This is what I expect to be the first of many updates on our latest project, Uptown Opera. First though, please allow me introduce myself. My name is Annie Perry and I am coaching the process of creating our Bluegrass score and libretto. I am a company member with Genesis Ensemble and with each passing day the details of our story become more and more exciting! But...I don’t want to give away too much, too soon.
Back in October I approached Phil Maniaci, one of the most amazing composers and musicians I have ever known and had the pleasure of working with, about this project and here’s what I told him about what we want to accomplish with this process. I said, “Hey Phil, man, I want to do something that is eye opening and inspiring. How would you like to sonically tell the story of Appalachian migrants to Chicago somewhere in the time from 1930 to 1960? Mostly bluegrass music, but we’ll definitely want to have some rock and roll in there.” And you know what he said? “I’m in.” And that is really how all of this began.
We have been guided often by what feels like providence in our research and I will let Phil tell you in an upcoming blog about the composing process from then to now, but suffice it to say that when we originally picked 1957 as a year to begin researching as a potential year in the world of this play we had no idea that over and over again we would be shown that historically, this is a super pivotal year for change in consciousness in the U.S. and the migration habits to Uptown particularly. Due to mechanization of agriculture and coal mining industries, shifts in the the economy, generally, along with the lure of a better life, many white southern migrants began moving North to industrial cities such as Detroit, Cincinnati, and Chicago. Often southern migrants encountered many difficulties adapting to urban life. It is these difficulties we have begun to explore.
This subject is particularly near and dear to my heart as I am a Southern transplant myself from Knoxville, TN and when I moved to Chicago in 2007 my first apartment was on Buena at Broadway, in Uptown. I had followed in the footsteps of so many others and not known it until I began reading an article in the Encyclopedia of Chicago, which can be found here.
It is now March and we are two weeks into rehearsals and crafting the libretto (or script) of this opera. It is so very exciting to work with cast members Ali Delianides, Claire Biggers, Dennis Frymire, and Pete Navis. To hear them sing together is a pleasure and to watch them take huge artistic risks in the rehearsal room so early tells me that we really have something on our hands. Libby Hladik, Genesis Ensemble’s newest company member is providing divinely timed dramaturgical support and feedback in the process and Artistic Associate Sergio Soltero absolutely asks the best questions in rehearsal as assistant director/process coach. Check back in on the blog to get their perspectives on the process of crafting this musical love letter to the neighborhood and Chicago.
So Welcome, again, to Uptown and Uptown Opera. I look forward to writing you again. -Annie
Genesis Ensemble crafts experiences rich in curiosity, imagination and theatricality. Genesis works as a passionate ensemble, committed to process and collaboration. We invite engagement and conversation with our audience.