CADENZAS AND SUPERHEROES
Robert Quinlan, the director of our In Transit series, wrote the following post as both a reflection on In Transit: #undercoverhero and a peek into the upcoming In Transit shows. In this post, Bob reflects beautifully on Fifth House Ensemble’s first experience with our Hope Cadenza, and he pretty much sums up my initial thoughts on it as well.
Last week Fifth House performed the first of four concerts under the umbrella title In Transit. This year’s series uses social media, and of course, gorgeous music, to tell the very personal stories of four characters. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, this first concert, #undercoverhero, follows an isolated sixth grade boy obsessed with a superhero called The Sentinel. Unable to communicate with his parents, he depends on discussion boards from a comic book website to find connection with the outside world.
This weekend, I met with Adam Marks, Eric Snoza, and Rebekah Scallet in St. Louis to refine elements of the next three installments. #thisrocks tells the story of a girl who finds purpose through the disciplined study of music. #wink follows a thirty-something professional as she navigates the battlefield of online dating. Finally, #iwitness documents an incredible week in which a traveller finds himself swept into the dramatic events of last year’s Egyptian uprising.
As I look back over the past week of performances, several unique moments pop to mind. One show was held at the Ridge Park branch of the Chicago Park District. This included a pre-performance Halloween costume contest featuring some of the loveliest princesses and toughest superheros under age twelve in the Chicago-land area. During that performance I remember wondering what John Cage would make of his composition “Story” (which includes the repeated recitation of a poem by Gertude Stein) being performed in front of an audience that included The Green Lantern, varying sizes of Spiderman, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I’d like to think he would have been impressed by the company.
But probably the most memorable moment for me was our first “Hope Cadenza” of the season. When Adam described this idea to me over the summer–that the audience would be invited to tweet or text responses to the show that would be projected on a media screen in real time–I was skeptical. The idea of including something so improvisational in a rehearsed concert made me nervous. How do we practice this? What if nobody tweets? And during the performance, I did feel my heart in my throat when our Stage Manager Carole pressed the button for the “Cadenza” to begin.
What actually happened, though, was something I won’t ever forget. After a suspenseful pause, the screen started to reveal the thoughts of the audience. As the Fifth House musicians played the third movement of the Mozart Quintet, a real-time conversation about the themes of the story was engaged in front of our eyes. Audience members tweeted their hopes for children who find themselves bullied, parents who can’t find a way to talk to their kids, and those that lash out at others because of fear and insecurity. This specific combination of music, storytelling, and audience interaction through social media was something I had never seen before. For me, it was a rare moment when technology actually made a moment of live performance feel more personal, alive, and connected.
As we met in St. Louis this weekend, we looked for ways that the music of Mendelssohn, Schulhoff, and Martin Butler can pair with this new form of social media storytelling to illuminate the personal stories, dreams, and fears that connect us as human beings. And we look forward to sharing three more “Hope Cadenzas” with you in the coming months.
The pictures in this post were taken by Eric Snoza, 5HE’s double bass player and owner of SnoStudios Photography. Eric takes all of our pictures, and they always turn out amazingly. The first photo is a live shot of the Hope Cadenza at the Chicago Cultural Center. In it, you can see that people tweeted “I hope that Billy finds his light” and “I hope…people will learn to value good character over social status…” These were real tweets that people sent in when we asked what their hops were for those who are affected by bullying. The second photo is of me, Carole, serving as Stage Manager for In Transit: #undercoverhero. Since Bob referenced me in this post, I thought I’d also include a picture of me doing what I do best: running tech for shows off of ore-determined cues– in this case running slides off of placement in scores.