I didn’t want to write about last Monday because I didn’t want to make it *about me.* I also haven’t posted in awhile (which is partly on purpose and partly because of being busy), so it would be weird to break the silence without a general update. So I’m writing for logistical purposes: I was going to send out a mail blast, realized I’d need to mention the bombings since most of my fans are not in the area, and figured it would be easier to put the story into one place. ‘Cause all I have so far is a flurry of tweets and an interview with my town newspaper.
I was two blocks away from the second explosion, but I am totally fine.
Monday the 15th was my birthday. It’s also, as you know by now, a state holiday in Massachusetts, and I had the day off work. I’d been planning for months to spend the day shopping in Boston, and the weather was nice enough to cooperate and give me a lovely day.
I had birthday brunch with friends in Salem, then caught 11:40 train into town. I was wearing a cool dress and fancy birthday hat and listening to the Donnas and being in a good mood.
The ultimate goal was to get to the Nike store, which is on Newbury Street a block North of the marathon finish line, which I assume is something Nike did on purpose. But first I had an extensive stop off at DSW (I wish that were as fun as it sounded but it was buying stuff I needed, not shopping for fun), followed by a quick pop-in at the MAC store (makeup, not computers) on Newbury St. I bought a few necessities I’d been running low on and asked if anyone knew where I could get my eyebrows threaded, which they didn’t but thought if I kept heading down Newbury St. I’d find something. So I headed down further and went to the Nike store, where they didn’t have what I wanted, then I headed further down again. I was starting to think about lunch, wondering if I had time to make it to the Mass Ave area, and almost breezed past a nail salon with a big EYEBROW THREADING sign in the windows. According to my receipt, it was HT Nails at 232 Newbury St. and they did a FABULOUS job on my eyebrows! (My eyebrows are tricky to get right.) But if you look at a map, you’ll see that they’re directly behind the second explosion.
BUT, the explosions didn’t happen until 2:50, and according to my receipt I paid at 2:46:40, giving me enough time to get out the door and walk about a block (still on Newbury St., still towards Mass Ave.) before I heard a boom. It was quite loud, and as I told Salem Gazette, it was deeper and boomier than a gunshot. Sounded like a cannon coming from around the finish line of the marathon. Not that they would have a canon there, but hopefully it was something festive like that. The other people walking down the street seemed to have the same thought–like, “Whoah, what was that? Hm, probably something for the marathon I hope.”
FAQ: Did you hear screaming? Sort of. First of all, the marathon finish line is already extremely loud and screamy. So nothing that really registered. In retrospect, I do remember hearing a big spiked scream, as if the whole crowd had been startled, but I didn’t even really make the connection.
So I had already practically forgotten the first boom and was walking along my merry way when there was another boom. This one was different. The best way to describe it is to say that it was SERIOUS. It was much louder than the first. It was much closer than the first. And it was just–you knew. You knew it was not planned, and that it was bad, and destructive. And that it was a terrorist attack. The politicians and reporters and public servants have to be official and not say that until they have some sort of proof, but if you were there you knew. I don’t know if the people close to the first blast knew at the first one, but we knew at the second one.
I was just approaching the corner of Gloucester and Newbury Street, so I looked to the left to see Boylston St. (where the marathon is), to see what was going on. I guess I expected to see more movement and hear more screaming. But everyone was too shocked to move or scream yet. They were staring to the left, mostly in silence. I don’t know what they were seeing–if they were close enough to see the blood or if they were looking at the smoke and fire and trying to see what had happened. I don’t know how long we were silent, because you know how time kind of stops. But slowly–it felt like the snowball built so, so slowly–people started screaming, and people starting running away, either down Boylston St against the flow of the marathon (runners were no longer approaching at this point), or North towards me.
I don’t need a second hint, and I did not want to die on my birthday. If you’re in the midst of something like this, you don’t know when it’s over. I turned on my heel and headed straight up North. There might have been more explosions, there might have been a stampede about to start, there might have been poisonous gas in the explosions, there might be a building about to topple over, there might have been a godzilla monster for all I knew at that point. Either way, the idea is get out of there. Because you don’t know if the danger is spreading farther than it first looks like, because there will be people stampeding out and you don’t want to get trampled, and because they’ll have to clear the area to make room for first responders.
