Friday, January 28, 2011

Yeston and Whitener composing our Tom Sawyer

This past Monday, the Kansas City Public Library hosted Maury Yeston and William Whitener at the Central Branch in downtown Kansas City. People gathered to listen to them talk about their collaboration (Yeston the musical composer, Whitener the choreographer) to create the three-act ballet called Tom Sawyer due to open at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center in October 2011.

It was magic. Yeston played excerpts on the Steinway. Whitener shared insights about his craft. Members of their creative team discussed orchestration, costumes, set design, and lighting concepts. Concepts, for this ballet is an emerging thing, a collaborative work-in-progress.

I was struck by a few things…this is the first American three-act ballet, ever…while appreciating that the production team desires to maintain and generate interest, it is inspiring to consider how these creative people work as a team, to hear how a Tony Award winning composer appreciates his place in the endeavor, to listen to these artists sincerely say that this is a culmination in their artistic careers, and to ponder how something like this happens with the creative input of so many people…even the dancers have added suggestions along the way…suggestions that will become part of a “score”.

Many art forms require solitary space, time alone in the studio. Maury has spent time alone with his piano, crafting this music for over 20 years. There’s that solitary bit mixed with patience. Bill has given us so much of his vision over the years, interpretations of masters like Balanchine, as well as original pieces of his own. Patience and time.

Tom Sawyer comes to life slowly once again in a new way. We won’t hear him speak but we’ll hear his heart in the music and watch his spirit move in the dance.

At first, I felt in awe of all of this, of this incredible night in an intimate setting, up close with these incredibly accomplished artists. But then, after sensing their anticipation, childlike uncertainty, enthusiasm, joy and youth despite their common over 50 age, I realized that this is the essence of art in its creative “making” sense…people making something, together.

And all of this took place in our wonderful public space, the Kansas City Central Library, hosted by Crosby Kemper III and Henry Fortunato, Heather from Pierponts, and my friends Willy and Chris who set things up, the chairs the sound. All for free.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Tom. I was bowled over when Yeston got up to speak and immediately made a local connection by describing how, shortly after TS was published, schoolkids at the then-new Webster House just blocks away were reading it. His respect for our midwestern artistic heritage is commendable -- and now he's contributing to it!