Garden gets exposure through 'Soup Opera'
By Lou Fancher
The cast has been rehearsing in Lafayette, Mexico and other exotic winter vacation locations. The props have been in the ground, growing for months and soon to be simmered.
Last year, a partnership between the Lafayette Library and Learning Center and the Lafayette Community Garden resulted in the first Sip of Soup event, where local residents, gardeners and city officials met and became acquainted in the city's library atrium over a bowl of soup.
Youth Services Librarian Ginny Golden said it was such a success that at noon Wednesday, the second annual Sip of Soup will expand to include two performances of "Soup Opera," Chicago-based musician-author Jim Gill's singalong opera based on a children's book he wrote. Telling the comic story of a man's frustrated attempts to sip soup, the roughly six-minute opera was named a 2010 Notable Children's Recording by the American Library Association.
The highlight of the production may be seeing -- and hearing -- local folks stretching their vocal cords in new directions. Or not-so-new directions, in some cases.
"I gave up a less-than-promising career as a trombonist after middle school," Lafayette Mayor Brandt Andersson wrote in an email sent while on vacation in Mexico.
"I sang baritone in the choir at my prep school for two years because it seemed easier than art. Thirty years later, I joined Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church."
Andersson, who will appear in the opera as the mayor, didn't join the church's choir instantly after becoming a member because rehearsals conflicted with a weekly committee meeting he attended. But, eventually, he took the plunge.
Since then, due to what he calls "a chronic lack of tenors," he has engaged the aid of a local voice teacher, upped his octaves from baritone to tenor, and sings regularly with the church's chamber choir.
"My only regret is the 30 years I forgot to sing," he said. Andersson has three lines -- one spoken and two singing -- in the production.
"My understanding is that we'll get together a half-hour before (to rehearse as an ensemble) and give it a whirl. I was sent a link to a video of the 'Soup Opera.' If I heard it right, I have only two notes," he said.
"Soup Opera" also will feature Senior Library Manager Vickie Sciacca (narrator), the library's Orlando Guzman (soup eater), garden director Janet Thomas (chef), piano teacher Xiomara Di Maio (United States president), Lafayette police Chief Eric Christensen (chief of police) and Stanley Middle School music teacher Bob Athayde (waiter).
Golden said library staff, garden members and mother-daughter teams from the National Charity League will serve soup while guests visit with community leaders and learn about service organizations in Lafayette.
Although the exact soup to be served was a secret two weeks in advance, it's unlikely the garden's commitment to in-season, sustainable food sourcing will result in it being Andersson's current favorite --"Tortilla soup, medium spicy." Even so, he took heart in the event's larger purpose: connecting with residents.
Asked what achievements would bring him deepest satisfaction in his upcoming year as mayor (other than warm soup shared with friends), Andersson said, "Another year of balanced budgets and road repair, a clear idea of what to focus on once the roads are completed and the budget more easily balanced and a completed Downtown Creeks Master Plan."