Songs for the Season

Unique Musical Programs

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

Away they all flew: Afterglow 2015

When I had the opportunity to play Kris Kringle in “Miracle on 34th Street” I knew I had a unique acting challenge.  Playing a real person is hard enough but playing a real person, who believes himself to be a magical spirit, and the embodiment of a legend, was very demanding.

I decided to base my characterization in the reality of expertise.  In my imaginary biography Kris was a man who set out to know everything he could about St. Nicholas and Father Christmas, and who was recognized as an expert (as an importer of hand crafted toys and successful author of holiday mail order catalogs).  Then through family connections he was covertly honored by a group of magicians to represent the spirit ritually.  Through this experience Kris claimed the right to his identity as the “real” Santa (or at least the elected representative for a group of true believers).

But I thought Kris’ also needed to be an entertainer.  I posited that when his “expertise” ceased to support him (I imagined his company was taken from him in a hostile take-over), he decided to make an exhibit of himself for the entertainment of others: and he took to the vaudeville stage with a Christmas act.

Those three elements, his expertise, his belief in his own validity and his desire to entertain were the elements on which I hung my characterization.  After playing Kris Kringle with those imaginary given circumstances, it occurred to me that I might also have a “Christmas Act” making use of what I had learned, imagined and performed.  That’s the rich background to Santa Songs.

So it’s not surprising when people find depth in my conception of what is supposed to be a light holiday entertainment.  People are amazed that there are “so many Santa songs!”  Well, when I couldn’t find a song I needed to tell my story completely, I sought out a friendly composer and had them written!  I also adapted and wrote others myself.  Then I lived with the material for several years and tweaked the program until it did what I had originally conceived.

I wanted to do justice to the historical truth and the magical appeal of the character joyously told through song and story.   But this is not easily conveyed to the general public and Santa Songs has yet to achieve its promise in terms of finding a wider audience.  People who see it are consistently impressed and entertained.  But the next challenge is to find that larger audience.

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Santa Songs 2015: Program

“Santa Songs: A Christmas Cabaret” — playing Dec. 6, 2015 at PianoForte in Chicago, a concert of holiday music celebrating Santa traditions from Father Christmas to Old St. Nick and Kris Kringle, staring Daniel T. Johnson with music director Mark Burnell at the piano, based on staging by Matthew Ellenwood.

Daniel Johnson, actor/vocalist, is a frequent interpreter of holiday material having appeared many times as Santa professionally and for charity. His acting has been featured in “A Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th St.” Daniel is a veteran musical theatre performer of material from Gilbert and Sullivan to Cole Porter. This will be his fifth year presenting “Santa Songs: A Christmas Cabaret.” Dan has appeared around Chicago with SongShop Live and in “Strut Your Stuff” with Chicago Cabaret Professionals and recently made his solo debut at Davenport’s Cabaret in “Wilde and Woolley: a musical exploration of Cole Porter’s Inner Circle.”

Mark Burnell is an accomplished pianist/vocalist/arranger and one of Chicago’s most sought after musicians, working with a wide array of talent.

Matthew Ellenwood is a vocal director active in the Chicago Cabaret Community and serves as Artistic Director of Terra Mysterium Performance Troupe.

Paul L. Johnson, composer, is a NYC based composer/musical director. Among his most notable achievements are: conductor for the world premiere of WHERE ELEPHANTS WEEP in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia; recipient of two OOBR awards for composing and musically directing COWBOYS! and TANGO MASCULINO at Wings Theatre in NYC. He has also musically directed over 180 productions for regional, community and Off-Off Broadway theater. Paul has composed many songs for church, for cabaret and for the musical theater.

There will be one 10 minute intermission

This Evening’s Songs

Mummer’s Bells (lyric trad., music Paul L. Johnson)

Ballad of St. Nicholas (lyric Mike Sherer, music traditional)

Night Before Christmas Jig (lyric C. Moore, music Paul L. Johnson)

Toyland (Herbert and MacDonough, 1903)

Parade of the Wooden Soldiers (Jessel and McDonald, 1922)

Medley: A Christmas Carol (Tom Lehrer) Silver and Gold (Johnny Marks, 1992) Oh, Christmas Tree (Traditional)

Pine Cones and Holly Berries (Meredith Willson, 1963)

That’s What I’d Like For Christmas (Bricusse and Ornadel, 1963)

Intermission

Dear Ole Santy Claus (lyrics – Dan Johnson and David Stephens, music trad.)

My Grown-up Christmas Wish (Linda Thompson-Jenner and David Foster, 1990)

Expect Things to Happen and Up on the Rooftop (Meredith Willson, 1963)

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (Gillespie and Coots, 1932)

Here’s Love (Meredith Willson, 1963)

Yes, Virginia (There’s a Santa Claus) (Whatley and Schermerhorn, 2010)

Here Comes Santa Claus (Autry and Haldeman, 1947)

Be A Santa (lyric, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music, J. Styne, 1961)

 

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