I’m doing a concert at SubCulture in NYC. It’s a different kind of concert than the ones I usually do, but SubCulture is a different kind of venue. Often when I speak to Marc Kaplan, who created the space with his brother Steven, his questions are about sound. “Were you happy with the sound? Didn’t the bass sound great? What do you need to make this the listening experience you want for your audience?”
This is a venue that encourages you to create music, and so as I was putting together this evening I thought about the music that would be best served by the space. What an amazing opportunity to revisit “Alphabet City Cycle,” the grouping of five songs I wrote for Kate Baldwin with lyricist Marcy Heisler and recorded in 2009. Along with violinist Victoria Paterson, the team is reunited and we’re performing the entire cycle for the first time in about a decade.
With the backbone of my program in place, I started thinking about how to make an entire evening of music that complemented this twenty-minute song cycle. I decided to pull all of my art songs — the pieces that live more fluidly somewhere between the worlds of classical music and musical theater, as “Alphabet City Cycle” does — and see if there was enough material there to support an entire evening. Turns out there’s more than enough material, and some of it hasn’t seen the light of day in ages, if ever.
I have two songs I wrote for Rebecca Luker. Literally. Two years ago, with Rebecca’s voice in my mind, I set two poems (texts by Christina Rossetti and Edna St. Vincent Millay) to music, and I printed them out and gave them to her. Surprise! Yesterday she sang them for me for the first time, and on March 9th she’s giving them their world premiere. Unbelievably to me, Becca came into the first rehearsal with the songs memorized, so the first time I heard them, they were in the voice I had imagined and they were accurate and shapely and full of musical nuance. At one point she said, “Oh, I’m sorry; I’ll fix that,” and I said, “Stop talking. My dreams are coming true.”
Also on the program will be performances by my good and long-time friends Bradley Dean and Andréa Burns. Bradley is singing a Shakespeare sonnet, a setting of a Derek Walcott poem (from my second album) and “These Two,” the song I wrote for my wedding. And Andréa is singing “The Holy Secret” (from my first album) and “Palimpsest” as well as a very short and (hopefully) very funny collection of one-minute songs with lyrics by Faye Greenberg, Dorothy Parker and Alicia Partnoy. Joining me on their material will be Victoria Paterson on violin and also Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf on cello.
Finally, the last piece of the evening came to me in a flash of either bravery or insanity. I remembered that back in my college days I had set two poems to music and my friend Kevin Simmonds had premiered them on my senior recital. I dug them out of the archive and was pleased to learn that they hold up! I mean, they sound like a very very very early version of the composer I turned into, but they are not embarrassing. (How’s that for a review? “It wasn’t embarrassing.”) Kevin recently moved from California to New York City, and he will be joining me at SubCulture to sing these songs that I believe have only ever been heard before by the audience at Vanderbilt University, twenty-ahem years ago.
I hope I’ve convinced you to come. General admission is $40, and you can buy tickets here. It’s a small venue (with a great bar!), so I encourage you to purchase in advance, or you may miss out on what is starting to feel like my very own musical episode of “This Is Your Life.”
See you there!
Read more about the concert at BroadwayWorld.com.