Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Like Chalk and Cheese: It’s all relative

There’s a saying in England to describe when things or people are different…”like chalk and cheese”. The saying fits for Kirsten Paludan and her sister, Karin. Kirsten sings rock, folk, and standards. Karin is a mezzo soprano; and opera diva in the most endearing classical form. Last week they blended their styles, shared their lives in a musical narrative of their lives, growing up in Lawrence, Kansas blanketed by the love and encouragement of their Mom and Dad. The title of the show is “It’s All Relative”. Look for it at the Tony Awards ceremony in the future.

What makes their project so personal is what makes it so universal. We all have experienced childhood and we all look back once in a while to that time. That time may be a mixture of joy, pain, and in between feelings. The Paludan sisters lived a childhood full of music and art; a gift from their parents, friends, and teachers. This project, a family album of sorts, pays tribute to that collection of people and sounds.

The show consisted of songs of their time, compositions from their own imaginations, pictures of their family, and stories. Neither will admit being actors, but if acting is the art of storytelling, they both earned the title of actor. This project of theirs, this first courageous public presentation is but a glimpse of things to come; in terms of the concept and their own collaborative artistic love.

They made me feel as if I was sitting in their living room, with the family album on my lap, listening to them sing me their life. View your own album in your head and you can appreciate the rollercoaster of emotion that memory provides the soul. Add music and story to that experience and you know how personal the process can become.

When they were young, Kirsten and Karin produced musical events in their parents’ garage. While the Lawrence Arts Center stage provided a relaxed rich acoustic atmosphere for their show, their stories and songs propelled me back to their childhood home and pulled me back to my neighbor Jeanie’s backyard. Jeanie, my childhood friend and classmate, held dance parties on her patio when we were in grade school. But, it’s all relative.

Chalk and cheese can harmonize despite the English phrase. Karin and Kirsten’s disparate styles, unique instruments, blended and soared that evening.

This project deserves your attention and inspires mine. “It’s All Relative” will undergo a bit of scripting, I suspect. I can even visualize having younger actors play the Paludan sisters at various stages of their lives. I can see how older actors in the roles of their Mom, Dad, and teachers could add to the narrative and depth of their story. Imagine this as a contemporary “Sound of Music” play, even a film.

The authenticity of their lives is the bedrock of their art, the superstructure of this delightful project. I’m picturing tour, album, Broadway, Hollywood.

My favorite story from the show involves a quarrel the two had over some cheese; Karin’s cheese. Kirsten stole the cheese. Karin responded to the situation with the legendary phrase, “that’s my cheese, you bitch”. Cheese bred harmony after all; like chalk and cheese.

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