It’s that time of year again, and I hope you take time to come with your family to Portland Stage’s production of A Christmas Carol. I’ve been keeping a camp upstage left, shrouded by tall black curtains and surrounded by music making gear. My vantage point isn’t nearly as delightful as yours will be when you come see the show: dozens of merry child actors adorn the stage as Ron Botting’s Scrooge goes through his transformative journey and lands on the other side of cruelty and selfishness on the side of giving and kindness.
As I watch the story and add my music to it day after day, I continue to muse on how relevant this tale is to all of us in the modern age. How easy it is to be so caught up in our work, in our striving, that we forget to truly enjoy our friends, family and to support the many worthy causes in our lives. In fact, just as I set about to write this entry now, my daughter Anica was playing here in the studio. She is in the ensemble cast of A Christmas Carol for the first time, and she was humming songs from the show, adding her own words. She then prattled on about how “giving IS receiving: you give something and you receive love…” I had a momentary impulse to ask her to be quiet so that I could focus on squeezing in a little work before the end of the day. But there she was, delighting in meaningful echoes from the show. How could I miss that chance to give her my attention and not shut out the lessons from one of our culture’s most enduring tales?
If you make it to the show, please take a minute and say hello! Merry Christmas!
Today’s free family concert by Boston’s Chameleon Arts Ensemble marks the sixth straight year in which they have featured a new composition by Hans Indigo Spencer. This year’s piece, titled “Forest Lake”, ties in with the concert’s theme of musical portraits by evoking the feelings of walking through the woods and discovering a lovely, calm body of water. Hans took his inspiration from the pond which sits between Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery and the woods beyond. Coincidentally, the Forest Hills Cemetery, where the Chameleons have been performing material from this concert for Boston schoolchildren, also features a pond and similar landscaping.
“Forest Lake” provides a unique opportunity for audience members to join the musicians in the performance. Like other pieces Hans has composed for these yearly family concerts, “Forest Lake” contains a game activity which overlays the written music. Audience volunteers receive tone chimes and some simple instructions to follow during the piece. As the music begins, Hans conducts the participants in a musical game which, together with the parts played by the sextet, creates the feeling of vibrant nature with an underlying sense of calm.
Hans’s piece finishes this concert of “musical portraits that offer glimpses into worlds of fantasy, memory, and landscapes near and far. In the same way that artists create scenes with shapes and colors, composers paint pictures with sound.” Once again, Chameleon artistic director Deborah Boldin has assembled a bold and cohesive repertoire consisting of music by Mozart, Rorem, Milhaud, Canteloube, and more.
Concert Details from the Chameleon Arts Ensemble website:
Free Family Concert & Instrument Petting Zoo Saturday, May 31, 2014, 2 PM Weld Hall at Hyde Park Branch Library 35 Harvard Avenue, Hyde Park, MA 02136 Free Admission & Free Parking Stroller-accessible and appropriate for all ages! What does purple sound like? . For more information: 617-427-8200 or www.chameleonarts.org An instrument “Petting Zoo” and demonstration will follow the performance in the Library’s beautiful outdoor Children’s Garden. Children will be able handle and play orchestral instruments as guided by the musicians, and will be encouraged to touch, blow, pluck, bow, and strike.
Adding music to your film just got easier.
18 stunningly contrasting tracks: Half of them are fast-paced and edgy. Half are slow, dark, and mournful. Drop any one of them into your timeline, then place its counterpart on the same starting point, and let the seamless crossfading begin.
Kids with computers can create beats and simple tracks, but it takes a composer to create pieces that can combine with each other anywhere, putting the power to create a unique score in your hands.
This is a departure from my film and television composing: I’m leading a four-piece jazz combo onstage in this production of “Words By: Ira Gershwin and the Great American Songbook.” It’s a review of music with Ira’s lyrics, offset with insightful anecdotes about his life and work. He, with his brother George and other composers and lyricists, invented what we now consider “the standards”. It’s a great way to hear this music anew. The two singers (a “chanteuse” and a “crooner”) are amazing and the actor portraying Ira delights with his nuanced portrayal of a man who found his voice penning the words to songs that have become part of the American tapestry.
And the set is a magnificent work of art designed by Anita Stewart. One side of the stage is a minimalist living room, but behind it is an enormous steel-and-fabric structure consisting of irregular shapes. They alternately serve as panels for reflected light and projections screens for the many photos of Ira’s associates. It’s really, really cool.
It’s been fun for me to work with the singers, Director David Ellenstein, and a band of Portland’s finest jazz musicians. It’s really different from scoring to picture and composing library tracks, that’s for sure. Where media scoring keeps me in relative isolation, I’ve been venturing out of the studio every day, interacting with many live humans, face-to-face. Like, in person even!
More info about the show here
Tonight we open the Portland Stage production of The Snow Queen, the “beloved tale of devotion, bravery, and the triumph of love.” Read more about the production here.
In this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale, young “Gerda’s best friend Kai is bewitched and imprisoned by the mysterious Snow Queen, the young girl embarks on a journey to the land of winter to save him.” Though it’s not a musical, per se, it is loaded with songs, many of which are sung by our young cast members off-stage.
Other than the short songs with lyrics by Emily Dickenson, the score is 100% solo piano, which is a departure for me: all the film and television work I do involves many layers, and a grander sonic palette. This has provided me with a fistful of challenges, as when we did the show two years ago, I improvised my way into the score through the rehearsal process. While I did much the same thing this time around, I approached it much more compositionally, carefully treating all the themes in an effort to create music that supports the story as elegantly as possible.
If you’re in the Portland area, you have between now and December 22 to catch it!
Tonight, a sneak preview of a film we’ve been working on with Boston Science Communications screens at the REI in Reading, MA. It’s a one-hour documentary about a little-known expedition to the high arctic in the 1880’s, and a follow-up expedition over 100 years later that didn’t go nearly as badly as its predecessor: No one on the modern team is suspected of cannibalism.
The musical score paints from a dark, strings-centered palette that amplifies the beautiful arctic cinematography.
Rehearsals begin in November for Portland Stage’s production of “The Snow Queen”. It’s a “Hans” Troika, as Hans Indigo Spencer plays and composes music for this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale. To complete the triple, the music of Andersen’s Danish contemporary Hans Christian Lumbye will set the scene in 19th century northern Europe. More info here.
We are still building the new tuneindigo.com web-site continues to receive its facelift, so for a deeper look into our work, check out our legacy site.
We are building this site from the ground up. Hans has been doing so much composing that it requires an increasing web-infrastructure to showcase it.
The old site at indigoinventions.com still has lots of music, video and info.
His new production music library of easily searchable music at tuneindigolibrary.com, where you will soon be able to license music at the click of a button.