Newsletter #3: “Kind of a disaster”

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Is it the end of the month already? I wanted to give you a quick update on my odd little project, bringing my great grandfather’s long lost opera to life. Last month I sent out an email about how I rediscovered this opera to begin with.

So, how am I going to get this thing performed for a world premiere, 80 years after it was written?

First off, I want to say that I know nothing about opera. And if you had asked me my opinion of opera music before I started this project, I probably would have scrunched up my nose. But that’s changing.

Meet Chris Ramaekers. He’s an award winning conductor, and I met up with him a little while ago to figure out what kind of shape this handwritten opera manuscript is in. Music is like a whole other language to me. And to make things worse, the manuscript we have is in Spanish, so it’s literally a whole other language. Luckily Chris speaks both of these languages.

“The full score is old but in pretty good shape,” Chris told me. But “the piano-vocal score is kind of a disaster.” He’s right. In order to get a sense of what this music actually sounds like, it’ll need to be in performable condition. And in the 21st century, that means a computer-engraved score, not a handwritten draft.

Converting an entire antique opera into something we can actually hear is a big task. I’ll tell you how we’re doing it in my next email update. I can’t wait for you to see what we’ve got lined up. Until then, if you want, you can Like the Facebook page I’ve set up for this project, where I’ve been posting some great photos of the composer (my great grandpa!) that were taken 100 years ago. This month, I posted about the kindness of some random internet sleuths who managed to figure out where one of those old photos was taken. Super cool!

Arlen

Newsletter #2: How I rediscovered my great grandfather’s long lost opera

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I wanted to give you an update on my odd little project– bringing my great grandfather’s long lost opera to life. Last month I sent an email about how I’m just starting this journey. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who emailed me back to wish me good luck, and by the people who liked the little Facebook page that I set up for the project.

One question that people asked me over and over again was: How did you learn that your great grandfather left behind this old opera manuscript to begin with?

It’s a great question, so I thought for this month’s email update, I’d share the story with you. Not long ago, my mom called me and said she found something I needed to see. “Go to Google” she told me, “And type in your great grandfather’s name.”

Whoa. My great grandpa is on the Internet. Or at least his music is.

It turns out, there are a bunch of videos of people performing a song that my great grandfather wrote for the marimba. Nobody in my family had ever heard his music before– we thought none of it was ever recorded. But there it was, on YouTube!

If you’d like to hear that song, “Bolero,” check out this video, where it is performed by a group of high school percussion students. Crazy, right? And there’s tons of videos just like that one.

That’s the discovery that got the ball rolling. We wondered: if one of his songs was apparently good enough to still be performed a century after he wrote it, what is the rest of his music like? What if we brought some of that to life?

And that led us to a box in my aunt’s basement that held a faded opera manuscript.

Next month, I’ll share some more of this journey with you, including the steps we’ve been taking to finally bring this opera to life, albeit 80 years late. I think you’ll really get a kick out of it.

Until then, if you want, you can follow the Facebook page I’ve set up for this project. I just posted two neat old photos that we discovered hidden away in dusty boxes.

Arlen

Newsletter #1: I’ve got a weird new project

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I recently discovered that my great-grandfather was a composer. Crazy, right? And it turns out, he left behind a long lost opera that’s never been performed. What do you even do when you learn that information?

Well, I’m going to take a huge risk and go way outside my comfort zone. I’m going to try to get this long lost opera performed, 80 years after the composer died. I don’t know the first thing about opera, but I’m assembling a team that just might be able to bring this show to life. And I’m making a documentary film about the process.

This email is your invitation to follow along this journey with me, as I stumble my way towards (hopefully) filling in a gaping hole in my family tree. I won’t spam you constantly, I promise: email updates won’t be more than 1-2 per month. And probably less.

If you’d like, you can also “Like” this brand new Facebook page I’ve set up for the project.

Arlen