I just wasn’t sure whether I should walk or run. I was hesitant to run because I didn’t want to encourage people to panic and stampede. Especially for people like me who didn’t see what happened, only the reactions, we were all sort of feeling each other out for what to do. Like, I’m sure some people turned to leave because they saw me turn to leave. So I thought if I started running, other people would start running too. (Obviously, some people were already running, but, mob mentality, you know.) But eventually I decided to play it safe and took off my hat and started running (as much as you can in heels).
The other people running away and I didn’t get very far–I think it was only on Comm Ave that a marathon security officer told us not to run. He wasn’t mean about it, just trying to calm us down. And we did all stop running, and I felt better, because even though none of us REALLY knew what was happening, he knew better than we did. I mean, he had a walkie-talkie and would have heard whatever the officers on the scene were saying. So once he said to stop running I felt relieved that there was probably nothing to run away from, at least where we were all the way up on Comm Ave.
One of the first thoughts after “This has to be a terrorist attack” and “Get out of here” is “This is so going to be on the news,” followed by, “i HOPE this is going to be on the news, because if it’s not that means the attack is bigger than this and other cities are getting blown up too.” So I sent my first tweet at 2:52, as soon as I felt safe enough to pause for a brief moment, to write “wtf explosions and people running.” In hopes that maybe someone would tell me what was going on. But I didn’t really have time to stop and keep checking my tweets, because I was hightailing it out of there.
I started by just going North more–I think I ended up on Malborough St– and then headed East to get to the train station. I was afraid that they would stop the trains from running, and I’d be stranded in Boston.
I could briefly smell smoke as I was walking North. I glanced over my shoulder a few times to see if I could tell what was going on, but I couldn’t really. A doorman said, “Look at the sky,” but it mostly just looked cloudy from where I was.
I overheard some people on the street saying their phones weren’t working. I hadn’t tried to place calls, but my internet was working, as you can tell by my tweets.
After awhile people were less running away and more standing around looking confused and concerned and trying to figure out what was going on. A lot of people in marathon blankets. I still just speedwalked/trotted straight to the North Station. It was farther than I remembered.
When I got to North Station, all the trains on the board just said TBD, but there were no announcements about trains not running. Everyone was gathered around bar TVs watching the news. I think by that time they were saying 2 people had died and some people had lost limbs. It might sound funny, but it wasn’t ’til I got to the train station that I had the time to stop and try to find out what had happened. I had glanced at my tweets, sent a few, answered some texts that were coming in, but as I was rushing to get out of town I didn’t have time to really read stuff or check the news.
The train did come on schedule at 4pm, fortunately. Everyone on the train was silent and looking at their phones. I guess they were either following the news or contacting loved ones. My mom texted and facebooked that she was trying to call but not getting through. But basically people had seen my tweets and knew I was fine, because I had said as much right off the bat. I tweeted up a storm from the train and was contacted by the Salem Gazette for an interview. I recounted my story for them once I got home and had time to charge my phone for a minute. You can read it here: http://www.wickedlocal.com/salem/features/x196665891/Salem-runners-and-residents-appalled-by-bombings#axzz2QaQZHmAB
Then I was so hungry and I ordered a pizza and touched up my make-up and went to my birthday at Murphy’s. As you can imagine, most people opted out. But a bunch of locals did come and I’m really glad we went on and had the party, ’cause, you know, sometimes you need a drink after a rough day?
Anyways, after something like this people always say “OMG that was almost me, if only X had happened instead of Y I would have been dead!” That’s not my case. I wasn’t going to face the marathon crowds and had no intention of visiting Boylston St, and there was no danger at all on Newbury St. even though it’s only 1 block North. So there were no close calls.
And that’s how I spent my birthday.
Hello! I went on a mini-tour with my band. This is a very rare occurrence. Usually I tour by myself to keep costs and drama down.
Since I had moved to Chicago and it was going on a year that we hadn’t played or seen each other, we decided I should come back to New York for a gig. But it’s too far to go for just one gig, so we decided to do a mini-tour: Philly, Boston, and NY.
Philly just because it seems silly not to. It’s so close. And I had a friend there who was gonna be perfect to share a bill with.
