Listening Party Podcast Episode 14

Jan 08, 2021 1:00pm

Venue Online

Cost Free

Listening Party Podcast, New Guests Monthly. Podcast, Liner Notes, Spotify Playlist. Physically distant, socially connected programs.
Listening Party Podcast
Listening Party Podcast Episode 14



Podcast #14

Friday, January 8, 2021 | 1 pm | On Demand

Fall into the world of The Garden of Alice with Rebecca Hass as she chats with four members of the cast: Justin Welsh who plays the White Rabbit and the Doctor, Sara Schabas who plays the Doormouse, a Lady in Waiting, and the Young Nurse, Peter Monaghan who plays the Cheshire Cat and the Caterpillar, and Asitha Tennekoon who plays the Knave of Hearts and the Janitor. Don’t forget to listen to the accompanying Spotify Playlist!

When Rebecca asked what the best part about filming was, everyone was in agreement; it was the acting. Sara explained how she loved being able to find the subtly in acting, using small expressions and gestures that she wouldn’t be able to use when performing an opera. Instead of having to make sure you are acting largely enough for everyone in the theatre to see and experience your actions, they all have a front row seat. “There’s so much more detail. You feel like you’re being a real person.” She tells us.


Photo of set details from The Garden of Alice

Performing an opera and making a movie are two very different experiences that bring new and different challenges. Justin Welsh found the lack of spontaneity to be the most challenging thing for him; instead of performing a show in it’s entirety (and chronologically), which allowed him to follow his instincts and do what felt right in the moment, he had to be very specific with his acting. He had to consistently be thinking of continuity, including in scenes that they had not yet filmed, which meant he had to be very deliberate and exact! For Peter, the most difficult aspect was not getting to see what you looked like in each exact moment, you really have to trust the crew (which he did!) and their judgement that you are portraying the character and the story properly. Due to the green screen and CGI elements in the film, he said that sometimes he would go home and not really know what he had just created or how it would turn out at all!

Photo of set details from The Garden of Alice

As she chatted with each singer, Rebecca wondered what it was like to be with so many other people and to make a show during a global pandemic. Asitha explained how odd it was for him to be around the team (safely, and following all filmmaking COVID regulations, the singers were bubbled together) and to see so many other people, as at home in Toronto he lives alone! Alongside his initial adjustment, he said how nice it was to get to be together after rehearsals and to socialize in their hotel rooms. Sara agreed, loving the family aspect that cast gained and how they would have potlucks and watch a weekly TV show together.

Photo of set details from The Garden of Alice

The four cast members all expressed their joy to be able to sing and create art during the pandemic, something that has been difficult for all performers, and Asitha perfectly summed up the process of filming The Garden of Alice – “it was a whirlwind in the best possible sense.”

Story and music connect us all, accessing our heads and our hearts. The playlist liner notes in this episode offered an opportunity to the artists to share insights into music that has mattered in their journey and may prompt you to remember the music of your life. I asked each artist these five questions. Below you will find their musical choices and some insight as to why that piece speaks to them in this way. You might try these questions out yourself and see what playlist you’d create!

  1. During this pandemic, what have you been listening to that always brightens your spirits?
  2. What is one of your all time favorite songs to sing?
  3. What is one song you heard live that was amazing?
  4. A song that is a guilty pleasure?
  5. In the spirit of The Garden of Alice, a song or piece of music that captures the spirit of the show for you?

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Asitha Tennekoon

    1. Alexander Hamilton from Hamilton / Lin-Manuel Miranda
      There’s something very fortifying about this track for me, especially over the course of 2020. The story of someone overcoming challenges as a teenager and young adult and making a life for themselves set to a very vigorous score — it was a go-to first track on many of my lock-down walks in Toronto.
    2. Being Alive from Company / Stephen Sondheim
      You can’t go wrong with Sondheim.
    3. Yah, annah emtza’cha from Ayre / Osvaldo Golijov
      I watched Miriam Khalil perform Ayre by Osvaldo Golijov live in Koerner Hall in Toronto. It’s a breathtaking work, and Miriam is such a committed and powerfully vulnerable performer.
    4. Into the Unknown from Frozen II / Anderson-Lopez and Lopez
      Idina Menzel belting it out — I don’t need a second invitation to join in.
    5. Alice in Wonderland, performed by the Oscar Peterson Trio / Sammy Fain
      I love listening to Oscar Peterson The way he seems to allow his creativity to lose control while still making it cohesive and articulate is inspiring. I think this aptly titled track gets the point across.

