First Time Here?
WATCH Steve's amazing perfomance at the World Domination Summit.
CELEBRATE WITH Jim & Steve at the Metropolitan Room in New York City, Jan. 15.
At 7pm,SING ALONG with Steve Schalchlin and the Bonus Round Band performing TALES FROM THE BONUS ROUND, featuring Bill Goffi and Stephen Elkins. Plus, Jim and Steve singing "How Do You Fall Back In Love?"
At 8, POWER SCHMOOZE. (Jim knows everyone in show biz. You don't know who might show up).
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The true story of the day they asked me to sing at an AIDS hospice. Please share it with a caregiver. No ads. No pop-ups. Totally free.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
It's the 2013 BroadwayWorld Cabaret Awards and I am gratefully nominated in the categories of Best CD Release (Solo, Duo or Group) -- Tales from the Bonus Round -- and Best Original Song for a Cabaret Show -- "So Many Days in an Hour." And you can vote! For me or for whomever you like best.
Here is the newly created lyrics video:
Sunday, December 01, 2013
|My November beard got officially too long.|
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
A refusal to hate takes huge amounts of courage. But it's the only route to a sane existence on this earth. What I observe on Social Media is that people too easily use ridicule against a political or religious opponent. If that opponent can laugh at himself, then it's cool. But if it's just a triumphalist way to play to the choir, thereby shaming the opponent, then it becomes what Dr. King taught was "violence of the tongue."
What does this have to do with beating a slave? I don't know. Except that violence writ large is a reflection of violence writ small. The irony of it all is that it the one who is being beaten who has to be the teacher. But more than that, I must become a student of non-violence and compassion or the sufferings of these men and woman will count for nothing. I will be a participant in the culture of violence that propagates cruelty.
Refusing to participate in cruelty and violence is a much more difficult route. The joy of ridicule and shame, so inherent in my need to be "right" must be fought at every turn. Words are actions.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I had been waiting and waiting for it, but went offline for a week. When I logged back in, there was an email from my old pal, Bev saying, essentially, what did you pay the guy at the BroadwayWorld for that review?
That "guy" is Stephen Hanks, a well respected online critic, publisher and producer on the cabaret and theater scene in New York. He sees everything. I cajoled him to come and review my one night only concert. We've met many times at various shows, benefits and events. And also, to be fair, Stephen is a sweetheart and I don't recall him ever having written a nasty review. Even if he hated it, he'd find something kind to say. And then I could use that for future publicity and promotion. (Promotions don't work if you're the only one telling the world how good you are.)
"A terrific night of music!" says Steve Schalchlin about Steve Schalchlin. Nope. Doesn't do it. Quotes, people! We need quotes!
So, Bev seems to think it's good. Bev's done PR work for me before. If she's this excited, then something must be up.
I looked in my Google Alerts, and there was the link. "Steve Schalchlin not Saccharine."
Okay. That's not a mind-blowing, call the relatives headline, but since I write what many people feel is very uplifting music, being saccharine (a fake sweet that feels phony) is the WORST fear I have. I avoid it at all costs.
Taking a deep breath I dove into the review.
He opens the review with a long paragraph about making people cry. About how difficult it is to pull this off because, in order for an audience to go there, they have to truly be engaged and they have to believe that what you're singing is coming right from the heart. When he listed Ann Hampton Callaway, I sat bolt upright. She's one of the finest cabaret performers alive. Where is he going with this?
Here is where he went:
But it's rare to encounter an entire cabaret offering that is so personal, sensitive, and emotionally compelling on a number of levels as to leave you feeling satisfyingly drained by the end of it. When a show can do that without a hint of sadness, self-indulgence, or sickeningly sweet sentimentality, what you've experienced is nothing short of a dramatic triumph. That's pretty much what singer/songwriter Steve Schalchlin (pronounced SHACK-lin) accomplished on October 27 with his new show at the Metropolitan Room.WHAT?? That paragraph alone is incredible. I started to breathe deeply. Women weep for such quotes. Men starve for quotes like this. And he's not remotely done yet.
While it was billed as a presentation celebrating the release of his 13-song CD, Tales From the Bonus Round, and his 60th birthday, it was so much more than that. It was also a show about fear, fortitude, anxiety, anguish, compassion, courage, and love, all expressed in poetic and often clever lyrics and melodies ranging from uplifting gospel to Billy Joel-sounding mid-tempo pop to sensitive ballads, many colored with musical theater undertones.Wow! Stephen! You're embarrassing me!
He goes on to praise one of the newest songs, "So Many Days In An Hour" and one from The Last Session, "Somebody's Friend." But then...
But probably the most compelling and powerful song in the set came next with the moving and self-revelatory "At A Hospice, In The Atrium," which is not only about Steve's actual experience of what he calls "a harrowing and emotional afternoon singing in an unusual place," but is also about the true meaning of performing music for the love of it and as a gesture of healing, and not about doing it for money, approval or glory. You couldn't even hear a glass clink in the Met Room as Schalchlin tenderly told his taleAnd that's it, isn't it? In a world where people think fame is a valid end goal, what happens when you do something for the love of it, or because someone needs you? Or, as he puts, "a gesture of healing?"
I can answer that. The world opens its arms. And I can tell you why. Wanna do songs about how awful the world is? About how everything sucks? Easy. In improv class, they always say that the easiest route, during a scene, is the one that goes violent or nasty. Piece of cake.
Now try doing something positive, uplifting or healing. And do it honestly and not in some treacly, obvious way. Try doing it without, as Stephen put is, "a hint of sadness, self-indulgence, or sickeningly sweet sentimentality."
Readers wrote me after this review and asked me how I did it. Easy. I was just myself. Tell the story and get off the stage. That's how you do it. Just tell the story. Same advice Jim Brochu gave me on Day One when I was writing the score for The Last Session.