Boston because it’s a former residence of mine, and I figured I had a lot of friends and some fans there.
New York because it’s our home.
We had two rehearsals scheduled back-to-back. This is all before I knew I was moving to Boston. I actually had a flight from Chicago to New York and back that I had to forfeit. Flight in Monday morning, rehearsal Monday night, rehearsal Tuesday night, Philly Wednesday night. Thursday off. Boston Friday night. The weekend off so I could spend it in Boston. And New York Monday night.
Then I got a job and moved to the East coast, which threw a wrench in things. But we stuck to the schedule, as it was too late to move rehearsals around to something that would be more convenient. Actually, because our bass player had conflicts on any other weekends.
Actually, he has a lot of conflicts, so the whole tour was pretty much built around his schedule. The two rehearsals were the exact dates and times he requested, and I had to beg for a prime time slot in Boston, even though we had no proven draw, because he said that’s the only time he could travel. Fortunately, the rest of us were flexible, including me because I didn’t know I was going to have a job by then.
You’re probably guessing where this is going by now. He had to bail on the first rehearsal because his car broke down on his way to the city. He bailed on the second rehearsal because his car was still broken down (even though we offered to pick him up and he lives on a train line and a bus line that go straight to the rehearsal studio). And, about an hour before that last rehearsal, he bagged on the tour because the car thing was going to cost him all his money. (I actually didn’t have any money to begin with, but that’s its own cautionary tale.)
If you are a musician and you have to do this to someone, the correct thing to do is to hire someone to replace you at your own expense. I didn’t bother bringing this up, since his excuse was financial, so he would have balked by default.
So it became a 24-hour scramble to find replacements. Tweets, emails, phone calls to strangers recommended by strangers recommended by strangers recommended by friends. We decided to just do without for Philly. We weren’t expecting a big draw there, and didn’t really need to impress. And I realized that our bass player could still play the NY show (since it didn’t involve travel), which he agreed to do. And after a ton of back-and-forthing in Boston, we borrowed a bass player from the Army of Broken Toys. He had no rehearsal, and had to learn the songs from the recordings, the charts, and my notes (mostly warnings about where the tricky parts are).
I rode with Joe the drummer to Philly. We played Lickety Split, which was really cute! It was a teeny tiny upstairs room, and it was a good thing we didn’t have a bass player because I don’t know where we would have put them. There was a singer-songwriter before us, and my friend played after us with some random musician friends of hers (not a band per se). She is an opera singer too, and even though we sing different styles of popular music, I think you can see the similarities in the way we handle music and our voices.
As for us, I’d say we did a great job. And there were people there. They hadn’t come to see us in particular, I think they were just locals passing through, but for a small space it was a good crowd.
I have to say I was displeased that they refused us any drink tickets or discounts or anything. It was an unpaid show, a pass-the-bucket gig. I know nobody told us we had to go on the road and be starving artists, but between time off work, hotels, gas, rental cars, and bus travel, we were each out a couple hundred bucks for this gig alone. A beer is too much to ask? The bar manager’s defense was that they were too small, and that the only people in the audience were going to be the musicians performing, and that they “couldn’t afford to give everything away for free.” I agree that it was a small venue, but it was clearly not the case that the musicians were the only audience. And if that were the case, then they have bigger problems. I try hard to draw, but the venue’s gotta try too, not just assume nobody’s gonna come and leave it at that. And I was kind of put off by the “give everything away for free” remark. I wasn’t asking for everything for free. I was expecting one beer for each person in my band, so three beers altogether (but we would have drunk a lot more and paid for the rest; we are a band, we drink a lot), but I would have settled for a discount, or even a food discount, or even, like, a glass with your logo on it, I dunno. It’s the thought that counts.
That’s enough of that rant. Other than me being irritated about that (my bandmates didn’t seem to care), we had a lovely time.
Boston was the gig I was most concerned about. I have musical roots here, and lots of friends who are in bands who have never, ever heard me live as a rock musician. I was just so concerned about wowing everyone.
