Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Best Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Today, I made the best veggie chili I've ever eaten. I used several recipes and then just started making it up as I went along. I should put a list of ingredients, but I made it up as I went along. So, that's how I'm spelling it out here.


I cut up ONE ONION and TWO CLOVES OF GARLIC and threw them into a frying pan/skillet with a BIG POUR of OLIVE OIL. And threw the SWEET POTATO chunks and CARROTS into the pan with them, and covered it on med-high heat, stirring it around until the onions turned clear.

Into the big pot, I tossed all these ingredients along with BIG CAN OF CRUSHED TOMATOES, THREE CANS OF VARIOUS TYPES OF BLACK AND KIDNEY BEANS, along with the water in the can.




Then, I brought it to a boil, then down to a simmer. And then cooked it for about an hour, stirring frequently.

I forgot it this time, but a good teaspoon of CUMIN makes it nice.

And when I tasted it, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

TALES FROM THE BONUS ROUND: Portland Oregon 1996

First time a big ocean liner

Sailed up the Wilhammette and docked
In Portland Oregon
They lifted the bridge
Helicopters flew over
Flood lights
Afternoon and evening tv news

On board that ship was a dying man
Taking the last cruise of his life
A cruise to Alaska

He had already celebrated the “last birthday” of his life

The previous October
This was now May

He was also desperate to not die
So he made a decision that he would fight
The diarrhea that was draining the life from his
stick thin body

He drank a narcotic syrup to slow down his system
Anti-diarrhea pills on top of that
And he raided every food buffet possible

Even if he could just gain a pound
He a Stephen King character
A ghoul face poking from inside a hoodie
The image you avert your eyes away from
Wasting away
A barely-walking skeleton

He had already held off his death
For the past year
By writing and singing music
Of brutal honesty
Rage, courage, and hope
Written with nothing left to lose

It had worked
The music had had measurable effects
So, he had come back from the brink before

Now, he needed to play the songs for someone
He needed them to be heard
They had had such a magical effect on him
He thought someone else might need them
Maybe they could also heal the world!

But nobody knew him
He was not famous

As he pulled into Portland
He remembered that it was supposed to be a hipster town
There was a singer/songwriter vibe
If he could just find someone
To listen to his songs
Maybe an open mic

After the entry into Portland
With the news copters overhead
Boats saluting with sprays of water
The ship docked downtown
Right at the end of a
Small maze of streets
With bars
He went looking for something

The Ghoul was frail
He walked the narrow, cobbled streets
He said, “I am going to find someone
Who will let me sing”
But it was locked up tight
Bars aren’t open at 10 AM

Then a sign
A blackboard on the street
“Open mic. 9pm”
That won’t work
The ship will have left by 9 pm

The door was propped open. Lights off.
Black interior. The harsh sunlight from the doorway lit
Two guys sitting around
Holding guitars
On break from
Cleaning the floors
Chairs piled in the corner

They’re friendly
“I have these songs.” says Skeletor.
“What do you play?” they ask.
“No piano here, man.”
“I can sing a cappella.”
Skeletor won’t let them out of this
They listen.
Singing: “I heard of a group
With someone like me
Who felt the way I feel...”

Two weeks later, after the cruise,
After all the buffets, the medicine
Enough calories to feed a small nation
He hit the scales
Lost: Another pound.

That’s when he knew it really was over.
It scared him, but he accepted it.

And when he accepted it
An unexpected comfort and peace

Came over him.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Great Honor.

Last night, Mark Janas and I had the great honor of  debuting a new school song which we composed for the 150th anniversary of the Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn, a K-12 private school with a proud tradition of progressive education, singularly tailored for each student, through its long and storied history. On the front lines of women's voting rights, for instance, and the first to institute physical education in its curriculum.

Mark and I are thankful for the honor and we hope our song lasts for another 150 years (at least).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bonus Round Choir FAQ

A crowd-sourced chorus that sings with Steve.

How do I get in?
If you want to sing, you're in. 
You don't have to know how to read. You don't even have to know the music. You don't even have to know the songs. Just show up and let me know you're in. Or don't let me know. I make it up as I go along. 

Where do I get the music? 
In the Crowd-Source BRC folder at Google Docs. And inside that is a link to all the music in New World Waking, which is a more formal "show," as opposed to when I'm just singing solo. Currently, it contains two of the songs I'm going to sing on Sunday. But I'm improvisational in my performances. I make decisions based on the moment. 

How will I know what to sing?
Just show up. You'll know. If you need prompting, I'll do it from the stage. Sound scary, yes? 

When did you start doing this?
Yesterday. But I've kind of been doing it all along. Now I've given it a title.

This sounds confusing.
Yes, it does.

How many people are coming?
So far, it's just you and me. If you come, that is. 