Again, it's easy to name all the crappy stuff in the world. Easy as a cat sleeps. I know people -- well meaning people who DWELL in the feelings that bad stuff brings to them. As if FEELING bad and experiencing the weight of the world is providing some kind of solution. It gives them the illusion that they're doing something.
In order to survive, I had to do more than know what was wrong with me. I had to take physical, actual, concrete steps to get myself out of the hole. Yes, my friends helped. Yes, my support system gave me encouragement, but the battles are all inside.
In the past two weeks, I've had emails from friends who have been living at the bottom of their ability to endure. A cold mattress in a lonely apartment. Or no apartment at all and wondering where they would get their next meal. I look around and see that I have food and shelter, and Jim and Steinbeck. We may not be rich, but we survive. And how do we survive? By doing what it takes to survive. This morning, I did my hour running and another half hour stretching and lifting weights. I cooked my veggies up and I turned away from junk food and laziness.
Simple things. One step at a time things. These are decisions we make and when we make them, good things result.
Stephen got to that point of the review and said:
As a TV sports reporter offering highlights of a blowout game might say, "You could have turned your sets off right there," and this would have qualified as a wonderful show, but there were still seven songs plus an encore to go.And he takes us through the rest of the show with equally effusive praise, which was only an hour long, by the way. And he finally finishes with:
Steve Schalchlin's sincere and sensitive show made me cry with joy.And your review made me cry with Joy, Stephen Hanks. Thank you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. My next problem is how do I choose one quote for my upcoming repeat of this concert? How about this?
EDIT: Jim Brochu will now be performing CHARACTER MAN at 9pm after my concert. Both shows are $25 plus two beverages, but for both shows, the cost will be $40.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
And, suddenly, out of nowhere, I started crying. Huge, big, heaving, sobbing tears.
Because the concert not only came off as well as I had been dreaming it might, but way, WAY beyond what I could have imagined.
As the emails flooded into my box, I read story after story of people who told me their lives had been changed. Really?
Two friends said the show as so emotional for them, that they held each other's hands all through it. Another said that every face in the room was wet with tears of joy and release, as they cried and cried at the songs and the stories coming from the stage.
What I remember is how, when I looked out at the room during the show, every person was on the edge of their seats, leaning forward trying to catch every word, every note, every nuance.
And how they all turned into a huge Bonus Round Choir, jumping into the choruses and singing along to songs they didn't even know! YES!
And my band! There was traffic coming in from Queens, so Stephen Elkins barely got there in time -- and we weren't even sure what he was gonna do on stage. Luckily, there was a drum set, so they set it up quickly and he improv'd a percussion accompaniment. Bill Goffi got there in time, but we hadn't run through any of the songs. James Lawless, who played bass, came in from Jersey. We had never even met before. He was just a guy who had helped me and cheered me on while I was recording the album.
Evan Cohen and James Eden came into video tape the show. Even they arrived at the last minute and were winging it.
I had spent the two previous days making chord charts, so that my improvised "Bonus Round Band" could fake their way through the set.
I mean, if there is a set of rules on how NOT to do a show, this was it.
In fact, when Bill and Stephen asked me what songs they were to sing background vocals on, I told them I didn't know. Just to jump in and wherever it felt right, keep an eye on me and we'd just wing it. Well, you'd have thought we had been playing and singing together for years.
At one point in the show, I told the story of how I received this shy note back in 1996 from a Dr. Bruce Dorsey introducing himself as the chemist at Merck whose team made the breakthrough drug Crixivan, which saved my life and which was the turning point in the fight against the massive deaths of AIDS in the 80s and 90s.
Then, I said, "And he's here with us today."
The audience gasped and sprang to the feet, a massive standing ovation. Everyone was crying, including his wife and kids.
I mean how often does a chemist get a standing ovation?
But he was responsible for the salvation of so many of us, how could we not?
|Dr. Bruce Dorsey, the man who saved a million lives.|
How often do we get to celebrate real triumphs? Real victories in life?
By the end of the show, my mind was somewhere in god knows where. I'm sure the endorphins and other healing chemicals were racing through my body in numbers no one could count.
For many long years, I've dreamed of this moment: the chance to really take New York on. For four years, since we moved here, I've been writing and studying and lying low, for the most part, sometimes battling opportunistic infections, sometimes barely able to move, but I refused to quit. Refused to give in.
This is the show I wanted to do. This was my personal statement of what has happened to me since The Last Session. Since The Big Voice: God or Merman?
My life isn't defined by AIDS nor is my music trapped in some sub-genre of disease-related music or even musical theater.
It's an expression of everywhere I've been. Everything I've seen. Everyone I've touched. And more, everyone who has touched me.
Reader, if you've been along for this ride, you know I've traveled a tough road. Sometimes flat on my back. Sometimes high on mountaintops. But no matter where I was, I had you coaxing me along. I had you supporting me and caring for me.
You are the reason I continue to not just survive, but to thrive. And everything I do is a consequence of your being there to push me, guide me, goad me and kick me in the ass.
So, yeah. I sat on this couch and I wept like a baby.
Tales from the Bonus Round was a triumph in every sense of the word. I could see it in the faces of the people in the audience. I could feel it in the room.
Afterward, Bernie Furshpan, who owns the club, said it was the single most emotionally fulfilling show that has ever graced his stage. And that's saying a lot, since the greatest artists in the world have played the Metropolitan Room. And he demanded that we do it again.
Not a problem, my friend. Not a problem at all.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
I've quickly pulled together a graphic for the page here so we can begin publicity. What I will tell you, reader, is that there wasn't a dry eye in the house. So many little miracles and coincidences happened, my heart is full and I'm still amazed how it all got pulled off. What a show.