It's 8 p.m. on a snowy Wednesday night in November, and a crew of musicians is gathered in the cozy third-floor attic of Ben Morey and Katie Morey-Preston's home, which doubles as a recording studio and rehearsal space.
The group is gathered to rehearse for a rather unconventional event: a live performance of Harry Nilsson's "The Point!," which will take place at the Cinema Theater on South Clinton Avenue on November 23 and 24. The all-ages event is a fundraiser for The Submarine School of Music, a community music school the married couple hopes to launch in fall 2020.
"We're trying to offer a place where children and adults of all sorts of backgrounds can have the chance to learn music," Katie Morey-Preston says. "There are so many different ways to not only excel at music but also to fall in love with it, and we want our school to be based on nurturing each student's specific interests and passions."
Currently, the Moreys work as freelance music instructors with several schools, a guitar shop, and daycares. Like most creatives, they wear other hats, too — Morey-Preston is an occasional contributor to CITY Newspaper. But they love teaching music most.
- PHOTO BY LEAH STACY
- Katie Morey-Preston playing along to "The Point!"
"Our dream is that The Submarine School will be a place where two communities we love in Rochester — the community of local artists and musicians, and the community of young musicians and music-loving families — can come together and make the wonderful Rochester music culture even stronger," Morey-Preston says.
This presentation of "The Point!" includes a group of friends and collaborators of the Moreys, all of whom know each other through the music scene in Rochester. In addition to Ben and Katie, there's another married couple, Alex (drummer for The Mikaela Davis band) and Alison Coté (also a prolific graphic designer in town), Mikaela Davis (yes, that Mikaela Davis), Kat Schwarz (known for her local kombucha, Katboocha), Ian Egling (owner of Kitty Box Press), and Ryan Yarmel (who has played with bands ranging from Hotel Cadillac to Funscape).
"Whether it's playing on each other's albums or playing shows together at places like the Bug Jar or Small World Books, or any of the other cool venues in town, we've all just spent a lot of time together being creative," Ben Morey says. "When we were putting this cast together, we thought of the people who would fit really well and get caught up in the spirit of it."
- PHOTO BY MIKE TURZANKSI
- Cast members of “The Point!”: (clockwise from left) Ian Egling, Ben Morey, Katie Morey-Preston, Mikaela Davis, Ryan Yarmel, Kat Schwarz, Alison Coté, and Alex Coté.
"The Point!" is Harry Nilsson's sixth studio album and debuted in 1970. It's a story of a young boy named Oblio who is born into the village of Point — where everyone has a pointy head — with a round head, and he must always wear a pointy hat to hide his difference. Eventually, Oblio and his dog, Arrow, are banished from Point, and they journey to the Pointless Forest, where they meet all sorts of characters and learn they "don't need to have a point to have a point."
In 1971, animator Fred Wolf produced a well-known TV version on ABC, and many Gen-Xers and millennials are familiar with both that cartoon and the lead single, "Me and My Arrow," which climbed to 34 on the Billboard Hot 100.
That's Morey's personal favorite number in the show, but he thinks the whole story is one that's applicable for adults and children alike.
"It has a great message about inclusivity and seeing the good in people that might not show," he says. "The music is also so special, and it's an often overlooked album — especially for the time period and what a tremendous artist Harry Nilsson was."
- PHOTO BY LEAH STACY
- A model for the set of "The Point!," which will be performed on November 23 and 24 at Cinema Theater.
The animated version will be silently projected on screen at the Cinema Theater, and the musicians will perform the songs and narrative throughout, each one taking on specific characters. They've even curated a set and costumes to complement the film, including a blue stuffed "Arrow" that Morey-Preston sewed by hand, and pointy felted hats in a rainbow of colors for each cast member. At the end of each show, they're planning a special Harry Nilsson sing-along.
"People can just expect a really fun time," Morey-Preston says. "It's gonna be lighthearted and we're gonna be singing great songs. Can't go wrong."
This fundraiser is the second in a series of four fundraisers planned between now and spring 2020. In October, part of the same group of the Moreys' musician friends wrote an original score for "Nosferatu," which they performed in costume at the Cinema Theater on October 30.
"We're doing fundraising so that we can offer sliding-scale tuition and scholarships to people who might not otherwise have access," Morey-Preston says, "and to help local musicians make a living through passing down their knowledge and passion to the next generation of Rochester musicians."
Leah Stacy is a freelance theater writer for CITY. Feedback on this review can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.