Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Boxes and Bubble Wrap.

That's an idea for either a song or a horror movie.

We are still putting our new home together. Boxes and bubble wrap. They are my life right now.

But I have a couple of announcements for fans.

First, the London Original Cast Recording of The Last Session is now on iTunes. I would most appreciate it if you'd spread the word far and wide.

Secondly, on August 3rd, Jim Brochu will talk with Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked, Pippin, etc.) Called "A Conversation with Music," it will feature vocalists Michael McCorry Rose and Kelli Rabki -- at the spectacular night club 54 Below.

I also will be performing "My Thanksgiving Prayer" on August 24th at St. Clement's here in mid-town for their Sunday morning services.

Okay, back to unpacking.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Moving, Moving...

After 11 years on the waiting list, we are finally moving into Manhattan Plaza, the subsidized housing for actors and other miscreants. So, this week has been about boxes, boxes, boxes. Packing and tossing things out and moving things around.

At the same time, Samuel French, who licenses "The Last Session," has asked for an electronic version of the score, which we never had. The old photocopies are wearing out and they need new!

Trouble is, we never had one of those. It was made back before electronic scoring was really available. So, this has given me the chance to look at the score and make all the changes I've been dying to do for the past 20 years.

Back then, I didn't know how to write out a score, and also I was just too sick. So the version we have now is a transcription of single performance done in New York one night, complete with all the improvisations the cast and musician were doing on that night -- which sounded great then, but which are not really a part of the score. (I want new casts to do their own improvisations.)

So, as all this packing is going on, I'm taking the score one note at a time, revising and reworking everything. Not that it will sound all that different to the untrained ear. But each time we've had new productions, I've had to talk to the various casts and musical directors, explaining that, "No, you don't have to sing that note." And "No, you don't have to play the part that way."

Luckily, I had begun this process already when I met with Tom Turner for the London production. He had a great instinct for how I preferred the songs to be played, and when we tried it out, it worked beautifully. For instance, "Save Me A Seat" should be sung in A-minor. Bob Stillman sang it in B-minor, which is fine, but it's too high for most singers. And it got frozen into the score in his key.

But it's little things like that which I'm now working out. It's a HUGE job and I'm devoting massive amounts of time to it. But this is my chance for the score to look and sound like what I originally intended and I'm loving it. But boy, this is a lot of work.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Most Unexpected Honor.

On, a new article by Stephen Hanks includes me in the list of "The Best (and Favorite) 20 Shows and Performances (So Far) of 2014."

Given the fact that I'm listed alongside such cabaret present legends as Ann Hampton Callaway, this is really, as my folks would say, walkin' in high cotton.

I don't think I ever thought of myself as a cabaret performer. To me, a stage is a stage. An audience is an audience. And most of the best stages in this city host cabaret perfermers, which is alive and thriving like crazy in New York despite not exactly being in the middle of the current electronic cultural stream. And the definition of "cabaret" has morphed to encompass a simple singer/songwriter like myself as well as the more traditional and jazz performers. The American Songbook is dead if it's not also growing and adding.

Also, all the electronics, pre-records or auto-tunes in the world will never match the emotional intensity of a human being connecting with a live audience in a small space with great acoustics. 

I only booked myself, you might recall, out of frustration that I wanted more of my songs sung in this city. As a relatively new arrival on the scene, getting the word out is tough! And if others aren't singing them, I would do it myself. Why not?

I more or less secretly invited Stephen Hanks, who reviews everyone in this town, to my show because I knew he didn't really know my music and I wanted to see how a stranger with great ears would react.

Little did I know what I was in store for when he finally wrote his mind-blowing review.

And now this:
Steve Schalchlin: Tales From the Bonus Round, Metropolitan Room/Urban Stages--Schalchlin presented this intensely personal set of original songs in two different venues between late October and March, and it was arguably one of the surprisingly satisfying shows of the year (the CD was a 2013 BWW Award nominee). Many numbers chronicled the songwriter's emotions when he was near death from AIDS in the 1990s, but the set was also uplifting and life affirming, and he delivered his own songs with clarity and passion. Projected BWW Award nomination category: Best Male Vocalist

The Evidence of Your Life.

We are moving across the street into Manhattan Plaza after 11 years on the waiting list.

It will be our home. I feel like I'm moving into a retirement community. But it's filled with actors and musicians and dancers and singers. And we know so many of them already! It'll be like moving home to a home you haven't lived in yet.

But the process of moving. Even though it's only across the street, Jim is now sitting and going through every single piece of paper in the place. Papers found in folders in boxes, in drawers.

It's a weird sensation to go through the evidence of your existence on this planet from materials that pre-date the Internet. News clippings. Like one from Omaha where my face and my newly-googly eye graced the top half of the page, with the cast of The Last Session rehearsing behind me.

I did this four years ago when I single-handedly, with a few close friends, did this. Went through every piece of paper. And I jettisoned a lot. Especially if there was two of anything. But I kept stuff that didn't need to be kept, but which I wanted Jim to look at.

Emotions and memories of your life come crashing like waves. I can feel it in my chest when I think about it, even as I'm typing these words.

I like the evidence of my life. When I worked on the cruise ship, when I sang with bands.

The most embarrassing papers are stacks of notebooks of lyrics I wrote along the way, on my journey from hippie church musician to rock and roll to theater to musical directing to acceptable songwriter to composer.

Hundreds of lyrics! All terrible! And the worst part is that when I read them, I can go back to how I felt when I wrote them. I usually felt they were terrible, too, but only after trying them out and singing them, thinking that maybe I was wrong and someone would hear something I don't hear. (They didn't).

Except for one or two. Sitting the front seat of a car with Bobby Cox, my guitarist, both of us jamming out on a cassette of a recording we just made. The song is juvenile, but boy did we have fun. I'm a lead guitar junkie/groupie.

And so it goes.

The great thing about living in the bonus round is that I get to relive those days. They are rich and they make me cry. And they make me remember that life is less about events than it is about the moments when you were with people who made you feel good.

People want to be rich so they can do big things. But all the money in the world couldn't give me a more 'scream out loud' and laugh ourselves stupid experience.