Lilypad was probably not a venue that was tailor-made for our type of music, but they were awesome. It’s sort of more of an artsy space, for jazz and classical and modern music and stuff, probably some singer-songwriters, etc. They actually have some sort of noise ordinance which I’m sure we were breaking. We met the bass player during load-in and went over the charts and notes with him at Clover Food Lab before the show. Then he and I went to the Irish pub next door to the venue to wait for our set. I swear, this jazz group that was on before us was crazy popular, there were no seats left!
Yeah, Lilypad is the kind of place where you sit. Which, even though it’s not very rock and roll, I like. People pay attention more, it feels like a theatre. And I have this sort of theatrical background, so I’m at home in that environment.
Not gonna lie, I was really, really disappointed with turnout. I always expected my Boston debut to be a big fucking deal. And I know it’s been 10 years since I lived here last, but I stayed in touch with people. I thought I was still friends with them. Of course I totally appreciate the friends and fans who did show up, but I could literally count them on one hand, which was a wee bit heartbreaking.
The good thing is that the audience who was there was amazing. I dunno if the rest of the room was there for the band before us or what, but they were just perfect. I don’t think I’ve ever had such rapt attention in a rock show. And everyone cheered a lot and bought CD’s, so I was happy.
And we were awesome. Mike the bass player was a hero. What he did was not easy. I like to think it’s karmic payback for all those times I jumped into people’s operas at the last minute.
But after playing to a crowd that was fun but not Our Audience, and a crowd that was too small, we were really looking forward to our homecoming gig.
The Delancey. The bass player didn’t show up. You might not be surprised. I was. Well, I mean I wasn’t surprised by the time we were supposed to go on, because I had been texting him that day and hadn’t heard back from him, which was a bad sign. But overall I was surprised. I dunno if he has an excuse or something (I haven’t heard from him still, which is why I don’t feel bad writing about this), but standing up your band is truly bad behavior, even for someone who is unreliable. I don’t expect full-on professionalism from my musicians, because we’re not making money, so they’re not professional gigs. I don’t even always expect common courtesy or responsible behavior, because this is rock. But I do expect non-douchiness.
By the time our slot rolled around, I was less concerned that the bass player hadn’t shown up, and more concerned that the audience hadn’t. It was a repeat of Boston, except worse, because I had only been away for 1 year instead of 10, and I was counting on good friends instead of pen pals. But again, most people were no-shows, which was just embarrassing. I mean, the going away party was in the same space, and we had plenty of people. Out of sight out of mind? Just one year? I know we’re bigshot New Yorkers here, and we’re busy busy and always on to the next thing. Not even for old times’ sake, huh?
And of course I’m being a douche again to the handful of people who did come. You guys made my night. And again, we were awesome, and had a fabulously attentive and appreciative audience who cheered and laughed and bought CD’s.
Overall, it was a stressful but in many ways successful tour. What we lacked in audience quantity, we plenty made up for in quality. And as disappointed as I was by my bass player, I was more impressed by my drummer and guitar player. I’m not just blowing smoke when I say we were awesome at every show. They were so good that I was the one making mistakes. And I don’t make mistakes!! You guys know that!! Not musical ones, at least… But at every gig, there was a moment between songs where I could hear someone say to the person next to them, “Wow. They’re really good.”
What’s even more impressive about my band is that they are beyond eager to keep going. Joe has always shown dedication, but Chris is new, and I don’t think he’s been in this kind of band situation before. But even at the Delancey he was all like, “Yay, when are we playing again??”
And I was like, “Really? You wanna keep going? After all this? Because this is it. Driving hours to play to three people, musicians flaking, making $4 a night, hemorrhaging money, the constant stress and drama. This is it, this is doing it. It doesn’t get better. If you still want to keep doing this, you are a true rock musician.”
Meanwhile, I used my trip to NY to record some vocals for Martin Bisi’s next album. It is fucked up in good ways. The first song we hit up sounded like a drinking song at a Sesame Street monster orgy.
I’ll leave you with that thought.
Hello fans! It’s been awhile.
Me and my band are going to play some shows. It’ll have been a year at the end of August, and I figure we have to play at least once a year, or else we don’t really exist anymore. (It’s not like we’re recording or anything to keep us busy.)
Here are the stats:
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
401 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
no cover (bucket)
set time TBA
Friday, August 24, 2012
1353 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
set time 9pm
Monday, August 27, 2012
The Delancey (downstairs)
168 Delancey Street
New York, NY 10002
set time 8pm
Yeah, only three shows. Sorry!
