Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Salon Wrap-Up for May 8th, 2011: "It's All Relative"

"My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."
-Mark Twain
Ahhhh Mother's Day was on Sunday, and it was time to reminisce about dear old Mama or Papa or any relative at all. "It's All Relative" was the theme of the evening, and Erin Cronican (whose voice Mark Janas rightly described as "clarion") was our funny, beautiful, charming co-host. Mark first began the evening by opening up his memories of his Mom to us.  His Mom introduced him to a wonderful mixture of popular and classical music, gave him a toy piano, and took him to his first audition for a piano teacher as a kid, and his Grandmother taught him how to say the alphabet backwards and forwards (a trick that proved himself to be a precocious child). It was lovely to hear that Mark had such a wonderful, supportive upbringing from his Mom and Grandma.

Erin Cronican, "The Story Goes On"
Erin, who looked fabulous in a dark plaid dress and sparkly necklace, started the evening out with the gloriously emotional "The Story Goes On" from Baby, a perfect song about the ever-revolving mother-daughter circle of life. She then gave us a little back story into Mother's Day - how it emerged from a celebration of Mother Earth, and then became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Erin then introduced Barb Malley, whose mother always sang while she did chores in an Irish accent and claimed she had "the devil in her soul" when she did so.  Barb sang "When You're Good To Mama" from Chicago. Next, Steven Stein-Grainger (who happens to be my voice teacher - you can check out the Steven Stein-Grainger Vocal Studio online!) sang "American Hymn (Theme from East of Eden)" by Lee Holdridge , a personal favorite of his mother's. He also had a wonderful story of seeing his mother burst into tears outside the Stage Door as soon as he walked outside after replacing George Hearn in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway...Mamas are always proud of their boys!

We had a lot of newcomers to The Salon that night, many of them professional students of Erin Cronican, who runs her own actor's career counseling company, The Actors' Enterprise. Eliza Pupko was the first of these to get up and sing - she sang "Pulled," the song sung by the character of Wednesday from the musical The Addams Family. Next, Joey Infante, with Michael McDonald on piano, sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - his show, "Babalu," is going to be at the Metropolitan Room on June 21st, with Music Director Barry Levitt! We then saw the always spunky-creative Danielle Erin Rhodes, who sang "The Rebuttal," a hilarious song she wrote about relativity and that size does...well...matter, although Mark cried out "I'm not sure that's what Einstein had in mind." Danielle is performing in "Booze In The Boroughs," a new play by Penny Jackson, which runs until May 22nd (more info and tickets here), and then will leave with Mark to Maine State Theatre to do The Marvelous Wonderettes.

After Dani, we heard from next week's co-host, Stephen Hanks! He has a LOT on his plate this week in addition to his co-hosting gig: he is the Board President of Musical Mondays Theater Lab and writes for Cabaret Scenes magazine. He's co-Producer of The Fartiste, which will be featured in The FringeBENEFITS Series preview performance at the Laurie Beechman Theater this Thursday the 12th at 9:30pm. More info here about the Fringe. Stephen sang "Wonderful Baby" by Don McLean, a song he used to sing to his daughter, but which he was now singing to his wife (in attendance). He'll be co-hosting the theme "Moulin Rouge" on May 15th.

After Stephen, Anna Marie Sell, the Associate Artistic Director of Seeing Place Theater, sang the touching ballad "I Won't Mind." I saw her and Erin perform in Twelfth Night, which just closed a few weeks ago - it was a grounded, real production of Shakespeare's play, and I immediately signed up for their mailing list. Anna Marie's got this relatively young theater company going in the right direction! After Anna Marie, Elaine St. George came up to stage with a snippet of "Come Live With Me" from her show "InspiRAYtion." I saw this Ray Charles show last Wednesday, and was blown away by the attention to detail, the wit and style Elaine brought to Ray's songs - she apparently had a fun audience at last night's final performance, so yay for her! We then heard from Blogette Arianna, who sang a haunting piece, "Dante's Prayer," a beautiful, flowing lullaby of a song that was sung almost in a whisper. Arianna can now be seen in the new opera The Death of Don Juan, now playing at the Theater for the New City until May 22nd, and BREAKING NEWS: Arianna is a finalist in's "Broadway's Next Big Star 2011" competition, so vote for her!

Returning friend of The Salon Lea McKenna-Garcia next sang "Look Mummy, No Hands," a heartbreaking song about the ebb and flow of one woman's need for her mother's attention. Lea won the Relative Presence award that night - she had her mother, grandmother, and two aunts in the audience! After Lea, Kevin McMullan sang the classic song "Mammy" with full energy.  Then we got a song-teaching session from David Ballard, who taught us a gospel song his mother used to sing to him. Harmony was strongly encouraged, and by the end of a few repeated examples, the whole audience was singing along. Next, Sierra Rein (me) sang a song she remembered her mother singing, which in turn her mother remembered her own mother singing: the old-timey song "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie." Etceterette Jan Brennan closed the first half of the singers with "I Want You to Be...," a hilarious song full of Freudian slips and double-puns.