No, actually. The choir at Bay Ridge Episcopal Church will be singing with me on Sunday morning during their liturgical service. I'm the tenor in the back row there. I also am composer in residence, which is a fancy way of saying I write songs for the choir and the choir has to sing them whether they want to or not. Happily, they want -- but we are a part of the church service, so people who are allergic to church are warned. And it's free. 

Sunday night at the St. Clement's, though, is a fundraiser with a $20 donation at the door, but it's not a church service. It's a great cabaret show with lots of talented performers. So, you'll want to give them a donation, but there's FOOD. The others are all top cabaret talent, both upcoming and legendary. I'll con all of them into joining us in our BRC, too. Secret: If you're totally broke, you can still come. No one turned away. Have a nosh. Darryl Curry on piano, as accompanist for the other acts and Sue Matsuki, a great singer and entertainer.

When is your next gig after that?
May 4th at Birdland. 5 pm. It's also a fundraiser so that one's $15 plus $10 food/drink minimum. It's for Zani's Furry Friends, an animal rescue group that finds homes for dogs that have been abandoned and set to be killed. And the other talent on the bill. Broadway stars. Also, the fabulous "now in his prime" Jim Brochu has been known to turn whole audiences into a crowdsource River City town's people, when he rampages through "Trouble" in an impromptu Music Man. You never seen so many smiling music majors.

It just occurred to me that if you're going to crowdsource something, New York City is a good place to do it.

After that, Porland, Oregon in July, where members of the Portland Gay Men's Chorus are joining me on stage. I'd invite you but it's sold out. Still, that doesn't preclude us throwing some kind of impromptu event. I'll be there Friday through Sunday. If you live in the Portland area, send me a note.

Why do you think I should sing?
Because it's fun, it's adventure, it creates community and it's healthy for your body. And it's sexy. And it makes you feel smart. And it feels soooo good.

Why do you care?
What? I need an explanation to care?

Why don't you have a logo for the Bonus Round Choir?
Yeah! Why not?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Come Sing With Me.

I think enough of you have seen the song "Lazarus Come Out." And also "Rescue." Come sing them with me. There are three opportunities coming up.

On Sunday morning at 11am at Christ Church Bay Ridge, I'm going to sing "Lazarus Come Out" during the worship service. If you're not Episcopalian -- I have readers and followers from all walks of life, from the most atheistic to the most conservative fundamentalist, that may not be your bag. So, pretend it's one of those European Gospel Bus Tours that bring crowds to the balconies of churches in Harlem. This is the traditional Episcopalian version of that tour. However, you'll have to get yourself there -- and make sure I know you're there. Then, when it's my time to sing, you can come up and just be part of my bonus round choir. (And no, this is not a trick to get you to come to church. It is, however, free.) Choir rehearsal starts at 9:45 and service starts at 11.

Then, Sunday evening, at 7pm, I'm singing for the annual St. Clement's Cabaret, a benefit for their food program That'll cost ya $20, if you got it. If you don't, then give whatever you can and show up. They always have a great food layout, cooked by the members of the church. It's nostalgic for me because I fell in love with these folks when Zero Hour played here. It was one of the happiest moments of all our lives, both on stage and off. The vicar there, one of the unsung heroes of 9/11 who stayed up days at a time, going into the killing field to say prayers over bodies and comfort grieving families -- unsung because she does these things without announcement or press agents, is a person I dearly love, Mitties De Champlain, a teacher at General Seminary here. And the other people there are equally kind.

So, the admission (suggested) is $20, but no one will be turned away. I generally never know what I'm going to sing until I sing it, but I'll probably do "Lazarus Come Out" and maybe "Rescue."

Here is a link to my CrowdSource-LitBR folder on google docs. I threw "Lazarus" and "Rescue" in there. I'll probably toss more. Maybe "My Thanksgiving Prayer." Let's see how many people want to join me.

Reminder: Steve Sings in New York This Sunday.

St. Clement's Cabaret.
St. Clement's Episcopal Church, 423 W. 46th Street
7:00 PM

Friday, April 12, 2013

Jim & Steve Sing for Zani's Furry Friends, May 4th.

And yes, I will be performing "Rescue."

Why Shakespeare? Why church music? Why theater? Why anything?

Because they each have a measurably therapeutic effect on my body. And they are adventures!

Writing and singing music saved my life back in 1995 when I unknowingly wrote the score to The Last Session. I know the radiant feeling that happened while singing. While playing While creating. I probably felt it more because I needed it more. But I believe it's common to all of us, this capacity to use our creativity and turn it, like alchemy, into health.

Doing that speech from Richard II. This kid from Buna, Texas never considered he'd ever do something like that. But as I stood in front of that class, that heat came back. It was there. The same thing! I can only imagine what my "readings" would have looked like "before class" and "after class."

Being the tenor in the back row of the church choir, just quietly harmonizing is another source of great therapy for me. I would sing more, like with the gay men's chorus, if I had the strength.

