Host Mark Janas was cool enough to invite my main caroling group from the Definitely Dickens Holiday Carolers to come co-host with him on the evening of the “Winter Solstice” Algonquin Salon on December 21st, 2008. We videoed (video’d?) the evening of festivities, where a lot of cool original and classic Holiday songs were brought forth. Other songs – from a renaissance lute by Lucy Cross to Johanna Weller-Fahy hitting a high note in “Gorgeous” – were applauded.
One of the highlights (for me) of the evening was a geekout moment shared by myself and Nicholas Levin, who transcribed onto sheet music the theme song to a horribly wonderful children’s nightmarishly godawful amazing movie called “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” starring (of sorts) a very youn Pia Zadora I know the theme show from watching the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. The theme song, “Hooray for Santy Claus,” is sung at the beginning by a bunch of children. This time around, the song was copied and handed out to all the lovely sight-singing singers out at the Algonquin Salon – and then we all had a singalong!!! Whee!!! (and I know Bill Corbett of MST3K has already witnessed the video online…huzzah!)
In any case, enjoy the following videos, any time of the year!
“Hooray for Santy Claus”:
“Santa Baby” by the Definitely Dickens Holiday Carolers:
“The Christmas Song” by the Definitely Dickens Holiday Carolers:
“The Christmastime Medley” by the Definitely Dickens Holiday Carolers:
Big Night Out’s Holiday Extravaganza is everything the title suggests – you’re out at night for a big night of holiday fun with this crowd. Once again, co-hosts Jennifer Wren and Bill Zeffiro guided singers and songwriters through a fantastic night of holiday musical cheer. Piano accompaniment was by Bill Zeffiro, Mark Janas, Nicholas Levin, Scott Ethier, and Paul Rigano.
16 songs in all were performed, from the amazing belt-ballad “Kiss Me, Santa,” music by Andrew Abrams, lyrics by Joan Ross Sorkin, and sung by Broadway-veteran Kenita R. Miller (a Broadway veteran)…to an absolutley jaw-droppingly funny “Agnostic Christmas Shoes,” written and sung by Eric March. David Rigano showed off his Cole Porter-esque lyric writing in his original song “(Let’s Go) Under the Mistletoe.” Ritt Henn, whose height makes his ukulele look even smaller, sang his original “Me Home on the Street,” with lyrics by Joan Ross Sorkin. Perhaps the standout, and most amazing performance of all, was Julie Reyburn, who sang holding her young daughter. The song, music by Mark Janas with lyrics by Peter Napolitano, was the perfect song for Julie to sing to her child – “First Christmas” – and her daughter chose to vocally “insert herself” into the mic at the most opportune moments. It was a lovely, riotous moment on stage.
Another lovely moment was David Caldwell as he sat at the piano and sang his composition “Spring,” about the beautiful transitional clues Nature gives us as Winter thaws into Spring. His lyrics are absolutely gorgeous, and caused many a tear in the audience. Bill Zeffiro sang with Jennifer Wren a few times, including his “What the Hell? It’s Christmas,” “Ballad,” and “Uh Oh, Here Comes Christmas” with David Caldwell (a rare moment when Bill sang in FRONT of the piano for once!). Kathy Hart brought “I Live in New York” herself to the stage, and accompanied Jennifer Wren as she sang Hart’s “Maybe Next Year.” Wren also sang “Lots of Love (From Me To You),” music by Ben Martini and lyrics by Horowitz and Spector. The Rigano brothers (lyricist David Rigano, music by Paul Rigano) had their song “It’s Christmas” artfully sung by Chloe Cahill. Nicholas Levin’s song “Another Christmas” was sung by Lynelle Johnson, while the entire show ended with an amazingly funny original song by Horowitz and Spector “Shows to Go Ya,” featuring Bill Zeffiro, Bobbie Horowitz, and “friends” – which turned out to include Summer Broyhill and Johanna Weller-Fahy, amongst others.
Each extravaganza from Big Night Out proves to be a down-to-earth and extremely fun evening. Now they have moved to The Reprise Room at Dillon’s Restaurant and Bar, which is a very nice space (and includes a grand piano!) with a fuller menu but still the cheap price ($10 cover, 1 item minimum, 1/2 off the cover for MAC, AEA & EMC members). Go & have fun! And don’t forget – whether there’s a composer showcase that evening or not, at least the first half of the two-hour evening (from 9pm to 11pm) is an OPEN MIC, so bring your sheet music and SING!
My caroling quartet jokes around, has fun, orders Blizzards and sings a carol.
Sierra sings at the NEw York Theater Barn’s holiday benefit concert, “Holiday Stuffing” at The Duplex. Directed by Reed Prescott, musical direction by Adam Wiggins. More info about the New York Theater Barn: www.nytheatrebarn.org. Video of Sierra singing “A Different Day” by Rob Hartmann can be viewed here.
“A Different Day” (music and lyrics by Rob Hartmann) from NYTB at the Duplex – Holiday Stuffing!, 12.15.08. Directed by Reed Prescott, Musical Direction by Adam Wiggins.
This was a great opportunity to sing at the Duplex with some fellow great singers. The concept was to bring all original holiday-themed music (comedic, dramatic, etc) from up and coming composers. The cast included Becca Yure, Sandy Binion, Ashley Mc Hugh, Michael Mendez, Michael Coco & Matt Leahy. Proceeds benefited the St. Francis Xavier’s “Welcome Table.” Composers featured were: Rob Hartmann, Georgia Stitt, Amanda Yesnowitz, Heidi Heilig, Deborah Brevoort, Michael Cooper, Katya Stanislavskaya, Julianne Wick David, Maggie-Kate Coleman, David Friedman, Brian Cimmet, Deborah Abramson, Gregory Jacobs-Roseman, Mike Pettry, Matthew A. Everett & Phoebe Geer.
