Dames in C – and D – and Other Keys

As many of you know, I love singing cabaret with a white-hot passion. And I want to share that love with my students, because I think that the idea of creating personal musical theater should exist in everything you sing, from art song to musical theater songs to opera.

I’ve done some great things at Germano’s Piattini with both Michael Tan and Ryan Cappleman, and they seem to like me. So when I asked Cyd Wolf if I could put together a cabaret show featuring some of my students, she said, “Of course!”

This year is the centenary of women’s suffrage. March is Women’s History Month. So with that in mind, I decided that our program would focus on music by women. Since the studio is mainly comprised of women, that works (there are a few men singing, as well), this works. Tickets will be cheap because I want people to come and eat (because that’s how Germano’s makes their money, and they give us the space and all the proceeds in exchange).

I looked at some art and came across a songbook of the musical Dames at Sea (which was an early starring performance by Bernadette Peters but, unfortunately, written by a man) and thought, “Huh. we could call it … Dames… IN… C… and maybe D… and, oh, other keys.”

So, on March 29, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing. Set list still TBD. Personnel still TBD. But here’s the art. And here’s where you can get tickets.

Dames in C

Scattergories/Categories

Scattergories is a creative-thinking category-based party game originally published by Parker Brothers.

Why I Sing is a creative-thinking but currently somewhat unfocused blog currently published by Christine Thomas-O’Meally (why, that’s me!).

Recently, I established the Curiously Stronger Performing series, which focuses on specific elements of performance:

  • The functional (how to present your music, how to walk into the room, how to talk to the pianist);
  • The creative (selecting music, creating themes);
  • The expressive (interpreting text, whether in English or another language; developing an inner monologue; physicalizing a song in the most efficient way).

And that’s what this blog needs to do. So a project I’m setting out to do over the next few months is to go through my blogposts and assign them a category.

Blogposts that are specifically about practical things like vocal technique, audition techniques, translating, and diction will go under the area of function.

Blogposts that are about finding new ways to look at things will be about creativity (and possibly about expressivity as well).

Blogposts about interpretation and physicality will be categorized under expressivity.

Announcements will either go under general or will be uncategorized.

Hopefully, this will help organize things so that they’re more easily found.

This will take awhile. Some might go under multiple things. Some of the older blogs might get reworked and updated.

Stay tuned!

2020 Word: Recreate

It’s become very trendy to announce that one word is going to set the intention for the year. My word last year was “Release,” and I did release a few things – my job at HCC, my fear of changing up the way I ran my private studio, and relationships that didn’t suit me.

I decided that this year’s word is Recreate. There are two meanings for this (with this spelling), according to Merriam-Webster:

  1. Transitive verb: to give new life or freshness to: REFRESH
  2. Intransitive verb: to take recreation (i.e., to play)
    or if, you put a hyphen between the re and the create:
  3. Transitive verb: to create again, to form anew in the imagination

I want to give new life to some things, including the idea of performance, as in the upcoming Curiously Stronger Performing workshops, which will start up on January 8. I want to explore new ways to approach things. And I want to play. Both in my work and away from it.

What’s your word? How did you choose it and how will you implement it?

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Success – is it a TRICK?

My choir director at the Cathedral of Mary our Queen is a new daddy, and he’s been reading a lot about parenting. He just read about an author who has written a book called How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Resultsand the author boils her methods down to the acronym TRICK, which stands for:

  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Independence
  • Collaboration
  • Kindness

He believes that this applies not only to the raising of children to be independent adults, but for teachers with their students (and choir directors for their choristers, which is why we got this lecture). The author believes that this method will allow students to become independent and creative, and that is a higher gauge of what success is than just money. (Which is a good thing in our line of work.)

I’m a big believer that our studio is a community, and one in which we need to support and nurture each other and ourselves. That’s why I ask that we all support each other and collaborate rather than compete with each other. Trust each other, trust yourself, trust me. Respect each other, respect yourself, and respect me. We can work together and we can work on our own. And be kind to yourself, be kind to each other and, above all, be kind to me. 🙂

Not all tricks are magic. Some are just common sense and decency.

A Year in Review (I know, it’s only June)

This has been an exciting year, filled with lots of opportunities and development for both my students and myself.

Things that I’ve done for the studio this year:

