letters from paris

Since I first started working on "Looking For Josephine" in the summer of 2006, I've been sending emails back home describing my adventures with this show. I've decided to post them here in chronological order and add in photos to illustrate my descriptions. What started out as a way of keeping touch with a handful of friends and family has become a pretty extensive project. If you would like to receive these travelogues (I send them out almost every week when I'm overseas), send me an email at: kcavera@sbcglobal.net and I'll add you to the list.

Click on the links below to jump to a specific section.

New Orleans (May 2006)

Rehearsal & Tour (June 2006)

Opéra Comique (November 2006)

 


Background - New Orleans, LA
(May 2006)


St. Charles

St. Charles, New Orleans, LA

June 3rd, 2006

Everything has happened so fast that I've hardly had time to catch my breath. Last month I went to New Orleans and worked with pianist David Boeddinghaus who is organizing the band for this new production. Along with Chris Tyle (cornet), Otis Bazoon (reeds), Tom Saunders (bass), and James Alsanders (drums) we make a hot band! We were joined at the rehearsals by Jérôme Savary (and his entourage) who is writing and directing the production which is loosely titled, "Searching For Josephine." It combines jazz history, the story of Josephine Baker, and the effects of Katrina on present day New Orleans. And it's a comedy! Also during the week we worked with Nicolle Rochelle, the young singer who will portray Josephine. She was very charismatic, a wonderful singer, and will be fabulous in the role. On Friday Night (May 19th) we gave a preview performance at the Palm Court Cafe. (See the 'Note' Below) A lot of press showed up (French and American) and city officials as well as local musicians and some tourists. Things went wonderfully and by end of the night we had all signed contracts for the show and made things official.

 

The Show is in conjunction with the The National Theatre of the Opéra Comic in Paris. There are two parts to this tour. For part one, I fly over to Paris on June 10th and we rehearse until the end of the month with a special showcase on June 28th at the Opera Comic. Then we tour for the month of July hitting summer festivals in South France and Spain. I've added the listings on my Calendar page, just in case you find yourself over there, or you have friends or family living there. I fly back to Los Angeles at the end of the month. For part two of the trip we all return to Paris on November 12th and rehearse the show again. Then on November 23rd we reside at the Opera Comic doing shows nightly through January 2007. I fly back to Los Angeles on January 15th, 2007.

I can't describe how excited I am to be given this opportunity. I will be playing guitar and tenor banjo in the show and we will be performing a wide variety of music including Duke Ellington, New Orleans Spirituals, Southern Blues, and French songs that were popularized by Josephine Baker. I'm very grateful for all the support of my friends and family and I hope that with the laptop computer that was loaned to me by Rae Ann Hopkins Berry (thanks so much Rae Ann!), I'll be able to continue updating this site and let everyone know what is happening on my overseas adventure.

NOTE: The night we performed our first preview at the Palm Court Cafe someone from the production company videotaped the show and clips from it are now on the Official 'Josephine' Website. If you go to http://www.alarecherchedejosephine.fr/ and click on "Presse" and then "Films vidéos" you can see five of the songs we performed that evening with Nicolle : "Then I'll Be Happy", "Black, Brown, & White", "The Man I Love", "Jai Deux Amours", and a Blues which features Jerome. If you click on "Photographies" you can see some stills of Jerome and Nicolle rehearsing, and some nice performance photos from the Palm Court.

Rehearsing in Paris & Summer Tour
(June & July 2006)


June 13th, 2006
Paris, France

Hello!
Well, I made it over here just fine. I’m still a bit jet lagged but hopefully I’ll sort that out soon. My computer tells me it’s still Tuesday where you are even thought it’s Wednesday morning here. One thing I’ve found out is that this city is slow to wake up in the morning. Of course there’s some activity, but where we are staying is more of a stay out late and sleep in sort of place. They have given us apartments in an area of the city called Montmartre. It’s an artist district (they filmed the movie ‘Amalie’ here) and only a couple metro stops from the Opera Comic where we rehearse every day. It’s full of interesting little cafes and shops and I think we’re close to the Moulin Rouge - although I really can’t make heads or tails of anything much on the map they gave us. I’m going to have to go out and find a decent guidebook.

Montmartre


The Band (l-r) Otis,
Philippe, Chris, Tom

We did our first run though Monday with the full cast. It was really interesting seeing the show from top to bottom even if most of it was in French. There’s also a Character Actor from New York who delivers his lines and sings in English with the other characters reacting and responding in French. I guess they just assume the audience for this show will be bilingual and will understand both languages. Some of the songs are in French, some are in English, and some are in Spanish (We have a few stops in Spain on the tour).

 


James, David & Me


Rehearsing "Who"

They gave us all scripts with the English translation of the show and so we could follow along (and a lot of it *still* didn’t make any sense.) But I can tell you this: The cast is really good! They all sing and dance and act and most all of them are bilingual. There’s going to be a lot of big production numbers including one of Jerome Kern’s songs "Who" where the girls dance with fans and the band really gets to open up and play hot. It’s one of the last big numbers and I think it will be a show stopper.

 

The band sounds great and even though the music is pretty formalized, I know we’ll still have fun with it. On our rehearsal breaks we’ve been playing for fun, and there’s been discussion of finding an ‘after show’ place to play. We’ll see what happens!
Take Care,
Katie


June 21st, 2006
Paris, France

Hello! I've been here just a little over a week now and I'm starting to get used to the routine around here. I was able to locate a couple good grocery stores here around the neighborhood and we have little kitchens in our apartments so I hope to save some money that way. The food is really unbelievable and the chocolate is by far the best I've ever tasted.

Last Thursday Jerome gave us tickets to see 'The Barber Of Seville' which was currently playing at the Opera Comique. (He directed that show as well.) We had great box seats and it was amazing seeing the theatre for the first time. It has orchestra seats and box seats going up six tiers high and everything is really ornate. It seems really big and really intimate all at the same time. I can't believe that we're actually going to be performing in this space and I'll try to get some pictures and put them on my website.


Two views from my apartment.
(Every day the little dog visits the
Butcher Shop and they give him a treat.)

 

Saturday night Chris Tyle cooked and had a dinner party for the band celebrating the end of our first week here. He made red beans and rice and we sampled a lot of great french wine. It was nice having a taste of home after eating french food all week. The show is coming along great. 'The Barber Of Seville' closed this weekend so we started rehearsing in the theatre yesterday. Playing in the pit is going to take some getting used to and we'll have to sort out some things. We can't see what's happening on stage at all. David is playing a grand piano on a riser so we have to really watch him for all the cues. There's talk of raising the pit so that we'll all elevated and I hope they do that - I'd like to watch the show too! It'll be interesting to see what they finally work out. The sets they are building for this show are huge and the stage has all kinds of tricks built into it - hydraulic lifts, mechanical changes, fog machines, even the lighting is very elaborate. Nothing is being done on a small scale. We're rehearsing for 8 hours a day now and I think by the time we open we'll really have everything down.

(l-r) Otis, Chris, Me, Banu Gibson, James, & David. Tom Saunders is taking the photo.


The Opera Comique

I was having a lot of trouble tuning last week and I thought it was the heat. We had a huge heat wave and our rehearsal space doesn’t have air conditioning. For some reason everything seemed all out of sorts. After the second day I stopped using my tuner altogether. Finally Tom Saunders asked me if I’d reset my tuner for Europe. They tune ‘A’ to 442 over here instead of 440. I changed my tuner and it’s amazing what a huge difference it made! Also the weather finally cooled off so it could have been both factors. Anyway I’m much happier now that everything is in tune. Someone remind me to go back to 440 when I get back to the states...
Au revoir!
- Katie


June 28th, 2006
Paris, France

Bonjour! This week rehearsals have been really intense! All the costumes, props and sets are really coming together and we’ve started doing full dress rehearsals. So far I have two costume changes and I may get a third. The director decided that he wants the band on stage for three scenes and about a half dozen songs. We first appear as a New Orleans street band playing ‘The Saints’ (of course). Then I have a scene onstage myself as a Salvation Army woman (with the big bonnet and everything!). I just play the chords to ‘St. James Infirmary’ while the narrator talks about New Orleans Funerals. Then the rest of the band joins me (in Salvation Army uniforms too) and we play ‘Flee As A Bird’ for a funeral procession scene with a fake coffin and everything. As we proceed offstage there’s a quick change to a rent party scene where we play ‘The Joint Is Jumpin’, ‘Stompin’ At The Savoy’,‘The Man I Love’, and a blues tune called ‘Black, Brown, and White’. The guys get to wear pinstriped suits and black hats for the rent party. I’m still in my Salvation Army outfit although I did have the sense to ditch the hat as I’m switching from banjo to guitar. Maybe I’m just a Salvation Army girl gone astray at this point...?

–Can this man be saved?
Doing my best "Sgt. Sarah Brown" with Chris Tyle


Looking up into the house
of the Opera Comique from the pit.

I really like the parts of the show I can see (when I’m onstage). For most of the show I’m in the pit and can’t actually see what’s happening. We’re having a preview of the show this afternoon for select invited guests. They told us to invite all our friends and just leave our guest lists at the box office. If any of you would like to come we go on in three hours! Friday morning we start our out of town tours and we won’t be back here in Paris until we come back in the fall. It may be a little more difficult to access the internet and email so we’ll see what happens. In the meantime I plan on updating my website with photos so if you don’t hear from me, check my website to see if I managed to post anything there!
Au revoir!
- Katie


July 12th, 2006
On Tour in France & Spain

Bonjour!
We are now in the midst of our tour. The first place we played was the city of Anjou - a very tiny town south and west of Paris in the heart of French wine country. We performed in an outdoor amphitheater that was over 500 years old. The seats were cut stone set into the side of a hill, in a semicircle. And ‘backstage’ was a series of caves and tunnels that ran underground. We played two nights there and stayed at a small hotel / truck stop on the outskirts of town. It was amazing seeing the arena fill up at night and I’m not sure where all the people came from but maybe it was the only thing to do for miles around. The audiences really enjoyed the show and we got a very nice review in the local paper. From there we moved on to Perpignan which is a town on the south east coast of France. For our first few days here we stayed at a hotel on the beach and then they moved us closer to the city for the festival. We played one sold out show here last Saturday night and I’m told there were about 1,300 people in the arena. We did several encores at the end of the performance and the crowd was on it’s feet not wanting to leave.


Chris warms up before the show in Anjou

View from my hotel in Perpignon
(see the beach?)

We’ve started having rehearsals in Spanish and tomorrow we will drive a few miles south of here across the border to Spain and perform the show in Peralada on Saturday. Based on the success we’ve had so far, Jerome is talking about doing a cast recording to sell at the Opera Comique when we come back in the fall. If nothing else I’d like to have a record of this band playing together because it’s a hot group and I’m enjoying playing tenor banjo and guitar with them. We’ve been getting together and playing for fun on the days we have free and I’m going to start keeping lists of all the great obscure new old tunes I’m learning. Thank you so much for the emails from home. Since we’re touring my internet is spotty but I’ll try to respond and keep in touch as time / internet service permits. I don’t know how people ever survived without computers!
Au revoir!
- Katie

To hear a 40 second clip of us playing a hot chorus on 'Who' click here:

playmusic

NOTE: If you go to http://www.alarecherchedejosephine.fr/ and click on "Les Musiques" you can listen to 10 songs we recorded with this band on tour. If you click on "Les Vidéos" there are several videos that were created on the summer tour as well. If you don't blink you can see me right at the beginning of "The Joint Is Jumping" playing guitar with David on piano.

perelada

Onstage in Perlada, Spain w/ Chris Tyle (l) & Otis Bazoon (r)


July 25th, 2006
Madrid, Spain

Hola!
We are now finishing up our tour in Madrid. I have been without email for some time while we traveled through rural France performing in Vichy and Sarlot. A couple days ago after a 15 hour bus ride we arrived here in Madrid. That was 15 hours with 12 cast members, 8 musicians, 4 crew members, and 2 dogs. Yes, 2 dogs. They ran free on the bus the whole time and gave the adventure a sort of ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ feel. One of the dogs, ‘Ben Hur’ is just a puppy and belongs to Manon (our assistant director), and the other dog ‘Stanislafsky’ or ‘Stannie’ is part of the show and belongs to Nicolle (our Josephine). At the first rest stop / gas station we hit on the trip, everyone stocked up on cheese, baguettes, pate, olives, wine from the region (we were in Bordeaux), and chocolate. And we had a nice picnic lunch (and later dinner) - the best roadside food I’ve ever had!

