Cough Drops, Combs and Compression Shorts…Tales of a 10th Grade Stage Mom

Wow – April 30th – where has my spring semester gone?!  There was a hint of potentially big “ancient”  news Tuesday, but truthfully, my brain is far to fried to actually process it.  I will eventually have some further reflection about Yaël Farber, Richard Armitage and Sophocles, but 5 classes in progress, 2 classes to prep for next session, with a week to go before finals precludes me at the moment (pre-confession…I haven’t found time to watch The Crucible stream yet…or fiddle with the download, so another reason to postpone…) 

Additionally, Showbiz Son has kept me hopping this term…January through March were rehearsals for the high school theatre production of Annie.  In addition to a heap of ensemble parts…a bum (that’s a vagrant on this side of the pond), a butler, and a chef, Showbiz had a feature role and vocal solo as the radio announcer Bert Healy.

"You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile"  or your goldenrod zoot suit and Boylan Sisters backup.

“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” or your goldenrod zoot suit and Boylan Sisters backup!

That production added about 2000 miles of back and forth to my van and a new term to my vocabulary:  Compression Shorts.  As it turns out, these little spandex and Lycra lovelies are essential to the quick costume change.  Showbiz had 5 costume changes in the production…down to skivvies for each one, and apparently the trousers stick on regular boxers jamming up the whole process.

An actual text conversation about underwear...

An actual text conversation about underwear…

Stage Mom (and Target) to the rescue…”pants” delivered in plenty of time for his “Call Time”  (Does this make anyone else wonder if Margaret Armitage was transporting Lycra unmentionables to another budding thespian once upon a time?)  Speaking of ‘unmentionables,’ another new nugget I learned in this production?  Completely co-ed dressing room space for all…

Me:  You all strip down to underwear in the same un-curtained room?

Showbiz:  Yeah.  Nobody cares…we’re all to self absorbed to notice anyone else anyway.

*shrugs* Alrighty then…moving right along.  Back in February, Showbiz participated in the regional Solo and Ensemble Event with 5 vocal entries – qualifying for the state event for all of them despite having been sick with the flu for the entire week before the event.  Stage Mom came prepared with a giant bag of cough drops which helped a little.  The joke of the day was that he would deny my very existence if I ever came at him with a comb in public the way that I described the mother of one of his friends do to her cringing kid in a 3/4 full auditorium.  Seriously?  Can’t just tell the kid to fix his hair before he performs again??  They’re 16 not 6.  In any case, the state festival was this past weekend and Showbiz KILLED it, earning top scores in each of his events…even the duet where they had to compensate on the fly and sing their piece a full step lower than usual…how low can you go Bari-tenor? 

While we were standing in the hall waiting to go in for his first piece, I busted a big back pocket comb out of my bag and offered to tidy his hair…he declined with an icy glance and dismissed me to dutifully follow him into the room.  This one was my favorite piece of the day.


I wasn’t familiar with this poem, but it is lovely…(I may be slightly partial to the vocal version though.   🙂   )  

We’ve now moved on to rehearsals for the summer production of Hands on a Hardbody…Showbiz will be appearing in the role of “Mike” that’s it…”Mike.” in this Tony nominated musical based on a documentary of the same name.

I'm told there will be an actual truck there for the performances...

I’m told there will be an actual truck there for the performances…

I’m currently killing some time in my office rather than going home and then running back out to pick the kid up from rehearsal at 9pm.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes the constant running around…Rehearsal, fittings, costumes, makeup, voice lessons, food, food, food (he’s that six footer laid out on the floor…it takes a lot of fuel to keep that machine running), but the pride I feel as he hits and surpasses each milestone makes it all worthwhile…so does the grin on his face in that picture!  (If I ponder it for long, I find myself wondering how many amateur – and now professional – production cast photos decorate a mantle in Leicester.)

Just in case you were wondering where Mini Me is in this musical menagerie…she came home this week with paperwork from school…she’s decided to take up the cello!

And the night shall be filled with music….

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done

inter alia: “Hey Richard Armitage, I think your G-string is a bit tight…”

That got your attention didn’t it?!  Nope, this is not a further investigation in to anyone’s underwear preference…

...just a little string instrument humor!

…just a little stringed instrument humor! **

I was listening to my old new favorite collection of music this weekend and remembering how much I love the sound of the cello.   A convenient coincidence I suppose given the Richard Armitage connection, but really, my love of the cello extends back a long way.  Where I grew up, music lessons were (and still are – for now) a part of the public school curriculum, beginning in the 4th grade.  We had our choice of instruments, and I ruled out horns right away  SO   MUCH   SPIT!!  (yeck – leave it to my kid to take up the oboe!)  I was much more attracted to the strings.  I really, really, really wanted to play the cello, but it would have meant hauling it to school on the bus every other day, and that seemed like a daunting prospect since even at 10, I would likely have been playing a full sized instrument.  Violin it was.

I was a proficient violinist.  I suppose that if I had bothered myself to practice more, I could have been more than proficient.  Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda…  In any case, by the time I reached high school,  I had carved out a more or less permanent place as the second chair of the second violin section.  If you know anything about string arrangements, you’ll know that melody is a preciously rare commodity in this section.   Feeling unappreciated (in my 16 year old brain) and seeking greener pastures, I changed over to the viola.  I like the sound of the viola – more mello than the violin, but without the bulk of the cello, but not quite the same.  Not a whole lot of melody to be found here either, but it put me in much closer proximity to the bass instruments (we non treble cleffers had to stick together in that sea of violins) and together we produced the back bone of the ensemble.  The vast majority of the music I encountered was classical.  I love classical music, especially Bach and Mozart, but imagine my surprise when I encountered a cello in a wholly different context.

I mentioned a while back that I had recently rediscovered the music of a band that I loved when I was in college, and that it really took me back.  This band was unique in any number of ways, not the least of which was their integration of the cello in their fusion of funk and rock .

See that guy there?  The one with the bass...yes, the one with the bass and the mohawk...he's also a cellist.

See that guy there? The one with the bass…yes, that’s him on the right too – with the bass and the mohawk…he’s also a cellist.

The bassist for this band, pictured above, is also a classically trained cellist.  The combination of sounds was something that, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I hadn’t heard before, and I liked it…a lot.  Take a listen to the two tracks here…the cello is prominent in the beginning, but is there throughout, bringing a depth to the sound that an electric bass alone can’t provide.

Big Bang Theory – “So Much More”

Big Bang Theory – “Livin’ in a Dream”

Richard Armitage has said that the cello comes closest of an instrument to sounding like the human voice…listen to this version of Led Zepplin’s Kashmir to hear what he means…

I imagine that Richard Armitage has the potential to be a pretty decent cellist….There are certainly plenty of extremely talented female cellists, but it is no secret that there are a lot of very well known male cellists.  I imagine that some of it has to do with the fact that men simply have larger hands and longer fingers which allows them greater reach over the fingering.  Longer arms can’t hurt in reaching around and gaining really deep bowing strokes either.  Long arms and long fingers Richard Armitage has plenty of!

I wonder if years playing the cello have anything to do with the famously open sitting position?

I wonder if years playing the cello have anything to do with the famously open sitting position?

**Check out a masterful list of music puns here