Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jeff Kinman has passed.

He was one of the most talented and beloved performers in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. He played Buddy in the Uptown Players production of The Last Session. He is now gone from us. It's deeply, deeply heartbreaking. Love you, Jeff.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Gloria Jubilus" to debut Christmas Eve in Brooklyn.

December 24
9:30pm Carols.
10:30pm Eucharist

Christ Church Bay Ridge
7301 Ridge Boulevard
Brooklyn, NY 11209

"Gloria Jubilus" is my own composition, a three-minute "Gloria" for choir and organ from the full Mass, which will debut in the Spring. On Christmas Eve, it will be a part of the "Eucharist"* section. The organ in the church is just newly installed. This will be our first major concert with this incredible instrument, which will be played by Kalle Toivio, a virtuoso organist from Finland, conducted by Mark Janas, composer, Leonard Bernstein protege and teacher at Manhattan School of Music along with the Christ Church Bay Ridge choir, Fr. Jeffrey Hamblin, MD.

I hadn't made a big deal out of it here on the blog. because it's a schlep to get to Brooklyn. I didn't want my friends to feel obligated. We all get so many invitations for things in this town. Friends doing shows. Other people doing shows. It never ends. And everything costs money, which no one really has. And Jim and I much prefer staying home.

However, it is happening and a few people asked for details. I do not believe there's any kind of admission charge. The congregation is friendly and from every station in life. If you're curious and have no other plans, join us on Christmas Eve. I'll be the tenor in the back row.

*EDIT: I just discovered that it will be sung during the Eucharist at 10:30. I've changed it in the text above, which used to say "Carols."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jeff Kinman is in hospice.

Jeff Kinman on right as Buddy in "The Last Session." Scott A. Eckert, L. as Gideon
Uptown Players, Dallas. 2002.
I was just informed that Jeff Kinman, who played the role of Buddy in the highly-acclaimed and much beloved Dallas Uptown Players production of The Last Session, is in hospice. Apparently, he has been sick for some time but was being very private about it until now. Jeff is one of the best singers I'd ever heard. He was a gentle soul who's humanity filled his characterization of Buddy with innocence and strength paired with a heartrending fragility.

Jeff Kinman's version of "Going It Alone" from the Dallas cast album has been posted to Sound Cloud by Mark Lowry.

I would appreciate all the TLS Family raising a glass, a prayer and lots of light to Jeff and to his devoted partner, Adam C. Wright, and hold them in your hearts.

Adam C. Wright and Jeff Kinman
from Jeff's Facebook page.
Jeff Kinman in "Wild Party"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Singers of the Street - "Stand By Me"

I was clicking through random links and found this video from a group called Singers Of The Street, which was started, in San Francisco, by Dr. Kathleen McGuire, who helped shape New World Waking. Homeless people sing in the choir and then get a hot lunch. Since I think singing is the healthiest thing a person can do, it just made sense.

Anyway, I hadn't checked in on them in awhile, so I click over.. what do I find? They were invited to London during the Olympics and they made this video. I don't know why, but it just made me cry. I get very sentimental when I think of people pulling themselves up from nothing. And to do it by singing together!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

SantaCon in NYC

See, what you do is dress up like Santa and then you and your mob of other Santas, elves and other assorted ornaments run around Manhattan hitting a bunch of designated bars, getting drunker as you go along.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where I Sing on Sunday Morning.

This is the first thing I see after entering Christ Church Bay Ridge. It's a beautiful building which the members dearly love and protect.

The beautiful stained glass lets in lots of sunlight. Also in the picture, Minister of Music (and my mentor) Mark Janas in the black. sitting. "Stage Center," posing is Danielle Erin Rhodes, who decided to this was a shoot about her. 

She and I have great fun in the choir. Like myself, she was raised in an evangelical style church. We're like the two good kids in class who always bring an apple for the teacher. Always sitting up straight and listening to Mark. But, secretly, we're naughty, naughty. Always causing trouble.

 Now, behind her is Kalle the organist from Finland. I'll get better pictures of them another time. I was actually testing out a new snapshot camera.

I think she's doing Liza in this pose. Not sure.

Unfortunately, this whole bank of organ pipes were damaged and need repair, but there are very few organ experts alive anymore. Also, this was built by a famous organ maker. They're doing a capital campaign to raise money to fix it. I hope they succeed. It's an incredible instrument. And to sit beneath those pipes and sing Handel is beyond description.

And here's Dani up close. How can you not love that face? And, for the record, she's hugely talented. Her voice is angelic, she has a natural comic flair and she is a superb actress. That's Kalle Toivio behind her. He recently played at Carnegie Hall with his sister on cello. She and I were the only ones who wore purple in accordance with the season. We never plan these things. It's about our competition to be teacher's pet.

