Hilltop Diary, January 16, 2020

Sometimes it feels like a vacation to return from vacation, if the vacation was more hectic than one’s normal life. That was the case leading up to this new year of 2020. I will be happy not to go anywhere near either an airport or a long highway ride for a while! I was not dreaming of a white Christmas to complicate travel and fortunately did not have one, though we saw lots of snow in Denver at Thanksgiving.

I’m back at Vanderbilt for my final semester before taking my early retirement to focus on my various projects, and the teaching schedule is light and enjoyable, with great students in my two small classes in orchestration and my private composition lessons teaching five young university composers.

The third movement of my Symphony No. 2: Tales from the Realm of Faerie is finally done and the score and player’s parts are made and edited, and I’m poised to launch into composing the fourth and final movement, even as talks and plans continue to record the entire work next year on PARMA Recordings, which released my album called The Sea Knows.

I am taking a new risk this year in my creative work, namely, writing prose in the fiction genre. I have completed twenty-thousand words (about a fourth) of a novel that is closely tied in with my Faerie symphony, and I have been discussing with my record company the possibility of coordinating a concurrent release of the novel and the recording. A novel concept, sorry for the pun.

My show, Dear Miss Barrett, (www.dearmissbarrett.com) has been scheduled for six performances in a fully staged reading the last half of March at Nashville’s Street Theater: https://www.streettheatrecompany.org/. The audience will have some opportunity to offer helpful comments at the end. Then, we hope for and await  approval to move the show on to the Highland Performing Arts Center in Vermont for a regular full production in June. I am learning the ropes of how this process works. Hopefully, we use the video from these performances to move to the next rung of the ladder, New York. Fortunately, since my show is about the Brownings, the New York Browning Society would like to get involved at some point to promote a New York production. They sponsored a couple of partial, un-staged readings in New York over the last few years. As a classical composer with no great Broadway aspirations, it is eye-opening that it took five years to get a full production underway of a show that only took me five months to write. Street Theatre has announced its auditions on January 21st for the several roles that are not already filled with our principals from the previous readings.

Meanwhile, my wife, Crystal Kurek (www.crystalkurek.com) is rehearsing with the Hendersonville Performing Arts Company for the role of “Miss Honey” in the musical Matilda for February, which I’m excited to see, and have already bought my seat for ten performances! Get yours at  http://www.hpactn.com/boxoffice.html.

I leave you this week with one of the fun numbers from my show, Dear Miss Barrett, called “Al Dente”.  In Act 2, our young, present-day American couple, Sarah and Henry are in Pisa, Italy.  They have invited a young Italian couple, Gina and Alfredo, for dinner, and they are discussing Italian customs, including cooking pasta “al dente” – not overcooking it. Alfredo explains that this principle applies to many things, but not to love. Previously, Gina had explained how American 1970’s-style discotheques are abundant and still very much in fashion in Italy (they actually are), so I wrote this song and arrangement in Italian disco style, complete with a corny dance break that should be pretty funny to watch in the show. Thanks to Brion Gamboa and Crystal Kurek for singing this demo!

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