There is a small theatre in lower Manhattan with all the charm and character of a dying breed of New York City theatres. The 13th Street Repertory Company was founded 38 years ago by Edith O’Hara and has remained a firm off-off Broadway venue through its constantly changing and updating surroundings. These small, underfunded theatres are where future Broadway plays are born. Now 94 years old, Edith O’Hara proudly continues to run plays and musicals in her theatre.
I’m proud to be a pianist in a new, old musical called “Touch.” It ran years ago under the same director and is making its second debut in January. The director explained to me that there is no sheet music, no lead sheets, just an old recording of the 14 songs. I would have to come up with all the music 100% by ear.
I play by ear, but the internet has made me lazy. It’s too easy to google chord charts and lead sheets for nearly every song fathomable, saving time and work. However, that’s impossible with this musical. Today I spent the day with the CD of rough, past recordings on repeat, grinding the melody and chord changes into my head until I was comfortable enough to start plunking them out on the piano. Before I knew it I had the first song finished.
What a feeling of pride that I’ve not felt in much too long, to have the complete music to a song, all derived from my own ear. No, internet, no cheating, no crutch. The rawness of it all fits in perfectly with the theme of the theatre. From the musicians to the actors to the directors, we all want to be there, we all have hopes and aspirations, and we’re all willing to put in the time and work to make it happen.