(above) Ben Hur plays(?) with Stannie on the bus.

(left) During hour 13 of the bus ride, Carmen takes over the p.a. system and tells us what to do in case of a water landing.


Chris & Otis wait for the tour bus in Vichy

I’ve had a great time with all the people in the cast and crew and it’s hard to believe that I only have two days left! I am looking forward to coming back home and seeing everyone again and having my regular routine back. Life on the road was a good experience. We were really able to work a lot out in the show and get things ready for our opening in Paris this fall. I’m just glad when we get back in November we’ll stay in one place!

Thanks so much for keeping me connected to home and I hope to see you all again soon!
Adios!
- Katie


Opéra Comique - Paris
(November 2006 - January 2007)


November 22nd, 2006
Paris, France

Bonjour! I’m finally online! The internet service wasn’t working in the room they put me in so another room came open that has good service and they were able to move me. I’m glad to be back online and I’ll try to send updates every week or so. I’ll also be posting photos on my website so be sure to check there as well.


The view of the park from my room.

We’re staying in a different part of town this time. Right across the street from us is the Guar De L’est which is one of the major train stations. The neighborhood is full of little cafes and bars and I’ve done a bit of exploring but not as much as I’d like to. That’s because it’s rained just about every day since I arrived. The room of my residence faces beautiful park where kids play every day (I think it’s next to a day care center) and just beyond the park is the Canal St. Martin. So if you look at a map of Paris you can see where I’m at!

The show rehearsals have been really intense. Now that we’ll be residing in the theatre, they’ve added a lot of extra props, sets, and special effects. In one of the production numbers, Carmen (one of the dancers) sits in the trunk of a very realistic looking elephant. And there’s a boat in the orchestra pit that is sitting in a pool of water. (It still leaks a little but I think they have it under control).


Carmen & "Tommy"

The dragon emerges from the his box...

And "flies" over the audience! (In theory.)

We’ve been having a bit of dragon trouble. When we were on the road we had various people (in some places local teenagers) carry the dragon on poles through the crowd. Now that we’re staying put at the Opera Comic, they decided to run it on wires above the stage. At the proper moment it flies from the highest opera box closest to the stage and goes into the opposite box on the opposite side of the stage. It’s on a basic pulley system and the first time they tried they missed the cue and when it finally went it was all scrunched up like a slinky at rest. I had to try not to giggle too loud. Then the next day they tried it and it flew out of the box, extended itself to full length (which is almost the complete length of the stage!) and got stuck suspended in midair. Again I tried to keep my laughing to a minimum because Jerome (the director) was yelling at the crew in French and did not sound happy. Well yesterday we had our first dress rehearsal and it finally worked. I’ll admit I was a little disappointed. For updates about my trip (I hope to put some photos up soon!) visit my website at: http://www.katiecavera.net
Au Revoir!
Katie


November 29th, 2006
Paris, France

Bonjour! On Thanksgiving Day we opened the show. The Opera Comique was packed. I believe it holds 1,200 people and we’ve been selling out just about every night. In fact they are adding extra shows and we’ll end up doing 31 performances in December alone. The reviews have been very good and we have good buzz apparently. It’s so strange walking through Paris and seeing the posters everywhere. Just about every Metro stop has a big advertisement for the show. And the news stands are now advertising and carrying a magazine with the show on the front cover (I’ll buy a copy or two even though it’s all in French!).


Jerome sings "J'ai Deux Amours" to the crowd.

Last night someone from the New York Times came to see the performance. I’d love to read an English review of the show - I’ll keep an eye out!


Nicolle sings
her encore.

On opening night one of the audience members was an eccentric gentleman in his late fifties with dyed blond hair and dressed in tails. At the end of the show he wanted to present Nicolle with flowers and chocolates. He walked into the pool of water around the boat and then realizing that she was still singing her encore to the crowd and he was in the way - laid down in the pool.

It’s only about 4 inches deep so he didn’t get completely soaked but he did make a big mess. Nicolle looked a little concerned. As she finished singing he laid the gifts at her feet and exited the pool. Water went everywhere sloshing onto the grand piano and into the pit. The same guy returned to see the show again a couple nights later. This time he quickly ran through the pool and up to the stage barefoot - deposited the flowers and made a quick exit back. I wonder if we’ll see him again?

The after-show parties have been good too - except the one last week where by the time the band packed up and got there the only food they had left were what appeared to be frog legs. Ew. The best one by far was a party by “Air France” who is a big sponsor for the Opera Comique. The food was amazing! Fresh Salmon, Risotto, tiny cheeseburgers (for the ‘American’ theme?) and chocolate bananas (of course). Lots of champagne and wine too - these people love to eat and drink. I’m still getting to know the neighborhood but we’re starting to find the good local eateries. Since we live across from the train station most of the stuff in the immediate area is tourist oriented. But on the streets that wind back toward the canal there are some great little places where the locals go. As long as the rain holds off (it’s been sunny for a few days now) I’ll be able to do some exploring and really get to know the area.
Au Revoir!
Katie


Setting up in the pit.


December 6th, 2006
Paris, France

Bonjour!
The show has been going really well. The press is good and the people keep filling up the Opera house night after night. On Sunday a group of people came from Sarlot that are involved in caring for her collection at her Castle. We’d met a few of them over the summer. The group included one of Josephine’s adopted children and he was very pleased with the show. I’ve added some links to my website with press an video clips. Most of them are in French but you can still get a basic idea from them. You can also put the french title (“A la recherche de Joséphine”) into google, and google will ‘translate’ the pages it finds - the results are pretty funny!


Josephine's Castle


Magazines at the Newsstand

On Monday night we played a sort of promotional party at the Cinématheque Francaise for Jerome. It was a lot of fun because it was a night of Jazz themed film clips. Some I’d seen before, like a soundie of Fats Waller singing “Honeysuckle Rose” and Billie Holiday on “The Sound Of Jazz”. And some I hadn’t like Cab Calloway backing up a spectacular dance routine by the Nicholas Brothers in the film “Stormy Weather”, and of course Josephine dancing eccentrically in “Zouzou”. It was a very entertaining evening. We all commented afterwards what a wonderfully varied and strange collection of clips they’d compiled. One minute we’re watching Thelonious Monk play a solo version of “Just a Gigolo” and then next we’re doing a “Follow The Bouncing Ball” sing-along to “Ain’t She Sweet”.


The blond gentleman has shown up a few more times and dashed through the water during the curtain call. Come to find out this guy is a professional clown and a friend of Jerome’s. (He was also at the party on Monday night.) I don’t really find him funny - just odd. But maybe that’s the French sense of humor for you! Chris Tyle is going to try and have his camera ready the next time the guy does his mad dash. In fact he may have gotten a nice picture of Carmen riding in the elephant’s trunk. If it turns out ok I’ll replace the current photo of the elephant I have posted.
Au Revoir!
Katie


Here are some links to a few reviews of the show:
Here's a review of the show in English:
http://timescorrespondents.typepad.com/charles_bremner/2006/12/this_sounds_lik.html
A French review with nice links:
http://www.evene.fr/culture/agenda/a-la-recherche-de-josephine-11327.php
Some nice still photos from the show. In the "Recherche Rapide / Quick Search" box put "Josephine and Savary" and then hit the "Rechercher / Search" button on the right: http://www.fedephoto.com/fotoweb/ You may need to scroll down a bit or even go to page 2 to find the photos from our show.
Another brief review in English: http://operachic.typepad.com/opera_chic/2006/11/untitled_docume_6.html

figaro

Link to the online review
from the "Figaro" here.
(Yes, it's in French!)


December 13th, 2006
Paris, France

On Monday evening (our day off) I went to see a modern dance performance given by Stefanie Batten Bland one of the choreographers for ‘Josephine’. This was a one act dance performance in the Opera Comique that she wrote and directed. She had a great turnout and it was a very enjoyable show. She also used a piece of recorded music (“The Man I Love”) from the ‘Josephine’ show so I got to hear what we sound like when we’re playing in the pit!


Stefanie in character for "Josephine"


Waiting for the show to begin
at the Palis Garnier.

And then just this morning I went to a performance at the Palais Garnier - the BIG opera house. They were having a sort of ‘open house’ for their school of dance. I thought it would be fun because I wanted to see a show there but they don’t have anything happening there on our nights off. The theatre was full of moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, and of course little brothers and sisters. The classes were divided by gender and age with different teachers and piano accompanists for each group. The youngest kids looked to be about 9 or 10. Their teacher stood to the side of the stage and had them do some warm ups and a few short exercises and then they’d present a little piece and bring the next class on. It was fun watching the little kids because they were fidgety and doing things normal kids that age do when put on stage. As the accompanist played a selection from “Swan Lake” all the little girls in pink pirouetted to the left except the small girl on the end who circled right. Later when a group of older girls came on to dance a little boy a few seats over from me started singing along loudly to the music. He got the first few bars of a Mozart piano concerto out before his mom shushed him. I figured his sister was in that class. Later when they finished their routine and the audience was applauding he shouted ‘Bravo!’

I was lamenting the fact that I may not be able to see an actual Opera in the big Opera house while I’m here, but I did have a chance to see “The Merry Widow” at the Opera Comique the first week we were back here in Paris rehearsing. It was the show that was ending right before ‘Josephine’ opened and it was a great production. Jerome Savary directed it as well and he did a really funny modern take on it. Of course it was all in French and a lot of it was lost on me but it was great hearing the familiar Lehar melodies and the performers sang beautifully. Not only that but towards the end of the show is a huge production number all built around the “Cancan”. It was great seeing this performed in the very theatre where apparently Offenbach’s famous music and the dance first premiered. Hopefully now that the show is running itself I can spend more days playing ‘tourist’!
Au Revoir!
Katie

The ceiling of the Palis Garnier.


December 20th, 2006
Paris, France
Bonjour!
It’s been a very busy week! I’ve been working with David (the musical director) to get all the music for the show in the computer. We’ve decided to try to complete this project by the New Year. We’re working hard to finish this for a few reasons but the main reason is the show has been extended. We’ve been asked to take the show to Barcelona in January and February. Some of the band members (including me!) have a few conflicts with this new contract so once all the music is in order we can bring other musicians in to sub for us while we’re out. The contract in Barcelona actually starts on January 15th but I’m slated to teach the Jazz Camp in San Diego. So they are going to fly Banu Gibson in to do the show through January 21st while I’m in California. Then I’ll fly back to Barcelona and do the show until February 18th. I’ve been to Barcelona a few times and I really love the city so I’m looking forward to being there for a month.


Banana Christmas Tree!


Our Christmas Eve performance.
(Dudu put a Santa Hat on the 'skull' of Josephine.)

