Castles Made of Sand

Castles Made of Sand
Music, Lyrics and Vocals by Karin Maria Andersson
Guitar and video by Olivier Milchberg
Macau (SAR) China, January 2010

This video has clips from the Cirque Du Soleil artists of ZAIA starting in Montreal, Canada from January 2008 during training (and lots of snow!) to late 2009 backstage, and during rehearsals for the show at the Venetian in Macau (SAR) China.

For us in the show the video is extremely emotional. Some of the people in this video are no longer with us in Macau. The time of ZAIA is one that all of us will remember and many of us will cherish. The experiences we had in China for many of us were not what we expected – they were experiences and adventures we could have never imagined; many good and some painful for each of us.

I normally don’t get seen in videos or promo photos – so thank you to Olivier for getting me in there several times. Fun to see the musicians and how all of our looks changed from the beginning in Montreal to the journey in China. As our composer told us: “You all look more shiny.” I would agree. Cirque and China have allowed us to shine.

I think this video will give a sense of closure to many of us for a slice of time we spent together – a “castle made of sand”.

I am personally moved by the video in a way beyond words. Thank you to Maria and Olivier for this truly precious gift of song….

And a note from Olivier on this video:

Hi all my dear friends,

Here is a new video on the creation of Zaia. It’s a tribute to Zaia artists, and especially to Maria and the musicians.

I asked Maria to compose a song for it, and she did it just before leaving Macau.
These images can seem nostalgic in our situation, but the purpose of this video is only to highlight the strong and moving times we spent together; sharing sorrow and joy, as Maria says.

It’s my way to say thank you to all of you, and to express my admiration of the amazing talent of every artist. And let’s remember, even if this adventure stops right now, our talents will continue to shine and spread over the planet.

Olivier

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Cirque Du Soleil – Venetian Macao

cirque-macau.jpg

Here is my personal “Conrad update” post that I’ll keep stickied on the top of my blog until our Cirque show opens. Click the “Read the rest of this entry” link to read current status, or the rest of the blog for tidbits on our new Cirque Du Soleil adventure in Macau, China. Sorry, no details posted about the show until after Grand Opening.

For my Cirque and Macau friends here is a link for Macau Real Time Typhoon Status:
http://www.smg.gov.mo/e_index.php

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Seussical the Musical – Orchestra and Musician Notes

Here’s music info for those producing Seussical the Musical. You might find these tips and tricks useful if you are a musical director, conductor, musician in Seussical the Musical – or if you are working with pit orchestras for musical theater productions. I think you’ll find many items here you can apply to many different stage musicals. My first involement with Seussical was for META Performing Arts in Skagit County, WA. Our performance run was November 3-12, 2006 at McIntyre Hall, Mount Vernon, WA.

If you’re working on music for Seussical the Musical, you already know it’s a LOT of music. The longest wait between songs is about 30 seconds. The Conductor/Piano 1 score runs over 400 pages – most musicals I’ve worked on run under 200 pages. You’ve got your work cut out for you. The music is not extremely difficult, but it has a lot of textures needed to pull off the orchestration. I think the orchestration is very good, and the charts are very clean. As conductor you will notice many errors between the conductor’s score and musician scores. Double check all your numbered repeats, fermatas and pauses – they are marked erratically from score to score. I thought I had caught most of them, but in rehearsals realized I had only caught about half the errors. There are also a small number of note errors, listen carefully to your musicians to catch them. (I should have kept better notes so I could post a listing of the errors to fix).

Here are the major problems I identified with producing the music for Seussical, and notes on how I worked around them.

1) How do you fill out the orchestra for a local production?
2) Will the show work with 5 or 6 musicians?
3) How do you find woodwind players that can each double on 4-5 instruments?
4) How do you get a professional stringe ensemble sound – without using cheezy keyboard patches or investing in a full string section?
5) How do you teach four part harmonies to grade school children, and have them remember the enormous amount of music in this show?
6) If using kids, how do you get the Wickershams to sound hip – the score is written for males who’s voice has already changed.
7) What’s more important for the Cat In The Hat – vocal ability or acting ability?
8) What to look for vocally in the different groups of Bird Girls, Who’s, Wickershams, Jungle Animals and lead characters of Mayzie, Gertrude, Sour Kangaroo, Horton the Elephant, JoJo and the General.
9) Assming you are using a majority of children in your cast, how can they project over the orchestra?