It's most fun getting into the Christmas season. The music starts getting really interesting. Plus, we always do bits from The Messiah!

Monday, December 10, 2012

WTC from Greenwich Village.

42nd Street. Sunday Morning. Dec. 9

Off to church on a Sunday morning. As I walk east to the 1 train on increasingly revived 42nd Street, the improvements of which reach all the way to the Hudson River, there are a couple of old relic buildings still standing. Here on 9th avenue is an old hotel that finally closed not very long ago. It was probably more like a flophouse. You can't see it in these photos, but each one is blacked out with the words "HOTEL CLOSED."

The halal cart hasn't opened yet. Best street food in the universe, this stuff. And they're everywhere! The food is way better than at the hot dog carts, which seem to be disappearing. I always thought a good thriller movie would involve a conspiracy involving halal carts and al qaeda. The Falafel Incident!

Just across the street is Holy Cross Catholic Church that's been newly refurbished.

Closer to Times Square, the gigantic Leonard Cohen poster is still up there. Almost a year. I wonder if they made some kind of deal.

Next is the wax museum, a concept I still don't understand.

And then there's this McDonald's which obviously took over an old theater back when the street was falling apart. I keep imagining a McDonald's Musical. But I would want the South Park guys to write it.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Gift Steinbeck.

Trudging Out To The End of the Earth.

Now that I can't upload photos here at Blogger, I can't show you the really cool pictures I took of my adventure trip to the Lower East Side.

Okay, that's not the real reason. The real reason is I was going to an exclusive party. Very hush hush.

Special invitation only.

A Train to 14th. 14A bus, which runs east and then down the east side. Gets off at Jackson. Walk a block. Perfect.

I even stopped off at a place called Green -- what was it? Green Paradise? Green Pastures? I forget. And got some Indian finger food. A place Andy Gale showed me. And it's right on my own street! Didn't even know it was there. New York.

The exclusive party? It was at Andy's. All the students he coaches.

No secret. Just a Christmas party with friends.

I just thought I'd make it sound dramatic, which is very appropriate for a group of actors.

You could also say it's a big therapy session, but then you'd be giving away the secret.

I even got to stand up and give my good news about London.

Sometimes, in class, I feel I'm at an Anonymous meeting for an addiction I can't name.

I've spoken about him before. Andy is really, I think, doing me a favor by letting me be a part of his advanced acting class. I'm not an actor. Or maybe I am. It's just that...

The people in there are so experienced and so good. It's kind of scary to be around them. Just when I think I'm getting good at a scene, someone comes in and just has that natural ability to take the room and put it in their pocket -- and they do it so effortlessly. AJ Dean in London was like that. Well, all of the TLS cast did, but I think of him because, you know, it's always all about Buddy.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. It was a cold, rainy night. I had a sweater on beneath my hooded coat. The bus was filled with people also getting off at Jackson to go to a dance concert. They were also from the West Side, and also felt like they were in a foreign country.

But the bus driver was kind.

We got a little Christmas tree for our window, but I can't upload any more photos to Blogger.

You'll have to use your imagination.

EDIT: BTW, I didn't take any really cool pictures of the lower east side. I just forgot the camera. But I thought it was cooler to say it was an exclusive club.

EDIT AGAIN: I finally signed up for extra storage space. Even joined something called Google Wallet in order to do it. So, new pictures will be coming. First, though, I have to shoot some.

Friday, December 07, 2012

THE LAST SESSION Best Original Music Award Nomination.

Nominated against Marvin Hamlisch for 2013 for London's What's On Stage Awards??

Wow. I think I'm going to faint. Me and Marv. If he wins, I won't feel bad. But this is great news for the production, and actors and for the cast album that's being mixed even now at JAY Records (plug, plug).

Thanks again to CliMar Productions/Rob Harris for pulling together the greatest cast imaginable who sang their hearts out. And thanks to Tom Turner for playing the score so beautifully.

Hey, am I already making an acceptance speech? Why not!

But, first, fans of The Last Session should go vote!

New World Waking Benefit concert in NY

I had a meeting with a man about putting together a benefit concert of New World Waking here in New York City. Perhaps in the Spring. Nothing concrete is set, so this may be the last you hear of it.

But a plan is forming. :)

Monday, December 03, 2012

VIP Celebrity Master of Ceremonies? Really??

It's really fun to go to a place where people actually think you're a celebrity. Here in New York, when you're surrounded by REAL celebrities, no matter what you've done in life, you tend to feel dwarfed. Hell, I'm not even the "celebrity" in our apartment. People are always asking Jim to do stuff, like when he sang for a fundraiser last night at the new hot spot 54 Below. I mean, he does have that Drama Desk Award, after all.

But, me? I don't even strive for "celebrity." After all, I'm mostly a writer and you know the old joke about the  Polish actress who slept with the writer...

