Category: Composers

God Bless You and Your Family Have a Wonderful Day

“God bless you and your family; have a wonderful day.”

The mantra was part of him now. He’d said it hundreds of times daily for how long, he couldn’t tell you. Pan-handling in front of Pike Place Market was the most proficient career choice for Edmund. He set his own hours, enjoyed the fresh sea air coming in off the bay and had the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of interesting people who crossed his path as he blessed their comings and goings.

The streets of Seattle were Edmund’s ministry; his place where God resonated most powerfully. Whomever you believed your God was, is or would come to be, he was there to speak to you about that!

“How many people out there break the cardinal rule of judgement? Did you know that is a cardinal rule you shouldn’t break? Unless, of course, you’re God. Then, of course, you can break that judgement, right?”

It was in these moments that angels descended and danced around him while birds chirped and thunder hailed the truths emerging from his lips and heart in the middle of the market on a Monday morning. He would ask you for money, bless you anyway and go forth in life breathing, being, and watching you walk by trying to pretend you didn’t see him.

“Is there something that all of you expect me to do?” Edmund would ask “ ‘cause I’m not sure what it is. God bless you and your family; have a wonderful day.”

People flowed around him like water, diverging them as if he’d put his staff down and parted the ocean of humanity that surged ahead, bent on consumption like a swarm of locusts. Every once in a while a person would be caught up in an Edmund eddy and swirl about him as he caught them in his kind gaze, enraptured by his radical acceptance of who and what they were; thin, fat, rich, not-so-rich…and so it went day in day out for time eternal.

Edmond pressed on this day with his teachings and pan-handling, taking the souls passing him by as simply part of the whole process when a woman – middle aged, plump and unremarkable – approached him, caught in his vortex.

“Excuse me ma’am, do you have a dollar you can spare. If not that’s ok God bless you and your family and have a wonderful day.” His smile was full and kind on his face and then she took out a twenty dollar bill; clean, crisp and green as a verdant garden. She held it out to Edmond and smiled back at him. For a moment they looked at one another as though life-long friends. He took her money with gratitude equaling the generous act in which it had been given. Their heads bowed together in what first appeared as prayer, or was it a secret incantation of healing? Their voices spoke softly such that no one around could hear them any longer; hushed tones pulling you in closer in a market full of chaotic enterprise. Silent they stood, smiles lingering upon their lips. She wordlessly whispered her secrets to him and he took her confessional into his strong, street savvy arms, removing the pain she’d been carrying for far too long. For the exchange of a $20 he had released a lifetime of her anguish and she hugged him, joy oozing out between their embrace. From the corner where I stood witnessing the whole exchange it appeared that she’d given up something huge, that he’d absorbed a massive tumor of her grief. A bird chirped in the distance, the woman’s countenance expanded. Her face lit up in a radiant glow and all within a breath of a moment caught in your chest, she was a wholly remarkable woman in her full beauty and strength of being.

Edmond, the pan-handling preacher of Pike Place, raised his arms in an act of sanctification.

“Holy Mother of whatever God you choose to believe in…heal this sister of salvation and forgive her every iniquity in this world filled with thieves and liars. She is an innocent among the guilty, a survivor among the fallen, a triumphant warrior standing in the face of every obstacle. Bless her and be blessed BY her!”

The pair fell to their knees weeping for all the hurt in the world. Traffic stopped, people paid attention, birds began their incantation to heaven, lifting them up in a thunderstorm of emotion. Cascadia rose and fell shattering the earth then leaving it to settle into its new pattern on the shaken surface while underneath tectonic plates continued slowly colliding. Awareness reset itself. Truth prevailed once more over bull-shit reasonings of an unremarkable life, forcing back relentlessly absurd ways of being. Social norms folded back in on themselves, lost no more, appropriately sourced within the center of her authentic sense of self.

The woman rose from the ground, brushed the dirt from her skirt, adjusted her bra and walked on confidently. Edmond stood in the place he always stood watching the people he always watched when his eyes fell upon me.

The ground I stood upon was not the same as it was half-a-breath ago.