We’ll have 1-2 new songs, and all your old favorites (put in your requests now!), maybe a reprise of our totally hip obscure cover song.
I hope to see you there. Let me know if you’re coming!!
Remember last year, when I put Toyshop on sale for $1 in an attempt to get out of debt? It did some good– word got out, people who had never heard of me discovered me, some people really chipped in and helped out. But, I am still in debt, and extremely underemployed. I am looking for work right now, but in the meantime, I have to get this thing paid off.
So I present to you, Get out of debt sale part 2: Deep discounts on song commissions.
Have you ever commissioned a piece of music before? Hired an artist you admire to write a song for you, according to your specifications? Doesn’t that sound cool? Now’s your chance!
Commissions are usually pretty expensive, because they require so much attention and creativity from the composer/songwriter. But in an effort to raise money to pay off my album loan, I am going to offer them crazy cheap, for a limited time only.
Have you seen this commission I wrote? A generous fan offered me a $1000 donation to write a song called “Kelli’s getting Vaginal Rejuvination.” Here was the end result:
It actually ended up becoming a really popular song. Wish I’d had the commission in time to include in on the album. Next time! (If you like it, you can download it here.)
$1000 is actually a pretty fair price for a commission. But from now until February 28th, I’m going to offer song commissions for…..
Wait for it…
You see, my monthly payment is $126.83. So I’m charging that, plus I added on 10% to help with the extra costs: PayPal fees, interest, sending things in the mail.
Here are some reasons people get commissions:
- Gift for a loved one
- Having your own poem set to music
- Having your favorite poem or text set to music
- In memory of a loved one
- Song to cover in your own performances
- Just because
Here’s how it works: send me your request. It could be a title (like Kelli, above), a theme, your own lyrics, whatever. If you have ideas about how you want it to sound- fast, slow, major, minor, dorian, whatever- that’s cool, too. I’ll write something, make a live recording of it (a studio recording would send the price through the roof) on my high-quality Zoom recording, send you an mp3/wav/whatever you prefer, and the lyrics (if I wrote them). Can also do a YouTube video as above if you like.
My skills: I am an excellent singer and songwriter, an OK acoustic guitar player, and a mediocre pianist. So I’ll assume most of these to be voice-guitar songs, but let me know if you prefer piano and I’ll see what I can do. Of course, if you cover the song yourself, you can play it however you want.
I’ll try to have a fast turn around time on these, but as creativity can be tricky to tame, I ask that you give me a month just to be sure. (If you need a rush order, let me know and I’ll try to work with you.)
The fine print:
I retain the rights to the song. Since I’m an indie artist, I have control over my songs, so as long as that’s the case I’ll be happy to grant you rights to perform and record them and use them in your student films. But that might change some day (probably not, but who knows). So technically, I own the rights to the song. And you can’t sell downloads of my song for money (I can, though), but if you made a cover version, I would (assuming I’m still independent) be cool with you selling that for money.
I don’t promise that your song will be available for commercial release, on an album. If I make another album one day, and it seems like the song would go well on it, that’s a possibility. But no plans to do that so far.
I will do my best to make you happy, but I can’t positively guarantee satisfaction. I might be able to tweak things, but I won’t make endless rounds of edits.
I reserve the right to reject projects, like if you have some crazy racist hateful stuff you want set to music, I can be like, no dude.
Alright, so let’s see what we can come up with!! I look forward to creating with you.
Photo by valkyrieNYC.com.
For those who don’t know, Danimal is my intellectually disabled brother. He doesn’t quite form sentences the way most of us do, and sometimes ends up saying hilarious things. This year, we decided to make a Top 10 list. They’ll probably only be funny to those who know him, but if you don’t, it’ll give you a little window into the White Family.
10. About my brother’s expected baby. “Is the baby come out or not?”
9. I came down in my homemade hippie pants one day and he said, “It’s DISCOOOOOOOO MANDA!”
8. Discussion between Dan and Emily:
Danimal: Why are you painting the floor grey?
Emily: Because the waterproofers made it all dirty and chipped.
Danimal: Why painting it GREY?
Emily: I don’t know.
Danimal: What for, grey?
