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Showing posts from January, 2015

Presenting at Manhattan School of Music.

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Mark Janas teaches a program for the vocal students at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. It's a special class of students who do community outreach to both elementary schools, to teach them about opera; and to senior centers, singing a special cabaret show.

This entails showing them how to approach singing the American Songbook, which can be tricky and sometimes difficult for operatic singers. Many simply cannot make that transition. But when they can -- when they can "bring it down," so to speak, and sing conversationally, they then have that reserve of training to draw on when they need it. And this can be spectacular!

With Andy Gale as an acting/performing coach, these students are getting the best of the best. And my purpose there was to sing my own songs and, as Mark would put it, show them, in real life terms, how powerful music can be in the lives of those who hear it, when its sung as if life itself depended on it, which mine absolutely does.

I'm ho…

New World Waking in Boston.

Last week, I offered to let any group perform New World Waking, and the challenge has been accepted by the EarthStone Theater Company, which is run by some students at Boston Conservatory.

So, today, in honor of MLK Day, I want to present this number from the recent New York staging.

Borrowing from my Mass, I brought in the Sanctus, sung here by Maria Fernanda Brea, a student at Manhattan School of Music, the opera program. I promise she will some day be on the stage at the Met.

But, you'll see that the narrator begins the moment with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King -- about how violence only breeds more violence -- pairing that quote with "Holy Dirt," about how some religions care more about their ideology than they do the people they say their deity or prophet loves.

It's like a contest to see who can kill them most people to defend the honor of some holy object or person -- and whoever kills the most, wins.


In class yesterday...

In class yesterday, one of my new songs got ripped to shreds. Well, not really. They loved the melody and concept, but felt they were mismatched -- and that the "story" in the song was unclear. I hated hearing that, of course.

 Except, today, I love having heard it. Because now I know how to approach a rewrite.

Being a songwriter is such a pain. When an idea is new, it's THE GREATEST IDEA ON EARTH, and then you start singing it and the fresh new car starts getting dings and bumps and scratches. Or, they were there but you just didn't see them because NEW IS ALWAYS GREAT!

But, how valuable to have informed, honest reactions. You cannot grow without it. You have to suck it up and look at what you've got and then fix it. And fix it again.

That's a metaphor for life, btw.

It never gets easy. It only becomes familiar. But if your life is easy, you're either dead or you've lost the meaning of life.

OTOH, the two other songs got a splendid reaction. I stil…

You can perform New World Waking.

If you're a student or non-profit group looking for an hour-long piece for a fundraiser or a social action meeting, I am allowing, for a limited time, a free license to perform it. All the material is online, fully downloadable for no charge.

Write me at steveshack@gmail.com

Announcing an honor.

Today, it was announced that I have been honored with the first Broadway World Special Editor's Award for Excellence in Songwriting by the editors of BroadwayWorld,com. Here is their description:

In a field with many deserving candidates, this year's first ever BWW New York Cabaret Award for "Excellence in Songwriting" goes to Steve Schalchlin, a New York-based composer and lyricist who has been on quite a cabaret roll the past two years. Although his two biggest recent projects, the CD and subsequent show, Tales From the Bonus Round, and his song cycle, New World Waking, were years in development, Schalchlin performed both in New York over the past couple of seasons. Bonus Round-which featured Schalchlin at the piano as lead singer--was performed as a cabaret show at the Metropolitan Room in October 2013 (and received a BWW Award nomination for "Best CD Release," and one of the songs garnered a nomination for "Best Original Song for a Cabaret Show&qu…

Looking Back and Racing Forward.

This has been one of the best years of our lives.

For me, creatively, it's been a revelation even to myself beginning with the performance of my Mass, Missa Appassionata, back in the Spring. With a choir of world class voices singing my music, led my Mark Janas and directed by Andy Gale, I'm still not over the powerful way these singers embraced the piece and made it soar. (A recording is on the way!)

Then, we got into our new apartment -- after 11 years on the waiting list! -- and we finally have a home to call our own. It's hard being a poor actor/writer in New York City. We spend so much of our time working on our art, doing things for free, and hoping for attention, it almost sometimes feels like we're doing it for ourselves.

Maybe this year, the rest of the world will find us.

But it was the performance of New World Waking that really felt like a triumphant conclusion to an eventful year. Thanks to the fact that this new place we're living in, which is filled…

Happy New Year with New World Waking.

Also read the sensational review posted at Broadway World by critic/editor Stephen Hanks.


CABARET LIFE NYC: Steve Schalchlin's 'New World Waking' Is a Spiritual & Political Wake-Up Call for Non-Violent Social Action and a Case for the Healing Power of Music.

As culture writer and film critic A.O. Scott put it in the New York Times this past Thanksgiving weekend, "Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, I've been waiting for 'The Grapes of Wrath.' Or maybe 'A Raisin in the Sun,' or 'Death of a Salesman,' an Emile Zola novel or a Woody Guthrie ballad-- something that would sum up the injustices and worries of the times, and put a human face on the impersonal movements of history.   The originals are all still around, available for revival and rediscovery and part of a robust artistic record of hard times past. But we are in the midst of hard times now, and it feels as if art is failing us."    So into this void, at least in this lit…