I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas! We will play one show tonight and two shows tomorrow on Christmas Eve. Jimmy Justice - one of the leads in the show - has organized a cast party on Christmas Eve between shows. Jimmy is 75 years old and an amazing performer. He sings, dances, and plays piano in the show. I hope when I’m 75 I have the energy he has! Jimmy had everyone pick a name for a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange. I haven’t done anything like this since I was a kid and I’m glad we’re going to all celebrate the holiday together. I think we may also surprise the cast and play ‘Jingle Bells’ at the curtain call instead of the usual number. Christmas seems a little more ‘low key’ here then in the states. I haven’t heard hardly any Christmas carols and the decorations and lights are pretty subdued. Although in the lobby of the Opera Comique there is a Christmas tree decorated with bananas! I’ll try to get a picture before they take it down. Whatever you do for the season I hope your Holidays are happy!
Au Revoir & Joyeux Noel!
Katie


January 2nd, 2007
Paris, France
Bonne Année!
New Years Eve we performed 2 shows. After the matinee we had a little party for Jimmy Justice - it was his birthday! At the end of the second show we played “Auld Lang Syne” and the audience sang along with us, but in French. After the second show some of us went to a party that was being hosted by the people who had organized the jazz film evening a few weeks earlier. It was a real French New Year’s Eve party in a very bohemian apartment near the Latin Quarter. Just before midnight we were all handed a champagne glass with 12 grapes. They explained to us that it was actually a Spanish custom they they took part in every year. As the clock strikes twelve you eat all the grapes finishing before the last stroke of midnight and that gives you good luck for the whole year. Well I’m afraid I won’t have good luck because I was laughing too hard as I was trying to stuff all those grapes in my mouth. They were very juicy and on top of that they had seeds!

bow

The Cast dances during the curtain call while Dudu (in the white tux) presents the band.

 

If this clip isn't working, you can also visit www.youtube.com and put the key word "hellzapoppin'" into the search engine.

Then at midnight the projection tv on the wall came on. Someone had cued up the movie “Hellzapoppin’”. I’ve never seen this film so I was surprised to see Slim and Slam playing piano and bass. What followed was one of the hottest swing dance routines I’ve ever seen on film. Apparently the film is a huge hit here in France - so much that they still show it frequently at local movie theaters. After seeing that clip I decided I need to see the whole film while I’m here. When the clip ended, they turned off the tv and cued up the CD player. Chubby Checker came on singing, “Let’s Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer” and everyone did the twist. That was followed by more rock & roll songs from that era which was followed by the soundtrack to ‘Cabaret’. I find it really interesting to see what parts of American Culture people here gravitate towards.

After a while the host came up and asked if we’d mind playing a little. David Sager had his trombone and I had my guitar so we played a bit. Carmen and Brian from the cast sang with us and I even sang “I’ll Bet You Tell That To All the Girls” and “Do Something” for them. The people at the party really seemed to enjoy it and we had a lot of fun too. It was a wonderful way to ring in the New Year and by the time we were ready to head home it was almost 4 am! Out in the streets people we’re still celebrating, and we were all impressed by how civilized the festivities were - no one was being overtly drunk or disorderly. We caught the metro back to our residence which was running all night for free (another very civilized thing to do!).

The New York Times has reviewed our show! This appeared in the Arts and Leisure section on 12/30/06 and you can read the complete article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/30/arts/music/30bake.html It’s a great review and it looks like there may be more in store for us with this show. I’ll keep you posted!
Happy 2007!!
- Katie

savary

Director Jerome Savaray


final

Our last night in Paris.
(l-r) James Alsanders, me, David Sager, David Boeddinghaus

January 10th, 2007
Paris, France

Bonjour! We’re in the final stretch here in Paris. The show has been such a success - more then I could have ever imagined. Yesterday we played an additional matinee show and we have another extra matinee on Thursday. It makes for a long day but the extra shows mean extra pay so it all works out. David and I are also still trying to get the score in order. Banu Gibson will arrive on Friday to see a few performances and then she’ll take my place for the first week in Barcelona while I’m in San Diego teaching the jazz camp. Duke Heitger will join the show in Barcelona for the first week while Chris Tyle is in England playing a festival. And our trombonist David Sager will have to go back to his job at the Library of Congress so we will have the French trombonist Phillip Georges who toured with us in the summer taking his place. He’s going to come on Friday to rehearse the show because a lot has changed since our summer tour.

I may have eluded to it in a previous email or told you already but for this production I’ve taken on the job of music copyist. Basically what it means is that I put all the show arrangements in the computer and print out parts for everyone. It’s a simple enough concept but it’s also very time consuming. And with the new musicians arriving soon it’s become a full time job! But there is light at the end of the tunnel and once the score is complete then anyone should be able to take the parts and play the show close to the same way we’re playing it now.

music

I’m really looking forward to Barcelona - I’ve been there a few different times and it will be nice to spend some time living and working in the city. It will be interesting to see if my high school Spanish comes back to me (I did ok over the summer with it)! The time has just flown by and I can’t believe I’ll be home in less then a week!
Au Revoir,
Katie


Teatre Tívoli - Barcelona, Spain
(January & February 2007)


tivoli
Teatre Tívoli

January 31st, 2007
Barcelona, Spain

Hola! I’ve been here in Barcelona a little over a week and I’m adapting pretty well. Everything here happens late at night and they take their midday siesta very seriously. I’ve always been an early to bed, early to rise person but it’s just not possible here. We don’t finish the show until after midnight so I’m usually not in bed until 1 or 2 in the morning! And then most everything shuts down during siesta time which is from about 2 in the afternoon until 5 or so. I haven’t quite gotten the knack of the siesta yet - it’s strange wanting to go out and do things in the afternoon only to find everything closed!


The place I’m staying at is right on the Ramblas and I have a large balcony window that overlooks the street. Every morning when I get up I fix myself some coffee and breakfast and sit in front of the window and watch the people going up and down the street. There’s a lot of activity on the Ramblas: From my window I can see a pet store that sells birds, hamsters, and rabbits. Some mornings I see a group of con men and women running the three shell game trying to scam tourists. But the best sight of all is the performance artist that sets up directly in my line of vision. The Ramblas is full of people that paint themselves like statues or dress up like historical figures. They all have some sort of gimmick and tourists give them tips and take photos of them or with them. This guy below my window faces me and is dressed like an old fashioned aviator with the leather cap, long jacket, and goggles. He has a mass of what appears to be twisted metal and bicycle parts that he works with. Sometimes he positions himself in it like he’s had some kind of a crash. Sometimes he tinkers with it like he’s going to make it fly.

I don’t really understand what it’s all about but after watching him do his routine every morning, I’ve really started to enjoy his ‘performance art’. First of all he is there every single day from fairly early in the morning to fairly late in the afternoon. Some of the acts I’ve seen come and go, but he’s really persistent. Second of all, even though everything looks like it’s in disarray, he keeps his space very tidy. On many occasions I’ve seen him pick up trash after people litter. And finally I like him because he doesn’t try to scare people like some of the other acts do, and he doesn’t hassle people if they take a picture and don’t give him money. I’ll be sure to get a photo with him before my tour here is done.

crash2

bow

Dudu, Stannie, & Nicolle take a bow.

It’s really different working with the Spanish crew. They are a very nice group of people but they just have different ways of doing things. It’s a really ‘relaxed’ atmosphere backstage. One night, as I was running backstage to make a quick costume change I ran into a group of stagehands gathered on the stairs shelling and eating peanuts in the middle of the show. I guess they just got a little hungry. They did offer me some but I was in too big of a hurry. And one night I looked in the wings and the guy who was supposed to be pulling the curtain closed had donned one of the girl’s blond wigs. Yes, it was funny but just not the sort of thing I’d expect from French or even American Stage hands. And the dragon hasn't worked right even once! Every night it’s gone too fast - shooting across the house in scrunched up heap. Well last night they decided to put fishing line on it and pull it across the house from the opposite end. So instead of going in a rush it went at a snails pace. They’d pull it about a foot and then it’d get stuck and then they’d drag it another foot. It was the slowest dragon ever and it finally got stuck when it was almost to the end so they just left it. Dudu - the master of ceremonies made a big joke about it and the audience seemed very amused. I was amused too - I can’t wait to see what they try to do tonight!
Adios! Katie


February 6th, 2007
Barcelona, Spain

Last Wednesday night we lost a member of our family. Jimmy Justice was one of the leads in our show and an amazing person. At the audition for this show in New York, our director Jerome Savary was so impressed by Jimmy that he wrote a part specifically for him in the musical. He basically just played himself in the show, singing, dancing, playing the piano, and constantly improvising and keeping us laughing. He had a great sense of humor, a great stage presence, and the ability to take the smallest lines or gags in the show and make them into wonderful moments. He got his start when he was young performing as a gospel singer and several times during the run of this show here in Barcelona, The Barcelona Gospel Choir attended and Jimmy led them in song out in the lobby on the intermission. Jimmy made a lasting impression on everyone that met him and was a professional performer in every sense of the word. He’d been in this business all his life and we all looked up to him as a mentor and the head of our theatrical family.

jimmy2

He died suddenly during the performance. The girls in the cast were on stage singing “I’ll Overcome” and Jimmy was accompanying them on piano. He stopped playing in the middle of the song, a cast member came from the wings and helped him offstage and he was gone. Needless to say we were all in shock and heartbroken. Later Jerome would remark that in a sense, Jimmy played his own funeral. As a musician I find something comforting about that. I also know that Jimmy died doing what he loved. He had remarked that this show was a real highlight of his career and he felt he was singing and performing better then ever.

The next afternoon we met to decide what to do. It was very emotional and difficult but in the end we decided to perform that very night with different people in the cast taking over Jimmy’s lines and songs. That night, before the show, the Barcelona Gospel Choir showed up en mass - what looked to be about 50 or 60 people, singing and carrying candles as they made their way through the theater up to the stage where Jimmy last performed. Then Jerome gave a talk about Jimmy before the curtain went up. We’d pre sold 600 tickets for that evening, and I’m sure that for the most part the audience was unaware of what was about to happen. What followed was one of the most difficult and beautiful performances I’ve ever been a part of. It was a loving an appropriate tribute to a man that had lived his whole life and died on the stage.

So now it’s been just about a week and the show is moving forward. Jerome decided to keep the show as it is for now with no one taking over Jimmy’s part for the rest of our run here in Barcelona. We are going to return to Paris later this summer for an encore presentation (another 8 week run) at the Opera Comique, and the role will be recast at that point. Of course it will always be Jimmy’s role. I can’t think of a better or more lasting tribute for an actor then to have who you are written into a show. Whoever takes over the roll will be playing the character “Jimmy” and of course Jimmy was just playing himself.

jimmy

Jimmy Justice as 'Grand Marshal' struts through the crowd while I play 'Saints'.


Opéra Comique - Paris - Encore Presentation
(April - June 2007)


April 25th, 2007
Paris France

Bonjour!
I’ve been here just about a week and I’m almost over the jet lag. It’s good to be back - especially this time of year. As I sit here and write this I can hear children playing in the park outside my window. The sun is shining, birds are singing, and all Parisians are at their happiest because the cold wet miserable winter is finally over.

park

The view out my window.

 

le sporting

People dining at "Le Sporting"

The first day we arrived, Chris Tyle (our cornet player), James Alsanders (our drummer) and I went to our favorite local restaurant - “Le Sporting”. We actually went twice. We went for lunch and enjoyed it so much that we went back for dinner. The menu had changed from the heavy soup and meat dishes of winter, to salads and fish and we needed to try more of the new fare. I was surprised to see in the evening that what I thought were the walls of the restaurant were actually moveable panels that open up at night allowing tables to spill out onto the sidewalk. This is great because it allows the cool evening air in and circulates out all the cigarette smoke. In fact many of the restaurants in our neighborhood have a similar set up, enticing passers by with the aroma of the house specialty, and the sound of clinking glasses.

Last night we had our first dress rehearsal and they’d actually filled the Opéra Comique with a large group of people so we ran it as a regular show. It went amazingly well. It was great playing with this band again - everything locked in and I had a wonderful time playing. We have three new cast members - two more girls and a guy, and there have been some minor changes in the script. (Instead of recasting Jimmy Justice they decided to stay with the show we’d worked out in Barcelona.) But for the most part the music remains the same so we’re just having fun and doing what we’ve always done. We still have a few more
afternoon rehearsals but for the most part I think the show is set. We will have our Premiere on Thursday and after that it’s back to the usual pattern of performing six days a week with extra shows on Saturday and Mondays off.

The show has been nominated for a Molière Award for Best Musical which is basically the French Tony Award. I asked Dudu (one of the stars of the show and also the costume designer!) about the award and he thinks we have a chance at winning although they could also give the award to a current production of Cabaret that is very popular right now. Dudu has been working with Jerome Savary (our director) since the 70’s and he thinks it would be a great if Jerome were to receive this award for this show. We’ll see what happens!
Au Revoir!
Katie

metro ad

Ads in the metro announcing the show & its Molière nomination.


artists

Artists' Square in Montmartre.

