Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Salon Wrap-Up for September 23rd, 2011: Variety!

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and this past Sunday, variety was the also the spice of our weekly Salon.  There were many new faces, new songs, and even a magic act!  Everything was kept running by our spicy host, Darren Williams - all the way from Sydney Austrailia (oh, that accent)!

Mark once again opened up the evening asking what everyone had seen that week.  What came up was Conni's Avant Garde  Restaurant.  This really can't be described.  It's dinner theatre....sort of.  Mostly, it's just pretty awesome, and you just have to check it out for yourself.  Mark told us about Ido Sushi on 7th Ave and Bedford.  They have a different musical theme every night of the week, and Mark will be playing their Opera Evenings on Wednesdays and Saturdays for the next several weeks.

Our host began the evening with the Jekyll and Hyde power ballad, "This is the Moment."

Susan Hodgdon sang a sultry "Peel Me a Grape."  Susan will be performing at Don't Tell Mama on October 23rd at 3:30pm she told us "If you come, I'll peel YOU a grape."  How can you refuse an offer like that?

Alan Safier introduced his song as a Russian folk tune taught to him by his grandmother.  He sang "I'm an Old Cow Hand" accompanied only by the finger snapping of the audience.  By the third verse, everyone had joined in on the chorus with harmony.  Alan will be performing "Say Goodnight Gracie" at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on October 30th at 2pm.  You can also purchase his CD - "Alan Safier Sings the Songs of George and Gracie's Heyday" at his website and on iTunes.

Court Graves recently performed his Brazilian Jazz Show at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, and graced us with a jazzy rendition of "Witch Craft."

All the way from England (oh! the accents gracing the stage!), Frank Loman sang a beautifully emotional rendition of John Bucchino's "Grateful."  Frank will be performing with Ellen Vereneiks at Don't Tell Mama on September 27th at 7pm and October 5th at 7pm.

Michael Colby sang the tongue twisting British Music Hall inspired "Vegetable Reggie" from his 1982 musical "Charlotte Sweet".

Joan Jaffe asked us the question "How Red Riding Hood could be so good and keep the Wolf from her door?"  Joan will be performing her show "MAN-ha-ha-ha-TAN" at Don't Tell Mama on October 9th,  12th26th, and 30th all at 7pm.

Nick Levin, Richie Eisenberg, and Doug Shapiro brought out their yarmulkes for a parody of "When You're a Jet" entitled "The Mensch Song" (lyrics by Nick Levin).  They had the audience in stitches with their harmony and antics.

Salon new comer Courtney Mills brought her effortless belt to a fantastic rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." Mark met Courtney at the Sushi Opera Evening and invited her to the Salon.  If that's the kind of talent appearing in a sushi bar, we all need to make a trip!

Triston Cano sat down at the piano and ENTIRELY IMPROVISED his piece - trying to include bits of music from things that had been performed earlier in the evening.  It was completely amazing. Triston is the regular pianist for the Sushi Opera Evenings.  After Triston's performance, Mark commented that it was the first time he had heard an "I Dreamed a Dream" theme in a Wagner setting.

Paul Kolecki accompanied himself on piano for his original "Thursday Afternoon in Tune" which he sang in a lovely baritone.

Matthew Martin Ward played a beautiful piano piece.

Last week's Salon host and our charming waiter for the evening, David Ballard, hammed up "Anthem" from "Chess."  I really wish I had been videoing this, because I cannot accurately describe the hilarity and hammyness of this brilliant performance.  As David said, "Being dramatic - THAT'S acting!"  Oh, and did I mention Mark was accompanying from MEMORY on this?  David also held the note of "around" in the last phrase for an INSANELY long time. 

In keeping with the "variety" theme, Arianna (me) pulled out the most versatile song in her book "Girl in 14G."

Mark began Classical Corner with Mozart's variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."  He gave us a crash course on what makes a musical variation - changes in tempi, rythmic variations, chromatic variants, change of sense of harmony, etc.  With so many other pianists in the room, Mark asked for a song suggestion to then get a few different variant takes on.  "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" was chosen.  Mark began by improvising variations on the melody, varying the configuration, a minor key variation, and a retrograde variation - turning the melody upside down.

Mark then opened up the piano to the other pianists in the room.  Matthew Martin Ward was first up playing a quick, robust, lush, almost Sondheim-esque variation and then a more classical setting with a piano concerto feeling.