Emily: I don’t know, to be pretty!
Danimal: No grey. I like dirt.
7. I put on a winter knit hat with a big poofball on top, and Dan said, “I’ll call you Waldo.”
6. Emily was having a conversation with Eric while Dan was mopping in the next room. When there was a lull in the conversation, they heard him say quietly to himself, “I want to mop the ceiling.”
5. Dan and Emily were sitting at the dinner table, and Dan texted her and said “Hey Emily, look at your phone.” The text said “You like what why who” That one is just baffling.
4. One day Dan sat down with Dad:
Danimal: Dad, what should we do?
Danimal: Yeah, guys and men.
Dad: Guys and men?
Danimal. Yeah. You’re a man. I’m a guy. Guys and men.
(Translation: I think he was trying to use male bonding as an excuse to go see a movie.)
3. When Emily’s old dog Sprite was put to sleep, Dan texted her, “The dog doctor came and put Sprite in sleep mode.”
2. Dan’s suggestions for Mike’s baby’s name: Danny, Jesus, or God.
1. OK, this one wasn’t from this year, and my mom and my Uncle have different versions of the quote, but I’m going with Uncle Jeff’s ’cause it’s funnier. And since this is the first year of the list it doesn’t matter that it’s not from this year.
Uncle Jeff calls on the phone.
“Hi Dan, it’s Uncle Jeff! Can I talk to your mom?”
“Ok. MOMMM! It’s Uncle Jeff! I thought he was dead?”
Everybody take notes for the best quotes of 2012!
My opera friends know who Tony Amato was. My rock friends might not, but I can assure you that almost all of them know there was a little tiny opera house next to CBGBs. My comrade in song, Liz Hastings, gave this eulogy at his funeral. I asked her permission to publish it here, as I thought it would be not only a great tribute to the maestro, but also a window for my fellow rockers into that little opera world next door.
Eulogy Delivered at Tony’s Funeral
I’m Liz Hastings. Of the sixty plus years that the Amato Opera existed, I sort of fall in the middle generation. From 1973 to 1986 I played the piano, and eventually, conducted at Tony’s. Yes, that’s what we called it; Tony’s. It was Tony’s opera company. “What’s coming up?” “Oh, I have a Bohème at Tony’s.”
While many people predate me there, I’m quite sure there were people in that last show in 2009 who hadn’t been born yet when I played my last show.
I auditioned for Tony, straight out of college. I wasn’t particularly an “opera person”, but Lois Dunton – I swear only later did she become “Lois Ann” – said that Tony Amato was always looking for pianists.
I called to see if I could audition. “Amato Opera”, a voice said. Certain that I was speaking to a woman, I asked if I could speak to Mr. Amato. A hearty laugh followed. “I’m Mr. Amato. Call me Tony.”
He must have liked me, because he didn’t make me sight-read the Ballatella, a piece, he later confided, he would throw at pianists if he wanted to get rid of them. I got off easy…Voi che sapete.
He only used piano and organ in those days. New pianists were not entrusted with playing the piano scores until they had played for a semester or two of his classes.
Oh, the classes…
You guys that came later on…you have no idea what you missed. He would do eight weeks of classes of three operas – Monday would be Rigoletto, Tuesday would be Faust, and Wednesday would be Magic Flute. I remember that Cav and Pag were particularly daunting for me, and after those classes, Tony would take me upstairs and give me a little glass of something with an Italian name that made me feel better and got rid of my Verismo jitters.
Once the classes were up and running, different people would be called upon to get up and do different scenes from week to week, but at the first class, everybody sang. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard eight Lucias sing through the Mad Scene, all at the same time.
I did my first everything there. It would have been a wonderful experience just to play through all those scores with a cast of singers each week, but to be the recipient of Tony’s knowledge while doing so was an extraordinary privilege. To this day I have colleagues in the business who were never really exposed to all that stuff that comes in between the arias; you know…the opera.
He knew all there was to know about opera and gave of his knowledge with generosity and unflagging enthusiasm. He rehearsed the music, dictated the staging, taught sword fighting (something about a couple of figure eights and a final thrust). He knew about the musical style, the period, the history, the original sources; name it.
