One of my many jobs this year is to align music with the folk dances in the show. The dance captain, Jamie, has worked with the chorus to teach them the show dance steps. But underneath all of their work has been a lot of work on the music. For the Act 1 dance, the show’s clarinetist, Bill Tomczak, contacted his friend Tom, who was part of a Cambridge Revels show years back. Tom sent Bill his transcription of traditional calusarii music. Along with that, we are using music that Jamie learned from a Romanian choreographer. Then while poking around on YouTube, I found a different tune yet, one used in Romanian stick dances. My transcription of that became the third tune in the dance. It was fun to put together this unique set of Romanian dance tunes with Jamie and Bill.
For the Act 2 Bulgarian dance, the accompanying music is from a ridiculously fast recording Jamie gave me of a gaida, a Bulgarian bagpipe. A gaida is a goat skin with pipes attached to it–it basically looks like an inflated goat while being played!
When she asked if we could learn this music, I of course said yes. That committed me to hours of painstaking work transcribing this tune. It nearly melted my brain. Fortunately, I bought myself a computer program called the Amazing Slow Downer (it slows down recordings to any speed without changing the pitch), and thus I was able to complete the transcription (with help along the way from Bill and Eric Stern). The Slow Downer saved my sanity!
One of my other behind-the-scenes jobs (and one of my greatest pleasures) is to write a brass overture which opens the show. How lucky can I be—I get to take music out of my head, only to have it played by wonderful professional brass players. A composer’s and arranger’s dream come true!
Hope to see many of you at a show—I’ll be the one fiddling, grinning, and being inspired by our incredible chorus.