May 1st, 2007
Paris France

Bonjour!
I’m in the midst of a two day holiday right now. Yesterday we had our regular Monday off and Today is May 1st which is a labor holiday here so we have today off as well! Since the weather has been great I’ve been spending a lot of time walking and exploring the area. A couple days ago I decided to go back and visit Montmartre where we stayed last summer. I went to take a look at the windmills (there are two left) and go by the artists square which was packed. Most of the people were painting scenes from Paris, and there were a lot of sketch artists and a couple guys that will cut your silhouette in one minute while you wait (satisfaction guaranteed). I did see one artist that had abstract pen and watercolor drawings of Paris that I thought were nice. Next to him was a woman with the most horrendous clown paintings I’d ever seen. I may have to go back and get something at a later date...

Last week we had a minor problem at the start of one of the shows. Orlando Poleo, our Cuban Drummer was missing. The entire show starts with him playing a drum solo while Nicolle sings - it’s not something we can really ‘cover’ without him! Come to find out the subway train he was riding broke down and when he was finally able to get to a stop, (three stops away) he jumped off the train and ran to the theatre! So when it came time for the show to start there was a brief announcement in French followed by a lot of mumbling and murmuring from the audience. We all looked at Philippe “Fleep” Georges, our French trombonist for the translation. They’d announced that the show would be slightly ‘delayed’ because of a ‘technical difficulty’. Much more diplomatic then saying, “Our drummer is stuck on the subway!” So I look at David and say, “Can we play while we’re waiting?” He didn't know so I went under the pit and asked one of the stage hands to radio the question to the stage manager. A few seconds later the stage manager comes running out to David and says, “Yes! Play for about five minutes!”

pit2

Playing in the Orchestra Pit.

So we played. We just played “Dinah” really bright and opened it up for solos all around. I cannot describe how good it felt to just sit there and play with those guys. I kind of wish we could do that every night - just sit and play a bit before the show. Because that kind of live - in the moment energy is the best feeling of all. And I really admire how the guys all play. When we finished we got a really nice round of applause from the audience and by that time Orlando had arrived and had a chance to drink some water and catch his breath before we began.

 

The first week of shows has gone very well. We’ve filled the house and the crowds have been very appreciative. And best of all, the guy that goes through the water during the curtain call to give Nicolle flowers has returned. He’s come to three different shows already and I finally got a photo of him! The guy is absolutely crazy and yet I find my self looking for him each show and trying to figure out when he’s going to make his move and what sort of stunt he’s going to pull. He hasn’t done any prat falls into the water yet, but I have hope and if he does, I’ll have my camera ready!
Au Revoir,
Katie

(For further explanation of this photo, see below....)

water

gandm

bands

dandn2

Gwen & Momo (far left) are the new girls in the cast and this is their first time seeing Nicolle's 'Superfan'.

Brian (middle) seems to be thinking "here we go again!" while Sweet puts a motherly hand on his arm.

Dudu seems very concerned as he acknowledges the 'Superfan' (far right). But Nicolle, who barely made it into this photo has the best expression of all. She's laughing in the way she does when she's pulling raunchy pranks on us while we're onstage.

feet

As you can see the water isn't that deep. Still, its deep enough to splash the people in the front row (the good seats are in the 'splash zone'!) and spill over onto the grand piano in the pit.

towel

David protects the piano...


May 8th, 2007
Paris France

Bonjour!
I did a very brave thing last Sunday. I went to the Louvre on “Free Day”. The first Sunday of the month several Paris museums are free to the public including the Louvre and I decided that since I’ll probably visit it more then once while I’m here, that I’d like to take advantage of this day to get to know my way around the museum. I decided to get there at 9 am when they opened because we had to play a matinee show at 3 so my time would be limited. I’d done some research on line and I’d checked out the Louvre the day before on my break between shows so I had a strategy which I’ll pass along to you now. (Just in case you happen to find yourself in Paris at the Louvre on Free Day.)

First of all use the Porte des Lions entrance. It’s on the far southwest side of the museum and you’ll see the big lion statues guarding it. It seems everyone wants to go through the pyramid and I understand that, but when I hopped off the metro at 8:30 am, the line outside the pyramid was already really long. I went over to the lions and no one was there yet so I walked around the Jardin du Carrousel and took pictures while I waited. When I got back to the entrance at about ten till, there were two Japanese girls and two Spanish girls ahead of me in line. When the doors opened, the security people asked to check through their bags. Since I’d anticipated this and didn’t bring a bag they waved me right in.

I grabbed a museum map and headed up the stairs. There was something eerie about walking through gallery halls and being the only one there. All I could hear were my footsteps and I clipped along at a brisk walk while 16th century Italian paintings looked on. See, I was on a mission. But the other girls in line with me had the same idea too and pretty soon they were right there with me in some kind of speed walking race. (It seems sacrilegious to run in a museum.) The Lions entrance is the closest and most direct entrance to the Mona Lisa.

lions

Porte des Lions at the Louvre

freeday

The Crowds on "Free Day"!

When we made it to her spot on the wall we were outnumbered by the security people who were standing around and chatting and bracing themselves for the onslaught of Free Day. It was really remarkable to have that moment to gaze at the painting in silence and just take it in. We stood there for a good 3 or 4 minutes.

Then I heard the noise. A low rumbling, kind of like a wave coming at you when you’re lying peacefully on the beach and enjoying the sun. You are not allowed to take photos in the painting exhibit areas for obvious reasons. But there is one photo I would have taken if I could have. And that’s the sight of the 30 some odd people that finally made it from the Pyramid entrance charging at the Mona Lisa. They came right at me with these looks of anticipation and eagerness rushing as fast as they could to see this great work of art. I quickly exited the room before things got too crowded. I stayed at the Louvre a little over 3 hours and probably only saw about 30% of the collection if even that. I decided to focus on the sculpture galleries because they were far away from Mona and seemed the least crowded. (And you *can* take pictures there.) I’ll definitely go back at least once more while I’m here - but maybe not on Free Day.

The show is running like clockwork now and I find myself focusing hard on the music. Not because I need to look at it - I pretty much have the show memorized - but because I don’t want to zone out and miss cues or make silly mistakes. It’s a real easy thing to do and it’s happened to all of us. But last Friday night was the worst.

It was the final number of the show. The big emotional closer. Allen Hoist, one of the leads in the show plays a beautiful cello solo on “St. James Infirmary”. We are playing it as a waltz and it’s a trio - String Bass, Banjo, and Cello. Then there’s a lot of moving dialogue while Tom Saunders and I continue the waltz on bass and banjo. (Boom - plink plink / Boom - plink plink. - Like that. It’s very somber.) And at the appropriate time, Alan sings the vocal - five choruses in all with the rest of the band and chorus members joining in on the last one.

So Allen gets to the second chorus - the “I went up to see the doctor” chorus and he sings, “I went uuuh ahh eee ahh yee-hoo....” He completely blanked on the words! He sang the entire rest of the chorus very with complete conviction - he just used nonsense syllables. “...ahh heee yah ooo eeh ooo...” At this point Tom and I are still the only ones accompanying him and I just start thinking “Don’t laugh! Don’t screw it up!”. Out of the corner of my eye, I see David the musical director fold his hands in his lap and put his head down. ...and I start to get the giggles. I can’t help it. Now I’m thinking “Don’t look at James!” because James doesn’t even play drums on this song and I know he’s laughing and I know that if I look at him I’m really going to lose it.

Somehow I manage to keep it together. I can feel my face turning red. I’m shaking, my eyes are closed and my head is down, and I’m crying I’m trying so hard not to laugh. Tears are streaming down my face but I make it through and as the scene comes to an end and we start playing “Hot Feet” for the curtain call I let it all out. The crowd is wildly applauding and we’re all playing really loud to cover the fact that we’re all laughing our heads off like crazy. I finally allow myself to look at James (who later admitted that he was trying to get me to look at him the whole time!) and he’s just about on the floor which makes me laugh even more. I’m wiping the tears off my face and trying to get somewhat composed for when I stand up for my curtain call. Maybe the audience just thought I found the show extra moving that night...

allen

Allen mugs for the camera while Meyorah looks on.

Interestingly enough, most of the photos I have of Allen,
he's making some kind of face. See? :

allen2

I told Alan later to please, please, please never ever do that again. He apologized and said he was thinking about what he was going to have for dinner after the show and just had a momentary blank out. Oh well, like I said, we’ve all done this so I understand. It’s just hard when it happens at such a wildly inappropriate time.
Au Revoir,
Katie


le petit journal

May 19th, 2007
Paris France

Bonjour!
Last night I played in a real Persian Jazz Club. Pianist Louis Mazetier (who some of you may know because he leads the band Paris Washboard) was performing with a group at Le Petit Journal - an aptly named club in the Latin Quarter that caters to more traditional forms of jazz. He called David Boeddinghaus and invited the band and asked us to bring instruments. We finished up at the Opèra Comique around 11 pm and took a cab over. Along with David and me, Otis Bazoon came with his clarinet, and Chris Tyle brought his cornet (I took my guitar). When we arrived at the club, the band (a quintette: tenor sax, trombone, piano, bass, & drums.) was in the middle of a set and so we took seats in the back and ordered drinks.

Imagine the smallest jazz venue you’ve ever seen. Now divide that by half and you’ll have some idea of how small this place is. The room is “L” shaped with the “bandstand” (a small space on the floor with an upright piano pushed against the wall and a drum set) facing the small end of the “L.” You have to go down some stairs and underground to reach the cavernous room and it's practically the smallest club I’ve ever seen. (The smallest club I’ve ever seen/played in was when I went with Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band to Osaka, Japan. The first night we were there we played a “club” that had been created in a one bedroom apartment in the city. No kidding! The “bar” was the kitchen, and they had to buzz us up from the street level when we arrived!)

foxtrot orchestraI took this photo when we went back to the club to see JP Morel's Foxtrot Orchestra. We had heard they were fabulous (they were!) and we wanted to see how they fit a 10 piece reading band into the club (very carefully!).

When the quintet went on break Louis brought the guys over and introduced everyone, and then he told us to go ahead and get our horns out because the last set would be short (it was about 12:15 and they had to finish around 1) and we should just play the whole time. He told David he’d play one song to get things started and then turn the piano over to him. We had a great time! People seemed to enjoy the oversized band stuffed into this tiny venue and we were all really happy to have the chance to open up and play. I hope we can find more places to do things like this while we’re here.

dressing room

Getting ready for the show in my dressing room.

The Molière Awards were Monday night and we did not win (we were nominated in the category “best musical”). Allen (who has sung “St. James Infirmary” perfectly every night) said that he saw a performance the play that won the award and that it was a good show and deserving of the win. The dancers appeared on the televised awards show performing a fifteen minute presentation and from what I understand they went over great. And last night when we returned to do the show after having Monday off, the audience was especially enthusiastic. I wonder if that’s because they’d seen a little ‘preview’ on tv the night before? Well, these sorts of things are always better experienced live. I’m continuing to update my website and now I have a “Letters from Paris” link on the front page. I’ll keep updating it (as time permits) with all the letters I’ve sent out until it’s current. Thanks for passing them around and if you know of anyone that would like to get on my list, just have them send me an email.
Au Revoir,
Katie


May 23rd, 2007
Paris France

Bonjour!
We’ve been having some cold rainy weather but I think it’s finally starting to let up. I’ll be glad because I really like exploring Paris on foot and the novelty of walking in the rain is starting to wear thin. I did explore the area around the Opèra Comique between shows last Saturday and I found the most wonderful candy store. I’m not ashamed to admit I have a sweet tooth, and the chocolate they have here is by far some of the best I’ve ever had. The shop I discovered on my walkabout is called “A La Mère De Famille” and was founded in 1767. So it has existed in some form or another for over 200 years. (That seems so impossible to me.) Well, obviously they’ve been doing something right. It is a proper “chocolatier” but they also had hard candies, candied fruits and nuts, ice cream, marzipan, dessert wines - really anything a person’s sweet tooth might crave. The extravagant sweets are pretty much matched with extravagant prices so I conservatively purchased a tin of mints (les Anis de Flavigny - I got addicted to them over the summer tour) and a handful of caramels that I intended on sharing with my band mates. My intentions were good but I started sampling them on the walk back to the opera house and by the time I arrived they were gone. (I did go back the very next day and buy more that I could share.) Since the shop is only one subway stop and a short walk from the theatre I’m sure I’ll visit it many more times while I’m here. I’ll snap a photo too so you can see how incredible it is!

rainy day

The view from my dressing room in the Opera Comic.

