Friday, December 30, 2016

My "Best Of" List 2016

I wanted to highlight some very special vocal performances that were brought to my attention in 2016. I hope you can take the time to enjoy these clips for the first time or for a second or third view (they are that good). Here we go:

LAURA BENANTI


A few months ago they live streamed 'She Loves Me' and I got to see, once again, one of my favorite Broadway leading ladies, Laura Benanti. This was such a magical production. That set! Holy cow! And other charming performances from her cast mates, Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, and Gavin Creel. I have a special place in my heart for Miss Benanti. When we lived in New Jersey I got to see her in a workshop of a show I can't remember now, but I remember her, and then to see her Broadway career take off. She is such a joy on stage with her charisma, comic timing, and that voice! I just adore her.

JESSIE MUELLER

Unfortunately, I have not seen Miss Mueller on stage, only through clips on YouTube. I love her ability to connect to the material. She is emotionally driven. I love this rehearsal performance more than any other clip I have seen. She is completely in the moment and it is breathtaking.

CYNTHIA ERIVO

Cynthia is one of two Brits that made my list. Watch out America, the British are starting to catch on to how musical theater is done! This clip is not from her Tony winning performance in A Color Purple, but from the Miscast Gala this year at MCC Theater. This is one of my favorite songs and she takes it, runs with it and makes it into a brilliant piece of art.

IMELDA STAUNTON

I saw a clip of Imelda Staunton singing Rose's Turn at the beginning of this year, but it has since been removed from YouTube. This video shows clips of her singing three of the songs from the show, so you get the idea of how perfect she is. This production, performed in 2015 in the West End, was streamed on PBS just a couple months ago. Look for it, if it airs again...watch it! It is supposed to make its' way to Broadway in 2018 last I heard. Let's keep our fingers crossed for that. I love this powerhouse of a woman and just when I think she can't any more magnificent she proves me wrong.

That is my list for 2016! I hope you enjoyed watching these clips. Let me know if you see any performances that catch your attention and pass them along. My husband is great at that and turned me on to Morgan James a few years back who sings regularly on Postmodern Jukebox. I just love her and present her 2016 performance of Dream On for your bonus clip. Enjoy!!

MORGAN JAMES

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Songs I Love to Sing: I'd Rather Be Blue

I'd Rather Be Blue was written by composers Fred Fisher & Irving Berlin with lyrics by Billy Rose. It came out of Tin Pan Alley being published 1928. It is just one of those great songs with personality, a catchy tune, and clever lyrics. I love this era of music. This particular song was recorded by Fanny Bryce. I first heard it in the movie, Funny Girl, where Barbra Streisand played Miss Bryce. (It is the famous roller skating scene.) My family have always been huge fans of Barbra Streisand and her version was a regular staple in our home. Barbra has a way of putting her stamp on every song she sings, so when one sings a song she has recorded it can be a challenge to the listeners to accept another artist covering the song and for the artist to put their own stamp on it. This recording was for my dad on his birthday this year because he is one of the most devoted Barbra Streisand fans I know! I felt I could put my own spin on it, but still have some "Barbra-isms" to make him laugh. This song is probably okay to do in an audition or for a concert, though usually I would stay away from songs that Barbra has done. I definitely would stay away from her signature song, also from Funny Girl, People. I am always impressed when an artist can take a song that is so well known by an another artist, and make it all their own. Wouldn't that be a fun challenge to choose songs based in that idea and just completely do your own arrangements? hmmmm....I am always up for a challenge. But, for now enjoy this bright, and fun little ditty that hopefully will bring a smile to your face and spring to your step.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Songs I Love to Sing: I Won't Mind

Sometimes there are songs that one comes across that not only resonates, but seem to fit like a glove. "I Won't Mind" is one of those songs for me. As you may recall in the very first post on this blog I shared how I lost my ability to sing for a time due to a traumatic event involving the death of my brother. During my vocal and emotional recovery I still continued to do musical theater and I had to rely heavily on my acting talents to get through this time. As I slowly regained my vocal abilities, and technique, the connection I was able to make with songs and the capability to interpret them in the same vein as a monologue stayed with me. I still constantly strive to perfect my vocal proficiency and how I convey a song to an audience. But, with material like "I Won't Mind", which is structured as a monologue set to music, it is ideal for a performer like me.

