Bodhi Tree Concerts Stages Online Encore Of ‘8 Songs For A Mad King’ On Friday

Show swaps out Donald Trump for King George III in avant-garde show

Thursday, October 29, 2020 By Beth Accomando


Eight songs for a mad King was written about King George, the third, but when Bodhi tree concerts performed it at San Diego international fringe festival in 2017, their King looked a lot like Donald Trump with the presidential election around the corner, Bodhi tree decided to hold a virtual Encore production tomorrow night, KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando speaks with Bodhi tree co-founders Diana and Walter DML about the show

Speaker 2: 00:28 In 2017 Bodhi tree concerts, staged eight songs for a mad King at San Diego international fringe. But before we talk about your new production, talk a little bit about the origins of eight songs for mad King, and what led you to produce it for fringe back in 2017?

Speaker 3: 00:46 This has been one of those pieces that had been on my music shelf for about the last 25 years waiting for the perfect synergistic opportunity to unveil itself. And the fringe festival was in fact that opportunity and, um, pivoting the Matt King from George. The third two are at that point recently elected own mad King seemed like an appropriate fit and the fit is all the more appropriate today. So that was the origin more or less. Well, we also found a great music director and Brendan Winn who was up to the challenge. He brought amazing local artists with him and he put together an incredible chamber orchestra. So we had this incredible group of local artists that were ready to go, and we had the motivation and we had, uh, the vehicle through the San Diego international fringe festival too. So

Speaker 2: 01:44 Awesome. And what is this original piece? Cause you mentioned it was about King George. So what, what is, is this an opera piece or what exactly, how do you describe what this piece is? Because it's, it's quite unique.

Speaker 3: 01:59 It calls for six instrumentalists with a quite a wide arrange of percussion instruments, giving it a wide pallet of sounds. The keyboard is, does both piano harpsichord. So Peter Maxwell Davies took actual writings that King George had cobbled put together. This sort of psychodrama, if you will, of the rantings of a, of a mad Monarch and, um, in some of the little poems and writings that King George wrote, he was believed to have been taught. The birds were talking to him, the animals were talking to him. And so the piece sort of pivots around a lot of tweeting, like, uh, sounds that communicate to him. And so that that's really, even if you set this in period England, um, that manifestation of the, of the birds communicating to the mad King was absolutely there from the orig origins. And, and basically it was a vehicle for at the time, what was very provocative, extended vocal techniques. So the singer is using his voice in a lot of creative, extended ways that would not be normally found on the operatic stage. I think the orchestra too, they have a lot of cool extended technique. We're going to try and highlight that in the video production of it, which you couldn't really see in the live production. So we get to highlight that those techniques as well as Walter's, um, extended techniques.

Speaker 2: 03:24 So I'm very interested to see how this translates because the production you did at fringe was wildly kind of expansive and that you were singing and dancing across a huge boardroom table and people were live tweeting and it was very interactive. So we are now in lockdown and we can't have live performances. So how have you translated it and what is this production going to look like?

Speaker 3: 03:54 Well, um, we started with the orchestra and almost all the orchestra members are the original from the original cast and they recorded their parts in their homes and our conductor, Brendan to end new and put the parts together and lay down a master. So it's kind of a new definition of a conductor. And then, um, Walter went in and recorded his part separately with Brendan so that he was recorded and then the next part was filming. And so Walter basically saying to the orchestra track and himself while filming and, um, we all wear masks all the time, except for when Walter was actively performing. He took his mask off. It was not easy, but we don't have the live tweeting, but we do have tweeting featured, you know, which we can put in and editing that we have, we have lots of screens up and are behind the mad King.

Speaker 3: 04:48 So we have a lot of media going on at all times. We hope that when we presented on Instagram and Facebook on digitally, that people will comment when it's presented. So we're going to send it instructions and encourage people to tweet what they feel. Because honestly, those tweets that were in the live production, they became a character in the show. The audiences were brilliant and we'll definitely miss that. So I'm hoping people will comment if I can add the three other videoed concert presentations that we've done this season so far, the live interaction or the commentary that goes on the side of the screen has been a fun addition to watching the video performance, because you do feel connected to a virtual audience that are commenting in real time. And, uh, the won't be quite as, uh, biting or potentially as, uh, uh, cervical witty as what was happening in our 2017 French festival. I think it will be an addition as well.

Speaker 2: 05:45 And Walter, talk a little bit about the challenges of performing this role.

Speaker 3: 05:49 Oh yeah. I think always starting with the material that's given to you by the composer. Uh, and in this case, sir, pure Maxwell gave you these rather quirky poems or writings by King George at times nonsensical or unrelated to each other. But then if you were to look at a sheet of the sheet music, you would see more suggestive lines and arrows than you would actually notes to sing. He has a lot of instructions that say, get whiny or sing like an Alto, you know, so there was a lot of vocal suggestions that are not defined and it re you could watch 15 performances of this by different artists and they would all be completely different experiences. So I think finding, making choices and making choices that you can sustain without hurting yourself, because a lot of times it is almost screaming and vomiting, this, the madness coming out of this guy, you know, playing with what you can do, healthfully and, and repeatedly is part of the challenge to whatever performer takes on this role.

Speaker 4: 06:59 Why did you feel it was important to get a production of this off before the election? Do you feel that the timing of this is important to you?

Speaker 3: 07:08 Well, yes we do. We're thinking of it as a, please get out of a vehicle it's art imitating life, and we're putting it out there and we just want people to vote, vote, vote, vote,

Speaker 4: 07:25 And how, how people can access this. We're

Speaker 3: 07:27 Going to present eight songs from ad King. One time on link on Friday, October 30th, starting at 6:00 PM, and we'll show it to Instagram and Facebook. And if you want instructions on how to join us, um, they can reach us@bodhitreeconcertsatgmail.com. Join us. We have to get the word out cause it's one time only.

Speaker 4: 07:48 I want to thank you both very much for talking about eight songs for a mad King. Thank you. Thank you so much fast. That was Beth Armando speaking with Diana and Walter [inaudible] of Bodhi tree concerts. Eight songs for a mad King will be available on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram tomorrow night at six


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