The musical is done! I’m organizing all of the disparate material that went into this massive and amazingly successful show, and formatting for broader use/distribution. I will continue to post these video blogs in the meantime!
Hey! I did a horrible job keeping anything going on this blog, but Finland has been wonderfully all-consuming. Here’s the first entry in the video documentation of the show’s creative process, it is a 4-part series, and I will post them as we approach the show’s performance.
Don’t really have time for much else on here, show is kicking! We are making costumes, rehearsingrehearsingrehearsing, and next week we have our tech week in the space!
I made it! My flight landed safely in Helsinki at the beginning of December, and now that the New Year has arrived, I am returning to the internet, and to hard work! First order of business, I am documenting my time in Finland with as many photos as I can justify, and they can all be seen here, if you want (just don’t expect any context)! I also have some videos of live performance that can be found at the end of this post.
After arriving in Helsinki, I spent the night in an incredibly cheap but incredibly sketchy hostel on the outskirts of the city (hooray for my male privilege?) before taking the long bus ride from Helsinki to Rauma. I was met by the coordinator/liaison/amazing-do-everything-lady for Raumars, Hannele, who gave me a quick introduction to the town, and then we were off to a concert.
Yep, first night there, jet-lagged and disoriented, I was fortunate enough to attend a concert performed by the wonderful children of Karin Koulu, a local primary/middle school (I’m not sure which I should call it, their ages and educational years different/better than those in the USA). The kids gave some great performances, and I fell asleep partway through the first half (I swear it was the jet lag, these kids were great), then was politely jostled awake for the intermission, which had tea and sugary bread, which perked me up for the second half, where the chorus again was very impressive, and gave me a nice long laundry list of what to prepare for these young musicians.
I returned to the apartment and slept for roughly 14 hours, the beginning of a month of Sleep Madness which may or may not have abated (the lack of daylight keeps throwing things out of whack for me). Upon waking, I met my current roommate, an affable and brilliant French choreographer by the name of Farid Ayelem Rahmouni, and began my first forays into Rauma. I quickly established that while I will definitely be trying to learn some of the Finnish language, there’s no chance in hell I’ll be able to be fluent in 6 months, especially as I’ve been given the impression that the Finnish spoken in Rauma is akin to the French spoken in Québec.
Then I got introduced to a variety of local community leaders and artsy folk, all of whom were quite wonderful and seemed excited to have me there (I’ve felt a little guilty about being an American in the current political climate, but no one seems to give me any guff about it so far). My first visit to Karin Koulu to meet the kids was nice, I got to see what they knew of musical theatre, what kind of music they like (spoiler: EDM is surprisingly popular with the 12-year-olds here), and what kind of interest there was in the upcoming project.
It is an understatement to say people have been supportive of the initiative. I am often getting notices from Hannele of new people she believes may be interested, almost everyone who has been approached has been enthusiastic about the project, whether they are able to participate or not, and I look forward to starting work with the kids in Mid-January.
So what is this big project for the first half of 2018? It will be a short musical (one-act, no longer than 45 minutes) written for the children of Karin Koulu to play and sing and dance and act, predominantly in English, but with some use of the local Rauma dialect and Finnish folk music. The intent is to generate a musical that could easily be understood by an English-speaking audience, with the presence of the Finnish language as either a musical device or narrative recurrence (think “I’m like the bluebird” from Anyone Can Whistle, or the use of French-language jazz in any given film, we don’t need to understand the language to get the context). It is meant to be performed by young people, and will be licensed under Creative Commons. I’m still working out the details, but the idea is that any educational performance the rights will be free, whereas any commercial performance still gotta pay up (but it’s not a show I expect to see any commercial performances of). Some groups in the USA have expressed interest, and once the show is more developed I’ll be reaching out to see if any youth theatre or school groups would want to have a go at a parallel/cousin performance to go with the Finnish premiere.