MMN ‘17

  • Music in this audio piece is composed by Peter Michael von der Nahmerperformed by musicians and singers from the Aspen Music Festival – audio capture from the corner of Pike and First in Downtown Seattle June 19, 2017. All permissions cleared including this picture I took of “Edmond” – he was cool with it.

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Author’s note: Waiting to catch the Light Rail to the Seattle airport I had time to spare and enjoy the last bits of my long weekend on the West coast when I heard this guy doing his thing on this corner. There was, indeed, a woman who came up to him, gave him money, talked with him for a while, and hugged him repeatedly. This interaction fascinated me as he looked so tough and she looked so unlikely to be hugging a homeless guy on the street so I riffed on the scene I had just witnessed and came up with this story. With a four-hour delay at the airport I set Mike’s music, Angel’s (parts 1-2), to my audio capture using the Hokusi audio editing ap in my phone.  MMN

When Falling…Dive | A VideOpera

My silence over the last few months is an indication of how intensively I’ve been working on developing my librettist muscle. It’s been a mind-blowingly productive and creative time; I’m just getting started!

Currently I am working with composer, Peter Michael von der Nahmer on a VideOpera (it’s exactly what it sounds like, an opera created for video) about a woman and her tortured relationship with Twitter.

We are producing this ourselves and are about to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise some money so we can cover the cost of production and pay our artists. If you want to learn more about this cool little project and would like to be added to our mailing list, use the link below to take you to our sign-up page. This will add you to our list so we can share campaign launch information and updates with you.


This is an inspiring project and many people are starting to get as excited about it as we are. Join the movement and follow the link below to join our mailing list!

Sign up and, please, share this with your friends and family.

WhenFallingDiveTitleCard5

Thank you! MMN & PMvdN 

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/when-falling-dive-a-videopera-video-opera/coming_soon

 

Amid Giants & Idols

So Monday night I sat amid giants & idols like Missy Mazzoli, Beth Morrison, Royce Vavrik and David Devan; producers of contemporary opera in America – women & men spearheading the future of this medium for the rest of the world to follow. If you can imagine what a flea hovering about your head must feel like as you swat it out of the way, well, I was that flea Monday night 

sitting in the Peter B. Lewis Theater underdeath the Guggenheim museum – only difference was I wasn’t buzzing around anyone’s head. That would have been weird. I was a well behaved flea who didn’t get in anyone’s ointment or march defyantly around the rim of anyone’s coctkail glass. I’m taking the metaphore too far…I am not a flea, I am a human being and if there is any great difference, truly, between a flea and a human being it’s that I make meaning of things where the flea does not. In fact I am unable to not make things mean things but that’s a story for another day

So there I was, a virtual flea, listening to  giants discuss the creation of a new opera, Breaking the Waves, that premieres at Opera Philadelphia next week. I paid the equvalent of a good seat in the Family Circle at The Metropolitan Opera on a Saturday night to listen to a select number of chamber pieces – performed by the amazing lead cast & musicians – and hear the composer, librettist, conductor and director discuss their process. Why would I do such a thing? Wouldn’t the value have been in networking like crazy and leave with at least one good contact? That is what a flea would have done. 

That is not why I was there. At another time I will do that, probably yes, but this was the beginning of a grand adventure that I’ve been working my way towards for the better part of five years. 

Attending the Works and Process event made manifest (even for just a tiny fraction of a moment) what I have been saying I want…to be a librettist and be part of the modern opera movement. I did have one interaction with a person-of-note (nobody mentioned here thus far) that didn’t go so well. We chatted a bit and when she asked me what I was doing there I blurted out “I want to be doing what they’re doing!” pointing at the stage filled with empty chairs and music stands. She quickly ended our conversation and I sat in my seat feeling the sting of having been swatted out of the way. I deserved it. Did I show up to this most intimate of opera events unprepared? Well, yes I did. I went in there with one intention; to fully immerse myself in the Society of Amazing Peole who Produce Opera for a Living. SAPPOL – and damit that’s exactly what I did! 

