When relocated Richmonder Bob Massey launched into a new project combining old family video footage with music four-plus years ago, I doubt he imagined it would take on such a life of its own. But Massey's alternative opera, The Nitrate Hymnal, continues to breath with new, creative life. (Follow the link for some background on The Nitrate Hymnal; also visit The Nitrate Hymnal homepage.)
The Washington Post's Richard Harrington has a kick-ass profile of Bob and his experimental work in today's paper:
The key word would be experimental: "The Nitrate Hymnal: A Dying Dream in Four Acts" is not a rock opera. It involves rock musicians, but they were drawn from Washington's underground community and teamed with the New York avant-chamber ensemble Anti-Social Music for the opera. For its world premier at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Auditorium in Alexandria in January 2003, the work was scored for two electric guitars and electronic keyboards, a string section of three violins, viola, two cellos and bass, acoustic percussion, pre-recorded sounds and four singers.
The team gathered to record the album last year and will unite again for Saturday's rare concert performance at the Warehouse Theater. Hai-Ting Chinn, who sang in the original production, will join Daisy Press (Bang on a Can All-Stars) and Massey on vocals, supported by a 12-piece orchestra ...
... "This is a punk rock production and has been from the very beginning," Massey says of the adjustments, adding, "I'd love to say we have the resources to do everything, but we don't" ...
... Massey recalls a number of starts and stops on the way to Alexandria. An initial score, he says, "needed to be tightened up in form because I was not playing to my strength. I was doing something a little more ambitious than I had chops for, and I had to go back and actually write hooks, which is actually what I can do. Hooks in pop songs and arias in operas are kind of the same thing, but I hadn't written any arias, and it was flat sounding, slow and not that dramatic. I had a month of all-nighters to start from scratch."
One benefit: "I know a lot more about Mozart, Verdi and all these dudes than I would ever have had reason to," says Massey, who once described "The Nitrate Hymnal" as "opera for people who hate opera."