Songs for the Season

Unique Musical Programs

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Out-side the Box

The Box Factory for the Arts hosted a concert on Saturday, June 15, 2013 which sparked my curiosity and proved to be a great example of pushing the envelope of what cabaret can do.

“Portraits and Landscapes, an Illustrated Concert” brought two seasoned singers, Claudia Hommel and Elizabeth Doyle, to St. Joseph, Michigan in collaboration with the artists of the Berrien Arts Guild. With Ms. Doyle at the keyboard and Greg Ladewski on cello we found ourselves at a Chautauqua like entertainment that not only scintillated but enriched our appreciation of what music, poetry and visual arts can do in our lives. The program was eclectic but leaning toward art songs and original works. There were lighter moments from Broadway and Tin-pan Alley, but Erik Satie and Ned Rorem seasoned the predominantly Parisian repertoire which mixed favorably with the gallery atmosphere.

The performance was not only multi-media from the stand-point of integrating a slide show into a musical concert, but proved also to be a collaboration between patrons and practitioners as the artists and writers seemed to make up much of the audience. The poetry, paintings and sculptures of the Art Guild in many cases stimulated original songs or musical underscoring which accompanied projections of the words and images of the works themselves. Composer-performer Elizabeth Doyle contributed compositions and improvisations that were transporting and elevating. Together with Ms. Hommel, the globe-trotting chanteuse, who has made something of a specialty of bringing cabaret to galleries and museums, the musical collaboration here wove a tapestry which, for an evening, wrapped the audience in the arms of creativity: decidedly thinking out-side the box.

These collaborators have explored similar Gallery Concerts elsewhere of note, such as The Detroit Institute of Arts and the Virginia Museum. How extraordinary that we were treated to such a unique and inspiring artistic happening in Southwestern Michigan.

Loulou’s Back

Louise Cloutier and Nick Sula presented “Loulou’s Back in Town” last Friday, June 7, 2013 to a nearly sold out crowd at Davenports Cabaret which I was delighted to attend. I have been consulting with Louise about my projects (she is also a composer) and I have proposed that she write original music for two of my pieces. So I was lucky to see her perform some of the original material she has devised for herself.

I truly loved what I saw. It turns out that she has a unique flare for novelty material and great range both comedic and dramatic. Her sensibility is sophisticated musically but extremely well grounded. You might even say earthy. If one had to categorize her material you might say she has a world music flavour. She is French Canadian and apparently a native French speaker so she has authenticity especially when touching upon French cabaret standards. But that’s just for starters.

The program on Friday was a cavalcade of “characters” all of which were just the folk you’d want to invite to a cabaret party. There were celebratory parodies of Piaf and many others. Louise really excelled with jazz interpretations of Gershwin’s “Embraceable You” as well as (remarkably) Ray Charles’ “Georgia” and she absolutely nailed Billie Holiday in “Lady Day (and Night).”

The others included Coward’s “Nina” a difficult Argentinian diva — and various ethnic types from Celtic to Yiddish who all possessed a talent to amuse: with an amazing range. The program set me thinking about gypsy jazz as a performance art! In any event, the audience was effusive in their appreciation for Louise and her presentation. It was a fabulous evening.

The Beat Goes On

There have been big things happening in my domestic life, meanwhile I have been doing a lot more reading (study) than writing (blogging). Still there has been progress on several points to report concerning projects in development.

For “Lyrics by Shakespeare”, I have continued my voice lessons with Matthew Ellenwood and I think I have benefited greatly. I’m developing the technique to sustain a program of Renaissance music and have one or two key pieces on board. I’m getting to know Matthew better, as well as Louise Cloutier, both of whom compose music in period mode. I have started to define which pieces need arranging and/or composition and discussing with Matthew and Louise.

On the writing for Lyrics by Shakespeare, I have been exploring in my reading what it means to be a bard to a noble family. I am searching for the right persona to frame the material. At present I think it might be a modern devotee (thinly disguised “me”) sort of an eccentric professor, but it also might be a voice channeled from the period; or both.

On “It’s Spring Again” while I’ve been trying to put the program on the back burner, it keeps coming back. I’ve been working with coach/music director Andrew Blendermann to whip together an opening medley. It is a mélange of spring songs concerning “birds” tied together by Porter’s “Be Like the Bluebird.” Whimsical and audacious. I want to get the arrangement settled before moving on.

Also, at the urging of my partner David, I’ve begun work on “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” so as to keep the spring program from waxing too saccharine. Andrew was very enthusiastic about the choice.

I’m also still looking for a big closer and think I may have something with Youmans’ “Great Day” which I remembered from chorus in high school, but apparently now is known as a Streisand or McCartney tune!

On the open mic stuff, I’ve identified a couple of things with which to introduce myself – but I’m still working on arrangements etc. As time rolls on, I’m turning my attention more to refining last year’s summer program and mining it for open mic material. Also, the open mic venues seem to be a bit fluid right now, so I need to keep up with where the opportunities may be.

I’ll have some reflections soon on other cabaret artists I’ve been seeing. I have been attending several events without bloggin. Just observing and really enjoying life in Chicagoland.

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