Katzenjammer 40th Reunion

Sunday, October 6, 2013

shapeimage_2-7This is the first time that a major Katzenjammer reunion has been held outside of the regular Princeton Reunions festivities. Since graduating in 1982, I have made appearances at most of my major reunions every five years on the ’2’s and ‘7s. The Katz events (SATB a cappella singing group for those who don’t know) are held the next year on the ‘3’s and ‘8’s resulting in two years in a row of too much P’ton Hooplah. After going to ALL of my 25th reunion, I decided I never had to go again, and easily missed my 30th without even noticing. Over the years, the Katz reunions have felt more or less fun depending on how much strange singing I was doing in my “professional singer” life, and how easy or hard it felt to get back to my undergraduate voice production – usually pretty hard. This year, since we were meeting in October instead of June, the Hooplah factor seemed much reduced. Since I wasn’t singing much anyway, I had no idea what it would feel like to sing the old songs again. As more and more of 30 years of my former students signed up to come to the event, I finally decided to join in open heartedly. It ended up being a blast!
As usual, we were divided into “era” groups for a performance in Richardson. I was one of the younger members of the most senior group including members from the classes of ’74-’87. The original members of the group all know each other well. I have sung with many of them several times, but I’m still from the next generation. A few friends from my years were in our group, and it was great to see them and hear about their lives. Many of the original group who were back are actually pro musicians in one way or other, B’way or pop, conductors, professors or music teachers. Most of the others who came back are still singing in church choirs or symphony choruses, all in all a very impressive showing. I even made the connection that one of the original Katzenjammers is also the mom of a recent star of the PU Orchestra! Ah, the power of the PU legacy.
The rehearsals on Friday night and Saturday morning were a lot of fun – not as intense as a pro chamber music group, but everyone knew what they were doing and had valuable input to contribute. And the singing actually felt OK. I had even agreed to sing my “Will I ever tell you” solo in Lida Rose. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there weren’t enough basses to cover both the quartet and back-up parts, so we didn’t end up doing it. My less pointed, more open middle voice was just right for Stoned Soul Picnic and Spanish Harlem. Talk about muscle memory, it was mostly still there after all these years, even though I wanted to use the music just to be sure. It was also fun to get a wonderful choral warm up from Rick Hoffenberg, and sing the Randall Thomson Alleluia with Kevin Leong conducting. The number of Katz alums who have gone on to successful careers as choral conductors is truly impressive. At the luncheon on Saturday I had time to connect with many former students including Ryan Brandau, Nicole Pantos, Geoff MacDonald. Of course it was way too much talking and excitement.
After more rehearsing in the afternoon, there were various complicated arrangements involving cars and rides to hotels. Finally back at Richardson for the evening concert, there wasn’t time for a sound check on the stage. That’s OK, we’ve all sung in Richardson, we didn’t think we needed one – until we started singing into all those microphones which we thought were just for recording. Yikes, no, we were amplified to within an inch of our vocal chords – not what we were expecting at all. Oh, well, we did the best we could under the circumstances, which ended up being not bad at all according to Michael, who heard the first half of the concert. We old fogies sounded pretty good, and set a great stylistic example for the younger groups – “oh, so that’s how they sang Hold on Me back in the day.” As usual, I passed on the late night carousing, but had a really great time overall!

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