21st Century

As I mentioned before, many of the cast are doing multiple shows, so their days are chock-a-block with rehearsals, classes, coaching and shows. Which means that we (the Romeo and Juliet company) don’t work 8 hours a day every day, and not always with everyone, especially as the season gets underway. We’ll have Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary rehearsals, where we will have varying numbers of cast members, and the stage manager and director have to plan their days accordingly to figure out how to best use the time the schedule allows us.

For me, as sound designer and composer, that means that it’s not always useful for me to sit in the rehearsal hall. And anyway, there’s recording to arrange, meetings with sound techs and production in the Festival Theatre, and then of course other duties that I need to attend to in life and work as a professor at Toronto Metropolitan University.

We learned during the worst days of the Covid pandemic that we can use our digital and virtual tools to our advantage, and that has continued. This week while I’m in Toronto, I’m working out some rough music for the choreographer to use while she works with the cast to set the dance for the party scene in Act 1, where Juliet and Romeo get their first glance of each other.

I have 2 live drummers that I asked for to be onstage, and they will be in and out of the scenes in various ways. During the party, they’re the band, and a firey band they are! In keeping with our director’s vision, we are period-adjacent, so we’re not going too far out of the time where the play is written (although we are not being precious about it). The choreographer is using a style of dance called a Gaillard as inspiration, and we are using that rhythm to inspire the music for the band.

I’ve studied a lot of classical Arabic music and a rhythm that I love is the Yuruk Sema’i, a 6/8 that fits well with the Gaillard structure and tempos. The drummers will use this rhythm to accompany the dance. One of the drummers, Graham Hargrove is an accomplished hand percussionist and he plays the riqq (Arabic tambourine) beautifully, and our other musician Jasmine Jones-Ball will hold down the foundations.

But back to the 21st century – since I’m not in the hall this week until Friday, the choreographer and I have been working virtually. For a while now, I’ve been using Soundcloud to share private downloadable music with my collaborators, and usually keep a copy of all the music in Dropbox. Because I’m not there to play along with the choreographer, we’re trying out a bunch of different tempos. It’s a little clunky but for now it works, and luckily everyone understands the restrictions of the repertory workflow.

Some proposals for the choreographer

As she refines the dance, we’ll stay in communication so that I can construct a rough skeleton to work from when I communicate with the musicians. In the meantime, since I’m the musical director and one of the musicians for the recording (I’m a member of the Toronto Musician’s Association, the affiliated musician’s unions that works with the Stratford Festival), I can accompany the choreography in the hall when next I’m in (and we have enough company members to run the dance).

21st century, y’all.

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