When several of us sat down together to discuss what would become “The Avalon Project” on a five-hour conference call (including women from the San Francisco-Bay Area, New York and Philadelphia) in October, one of the themes that emerged was visibility. Our webmaven, Barbara Brust, suggested that there was no better way to celebrate feminist process than to show it. This section, then, is dedicated to sharing “the making of Avalon.”
We will be posting photos from various meetings, rehearsals and recording sessions as this work-in-process unfolds. We hope you enjoy this “back-stage” look.
Installment #1 was about giving birth to The Avalon Project. I shared how the idea took hold, as well as the principal players who are involved in translating the vision of the music and tour in terms of production, marketing, public relations and concert booking. All this has to be in place or I would find myself all dressed up with a CD and no place to sing because no one would know about it. That’s just the first part, however.
Next comes an odd period of time (odd because it can sometimes go on for months and years) which we might sum up as preparation. Here are some photos which document a few of the activities that are involved in getting ready to go into the studio to do an actual recording.
Shortly before I began rehearsals at my home with the other musicians, I realized I had not tuned my piano in ages. This moment is akin to realizing you haven’t cleaned your house and your dinner guests are about to knock on your front door. I called my favorite piano tuner, Margie Williams and she agreed to come over on very short notice to tune my piano. Saved by the generosity of a wonderful piano technician.
The photo shoot is, I think, one of the most demanding parts for any project that requires them. I’d just as soon arrive with a bag over my head and be propped up in a corner for the duration. But hey, it’s part of the deal. Marcia Lieberman (see photo above), a truly unusual photographer, took a hold of me for the day and, along with her colleague Persia Matine, a make-up artist, made the session a pleasure. I spent hours spinning around and waving my arms. Persia primped my curls so they didn’t get totally out of control. Hair!
My old friend and sister musician Diane Lindsay arrived at the house with her bass, music paper and many pencils. Besides endless excellent arrangement ideas, she laboriously wrote out chord/rhythm charts for all 12 songs. This is a piece of work for which I have deep admiration. It requires a precise understanding of a songwriter’s style.
Since Diane has worked with me on every one of my vocal recordings in each of the last four decades (Amazing!) I would trust her absolutely to translate my music to the page, just as she has exquisitely translated the very “ground” of my music with her bass lines.
The sensitive and brilliant harpist Michelle Sell, was the first player to join me in this musical program known as “Avalon.” In the summer of 2000 she visited me in Bodega Bay where I was writing the last of the music which we will soon record. She has spent hours with me talking about the music and working out the most delicate harp parts. She and her harp (coincidentally named “Avalon”) were inspirational support as I was deciding to go forward with making a new CD.
Probably the most thrilling moment for me as a singer-songwriter is when other singers raise their voices in a song I wrote. The last Saturday of the year 2000, Melanie DeMore, Freyda Epstein, Sue Fink and Libby McLaren (see photos above) sat at my dining table with me for three hours going over all 12 songs discussing where backup vocals belonged in the material. Then we moved to the piano. Let me just say, sitting at the piano singing while being literally surrounded by these powerful women as the they worked out parts to “I’ll Be Right Over” was so exhilarating, that it was several days before I touched ground again. Unbelievable energy!
All four of these precious women are accomplished singer/songwriters with their own solo CDs. They have conducted choirs, they have done vocal and instrumental arranging and they are instrumentalists as well. Soon they will bring their voices into “Avalon” and raise the passionate intention of each song beyond my imagining.
Next installment – The Basic Tracks with Diane Lindsay (bass) and Jeanette Wrate (drums/percussion/vibes): rehearsal and recording process.