Songs for the Season

Unique Musical Programs

Archive for the category “Finding the road to summer”

Plenty of Summer

June 29, 30 and July 1st 2012 saw the debut of “Summer Songs:  In the Season of Plenty” at Bonnie and Clyde’s Soda Shop featuring me, Daniel Johnson, and Liesl Bell at the old general store in Bristol, Indiana.  This venue is about five miles from my home and thus definitively qualifies as local.  The show was attended by mostly my friends and family and a few innocent by-standers.  It did seem to be well received by all.

I invited a list of business contacts (in addition to friends and family) including the decision makers in the nearby community centers and retirement homes.  There does seem to be interest among these contacts but little or no money for bringing entertainment to such venues.  No one showed up to check out the show.  Rethinking the business model, I believe if this project is to continue it will need to be set up as a not for profit and be financed by underwriters.  I will probably need to write grant requests if I expect to finance a tour to local retirement homes.

The weekend at the Soda Shop was an expensive one for me.  I didn’t break even this time, by a long shot, but I was gratified by the support that I did receive.  I was especially grateful to John Shoup of the Bristol Opera House for the loan of musical equipment and to Miriam Houk for the loan of her amplifier.  The collaboration with Liesl Bell and Michael Rand at Premier Arts was over-all a good experience.  Liesl is a sensitive, creative and very talented musician.  Her ability to improvise arrangements from lead sheets is extra-ordinary.  And there is no one that I know in this area that I would rather have accompanying me in a live performance.  I’m going away once again without hard copies of the customized arrangements.  In this respect I hope to do better in the future.

The creative end of the project has been productive and has given me a lot of stimulation and pleasure.  I truly love performing the material and selecting and preparing the programs is a very satisfying endeavor.  This end of the production involves my skills as a writer and director.   I received positive feedback about these aspects of the show.

So here is a rundown of the program:

  •  The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Friend and Franklin, 1936)
  • Me and Marie (Cole Porter, 1935)
  • Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer  (Tobias and Carste, 1963) as a medley with That’s What they Meant by the Good Old Summertime (Tobias and Frisch, 1963)
  • Down by the Old Mill Stream (Tell Taylor, 1908)
  • In Your Custom Made RV (music by G. Edwards, 1905 – Parody, my lyric)
  • I Want to Go Home (Cole Porter, 1938)
  • The Crawdad Song (Traditional, adapted by Dan Johnson)
  • The Green Leaves of Summer (Webster and Tiomkin, 1960)
  • Plant a Radish (Schmidt and Jones, 1960)
  • It’s a Boy’s Life (written by Bill Solly, 1975)
  • A Letter from Camp (Allan Sherman, 1963)
  • All Things Bright and Beautiful  (Alexander and Rutter, 1984)
  • Back Home Again in Indiana (MacDonald and Hanley, 1917)

This was the climax of several months preparation and with the performance I plan to refocus my endeavors on finding a musical director for developing audition material.  I will be spending more time in the immediate future in the Chicago area and hope to pursue professional musical theatre opportunities there.

I will continue to investigate the cabaret scene in Chicago and do hope to revive Santa Songs (reincarnated as “Carols and Kris Kringle,” a holiday themed cabaret set) for the upcoming holiday season.

But I do plan to spend my energy more on finding acting work rather than producing my own cabaret shows at this time.

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On the Road to Summer

Last weekend I visited the Prospect Heights Public Library to attend the well-honed and entertaining program “Our Love Is Here to Stay: The Life of George Gershwin” with Chicago Cabaret Professional stalwarts Laura Freeman and Beckie Menzie.  I wanted to witness what these very active and talented artists had devised for what they call “unconventional venues.”

Libraries, Community Centers and Retirement Communities exemplify this corner of the cabaret world.  Rather than night-clubs or piano bars, these are the venues that I have primarily in mind for my Songs of the Season material.

A review of a composer’s lifework is a standard theme in cabaret.  It’s a calling card for lovers of both the composer and the American Songbook.  But there are as many other themes to tie together a program as there are artists who choose them.

My concept was chosen because it has resonance for me personally.  I have been impressed for a number of years with the Celtic pagan concept of the wheel of the year.  It is the framework of Celtic people’s worship calendar.  The common meaning of seasonality is fleshed out in these ancient beliefs.  For me they are concepts that help anchor me to nature and time.  I have always found it refreshing to meditate on the meaning of the ancient ceremonies.

It was through my research on Yule in particular that a deeper understanding of this tradition took root in my thinking.  And it occurred to me that it is not only Christmas that retains resonance for most of us as the seasons progress.  Another factor which made this focus so felicitous is that the Celtic calendar marks festivities.   Celebrations are cause for singing.

Now I’m not saying that Songs for the Season is Celtic per se.  In fact the equinoxes and solstices which mark the secular four seasons are not the holiest holidays for Celtic pagans at all.  But they mark our modern lives with a similar sense of time and place.  It seems to me that it will always be pleasurable to celebrate the things we love about Summer, Spring and Fall as well as Yuletide.

My summer program is progressing.  I’m calling it “In the Season of Plenty: Summer Songs” and my main challenge has been to keep it under an hour.  I’m choosing pieces that are fun for me to sing and which fulfill the theme: things we love about summer.  I’m starting off singing about summer romance and then celebrating vacations and road-trips, then closing with a section extoling youthful energy.  Through-out there is strong reference to life-cycles and home-coming.

Here’s what I’m working on:

The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Friend and Franklin, 1936), pictures how amusement parks can aid courting.

Me and Marie (Cole Porter, 1935), targets the shore as aphrodisiac.

Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer  (Tobias and Carste, 1963), ponders the ways romance thrives in summer.

Down by the Old Mill Stream (Tell Taylor, 1908), opens the heart to enduring love.

In Your Custom Made RV (music by G. Edwards, 1905 – Parody, new lyric), recommends the retirement lifestyle, locally born.

I Want to Go Home (Cole Porter, 1938), extolls home-coming.

The Crawdad Song (Traditional, adapted by Dan Johnson), schemes about living off the land.

The Green Leaves of Summer (Webster and Tiomkin, 1960), asserts summer’s felicity as context for the circle of life.

Plant a Radish (Schmidt, 1960), compares gardening and raising children.

It’s a Boy’s Life (written by Bill Solly, 1975), celebrates youth’s boundless energy.

A Letter from Camp (Allan Sherman, 1963), targets a timid response to new experiences.

Back Home Again in Indiana (McDonald and Hanley, 1938), rhapsodizes local color and yearning for “back when”.

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