Arlen Hit Parade

Starting this Monday is the start of Off-Broadway Week (actually 3 weeks) in New York, with 2-for-1 tickets to a host of Off Broadway shows.  Among these are some musicals, the popular and long-running Avenue Q and The Fantasticks among them.  An even more classic option is The Wonderful Wizard of Song (warning, site launches into song), a revue of songs written by Harold Arlen.

Here’s a clip of Arlen at the piano, with some special guests, singing through a medley of his many hits.

Get your Off-Broadway Week tickets now!

One of my favorite Arlen songs not included above is Stormy Weather, which I’ve blogged about before…

North Wind Sings

Reminder that David Bruce‘s new opera Firework-Maker’s Daughter is in its final performances this weekend (Fri-Sun) at the New Victory Theater, tickets from $14 to $38.  The New York Times doesn’t seem to have reviewed it (why?), but here’s a New York Post review of the American premiere last weekend.

To give you a taste of his work, here’s a full video of Bruce‘s song cycle The North Wind was a Woman, performed by Irish soprano Sadhbh Dennedy (what a name!) and Chroma Ensemble at Tête à Tête Opera Festival in London, 2011.

David Bruce: The North Wind was a Woman from david bruce on Vimeo.

Smith, meet Blythe

Tomorrow night at 9pm in New York, PBS is airing a concert by Stephanie Blythe focusing on the music made famous by Kate Smith, beloved Depression and WWI-era singer and eventually radio and TV show hostess.  There will be repeat screenings on Sunday too.

Having never really heard of this Smith character, I turned to the Internet Archive to see what they had on her, and they didn’t disappoint; they’ve got lots of songs, from as far back as the 1920s, as well as full audio and video of her variety hour shows, from both radio and TV.  That being said, I can’t figure out how to embed PBS & Internet Archive media here : |

So with that, take my word and visit the Live from Lincoln Center minisite on PBS to see recent episodes featuring Kristen Chenoweth, Josh Groban, the New York Philharmonic, and even the 2012 Richard Tucker Opera Gala concert in their entirety.

And here’s just one example of the Internet Archive‘s unique holdings, a full 1953 episode of the Kate Smith Hour!  Singing, dancing, and more!  The IA is worth getting lost in for a little while, so enjoy!

Show Tunes on PBS, Big Surprise

Sheet Music covers from NYPL

Forgot to plug this, on PBS tonight at 9pm:

Watch Season 3 Preview on PBS. See more from Michael Feinsteins American Songbook.

Michael Feinstein is an American chanteur in the swooning tradition, which I’m not always a huge fan of, but I am interested in his preservationist inclinations…  A prior episode in his series showed his sweet audio archiving and transferring set-up at home, so as a library science student I was intrigued.  (Link below to a video on his collection of old sheet music.)

Watch Lost and Found on PBS. See more from Michael Feinsteins American Songbook.

His American Songbook series on PBS returns for a third season, with episodes devoted to the early 20th century history of popular song through show tunes, dance, and radio in America.

PBS has a real hard-on for Broadway, I feel like I’ve gotten good crash courses in American musicals history just from them.  This should be another good addition to that televised lesson plan, and they have a few other relevant transmissions throughout this month, so I’ll keep you posted on those too…

Trolley Song Remix

So at a friend’s house the other day this familiar seeming song came up on his record player:

That’s jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck performing up there, and in case you don’t get the reference, here’s the original, 1944 movie musical version:

It’s coming back to you know, right?  That’s Judy Garland in Meet me in St. Louis, obviously.  I thought it was so charming that something from the (admittedly pretty campy) movie musical world would go on to the jazz world, but upon reflection it’s not a rare occurrence at all!

Just one other example, Charlie Parker performing Gershwin.  I guess the Trolley Song just seemed strangely… specific?

34th meeting Feb. 25 at 7pm

NYCPSS returns with a pretty Bizarro Twins-appropriate session…

James Romberger's Post York spread

Copyright James Romberger

New York-based artist & cartoonist James Romberger and his son, the musician Crosby will discuss their collaboration on the book Post York, a post-apocalyptic comic by Romberger set in a submerged NYC that’s sold with a song by Crosby that expands on the story.  The meeting will include slide shows of Romberger‘s work and a performance by Crosby, so perfectly interdisciplinary for our interests.

Romberger will also be discussing 7 Miles a Second, soon to be re-released by Fantagraphics (article from Publisher’s Weekly here), a biography of artist David Wojnarowicz which he worked on with his similarly multidisciplinary, Lower-East-Side royalty wife, Marguerite Van Cook, and Wojnarowicz himself.  Sounds like another very interesting story from a very interesting family…

You can also follow Romberger through his writings for The Hooded Utilitarian, a comics and cultural criticism e-mag.

via NYCPS’ 34th meeting, Feb. 25 at 7pm.

Dixon Place Tonight

There’s some free experimental musical theater going on tonight at NYC’s hothouse for experimental theater, Dixon Place.  Songwriter Justin Vahala, who has performed songs there before, will be putting on a 30-minute two-person show along with Paul Leopold, What Leaves the Wind has Laid, described as:

The story of two men whose paths cross in an enchanted bathhouse hovering in the liminal space where past, present, guilt, and bacchanalian abandon converge. This conceptual concert explores themes of redemption, hedonism, and the gaps in memory as it seeks to create a different future in a suspended world.

After the 30-minute piece, Justin Vahala will perform new songs too.  A good opportunity to test out the experimental theater waters!

Victoria Roberts at Dixon Place.

Victoria Roberts at Dixon Place. Photo by Barry Hoggard

If you need another Bizarro Twin reason to go, cartoonist Victoria Roberts, who appears frequently in the New Yorker, has a dual life as a performance artist and has performed two pieces at Dixon Place, and you can see some of her character designs for her piece Les Quattre Filles du Docteur March in the hallway leading to the box office!