Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Salon Wrap-Up for July 31, 2011: "That's Original!"

The heat was on, but the room at Etcetera, Etcetera was nice and cool for the audience and singers of The Salon this past Sunday night.  The theme was "That's Original!", a celebration of original song pieces, "firsts," and songs that hold their own.  Mark Janas had just returned from the Buck Hill Skytop Festival (wearing their black-red tshirt), and told stories of the 90 minute version of Carmen he helped create.  In addition to shaving down the full orchestral score to 11 pieces, he played the electric keyboard (timponi on one hand and triangle in the other!).  He also spoke adoringly of the 15 young scholars (High School and College age) who received his expert tutelage for the past 2 weeks.

As the theme was "That's Original!", the co-host was a songwriter of original and freshly emotional work, Brett Kristofferson.  Brett has won the MAC award for Song of the Year, the Dottie Berman award, and a Bistro award for his achievements in songwriting!  He started out the evening by inviting Maureen Taylor (in a summer blue) to sing Brett's original song, "This Time." 

Maureen Taylor
Then, we heard "It Was Just One of Those Things" by Cole Porter (a composer/lyricist of much originality), sung by Barb Malley, who sang the rarely-performed verse intro as well!  Barb joked that her use of an American Standard evokes the sarchastic "Well, that's original!", but anything is welcome at The Salon!

Barb Malley
Edie Stokes then sang, performing "How Are Things in Glocca Mora?", with Mark playing entirely from memory!  Edie's new show "Midnight Ride on a Carousel" will continue her "Carousel"-themed shows, only this time involving songs of moonlight, twelve o'clock jitters, and night owls.  Then Sunny Leigh, a recording artist who has written many blues-rock pieces, sang her original song "Ain't No Love," and treated us by playing the piano herself!  Impromptu backup vocals from the audience accompanied Sunny, who is working on another CD and future shows.  Next, Richard Eisenberg came up - this time singing both ON theme and OF theme, with his original song about original experiences - the jazzy "The First Time."  Mark embellished on a great jazzy instrumental break and made the song fly!

The lovely Maureen Taylor returned to the microphone to sing "Make the Moment."  As she put it, "we are all original but there are always instructions."  She will soon perform a show in November centered around the glamourous movie star, Lauren Bacall.  Next, David Ballard (who is currently becoming an Original Songwriter to contend with!) sang his "A Song About Your Baby."  He is submitting for the BMI workshop as a lyricist, and will perform in Guys and Dolls in Fire Island this Fall!  We then heard from Yours Truly (me, Sierra Rein), who took a suggestion from her husband to sing "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" by The Beatles.  Turns out this song inspired the group who discovered the "missing link" skeleton to name their new lady-of-the-epoc "Lucy."  After I sang, the leggy Etceterette, Candace Oden, whipped out "I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles, and let us know about the new improv group she and a friend are creating together - sounds like fun! and she will have more details about the group later.

Those who attend The Salon regularly love the Classical Corner - a chance for Mark (or guest pianist/co-host) to take the theme and apply it to the world of Classical music.  This Sunday, Mark delved into the originals of Classical music, paying close attention to Beethoven and Mozart, and why their work was so original.  When music scholars looked at the original scores hand-written by Mozart, they noticed not a single edit or "erasure" to his compositions - Mozart thought out every note before applying them to paper.  Beethoven, on the other hand, scribbled and crossed out and drafted and re-wrote, until there were even 23 versions of his famous Fifth Symphony (you know, dah dah dah dummmmm).  From memory, Mark even played this symphony and even some of the first sketches, showing how the final version had the "right" pauses and emotional tension to make it an original work of transformative music.  For Beethoven, original ideas struggled out of him, and he sought to find the inevitability of it.  As Leonard Bernstein once spoke of Beethoven, every note is the ONLY note that could have followed the previous one.  Originality, Mark stated, is a product of surprise.  Repeated themes, combined with new themes, provide both comfort and surprise for the ear, and the ratio between the two of them provide structure to the song.

