The Soul has many motions, the body one
by Ranee Lee
“I Learn by going where I have to go” to quote Theodore Roethke the poet. The lessons of my profession have brought me to where I am today, and this unpredictable expedition continues to unfold with every new experience. I have never thought of myself as more than a career woman in the arts. I am driven by the pursuit and successful outcome of a particular project whether in a solo or ensemble arena. The imperatives are at times wrapped in frustration and other times in accomplishment. This is not new news to any artist and performer, but it is the motivational tool to persist. As a child growing up in New York, my mother taught me that obstacles were made to be analyzed, and prevail over, that consequences are the results of actions and in everything there is a lesson. Sometimes we get it right the first time, other times the lesson comes in portions we must work through, but determination is a key to many doors.
It was comfortable and rewarding to my soul...
The negative idea of being a Jill of all trades and master of none never enters my perception; I was guided by mentors of many descriptions, and for them there were no limits. I knew the joy that performance gave me from my very first experience. It was comfortable and rewarding to my soul then, and it remains that way today.
I am accompanied and supported in the vocal journey that I take by the camaraderie of excellence from fellow musicians in my jazz world where the liberation of improvisation and creative energy live, and given the JUNO award for my twelfth recording with Justin Time records for “Ranee Lee Lives Upstairs” a live recording from the great Montreal jazz club of the same name “UPSTAIRS”. I share in the mutual respect of professors and colleagues in music at McGill University where I have been teaching for twenty-five years and was given the recognition of my efforts with an award of Sincere thanks and Appreciation to the development of the McGill Jazz program in 2007, I continually observe the emergence of up and coming, new and talented vocal, and instrumental musicians and my pride is in their succession. Then there is the theatre world that I have been courting for forty years. In the process of this courtship, I have appeared in a dozen theatre productions one of which honored me with a Dora Mavor Moore award in 1988, and The Vision Celebration award for contributions to the advancement of Black Arts and culture through the media of music and theatre in Montreal.
I prepare for a singing engagement in much the same way that I approach any important mission in my life and career.
The various variety performances over the years, the hosting of television specials for Canadian and American networks, a couple of dramas and a few movies were a few of the concepts that helped gain the ACTRA award of excellence in 2008.
The results of these actions helped me to write and publish a children’s book titled “Nana What Do You Say?” about mine and my husband Richard Ring’s many grandchildren and their antics, inspired by one of the several songs that I have written and recorded. Or the musical that I conceived and wrote about the lives of seven women who changed the face of vocal interpretation, called “Dark Divas”.
I prepare for a singing engagement in much the same way that I approach any important mission in my life and career. I question who I am in the scenario and what is it that I wish to declare? I challenge the centre of my consciousness to be true and obligated to the subject and the performance. As an actor the training and demands are no different in these facts. With each new roll whether it’s the matriarch of a family, a woman suffering from Alzheimer, a 103 year old survivor of racism, the deterioration of a drug addicted music icon, Nuns in a comedy, flirtatious Misbehaving, or a young black male tap-dancing attendant in the Victorian age, these are the fibers of my world, and the responsibility to make them real, and relevant and imperative.
I am the honored beneficiary in the lessons of my career.
Now I’m going where I have to go next, into the extraordinary world of “Intimate Apparel” by Lynn Nottage, directed by the brilliant and highly acclaimed Micheline Chevrier, assistant directed by Jen Cressley, with this remarkable cast of actors; Lucinda Davis, Quincy Armorer, Tamara Brown, Eloi Archambaudoin, and Patricia Summersett. From there to the incredible stage management of Kira Maros and Kristen Gregor and all of the creative team, this astonishing world will devour the senses of time and transport us all from Centaur theatre to 1905 Manhattan, for the month of April. It is a trip one will not soon forget. I know that I will not. It will all be stored in the banks amongst my learned and treasured memoirs, and preparing space for the future and imminent productions waiting in the wings.
When I received the Order of Canada in 2005 it was the pronouncement of my life’s work prior to, and for what is to come, and I am the honored beneficiary in the lessons of my career.
“The Soul has many motions, the body one” - how infinite and profound is this quote from Theodore Roethke!