He showed the tenor how to wipe Mimi’s face so it wouldn’t get a laugh…
The contract scene in Lucia – Enrico is commanding her to write; “Scrivi” – the Lucias are over-eager to sing “La mia condan…” – “Uh! Uh! It’s a LONG name!”…(writing “L-U-C-I-A D-I L-A-M-M-E-R-M-O-O-R” in the air)
Butterfly – Now the minute the baby comes out on stage I make sure he’s facing upstage.
Azucena’s hair pulling was never more convincing than when Tony demonstrated.
Butterfly’s entrance never had as much delicacy, as when he did it.
Years later I would call him up with questions; “Tony, tell me again why it’s midnight in Ballo but the clock only strikes 6 times”…
He always insisted he had no sense of humor, and in fact he never “got” jokes, but comedy – now that was another matter. Does anyone remember his Alfred in Fledermaus, and of course his waiter in Bohème? (That’s not even a real character!) I know that there must have been other people on stage but I really didn’t notice.
One of the first shows I played there was Fledermaus. After the rehearsal Tony said “I’ll see you tomorrow.” I didn’t understand why a rehearsal was needed the next night. I thought things had gone rather well. Well, the next night we took it from the top with a WHOLE ‘NOTHER CAST.
And that’s when I realized what made Tony different from other people who put on opera. I got it. I had learned the secret handshake.
Tony liked to make you better. If you got really, really good, maybe even famous, well that was fine, but wasn’t really the point.
Tony was proud and happy to provide an environment that fostered triumphs of all sizes. Could anyone’s life be devoted to anything more important and enriching?
Making operas affordable for families and making the stories understandable to children was of enormous importance to Tony. He did the Operas in Brief at Town Hall, and took shows into schools before “outreach” had come into the lexicon. And of course, the intimate theater on the Bowery was the ideal place for children (or even grownups) to experience their first opera.
Tony and Sally had no children, but did have an extended family…
They are a wide-ranging tribe and wear their name proudly, like a medal.
Possibly you remember Bernie Goddammit, or Shaffer Goddammit, Konnie Goddammit, Ricky Goddammit, Sadler Goddammit. I’m pretty sure there was a Boney Goddammit. I myself joined the family when I married Nathan Goddammit. I would like to think that there is another generation of them since my time.
But the mother of them all was…Sally Goddammit. Sally…
Those who were fortunate enough to know Sally were lucky indeed. She and Tony put their blood, sweat and tears into the Amato Opera as equal partners. Married for over 50 years, she and Tony spent almost every waking hour together, be it at work or at home, and they thrived on it. Tony missed her
terribly after her death in 2000 and referred to her always as “my dear Sally”.
His memoirs are imbued with her name and her spirit.
Amato: A Love Affair with Opera.
This remarkable couple inspired a movie about their love, and their dedication to opera. I don’t see anyone rushing out to do the same for James Levine and Peter Gelb.
When I was asked to do this, I looked up the word “eulogy”, and it said, in part, “A speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly” and I realized that I have been eulogizing Tony Amato since 1973.
I searched for the words to describe him; warm, passionate, generous, imaginative, kind, honest. Wouldn’t the Boy Scouts like this? Wait!…That’s it!
Tony was Trustworthy.
Tony had a teaching style that was all his own. He told the truth – “Your French stinks!” He was honest – “Your Italian stinks!” And he kept his promises. – “I’ll give you a part in The Magic Flute. It’s in English”.
Tony was Loyal.
He was loyal to the singers under his watch, and promoted them from within the ranks when he felt they were worthy. They in turn were deeply loyal to him.
Tony was Helpful.
It is now about 30 years ago that I had to learn Tosca in a hurry. I was to be the Music Director for a production with a small opera company. “Tony, I don’t know Tosca”. “Come in at 4 o’clock”, he said. In one amazing hour he gave me tempos, rubato, a little trivia (“La do…” – ask me later) and the staging for the end of Act II in case it ever came in handy. It did. He would of course take no money for the session.
Tony was Friendly. Tony was a friend to all. He was friendly to his singers, to the bums outside, and to the fire department with their surprise inspections.
Tony was Courteous.
He treated everyone with respect, and in turn was adored.
