I was already in bed when the phone rang. I let the answering machine take the call, rolled over and had a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, I was amazed and delighted to find that Indigo Road really was one of the five nominees in the “Best Classical Crossover Album” category. My first Grammy nomination! And I was delighted to learn that Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs had also been nominated in the Best Opera category, for their recording of Lully’s Psyche. Three lute players at the Grammys!
Then I wondered: What musical worlds could be further removed from one another than the world of the lutenist, with its focus on scholarship, historical practices, and original manuscript sources, and the world of the Grammys, with its high profile rock stars, glitz, glamour, limos and tight security? I was about to find out!
My plane touched down in Los Angeles too late for me to attend the Lifetime Achievement & Technical Awards the night before the Grammys. But that evening, I hurried over to the Nominees Reception as soon as my rattletrap taxi could carry me to the Wilshire district. Inside the Ebell Theatre, there was such a crush of glamorously clad bodies, it was hard to take a step in any direction! I eventually managed to wade over to the area where Grammy Nominee medallions were being given out, and got in line with the other nominees. I soon noticed that only a dozen places in line ahead of me were Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs! We greeted one another warmly with many congratulations, collected our Grammy Nominee medallions, and made our way over to the photography area. There, we had our photos taken together with Grammy medallions and huge smiles.
Wandering around the enormous reception, I found several very large rooms heaped with excellent food, drink and each with its own style of live music. One room had jazz, another big band, etc. Before leaving the reception, Paul O’Dette (a veteran of several Grammy Award ceremonies) gave me some sage advice about getting through the next day intact. High among his suggestions was to “Wear some heavy-duty earplugs to the televised show, because the live performances are ear-shatteringly loud!”
The Grammy awards the next day were divided into two awards shows. There was a pre-broadcast event in the afternoon, in which one-hundred Grammy Awards were presented. Following that ceremony, there was the televised show that was broadcast live, nationwide on CBS.
I arrived at the Los Angeles convention center to find that stretch limos and stretch Hummers were a common sight! (I, on the other hand, settled for a taxi.) There really is a red carpet, and security guards everywhere, but no guides to tell you where to go. So, I inadvertently wandered into an area set up for video interviews of high profile stars. There were more than a dozen booths set up for various networks and media outlets. And reporters were waiting there, with microphones and video cameras at the ready for the first hint of a celebrity walking past. Needless to say, none of the interviewers so much as raise an eyebrow when I wandered past! At the end of this area, a tight cluster of about two or three hundred people were cheering on cue, at the signal of their “conductor” or leader. It looked for all the world like they were actually rehearsing their cheers and screams with tremendous enthusiasm. Later that night, during the televised event I noticed about the same number of fans who were placed at the edge of the stage, right in front of the performers, cheering the live Grammy performances with upraised hands. Were these the same audience members placed right at the edge of the stage for the live cameras to see during the TV show? I never found out.
I made my way into the Convention Center, where the pre-telecast Grammy Awards were held. One hundred Grammy Awards were handed out over the course of nearly three hours, with several musical performances interjected to liven up the proceedings. For me, the most memorable performance was Hillary Hahn, who played the J.S. Bach unaccompanied solo violin Prelude BWV 1006 flawlessl
When it came time for my own category to be announced, my heart beat a little faster. I had my little acceptance speech prepared and timed to last 30 seconds. But it was not to be. The King’s Singers won the Best Classical Crossover Album category for their beautifully performed Simple Gifts. Of course I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised and really I was just fine with the outcome. I was happy just to be there. And the best was yet to come!
After the pre-broadcast ceremonies were over, everyone moved next door to the Staples Center, which is a huge arena. As a nominee, I had a great seat!
As the broadcast was about to begin, the MC was still frantically trying to get everyone seated. I was surprised to see how many in the arena were still milling about, looking for their seats, or still talking to friends. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised with a huge roomful of musicians!
U2 opened with tremendous energy and volume! It has been a long time since I’ve been to a rock concert, and the volume level was really shocking. Eventually, I got used to it (as my ears were pummeled into submission). Over the course of the evening we were treated to an amazing array of performances by Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Lil’ Wayne, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Coldplay, Neil Diamond, Al Green, Radiohead, Carrie Underwood, Kid Rock, Justin Timberlake, the Jonas Brothers and many others. These performances were easily the highlight of the Grammys for me. The performances were incredibly exciting, polished and loud! The combination of polished professionalism and raw excitement generated in the arena made me feel proud to be a musician. And I was struck by the clockwork precision of the complicated onstage set changes whenever the broadcast went to a commercial.
At the Grammy Celebration Party afterward, there seemed to be a “60’s hippy flower child” theme to the evening with a full-sized school bus decorated in a rainbow of psychedelic designs and colors (complete with peace signs). On a number of small stages scattered about the huge room, a number of painted acrobatic performers were performing feats of flexibility and daring that reminded me of the Cirque du Soleil. Some of the dance/acrobatics were performed in the air while hanging from a sheet suspended from the ceiling! There was a succession of live bands, a huge amount of food (quite good!) available on a number of giant buffet tables, and drinks flowing from several bars around the room. It wasn’t long before the combination of noise and crush of people began to feel a bit overwhelming to me, so I left while the party was still groovin’ full-stride into the night!
Leaving the Grammy Celebration, we were each issued a “gift bag” of hair products: Rockaholic Livin’-the-Dream Shampoo, Rockaholic Livin’-the Dream Conditioner, Rocktastic Hardcore Spray Gel and Punk Out Molding Gunk. Livin’-the-Dream? Hmmmm... I guess it depends which dream you’re livin’...
All in all, it was tremendously fun experience that I’ll always remember. It made me feel very fortunate and very grateful to be a musician.