Now that my first musical is substantially finished and scheduled for its debut performance, I feel comfortable about letting the word out. So if you’re in or around Ames on Saturday evening the 12th of November or Sunday afternoon the next day, feel free to come to my parish for Tobit: The Path of Virtue.
Not everything is set yet. I need to make some determinations on the band, mainly instruments and number. Then the parts need to be scored. I’ve been saving that last part for the summer when I’ll have more time to ponder more deeply the completed songs. We’re fortunate to have a small orchestra of good players in the parish. I can offer just about any instrumental color imaginable. Applying that judiciously will be the last creative task before casting call and rehearsals.
I also need to decide if I want to bring in a pianist or play it myself. Some people laugh when I tell them I would need to learn the music I wrote. For this project, I’ve written the melodies and the vocal arrangements with attention. 22 of the 26 pieces have actual piano parts as of today. But if I had a pianist who could render my arrangements, I could attend more to the musical production of the singers.
There are seven roles with substantial singing parts, plus six to eight others who sing in groups. Nearly every song is an ensemble piece of some sort. There are very few solos.
For me, the most worrisome thing is how to actually produce a musical, especially as I’ve never sung in one, played in one, and I’ve only watched them as a paying customer.
I plan to learn a lot from this first experience, and I hope I don’t drive people crazy doing it. How do you manage rehearsals that involve singing, acting, movement and dancing without wasting people’s time? How much time does it actually take to get a polished production ready for the stage? Will nine weeks be too much time? Or have I written things a little more demanding than the average theatre piece?
At the reading session last November, one person suggested doing Tobit as a concert first. But my wife and a trusted friend counseled I go all out. My friend said she would not be inclined to go to a “concert” setting of a musical. But even if it were produced with costuming and minimal props, it would be an exciting prospect.
Aside from exciting, the project will also have a strong spiritual aspect. I continue to reflect on and refine insights from last year’s silent retreat and our parish’s effort with the Catherine of Siena Institute‘s fine materials. My ongoing exploration of combining the spiritual gifts of music and writing will be tested. All spiritual gifts (or alleged ones) will be tested. By mid-November I will see more clearly if this is an authentic apostolate for me.
The illustration at the top shows Sarah (she of seven husbands) and her bridegroom Tobiah (the son) on their wedding night. I found this cool manga interpretation of Tobiah and Sarah. Rembrandt von Rijn has his depiction of the healing of the father, above, left.