Richie Eisenberg gave us a more upbeat Jazzy variation and Triston Cano played a minor key variation filling out lushly into a concerto like fantasy based on the melody without structure and mashed up with a Wagner Lieder Toate.  Mark finished out Classical Corner with an extended finale - lush, sweeping and romantic culminating in a an audience sing along.

Darren Williams opened the second half of Salon with his "Phantom Trio."  This is the second time I have heard him perform this, and I absolutely can't get this out of my head when he does. He followed this up by dropping into a lovely baritone for "This Nearly Was Mine" from "South Pacific."  He ended his set by accompanying himself on the piano for "Seasons of Love."

Our multi-talented and hard working producer, Tanya Moberly said "I thought I would do something simple," and then jumped into Stephen Sondheim's tongue twisting "Miller's Son." Tanya will be performing October 5th at the Tudor City Greens Concert on October 5th and in her own Don't Tell Mama shows on October 17th and November 7th at 9:15pm singing Jonatha Brooke and on October 24th and November 14th at 9:15pm singing Ani di Franco.

John Westford informed us he agreed to come to tonight's Salon only if his friend Darren "sang like a girl...so here I am!"  John performed two amazing card tricks that left us all scratching our heads in amazement.

Ellen Verenieks joined us all the way from London to sing the bitter sweet ballad "I Never Learned to Type" from a British musical called "And When Midnight Strikes."  I think many of us in the room could relate to the lyric.  Ellen will be performing with Frank Loman at "Don't Tell Mama on September 27th at 7pm and October 5th at 7pm.

Stephen Hanks continued the bitter sweet mood begun by Ellen with Peter Allen's "Two Boys."  Huge congrats are in order as Stephen has just been elected to the MAC bored and is the associate producer of the off Broadway show The Fartiste - which he says is exactly what it sounds like.

Marnie Klar gave us another sample of her up coming shows at Don't Tell Mama with the Tori Amos ballad "Leather."  Marnie's show, directed by Tanya Moberly will run October 3rd, November 1st, and December 5th.

Father Jeff Hammond - one of Salons main sponsors - got the whole audience involved in a rousing sing a long of "My knapsack on my back."  He will be producing Julie Reyburn's  Feinstein's shows on November 27th and 28th at 8:30pm.  Father Hammond has been producing Julie's shows for the last 12 or 13 years now.

Richie Eisenberg sang one of his more "romantic" original tunes...about post-date flatulence.  

Darren Williams gave one of the most impressive Salon closers I can remember.  He has acquired a guitar loop pedal which he uses to record his voice live, and then play back the recorded track to record the next track of harmony.  He started with "Big Girls Don't Cry" singing Frankie Valley and all of the Four Seasons. He gave us a full barbershop quartet of "Goodbye My Coney Island Baby" as the evenings grand finale.

It was a truly amazing, versatile evening of cabaret with so much amazing talent in the room. On to next week!  Looking forward to what the "Revenge" theme will bring out as well as hoping to see a return of some of this week's new faces and Salon regulars!

 THIS SUNDAY! SALON – that unique, MULTIPLE AWARD WINNING, Weekly Open Mic Event, created and hosted by Mark Janas returns to Etcetera, Etcetera - 352 West 44th Street, NYC 10036 – on Sunday, October 2nd from 7-10:30PM! (Sign-Up Begins at 6:15.) The optional theme for the evening is “Sweet Revenge”. Remember, any material, on or off theme, is always welcome at Salon. Our Co-Host will be Gabrielle Stravelli!  Hope to see you all there!

Guest Blogette for The Salon
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  1. Hey, my quartet and my chorus sing "Goodbye My Coney Island Baby!" It's been one of my favorites since the '60s. I love the looping technology available today. If you want to see/hear some really cool examples of it, check out http://www.barbershoptags.com/

  2. I guess you can't really brag about yourself.. so I'll comment for you :)
    Arianna pulled out 14g (NOT an easy piece!) Her operatic voice not missing a pitch in the difficult Queen of the Night passage and smokey jazz voice only highlighted just how versatile her style can be when she finally yelled STOP in a huge belt. That made me glad I didn't leave to use the ladies room before her song :) Brava chica :)

  3. Just saw the above comment. Thank you so much for such a lovely review!