Sunday, September 1, 2019

A Picture of Life in Hollywood

This post is a transcript of an email/text conversation between myself and a manager in pursuit of getting three days of background work. As you will see, ultimately I did not get the work. I am putting it up because it strikes me as very silly. Background work does not pay tons of $$$, but it can be close to as arbitrary for big $$$ commercial work as a principal. I think there are a lot of things wrong with what goes on in this exchange, most of which you won't recognize if you don't engage in these activities. I won't point them out. Just read through it and enjoy yourself.

Perry Mason Timeline

>Aug 28 at 11:56 AM
Hello 1930's style musicians!

Checking your availability to work 3 days on the HBO show: Perry Mason.  The work dates are:
Thursday, Sept 19
Friday, Sept 20
Monday, Sept 23

Rate is $275/up to 8 hr day, followed by overtime at time and a half, double time and possible golden time (the day rate per hour).  On top of that are instrument bumps ($25), possible wardrobe bumps, possible smoke bumps, and oftentimes, meal penalties as well.  So, please don't fixate on the 'day rate' as these jobs usually pay way more than that, along with free food all day on set :-)

Please REPLY with your FULL AVAILABILITY for ALL 3 days PLUS the instrument(s) you could bring to set.  See list below.

After that, each of you needs to be approved by the production team before booking.

Here's what they're looking for:

Clean cut, no facial hair, no tattoos, nice clean cut.

20 member band - 15 Men, 5 Women - all Caucasian but 4 can be different races. If anyone has the period instruments please let me know.

3 coronets (regular)
3 trombones (2 tenor, 1 bass)
3 Alto horns (not saxes, they are in the French horn range)
2 euphoniums
2 tubas
1 flugelhorn
1 baritone horn (again, not a sax)
Bass drum (the one that looks like it would be in a marching band)
Crash cymbal (like held upright in 2 hands, again marching band visual)

Again, please REPLY with your FULL AVAILABILITY for ALL 3 days PLUS the instrument(s) you could bring to set.  If you are NOT available at all, there's no need to reply at all. Thank you!

>Aug 28 at 12:00 PM
Also, there will be a fitting day, if you get selected for this work call.  The fitting will be during a 2 hour window and I'll do my best to work with your schedule.  This will take place the week prior.  Fittings pay 1/4 of the day rate.  For this call, the fitting would pay $68.75.

Again...if you're not available at all for this job, there is no need to respond at all.  Thank you!

>Aug 28, 2019 at 12:23 PM William Roper 
Hello, ________,

I am not Caucasian, so I would have to be one of the four. 
Available all stated days. Can't say about the wardrobe day, since you don't know it.

Instruments available: (btw, it is cornet, not coronet)
1. Trombone
2. Alto horn (oval style)
3. Euphonium (period)
4. Tuba (period)
5. Baritone horn

If I have to actually play something, limit it to euphonium, baritone horn and tuba. 

>Aug 28 at 12:26 PM
Thanks...will keep you posted if they select you.  Fingers crossed!

>Aug 28, 2019 at 12:26 PM William Roper
It doesn't say if this is a SAG job. If it is not, then don't send my name in.

>Aug 28 at 12:27 PM
It's SAG.  I negotiated a higher rate but it's still on SAG contracts.

>Aug 28 at 6:34 PM
Just to clarify, we do need all ethnicities on this call.  Please reply only if you're available.  Thanks a bunch ;-) 

>Aug 29 at 10:42 AM
Hello 1930's band fellas,

We don't have a definite booking yet but it's looking pretty good.  I"ll get more concrete info as soon as I can.

For now, we need your jacket size ASAP.  There will be a fitting as well, so they may be able to tweak here and there.

Here are the sizes of jackets they have.  Which one(s) suit you?  Please give all possible options so we have choices:

2 size 38
3 size 40
5 size 42
2 size 44
1 size 46
1 size 48

Thanks for replying with your best option(s)!!

>Aug 29, 2019 at 10:55 AM William Roper 
I am a snug 48R, but I wear it. No way a 46. A comfortable 52.

I can assume this means that I am in the running?

>Aug 29 at 11:01 AM
As I said, it's looking good but we don't have a definite booking yet.  Are you willing to wear a wig provided by hair/makeup dept?  They won't accept your beautiful bald head this time around ;-)  

>Aug 29, 2019 at 11:03 AM William Roper 
I'll wear a wig and a dress. BTW, I have 30 Afro wigs of my own.

>Aug 29 at 11:05 AM
WOAH...dude!  That's awesome!!  I don't even have one, lol!  Ok, I'm working on that.  They said they wouldn't have you on the job because of the bald head but I asked about a wig so they're considering it.  Think outside the box, right?? 

>Aug 29, 2019 at 11:10 AM William Roper
Correct. The bald head is sometimes a drawback, mostly for period stuff. But, the long hair is very grey these days.
You can see a little of it on here (in your spare time):

>Aug 29 at 11:12 AM
OMG...bizarre but wonderful!! 

