Albert Bergeret says he’s been thinking about “adding an educational component” to the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) many entertainment activities, and sure enough, “this fall is the time.”
The company’s artistic director/general manager, along with several NYGASP colleagues and other Gilbert & Sullivan enthusiasts, will present an informative study, The Art Of The Patter Song, on five Tuesday evenings (Oct. 15, 22 and 29, and Nov. 12 and 19).
“After over 40 years of experience in this genre, we have some significant insights to offer,” says Bergeret, who looks to do so via the forthcoming series of presentations relating to Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic patter songs, to explore their theatrical purpose, historical context, and the best techniques for interpreting them.
A beloved Gilbert & Sullivan hallmark, the patter song features exceedingly complicated and clever lyrics, quickly sung in the manner of Major-General Stanley’s "I am the very model of a modern Major-General" in The Pirates Of Penzance. Tom Lehrer actually took its tune for his own patter song “The Elements,” in which he breathlessly recited the periodic table set to the music.
This is NYGASP’s first attempt at doing anything in a class format. Up to 20 enrollees will be asked to analyze, evaluate, and express personal opinions about aspects of professional performance, and may also participate in performing under Bergeret’s direction for appraisal by professional players.
Art Of The Patter Song grads may also be invited to join Company members at the NYGASP Patron Recital on December 8.
“We had the a pretty free schedule productionwise this fall," notes Bergeret. “Also, a couple of our gals decided to put on a workshop for youthful performers—teaching the elements of performance and leading to a kids’ performance at Symphony Space. It inspired me to do something for adults.”
In addition to school workshops, NYGASP offers adult educational programs, including master classes for arts presenters when the company tours.
“Now’s the time to do something at home,” says Bergeret. “We thought patter songs would be a good place to start because people can participate—and there’s a wealth of material and talent to work with. People are also familiar with the repertoire, and we hope to offer insight into it and have fun doing so.”
That repertoire may go beyond the traditional Gilbert & Sullivan catalog.
“Not many patter songs were written for women, but there is one from Sondheim’s Company [‘Getting Married Today’] that we used in I Got A Little Twist,” says Bergeret, referring to NYGASP’s cabaret show that contrasts Gilbert & Sullivan with Broadway show tunes in addressing the legacy of the patter song.
Otherwise, The Art Of The Patter Song will include G&S numbers like “When I, good friends, was called to the bar" (from Trial By Jury) and H.M.S. Pinafore’s “When I Was A Lad” “and work our way through the repertoire and see how far we get,” says Bergeret.”
He expects the curriculum to be “accessible for people to participate--and not require a great operatic voice.”
“It’s for people who sing in the shower, and maybe we’ll get people who sing better to participate in our patrons’ recital in December--if they make enough progress and want to embarrass themselves in front of others,” he adds. “We’ll be happy to help out!”
Meanwhile, G&S Fest 2013-14 is set for December-January at Symphony Space, and will include six performances of The Pirates Of Penzance and four of Patience.
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