HOW THIS MUSICAL ENDS.

At the beginning, Tevye and his family are happy. Poor, but happy. Based on Sholem Aleichem’s Yiddish stories (which I have not read…bought twice, but never picked up), Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of Tevye, Golde, and their three eldest daughters, each finding romance in their own way. Each romance takes a little more out of Tevye, until he just can’t take it. Beyond even this, the period is a rocky time for Jewish communities in what is now the Ukraine. The wedding celebration of the eldest daughter is interrupted by a needless (though thankfully bloodless) pogrom. While revolution sparks in other parts of the kingdom, military-sanctioned violence towards Jews becomes more of a thing. And, well, I’ve already told you where that leads.

The difference between Fiddler and the R&H gems of the forties, of course, is that the shit that sucks is shown to suck. Oklahoma and Carousel are both these cheery movies (both involving deaths! Caused by the main characters! Nobody dies in Fiddler!) that end happily, with themes that nobody should ever want instilled in their children. Mrs. Bigelow apparently can’t be happy for the fifteen years after her husband dies, until a ghost whispers into her ear. And Curly and Mrs. Curly are “Soon to be livin’ in a brand new state”, after a citizens’ court decides that Curly is not guilty of killing a man who “fell on his knife” because he’s supposed to get married and the judge is too far away. Or something.

It takes a village to hide a murder, you guys.

These are just the three that I have been thinking of, out of many many awful stories featuring beautiful music, mainly because I watched Carousel on a whim a week or so ago and had that same visceral reaction that I always forget about. But I always come back to it, mainly for this:

I could listen to that a million times, no matter how misogynist it is.

Sigh. Musicals, man.

February Check-In: Kevin Price Made Me Do It

February was kind of a light month. I finished ten books in total. Two were audiobooks, two were part of my newest writing gig (more about that later), and the rest were either carry-overs from January, holds that finally came in, or books I selected for the Read Harder Challenge on Book Riot. There were some really good books in that month, including Beverly Jenkins’ ForbiddenChimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feministsand Alyssa Brugman’s Alex as WellAmong others, obviously.

Alex as well We Should All Be Feminists Forbidden Cover

I realized at the last call for Best Comics We Read in February on the Panels back channels that I didn’t read any comics this month.

Whoops.

I enjoyed every book I read, but my reading during the second half of the month suffered from a bit of a deterrent.

And their names were Kevin Price and [insert Fandom name, usually Connor] McKinley.

Here’s the story:

On February 18, five books into the month, I saw The Book of Mormon (on tour, not on Broadway, sadly). And it was amazing. I’d heard several of the songs before, (I’d performed several of the songs before!) but I wasn’t completely familiar with how they all came together. And, crudeness and all, I loved every minute of it.

You should listen to it.

There was an occurrence during the last song that got my fanfiction-reading always-OT3-anywhere curious: Nabalungi was between Elders Price and Cunningham, and was holding a hand each. This wasn’t during the curtain call for bows, this was during a dance number. Guess who zeroes in on it and wonders if other people have done the same? The question plagued me for a day. Were others interested in the possibilities? Had anyone (besides my BFF, to whom I had mentioned it almost immediately upon making the discovery) seen just what I had?

According to AO3, nobody had.

They had other pairings in mind.

Or more, they had another pairing in mind: Elder Price and the ever-helpful Elder McKinley.

(Originally posted on Tumblr: http://classysushi.tumblr.com/post/8965381182/oh-elder-mckinley)

I hadn’t even considered that the whole damn two hours of the show. Partly because I didn’t really read Kevin Price as any kind of sexual being, let alone a bi- or homosexual one. And actually, some of the stories reflected that. While “biromantic asexual” was not actually a tag I ever saw, there was at least one instance in which that was likely the characterization. There were even a few instances in which Kevin was demisexual. But the majority of the stories featured Kevin being very much just straight out homosexual. Sometimes out in combination with distancing himself from the Church in Uganda, sometimes very much closeted and suffering psychologically from the events that occur in the latter half of the show. And sometimes there’s just ridiculous fluff from either during the Uganda mission or back in the States. Sometimes there are AU stories, but I wasn’t particularly interested in Concert Choir AU or Boy Scouts AU.

This is to say, my “readerly productivity” went down for a bit in the second half of the month. I’ve been reading books the past week or so, but I still have the urge to go look for a new story.