Candy Store

train ride

Traveling by train to Orléans.

On Monday, our day off, we took a little trip to Orléans. It was some sort of publicity thing for the show and they hired the band for the day and gave us first class round trip tickets on the train. Orléans is about an hour south of Paris and even though the morning started out cold and rainy, by the time we took the train the sun was out and by the time we reached Orléans the weather was perfect. The event itself was pretty unremarkable, but I really enjoyed the train trip. The French countryside is beautiful and the train went through stretches of green fields and small towns of little brown stone houses with steeply pitched roofs. There were no less then two tracks so we’d speed past freight trains and little passenger trains. I really wish we had a better train system in the states - it’s a very civilized way of traveling. We finished fairly early in the evening and as we made the trip back the sun was starting to set.

David and I are in the home stretch of completing the score for the show. Our drummer James Alsanders is writing out the drum parts for me which I then add onto the score. It’s really interesting because I have absolutely no concept of how to write drum charts so it’s been a real education. Fortunately it makes good logical sense and James has a really straightforward way of writing so it’s been fun. When we finish the book for good we’re going to celebrate! It’s been a lot of work but it’s been a real learning experience and my ‘Finale’ skills have improved by leaps and bounds. Speaking of celebrating, Jerome has invited the band out to dinner this Friday and he’s taking us to a really nice place so I’m looking forward to that! I know he like the band a lot and he likes the way we play so this is his way of giving us a little ‘thank you’. And what better way to be thanked than with fine French cuisine?

Au Revoir,
Katie

james

This is the only photo I have of James
playing a drum solo where he's not all 'blurry'.


food

French Food!

May 29th, 2007
Paris France

Bonjour!
Friday night Jerome took the band out to a wonderful restaurant: Au Petit Riche which means “The little rich man”. It was established in 1854 and has been at it’s present location since 1880 (I still can’t get over how long some of these places have been here!) which is just a short walk north of the Opèra Comique. They seemed to know Jerome well there and we were lead to a private room. The restaurant itself was very cozy and had an intimate feel. On the wall were line drawings of Maurice Chevalier and other stars of the stage and screen, and Edith Piaf music was playing in the background. Jerome immediately ordered something he wanted us to try, a specialty of the house called Rillons de Vouvray tièdes. I can’t really say I’ve ever had anything quite like it: pieces of seasoned cooked pork from the Vouvray region (regional cooking is very important here...) with cold lentils and watercress. It was incredibly good and as we quickly finished off what was brought to the table, Jerome ordered more.

 

But then we had other appetizers too. I had Œufs cocotte à la Bourgueilloise which is poached eggs in a wine sauce. And Chris Tyle who was sitting next to me ordered the Escargots de Bourgogne. I decided it was time to try a snail and that if I didn’t try one right then and there I never would. Besides that, everything I’d had so far tasted great. I can’t actually tell you if a snail has any taste to it, because all I could taste was garlic and butter. It didn’t even seem chewy or anything like that. It was very good and I really like garlic and butter so I was happy. For my main course I had a fish specialty of the house: Roasted filet of pike perch in a wine sauce. Jerome ordered the steak tartar and I must stay it looked wonderful! I think I’ll go back there again before we leave and order that, because that’s something else I’d be interested to try while I’m over here. I still don’t know about the frog legs though...I don’t know if I’ll ever be interested in doing that. We must have been there almost three hours and at the end of the night Jerome took care of the tab and even hired a couple cabs to take us back to our residence. It was a wonderful evening - good food, good friends, good company. They really have dining down to an art form over here.

cityscape

Looking up at the Sacré-Coeur in Montmarte from the Musée d'Orsay.

fan

This young audience member watched almost the entire show standing here at the edge of the orchestra pit!

It was last June that I first flew over here to start rehearsals on this show, and last week we played our 100th show. I think it’s interesting we’ve had that many performances. I can’t help but wonder how many more we’ll do. (And besides that, who’s keeping track of this? Do they have an official show counter?) I know Jerome has other ideas of places to perform this show. He’s officially ending his run as director of the Opéra Comique on June 24th - the night of our last show here in Paris. But I can’t imagine him ever really retiring. He’s talking of bringing the show back to Paris next summer for a run at the Paris Casino (where Josephine played back in her heyday). I would really enjoy coming to Paris again next summer or every summer for that matter. I feel like I’m really starting to get the hang of things around here and I know that when I fly home in June, there will be a little part of me that misses being here. Just a little part though because I also really miss my family and friends back home. And I’m looking forward to being able to go on a gig and play random tunes rather then a set show. This past weekend of course was the Sacramento festival and I couldn't help but think about how much fun I had playing there last year with the Reynolds Brothers Rhythm Rascals, and marching in Clint Baker’s parade band with my big bass drum. Well the time here will pass quickly I know, and in the meantime I’ll just take in as much as I can. I’ll let you know how the steak tartar is!

Au Revoir,
Katie


June 5th, 2007
Paris France

Bonjour!
About a week or so ago I went looking for banjo strings. I have enough to get me through the run of the show, but I just wanted to have extra. Actually I’ve only broken three strings over the 100+ performances. I lost one during the ‘review’ section of the show about two weeks ago and I had a feeling there was something wrong with that string when I put it on, because it never settled. I played on it for about three days and it snapped - but luckily it broke at a really good time in the show. I could change it quickly and quietly without difficulty. At any rate, finding banjo strings here in Paris isn’t an easy task. Someone directed me to a section of Montmartre near the Pigalle subway stop which seemed funny to me because I always thought of that stop as kind of a rough ‘red-light’ section of town. But if you head south of the subway, for just a block or so the neighborhood abruptly changes and everywhere you look, as far as you can see down every street, are guitar shops. Shops with new guitars, shops with old guitars, shops with amplifiers, shops with accessories. I couldn’t believe it, and I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know where to even begin looking.

I decided to take a stroll first and sort out which shops looked the most promising. As I got to the end of the first street, a very small shop caught my eye. The sign out front said “Vintage Instruments” and in the window I could see a very nice Gibson L5 from the 30’s. So I decided to just have a look. There were two guys in the shop talking and the older one asked if he could help me. When I replied in my very best French, “Just looking, thank you.” He responded in perfect English, “Oh, you’re American!” I guess I have a pretty obvious American accent when I speak French! We chatted a while and he invited me to come back on Saturday. He said every Saturday people drop in to play and talk about guitars, and that I should bring my guitar in and join the fun.

 

 

So this past Saturday morning I went there. I arrived on the early side because Saturday we always play two shows so I knew I’d have to leave for the Opèra Comique in time to make the matinee. When I got there Hertz, the shop owner, was the only one there. I took out my guitar to show him and in short order he got a guitar off the wall and we started to play. We were having fun and people started to filter in the store. Some were people just coming in off the street because they heard the music, and others were friends dropping by for a visit. As his friends came in I could hear him speaking to them excitedly in French. I kept hearing him say the words “authentique” and “J’adore”. I know he was really interested in my style of guitar playing because it’s probably something they don’t hear that often.

One of the people that came by the shop that day was a young guy named Julien who is just out of college and a freelance film maker. He goes by the shop on the weekends and makes little videos which he then posts on youtube. He asked permission to shoot our jam session and said that he’d have something up on youtube in a week or so. (Note: If you can't view the videos I've posted above, you can also access them on Julian's YouTube page at: http://www.youtube.com/jujusunrise) I think he did a nice job of capturing the feel of the neighborhood and the shop.

Saturday's shows went very well (and I was all warmed up to play when I got there!) but I think Sunday's show was cursed. Don’t get me wrong it was a good show - silly things just kept happening. First of all the cast was in a really loopy mood. I think we all get a little crazy on Sundays because it’s our last show before our day off. But the worst thing that happened went practically unnoticed by everyone except me.

There’s a scene in the ‘review’ part of the show where they do a rendition of Josephine’s “Le Danse de Sauvage.” And at the end of the dance (which is being accompanied by a drum solo) two of the boys, Santiago and William, carry Stefanie in on their shoulders. She’s waving a large French Flag. James Alsanders plays a roll off on the drums, Chris Tyle plays the opening of “Le Marseille”, the boys set Stefanie on the ground and we go right into “Then I’ll Be Happy” which Stefanie sings. Well Sunday, the boys kind of lost their grip. Just as Stef was about on the ground they slipped a little, and she ended up on her bum with her feet and the flag in the air. It wasn’t painful for her or anything because she was so close to the ground by that point - it was just awkward and had none of the usual grace that I associate with these dancers. They just slipped. (dah dat-da / dah dah dah dah / DAAAHH *splat!* - the timing was perfect!) Well I lost it. And I’m trying to play the song and I’m looking around thinking I’m the only one that saw that because the guys had pickups to play and have their eyes on the music. But then I catch James’ eye and he’s laughing too! So *that* was bad because now I really had the giggles and every time I looked at James I just started laughing again. Of course James *knows* this about me and he only encourages me to laugh more. It took me the rest of the song and half of the next one to recover. They probably won’t do it again, but I almost think they should leave it in the show... Well it certainly made that performance memorable for me!

Au Revoir,
Katie

lemer

Santiago (l) and William (r) carry in Stefanie.


June 12th, 2007
Paris France

Bonjour!
This past week Banu Gibson arrived in Paris. She’s here on vacation to enjoy the city and see her band. With the exception of myself and Phillipe Georges our French Trombonist, the rest of the guys in the show have all worked with Banu at different times. And as many of you know, David Boeddinghaus is her regular musical director. It’s nice having her here in town because she wants to do all the ‘tourist’ stuff. Case in point: On Saturday after we finished our second show we went to Harry’s American Bar which is a little hole-in-the-wall pub that I’ve walked past before without noticing. She had sought this place out because it was here that George Gershwin wrote “American In Paris”. That’s what they claim at any rate. Maybe he just sketched it out or worked on ideas for it there. Or maybe he just had lots to drink here and thought about being an American in Paris... Well we definitely know he went to that bar and it was said that he played the piano in the basement. So when we got there and entered the swinging doors (yes, literally) we went right downstairs where a French pianist was pounding out jazz standards including some Gershwin tunes. We took a table right next to the piano and Banu started chatting the guy up. He was friendly and by the time he was ready to take a break, he allowed David to take over his piano bench and Banu to sing.

They did a few Gershwin tunes (of course), and the crowd responded very positively. Come to find out, most of the people there were Americans and most of them from the south (Mobile, Baton Rogue, I think there was even someone there from New Orleans!) For their last tune, Banu sang “I Got Rhythm” and as David was tearing through a piano solo, Banu leaned over to me and said, “We’re going to trade 2’s - can you do that?” Now, bear in mind, I didn’t have my guitar so we traded off scatting 2’s, and it was a blast! I was happy that I could be a part of it, and I’ll definitely go back there before we leave just to soak in more of the history and have a hot dog. (Harry’s Bar was the first place in Paris to serve a hot dog - how’s that for weird trivia?)

harry's

With David at "Harry's American Bar"
(Yes, I had a hot dog.)

