Tag Archives: Dr. Everett McCorvey

Verdi and an Unexpected Question

Verdi and an Unexpected Question

Sometimes I find myself in the middle of something wonderful and BAM! It suddenly dawns on me I’m in the middle of something wonderful.

This can often happen in a theatre rehearsal, occasionally several times in one evening.

It’s always jarring, sometimes scary, and always to sought again and again.

Today, it happened at lunch

I attended a preview luncheon for UKOT’s production of Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA.

  • Portofino’s served a fine meal – check.
  • I got to chat with one of the best actors in the area; Tom Phillips – check.
  • The room was packed – check.
  • Everett McCorvey gave an update on UKOT’s activities;
    • LA TRAVIATA opening next week.
    • BOUNCE the basketball opera opening with a world premiere in Lexington in November (opera/basketball/Lexington – talk about the “best of all possible worlds”).
    • SHOWBOAT in the spring.
    • The opera outreach program has booked two shows (schoolchildren K-8) in over 50 venues throughout the state.
    • Singers being recruited to Lexington from all over the planet and accomplished singers and citizens being exported all over the planet. We are infesting the planet with remarkable young people.
  • Check, check, check, check, and CHECK!

Then three of those young performers blew the luncheon-ers and the walls of the room away with excerpts from LA TRAVIATA. Thabang Masongo was confident and polished. Jessica Bayne was passionate and vulnerable. Michael Preacely was gigantic and……Michael Preacely!

And the music of Verdi is sublime and emotional and important on a cellular level.

All of these delights and miracles were expected.

What was unexpected was a question from one of my tablemates, a first-time attendee of these luncheons; “Obviously, these singers come to UK with a gift. What does the opera program do to enhance that gift?”

Everett answered with an impressive description of the instruction and coaching that each student receives. Michael spoke of being taught to apply the facts of instruction to the acts of performance. Jessica spoke of the variety of instructors and the nurturing ambiance of the UK opera community.

I thought of two things I have watched Everett instill in students for 26 years.

  • “Participation” means more than signing the guest book. It means coming to class/rehearsal/performance having practiced and being prepared to share that practice/improvement immediately and eagerly.
  • Our students believe they belong in every room and have a contribution to make in every room. The room may or may not be about them, but they are prepared and confident and competent to make any room better.

BAM!

Something wonderful.

And I’m living in the middle of it in my home town.

A Geezer Remembers a Grand Night

GN 02In Lexington, the University of Kentucky’s extraordinary Opera Program has for the last 24 years staged an extraordinary event; “It’s a Grand Night for Singing”. Over a thousand people a night for two weeks assemble to hear remarkable voices sing Broadway/Hollywood/Billboard tunes. It’s supported by an orchestra and choreographed by a team of Broadway-seasoned professionals. It’s a startling evening. You just don’t expect this level of performance, energy, and talent from a basketball school. It’s a great tribute to Dr. Everett McCorvey who conceived the idea and has nurtured it through two-and-a-half decades and a couple of generations of participants.

I have been fortunate to have been a participant in this event a number of times. In fact, I think I may hold the record for having the most numbers cut from “Grand Night”. Hey, the standard’s high.

My friend, Dr. Tedrin Lindsay, has been a featured performer in this event for 20+ years. His piano-playing is energetic and passionate, yes. But he is also a man of great imagination and this shines forth in his performances. This is what live performance is about.

Tedrin has been recently posting some of his remembrances of “Grand Night” moments.

May I indulge in one myself?

For the third year of “Grand Night”, Everett asked me to be part of a quartet of singers to sing a medley from “Kismet”; And This is My Beloved/Baubles, Bangles and Beads. I had never met my fellow singers until I arrived at my first rehearsal for the number in Everett’s old studio, the studio that was 80% piano. We crowded in; Everett, Cliff Jackson on the piano, and singers Angelique Clay (soprano), Phumzile Sojola (tenor), and a young bass from Louisville whose name evades my geezer memory.

We rehearsed for about an hour. My fellow singers didn’t sing to me, they sang through me. I had never heard so much sound in my life. You could see the sound in that little room. After the rehearsal, I crossed the street to the Medical Center for an MRI to confirm that all my major organs were intact and in their proper places.

I was in heaven.

I was singing these stunningly beautiful songs with these crazy talented singers in front of an orchestra for a thousand people a night…in a tux.

Just kill me now.

After the show, I asked my wife if she liked the number. She replied; “Were you in that one?”

Everyone’s a critic.