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May 4, 2020:

KRITZERLAND AT HOME 105

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, Kritzerland at Home 105 was, I’m happy to say, everything I wanted it to be.  I will now reveal how we did it, from its inception to its airing.  After we did the April Best Of hybrid thing, which was fun but very amateur, I knew we wouldn’t be back at Vitello’s in May and missing the May show was not an option I wanted. So, I began to think about how we might do it online, on Facebook and YouTube Live.  I knew everyone and their mother or brother or whoever was doing this live streaming thing, from major pros to anyone at all.  I hadn’t watched any of ‘em, frankly.  But I couldn’t figure out HOW they were doing these things live.  How could they take those chances?  How could there not be technical flubs.  On the other hand, I knew about Zoom, I knew that you could video switch from there, so perhaps it was that or some other program.  So, I called Hartley Powers, because she’s the CEO of a video company and has some expertise.  And we began to explore how we might get this done.  I didn’t want to cast it until we knew if we could actually do it, and not only DO it but have it be professional, which is the only way I would do anything ever.

She found several options – I can’t remember what they all were at this point, but I know Zoom was one of them, I think Face Time had some kind of program, I know we tried Skype and that seemed like the best option for switching and we tried a bunch of tests of that privately – Hartley, Doug, and me.  It was very confusing, seemed to have a little lag but once we sussed out that you couldn’t actually be watching or listening via Skype but watching on Facebook, that made it easier.  She could switch back and forth between the three of us and there was capability to do that for the number of performers I was thinking of.  So, we knew we could do it that way, although I simply didn’t like the quality, which I thought was awful.  At that point, Hartley said, “Maybe we should pre-record it, assemble it and air it that way.”  I thought that was cheating somehow, but said I’d think about it.  What that option would do for us is give us some quality in the image and some control of the sound.

So, I did some research about how you actually do that, i.e. get it on Facebook and YouTube Live, what that entails, how much it would cost, and all that stuff.  I found several articles and one company that had high marks and Hartley took it from there, read up on everything, and we made the decision to do the show that way, which I, of course, revealed at the end of the video.  The trick was going to be making it seamless and also to make it seem like it was live right up until the reveal.  Once we’d made THAT decision, I then cast the show.  I could have gone any number of ways with it: I could have loaded it with stars by calling in favors to all my New York folks and I’m quite sure they all would have done it.  But in the end what I really wanted was not that – I wanted a Kritzerland show, what we’re known for, and what we’ve been doing every month for almost ten years now.  So, I cast it completely with Kritzerland regulars.  I knew that I wanted the theme of the show to be home, and I’d already begun choosing the songs.

Then I went to Liz Callaway and Sal Viviano, both of whom agreed to do it.  The deal was easy – whoever we cast had to have a decent set-up in their house.  Once cast, I finished choosing the songs.  Then I sent all the music to Richard Allen and we spent a few hours doing the routining of each number.  The good news was that Kerry already had tracks for two of her songs and Liz had one done for her and Sal did the same.  I guessed at the keys because I know the singers really well after all these shows and I was either right or close.  Once the songs were in the computer, changing a key was a push of a button.  Richard then made tracks for everyone and we sent them to the singers, who also had gotten their sheet music.  The most difficult one to do was my song, Goin’ Home.  As I said in the intro, it’s something I wrote in the late 1970s but could never find the lyric sheet for it so didn’t remember anything but the hook section and its lyric.  I wrote the two verses that precede that section two weeks ago, and then Richard had to create the track.  Normally, he comes here and films my fingers playing, so the chord voicings are what I do rather than guess work.  We couldn’t do that, so he took a stab at it and sent it.  The we worked on the phone and I adjusted all the voicings with him and that worked perfectly

Then we had a Zoom rehearsal with the singers, each separately.  That happened a week ago.  I gave some notes, and then it was up to the singers to film their numbers.  But first, I had everyone do a test video and that was very helpful, as I heard the balances between voice and piano and heard what their mics were like, etc.  I made adjustments, and then they all began filming and sending their stuff.  Some got it right away and I only had to have them tweak stuff without re-filming.  Others had the piano too low and didn’t have the ability as some did to raise anything or lower anything.  So, they had to re-shoot until it was right.  I gave them each a very specific way of listening to make sure the voice was sitting just on top of the piano.

As those were coming in, I recorded all my commentary here in front of the computer, as I was able to set up the short tripod with my iPhone, which had the ring light and there was enough space for me to see the commentary on the computer screen.  But I hated the look of it – I was a bit too far from the camera, the camera was aimed up, which I hate, and even with the ring light I looked appalling, mostly because the light from the computer was also on me.  Eventually, I re-recorded all of it in a different location.  I figured out the perfect camera angle, where to put the ring light, and given the angle of the camera, where to put the commentary so I could read it without it seeming like I was glued to a paper.  Each portion of the commentary was on its own page and because I stopped and started, I was able to go over it myself before filming and it was therefore fresh in my mind.  I then sent all 19 of those files to Hartley via Dropbox and she laid all of them out, leaving holes for the videos.  Those came in and she put them wherever they were supposed to go.  At the last minute, I made a song change for Brittney, and she thankfully knew the song I wanted (Smile) and got it recorded quickly.