Anyway, when I got up to Norwich, Connecticut to host the Spirit Awards for the Spirit of Broadway Theater, I had more than a few people come up to me who said they bought a ticket to the gala just because they saw my name on the program. How sweet!

It was held at the beautiful Norwich Inn and Health Spa -- I should remember to use their spa next time; I'm not really a spa person -- where, at lunch, it's filled with ladies wearing big fluffy robes. At least they had vegetarian choices on the menu, though I joked later with writer Sean Hartley that they spelled "entrees" with an apostrophe. (He said he ordered his apostrophes on the side).

The real star, though was Steinbeck the cat doing the Steinbeck Stretch. It seems like everyone had seen him on this video Jim posted at Facebook.

So, I guess I know who the REAL celebrity is.

Anyway, the event was to celebrate the 15 years of original programming by Brett Bernardini, the artistic director. I mean how many theaters, honestly, can say that they not only survived 15 years, but did it by providing NEW and ORIGINAL musicals?

Most theaters think they have to play it safe in order to survive, running an endless series of Hello Dollys or Man of La Manchas in order to keep an audience. But Brett has carefully nurtured the audience there to expect new and daring works every season. It's remarkable, really. And you may have to be in the business to truly understand how rare this is. But he manages to do it -- and he does it with only two weeks of rehearsals!

Im. Possible.

I began the night by holding up a folder with pages in it and I said, "This is what a musical looks like without a producer. How many of you are going to pay to see a book?"

Producers are largely ignored, scorned or ridiculed for being little more than names above a show. The actors and composers and authors usually get all the praise. But it's really the producer who finally makes it all happen. They choose the material, gather the creative team, and focus the vision of what people will actually see on that stage.

We who toil over computers doing nothing but putting words and notes on the page would be nothing without a great producer putting flesh and blood under the spotlights. So, when they gave Brett a Lifetime Achievement Award -- which he was totally not expecting -- it was well deserved.

I went on to tell them that producers do more than that, especially if they're running their own theater. They're also unplugging toilets and endlessly, endlessly, endlessly begging for money and audiences. It's a job I wouldn't take for all the money in the world -- which I would no longer have if I took it to produce.

So, when Brett asked me to take the train up there, I was only too happy to do it. He also did a revival of The Last Session up there which was an enormous hit for them -- and which he's promised to revive again. (He usually includes at least one revival in each season).

So, the big shots can make fun of small theaters like Spirit of Broadway, knowing it will never make a fortune for the people who toil and clean and fix the pipes and make it work, but for the lowly writers who need to see their work before they even know if it will work, it's the kind of place you beg for and dream about.

 So, here's to the jewel box called the Spirit of Broadway, to their 15 years of life -- and to many years more.

Friday, November 30, 2012

So, I was just walking down the street...

And saw a video camera set up with a sign in front that said, "Tell Us A Story." So, I told my story. Turns out it was for a film class project. I think they liked my story.

TELL US A STORY from carolina cimenti on Vimeo.

Shining Eyes.

This video from the TED Talks brought tears to my eyes. The simplicity of how this great musician and conductor, Benjamin Zander, reminded me why I write and play and sing. I want you to watch it.

I found it on a blog of a music teacher named James L. Smith, which I found because I was searching for Beethoven's string quartet, Opus 132, third movement, which I was searching for on recommendation from my musical mentor and friend, Mark Janus -- which came from because he had just critiqued the "Agnus Dei" I have composed for my Mass.

He said, "Beethoven wrote this after a long illness and it was his celebration of being alive." And the reason we know this is because Beethoven wrote this fact into the title of this piece. Mark continued, "It's like the music you wrote for The Last Session. It just came directly from his heart. And it's written in Lydian mode."

Beethoven was also completely deaf when he wrote it. As I researched it, just looking at that piece of sheet music and hearing it in his head was his own form of meditation. Or in his case, how he connected to God.

But, interestingly, that's not why he recommended the piece. It happened because I did some sloppy work -- my word, not his -- that became a happy accident, you might say.

I had just finished the Credo. It's in D minor and it's very solid. It tells a story, both in the text -- I kept to Latin, in this case -- and makes an affirmation: This is what I believe.

I see The Agnus as a kind of prayer for peace. But there is no peace.

No. It's that one prays for peace, or meditates for peace, or works for peace, or writes for peace because there is non-peace.

In church each morning, we sing an Agnus Dei that I find breathtakingly beautiful. The tenor part is so luscious and melodic, it just feels good coming out of your chest cavity. In writing my Mass, I knew I couldn't match that. I'd just be rewriting that version. (I will later insert the composer of our Agnus. I'm so terrible at names.)

Also, it's in English.

