Rehearsing for Ragtime music (my second musical) has been an interesting contrast to rehearsing for conventional orchestral performances. The pacing is entirely different – at first, I was surprised to find a (comparatively) huge stack of papers on my stand, and was hesitant that we could master it all in time for opening night. The written music is at second and third hand, marked with pencil annotations from previous productions that have been photocopied into permanence; passages are bursting with long rests, breathless segues, and panic-inducing key changes. For example, I’ve never played anything in C# major. I imagine all the fingerings to move up half a step:
However, when the company read through both acts during the Tuesday night classes (and in the pit, I frantically scanned my part), the music seemed to flow freely and naturally, fitting perfectly into the direction and emotion of the scene. We play marcato in “Journey On” to support the boldness and confidence of the Immigrants’ new hope. Likewise, in “Justice”, agitato is marked (nasty):
because here, the hurt and indignation towards the injustice sparks Coalhouse’s motivations for his later actions (from what I gathered). Now that we have been introduced to the nature of the plot, music, dance, and theater surrounding Ragtime, it might be easier to understand the twists and turns of the musical score, and our emotions might come intuitively into our playing. During the discussion with Professor Odendahl-James, it was enlightening to consider how we sometimes express with music what we cannot express with simple words.
I have genuinely enjoyed being a part of the Ragtime class discussions for these first five weeks. Although I may never sing or dance or act when I am in the pit, I am aware that when I play for Ragtime, I help to create dimensions of sound that re-create a story. I hope that even the passages in C sharp contribute to our production!