Meanwhile, as you know in these here notes, I was acting like it was all live, although I never actually said we were – I was very cagey everywhere to ONLY say we would be on Facebook and YouTube Live, not that we’d actually BE live.  Then we began our testing on Facebook and YouTube – you know, where I’d talk and then play a song and folks would watch as those were happening, comment, and let us know if there were hiccups.  The first night, YouTube didn’t work at all and Facebook worked perfectly.  The second night, Facebook was glitching (later we found out it was a Facebook problem, not us) but YouTube worked perfectly.  And the third night, it all worked perfectly.  All those tests were actually pre-recorded, too – nothing at any point was actually live.  We had to make sure the scheduling of them, done in advance with the company we were using, worked without any issues and it did.  So, while I posted here that we were getting everything ready, working with singers, well, that was bending the truth a bit.  What was happening was Hartley was assembling the show.  She then got it to me and I watched, gave a few small audio notes but other than that it really looked very good.  The show was a little longer than I like, but it played fine.  We did take out about two minutes of Sal’s intro, which was too long.  And Hartley had put in applause after each number – it was nice, but I felt it would give the game away, so she got rid of it.  She scheduled everything on Saturday, and that was the end of our work.

The ONLY thing I forgot was to tell the singers NOT to post while they were singing and, of course, some did, but nobody caught on, I think.  It was funny.  After it was over, the reaction and comments were everything I could have hoped for.  It’s always my goal to be the best we can be at whatever we do.  And I think we did okay.  I actually had to watch it on YouTube because Facebook was one constant glitch for me – nobody else had problems, so maybe I need to clear more space on my computer or something.  But I had both open so I could see the comments on both and all the hearts and fun emojis on Facebook.  Which brings us to the “anger” emoji.  Someone was sitting in their home constantly pressing the “anger” emoji.  Now, who would do such a stupid and silly thing, since there was nothing to be angry about and since they were pressing it repeatedly, especially during my commentary.  I could only actually think of one person who would be that petty and stupid – and I’m sure you dear readers can figure it out – our little stalker, who we all know reads these here notes daily, along with the posts.  Who else would do it?  So, that was actually amusing on some level.  All in all, I could not have been happier.  If anyone missed it, it’s up on the Facebook Kritzerland Upstairs at Vitello’s page, as well as my page, as well as YouTube.  We had over 600 comments during the show, all wonderful.  And I didn’t know comments could happen on YouTube but there they were.  Thanks to everyone who watched.  We had between 65 and 78 people on Facebook and 139 people watching on YouTube.  Not bad at all.

Other than the waiting game, yesterday was fine.  I got eight hours of sleep, got up, did some work on the computer, had several telephonic conversations with Hartley, then had two lox and bagel and cream cheese sandwiches, which were great.  I then just relaxed until it was show time.  The rest you know.

After the show, I took a drive, came home, had the rest of the lox on another sandwich and ate a Drumstick ice cream cone for my celebratory treat.  Then I sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched the first two-thirds of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, starring Vivien Leigh, Warren Beatty, and Lotte Lenya.  I watched it when I got the Tennessee Williams box set back in 2006, which was the first time I’d ever seen it.  I really quite like it – the only film of director Jose Quintero, beautifully photographed, a nice score by Richard Addinsell, and a good script by Gavin Lambert, from Williams’ novel.  Williams was on record that this was his favorite screen adaptation of his work.  That said, Warren Beatty was lucky to have had his first two films come out in the same year – the other was Splendor in the Grass.  If it had ONLY been this one one wonders if his career would have played out differently.  He’s very charismatic on the screen and looks great, but his Eyetalian accent is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard and his performance, while fine sometimes, suffers from the bad accent and overplaying, but the camera does love him and you can see his quirky charm trying to break through.  On the other hand, Vivien Leigh is splendid, and Lotte Lenya, appearing in only her second film (her first was thirty years earlier), is spectacular, and got an Oscar nomination for her performance.

After that, I relaxed and listened to music.

Today, I’ll get up when I get up, I have much to do and I’m sure some unpleasantness to deal with, although maybe I’ll get a reprieve, which would be nice.  I’ll eat, hopefully pick up some packages and mail, hope for modern major miracles, and then, at some point, relax, watch, and listen.

The rest of the week is more of the same and I’ll start planning the June Kritzerland – we really hope we’ll be back at Vitello’s by then, but if not, we’ll do it the same as the May show.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, get up when I get up, do things, hopefully get a reprieve from unpleasantness, eat, hopefully pick up packages and mail, hope for modern major miracles, relax, watch, and listen.  Today’s topic of discussion: What are your favorite plays and films of Tennessee Williams? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have had a successful Kritzerland at Home 105.

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