A Dream Blooms in Memphis

Michael Ching looks down into the orchestra pit where the a cappella vocal bands are singing. DeltaCappella and RIVA form the voicestra for his Midsummer Night's Dream operapella.

I don’t like to let go of people. This  could possibly pose a bit of minor aggravation to some folks, but so far, no one –at least to my knowledge –has ever objected. I don’t hover. I just continue to allow the edges of their lives to touch mine, like watercolors bound by water.

For this reason, you might think I’d be all over and all about social networking, but I am not. As I told my boss, who thinks I should be, I already FEEL connected. “Maybe someday….”, I tell him, as if he has asked for a pony.

Facebook does not take into account that there are people who exist at the farthest margins of your life, who have long forgotten their place in your universe, but who, at least for you, have great value.

Such a person for me is Michael Ching, the composer of the operapella that we are performing at Playhouse on the Square in partnership with Opera Memphis.Michael has of course no notion nor should he that he has been blooming like a Texas bluebonnet along the roadway of my life, but in truth, he has.

I first came upon Michael in the mid-eighties, when he was the super-charged young executive director of Opera Memphis. More than likely, his interest was in ginning up some patron dollars from my late husband and me. We were new in town, and I am not sure if I was already working at the Dixon then or not. In fact, all I remember is thinking that MC had the kind of smarts and drive and creativity to do whatever he wanted to do, and I admire that in a person.

Amazing, but decades come, and decades go. And OM and MC flourished, and not just me, but Memphis as well,  came to enjoy the flowering of his talent.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is playing at Playhouse on the Square through February 13.

And then, one day, DeltaCappella knew it needed a vocal coach who would have the ability to interact with a cappella singers. Coaching a cappella is very different from dealing with an ensemble, because much is accomplished through an interactive collaboration of the singers. There is no director. We needed someone to help us learn the notes–and troubleshoot.

I suggested MC, and with his usual intellectual curiosity, and the sense of fun and discovery that pervades his approach to life and music, he said, “Yes!”

The rest is of course, history. Literally. The world’s first a cappella opera has been written, and by Michael Ching.

His operapella is  a thing of great beauty and of good humor, for the libretto comes straight from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the music is as close to the heart as music can get, bubbling  like a spring from the voices of the singers, with nothing man-made to get in the way of its soul.

Some things are simply meant to be.

And people?

They are meant to bloom.

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