Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Freelancer's Feast

"The Merry Wives" play krummhorns and rebec at the DIA at Shakespeare's First Folio gala

A freelancer’s life is cyclical; it’s nice to have steady work but it rarely works out that way. It’s usually a feast or famine situation. As a musician in the southeast Michigan area, my summers are for relaxing, golf and gardening, maybe a bit of travel, teaching workshops and an occasional concert or wedding gig. It’s easy to go without playing my flute for a few days to a few weeks. Similarly, January and February are slow times when the natural hibernation season coincides with time to rest and reflect. Preparation for the coming profusion of work is not far off. Teaching is the one steady income during these times of famine.

During Autumn and Spring it’s a different story. This year the feast came a bit early, mid-February to be exact, when I played the touring Broadway show, Cinderella (eight shows a week for two weeks) in addition to regular teaching and a student recital thrown in on the one night off. As soon as Cinderella closed, rehearsals began for Michigan Opera Theater’s production of Aaron Copland’s opera, The Tender Land. Chamber Music at the Scarab Club, in cooperation with MOT, also presented two chamber concerts of Copland’s music at which I played his Duo for flute and piano. On top of that, I was called to play piccolo with the Detroit Symphony on a couple of concerts. As good luck would have it, the DSO concerts wedged themselves into my packed schedule very nicely.

A piccolo onstage at Orchestra Hall

One additional gig this week was the one to which I have been looking forward most ardently. A few months ago I was approached to assemble a small group to play at the Detroit Institute of Arts for a gala dinner reception celebrating the collaboration of the DIA, the Detroit Public Library and Wayne State University in bringing a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. to Detroit. As the year 2016 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, a copy of the first publication of 36 Shakespeare plays (including 18 previously unpublished plays) will visit all 50 states. For a reason I cannot explain, this idea was very exciting to me and I accepted immediately.  Of course I would have to find people to play Renaissance music, ideally on period instruments and dressed in period costumes.

Fortunately my friend from the Flint Symphony, Lorrie Gunn, plays regularly with an ensemble at the Michigan Renaissance Festival and she was able to ask the leader of their group, Mary Ann Fischer, to join us on March 10 at the DIA. They already had the costumes, instruments and music and were just as excited as I was to play for the First Folio opening. We decided to call ourselves "The Merry Wives" for this gig and after a couple of rehearsals, krummhorn lessons and costume fittings we were ready!

Acts I, II, III  ready to go!
The Tender Land bows at dress rehearsal

There was one tiny little potential glitch: the First Folio gig at the DIA started at 6:00 pm and The Tender Land dress rehearsal was from 3:00 to 6:15 pm at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, 30-40 minutes away on a good travel day. The bane of a freelancer’s life are these impossible overlaps, making it impossible to do all the gigs you want to do. Normally I would have to give up one of the gigs but I had another solution.  Lorrie and Mary Ann were used to playing together so they agreed to play the first set at the DIA while I was en route from the Macomb Center. Assuming good weather and traffic conditions, I should be able to make it by the time we needed to start the second set.

The crazy day of March 10 came with a DSO Children’s concert in the morning (piccolo) where I was spoiled by playing with the wonderful Detroit Symphony in the acoustical marvel of Orchestra Hall, then the opera dress rehearsal in the afternoon (flute) closely followed by the mad dash to the DIA, costume, music stand and instruments in hand. Luckily the stars were aligned in my favor and the Michigan weather cooperated. These feast days don’t always work out so well, nor are we often called upon to play so many different instruments in the space of 24 hours, or in this case, about 11 hours. March 10, 2016 will go into the books as one of my most productive and satisfying feast days. Lorrie and Mary Ann would agree that the First Folio gig at the DIA was excellent. We were invited to partake in their feast where dishes fit for the gods were served at various stations around the Diego Rivera court. I was pleased to learn that the catering was in house and the yummy mac and cheese station is served in their cafe on occasion.

All's well that ends well and this day will be a feast day to remember in the coming times of famine when I reflect on my salad days and my mac and cheese days.

Lorrie on rebec and Laura on krummhorn
Can you spot the Shakespeare quotes?