The Prose of the Pros

By Richard Huggins
From AccompaList, a Resource for Church Accompanists
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I believe we musicians should attend live, professional productions (concert, theater) at least once or twice a year so as to remind ourselves of how good things can be and to inspire us to strive more and more for "The Best.". (And by "inspired" I don't mean, in this sense, spiritually inspiring, although that always has its place. I mean being inspired by how well-presented something is, by the attention to detail and by the skill, talent and preparation of those involved.)

Of course you have guessed I'm heading somewhere with this, and you're right. Not long ago I saw the world-famous mime Marcel Marceau in concert. We are fortunate where I live to have a university's performing arts center that brings in touring productions, from full Broadway shows to one-man shows, as well as distinguished lecturers and speakers.

This particular experience was a little similar to one I have previously mentioned on AccompaList, when the legendary bass William Warfield was here and as an encore sang "Old Man River," the very song he introduced and made famous in his stage and screen role as Joe the dock hand in "Showboat" at the start of his professional career. And there he was some 60 years later (!!) and there I was, watching and hearing him sing it. Magical moments like that don't very often. (I completed the moment by going home and sticking in my video of "Showboat" and finding that spot, to hear him sing it as he was then. Talk about time travel!)

Marcel Marceau is the world's greatest mime, perhaps the greatest ever. To say he is fluid is to say the ocean is a saline solution. With his face and every part of his body---sometimes it seemed he could move any single part independently of all the rest---he communicated his stories in silence. His age at the time of this show was 78 yet he moved about just as if he were 38.

Now then--watching Marcel Marceau is hard work. It actually can seem tiring just a bit, because you must continuously focus on what he is doing, lest you miss the illusion that he is creating with his movements and thus lose track of the story or the sequence of events. And frankly, once in awhile you don't get it, which is no different at all from a time, say, when you might be looking at an original Picasso painting that you don't "get" but you note, "Hey--I'm seeing an original Picasso!"

That was me on this particular night: maybe I didn't always get it, but I reminded myself that I was only 30 yards away from an artist who was the greatest and most celebrated artist of his kind in the world. I thought to myself: "WHAT A PRIVILEGE!" In one memorable sketch called "The Trial," he played 6 roles: judge, bailiff, prosecutor, defense lawyer, the accused and the victim! It was amazing.

I say all of this just want to drive home again the value of your getting out whenever you can, even if only once a year, and seeing an outstanding, live professional performance, show, concert--whatever! Let your creativity be challenged and recharged! Let your admiration and appreciation swell for someone who paid the price of long hours and years perfecting his craft (after all, you know something about that!). Let your sense of wanting to be better at what you do get poked and prodded. Forget about scales and the key of E-major for a bit and drink in a truly professional presentation. I guarantee you: it inspires you to you be better at what you do.

Richard

P.S. I would welcome your own accounts of such experiences. Share them with the AccompaList group.

P.P.S.S. And one more thing: my college Dean---Dr. Warren M. Angell---always urged us to buy the best tickets. He said, "If you're going to see the pros, get a good seat!" I know sometimes they can be expensive, but one of these times go ahead and sit close. You'll love the difference it makes.

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