Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dusty Morning

Another cabaret performer tangent. Yesterday I picked up a disc on hold from the library Dusty Springfield; Come for a Dream. It is a great vault album from 1970-71, the result of a legal feud between 2 record labels that is finally being relinquished via Rhino Records.

Now, we would not likely ever think of Dusty Springfield as a cabaret artist.... But because I have always been a fan of her vintage blue-eyed soul, I was especially taken by the range on this new disc. There are a few bossa nova numbers. A Legrand/ Bergman collaboration. Of course anything Jimmy Webb is a point in my favor. Even a Charles Aznavour piece. So last night I was then distracted and began a YouTube hunt which amazed me to the max. First off, I had no idea she was a modest Irish lass by the name of Mary O'Brien. And then that she started her career as part of a successful folk trio along with her brother - just like a British Peter, Paul & Mary. Before the blonde bouffant was a meager brunette page cut. From there she unleashed a wealth of talents; singing in French, Spanish & Portuguese - all with perfect flair. Vintage Frishberg with "Peel Me a Grape" in 1962 - check. Gospel "the Water is Wide" - check. Bacharach beyond belief with him at the piano in "A House Is Not A Home"- check. American Songbooks classics like "Time After Time" and "Second Time Around" all there. And each sounded like they were her strongest suit.

But what bridged me over to the cabaret tangent were her performances. This was the era of variety show television and she was ALWAYS one to sing her tunes live over the track. So while her voice is instantly recognizable, no two performances were ever quite the same. The hair became an explosive gust of amber, the gowns and pantsuits always impeccably stylish, and gestures befitting a drag queen - she was larger than life. UNTIL the camera found her face. As I watched each clip, over 25 of them, I felt like she was singing directly to me! No matter how big the stage or audience, she was immediate and intimate. And the way she conquers the lyrics is knowing and painfully heartfelt. Here are just two clips that I had to share. I was going to compare with a Bette Midler meets Edyie Gorme, but she is definitely her own talent. A sad legacy of immense talent that was lost far too soon. Please watch both of these clips entirely.


Monday, November 2, 2015

This Is Cabaret

Ann Hampton Callaway continues to be one of the biggest advocates for our genre. In an age when we are not sure what constitutes "cabaret" - is it Broadway casts singing show tunes in tony bars, is it jazz singers sampling the American Songbook in dark and sultry clubs? Ann seems to be the one heir to the cabaret diva legacies of Julie Wilson and Mabel Mercer. I think we would all agree she brings an intimate story and a warm voice to anything she does beside her string of recordings and Broadway shows.

So it is with great anticipation that NPR is producing a new program of her live gigs at Birdland with a select roster of other talent that certainly fills the cabaret bill. Callaway’s stated goal is to present “cabaret as an emotionally engaging experience rather than a place.” She intends to use the emotional power of her guest artists and the heartfelt qualities of the music itself to accomplish this. The show will cover the panoply of American musical genres: jazz, Broadway, folk, blues…you name it. Shows have already been taped for release come January. Her first guest was the lovely Christine Ebersole who has won fans with a resume of Broadway roles, but is really an engaging cabaret spirit in the best sense. There is banter, witty repartee and even a few duets. Guest number two was Curtis Stigers, vocalist and sax man, who comes from a much different world of the music spectrum. But somehow the two found a mutual ground between musicianship and artistry. Ann seems to bring out the best qualities in all around her. I checked the NPR website, but do not see an actual date for the broadcasts posted yet, but will try to be mindful and give you a heads up with advance warning in the New Year.

 Ann Hampton Callaway

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cabaret Tidbits at large

I know we try to keep tabs on the local scene and anything that might relate to the genre of cabaret. But here are a few items from the East Coast which could plant some seeds and be used here as well. We keep speaking more and more to the power of our Education team and the possibilities to connect not only to new members, but larger audiences. Check these out:

First from our nation's capitol in Washington DC. La-Ti-Do a new collective of artists much like our own. They bill themselves as the "world where Musical Theater and Spoken World collide!" The brainchild of Don Michael Mendoza & Regie Cabico, it is a group of both amateur and professional artists in DC that come together for both solo and group pieces. They have shows every Monday in the Dupont Circle area for a loyal crowd and a modest cover charge. Each month has both a featured cause and at least a single featured artist. It sounds much like the curated dance works offered at the Walker. La-Ti-Do is garnering clout with a 2013 Broadway World Best Cabaret Concert award.