Answers to questions:

1) How do you fill out the orchestra for a local production?
I really think you need to pony up and fill out the orchestration as much as possible. Seussical is all about imagination and the different textures you orchestra brings to the show is part of pulling off that environment. I want to hear Disney, I want to hear Fantasia – that’s not going to happen with a five piece group. It will sound ok, but not inspiring. For me, I’d rather not do it unless it’s going to be ultra cool. If you’re using five or six players, then these notes won’t help you – this is about producing Seussical in a semi-pro environment (which can also mean community theater that works really, really hard!)

2) Will the show work with 5 or 6 musicians?
“Work”, yes – something I’d want to work on? No. Get donors, beg borrow and plead, get that orchestra filled out. I was fortunate to get a single donor to underwrite the entire orchestra. They were given prominent mention in the program.

3) How do you find woodwind players that can each double on 4-5 instruments?
You can’t – assuming you do not have a budget to hire session players (which really, only session or union players are going to be able to pull off all those doubles professionally) and are not near a major city with access to players like this. So split your woodwinds into as many parts as you need to cover the three parts. I found that you can skip the following parts, which are VERY small parts once the others are covered: You can cut bassoon, Flute II, clarinet II. I had players for these parts, but the parts were so small they declined to play. If you can get people for those parts great, but you probably won’t miss them.

Here is the instrumentation that Seussical the Musical calls for:

Bass Electric Bass
Cello
Drums Kit, Woodblock, Piccolo Snare, Cowbell, Timbale, Shaker, Bell Tree, Flexitone, Mark Tree, Triangle
Guitar 1 Acoustic Guitar and Electric Guitar
Guitar 2 Acoutic Guitar, Banjo, Electric Guitar
Keyboard 1 (Breathy-bell Synth, Pno+Perc.E.P., Cowbell + Calliope, Pno/Rhodes, Pop Piano, Piano, Elec. Pno, Calliope, Kazoo, Cheap-sounding Piano, metal Clav, MetalClav + Calliope, Poly Synth, Stackoid, Tack Piano, Glittery Synth, Buzzy Xylo, Mysterious E.P., Sweet E.P., XyloGlock, Voices, Theremin, Shimmery Stuff, Many Flutes, Rock Piano, Clarinet)

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Keyboard 2 (Breathy Pad, Bell Synth, Harpsichord, B-3, Cricket Synth, Elephant, Orch Hit, “Doing”, Psycho Strings, Tinkly Voices, Door Slam, Kalimba, Mallet Synth, Bell/Harpsi Synth, Pedal, Log Synth, Percussive B-3, Rok B-3, Calliope, Reedy Synth, Hank-y Synth, Nose Flute, Kazoo, Birdie Whistle, Tiny Synth Voice, Horn, Pig Synth, Animal Brss, Many Tubas, Bird Honk, Bird Fart, Hard Bottle Blow, AirRaid Siren, Spooky E.P., Warm E.P., Warm Voices, Celesta, Ethereal Choir, Spooky Voices, Dark Choir, Glittery Bell Synth, D-50 Stack, 80s Pad, Breathy Bell, Toy Piano, Cathedral Organ, Squishy Bass, Small Pipe Organ, Marimba, D-50 Heaven, Mello Organ, Rock Synth, Metal Clav, Hooty Synth, Clock Sound, Icy-cold Synth, Accordian, Ravenborg, Roller Rink Organ, Kazoo Brass, Cimbalum, Funky Horn, Pizzicato Strings, Sitar, Many Trombones & Horns, Buzz Brass)

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Percussion (Crotales, Chimes, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Congas, Tympani, Djembe, Siren Whistle, Shaker, Vibraslap, Tambourine, Bell Tree, Triangle, Finger Cymbals, Piatti, Sleigh Bells, Vibraphone, Suspended Cymbal, Mark Tree, Cork Pop, Temple Blocks, Samba Whistle, Ratchet, Bongos, Cowbell, Scraper, Rainstick, Marimba)

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Reed 1 Soprano Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Piccolo
Reed 2 Bass Clarinet, Clarinet, Oboe, Tenor Saxphone
Reed 3 Baritone Saxophone, Bassoon, Clarinet, Flute
Trombone
Trumpet 1
Trumpet 2
Viola
Violin 1
Violin 2

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Here’s how I covered that orchestration:

(1) Electric Bass
(1) Cello
(1) Drums Kit, Woodblock, Piccolo Snare, Cowbell, Timbale, Shaker, Bell Tree, Flexitone, Mark Tree, Triangle (Your drummer will need a cowbell)