  • June 2018: Attended the NATS Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada and learned a ton of stuff!
  • June 2018: Bought an iPad Pro and downloaded ForScore to better access sheet music
  • July 2018: Subscribed to Appcompanist, an accompanying software that allows you to adjust thousands of professionally recorded accompaniments to the tempo and range of the performer, rather than make the performer fit the dictates of the recorded accompaniment.
  • July 2018: Joined the Speakeasy Cooperative, an international organization of independent voice teachers, where we share ideas about how best to serve our students and ourselves as professionals.
  • July-August 2018: Tweaked my website!
  • August 2018: Redesigned my vocal exercises
  • August 2018: Created a logo (see above)
  • September 2018: Studio policies!
  • November 2018: Upgraded to MusicNotesPlus in order to allow greater flexibility to change keys as needed for individual student needs (as well as my own)
  • January 2019: Became a sole proprietorship in the state of Maryland as Mezzoid Voice Studio
  • January 2019: Studio swag!!
  • February 2019: Started using Acuity as a scheduling software so that students can schedule their lessons at times that work with both our schedules.
  • March 2019: Subscribed to musicaltheatresongs.com, a searchable database of songs past and present.
  • December 2018/June 2019: Organized and presented the first two studio recitals, the first a holiday program at Bykota Senior Center and the second a studio showcase at Springwell Senior Living!
  • May 2019: Quit HCC to focus on the private studio
    May 2019: Attended my first Voice Foundation in Philadelphia and learned more stuff!
  • June 2019: Moved my blog, “Why I Sing” from Blogger to mezzoid.wordpress.com, where it looks a ton more professional.
  • Reorganized the studio to include toys (TOYS!) and other things to serve my students better
  • June 2019: Created an interactive studio practice log for my students to keep track of their practicing! (Have you tried it yet?)

What’s next on the horizon? LOTS.

More info coming soon.

New Resource for Choosing Repertoire!!

Last week, I added yet another item to my list of things-to-spend-money-on-so-that-all-our-lives-can-be-better!

This resource is MusicalTheaterSongs.com and offers thousands of songs from 1850 to the present day (with the purchase of a subscription – and my NATS membership gets me 50% off of the annual subscription price).

For example – are you looking for a song for an audition for a girl under 13, written between 2010-2016? Just plug those things into the search engine, and voila! Thirty-five songs come up. Click on one of them to find out – let’s look at this obscure one:

It’s short (1 page?); it has an octave range; it’s not too difficult to play; and it’s pretty obscure. In fact, it’s only available if you subscribe to contemporarymusicaltheatre.com (sigh, another one to check out), which you find if you go to the “find the sheet music” link.

AND you can create a song list of songs that you’re saving. Right now, I have one saved for a project I’m going to propose for a conference next year for musical theater songs for women of a … ahem… certain age.

This is offering so many possibilities! I can’t tell you how excited I am. But I’ll show you:

https://tenor.com/embed.js

Spring Forward!

UGH, it’s Daylight Savings Time. I hate the transitions both in and out of DST. I feel like I gain nothing in the fall because I wake up too early, and I definitely feel the loss of the hour in the spring. (Spring? It’s spring?)

But I do like the idea of “spring forward.” Of finding some new things to do and thinking outside the box.

For example, at my church job today, I decided that I was going to put the emphasis on all the prepositions in the hymns and responses. At first, it was a source of amusement (which pretty much sums up how I approach almost anything new), and then I realized it was a way to be really aware of the words I was saying. Too often, responses are on autopilot, and so are hymns (if you’re just singing the melody to something you’ve known for years). But if you put the emphasis on a different word, you have to think about all the words before and after it.

“And also with you.”
“Our Father, who art in Heaven.”
“Make you to shine like the sun.”

I did something like that recently in a cabaret performance of the song, “As if we never said goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard. I have always sung the lyric, “Has there ever been a moment?” with the emphasis on “ever.” But in my last performance, it just felt right to put it on “been.”

Now, I realize that emphasis is kind of Chandler Bing-esque, but it felt right to me in that moment. It seemed like it made all the other words in the line even more important.

There’s an acting game to take a phrase and change the emphasis to get a different point across:

I didn’t say she stole my money.”
“I didn’t say she stole my money.”
“I didn’t say she stole my money.”
“I didn’t say she stole my money.”
“I didn’t say she stole my money.”
“I didn’t say she stole my money.”
“I didn’t say she stole my money.”

How would you interpret each of this lines with the different emphasis? Which one might be defensive? Sad? Evasive?

How could you apply this to a song you’re working on? Or a song you’ve known for years? How would it change the interpretation? What works? What doesn’t?

Try this and see what happens. And remember….

Cabaret as Personal Musical Theater

I was looking through my past blogs to see if I’ve defined cabaret before and couldn’t find anything.

This past Friday, I was thrilled to reunite with Ryan Cappleman to perform a revised version of my first cabaret, “Oh! To Be a Movie Star!” at Germano’s in Little Italy (the revision includes the addition of the exclamation point after “Oh!” where there had previously been a comma). We had a terrific turnout, unlike the performances that Ryan and I did back in Milwaukee, and it was extremely well-received. It’s nearly a week later and I’m still re-living moments that I felt went particularly well and not moments that went badly (this never happens).

There was one friend who had planned to come but didn’t because he said he had a hard time getting his fiancée to go to concerts on Friday night, which is their date night. I was surprised that he said that, because he’s a musician and actor as well. He thought that the performance was going to be something along the lines of a recital, rather than – well, what it was.

So I’ve done some more musings on exactly what cabaret is. And the title of this article is from something that was said to me by Amanda McBroom at a cabaret workshop I attended in Brookfield, Wisconsin, when she was asked to define cabaret. She thought a bit and said, “Cabaret is personal musical theater.” It’s taking pieces that mean something to you and developing a narrative from those pieces. It might be that you have a theme in mind, or it might be that a theme comes from the pieces you’ve selected.