In NYC Primary Stages @ Einhorn School of Performing Arts, there is a Cabaret Intensive over 6 weeks this Fall. It sounds very similar to the Yale Conference in that it goes from square 1 - choosing your material - all the way to marketing and promoting the piece. Instead of patter, they refer to it as banter: but it is still about finding your own funny, specific and authentic voice. It will be led by both Eric Kornfeld & Eric Thomas Johnson. Both have experience with such notables as Bette Midler and Betty Buckley. To top it off, each student finishes with a mini-set shared at the Metropolitan Room.
Creating Your Cabaret

And lastly, a unique spin on a Cabaret evening hosted by both the Dramatists Guild in conjunction with Samuel French. It will be a benefit concert at none other than 54 Below with the theme: Sing and Tell on October 1st. It is only one a roster of Symposium offerings for the entire week. The bill includes a slate of names including Bill Russell, Marsha Norman, Emily Skeggs and many more. Each writer/ composer will speak to their creative process and then share short selections of their theater writings. It beckons back to the days of Cole Porter and Gershwin singing songs around a piano - to the current generation.
Sing and Tell; 54 Below

All great offerings and opportunities.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer Reading

It has been a long while since postings, but summer brings hiatus to many of us who detour from our regular paths of action. Here's hoping you are enjoying your summer adventures.

But here is a recommended summer read that has been passed on to us. Cabaret Secrets by British performer Gary Williams. It sounds as if it might be a bit heavy on some major name dropping from the promo video. But I also think any information we can gather as independent artists is helpful in this very specific world we inhabit as cabaret performers. And as we continue to challenge ourselves from mini-sets or long standing house gigs, it sounds as if this might be a helpful hands-on template to crafting a true solo act from start to finish. All topics that come up regularly in our conversation circles.

And digging further into his webpage, it looks like a whole slate of Podcasts with a few noted celebs like Michael Feinstein, Marilyn Maye and others. Other episodes seem to dwell heavily on the Cruise Ship career which is a different breed than what we ascribe to. But to pick and choose, it might be a worthy hodgepodge to explore for those audiophiles that are not the bookish sorts. Here is the link below and I will also add it to our Favorites links on the sidebar for later reference.
Cabaret Secrets on iTunes 

One last side note for summer calendars. At our last Membership Meeting Jennifer pointed out a great new community link called RedCurrent. It is basically a one-stop City Pages listing for all events music or theater. They were very interested in including TCCAN as part of their feed so they have tapped into our calendar listing and do an immediate bump for all things listed. A great and needed boost to our media marketing. So it is mindful that you all forward your individual gigs on to me for inclusion. The more we have to offer, the better our chances of building a true cabaret following in the Twin Cities. Remember to proudly brand yourselves as a TCCAN artist.
Red Current Twin Cities 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Never Too Old To Learn

Cabaret coaching is a concept not new to us as TCCAN members. But it is an Outreach than can be rare for us to stumble onto and put into practice. Here are three upcoming opportunities at varying levels of investment for you.

Image result for melissa hart broadwayFor starters, we have a great 2 Hour Masterclass coming up sponsored by TCCAN and open to all in the Twin Cities residents; singers or not. We are bringing in local chanteuse Melissa Hart to work with 5 students from our ranks. It takes place Sunday May 3rd at McPhail from 3-5 in Downtown Minneapolis. Melissa has a great resume and a wealth of experience in the genre. She will coach on song presentation and also sample a bit of set up for each number giving reliable insight. The afternoon event is part of our ongoing Education mission, open free for all levels of TCCAN membership and also open to anyone at large for a $10 donation to observe. See how the process works before we step onto the stage.

Image result for wesley balk instituteAlso coming up locally is the summer Wesley Balk Institute hosted by Nautilus. This year marks a landmark 38th year of summer training from June 28th - July 18th. The three-week symposium works with not just performers, but also directors and coaches as it explores the total performer. Uniting the elements of not just voice, but emotional investment and physical awareness. Ben Krywosz and his prestigious panel are great advocates of new forms of musical theater which includes the genre of cabaret among others. Several of our members have participated in the experience and speak very highly of it. Tuition for the workshop is $1800 and registration is at the link below.
Wesley Balk Institute 

Image result for st louis cabaret conferenceLastly, for those that want to steep themselves in the true Cabaret art form, St Louis has been very ambitious these last few years and taken over where the Yale Conference left off. The St Louis Cabaret Conference is being held at Webster University. Tim Schall has been instrumental in spearheading this effort and has made a special effort to reach out to our ranks in the Twin Cities. This years event takes place July 18-25th and is branching into more specific tracks; Traditional, Next Step and Professional divisions. There is an impressive roster of Teachers and Panelists from Jason Robert Brown, to Christine Ebersole to Faith Prince just to name drop a bit. What is there not to admire?; it hits everything from song selection and arrangements to marketing and Faculty Recitals. Fees range from $1400 to $3200 with a lengthy admission process in writing and video. But this is strictly for the serious cabaret-ophile and will definitely give you both tools and confidence to carry you forward. Give it some serious thought and check out full details below.
St Louis Cabaret Conference