Yesterday we had to move! Originally we were going to come home on June 12th and there was some kind of mix up in our living arrangements over at Les Recollets. So unfortunately we couldn’t stay put and we’ll have to spend the last two weeks in a hotel. The nice thing is they’ve moved us closer to the Opèra Comique - close enough to walk so there won’t be any need to wait around for the subway at the end of the show. And I don’t have to worry about getting on a crowded metro car with my guitar or banjo which makes me a little nervous sometimes. I moved in the new place yesterday so I spent most of today walking around and getting to know the neighborhood. There are a lot more places to eat, and sights to see over here and I can even walk to the Louvre. I do think this part of town is a little more interesting then where we were, but for that matter, all of this city is interesting so it’s going to be a nice change.

hertz

At Vintage Guitars with Hertz playing a very beautiful
and rare Stromberg Guitar (he insisted!).

I’ve been up to visit my friend Hertz at Vintage Guitars a few more times, and the last time I went he gave me a 1916 Gibson to play. I was a little scared to play it, but it sounded really good. Julien hasn’t been around to make more videos but he and Hertz are coming to see “Josephine” this Thursday so I’ll have a chance to visit with them again. I’ve updated my website with links to You Tube so if you get a chance, please give them a look.

Au Revoir,
Katie


July 3rd, 2007
Los Angeles, California

Hello!
I’m sending this last e-mail from my house. Yes, I’m back in LA now and I’ve been here about a week which means I’m almost over my jet lag. As soon as I sent the previous e-mail from Paris - the internet went out in our hotel. Yes, I survived almost two weeks with no internet service. I was able to check e-mails intermittently but didn’t have time to send out my usual mass travel e-mail. (Or do my banking. Or skype home. Or watch youtube...) So here it is - the missing email. Enjoy!

caveau 4

At the Caveau de la Huchette with
(l-r) Otis, David & Banu

The last two weeks in Paris were really intense. We had a lot of friends come through town including Tim Laughlin, Connie Jones, and Jeff Hamilton. Tim and Connie were playing a jazz club down in the Latin Quarter and Jeff was in town playing tourist between festival gigs. Banu was able to stay in town a few extra days and after we played the show one night we descended en masse upon Tim and Connie’s gig at the Caveau de la Huchette. The place was packed with swing dancers which was interesting because having played a fair share of swing dances here, it was interesting to see the differences. Lots of people were dancing but they weren’t really swing dancing in the formalized way I’m used to seeing. Most of them were just hopping and spinning around randomly in time to the music. In fact there were two guys that just stood directly in front of the band stand and did a sort of solo jump the whole time. They could have just as easily been at a heavy metal concert.

Tim and Connie invited all of us up to join them for the very last set. By then it was well past midnight and the crowd had thinned but the people that were there really seemed to enjoy the change. In fact they stopped dancing and sat and watched us as if we were performing a concert! I thought it was strange at first but after we finished as people came up to talk to us, I realized that they really just wanted to listen and they felt like they were getting some sort of special private show.

David is sitting at the piano (you can see his back) and directly behind him is Connie Jones wearing a blue shirt and playing trumpet. Banu is singing and I'm behind her on guitar. Jeff Hamilton is on the drums and Tim Laughlin is next to him playing Clarinet.

caveau

The last week of shows at the Opéra Comique went really well. The house really filled up each night and the the crowds were very enthusiastic. I feel like we really witnessed the end of an era as Jerome finished his run as the director there. For the very last performance people got a little crazy. There were a lot of practical jokes being played. Not anything the audience would suspect although they probably knew they were seeing a really ‘wild’ version of the show. When it came time to do the gospel number I heard them start the song as normal and when I took my place in the pit I was surprised to see that the girls had decided to give tribute to Jimmy. Someone had placed his hat on the piano. And all the girls were carrying white roses that they placed on the piano as the song progressed. It was a very moving tribute and I was so happy they included that in our final performance there.

last show

At the end of the show they’d also planned a tribute for Jerome. Nicolle sang a beautiful Edith Piaf song that I wasn’t familiar with (but everyone else was - the audience sang along!). I was sight reading the chart but I kind of struggled with it because it was in 6/8, and because I was trying to see what the girls were doing onstage. Basically they did a striptease for Jerome and they all ended up wearing bananas (and little else) along with hats, cigars, and clown masks (a reference to another famous Jerome show.). It was very funny and very French. Shortly after the show ended the party began. The food was incredible and the band sounded great. It felt good to unwind and just play and have fun. I finally had to get to bed for my flight out the next day but there’s no telling how late the festivities lasted in the opera house.

In a few months we’ll take the show to Bilbao, Spain but it really feels like we ended an era there in Paris with Jerome. I know that Jerome will never really ‘retire’ and there is talk of doing more with the show, including a return trip to Paris next summer. Whatever happens I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this production and I know my time in Paris is something I will always treasure.

Take Care,
Katie

pit

Dudu took this photo of me and David in the pit at the Opéra Comique from the stage!


Summer Festivals - Béziers, Bilbao, & Pamplona
(August & September 2007)


August 20st, 2007
Bilbao, Spain

Hola!
I’ve been without internet for the past week and it’s so good to finally be back online! After arriving last Monday I spent three days in Béziers, France. Béziers is a small town on the southeast coast of France and Jerome Savary is setting up his new theatre company there. They were having a local festival that included bullfighting, tango dancing, parades, and a totally unique, totally improvised Jerome Savary review each night. We did some of the songs from Josephine but we also did a fair amount of music from other Jerome productions and I got a crash course in playing traditional French music! The people in attendance seemed to enjoy it greatly and I’m sure they will be happy to now have Savary and Company in their community.

statue

A statue of Jerome at his new theatre.

Teatro Arriaga

Teatro Arriaga

On Thursday after an eight hour van ride (ugh!) we arrived in Bilbao for our one rehearsal before opening the show Friday night! To quote Nicolle: “One rehearsal?!? How gangsta is that?!?” The Teatro Arriaga is a magnificent structure in the heart of old Bilbao right on the river. But don’t take my word on this, Click on this link: http://www.teatroarriaga.com to visit the English version of their website that includes a virtual tour!

On Friday we opened the show and on Saturday Aste Nagusia began. I don’t even know how to begin to describe this festival that celebrates the Basque culture and will continue for the next nine days and nights. The festivities include sporting events (Jai Alai is very popular here and yesterday I caught the end of a rowing contest on the Nervion river.), bull fights (of course), free open air concerts, parades, nightly fireworks displays (viewable from the theatre balconies minutes after ‘Josephine’ concludes), and a hundred thousand people merrymaking until the wee hours of the morning.

festival

The Aste Nausia opening festival!

witch

Marijaia appears!

The opening ceremonies took place Saturday at 6 pm right in front of the Teatro Arriaga. I had a great vantage point and was able to take everything in and get some nice photos. First a parade entered the plaza. It was so long and involved so many people I couldn’t see where it ended. People just kept cramming in the plaza, waving flags and singing and playing instruments. Then at 6:00 sharp an official looking guy appeared on the balcony (the mayor?) and gave a brief speech. He quickly stepped aside for the appearance of Marijaia. She is the mascot of the festivities - a homely old witch with outstretched armed and her mouth open in a scream. No, I don’t get it either, but she’s rather funny looking and what appeared on the balcony was actually a giant sized paper maché figure that jumped up and down to “Badator Marijaia” - the theme song of the festival. As the music began everyone in the plaza started simultaneously jumping up and down and singing along while they showered each other with champagne. I hope I can catch more of the cultural celebrations this week and by the time everything wraps up next Sunday night I think this city will be officially partied out.
Adios!
Katie


August 28th, 2007
Bilbao, Spain

Hola! -
The festival has come to a close and Bilbao has turned back into a sleepy little town. It was pretty exciting seeing the festivities. It’s hard to believe how many people descended upon this city for the week. One of the highlights for me was seeing the fireworks each night at 10:30. They lasted 20 - 30 minutes, and it’s actually a competition with a different group on each night so everyone is trying to outdo each other. I saw the display on opening night and then I saw the displays the last weekend and closing night. The final display on Sunday night was by far the biggest and the best. I’ve never before seen some of the fireworks they use over here. Things that make loud whistles, things that change color as they fall to earth, things that explode midair only to send out other fireworks that explode off that explosion. By far the strangest one was a thing that exploded in the sky and then released glowing things on parachutes that hung suspended in the sky before slowly floating down. –By far the best fireworks I’ve ever seen!

fireworks

...I know it seems silly to try to take a picture of fireworks, but I still felt compelled to try!

crowds

People pause (momentarily) to watch the fireworks.

The only reason I didn’t catch the displays every night was because our performance of ‘Josephine’ was timed each night to finish just before the fireworks began. So we’d conclude the curtain call about 10:20 each night giving the people time to get out on the street and find a spot with a good view. By the time we packed up and changed, the fireworks had started and this gave us ample time to make a mad dash for the hotel while the crowds were knotted up in strategic viewing places. By sticking to a walkway under the trees and the sides of buildings we avoided the crowds altogether. As soon as the fireworks ended it was like the waters of the red sea rushing back into the corridor by the river which is our only route home! On the weekends we had late shows and had to navigate the crowds and Otis Bazoon (our reed player and a native of New Orleans) said it was about five times larger then any Mardi Gras he’d ever seen. We stuck together and pushed through the people like linebackers on a football team.

The other part of the festival I enjoyed was hearing the Basque Musicians and seeing the Ethnic Dancing. One traditional Basque dance they do is the ‘Fandango’ if you’re familiar with that. One night on my way to work they were having a ‘dance session’ just outside the theatre. They had a guy who was acting as the MC. He had a wireless microphone on and was instructing the crowd on how to do the different dances.

Basque Band

The Basque Band

M.C.

The M.C.

He was backed by a four piece band: Violin, Guitar, Accordion, and a guy that played a ‘Civil War’ type snare drum with his right hand while playing a little type of flute with his left. The MC and band were all dressed in period peasant garb (with the exception of the young female accordion player’s ‘Doc Martin’ boots.). This was an interesting contrast to the very large crowd that was dancing to the music: twenty year olds with tattoos and piercings that smoked and drank beer while they danced around. –Not really looking like the kind of people that would do ‘ethnic dancing’ for fun. But they were all laughing and having a blast. It was incredible and I stood there for almost two hours watching and listening. I took a lot of photos and video as well and when they finished I tried to see if they had a cd I could purchase. They didn’t have a cd with them but the MC gave me a link to his website! http://www.erdizkaeusk.blogspot.com/ Hit the button for English!
dancers

 

I thought the opening day ceremonies were pretty good but the closing night ceremonies on Sunday were even better. They had people acting out some sort of play about the battle between good and evil and they were on stilts and dressed like insects and sword fighting. At the conclusion of the play they brought out the witch mascot that first appeared dancing on the balcony on opening day and had been paraded about all during the week. (We all had pictures taken with her!) And they set fire to her. While she burned, music played and everyone sang. When she’d just about burned up, the insect/stilt creatures brought out a big hose and filled the plaza with foam, extinguishing the fire and making a terrible mess. People loved it. And then everyone went home. Seriously, by the time we left the theatre (we’d been observing everything from the second floor balcony windows) most of what was a massive crowd had dispersed and we were able to walk leisurely back to the hotel. I’m glad it’s all over and I can spend a week enjoying non-festival Bilbao. I’ll let you know how I like it.
Adios!
- Katie

witch

Otis and I pose with Marijaia.


September 4th, 2007
Pamplona, Spain

Hola!
After a two and a half hour bus ride yesterday we arrived in Pamplona, Spain. We’re staying in a nice hotel about a twenty minute walk from the city center. Well it’s pretty nice - but as I’m finding out, all the hotels over here in Spain charge outrageous rates if you want to use internet. Not to worry though - I found out that I could get a very weak signal from somewhere (maybe the pub adjacent to the hotel? It offers free wifi...) by sitting on the floor just behind the door in my hotel room! So now I can email this last update before I get home on Friday!

I really like this city a lot. It has a lot of charm, the food is excellent, and the people are very warm. I spent most of this morning walking through the city. The weather here is cool - almost cold in the evenings and it looks as if the leaves may start to change soon. Having lived in California for 13 years now I’d forgotten how nice it is to see and feel the seasons change. There’s a huge park near the old city based around what they call the Ciudadela. It is a pentagon shaped fortress that was built in the 16th century. A few of the buildings within it still stand and from what I understand they hold art exhibits. But it was too nice outside today to spend time indoors, so I passed on that for now and instead enjoyed walking around the park and and into the old city.

stairs

A staircase leading up to the old city.