    Sara Schabas

    1. Wildflowers by Dolly Parton
      Dolly Parton was one of my big pandemic discoveries (late to the party, I know!). I listened to a fantastic NPR podcast about her, “Dolly Parton’s America,” and have been swept up by the beauty, strength and truth inherent in so many of her memorable songs. This song talks about the resilience of wildflowers, no matter the conditions in which they’re growing.
    2. Rossignols, Amoureux from Hippolyte et Aricie / Jean-Philippe Rameau
      I’ve always been drawn to French music, and in the past few years that’s extended to the French baroque, especially music by Rameau. I love the freedom a performer has in interpreting these works. This piece by Rameau is a beautiful dialogue between a shepherdess and two nightingales, played by the flute and violin, that is so fun to perform. Check out Canada’s Suzie LeBlanc singing it enchantingly.
    3. Schafe können sicher weiden” (Sheep May Safely Graze) performed by Angela Hewitt / J.S. Bach
      Last year when I was living in Vienna, I’d often buy a standing room ticket for concerts at the famous Musikverein. One afternoon, my partner and I were lucky enough to hear the Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt (taking Vienna by storm!). Her encore was Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze,” arranged for piano, that was so delicate and moving. I ended up singing an arrangement of it as part of a pandemic porch concert this summer. I included a beautiful version conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
    4. Seven performed by Taylor Swift / Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner
      Taylor Swift has proved one of the pandemic’s most prolific producers! The first album she surprise released in 2020, folklore, was made with the people behind The National and Bon Iver (another guilty pleasure of mine). I haven’t been able to get enough of this song, as well as that entire album (and it’s good for ukulele quarantine covers).
    5. Après un rêve, Sandrine Piau and Susan Manoff / Gabriel Fauré
      Much as The Garden of Alice is full of zany fun, there’s also a bittersweet element to our production, as an older Alice wrestles with her dreams from a hospital. This poignant song by Fauré evokes the sadness that can follow awakening from a dream, as the singer begs the radiant night to return. I love Sandrine Piau’s tender, evocative singing of it in this recording.

    Peter Monaghan

    1. Dear Theodosia from Hamilton / Lin-Manuel Miranda
      During the pandemic I’ve been listening to all sorts of music theatre! But one in particular ALWAYS brightens things up. Hamilton. I’m a huge Hamilton fan. One song really rings true as we wait for our little boy. ‘Dear Theodosia’.
    2. If ever I would leave you from Camelot, performed by Robert Goulet / Lerner and Loewe
      I love singing classic musical theatre, stuff from the golden age. ‘If ever I would leave you’ from Camelot is at the very top of that list. Such a crowd pleaser.
    3. They live in you from The Lion King, performed by the ensemble / Rifkin, Morake, Mancina
      The first musical that I saw was The Lion King, Mufasa’s song ‘They live in you’ blew my mind. All the feels, the motivation, the awe, I felt like a million bucks that could accomplish anything after hearing that lol.
    4. Master of Puppets, Metallica Live with the SFSO
      One of my favourite LPs to listen to is Metallica’s SM album. It’s so epic and was a joint effort with Metallica, Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony. The opening 3 songs are just so well done they must flow into each other! So unreal 🙂
    5. Strawberry fields forever, The Beatles / Lennon and McCartney
      Alice makes me feel very ethereal. And I’m drawn to The Beatles. Really any song, but in particular ‘Strawberry fields forever’.

    Justin Welsh

    1. Nice Work if you can get it and Someone to watch over me, Ella Fitzgerald / George and Ira Gershwin
      I am a lover of all forms of music.  I have been particularly listening to various pieces of Jazz. It always has a calming effect during crazy times in my life. The great singer that I bring up is Ella Fitzgerald; particularly ‘Nice work if you can get it’ and ‘Someone to watch over me’.  While cooking and moving through the house, it is pleasant to hear Ella’s silky voice!
    2. Make them hear you from Ragtime, performed by Brian Stokes / Ahrens and Flaherty
      For me, this is a hard one as, being a professional singer, there is a plethora of choices in our vast pool of music.  However, one is from the musical Ragtime ‘Make them hear you’ which I have sang for various functions and concerts. It is even more important during these days of uncertainty. It was a song that was in my series of Canadian Singing Postie videos* when the Black Lives Matter protests began.
      *Justin shares videos of himself singing while making deliveries for his job with Canada Post!
    3. Du bist die Ruh, Bryn Terfel / Franz Schubert
      I was fortunate to see in recital Bryn Terfel, back in my early 20’s, who is still an idol of mine. He did a lot of his typical sets but for me, what captivated me was is ‘Du bist die Ruh’ by Schubert, where I was mesmerized by his clarity of tone, breath control and presence. I was transfixed.
    4. Open Arms, Journey
      Ha ha!  So underneath all the classical, musical theatre, jazz, etc. I love some good old 80’s power ballads.  A song that I don’t mind busting out (happened in Edmonton during a contract, when we, as a cast, got together for Karaoke), is Journey’s “Open Arms”.  Hey, I’m a romantic at heart.
    5. The Evening Prayer from Hansel and Gretel, Suzanne Mentzer and Heidi Grant Murphy / Engelbert Humperdinck
      When I think of Alice in Wonderland, I think of the fantastical, whimsical strange land and the journey for someone who is “young”, must endure. I kind of float to Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck. And who can not stop to think of the sublime piece ‘The Evening Prayer’ where every now and then we need a little help and protection.

Opera ETC
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