So, I thought, "Well, let's go down a half step to Db. But, in order to express the disquiet -- the non-peace that I feel after having stood up and been so declarative -- I need some chaos. It needs to feel wrong, but still working within a tonal structure. IOW, I'm not going for avant garde. At least, in my mind, it feels like traditional romantic music.

So, I started on the 5 chord. The Ab. At the end of the song, for some reason, it just felt right to end on the Gb. I wanted that tonality.

But when Mark looked at it, what he saw was a piece of music written in Db which ended in Gb, and which never, because of the accidentals, never landed on a Db anywhere in the piece.

So, his suggestion, which made perfect sense, was to just change the key to reflect the fact that it's actually in Ab, the first chord -- and then change keys to Gb, at the end. He also said that it was not a necessary thing to do, but something to think about.

Which is what made him think of Lydian mode, where you kind of do that intentionally -- but which was not the case here.

So, I had a choice. What key is this in? Did I really intend to write it in Db? Not really. It was just my starting point. I never would have written it in Ab if I hadn't intended to add some chaos to Db. The chords, ever more dissonant, kind of went their own way. What I hope is that it makes sense, emotionally.

If you didn't look at that video, go look at it now.

Yesterday morning, I was a guest in a classroom filled with students studying social work. How to deal with clients and patients. It was the first time in a long time that I've spoken in public in that way.

I had to revisit the time before the The Last Session. I had to remember how those songs came about. It's so funny. Each time they asked me a question, the answer would invariably be "I wrote a song about that."

"Did you go to any groups? What was it like to learn you weren't going to die right then?"

I gave them the Spotify link and the iTunes link. Told them about how many social workers over the years have used my music as therapy for their clients.

One website, in discussing this Beethoven string quartet, said he wrote that it shouldn't ever be played in public. That it was for just his friends to listen to, in small groups. A piece he never heard except in his head.

So, after I go home, I looked it up. And found this:

I felr dumb as a dog watching a person drive a car.

I kept trying to keep up with the score, trying to see what notes he wrote. I got more and more frustrated.

Then, I started to write this blog and, just as background, let it play again. And then I could hear it.

This was the private music he wrote in his own head in celebration of the fact that his stomach stopped hurting -- after a long time of pain and suffering.

I was missing the music by trying to analyze it before I heard it.

Sometimes I find myself trying to analyze my music before I write it. This Mass -- I'm writing this without touching the piano. It's not completely like Beethoven, though, because I can "listen to the sheet music" through score writing software. All of which reminds me that I have a long path ahead of me when it comes to learning music.

And it's up to me to find that path and walk it.

But as I looked into the eyes of the 25 or so students yesterday morning, as I had to go back to the darkest of days, recalling how we all connected online through the BBS services, how this diary had become a case study for students all over the country studying social work, that it all started with a simple need to express a feeling.

To tell a story in song. To just be real, from the heart.

That's what moves an audience.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Big Voice: God or Merman?

What? You didn't get to see The Big Voice when it was running in New York? Now you can. Here it is.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Shubert Alley Nov. 15, 2012

And then you come to Guy Fieri's restaurant, which just received the all-time worst review in the history of the NY Times.

And a new Jekyll & Hyde Restaurant opening soon.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Times Square Photo Series: A Hidden Treasure Mysteriously Appears.

Look! Jim shaved his beard. And he's lost a lot of weight, which he very proudly shows off to everyone.

So, we were standing in Times Square, looking around, when we suddenly spied this stripped down building, which normally has been covered with huge billboards:

Jim said, "Look at those statues. Have I ever seen those before? I don't remember them." I crossed the street to examine it more closely. Clearly, someone, in renovating this building, has revealed a facade that's been hidden away for a very long time. My first thought was that the statues were generic statues of the type you might find in someone's back yard by the fountain.

But then I saw the inscription chiseled across the top. The show folks shoe shop? Really?

Then I zoomed in on the first statue.

Barrymore as Ophelia. Ethel Barrymore?

Mary Pickford as Little Lord Fauntleroy?? How old is this building?

And... who?

Rosa Ponselle? Even I don't remember that name. (She was an opera singer.) I quickly called Jim over and said, "This is even more interesting than we thought.."

After we got home, Jim found this link at Theatermania.

See This Amazing Broadway Relic Before it Becomes a Place to Buy Leggings
In the book Forgotten New York: The Ultimate Urban Explorers Guide to All Five Boroughs, Kevin Walsh explains how these actresses were chosen: 
"In 1927, the I. Miller company took the public vote to determine the most popular theater actresses of the day, with the idea of placing statues of them above their new seventh avenue store. The results came in, and sculptor Alexander Sterling Calder was chosen to depict them in some of their most famous roles." 
The business of making shoes for leading ladies is much different than the Al Bundy shoe business.

Photo credit: Tristan Fuge at Theatermania.
(For some reason, I didn't get a good shot of Marilyn.)