>Aug 29 at 9:17 PM

We need photos of some of your wigs. We’re trying to find the ones that would most likely be used for 1930s scene. I also have one more African-American who is bald, Calvin Winbush, do you know him? He would also need a wig. 

You wouldn’t happen to have two wigs that would be suitable, do you?

>Aug 29, 2019, at 9:29 PM William Roper
I have 30 Afro wigs, all the same. And one Trump wig. Those won't work for the 1930's. What next? I can't go out and buy a wig now.

>Aug 29 at 9:52 PM

No, definitely not. I don’t think it’s going to work then unless you have one that can pass for 1930?

We move to texts:

>Thu 9:28 PM William Roper: ______, I've got your email about the wigs. They are afro wigs. They are all the same. 30 of the same wig. And afterwards don't really go with the 30s. I also have a trump wig. Which won't work either. What's your advice?

>Thu 9:57 PM: We'll have to pass on this call. It's not a definite booking for anyone officially yet. 

>Thu 9:59 PM William Roper: I suspected as much. Sorry for the misunderstanding on the wigs. You would think they'd have one or two in their coffers. But why should they make it hard when they can be easy. So it goes. Thanks much.

>Thu 9:59 PM: They prob don't have a wig dept for this show.

>Thu 10:00 PM: If anything changes, I'll let you know!

>Thu 10:01 PM William Roper: Okay, thanks. Not to complicate things, but I have a hundred different hats/caps, of which I do have photos of. If they want to cover my head that is. 

>Thu 10:02 PM: No hats/caps. If you want to try on some wigs & take pix for me, that might work. You could write it off.

>Thu 10:04 PM William Roper: In future. But, I've looked at wigs in these few minutes and you're talkin like $150 for a wig. It's a big investment even getting one, two or three it gets to be real money. But I'll check it out.

>Thu 10:05 PM: Ok.

Friday, August 30, 2019

A Return to "Killer King."

What's been happening? Pretty busy. Last Wednesday (Aug. 21), I did a hit with the Bobby Bradford Sextet at the Santa Monica Public Library on their Sound Waves Series, hosted by Jeff Schwartz. It was a very good show. There is good documentation, but I don't know if Bobby will allow it to go up on YouTube. Members of the septet are Bobby Bradford - cornet, Vinny Golia - reeds, William Roper - lip reeds, Don Preston - piano, David Tranchina - bass, Tina Raymond - drums. We had a good crowd. This show was the first time I played pennywhistle in public. It was a duo with Vinny on clarinet. 

Bobby and I headed out to Santa Monica early and had dinner at Hollywood Swingers Diner.

Bobby enjoyed his burger (cooked medium well) as did I mine (cooked medium rare).

photo credit: Chuck Koton

photo credit: Chuck Koton

photo credit: Chuck Koton

photo credit: Chuck Koton

photo credit: Chuck Koton

On Saturday (Aug. 24), I participated in another piece (Stay Awake) with the Heidi Duckler Dance Company. Heidi's company specializes in doing site-specific works. This one was at the M. L. King Community Hospital in Willowbrook. Willowbrook is just south of Watts. Everyone has heard of Watts, Willowbrook not so much. This is the second iteration of the hospital. The original one was the King Drew Medical Center. It became known as "Killer King." My mother was one of the people that helped that institution justify the moniker. She should not have died the way she did. She should not have. It was because of deaths like hers that the Feds closed it down. And now, here I was, creating work at the new version of the institution. So far, there are no stories of the old horrors be repeated. Despite some challenges, it ended being a very good show. I was not a composer on this, but a featured performer. As always with Duckler, I created my role. I used six instruments: pennywhistle,  wakrapuku, never lur (first time in a performance), ran singha, conch and helicon.  I was in two scenes. There were two composers for the work: Jessie Cox (out of NYC), Justin Bardales, and 12 dancers. 

These shots are from the rehearsal the Saturday before the performance (Aug. 17):

Rob "Rawbzilla" Lambaren protecting the helicon from the sheriff deputies. 

Featured dancer Raymond Ejiofor.

Featured dancer Himerria Wortham giving notes to the company. They are not in jail.

Heidi making decisions.

The parking structure. One of three "stages" the piece took place on.

Rob working out his duet.

Shots from the day of the show...
Heidi Duckler - artistic director, Raphaelle Ziemba - managing director

Calling Hemirria with the ran singha.

And here she is.

Using to wakrapuku to bring Raymond and Hemirria together.

Playing and singing arhoolies with the helicon.

Doing this show provided opportunities to try out some local food stands. 

After the rehearsal on the first Saturday, I found a food truck on Avalon Blvd.

I had a buches mulitas.
A & T Burger on Central Ave. 

Lunch before Friday's dress rehearsal.

It was a good and honest burger.

I passed this place on the first day down there, but the line was too long for me stop. I don't stand in long lines for food. 

The line wasn't very long, but it still took forever to get the food.

Asada taco. Very home-style, very familiar. I haven't had a taco like this for a long time. Not a taco I'd want every day,
but a few times a year would be cool.