The theatre we will perform in is in this area as well. It’s a huge modern complex that was inaugurated in 2003. It’s in stark contrast with a lot of the city around it but somehow it seems to fit in ok. Otis and I took a peek in the theatre yesterday. It’s a large space with stadium style seating and from what I understand it holds 1,500 people. I hope we fill it our two nights here! We have the rest of today off because they are still working on the stage and building the sets in the new space. The tech guys and girls work so hard - I don’t envy them at all. As soon as we finished Sunday night in Bilbao they started striking the set and worked until 4 in the morning packing everything in a big truck. Then they drove here to Pamplona this morning and by 3 in the afternoon they started rebuilding the set in the new theatre. I know that by the time we show up tomorrow afternoon to rehearse the show (our one rehearsal before our first performance in the evening) everything will be in place.

bull sign

The old city was fascinating and I’m going to spend most of my free time there. You can walk along the route where the running of the bulls takes place. It’s a real maze of narrow streets so it’s easy to get disoriented. But they have little signs in the streets with pictures of bulls and little arrows showing you which street to run down. That’s all fine and dandy for the runners but are the bulls supposed to follow the signs as well? It all seems very exciting but I’m not sure I’d want to witness it with my own eyes because people do get trampled and thrown and even gored. Ew. It all seems rather insane and then in the end of it all they end up killing the bulls as well so it sounds like a raw deal for the people *and* the bulls if you ask me.

At the end of the route the people and bulls are hustled into the big arena which unfortunately was closed. –But I did get some nice photos of a large Ernest Hemingway statue outside of it. He’s been such a great ambassador for this city and it’s now famous festival (that was practically unheard of before “The Sun Also Rises” from what I understand) I’m not surprised. I’m sorry we won’t be spending more time here because it is a really wonderful place. I hope I get a chance to come back someday!

Adios!
- Katie

Hemingway

Hemingway in front of the arena where the "Running of the Bulls" ends.


Spring Tour - France
(January - April 2008)


January 10, 2008
Orléans, France

Bonjour! -
I’ve been here three days now and I’m not over the jet lag yet, but I’m acclimated enough to send out a short email.  Orléans is a beautiful city about an hour south of Paris by train.  While we were in Paris last summer we came here and did a little promotional concert setting up this return trip which is basically two weeks of shows kicking off the year hear at the Atelier Théâtre Actuel.  The theatre itself is a big modern facility which is great because we have a lot of space onstage and don’t risk crashing into each other during the quick changes or fear falling into the pit like we do in some of the smaller venues. There’s also a wonderful restaurant attached to the theatre where they save tables for us after the show for eating, drinking, and socializing.

Rhythm Section

(l-r) Tom Saunders, Otis Bazoon, Me, & James Alsanders

The show is very different from the last time we left off.  We have a couple new cast members and Stephanie our Chief Choreographer has left to work on a new show.  Jerome Savary has also left to work on a new show and so has his daughter Manon who was our assistant director.  David Boeddinghaus our musical director isn’t here either.  So that’s left me wondering who’s in charge here?  Well I can answer that - basically the people with the money are in charge and they don’t seem to care much about the artistic integrity of the show.  Their only concern is that they save as much money as possible and we keep selling those tickets.  It’s very sad and the frustration of the cast and the few remaining American Musicians is very apparent. We’re all trying to do our best in this situation and keep each other’s spirits up.  But this show is no longer a work of art or passion - it’s just a job for all of us now.

Still as I look out my window I can’t help but think how lucky I am to be here.  I have to say Orléans is by far the friendliest city we’ve been to yet.  In short order we’ve found some great places to eat and made friends with various waiters, cafe owners, and of course the lady at the Patisserie.  It’s a rather large city so there are plenty of sights to see and places to explore. (There’s a beautiful Cathedral in the center of town and of course plenty of sites dedicated to Joan of Arc.)  But it still feels like a small town.  The pace is slower and people are much more relaxed.  It is very cold and it’s rained every day but I can imagine in the summer this is a very ideal place for a summer getaway.  The people of the city really seem to support the arts too and are very complimentary at the shows.  I hope I can come back here someday (maybe during the summer!) and I am going to enjoy my remaining time here getting to know this city.

Au Revoir,
Katie

Whistling Otis

Otis Bazoon whistles in the Cathedral to test the acoustics.


Joan of Arc

One of the windows in the Cathedral in Orléans.

January 16, 2008
Orléans, France

Bonjour!  On Monday we had a day off and the sun finally came out giving us time to explore.  After Otis and I had our pan au chocolat and cafe we rode the electric train around just to see where it went. From the heart of the city where we’re staying it headed south and crossed the river.  After a while we found ourselves in French suburbia complete with car dealerships and supermarkets so we hopped off and took the train back to town. We then did all the tourist things we could think of: Stopping at the river and taking photos and visiting the big Cathedral in town. Everything is about Joan of Arc here - even the stained glass windows in the Cathedral which are very impressive.  This was the city where she had her first major victory over the English in the Hundred Years War, and streets, cafes, and hotels (including where we’re staying) have her name on them. 

I’ve been getting into a bit of trouble in the pit. This is the first time I’ve played the show where I’ve been completely hidden from the audience.  I’m seated fairly low, facing the stage with my back against the wall of the pit so unless I stand up  on my toes, no one can see me.  No one that is except the cast.  At first I didn’t like this too much, but when I realized that there’s all kinds of things I can do to take advantage of this set up.  There are two different places in the show where there are extended drum solos so I’ve been ‘dancing’ along with the cast onstage. Then as the cast is taking their curtain call at the very end of the show, I’ve been holding up signs for them to read.  It started out innocently enough with signs that said “Bravo!” and “Good Job!” but as we do more shows I have to think of different things to ‘say’ to them and they’re getting more and more absurd.  We only have five more days here in Orléans and then it’s back to ‘Sunny California’ for me which is good because I think I need a break from the cold rainy weather.  I’d love to come back here someday....maybe in the summer... 

Au Revoir,
Katie

Do The Twist

 


St. Malo

February 3, 2008
St. Malo, France

Bonjour!
I’m typing this from St. Malo.  St. Malo is on the northern coast of France about three hours by train west of Paris.  It’s a beautiful sunny day here and I intended to go out walking this morning. Unfortunately the strong cold winds coming off the English Channel were enough of a deterrent to cut my walk short.  All of a sudden I felt like I was in Chicago in December.  As I sit here and type I can hear the howling winds beating against my window. 

The last time I sent out a travel email, I was in Orléans.  We finished our two weeks there and I flew back to California for ten days so I could teach at the San Diego Jazz Camp and have my taxes done (two very important yearly events).  Now I’ve rejoined the tour and I’ll be here until mid-April.  When we finished up in Orléans, Otis Bazoon (our reed player) finished with the show as well and went back home to New Orleans.  We were all really sad to see him go and the cast gave him a great send off.  We had champagne, and some of the dancers made him a great scrapbook with pictures from the show.  And on the curtain call the girls went and danced around him which made him turn red but I know he enjoyed it.

Otis Dance

We’re a traveling troupe now.  We arrived in St. Malo yesterday, had a couple hours to rehearse and get used to the new theatre, and performed last night.  We’ll do one more afternoon show today and then catch the train back to Paris.  This is how the tour will work from here on out.  Sometimes we’ll be based in Paris and get shipped out every few days or so to perform (like this weekend), and sometimes we’ll be a real traveling show - hitting a town, rehearsing and performing one or two shows, and then moving on to the next town.  It’s all going to be quite an adventure and I think I’m really going to enjoy the traveling aspect of it. Now that the show is ‘set’ I can use my free time to play tourist.  Orléans was great and St. Malo is even better.  It’s a pity we aren’t staying here longer then two days.  I really do hope I have the opportunity to come back some day and spend more time here.

The show is going ok and it’s still being very well received when we perform it but it’s a lot different now.  There are only 8 Americans left in the show where originally it was pretty much an All-American troupe.  We still have Nicolle as our ‘Josephine’, and she does such a marvelous job with her role so we’re all really fortunate that she’s still here.  The rest of the original leads are still here as well so there’s still a tight core group of actors.  But most of the dancers have changed, and the only remaining Americans in the band are myself, Tom Saunders (bass), and James Alsanders (Drums).  Unfortunately, key positions in the band have been filled by modern French Jazz musicians so as you can imagine the whole feel of the music in the show has changed.  We’re no longer playing ‘Traditional Jazz’ - we’re playing ‘Combat Jazz’ as James put it.  –Just hanging in there as best we can and doing the gig.  It’s a pity because I know there are great Traditional Jazz players here in France. Playing in San Diego last weekend was a great way to recharge my batteries and now I have to figure out how to hang onto that feeling. Fortunately we will have a good bit of free time between the shows and I’m hoping I can find some traditional jazz musicians to play with.  As always, I’ll keep you posted and if you check my calendar page on my website you can follow my travels for the next few months.  If any of you know other jazz musicians or clubs in places like say, Tarbes or Bastia please send me an email.  In the meantime, I’m going to become a regular Dr. Watson and/or Mr. Holmes (cue: Spirits of Rhythm) and try to find real jazz here in France.

Au Revoir,
Katie


February 13, 2008
Tarbes, France

Bonjour!
This past weekend we had two shows in Bordeaux and yesterday we took a four hour bus ride to Tarbes.  We have a ‘free day’ here today, then one show tomorrow and Thursday, and then we move on to Tolouse.  I’ve been without email for the past four days so this letter may come a little late. Since we’re constantly on the move I’m just keeping my fingers crossed the next hotel will have email access. These smaller cities and ‘boutique’ hotels we’re staying in have a lot of charm but they haven’t quite figured out internet access yet. 

Peacocks

We’ve been really lucky and had several days of mild weather and sun, which is unusual for this time of year.  In fact I pretty much expected it to be cold and rainy every day like it was in Orléans so this has been a real treat.  I visited the local park - the Jarden Massy yesterday. A group of roaming peacocks out for a stroll greeted me at the entrance and they didn’t seem to mind being photographed.  I’m sure they are used to all kinds of visitors.

There was a large open area in the middle of the park and I decided to walk through it but park security came by and blew a whistle at me to get off the grass.  I thought that was strange because I didn’t see any ‘keep off the grass’ signs so I asked Dudu about it later.  He said that you’re not allowed to stray from the paths in public parks in France.  He said if people were allowed to walk on the grass, they’d litter it with cigarette butts and trash.  It’s a pity really because that means you can’t fly a kite or have a picnic on the grass or do any of the ‘normal’ things we associate with parks, –but good to know for future reference.

After the park I met up with James Alsanders (our drummer) and we walked around the city looking for a place to have lunch. We saw a lot of the city before finally settling on a small cafe near our hotel. It was nice to visit with him and talk about the show which has really changed a lot in a very short time. I was glad I had a chance to tell him how much I appreciated having him there with me in the pit every night.  For what it’s worth we make a pretty good rhythm section team and along with Tom Saunders on bass we seem to keep things somewhat consistent for the cast.  I’m grateful for the days off and the time between shows when I can play tourist.  And I feel like my French is getting better which is very useful and encouraging. So maybe this trip isn’t so much about the musical experience as it is about the cultural experience which is a wonderful thing in itself.

Au Revoir,
Katie

park

The Jarden Massy


February 20, 2008
Bastia, Corsica

Bonjour!
This week we’re in Corsica.  We flew in on Sunday and we don’t have to perform a show until next Saturday so we have five days off.  They flew all the Americans here early because I think it was probably cheaper for them to house us here and let the show catch up with us than to put us up in Paris for the week. Bastia is a resort city and I’m sure it’s really a lively town in the summer but since it’s the off season a lot of things are closed for the winter.  Still we’ve found some great restaurants and there are plenty of things to do.  The little hotel they are housing us in is charming and looks out over the Mediterranean,  Out my window I can see a little lighthouse in the bay and I can see the moon at night and watch the sun rise every morning.  There’s no internet here but I did find a nice internet cafe where I can use my own computer so at least I can check my email every few days.