But over the years, I've had to learn my limits. Not that I always obey. But I'm less afraid to say out loud that something is too much for me.

Teaching myself how to cook also gave me those same feelings. Perhaps it's just the act, the thrill of creation, and re-creation. Over and over.

Photo courtesy of iStockphotoGuidoVrola
One always hits valleys. Life is a wave, not a particle, to twisty-quote Dan Bern. So, there are times when you're just trudging up the valley wall. Emotionally, that's when you're most vulnerable. You reach for comfort or distractions that aren't healthy.

And that's part of what Living in the Bonus Round means, as a concept. To do that which makes me healthy, but to do it with adventurous creativity, following that internal, healing heat, the energy to which we all have access.

And when the low times hit, fight on, knowing it will end, and that the effort itself will bring greater personal reward at the top.

But I start by making a decision to live.

And to make it every single day. Or every hour. Or every year. Whatever your rhythm. It always starts there. That you're going to survive. And it becomes a commitment.

It would be fun if it were an easy one-time thing. But, alas and alack, it just don't work that way.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Rescue" now on iTunes and Spotify.

When I rescued you, you rescued me. Studio-produced single now available. Originally written for an animal rescue group. Sheet music also available.

Steve Schalchlin - Rescue

Also available on Spotify, plus most streaming and mp3 stores in the world.

Here is a video of the first performance, back at Kulak's Woodshed in North Hollywood.

Theology Vs. Ministry.

I found myself saying this on FB in a discussion with a theology student.

"Theology is sitting around a table deciding why you should give a man a piece of bread. Ministry is giving the man the piece of bread."

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Upcoming Personal Appearances by Jim and/or Steve.

APRIL 21, 2013
46th St. between 9th and 10th

A yearly event held in the recreation hall for the St. Clement's food program. Hosted by the wonderful Sue Matsuki, Steve Schalchlin will be singing a couple of songs along with many wonderful New York singers and performers from the world of clubs, cabaret and theater.

APRIL 29, 2013

A staged reading series of the plays of George Bernard Shaw, presented by the Gingold Group, directed by David Staller. Featuring Jim Brochu as Mellish. Also, Sean Dugan, Jeremy Bobb, Howard McGillin and many more stars of the New York stage.

MAY 4, 2013
315 W. 44th

A benefit concert for Zani's Furry Friends, a group that rescues pets bound for termination, and finds them homes. Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin will be appearing along with many great stars of theater and cabaret. Hosted by Sarah Rice, who originated the role of the wife in Sweeney Todd.

JULY 5-7, 2013

Steve Schalchlin, along with members of the Portland Gay Men's Chorus, will present a 15-minute performance for the summit. Created by author Chris Gillebeau, this is a gathering of Internet entrepeneurs, dreamers, adventurers and doers. Sold out.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Manhattan Video Diary, March 2013 Pt. 2

And the new Manhattan Video Diary is up! And yeah, it's 2 seconds at a time.

I Am Harvey Milk.

Everyone in the choral and theatrical communities are very excited about this new work, I Am Harvey Milk, by Broadway composer Andrew Lippa being presented in San Francisco by Dr. Timothy Seelig and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus on June 27-28. (And I'm excited to have two choral pieces included in the first part of the program).

Andrew Lippa is the composer and, in reading about the origin of the piece, it says:
Lippa had initially been approached to contribute a short piece of music for the anniversary. "Some click went off in my mind. I didn't want to write a five-minute piece. I wanted to write a 60-minute piece," he said. "It felt like one of those `A-ha!' moments."
It's the best feeling in the world where you see the whole thing in your mind. You might not have the details, but you can see it.

What they asked us for were songs that might illustrate life After Harvey Milk. What would you tell him if you could see him face to face?

Immediately, I thought of three gay couples. One from the 50s, the 70s and today. Called "I Met A Boy," it's describes their daily lives in a (hopefully) humorous comparison.

The second came after I read, somewhere, some criticism of gay male choruses. Like, are they really relevant in this day and age? Look how far we've come! So, I wrote a big anthemy thing called Resolution, remembering that there are countries where gay people are hanged from trees. Just yesterday, another dictator announced executions for gay people. Music is the universal connector of people.

Get tickets! 

Monday, April 01, 2013

Killing Shakespeare, Pt. 2

Read this first. About how I killed someone.

Here's the real story. A couple of weeks ago, this really great actor named John, in Andy Gale's Sunday afternoon advanced acting class, did a very famous and frequently quoted scene from Richard II because he's auditioning for a Shakespeare company.

Since I'm at the beginning of my discovery of Shakespeare, I don't know the play. I maybe had heard the line, "Tell sad stories of the death of kings."

John was riveting, as he always is. And it was very dramatic, but it just hit something in me.

I needed to do this scene.

