Sunday, June 6, 2021

Colorado opens entertainment venues to the public

It sure has been a tough couple of years for theaters across the country; fortunately, things are starting to comeback now in Colorado. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Arvada Center and Central City Opera have all announced plans for 2021 and 2022. It's refreshing to see audition notices being posted on all the social networks and the buzz of new shows hitting our Colorado stages. During the pandemic there was a lot of online discussions about the state of theater in Colorado. It's nice to get back to entertaining again; after all, that's really what it's all about. It'll be nice to get out and see our local talent back on stage developing their skills. Be sure to check out the latest events at all the local theaters.

The folks at the Performing Arts Project have been hard at work too! Shows like WYSIWYG have already received a lot of national attention, but over the pandemic the team was able to create a brand new musical arrangement for upcoming shows with larger casts. We're even making plans to take a new show to the Edinburgh festival in 2022. So please stay tuned for any audition announcements.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Standing with our friends in Boulder Colorado

We are heart broken at the recent mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado and the Performing Arts Project sends our condolences to the family and friends of all the victims that were tragically taken from us last week. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the Boulder arts community and hope that we can all work together to build a stronger world that overcomes hate, misogyny and racism.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Online collaboration software streamlines artistic workflow

Artistic workflow has been changing quite dramatically over the last year. Making audio tracks for new Music Theatre works used to be a bit of an after thought, but since we are all collaborating remotely these days it's becoming more and more part of our processes. It doesn't seem that long ago that we'd all gather around the piano with sheet music in hand for our early rehearsals. Nobody was focused on producing audio recordings, but now it's all done online (digitally) and we can just save the parts for mastering at a later date.

Unfortunately, online latency issues between computers really prohibits audio from multiple sources in real-time So we use small in-home studios with audio software to record and deliver our tracks remotely. This too can be a bit troublesome, since everyone seems to use a different DAW and organizing all the files for your project is not for the faint of heart.

WYSIWYG Workflow Schematic

Over the last several months, the Performing Arts Project has been using the online collaboration software known as Soundtrap. The cloud-based application allows our development teams to work on their scores while the actors add their vocal parts in a cloud-based DAW. Once the parts are approved by the producer the audio mastering team creates the master tracks for the show.

Soundtrap has built-in notifications that can notify each participant when the project has been updated. This sort of functionality has been utilized by project managers in business for quite some time and is now being used to streamline the unique requirements found in an artist's creative workflow.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Get your Musical's soundtrack on Spotify

Music theater is ephemeral by nature and many of the songs we hear coming from our stages never make it to commercial streaming services like Spotify, Apple, Amazon or Google. Major record labels just aren't that interested in new musical theatre works and some artists are turning to an "Indie" label as a result. It's relatively simple to manage the song distribution for a single artist or group and the good news is that most streaming services will pay you royalties directly for each time someone plays your music.

April Alsup Records

First you'll need to apply for a label ID or GTIN so your brand can be uniquely identified online. The cost is relatively small, but many of today's music streaming services have lots of independent labels and GS1 US provides you with a W-9 for any end of year tax liabilities. Let us know if you have any questions, we'd be happy to help.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

What does "Method Composing" mean?

"Method Acting" is a well-known term that's used to describe the training and rehearsal techniques that encourage an actor to deliver an emotional identification with a part. It was prominent at the Actors' Studio in New York City, and is associated with actors such as Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro.

Sometimes the fundamental elements of "Method Acting" can be found when creating the score for a music theater work; for example, in the new Musical "the Isle of Eigg" there's a small group of townspeople that get together periodically to discuss politics, drink and play Ceilidh music. The Musical's development team decided the accordion was a natural fit since it is often used for musical accompaniment or as part of the festive ensemble in Scotland.

April Alsup, the composer of the work, is an accomplished pianist and performer, but it takes a lot of effort to learn to play a new musical instrument and there are a lot of differences between a piano and an accordion; however, there are similarities too and April was up to the challenge. The first step was to find somebody that has the knowledge, expertise and a proven process of teaching someone how to play the instrument and how it fits into a Ceilidh band.

It was just a coincidence that April visited Monarch Accordions in 2020 before the pandemic forced small businesses to shut down in Colorado. The company was founded in Denver Colorado in 1946 and purchased by professional accordionist Mike Aman in 1976. He had spent 50 years in the accordion field as a teacher, professional player and businessman. He was eager to help April come up to speed as quickly as possible and they scheduled weekly lessons through Skype.

Mike Aman and April Alsup
Mike Aman and April Alsup at Monarch Accordions (July 2020)

His virtuoso accordion orchestras have won first place at every major competition including American Accordionist’s Association, Accordion Teachers’ Guild, Accordion Federation North America, and the Rocky Mountain Accordion Society. In 1984 he produced a national solo champion. Mr. Aman makes regular trips to the Monarch factory in Italy to stay on top of the changing needs of the American accordion market.

It's been nearly 6 months since they all started working together and already the music instrumentation and score for "the Isle of Eigg" has changed dramatically. Each scene delivers a more authentic Scottish experience now and the whole team is thrilled. Just like "Method Acting" encouraged Robert De Niro to go out and work 12-hour shifts as a real New York cabbie for the movie Taxi Driver. "Method Composing" encouraged the Isle of Eigg's development team to learn to write and perform on an accordion in a real Ceilidh band.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Music theater development in the COVID-age.

There are a lot of pieces to a musical theater production. One of the most overlooked is creating high quality audio tracks from your show. Live audio feeds can deliver a complete performance, but they never have the production quality found in studio recordings.

Over the last year the coronavirus pandemic has forced artists to collaborate with their colleagues remotely. We've all had to rethink our processes and now, many of us are adding in-home recording capabilities to our portfolios and providing our parts remotely.

Anne Jenness and Brendan Vonick recording "Secret Admirer" remotely
Anne Jennes and Brendan Vonick
recording WYSIWYG vocal parts

April Alsup, our resident music theater expert told us that, "a lot of the most important elements to producing a Musical are often overlooked and can actually be done remotely". She provided us with a schematic to show how she works with local theater companies to provide the various components for a soundtrack. "Once you've completed the orchestration for your show, each singer downloads the audio files, sheet music and any related guide tracks and records their parts remotely. The final soundtrack is assembled remotely and mastered as a complete musical theater scene."

We all want to remain safe, but we still need to express our creativity...this project is a great example of how artists across the country are working together to find a way to remain creative in the COVID-age.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Music theater and the new COVID-normal

This year has been really hard for the Colorado theater community. We've all had to accept a whole new way of working with each other. I think a lot of us were reluctant to embrace collaboration technologies at first, but eventually we had to adapt to the new COVID-normal.

WYSIWYG the MusicalApril Alsup in Portland Airport

Naturally, the Denver-based show (WYSIWYG the Musical) was not immune. The team was planning a full year of shows at various venues and festivals across the country, but the cancellations started pouring in. Eventually, the disappointments turned into opportunity when they decided it was time to adapt to the new online format. To become COVID-friendly the show retooled its rehearsal processes and physical scenes were transitioned to one-to-one device apps, online therapy sessions and happy hour groups. A new soundtrack was created and the rehearsal materials are available from the WYSIWYG website

WYSIWYG (WIZ-ee-wig) is a contemporary Musical created by award-winning composer April Alsup. Far from the gender bending stories we’ve come to know, her characters find living day-to-day to be hard, lonely and heartbreaking, so they go online to live out their dreams and escape the harsh realities of the world.