Back to giants and idols: Being Jewish, I have learned that idols are bad, bad things to be shunned and avoided at all cost. I can and do ascribe to the principle that bowing down to a piece of brightly painted clay begging for salvation, or a new job, is something rediculus and potentially damaging. But then I went to the dictionary to broaden my meaning of the word.

  • Word Origin of idol from Late Latin īdōlum, from Latin: image, from Greek eidōlon, from eidos shape, form – courtesy of dictionary.com

So breaking it down, an idol is basically a mental image or a physical shape or form worth one’s time to comment on. An idol stands out, an idol is attractive, an idol is – ultimately – unrealistic. So if I want to be doing what Royce Vavrik is doing, for example, and doing it in my own way and at my own pace then his status as an idol really morphs more into that of a model, a suggestion of what I could be some day. I admire the work he does as a librettist and I know he puts one foot in front of the other as he walks down the street. He just happens to be WAY further down the street than I am. I feel as though I keep starting even though each foray I take into the world of opera seems to bring me ever closer to the vision I have; perhaps there is nothing but starting from wherever I happen to be right now…hmmmm.

What’s my point here? So inspired as I was after Monday night I went back to investigating Master’s Degree programs in musical theatre. NYU being the logical place to look (‘cause that’s where Royce Vavrik went…probably when he was 25!) I got all excited all over again reading all about the program, how they put composition students together with playwriting students – colleges are starting to catch on about this medium called Opera – and then I read “applicants must be full-time students.” And I stopped. Here I am, 52 years old now, working a full time job ‘cause I have to, ready and so able to take this program on with more gusto and passion then I ever had as a 25 year old and I simply cannot fit my square-self into the NYU round hole: what I am is more of a hexagon, really. 

And so, this realization brings me back to the idea I launched at the beginning of this year – to make my own course of study and stick to that course building my vision block by block by block. 

The Mott Academy of Writing Librettos fall semester has officially started! 

MMN

Ps. When I make it across the pond one of these days to visit family in Chichester I will make a point of dropping in on a coffee house near Dorset named Amid Giants & Idols.

Ten Minute Tragedy: A Soccer Opera

Assignment #6 – Write a scene with 2 people in a room. Happening offstage––outside of the room––is a major moment in history.

Setting – Dressing room of team Peru at Estadio National in Lima, Peru May 24, 1964

  • Baritone: Hector Chumpitaz (aka: El Capitan de America) – Legendary Peruvian footballer in the prime of his career having just joined the national team
  • Tenor: Angel Eduardo Pazos – Uruguayan referee & alcoholic who’s been dry for two years

Set up/opening orchestration: Peru is hosting Argentina in an important soccer match, one that Peru is watching to win with great anticipation. In the last two minutes of play referee, Angel Pazos, disallows a Peruvian goal that would have equalized the game. The ref’s actions cause two Peru fans to invade the pitch in an attempt to harm the ref. Police intercept and begin violently beating the pitch invaders, setting dogs on them in front of 53,000 rabid fans causing further reaction from the crowd. Leading in to this scene, police have just release fifteen canisters of tear gas into the seething body of predominantly Peruvian soccer fans. Terrifying panic ensues in the stadium.

Lima 3
El Capitan de America, Hector Chumpitaz, watches as police take down a fan who has invaded the pitch – BBC News Archives
Hillsboro 2
Crush point at Hillsboro stadium  www.news.com.au

Archival images of the Lima event as well as other national soccer stadium tragedies are splashed all around the theatre, audio of panicked crowds intermingle with the orchestration. The audience should be feeling the pressure of panic all around them. The orchestration quiets slowly as the sound of cleated boots walking heavily down an empty hallway in the sports complex rises over the panicked sounds. We hear a door being opened and the lights come up on the team dressing room. Hector stands in the doorway, holding onto the handle in an attempt to steady himself.

