One of my very favorite ongoing projects is my role as pianist and choir director for the Obie Award-winning The Secret City. I always struggle to describe what exactly it is and my friends who attend invariably say, “well, that wasn’t what you described!” To which I reply, “Well, then, how would you describe it?” Then they say, “oh, yeah. I guess I don’t know.” Then I just stand there looking smug, but not really.
Anyway, here’s how the Secret City’s website describes it:
The Secret City is an on-going performance gathering for people who believe in the arts. Part ceremony, part salon, part tent revival, each gathering has a different theme and features an ever-changing roster of artists and performers sharing work relating to the theme.
Each event has a visual art component, food offering, live music, guest performances, storytelling, community interaction, silent meditation, The Secret City Singers, special outfits and JOY, which is central to the mission of The Secret City.
This past weekend, we took The Secret City to Woodstock, NY for the first time. I had a hell of a time getting out of the city with my keyboard, choir-mistress Raquel Cion and cellist Leah Coloff. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that the plan of renting a car for the three of us and our music gear gave way to three bus tickets and my departure sans keyboard. Artistic Director Chris Wells worked on finding us a keyboard to use for the service while the three of us left the driving to Trailways.
We finally arrived and commenced to rehearsing the choir and band in preparation for the show. A community member, Mina, brought us a small keyboard that worked just fine to get us through our rehearsal and our local band musicians Brian Macaluso (drums) and Mark Lerner (bass) brought us a keyboard and amp, respectively. We were totally good to go.
After rehearsal, we all headed over to Chris and his boyfriend Bobby Lucy‘s house at the Byrdcliffe Artist Colony for food and fellowship. There was a mini city of tents set up in the front yard and the grill was going. I had such a great time chatting with the various artists who make up the roster of performers and volunteers for The Secret City. My travel induced frustration melted away over grilled corn on the cob and lively chit chat out in the woods. Just lovely.
The service the next day was exceptional. The Woodstock community showed up in droves and a surprising number of Secret City supporters drove up from New York City to attend as well. After the service, I had lunch with music director Jeremy Bass, Annie Engman and friends and then caught a ride back to Brooklyn with Annie’s mom.
Though I love to perform and love being around people, I am also a very indoorsy introvert. As such, I tend to avoid events such as this that require exposure to the elements and conversation with people from whom there is no escape. Alright, that might be a touch of an exaggeration.. Still, I am so happy I had this opportunity to kick myself out of my shell for a couple of days and to connect with some fantastic people. Not to mention the pleasure of helping to bring this organization I am so in love with to a new town.
The next NYC Secret City service will be on September 28th at Dixon Place (another NYC institution I adore), you should make a point to be there. You’re in LA, you say? No problem, there are services there, too. Go. And while you are waiting for the next service, maybe take a peek at the Secret City’s fundraising drive and throw in a dollar or two.
p.s. I took a few more photos of the weekend which you can check out in this flickr album.