This is the taco burger. It looks messy. It is, but more so, because
it was an hour before I could eat it. The bread would not have been
soggy had I eaten it right away. It was a fun burger to eat. 

Then on Sunday (Aug. 25), I premiered a new ensemble for an event called: "Black Music in LA @ WAA - DCA Presenters Showcase." Grand Performances is the entity that hired us. The event was held in Leimert Park. The original request was for Purple Gums, but neither Francis nor Bobby was available. I worked very hard to pull together another ensemble that fit the mold, yet would have an identity purely its own. Ultimately I came up with a trio of Chris Williams on trumpet, myself on tuba, aerophones, vox, and Roberto Lambaren doing movement. The set, like those of Purple Gums, was free improvisation. We did good. 

I only got a short video in terms of visual documentation of the performance. I did get a complete audio recording. There will eventually be shots or video from the Grand Performances folks. For now, here are three screen shots pulled from the video.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Back With PAPA (Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra)

This past weekend I did a hit with the present iteration of the Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra, otherwise known as PAPA. I first played with the group back in 1984 when Horace Tapscott called me to play a concert they had as part of the Olympics festival. I performed with them fairly often until Horace's death in 1999. 

The band didn't die with Horace, which is saying a lot. These days, I'd say it is going pretty strong. Mekala Sessions is the leader and drummer. He is the son of saxophonist and ARK veteran Michael Sessions. I have been playing with them for about a year now. The band is a mixture of veterans and youngsters. I like it. The band has a certain kind of freeness to it. It is also based on a concept of community. There is a commitment to the African American neighborhood writ large that is rare. Of course, predominately African American large music ensembles are rare, and that my friends is really some food for thought. 

We played at Zebulon in Frogtown. Also on the set was P.A.P.A.'s vocal component, the Union of God's Musicians and Artists Ascension (UGMAA), led by Dwight Trible. Special guest opening the evening and also performing with PAPA on our set was Angel the Oracle, from Chicago. A fun time was had by all. 

The photos below are from earlier in this 12 month period that I have been back with the group, as well as last weekend's coming together. There are also two burger shots from Saturday (Phat Daddys Burgers) and Sunday (Rick's). Both were very good burgers. Is there a bad burger? Not really.

Photo by Samantha Lee

Photo by Jessie Justice.

Mekala Sessions

Chris Palmer and Mekela Sessions

Fundi Legohn & Devon Daniels

Michael Sessions

Chris Williams and Aaron Shaw

Dwight Trible, Angel the Oracle and members of UGMAA.

Burger from Phat Daddys.


Aaron Shaw & Devin Daniels, Najite Olokun in background.

Kafi Roberts

Nolan Shaheed

Chili burger from Rick's.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Fishin' dem Bones

The long, ongoing, catch-up series of posts: 

Back at the beginning of July, the 7th, to be exact, my piece "Fishin' dem Bones," got another performance. That piece, commissioned by Dr. Raymond Burkhart, has gotten a lot of performances. Who would have guessed? If it keeps it up, it will become my most often performed piece. I won't complain. What was different about this performance is that I conducted it. An interesting experience. Not only do you have to find ways to get several people to do what you want at the same time, you have to know what you want. Not necessarily so easy. You'd think it would be, especially for the composer. The difficulty is that there are a lot of choices. Many of them just as right as others. Then, whichever decision you make, you have to live with. You have to make a bad decision into a good one. It is good that music exists in time, lives in time. It never stands still. It moves on, makes you move on. It was a good performance. The ensemble was The Decisive Instant. Large. Winds, percussion, keyboard, electric strings and a female voice. I have now heard it with enough different types of ensembles, that I want to hear particular other ones. For example, an ensemble that is majority strings. Today I was wondering if it would work with a cappella voices? I think it would be beautiful, but I suspect all of them would have to have perfect pitch. We'll see what time brings. 

The performers in The Decisive Instant were:
Vocalist: Suzi Stern
Reeds: Steve Bowie, Alicia Byer, Vinny Golia, Ken Luey, Luke Reeder, Charles Sharp, Patrick Shiroishi, Alexander Vogel, 
Trumpets: Dan Clucas, Dave Williams
Trombone: Chris Middleton, Ed Weiss
Tuba: William Roper
Keyboards: R. Scott Dibble
Guitars: Kristian Aspelin, Jonathan Grasse, Robert Jacobson, Angelo Metz
Bass: Jeff Schwartz
Percussion: David Martinelli, Paul Pellegrin, Milton Salazar

Click >>HERE<< to watch a video of the performance. 

These two drawings and photo are by Dean Westerfield. I should explain the "Bee," drawing: During the very final moments of the piece, I am standing in front of Vinny Golia. He pointed to a fly that was flying around. Once I noticed it, the fly landed on my hand. I figured it would take off immediately. It did not. It stayed on my hand. I was fascinated. So fascinated that I decided to show it to the audience, never thinking that it would remain on my hand for a second longer. But it did. Long enough for me to do a short monolog about it. And it still didn't leave, but the piece needed to end, so I needed to slap it off my hand and end things. At the end of the video, if you look closely, you can see the fly on my hand.