Hector
The police
the police
though they didn’t let their dogs loose*
they did let them tear his clothes off*
tear his clothes off
tear his flesh off just a bit
and the other one
the other one
beaten by many men with batons

Lima 1
Peru Police drag the pitch-invador away in front of 53,000 people in Lima – BBCNewsArchive

blood on the pitch
blood on the bitch who bit his arm
tore his favorite jersey clean off his body

The people
the people were disturbed*
by the way in which they took the Pitch Invaders away*
dragging them like cadavers
in front of fifty three thousand people

This is why the crowd began to get very upset*

Audio rises over Hector’s voice of a new level of terror and panic echoing off the walls of the stadium. Hector is sitting now at his locker having taken off his shirt. He studies the dramatic red stripe that cuts across the chest of his new Peru kit. Angel enters holding a cup of water.

Angel
How about that?! Eh?
How about that?!

Those Pitch Invaders nearly got me
Did you see that
they nearly crushed me for that call?
What a bunch of crazy dicks
short on knowledge
never went to college
drunk on any cheap swill they can find

I don’t mind
it’s all part of the game
glad the police came down hard
to keep the yard from brimming over

Angel walks over to a radio on the wall and turns it on – music of 1964 Peru floats out over the air. As he turns on the radio his hand hits a hip-flask full of whisky that someone had stashed for later. He takes the bottle down and looks at it sitting there in his hand.

Are you ok, Hector?

Hector
The police
the police

Hector
How about that?! Eh?
How about that?!

The music stops abruptly and a reporter gives the breaking news about the riot at the stadium.

Newscaster
Ladies and gentlemen, this is breaking news about a riot that has broken out at Estadio National. Police are trying to contain the unruly mob with tear gas. Please avoid the area around Estadio National for the foreseeable future. Repeat, a riot has broken out at Estadio National. Please avoid the area.

Gun fire outside on the pitch is heard from the dressing room – men are screaming. Angel goes to put the bottle back where he found it but the disturbance scares him and he decides to keep hold of the bottle for now.

Hector
The world is broken
there is nothing to be spoken for
There is something terribly wrong here
which I am not able to fix

Angel

Lima 2
Police rushing the pitch-invaders  BBCNewsArchive

What’s going on, Eh?
Gun fire on the pitch?!
Son-of-a-bitch I have to get home
to see that my daughter is safe
She loves this game as much as I
though I forbid her from attending
this is no

place for good girls to be banging about

Hector
Don’t go out there!

Angel
Hector, that’s touching
I’ll be safe now
everyone has already forgotten about my call
that got them on their feet in a squall

Hector
Don’t you listen?!
Can you not hear the sound of people dying out there?
Our people
Our Peruvian people

I dread to see the sights that await us
when we emerge from this cave of cowards

Angel
Cave of cowards?! Speak for yourself El Capitan de America

Hector
Where is everyone then? Who else is in here but us, Angel?!

Angel
They all must have found a way out, somehow.

Hector
Maybe they are all dead
Maybe I should kill myself

Angel
Don’t be such a Shakespearian actor
There are other factors at work here
and I’m sure no one is dead!

Newscaster
Breaking News: there is a report coming in from Estadio National of thirty, no, no, excuse me fifty, fifty people dead at Estadio National! This is a horrible…wait, wait, another report…a hundred…an estimated one hundred people have been crushed to death in a stampede at Estadio National. This is terrible ladies and gentlemen, terrible

Hector
Ahhh, this is too much
There is nothing to do
no story I can tell to make the people laugh
no soccer ball to kick to make the people cheer and be happy about the day again
There is nothing I can do
There is nothing I can do
Mama, I am so sorry
There is nothing I can do to fix this

Angel
When I was three I wanted to be a footballer
I wanted to spend my life on the pitch
honing my foot work
practicing my kicks
Football was my life, my love, my path out of misery
My papa would be proud of me
if I was to be a footballer

Never was I good enough
Close but not quite good enough
so I took the only path that was by me
to be a referee – still I would stay close to the game
but it is not the same
Not the same in any way at all

Never am I happier then when I’m on the pitch
except, perhaps, for when I used to be able to drink a fifth
but that joy was fleeting

As the ball is in play and you chip it across the sky to land in the hands of the keeper
my heart wants to burst with love
The beauty of the rhythm of the game of my life keeps me alive and well and sober

My one regret is when the ball lands in the net
I see the glee on the striker’s face
perceive the pain of the keepers miss
and yet I am not part of that moment
I must endure while the world stops
to celebrate or lament the goal
I am not a part of it – I am separate – other – hated
or worse, ignored completely

A loud crash comes from outside

Hector
I am leaving the game, Angel.