That made him very hard to say no to. Ask anyone who was tempted to try. Tony could charm the pants off the most obstreperous patron, and did just that when the occasion arose.
Tony was Kind.
Tony was Obedient.
He didn’t need to be. He was the boss. He was the director and the
conductor, and they never, ever argued.
Tony was Cheerful.
Tony was Thrifty.
Who else would put instant coffee in the urn? He recycled before it was fashionable. Every schedule was printed on the back of something else. In 1988 we went to see Tony conduct “Lo Schiavo” which he did at Marymount Manhattan College. We commented on the elegance of the theater and then looked into the pit, where we could see tin foil used as shades on the stand lights. He was the master of “jerry rigging”. Nothing got thrown out if it could still be useful…for something. I think he felt the same way about the people in the company.
Tony was Brave.
I can remember more than once when he had to evict some Bowery denizen sleeping by the front of the door. Where others might have been timid he merely did what he needed to do for the sake of his theater.
Tony was Clean.
During my time there I can remember coming in for more than one Saturday rehearsal and finding him cleaning the bathrooms and mopping the floor. Nothing was beneath him if it was something that needed to be done. In a larger sense he was a catalyst in the slow and steady cleaning of the whole neighborhood around the theater.
Tony was Reverent.
Tony revered Mozart; Verdi…He didn’t need gimmicks or updates. What the composer and librettist wrote was quite enough, and worthy of respect.
Tony was Unique.
On Tuesday, I didn’t cry when I heard that he was gone, but I got strangely emotional playing my first coaching of the day, and I realize that he’s still here.
He’s right here in my head, sometimes counting, sometimes singing, maybe muttering something naughty in Neapolitan.
“O il…gentil…pensier…” [Traviata] DEAD VOICE, MIMI, DEAD VOICE [Bohème]
“If I rush you” STEP STEP [Falstaff]
He’s in my musical DNA.
I never thought Tony would die like regular people… I was quite sure he would be on the podium and his last words would be directed to the poor soul who had just missed a light cue – E Master, E Master… Or that against all advice he would be up on the ladder – remember Tony on the ladder, changing light bulbs in the chandelier?…and would take that one heart-stopping step into Valhalla.
But no – underneath the magnetism and magic, he was alarming mortal.
But oh so wonderful, so wise, so warm, so patient, and so generous. We will miss him.
We love you Tony. We will never forget you.
December 16, 2011
Remember how I was complaining the other day when I was complaining that there were no good, professional recordings of Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata on YouTube? Guess what, somebody recorded us singing it at our concert! It’s not a professional recording, but at least it’s a professional choir.
Hope you like us! (And no, you can’t really see me, I’m all the way on the other side.)
Probably the biggest classical hit of the season is the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. It is truly one of the most beloved choruses of all time. But it’s not a Christmas song. Actually, it’s about smiting sinners.
The Messiah is a massive work. Some of it (Part 1) is about Christmas. Some of it is not. The Hallelujah Chorus actually follows this little ditty for tenor:
“Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron;
Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
You know what chorus from the Messiah is about Christmas? “For unto us a Child is born.”
In honor of tomorrow’s concert at St. James Cathedral, I’m posting (like yesterday) a piece we’ll be doing.
This is at least the second time I’ve done Pinkham’s Christmas Cantata, but I can’t remember where I did it before. Boston? Paris? Maybe my first church in NY (the one that fired me), as I recall the director had been a student of Pinkham’s.
Anyway, it has three movements and they are really great, and there is brass. The Gloria (3rd movement) is probably the best-known. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a professional recording of it on YouTube, but at least this one has a nice tempo.
The cool thing about this movement is the way the refrain is so catchy and traditional sounding, then the verses kind of come out of nowhere. Also cool is the brass during the last round of Glorias. They are pretty held back until then.
Hope to see some of you tomorrow night at St. James!
This is probably my favorite Christmas carol, largely because I love how the text switches back and forth between English and Latin every couple of measures. Also, it is a very comfortable, good-feeling sing, which cannot be said of all of Rutter’s arrangements.
I remember the solo lines in this piece being one of the first solos I did at the American Cathedral in Paris. Happy memories! I miss Paris!
Incidentally, we are singing this at the St. James Cathedral Christmas Concert on Saturday at 7pm. Come if you can make it!