Friday, April 01, 2011

How My Past Almost Caught Up With Me

About nine years ago, I was driving up to Glimmerglass for my second summer as part of the Young American Artist Program when I got a strange call on my relatively new cell phone. It was my voice teacher from the University of Michigan calling to ask if it was ok to give my number to a music producer in LA who was looking for an operatic tenor to record a track for a project he was working on. She said that the man was also a graduate of UM and had asked the Dean to recommend someone for this project. The Dean had kindly suggested me, and my voice teacher wondered if it would be ok for them to pass my contact information on to him so that he could contact me about the project. I was young, constantly strapped for cash, and open to any way I could make a paycheck singing, so I said, “Sure – give him my number and have him call me.”


The project turned out to be recording “So This is Love” from the Disney cartoon, Cinderella, for the upcoming new ice show, Disney On Ice: Princess Classics. The producer explained to me that this was for the climactic moment in the second half of the show, and they were looking for an operatic tenor to do the vocal track to give the track as much grandeur as possible. Because I was busy at Glimmerglass, I ended up recording the track at a little studio in Albany, NY with a synthesized Midi-mock-up of the arrangement that they were planning on using. The producer was patched in from LA and coached me as I sang take after take along with the synthesized mock-up until he said he had what he wanted. He told me that he was going to mix my vocal track in with a big orchestra and choir that he was going to record in LA at a later point and that it was going to sound great once it was finished. He thanked me for my work, and I cheerily wished this man I never actually met goodbye and thanked him for the opportunity. I drove the 90 minutes back to Glimmerglass and promptly put the whole episode in the back of my mind as I was swept away by the stress of the summer.


A few months later, I had just moved to Houston, and I noticed that Disney Princess Ice show was coming to town. I begged my fellow studio artists to go with me so that we could hear the final version of what I recorded, thinking how hilarious it would be to have a bunch of opera singers go to a figure skating show about Disney Princesses. But to no avail – I couldn’t convince anyone to go with me. Between that and my busy rehearsal schedule at the opera, I never made it to see the show. I never heard the final version of my Disney-Voice moment.


Skip to almost a decade later, and as I was walking back to my hotel after a long rehearsal here in Denver Wednesday night, I noticed that the digital marquis outside the Denver Center for the Performing Arts was advertising, “Disney On Ice: Princess Classics! In Denver March 30 – April 3 2011!” My curiosity was piqued – could it be possible that I would be performing in two different venues at the same time this weekend? With a figure skating show at the Denver Coliseum and with the Colorado Symphony? Was it possible that I was – in a strange way – going to be in two places at once?


So I made a few phone calls to see if I indeed was going to achieve the impossible and sing in two places at the same time. I called the entertainment company that produces the show and was passed along to a very nice woman who offered to help me get to the bottom of it all and figure out if they were still using that track I recorded back in the summer of 2002. She said she would do a little digging and give me a call back. And she very kindly did just that – and she regretfully informed me that they were not using my recording anymore. “The music department did remember recording it and using it, but the vocal track was apparently replaced a while ago during one of the revisions of the show. I’m so sorry, but it’s not you singing anymore,” she said apologetically. I thanked her for her help and time, and sadly hung up the phone. I was surprised at how disappointed I was that my track had been replaces. It was a fun anecdote that I was rather fond of telling people when reminiscing about my beginnings as a professional musician. Aside from selling porn at the Classical Music cash register in Tower Records (our department sold more porn than classical CDs, strangely enough), it was one of the more unusual ways I earned my wages back in those early days of young adulthood. I was sad to discover after all this time that the record of it had disappeared, without ever having had the chance to hear it in its final version.


At least I still have the memory of the experience. My short-lived moment as a Disney-voice was fun while it lasted. Now my Disney-singing will be confined to karaoke bars – although I’ve moved on to other Princesses these days. I’m all about Ariel and Princess Jasmine now. Cinderella is SO yesterday.


6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I tried to post a comment last night but I think I screwed up; I apologize if this is a functional duplicate.

Anyway, it took me about a minute to find, on YouTube, a video of this song in this ice show being performed live. I believe it is of such recent vintage that the performance took place after Mr. Phan's recording was removed.

Surely, though, it would not be all that difficult to find a tape of this ice show with Mr. Phan's recording included?

I am sure it is not lost to history.

Joel Grant

nick said...

Indeed the voice in that clip is NOT mine...I found that, too. Unfortunately, the days in which they were using my voice were well before the days of youtube... :-)

Thanks for the comment Joel!

Anonymous said...

I found a video of a performance from 2005 on Ebay; I wonder what year they switched?

Joel Grant

Katherine said...

Hi Nick!

I've been keeping up with your blog for a while now, and I just felt the need to tell you that I will be starting my masters in voice performance at University of Michigan in the fall! From the way you have written about U Mich and Ann Arbor throughout your blog, I have no doubt that it will be an incredible experience. And I can only hope that my teacher there will call me with a recording gig for Disney someday. :)

Thank you so much for blogging; you're such an eloquent writer! Best of luck to you!

Katherine

Travis said...

Hahaha! Great story!! Looking forward to checking in with your blog from time to time after your great performances in Colorado this past weekend!

P.S. Surely you've added some Princess Tiana to your karaoke rep list, too...

Best,

Travis Branam

aka @musicapologist

rental elf said...

Very nice, thanks.