Hilltop Diary, November 16, 2022

In this diary entry I’m happy to share with you not one but two spankin’ new short pieces of music for my ballet titled Raffaella. The first one is called “Raffaella’s Communion and Pas de deux with the Prince.” In her roughly Renaissance-era, Italian fairytale setting, Raffaella has a religious coming-of-age ceremony and then dances for the first time with the magical Prince. The ceremonial part adapts the melody from the Gregorian chant Salve Regina in lush orchestration. The second part is an early period kind of waltz I composed in a more genteel style. There will be a more romantic dance between these two later.

The second piece is a scene where various would-be suitors approach Raffaella together in the piazza and then dance a phrase or two of music with her individually in turn, but the tone is dark, because they make her uncomfortable. She sees her beloved Prince appear at a distance (quoting a little of his theme from earlier), but then men from a rival town come and begin to argue, and a wild swordfight ensues. Raffaella attempts to intercede and stop them (at the big harp solo near the end), but fortunately soldiers of the town arrive and break up the fight. This one is much darker than the rest of the ballet, but it was fun to compose a swordfight.

Back to life at Hilltop, there was a pretty dramatic event a few days ago in the enchanted wood behind us – a woeful bellow of distress from a young doe. I thought surely a coyote was attacking her, but it turns out her hind legs had become twisted in a neighbor’s barbed wire fence. She was lying on the ground absolutely wailing. I got my wire cutters and ran out into the rain in my pajamas and snapped one wire, but the cutters were not strong enough to cut the rest. Fortunately, our neighbor John came out with his big, long-handled wire cutters and freed the poor, dear deer, who gave out another huge cry and made a dash to escape from us, unharmed but terrified, up into the forest. I was pretty much traumatized myself the rest of the day.

Because Crystal’s cast is not rehearsing at all Thanksgiving week, this week is essentially their tech week, when they rehearse the full show in costume every night of the week and on the weekend afternoons. It can be a lonely week for us theater widows and widowers, but it has to be done. Cinderella (Rodgers and Hammerstein version) is one of the great title roles one can get to play, and Crystal is perfect to play it. Check out the Pull-Tight Players web site in Franklin, TN for details on shows and tickets, running Dec. 2 – 17. Tickets go on sale (online) on November 21.

Things are gearing up for my ballet, though the premiere with dancers is a year and a half away. I was already in a conference call last week with four people about the plans. The premiere date has now been moved a week sooner, to the weekend of June 14, 2024 at the beautifully restored, historic Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend, Indiana. A film of the ballet will be made then to show to ballet companies to consider further performances. We have discussed the instrumentation of the pit orchestra and also the recording of the ballet with a huge orchestra in Europe. The album we make there will also serve as a track that some ballet companies can dance to, if they cannot hire an orchestra. The choreographer will come on board soon, and I need to have the full ballet music finished by June of 2023. I’m hoping to finish it even before then.

Here are a couple of photos from my home studio, speaking of ballet: the ballet slippers (signed by the ballerina who wore them, hard to read, on the lower right of the photo) given to me after the premiere of one of the ballets I composed for the Nashville Ballet. The right photo is my computer setup with part of a score page on the left screen, my mixing panel (for making the mockups posted above) on the center screen, and on the right screen the late prima ballerina (St. Louis Ballet) Raffaella Stroik herself, in whose loving memory the ballet is being commissioned.

Ballet Slippers and Studio

On Monday morning, Nov. 14, I was pleased to be in the role of the expert guest for a discussion on classical music with the British journalist and author Kevin Turley in London, via Skype. He had done an article on my work a couple of years ago. I regret I don’t have a link I can give you to hear the show. The host and producer have invited me back in a month or so to talk about classical music for Christmas.

Yesterday, November 15, Parma Recordings released on their site and all social media this nice “In Depth” (human interest) interview with me. You can read it on their blog page HERE.

It has been agreed: Crystal will cook the turkey this year, and I’ll make the stuffing and the gravy, and the rest we’ll figure out. I like to use real day-old bread for my stuffing, not those bags of dried out crumbs. It’s actually supposed to be called “dressing,” since I make it in a tray and not inside the bird.  Also, watch for my “Kentucky Colonels” bourbon ball recipe posted here next time! Wishing you a happy and thankful Thanksgiving!

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