The true challenge of Originality, at it's most basic definition, is IMPROV.  Mozart would improve sonatas on a theme suggested by the audience.  Jazz, like Schubert, derives most of its surprising elements from improv (Mark illustrated some fast-fingered Schubert from us off hand, showing how the configuration of major and minor keys tricked the ear).  He then laid down a challenge to himself: he would play an original, improvised piano piece on the spot, based on suggestions from the audience.  He got: Bb minor/Viennese waltz/theme of a storm.  He then played.

Mark, rolling out a storm of notes on command
It was breathtaking - Mark played roughly 8 minutes of off-the-cuff music that sounded like it could have been published then and there.  He commented throughout if he thought there were any obvious "inspirations" he was drawing from - at one particularly stormy section, he called out "oh a little Carmen there," and "there's your Beethoven" at one point.  After thunderous applause, he pointed out that in the era of Classical music, there was no television to distract the composers to do their work - each note might have been improvised into a starting form, but they did agonize over every note and how it fit in to the overall form of the song.  Mark's composition teacher once said of modern improvisationally-themed music, it's as if "this man [the composer] wants to take you to his toilet and show it to you."  Originality sometimes arises out of a need to rail agains authority.  And while Nature gives us overtones that sound pretty and nice, we as original creators sometimes seek to fight against them with discord.  As a closing note, he told us that every culture on Earth uses the notes that correspond to the black keys on the piano, which can hardly be said for the white. Officially, my mind was blown that night!

After the break, our gracious and talented co-host, Brett Kristofferson, offered to us a series of his original works, sung by some of his friends.  Danny Leary (who co-hosted a comedy-themed Salon in 2010) hopped to the stage and sang a comedic song about an encounter with "Paul" at the gym.  Then, Angela Schultz sang "The Lizzie Borden Rag," a viciously funny song with lyrics by Brent Peterson, from the musical As the Curtain Rises.  Angela will be doing a new cabaret show with Brett in October at Don't Tell Mama!  She then sang the tormented love song "Things That Haunt Me," which won the MAC Award for Song of the Year.

Danny Leary

Angela Schultz
Tanya Moberly then came up to sin a song from an original musical she once performed in - she sang "He Never Leaves His Love," a classic, sultry blues number from the musical Night Club Confidential, by Dennis Deal and Albert Evans.  She will return with new shows at Don't Tell Mama in October and November, and is directing Marnie Klar in her debut shows at Don't Tell Mama in October, November, and December!  Tanya also made mention of the Tudor City Greens Concerts (tomorrow, Weds!!!), produced by Raissa Katona Bennett - more info at http://www.raissa.info/.  After Tanya, Marya Zimmett sang "Bye Bye Blackbird" in sultry tones, and invited us to her Joabim show in September at Don't Tell Mama.

We then had encores! Richie Eisenberg sang "Start a Dream With Me" (title unsure), an original song of his which he has not done at The Salon before. Barb Malley sang "Love is Only Love" from the movie musical version of Hello Dolly, and Edie Stokes sang "Walkin' After Midnight" by Patsy Cline.  David Ballard then returned to perform a cappella a piece that is in the middle of being originated - "A Letter to My Uncle," with music and lyrics by himself and an accompaniment to be determined!  Mark quickly interjected the run of the singers to perform "The Allergists Woes," a parody of "My Favorite Things" which was dedicated to Allergist Dr. David Mazza.  Canace Oden came up again to sing "Some People" from Gypsy, and Brett Kristofferson ended the evening with "Mickey", a moving song about comings and goings.

NEXT SUNDAY! The Salon returns to Etcetera, Etcetera - 352 West 44th Street, NYC 10036 – on Sunday, August 7th from 7-10:30PM! (Sign-Up Begins at 6:15.)  The optional theme for the evening is “Opposites Attract”. (But remember kids, any material, on or off theme, is always welcome at Salon.)

Our Co-Host will be the Fabulous Elaine St. George! Elaine just finished a critically acclaimed Ray Charles show in the spring and has been singing "cross-gender" songs since her cabaret debut in "All I Need is the Girl" back in 1996. For more information: http://www.elainestgeorge.com/.

Salon continues every Sunday (except September 4 th & September 11th)!  See you then!

Brett Kristofferson sings at the piano

Danny, Angela, Brett & Maureen (thanks to Danny Leary for the photo!)
-Sierra Rein
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