I know how this goes. I have gone through this pattern before. I’ll binge for a few days, then go for something new every few days, and then I’ll occasionally go back and see what’s going on. But I’ve been really focusing on the published stuff, just because I look at it in my house and on my devices all the time and think: “Fuck. I really need to read more of these.” So somehow, my subconscious kept me not interested in any of my fandoms, even when I’ve gotten updates on stories I’ve been reading for years.

Because books.

Onward.

On The Wiz and being a crossover artist

I finally sat down to watch The Wiz Live on Friday night. For the most part, the stars were Broadway or pop/r&b singers who have a certain vocal style. With some exceptions, the performances were well done (even if I wasn’t always thrilled with some of the “updated” orchestrations), and I’m jealous that students of the future won’t have to suffer through the 1978 version of “He’s the Wiz” while their music teacher screeches the Munchkins’ backup parts during classroom viewings. I was pretty happy with it.

And then Uzo Aduba sang “If You Believe”.

Uzo Aduba is a classically trained musician. She has a powerful voice and an amazing range. She sang that song. She could have mastered it, but she went too far in the Broadway direction and not far enough in the style she does best (even on Broadway).

I know a bit about that.

Since moving to Tucson, I have committed to being a part of two very different styles of musical performance. The first is something I have been doing for more than half my life: choral singing.

I started singing in real choral groups in middle school, having been in glee club since the first grade. Once I realized there was a whole classical side to singing in groups, I was all about it. I was in citywide groups and did whatever I could in high school. When I got to college, I auditioned for a couple a cappella groups but didn’t get in; probably best for me, because I would have probably been satisfied with whichever musical group I joined and not looked further. I went a full semester before I sent the director of choral studies an email asking if he took January additions for the Chamber Choir. He did, and I didn’t look back. However, I joined a research fellowship my Junior year and couldn’t commit to the time choir met, so my director got me into voice lessons, which sent my capabilities skyrocketing. But when I went to grad school, I knew I had to get back into the choir thing, so I joined the symphony chorus in San Jose, and then the small group that did more art songs. When I moved back to DC, I kept that momentum going and auditioned for one of the best known choral groups in the DC area—one that was a significant step up from my California group. But I took it in stride, and in four years became a much better musician with a hell of a repertoire under my belt. So obviously I wasn’t planning to let that fall to the wayside when I moved here.

My voice and mechanism hadn’t adapted to the desert climate when I auditioned for the symphony chorus here, and I just wasn’t prepared as I should have been, so I didn’t get in. Luckily for me, there are multiple choirs that don’t need auditions. I was in one of those for a year and a half, but scheduling opened up my chance to join a different one, which so far is going pretty well. (We’re doing Mozart’s Requiem and Zadok the Priest for the spring concert, which I’m really excited about.)

The other side of my musical coin is a much weirder animal.

I have always loved musical theater. The first music I knew was probably from West Side Story or some Rodgers & Hammerstein production. I was in a couple of school plays but really preferred choral stuff so didn’t do much of it. A few years ago, my work bestie (also the theater teacher) told me about auditions for a community theater production of Ragtime, one of the first shows I recall seeing at DC’s National Theatre, and I was all there. Preparing for and producing that show was rough, but it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Fast forward to Tucson. A friend from work’s boyfriend was the director of a small-time, wacky musical theater comedy troupe, and she often invited me to attend. I finally did and thought it was fabulous. So when auditions came up, I waxed and waned over whether I would take part.

Waxing won.

So here I am, a person very much used to preparing for something for months (and often still having the music in front of me, even if I don’t often use it) joining a group whose tagline is “Underrehearsed and Overdramatic.” I was pretty out of my element. But I was loving the chance to perform songs from musicals (and some other things, but mostly musicals).

Finally, we get back to the topic of this post: being a “crossover” musician.

My best singing style is classical. I have the most practice and training in it, and I resort to it when I need to. I know my theater belt is less than half my classical range, which I have lost a bit of since leaving The Washington Chorus, but still have, for the most part. I have been improving my theater voice (you know, practice and all that), but I still incorporate my vocal training when I feel the push. Or the pull. Or the strain. The things that tell me to switch gears  in order to not kill my voice.

You could hear Stephanie Mills doing it during “The Feeling We Once Had”.

(Oh yay, Uzo just won the SAG award as I’m writing this!)

Anyway.

In no way am I throwing any shade at Uzo. She is an amazing performer, as we all know. I’m just questioning the choices of The Wiz Live‘s directorship, and why anyone might have told her to belt instead of using her best voice. Was it the need to appeal to a certain audience? Was it the need to present a certain kind of sound?

I dunno.

I’ll still watch it. And then watch the Lena Horne version on Youtube when I’m done.