Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Once in A Lullaby at Richmond County Bank Ballpark (Staten Island) - 8/14/12

I'm a big fan of doing things in their right place. Therefore, I figured if I'm gonna see the PS22 chorus documentary, Once In A Lullaby, why not do it in the hometown of the students in Staten Island in front of the people that were depicted in the picture in a baseball stadium on an evening that turned so beautiful when it was etched for rain. It seemed so fitting that somewhere over the rainbow of showers earlier in the day, Staten Island was blessed with better weather. The historic free Ferry Ride from Battery Park was unforgettable with the sun setting just above Lady Liberty's torch.

I was happy to get there early so I could catch a great seat and appreciate my surroundings, which were mostly 5-15 year olds and their parents in the lower level of the stadium overlooking the Manhattan skyline. While waiting for night to fall, we were treated to live performances from past members of the chorus, including Clive Baird and Corey Powell as well as current members and two of the featured soloists from the film, Kiarah Mitchell and Kahlil Williams.  Kiarah and Kahlil did a great rendition of Gotye's hit feat. Kimbra "Somebody I Used to Know" and in fact, the day before, the PS22 chorus blog announced the kids' chorus was part of Gotye's recent Youtube Orchestra mashup: Somebodies. They all sounded amazing but I was particularly struck by a song called "Brother & Sister", written and performed by Kiarah herself. Here is a video of the song sung with help from the rest of the chorus. Don't forget these names, you may be hearing more from them in the not too distant future.

After it's great appeal at the Tribeca Film Festival this past year, the film was immediately selected by Program Director for the non-profit organization Rooftop Films, Dan Nuxoll, when scheduling films at the ballpark. The opening shot had the historic Staten Island ferry moving in the sea and behind the projection screen miraculously was the actual Staten Island Ferry moving into the dock at the same time. It was a moment I wish I had captured in my camera but perhaps it's best believed in person and only possible due to the amazing setting curated by the people at the Rooftop films.

The film's producer/director Jonathan Kalafer did great justice to the incredible story of the team.  The documentary follows the journey of the group of inspired students in the PS 22 chorus at the pinnacle of their internet boom as they were given a surprise visit during their annual Christmas Concert from one of their many celebrity fans, Anne Hathaway, to announce that they had been invited to the 83rd annual academy awards. Through the adventure of prepping for their big west coast gig, we see all of the many layers of this tale, including  social media's effect on bringing the story to life, key characters including the school's principal, the parents of the kids, and of course the students themselves. The most amazing personality of all was the music director Gregg Breinberg aka Mr. B, who was their fearless leader and mentor, dealing with so much pressure performing his method of improvised singing in front of a live national and international audience and comforting the anxieties and managing the various personalities of these impressionable kids as they prepared for the biggest night of their lives. Mr. B was sitting just a few rows in front of me so it was quite the scene to see his reaction to the screening/story, giving hi-fives to the students who would be walking passed him in the aisles during the movie. Here is a shot of him witnessing quite possibly one of the greatest moments of his life on screen, performing at the 83rd annual academy awards

It's simply impossible not to be moved by this movie. Here is a nice review by the LA times. The film is not available for distribution yet, so unfortunately it's not available on DVD or netflix but stay tuned to the facebook page for updates on special screenings and so forth. 

Speaking of which, the last rooftop films screening of the season is this Thursday at the ballpark and one of my childhood faves, The Sandlot. Weather forecast looks beautiful so it would be a great way to spend the evening.

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