In previous weeks, I have been singing songs, getting ready for Portland, assuming I have about 15 minutes, but knowing how flexible one has to be for an event like this with a lot of presentations. Ideally, I should be doing that. Crafting those minutes.

So, to suddenly be yanked off that path and into the oncoming headlights of Shakespeare, is pretty jarring.

Remembering, also, that I write and sing out of necessity. They keep me alive. If I don't do them, I die. To divert away from music made no sense, therapeutically.

Here's the scene:

King Richard is defeated and has lost everything. Death is inevitable. And now he's standing around with his friends and, as I imagined it, was telling them to stop being so formal and court-like, that with everything gone, he's about as much a king as they are -- and that what he really needs is friends who will joke around with him and just be real. After all, once you've lost it all, there's nothing left to lose. Might as well just get drunk or high, booze or ice cream and pizza and tell stories and cry and laugh and just be real.

Let it all just go.

I didn't know if that was the point of the scene or not. It's just how it hit me. The death of kings. Honestly, aren't we all, at some point in our lives, little kings in the kingdom of our own minds? Little tyrants?

And this description of crying:
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth
To this Southern boy that just sounded so Tennessee Williams. Yes, Shakespeare is still "undiscovered country" for me, but something took me over.

I had to learn this monologue.

Which would mean I'd have to do it in front of this remarkably talented group of the some of the best actors I've met in New York and do Shakespeare for them.

A play I haven't even read yet. Nor would I. I didn't want to. Not yet. Because this wasn't about Richard. There's this line he says, after describing how puffed up with power one gets when one is king; how it makes you feel impregnable. And how Death sits "at court" in his crown just waiting for him to totally think he's god on earth. And "humor'd thus",
Comes at the last, and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall and Farewell King
So, yesterday, I get to class late because it was a long Easter service. "My Rising Up" sounded great. I'll post something about that separately.

John wasn't there. So, I relaxed. I had been reciting this thing to myself for two weeks. Even used the Memory Palace technique to get into my head. When walking to the subway, I would say it out loud. Correcting myself, driving myself crazy when I couldn't remember a word.

My heart was pounding in my chest. When the other actors did their scenes, I couldn't understand a word they were saying. I was completely off in another universe, but trying to pay attention and sometimes even accomplishing the task.'

And, of course, John walks in and joins the group.

About an hour and a half later, not that I was watching the clock, Andy looked at me with his impish smile and said, "You want to do your Shakespeare now?"

I sat on the little piano bench

It told them how, when I heard "with a little pin bores through his castle wall," I immediately thought of the AIDS virus. And it thought me back to when I looked like walking death. When my death was as certain as anything can be, barring a miracle.

And I remembered how careful people would be around me sometimes. Scared for me. Not knowing what to say. And I'd want them to relax and forget it and just be their same hilarious selves. And as I'm telling this to the class, without stopping, I go right into the monologue, as if it's my own words just continuing on. I said, In my mind I was thinking, "HEY!

Of comfort no man speak
Let's talk of graves, of worms and epitaphs
And as I'm saying these words, I'm saying them in the manner two young boys might use when describing the gooshiest, coolest part of a horror movie. Playfully. Jokingly. Laughing at the futility of our rage against death.

And it felt so GOOD.

It felt like singing.

But more than that. It was laughing at death itself.
Somewhere down in South America
There's an H.I.V.-free town
In the town there's an H.I.V.-free circus
With an H.I.V.-free clown
One thing I've discovered, in this Shakespearean journey, his plays are poems. They are as good to read as they are to say out loud.

Now I know why people fall in love with Shakespeare. Oh, it's almost like a religion with some people! Like a secret club that anyone can join, except you don't join it. It is already you.

And Shakespeare is not easy. As I said before, my entry method has been the side-by-side "translations." It takes a little effort. A little work. But when you break through, the pleasures don't stop.

So, perched there on the piano stool, I did it. I got laughs where maybe people don't usually get laughs in this scene. I am still a neophyte. But it felt like a real accomplishment. Like I had done something no one else had ever done. But had done it by expressing a totally universal emotion.


This being April Fool's Day, I'll let you decide whether everything I just said above actually happened, or whether it's merely what I fantasized would happen. Happy holidays! Who knew Easter and April Fool's Day were so close together? Like Christmas and New Years. 

I Killed Someone Doing My Shakespeare Yesterday.

I got so wrapped up in a scene from Macbeth that I picked up a chair and bashed it over one of the other student's heads and killed him.

On the spot.

Well, at first, he was breathing a little. So, I knew I had to do something. My heart was pounding.

I saw a piano and, with superhuman ability -- like a mother saving a child under a car -- I picked up the entire piano and smashed it down on his face.

Shakespeare is very dangerous.

EDIT: This story, posted in April 1st may have some verification issues. Here is the follow-up post.