The song was written by Jeff Blumenkrantz for an unfinished musical, The Other Franklin. It was to be about the relationship of Benjamin Franklin with his son, William, around the time of the American Revolution. This song is sung by William's wife, Elizabeth, who was never able to have children of her own. She sings it to her godson in his nursery while everyone else is the next room celebrating the christening. The Other Franklin is an abandoned project that will never be produced, but this song (fortunately for us) was recorded by Audra McDonald on her album, How Glory Goes. She also sings it regularly in her concerts. Through her album I was introduced to the song and it will now be one I sing for auditions and in performance as long as I am able. I love it...enjoy!


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Songs I Love to Sing: Winter Song

Ivy and I discovered "Winter Song", co-written and sung by Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles, just last year, even though it has been around since 2008. We love Ingrid and Sara as individual artists so it was cool to find a song they did together.

I love singing with Ivy! She has a natural ability for harmonies and has been able to carry her own since she was probably around five. She came to this world with some very special musical gifts. I can't wait to hear her progress in the years to come. She is still developing her vibrato, so for this song I sang with a straighter tone for a better blend. I think it is awesome that when we sing together on the melody that our voices sound like one. Having sung with my sisters for many years I know there is something to be said about genetics when trying to create that perfect blend. (think Osmond Brothers)

We did this particular recording for my sister, Annie, on her birthday. I had always envisioned that we would record it outside in the snow with candles. But, by the time we were able to film it the snow in our yard had melted. We brought it inside and did it late at night. Ivy still laughs about my candle idea, but I love the candles!! haha Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Songs I Love to Sing: I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart

I am just starting out with guitar. I have been playing over the past few years, but not really digging in and becoming good at it. This song gave me the opportunity to practice AND have a great time while doing it. I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart, was a song I heard during a Prairie Home Companion live concert that we attended. You know how Garrison Keillor always has the most amazing musicians on his show? Well, his guest sang this song and I was smitten by it. I came home and got to work.

There are a couple elements to this song that make it both complex and enjoyable. The first is being able to play and sing at the same time. This takes on a whole other skill set than I am used to. It brought me a new appreciation for artists who do this and make it look effortless. You can probably see the concentration in my eyes at the very beginning when I am just playing the guitar getting ready to sing. haha It is like rubbing your stomach and patting your head. That was a unique challenge for me and I know that with more practice it will become second nature. The second element is yodeling. Again, not something I am totally proficient with, but I think it is an amusing skill to develop. I learned to yodel on a couple Patsy Cline songs I have covered, Lovesick Blues and Blue Moon of Kentucky. So, it was fun to step it up and do a more complex yodel combination on this song.

I love learning new skills. I love to challenge myself. This song brought both those things together and made the end result most enjoyable. I still have a long way to go, but if I keep it up it will be pleasing to look back on this in a few years and see my progress. Enjoy!


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Songs I Love to Sing: River

Back to Joni Mitchell. Her songs are difficult because they sound simple when she sings them, but there are a lot of complexities in melody, phrasing, and intent. This song is basically a journal entry. Very personal, and frank. It isn't my experience, but when you cover a song like this, one can draw upon their own experiences of regret or when they caused someone pain. Often when I think of Christmas, they are happy memories. Like the photo of me as a small girl, all dressed up and standing by the tree. But, in reality the Christmas holiday is also one that can be the most lonely for people. Getting together with family can sometimes be more stressful than peaceful. I think what makes this song so melancholy, is that Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time, but when we mourn the loss of a loved one because of a break up (which apparently are quite common just before Christmas) it is that much sadder. All the hope we had of celebrating together, has now been dashed. And the twist is that she not only mourns the break up, but that she CAUSED the break up. So good from a dramatic stand point. Enjoy!