Bastia

train

On Monday my first free day here, I decided to take the train to Ajaccio.  It takes about four hours.  The train heads southwest from Bastia and winds its way up and over the mountains.  It’s a tiny train on a narrow gauge track that hugs cliff faces, wanders through tunnels, and crosses bridges over clear mountain streams. The scenery was absolutely spectacular.  At times the train strained against the grade and other times the brakes hiss as it picks up speed heading downhill.  We passed farms of horses, cows, sheep, donkeys, and at one point we startled a large group of mountain goats that ran and hopped away from the track as the train approached. 

When we got to Corte - the largest city at the foot of some of the highest peaks in Corsica - we had to leave the train and switch to a bus for the journey down the mountains to Ajaccio.  That’s because they are currently doing repair and maintenance on the track between Corte and Ajaccio.  I guess in the summer the train takes a lot of tourists on this route so it makes sense they would want to get it ready for the summer season now.  I was disappointed at first but the bus trip proved to be exciting in its own way. –Mostly because of the way the bus driver handled the bus on the mountain roads - barreling through the tiny towns and making every stop right on time.  Once in Ajaccio (Napoleon’s birthplace!) I had time to look around and get a bite of lunch before making the same trip in reverse. 

train2

On the bus trip up the mountains the new driver handled the bus with the same stunt driver precision that the guy on the previous trip did, so I guess they all just drive this way.  At one point we were up in the wilderness and some haggard looking characters appeared walking out of the woods.  The bus driver said something in French and the bus pulled over. There really wasn’t a place to pull over on this tiny mountain road but he just stopped and put his flashers on while about a dozen men and women with large backpacks, skis, rock climbing equipment and assorted gear scrambled out of the forest.  As they put all their stuff under the bus and joined us onboard I was wondering if we’d just made some kind of wilderness rescue but then the bus drivers assistant came back with his calculator and started talking and joking with them in French.  Then they handed him about 60 euros and we resumed our trip.  We only drove up the hill about thirty minutes and again the bus came to a random stop in the road.  All the people got out and got their gear and left.  I was kind of glad they didn’t stay on for the whole trip because they kind of smelled like they’d been on their own in the wild a long time.  And then I started thinking if you’re on a big wilderness journey and you decide to take the bus for part of it, isn’t that kind of ...cheating...? 

train3

From Corte I took the train back down the hill.  I really enjoyed the trip a lot and I think I’ll actually take it again later in the week.  The next time I may just take the train up to Corte and back. Corte seemed like an interesting city too and it’s only two hours up the mountain.  Today it’s been raining all day so I’ll have to check the weather and see if I’m going to get a nice day later in the week for my second trip. 

On Monday we fly back to Paris and will be based there for about three weeks.  It’ll be good to be back at our regular residence and have internet again.  It’s been a nice road trip but I’m looking forward to going back to our temporary home.

Au Revoir,
Katie


February 27, 2008
Paris, France

Bonjour!
We’re back in Paris and once again I have internet in my apartment!  We got back Monday afternoon, and I’m glad to be back in our home city.  We’re having typical Parisian weather this time of year: cold,
gray, rainy days.  I keep checking the forecast and hoping we’ll get some sun but that doesn’t seem very likely at least for this week.  But I do have a good umbrella, a rain coat, and a metro pass, and with that I can get pretty much anywhere in the city and stay relatively dry.

rain

Yesterday I went to my other new favorite music store. Let me backtrack a little:  A few weeks back while we were still here in Paris, I went to the Pigalle stop in Montmartre to drop in and see my friend Hertz at ‘Vintage Guitars’ and to check the shops in the area for guitar picks.  Not just any guitar pick but a “Wegen Gypsy Jazz Pick” which is the only pick I like to use for the guitar (In fact I’m *very* particular about my picks!).  Well I came up empty in my search. In fact most of the shop owners just looked at me funny when I showed them my old pick and told them I was looking for something similar. I didn’t realize it was going to be so hard because I figured there should be at least a few shops around Paris that cater to the Gypsy Jazz crowd (as much as they go on and on about Django and all...).  So after coming up empty, I took the metro back to my flat and did a google search to find more of a specialty shop.  And almost immediately I found a wonderful place called “R & F Charle”.  They specialize in the “repair, maintenance, and restoration of rare and vintage string instruments (bowed or plucked).” It’s located a few blocks from the Louvre in a ‘Galerie’ which is a little like a shopping mall (but one that has been around since 1823) and is the sort of place that you really have to know where you’re going if you’re going to find it. Anyway it’s far from ‘Guitar Town’ in Montemarte so I wouldn’t have even found it by chance and even looking for it that day with a map I had to circle the block a couple times before I came upon the Galerie entrance. When I arrived at the shop there was an older woman working by herself in back.  I waved at her and she ‘buzzed’ me in.  As soon as I showed her my pick she reached behind the counter and came up with exactly what I needed.  I spent a little time poking around the shop but didn’t have as much time there as I would have liked, so I vowed to go back.

Luthier

R & F Charle

Yesterday I made it back to the shop and this time there was a guy closer to my age working. He buzzed me in and in my best French I was able to explain I just wanted to look around.  After looking a bit I started asking a few simple questions about picks, strings, and cds they had for sale.  I told him I was a musician and I asked about where in town I could hear Traditional Jazz.  He said unfortunately there was very little Trad Jazz in Paris - most of the jazz clubs book Blues and Bebop groups.  So I asked if there was maybe some place I could hear Gypsy Jazz and he said “Real Gypsy Jazz?” and kind of sighed.  Then he thought of something and went to grab an address book.  So he starts telling me the name of a Café and the street it’s on and I’m trying to write it down and having trouble with the spelling of what he’s telling
me.  Up until this point all our conversation has been in French.  So as I’m struggling to write down the information he’s giving me, he immediately switches to English and he speaks it flawlessly!  It was really funny and I was glad that I at least got that far speaking French with him.  I ended up staying there a little while talking and looking at other things in the shop.  I bought a pick to try on my banjo (yes, I’m particular about my picks but I always like to try new ones too!) and a Sol Hoopii CD. As I left I thanked him for speaking in English with me and he laughed and said, “Your French isn’t that bad!” Well I was elated.  With each of these little success I have speaking French I only want to learn more and get better at it.

After sailing on a ship with no captain for a little over a month we finally got Manon back.  Manon Savary has been the Assistant Director for “Josephine” since we started.  She was away working on another show (and so was/is Jerome) and as I’ve mentioned before, we lost both David Boeddinghaus (our Musical Director) and Stefanie Batten Bland (Our Chief Choreographer). So it’s been pretty chaotic with lots of liberties being taken with the show because no one is clearly in charge. Manon is Jerome’s daughter but make no mistake, she is a wonderful director in her own right and has the same sort of ‘I’m in control and we’re taking no prisoners’ style that works so effectively for her dad. I’m thrilled because already we are reaping the benefits of having her around.  Mainly - short concise rehearsals  before each show in the new theaters, with very clear, precise directions being given.  From what I understand she’ll be with us for the rest of this tour and it’ll be interesting to see what happens.  I don’t know if she’ll try to do any major fixes or if she’ll just focus on keeping the ship on course through to the end of the tour.

Au Revoir,
Katie


March 4, 2008
Paris, France

Bonjour!
On Sunday I got a new apartment.  The place they are putting us up is a hotel that is part of a large shopping mall at the Place d’Italie metro stop.  The shopping mall is about three levels and most of it is below ground.  It’s enclosed on four sides and one side of the enclosure is this extended stay hotel. The other three sides are offices.  Above all this is a sort of ceiling with skylights and large green florescent lights that glow all day and all night long.  Since I’ve been here I’ve had an apartment on the ‘mall’ side of the building.  Fortunately I was up high enough that the shoppers couldn’t see into my room.  (But I could see when the travel agent just to my left and caddy corner from me was working late.) When Myorah one of our cast mates was coming to Paris for a few days they put her up here as well and her room was level with the mall.  People going to McDonalds and Darty could see right in her room if she opened her curtains.  Well she complained about that (I don’t blame her) and they gave her a great room on the other side of the building - the side that looks out onto the city streets and high enough that it has a view of the Eiffel Tower.  On Sunday she flew home to Austria, and I asked to be switched to her room and they gave it to me! 

mall

The view from my first apartment in Paris.

not mall

The view from my "new" apartment in Paris.

I cannot describe how exciting this is for me.  All the time I’ve been staying here in Paris I didn’t really feel like I was in Paris.  I’d open my curtains and I’d see the awful florescent green glow and office workers and people at a mall.  I couldn’t even guess what the weather was like outside and I couldn’t sense what time of day it was.  It was downright depressing. Now I can leave my curtains open and wake up with the sun.  I can tell if it’s raining or not.  I can see people in the streets below going to the metro and eating at the corner cafe. Yesterday a group of street
musicians walked by playing “Blue Moon” and “Hello Dolly” very loud and very badly.  And at night the Eiffel Tower glows with thousands of tiny lights and every hour at the top of the hour all the lights sparkle and put on a little show.  It’s really changed my outlook and my mood, and when we come back to stay here again at the end of this tour, I’m going to request an ‘outside’ apartment again!

Sunday was ‘Free Day’ again at the museums.  So after I moved into my great new apartment, I took the metro to the Louvre.  I got there around 2 in the afternoon. Once again I bypassed the Pyramid entrance and the huge line and I went to the Lion’s entrance and walked right in.  This visit I got myself an audio guide. It’s actually a little handheld pda and you can do a lot of different things with it.  Many of the works have an ‘audio’ sign with a number which means you can put the number in and hear about the work.  But they also have about a half a dozen tours programed into them.  I decided to do the ‘Italian’ tour which covered sculpture and painting and took about an hour and a half.  The pda has a map on it and arrows showing you which way to go. You can also click on it and see a photograph of what your surroundings should look like in case you get lost.  When you come to a work of art that’s on the tour a picture of the work comes up.  And it’s a bit like an easter egg hunt because then you have to look around the room until you see the  statue of the banker that looks like Yul Brynner or the painting of the Saint with the really big eyes. 

Then you click it again and someone tells you all about what you’re looking at.  There’s also music on it at different random points. –Which really made me jump when I was first looking at the Virgin Mary and all of the sudden the choir started singing. It’s a terrific tour and I’m going to go back in the next week or so to take the French tour on the guide, which takes two and a half hours.  It will be a good thing to do if I wake up and see rain falling outside.

boy in louvre

Admiring art in the Louvre.

Last Saturday I went to see my friend Hertz at Vintage Guitars.  I got there about 11 because I had to leave by bus for a show in Montargis at 3 pm.  The longer I was at the shop, the more people came in.  Some I recognized from previous visits but there were some new faces too.  By the afternoon we had a really good jam session going and I unfortunately had to leave. One of the guitarists was really making me laugh because he wanted to scat sing everything.  Lots of French musicians I’ve met really want to scat sing and I’ve yet to meet one that can do it even marginally well.  It just sounds totally ridiculous.  And they are so very sincere about it.  They must think they sound great, or something about scat singing just really appeals to them.  (Maybe I could make a cartoon - “The Scatting Frenchman”.)  Anyway, he was a very nice guy and he did call “Honey Hush” for a jam tune so that impressed me - even if he did do a scat chorus on it.  All the guys at the shop were very nice and I had a wonderful time.  I always like playing there because they really like the way I play and it totally confuses them.  The concept of rhythm guitar is unfortunately becoming a lost art, and in general the musicians I’ve met here aren’t very familiar with jazz of the 20’s and 30’s.  So it’s nice to go and share tunes and ideas with these guys.  I’ll go back later this week and see my friends at R & F Charle too.  I’m hoping I can entice them to jam a little as well.
We’ll see what happens!

Au Revoir,
Katie


As time permits I'll update this section with the rest of the letters I sent from my 2008 tours.

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