And FYI! Monday January 26th, the NYTB will be having it’s next songbook cabaret event, with work from Rebekah Melocik & Bill Nelson. Check out www.NYTheatreBarn.org for more information!
One of the most amazing things I’ve found about New York is the overabundance of free things to do – especially during the Holiday Season. Everyone with talent, or at least a song to sing and share, do so often for the love of it and often for free.
This was the case this Sunday afternoon, where the Arts and Artists at St. Paul’s put together a free “Holiday Songbook” for free. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Bruno Walter Auditorium, was packed to the gills with some standing room in the back filled as well. It started at 2:30 and lasted about two hours – longer than I expected it to be, but at least the hours were filled with great song & singing.
Most of the time, the composers of each song either sat onstage after a brief interview, or sat behind the piano to accompany their singer(s) of choice. There were 25 songs in all, quite a long program, and the evening could have been orchestrated a bit more tightly to let each act flow from one to the next without pause.
However! When the singing started, entertainment certainly ensued. There were so many great songs and performances, too many to be able to type here. Highlights that stuck in my mind, at least, were “The Gift of Mrs. Santa” sung by Mary Ellen Ashley, music by Steven Silverstein, lyrics by Edward Kukolsky, in which Mrs. Santa Clause has a…ahem…little surprise for Santa usually held for the Springtime. Another great comedy song of note was “Mindy Leberstein’s Nativity Scene,” sung by Ellen Zolezzi, music & lyrics by Rob Rokicki, whereby a lovely, spunky, Jewish girl wishes to be a part of the Christmas scene by creating her own unique version of the baby Jesus’ birthplace on her parent’s lawn.
In fact, a running theme that afternoon was “what do I do during Christmas if I’m Jewish” to varying degrees of humor. Robin Gelfenbien sang a song of her own lyrics, music by John Prestianni, called “Jesus Steals My Thunder,” about her own personal struggles as a Jewish girl with the same birthday as Jesus. Another, called “My Jewish Christmas by the Sea,” music written by Rob Hartmann, lyrics by Sophie Jaff, and sung by Holly Hylton, was not a comedy song but a sweet ballad.
The heartfelt songs were certainly there, including a lovely serenade by lyricist Peter Napolitano and composer Mark Janas, sung by Raissa Katona Bennett, called “All I Can Give.” This song need not be sung strictly during the Holiday season, and Bennett was able to lovingly it with hopeful bittersweetness. Another great song was Kathy Hart’s “I Live in New York.” Hart’s lyrics about living in New York and not having enough room for even a small Christmas tree were refreshingly simple and straightforward. The afternoon’s entertainment wrapped up around 5:30, but not after Gina Milo sang a wonderfully cute number by Rick Hip Flores called “My Other Grown-Up Christmas Wish.” As it was a song about a wish for Santa to bring the Wall Street and American economic crisis to a halt, Milo expressed her wish that this song NOT become a “yearly Holiday standard.” In any event, it was an adorable song that showcased Milo’s sexy-powerful persona.
More information about the Arts and Artists of St. Paul’s can be found at www.artsandartistsatstpaul.com. Their next performance of a Songbook series will be on January 26th at 6pm, featuring composer Joel B. New. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Bruno Walter Auditorium. FREE!
111 Amsterdam Avenue
(just south of 65th Street)
Phone: (212) 870-1630
An Evening of Songs from New Holiday Musicals
Directed by Reed Prescott
Musical Director Adam Wiggins
Featuring original music from
Rob Hartmann, Georgia Stitt, Amanda Yesnowitz, Heidi Heilig, Deborah Breevort, Michael Cooper, Katya Stanislavska, Julianne Wick Davis (Wood at NYMF) and more…
With performances by
Becca Yure, Sierra Rein, Sandy Binion (Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn, Jane Eyre), Ashley McHugh, Michael Mendez, Michael Coco and Matt Leahy (MAC nominee)
NYTB at the Duplex: New York Theatre Barn’s monthly cabaret series highlighting new composers, lyricists and performers .
Monday, December 15, 2008, 9:30pm
The Duplex Cabaret Theater
61 Christopher Street @ Seventh Avenue
$10 cover plus 2-drink minimum
All proceeds for this event will go to the Saint Francis Xavier Welcome Table. If you have the means, please feel free to donate more to this charity. Checks should be made payable to the “SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER MISSION”.
For reservations please call 212-255-5438 or click here to make reservations online
Here is footage of Pete & I in the midst of our first snowfall as residents of the NY area. It isn’t much, I know, but it felt magical to the two of us. I didn’t know how much snow could look like glitter; maybe it was the right angle with the right man-made lights, but they literally glittered in the light. Or, maybe it was just the magic I saw…
Wow, it’s been a long time since I blogged, and I have a show, a museum event, an art gallery, and my own personal goals to write about in the near future. But first…
I am in the Definitely Dickens Holiday Carolers, an official caroling company based in both Los Angeles and the New York/New Jersey area. Dressed in Victorian-era garb, we can carol at your office party, Holiday/Christmas party, or place of business. Allow us to greet guests at the door with holiday cheer, entertain on stage for a full-blown show, or go table-to-table to serenade with holiday favorites and requests.