(1) Guitar 1 Acoustic Guitar and Electric Guitar
Guitar 2 – CUT
(1) Keyboard 1 – Piano and Hammond B3 (covered by conductor, you could also have a “piano player” cover Key I)

(1) Keyboard 2 – Reduced patches to: Electric Piano (one aggressive, one mellow) , B3 rock, B3 mellow, Heaven Pad, Bell Synth, Calliope, Reed Synth (oboe-ish sound), Theremin (whistle with portamento), CyberBorg (dance synth patch), Spooky Voices, Tick Tock (from drumset sound bank),

(1) Percussion – Keyboard 3 covers these mallet percussion parts from the percussion score: Chimes, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Tympani, Vibraphone, Marimaba)
(1) Percussion – Live percussion player covering conga, djembe and latin percussion parts.
(1) Reed 1 – Flute, Piccolo
(1) Reed 2 – Bass Clarinet, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
(1) Reed 3 – Baritone Saxophone, Oboe (Oboe from Reed 2 part, BariSax has priority in uptempo songs, oboe has priority in ballads)
(1) Reed 4 – Alto Saxophone (From Reed 2 score)
CUT WOODWINDS if not available: Soprano Saxophone, Bassoon, Clarinet II, Flute II

(1) Trombone
(1) Trumpet 1
(1) Trumpet 2
Viola – CUT if not available.
(2) Violin 1 – Combine real violin player with Keyboard 4 (Keyboard player playing Violin I part, will need to select patches that blend with live players and Violin II part)
(2) Violin 2 – Combine real violin player with Keyboard 5 (Keyboard player playing Violine II part)

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4) How do you get a professional stringe ensemble sound – without using cheezy keyboard patches or investing in a full string section?

By combing quality keyboard string samples with live players. The live players will provide the attack and bend that you need in the sound, the keyboard covers the fullness of the sound. I have seen Seussical performed live with a full string section (three players per part) but it still did not have the nice full sound of symphony strings. My experience has been it is very difficult to pull that sound off within budget and the pool of players available.

5) How do you teach four part harmonies to grade school children, and have them remember the enormous amount of music in this show?

When we had auditions, we were very careful to check for singers that could sing harmonies, and grouped them accordingly to different character types. I have the more advanced singers cover the harmony parts, and the younger singers cover the melodies. In some sections where harmonies only come in on a couple notes, I simplified into two part harmonies and eliminated some harmonies. This was dictated by our particular casting, but I would guess this to be a similiar situation for most all-kid productions.

To learn all the music parts we broke into groups at rehearsals, many times having four different rehearsals running simultaneously. Singers were often brought in before rehearsals to work on particular ensemble parts and to reaffirm harmonies.

Once harmonies were in place, I would omit the lead line and play harmony parts to make them more solid for singers.

6) If using kids, how do you get the Wickershams to sound hip – the score is written for males who’s voice has already changed.

I changed the octaves of some parts, and had Wickershams speak some of the low parts. They are just too low for young unchanged voices. We did with attitude, and the final result was very hip.
7) What’s more important for the Cat In The Hat – vocal ability or acting ability?

I think acting ability is more important. Many of the Cat in the Hat vocal lines can be performed as speech-sing.

8) What to look for vocally in the different groups of Bird Girls, Who’s, Wickershams, Jungle Animals and lead characters of Mayzie, Gertrude, Sour Kangaroo, Horton the Elephant, JoJo and the General.

I put trained vocals in the Who section, they need a very pure sound with strong harmonies. Also worked with Who’s a lot on over-enunciation to make their parts more animated. Bird Girls – need to have 3part harmonies, we used 6 bird girls so each voice doubled. Without the harmonies, the Bird Girl part doesn’t come across, needs a “Supremes” type sound. General can also be speech-sing style. Need a strong vocalist for both Mayzie and Sour Kangaroo – I don’t really see a way around this, especially the Kangaroo. Horton’s part covers such a wide range, I think you’ll find speaking some lines instead of singing will work better for this character too (for a younger voice). I have Horton under-sing a lot, seems more in character.

9) Assming you are using a majority of children in your cast, how can they project over the orchestra?
Picking our sound crew was our first priority. Field mics for different vocal ensembles and dedicated wireless mics for leads and supporting characters. We also put the orchestra behind the cast so the sound crew would have more control over the final volumes – the particular hall we were in has a very live orchestra pit that is hard to control. Also, because I use several keyboardists to cover parts, it’s important to have a sound crew with a good ear so they can mix the textures properly.

Hope that helps, if you have any questions on the show or see a way something could have been improved, please post it.