I was approached some months ago by Kathy Hassinger, a choreographer based in Boston, to perform live behind her dance company in a performance of a trio of related pieces choreographed under the name of “Songbird” to my recordings of “Winter Sun at Nobska,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” and “Peppermint Life”. 

I did the first of two scheduled performances with the Hassinger group at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, MA about 5 hours ago on Saturday night.  (The next performance is May 10 at 8 PM at the T’ai Chi center in Brookline, MA.)  It was a blast.  First, it was really great seeing dancers interpret my work, especially works that I wrote over 30 years ago.  The first time I saw the dance in rehearsal, I was satisfied that the choreographer understood the emotional meaning of the pieces.  Performing with the dancers live was always challenging and sometimes amazing, like when I’d make a gesture and the dancers would follow my timing, or vice versa.  A new kind of jam for me.

This was a challenging performance for two reasons:
– I have to play three very technically and physically demanding pieces in a row without stopping, ending with the most demanding one of all.  I had to be very aware of how hard I was playing all the time to make sure that I didn’t blow my wad too early, either in terms of dynamics or stamina.
– I have to play the pieces with very similar phrasing to the recordings made in 1995, because that’s what the dancers have rehearsed to.  This turned out to take more time and effort to solve than the other problem.  I ended up mapping out the phrases in “Winter Sun at Nobska” in a kind of shorthand, because that’s the one with the loosest structure, where there was most opportunity for me to play something metrically different from the original recording, and I carried that shorthand map on stage with me.

Among other things in this concert, there was a full ensemble dance to a piece called “Dayspring”, for clarinet and piano, by Del Case.  The piece was very cool. Lots of Stravinsky influences, but also very American in the way it motors along, and in the open harmonies that emerge every so often from the crunchy stuff. 

I should have video to post here and at Youtube soon, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, if you’re going to be near Boston on May 10, try to attend the show at T’ai Chi.