In the case of this week’s show, my theme was movies and movie stars, and the songs I chose reflected that. And more important, what movies have meant in my own life.

Another definition that I came up with was that creating a cabaret was like writing a script for a jukebox musical. A jukebox musical is a bunch of songs by one artist or composer around which an often-lame script is written. Now, I generally hate that genre. My own personal idea of hell would be sitting through endless productions of Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys, and Pump Boys and Dinettes. But a cabaret is picking songs – perhaps by the same composer, perhaps based on a theme or an era – and putting them together with a narrative of some kind.

However, in a musical, there’s a full cast of characters. In cabaret, all the characters are played by a single performer (or a small group of performers) who might have some specific lines that she wants to say to introduce a song, but the songs are the script. They are what tell the story, through the singer’s interpretation.

In Oh! To Be a Movie Star!, Ryan and I told stories of wanna-be actors, both from a humorous and a tragic perspective, of fans who admire and obsess over the object of their affection, of up-and-coming stars and those fading into obscurity. It wasn’t a single narrative following one person from beginning to end. That’s a different kind of show. And maybe it’s one I’ll do someday.

All I can say right now is that cabaret continues to be one of the most rewarding and creative outlets I have as an artist these days. It’s not the only outlet, which it was in Milwaukee (and why not having an audience was so demoralizing to me), but it’s the one that makes me feel the most like myself. It’s personal. It’s musical. And it’s theater.

"A creative adult is the child who survived."

Two blogs in one day!

Last night I did a cabaret show at Germano’s Piattini in Little Italy – “The Not Here Cabaret” with Michael Tan. This was a reprise of a show we did at Spotlighters in June. It went, very, very well. I felt so at home in the format, with the audience, and with the music I’d selected.

This morning I saw this posted on Facebook:

89-Year-Old Japanese Grandma Discovers Photography, Can’t Stop Taking Hilarious Self-Portraits Now – Japan Inside

One of the comments I read (and I know, you’re not supposed to read the comments) was: “A creative adult is the child who survived.”

That’s how I feel about doing cabaret. Creative. Fulfilled. Happy.
Oh, and I made a tidy little sum doing it last night, which was even better. #MakingMoneyAsASingerFTW (do hashtags work in blogs)?

Vulnerability and pretending not to care

From the twitter feed of Xstrology (online astrologer):

Gemini will pretend that they don’t care at the times they are most vulnerable.

I’m a Gemini. I’m the quintessential Gemini – I talk a lot, I’m constantly doing 6 million and 12 things at once, I love change, I’m versatile – and on the downside, I find it difficult to stick to one thing at a time, I’m often indecisive, and sometimes I give the impression of being somewhat shallow.

And I often – too often – pretend that I don’t care at the times I am most vulnerable.

In my personal life, this can result in my making jokes at inopportune times – I recall going to an emergency room for unexplained abdominal pain and making stupid jokes so that I wouldn’t show that I was terrified. Consequently, the doctor didn’t take me very seriously and thought I was wasting her time.

When my feelings are hurt or if I’m angry or frustrated, it’s very easy for me to cry. But if I cry, then people might be uncomfortable or think I’m overreacting – so I make jokes or laugh. My husband says that he can always tell when I’m about to cry, because I start smiling really broadly. My speech becomes choppy and my movements a bit more abrupt.

And if I’m in a relationship that is coming to an end – whether it be romantic or a friendship – my defense is to become flippant, to become somewhat distant, and sometimes, I’m afraid, to be a little mean. As though I were saying, “Yeah, well, you didn’t mean anything to me either, so go already. I won’t miss you.”

And in performing, specifically auditioning – for, after all, this blog is supposed to be about singing – I have found that I have occasionally done the same thing, especially with companies for whom I’ve auditioned in the past but who have not hired me, for whatever misguided reason. I don’t get mean, per se, but I give off the attitude of, “Whatever. I don’t really care. It’s not like you’re going to hire me anyway.”

Consequently, my audition is unengaged and unengaging. And just like driving away someone I cared about because I was afraid of being rejected and thereby bringing the relationship to the end I expected, I fulfill the expectation that, in fact, they’re not going to hire me.

What I need to do – and what all of us, as performers, need to do – is to stop making the audition about myself and about getting the gig. I need to make it about giving a performance that is genuine and authentic. It may or may not get me hired, but I have no control over that. I can control my performance, I can control how I relate to people, I can control my preparation.

As I mentioned in my blogpost on vulnerability and oversharing, vulnerability is “the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, [and] of love.” (Dr. Brené Brown)

Yes, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and then not hired (or dumped) can bring about the feelings of shame and fear and unworthiness, but being open to the possibilities and presenting yourself as open and genuine and accepting might just allow you to find that joy, that creativity, possibly belonging, and hopefully love. However you define love.

Which is a whole ‘nother topic altogether.