A distinction with a difference, I hope. These works are conceived as plays first and foremost and then the addition of live musicians. I think the music no less important than the music in the Theatrical Portraits, simply serving a slightly different function and purpose in the work’s flow and movement.

Confidentially, Chaikovski ( Chaikovski and Nadejda von Meck)
Young-Chaikovski-90x90Nadejda von Meck was a wealthy widow of 45 when she first encountered Chaikovski’s music. Overwhelmed by the beauty of what she heard, she decided to use part of her large fortune—the greatest fortune in all Russia—to support the composer, age 36. By mutual agreement the pair never met, though they occasionally made eye contact at concerts or at the opera house. Von Meck thought a face-to-face with her “artist/man” would only diminish her in his eyes… Read more

Cornets of Paradise
Emily-Dickinson-90x90It is said that many Emily Dickinson readers are possessed by her, and that is true of this reader. This may be less the case with Charles Ives, though his life and music are without parallel in the American experience. I wanted to put them together, these two most New England originals, and see what might happen. had the opportunity during a Cultural Forum in Tucson, Arizona titled Transcendent Thought, an explorations… Read more

Love Letters: Beethoven to Bernstein
Leonard-Bernstein-90x90Ms. Harris, Curator of Musical Letters at the Library of Congress, has her last assignment before retirement: Select a dozen or so of her favorite letters from the million plus in the collection for display in the lobby of the Coolidge Auditorium prior to the famed Friday-night performance series. She’s agonized over her final choices and invites musician friends over to the Coolidge to see their reaction. To her surprise, they’ve come prepared to play appropriate music coupled with the letters to cheer her up with her life’s work at end… Read more

Mesmeric Mozart
Libby-Larsen-90x90In January of 1777, Maria Theresa von Paradis, age 18, was brought by her father to the Viennese clinic of Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, age 44, for medical examination and possible treatment for her blindness. Dr. Mesmer determined that the lack of sight was not medical but “blindness dictated by the unconscious.” Mesmer, equally reviled and revered for his groundbreaking treatment of illness via his discovery—“animal magnetism”—saw the potential cure of von Paradis as the ultimate vindication of his method… Read more

Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey
Jasmine-Guy-90x90Some few projects line up organically. Raisin’ Cane is one such happy case.
I’ve had the pleasure to know and work with Avery Sharpe for many years. During this time he has written several classical-jazz works for cello and various combinations—always nudging this dyed-in-the-wool classical white guy toward a bit more improv and flexibility. In fact, the last work he wrote for us was called Trust, a lovely title… Read more

Still Life
OKeefe-Kahlo-90x90I had a tremendous time dipping into the lives and art of Georgia O’ Keeffe (OK) and Frida Kahlo (FK). Like two wary prize fighters, they’d circle one another for a long time before revealing themselves. So what would they share at the beginning? Early childhood memories: FK’s imaginary friend; OK’s Wisconsin dollhouse. Recipes: OK’s applesauce; FK’s pumpkin flower quesadilla. Then their love of country and place, and on to their men and muses—Diego Rivera and Alfred Stieglitz. And finally, they’d get rip-roaring drunk on pulche and tequila shots and reveal the rest. All of this coupled with evocative interludes of visuals and music for guitar and cello… Read more

Several of these plays with music started out in my portrait genre. Several of the fine actors and directors I worked with encouraged me to open them up for more theatricality, and so I  took the plunge. Some I would call plays with incidental music, though there is nothing incidental about the composer’s work. The others are plays with music.

Your call.