Angel
El Capitan? No, no, you cannot do this

Hector
This I can do!

Angel
This you must not do! Peru, Peru needs you now more than ever

Hector
Football is dead to me just like those hundred people lying dead in our stadium

Newscaster
Breaking News: ladies and gentlemen, it grieves me mightily to tell you that Peruvian police have confirmed three hundred fifty eight deaths by internal hemorrhaging or asphyxiation in a terrible tragedy at Estadio National in Lima. There is rioting in the streets outside the stadium still – I beg of you to steer clear of Estadio National until order has been restored.

Angel
Three hundred fifty eight – gone
because of one lousy call I made
My call – my call made this happen
My call for footboll, the game I love
has brought death and destruction
to the world
The worst stadium disaster in history
is because of me

Hector
We don’t know what would have happened*
If the police had removed the Pitch Invaders*
in a peaceful fashion*
But I guess we can’t think about that now*
We have to face what’s out there

Angel Eduardo Pazos, you made the call you made
that is your job
I watched Kilo Lobaton rise his foot*
to block the ball*
and saw it rebound into the goal*
it was a foul*
in my humble opinion
though my opinion does not matter

Angel
El Capitain de America your words are sweet and powerful
I am the one on the wrong side of history
You, you are the one who matters now
You must help to heal Peru
You leave the game you kill a whole nation
Do not do that to your country!
Do not do that to your country!
Do not do that to your country!
I beg you – for love of the game
do not leave us now, dear Hector

Angel weeps at Hector’s feet as Hector sets his jaw and rises to put his jersey back on. He walks out of the dressing room leaving Angel alone with the bottle of whisky. Once alone Angel opens the bottle and greedily, tragically chugs the liqueur down.

Hillsboro 1
Hillsborough Disaster memorial.File photo dated 15/04/89 of fans being crushed against the fence in the Liverpool enclosure at Hillsborough, during their FA Cup semi-final football match against Nottingham Forest. David Giles/PA Wire URN:8694092 (Press Association via AP Images)

 

Black out

©Marianna Mott Newirth

*From an article by Piers Edwards BBC Sport May 23, 2014 “Lima 1964: The World’s Worst Stadium Disaster”

 

 

The End – An Opera in One Beat

Special Thanks to Chris for writing this piece and making it widely available on Free Music Archive as well as YouTube

Scene: a cozy, darkened bedroom in the middle of the day. Sounds of the city float in through the opened window. A woman, Amy, lies in a hospice bed. Her husband, Sam, is bedside. It is the appointed hour of her death.

AMY

Are you there?

SAM

Yes I’m right here

AMY

Are you there?

SAM

Yes I’m right here

AMY

Where are we, Sam?

SAM

Home

AMY

One more hour, maybe

Take my hand

SAM

Yes

AMY

Don’t be frightened

I remember running in the park with you

You held my hand I wanted to let go

To run free

And you had to let me go

You are ever right here with me

Even in the tightest spots

Time to run

SAM

No

Are you there?

Are you, Amy

Please be there

Please be, Amy

AMY

Sam, let me go – now

Let me go

SAM

Amy

———————————

This libretto comes out of my studying theatrical beats this week, as in, moments that make up a play. I wanted to try making a one-beat opera. Lacking any sort of focus I went to my playlist and found Cylinder Six. It gave me a perfect structure to build this monumental moment between two people. I didn’t expect to end up in tears by the time I’d finished. Read the libretto, listen to Chris’ piece then put the two together. Tell me if any of it worked for you.

Thanks for reading!

© Marianna Mott Newirth