I’m speaking of the company’s “Global Jam” band. Regular readers had a chance to follow the band last year as we progressed from selecting the playlist, assigning parts, rehearsing (virtually) and, finally, performing in June. If you’re new to Under Western Skies, you can read that series of articles by selecting the “Global Jam” item in “Categories” in the right-hand column. In those posts, you’ll follow the evolution of the band through one season of preparation to the performance this past June.
Actually, despite the title of this article, the band never broke up, so that quote from the Blues Brothers doesn’t quite apply. However, since we have only one gig per year, after which we disperse to our respective homes around the world and, with only a few exceptions, never see each other for the other 51 weeks, it always requires a concerted, well-organized effort to regroup and start again for the next gig.
This will be the band’s 6th year, and several of the group’s 25 members have been along for the entire ride, or nearly so. We have had some departures since the gig in June. Three of our colleagues have moved to new jobs and, since you have to work here to belong, we’ve bid them a regretful farewell. Interestingly, two of the three were moving to jobs in different countries on other continents. We stay in touch, and they stay active in their musical careers, but we can’t have them with us, however much we miss them. Fortunately, we’ve added members from Brazil, Spain, South Africa and Canada, so we now have band mates from 13 countries on 6 continents. It’s a genuinely Global Jam!
The gang barely had a chance to get home and unpack from June’s gig before the discussion of the 2011 set list began, and so we started the official process earlier than ever (it seems to me). Now we begin again, and I have an opportunity to tell you what’s new for the 2011 band and, I hope, explore some aspects of this amazing enterprise that I missed last year.
One of the keys to the Global Jam’s success, as I’ve written previously, is that not only are these excellent musicians, but they’re almost all technologists accustomed to working in “virtual” teams. Let’s take Detlef, for example, who, in addition to being an outstanding musician who conducts a choir at home in Germany, also built an online collaborative database that we use for voting on songs. As the annual cycle begins, each band member nominates one or more songs, either from our existing repertoire or new material. Once the nominations are in, each member accesses the online database to vote for 12 numbers from the old list and 12 from the list of new possibilities. In addition, since we feature each of our foreign members singing a number in their native language, we also voted for 1 each of songs nominated in Dutch, French, German, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Zulu, and, most arcane of all, Australian! (We have a big Australian contingent in the band, so they get their own number, although, regrettably, they still haven’t agreed to play “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.” ). I am very excited to have the addition of Zulu as one of our new languages!
As things stand now, using Detlef’s nifty voting app, we’ve voted and determined the 12 repeat numbers, 12 new numbers and 9 international songs for this year’s set list. NO, I will not reveal the 33-number set list until the performance in June, sorry. Trust me, it rocks.
Another technological tool so obvious it might not have occurred to you is the immense volume of recorded music available online. iTunes, YouTube and innumerable other sharing sites let us listen to the same version of the same song as we consider what to vote for; how else would we all be able to vote on pop hits from Vietnam or the Netherlands? And, of course, we can share .pdf or other electronic versions of charts and arrangements, all posted to a collaborative intranet site that gives everyone access to the material around the world.
Now the real fun begins, assigning parts for vocals and instrumentals, assigning a music director and choral director for each number and getting down to work! That task will begin this coming Sunday, when we start our regular series of worldwide conference calls (they happen on Sundays so that we’re not taking up company time). As I’ve mentioned before, because we literally span the globe, the Aussies are on the phone at something like 11 p.m., while for me, the member in the westernmost time zone, it’ll be 5 a.m. in Los Angeles.
Because of our widely dispersed locations and the fact that we will only meet up a couple of days before the performance, these next 6 months are critical. Just as an actor is expected to know her lines cold before she shows up for rehearsal or an athlete needs to know the team’s plays inside and out before the game starts, everyone needs to show up in Florida next June with a solid command of their parts, so that the precious limited rehearsal time can be spent in getting entrances, timing, and endings just right. In any group performing art, the real artistry emerges in the way the members of the ensemble blend, and for that we’ll have only a couple of days together before the show.
I’ve played with some of these colleagues for five years, and look forward to our annual performance with great gusto. They’re outstanding musicians and it’s a joy to make music with them. They’ve become my friends, through that universal magic of music. And, equally, I look forward to meeting our new members as they fly in from around the world to become part of this unique ensemble. If more of us around the world could have an experience like this, there’d be a lot more joy and a lot less conflict.
Since you’re curious, I’ll tell you that the countries represented by our colleagues in this year’s band are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom (England, for the purists), USA and Vietnam. Note that these are their current countries of residence, and that were I to list native countries, we’d add at least Ireland, Sri Lanka and Belgium, and probably a couple I haven’t kept track of. A Global Jam for a global company. Awesome.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to go listen to 34 songs in 10 languages to see where I can find a harmonica part and maybe a rhythm guitar part I can play.
© 2012 Brad Nixon