This week's Classical Corner with Mark Janas centered around "Relativity," which in musical terms can reflect upon the many different elements of how notes connect, contrast, harmonize, and create tension with each other. He reflected on how music scoring was the first media we had; the written score finally put down how music moves through time in accordance with what the composer wanted (plays don't move through time like music does), and how we can currently freeze the relativity of everything in time now (with the use of video, audio, and photographic recordings). When a pianist performs the notes on a sheet of music, they have to take into account the relative qualities of each note, the words, tension and release of tension, and harmony. Good pianists knows the relativity of all these things, and can mimic the human voice by emotionally stretching and flexing the timing of each measure. One must "steal from Peter to pay Paul" in music, sometimes throwing the melody to the left hand and then back to the right hand, and trying to make (at least for pianists) the piano sound like a full orchestra through "voicing." Sometimes, "the unimportant notes are more important than the less important notes," Mark said (that blew my mind!). Mark then notes that pianists and other musicians self-diagnose themselves even through a live performance, and just like singers can critique the last few measures sung whilst missing the emotional content of the current measures. For singers and pianists, this is a bad thing; one must feel the relativity of the notes in the moment. Mark then demonstrated this by putting away his sheet music and performing Chopin's "Ab Ballade" with the thought of an almost drunken-like abandonment. He received a Standing O for this, for the piece(which we've heard many times before) sounded completely different, even to us. With that, we took a break!
Mark, like Einstein, has a tendency to blow our minds.
After the break, Erin Cronican (who had all the while been effortlessly guiding and interviewing singers as co-host) got up to the mic to sing a set of three songs. She first began singing "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid; however, it soon became apparent what Mark Janas thought of the song, as he kept interjecting hilarious quips and riffs to the increasingly frustrated Erin ("Out of the sea"/"Dinner you'll be" was one of my favorite lyric/quip combos). It was all choreographed good fun, and Erin showed off her comedic acting chops as well as her vocal ones. Next, she sang "Home" from Phantom in her beautiful legit soprano; Erin used this song to reflect upon her own supportive family life. Lastly, Erin brought in an "underserved topic" of discussion, that of "Making Love Alone," which was hilariously paired with her wide-eyed innocence...but we all know better than to fall for that, right? It was a great set!
Erin Cronican
Erin then brought up Producer Tanya Moberly, who sang the gorgeous and emotional "Daughters" by John Mayer. Then Maree Johnson, who is a past Saloner but new to the Etcetera, Etcetera venue, sang "Blue Skies" in a flawless, jazzy voice. She didn't say if she was coming back to The Salon soon, but she and her talent were very welcome indeed. Then, Anita Vasan belted her way (and Mark played excellently) through "And I Will Follow" by Jason Robert Brown...that's a hard song!  Erin then revealed to us that Anita has her own personal show, "Dream Like New York," which is all about the experiences of being an Indian woman in New York - we all look forward and encourage her to bring the show to one of the many Cabaret spaces here soon! Then, Louisa Poster sang a song written "before songs were as explicit as my gynecologist," as she put it...the song was from The Ziegfeld Follies of 1912, "Row, Row, Row." Louisa is currently appearing in Line at the 13th Street Repertory Company.

Anita Vasan
Candice Oden, who I had the pleasure of seeing as Adelaide (Guys & Dolls) in one of Erin Cronican's Actor-Own reading series, then stepped up to sing "Gold" by Frank Wildhorn (from Camille Claudel). Tony Imgrund then sang "Who Is Silvia?" from Donna Stearn's musical farce of "As You Like It." It was a lovely combination of Shakespeare's lyrics and beautiful undulating music. Bill Zeffiro grabbed the piano bench from Mark to sing "Universal Truth," which is soon to be recorded by Terese Genecco and her Little Big Band. Bill also had a reading that Sunday day of a one-act he wrote, and will return to La Mediterrane to bang the keys weekly starting Tuesday, May 17th (this might be a great place for Saloners to sing in the next few weeks!). Erin Cronican then closed the evening by singing the tearfully beautiful and perfectly chosen song, "For Good," from Wicked.  She dedicated this song to The Salon, and was the last song she ever sang in her father's presence before he passed away, so the lyrics "Who can say if I've been changed for the better...because I knew you I have been changed for good" were incredible affecting for all of us. Brava, Erin!

NEXT WEEK! Stephen Hanks co-hosts the evening's theme of "Moulin Rouge." So...put on your high-kicking shoes and bowler hats, wax your moustaches and throw the glitter on! Bring songs in that you can do a kickline to, songs that are in French, songs that remind you of the 1880's Cabaret scene, songs that remind you of the Baz Luhrmann movie, anything goes at the Moulin Rouge!!!


See you there...then!

-Sierra Rein
The Blogette for The Salon
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