The narrative of the show is still uncertain (well not really, but it’s still unfinished), and will mostly concern elements of mythology/superstition and local history (and the ocean. Because, you know, the ocean). I’m hoping to pull a Spongebob: The Musical and be politically topical without anything overt or unpleasant that risks alienating young kids or parents (I got to see that show before I left, holy fuck-shit-bugger-wank, it is fantastic). The songs will dominate the storytelling, and there will probably be one spoken-word (kind of rap) segment. It’ll be composed and orchestrated in ways that could be reduced simply to piano, but will likely include accordion for the Finnish premiere.
As an addendum to that, Hannele has also loaned me an accordion of hers (as if the lady wasn’t doing enough already). I’ve never touched one before, and I’m learning fast – damn I love that accordion.
So keep an eye up here, I will be video-blogging the creation/development/rehearsal process for the as-yet-untitled Karin Koulu Musikaali.
Then to close things out, this New Year’s I was invited to perform at a local New Year’s Eve celebration in Rauma, and I had no idea what to play (my solo music is by no means celebratory, to say nothing of appropriate or joyful), until I was heard playing some folk/country bits, and was invited to share the American folk music with them. The response was positive (in the videos where you can hear applause, it sounds like a stampede from all the glove-clapping), and I nearly lost my left hand’s fingers to frostbite in the process. Risto Kupari, the town’s culture manager, had also invited me to busk with him and his son for Christmas (we played some fun holiday tunes and some jazz), and for the closer of my small set, his family sang with me on a small quartet arrangement I threw together of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” – they were great! I kept the other songs simple, in anticipation of my fingers almost freezing on the guitar.
Videos of the New Years songs are below, please forgive my out-of-tune yodeling, I couldn’t quite figure out the microphone technique for it, and was starting to get cold.
For the past year plus, I haven’t posted much outside of specific major projects. The minutia of work and living have dominated my time, and I’m also just incredibly lazy about maintaining my internet and social media presence, something I will attempt to rectify in the coming months.
A lot has happened. Gaybraham Lincoln: The Musical took home multiple awards during its festival run, including two Best Actor awards for our incredible cast, and a Best Score award (squeee!), after selling out all three of its performances to a packed and enthused house. I completed an artistic residency at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, Colorado, where I witnessed the best and worst this country may ever have to offer in the form of the local populace, who ranged from active and powerfully passionate artists, marijuana farmers, and activists to disenchanted and dangerous racists who previously worked the town’s now-defunct coal mine (white supremacy was on open display on one occasion), all of whom lived in the backyard of the third Koch brother (google him). I contributed to a series of short films, one of which took home several awards across a few festivals, and received very positive response to its music and sound, the former of which I composed. I returned to Vermont and then New York City for a variety of work, and laid the groundwork for this coming year, which leads us to now:
I am leaving the United States – I write this post waiting for my plane at its gate.
I have accepted a 6-month Residency with Raumars, a program in Rauma, Finland. In addition to expanding on work that has been left neglected as of late, I will be composing a musical for a local school, which will hopefully see a complete and fun performance at the end of the academic year. This is part of an intention to transition from the United States to Europe, for a variety of reasons including artistic appreciation and the incipient collapse of the west’s moral principles. I have never been to Finland and I don’t speak a word of the language, but received enthused and effusive responses to my submission, and a kind of respect for artistic labor that is nonexistent in the United States.
The one piece of work I have belabored and come up short on has been my solo album. It had been my intention for the album to drop before I departed, but unfortunately I simply lacked the time that was required. Hopefully I will be able to complete the album quickly at my residency, and release it from Finland.
More will come later, but it felt important to at least post this.
I will post again when I am on Finnish soil!
Sorry I haven’t posted the concluding thread on Iceland, I have a bunch of video I’ve been editing for it, and the preparation that went into this announcement has been thorough as well:
Gaybraham Lincoln will be have three performances at the Thespis Theatre Festival in New York City this July! We were honored to be accepted into the show, and look forward to getting the play back up with the many adjustments and additions that have happened in its interim.
To that effect we’re raising money through an Indiegogo campaign to fund the production. If you can, please give!
- “The Smell of Rebellion” from Matilda
- “Apenglow” by Nightwish
- “He Wanted to Say” from Ragtime