In previous posts about operas for babies and our OTOYOTOY, I have been trying to reflect on some of the discoveries we've made in creating and performing with the very youngest children. Consideration #1 is a simple one: fun.
There are vital ingredients for fun: you need people in the room who are playful; you need imaginative ideas and situations, and you need that little extra something that creates a surprise. When I am looking for fun, one of the most reliable sources is the music of Saskia Sunshine Lane. She wrote THE OOVATOOLA SONG (click to listen) that opens our show, and you will find all the ingredients and more. Our performers: Saskia, along with Onome Djere (pictured above), Nick Demeris and Sasha Bogdanowitsch are expert, playful vocal improvisers. When we first created the show, we were joined by three other amazing singers: Jascha Hoffman, Emily Eagen, and Sofia Ribeiro. The song itself is sung in an invented language, courtesy of our librettist Zoe Palmer:
Ee yay O (I am)
Osay iyo (sunrise)
Moonkulunkulo (moon go)
Cheep cheep cheep!
Aton atonton (sun)
Ee yay O
Saskia sets the words with a strong Afro-Latin groove (the bass line is a fragment of a clave rhythm) and a lilting tune in B major. She uses a slightly irregular phrase structure to keep you guessing, and yet it seems the most natural music in the world. In the middle of one of those irregular phrases comes the bird-mimicking: "Cheep-cheep-cheep!" not sung on pitches at all, and I have yet to meet the audience that does not chuckle at that little surprise moment. Amidst all the invented language, the familiar "cheep" is something we recognize, but it's not really language either! These are the ingredients of delight, all mixed together in a delicious cross-Atlantic collaboration.