Monday, October 27, 2008

Ah, that Wendy Lane has taste! Johnny Cash's "Hurt" is one of the most moving combinations of artist, song, and image I have ever seen, and it is one of my favorites.
So here are another five that I love enough to have watched repeatedly. All have music, but none of them are what you would call "music videos", because sometimes I just don't want to follow instructions...

1. Dancing with Drummer
There has never been a dancer like Eleanor Powell. She had it all: grace, strength, sex appeal, humor, and rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. And in this clip, she also has the great Buddy Rich on the drums. Watch this one, and notice that once she starts dancing, you are seeing lo-o-o-ng shots, with virtually no cuts.

2. Dancing with Brothers
I remember seeing the Motown 25th Anniversary Special on TV, and swooning over all the performances, but none more than that of the Jackson Five. As amazing as Michael is on his own, it is good to be reminded that the whole group was electrifying.

3. Dancing without Moving
Before the Andrews Sisters became "the" harmony group of the 40s, there was something better: the Boswell Sisters. These Louisiana girls could sing and swing circles around the Andrews Sisters, and I have heard from several different sources that Connee Boswell was Ella Fitzgerald's favorite singer. Check out their impeccable harmony and gorgeous phrasing. The best. Period.

4. Dancing in the Spirit
A few years ago, Oprah Winfrey gave a weekend party to celebrate and pay tribute to the legendary women who have inspired her. Her guests included Maya Angelou, Patti Labelle, Ruby Dee, Leontyne Price, Kathleen Battle, Tina Turner, Sidney Poitier, Smokey Robinson... the list truly does go on and on. This clip shows what happened at the gospel brunch. There were a lot of singers there; does that give you a hint?

5. Dancing with Horse
This horse and rider team bring tears to my eyes. I have done enough riding and working with horses to have a sense of how incredibly difficult it is to do this "dancing", and how much trust we are seeing in front of our eyes.

There are so many more clips: Sammy Davis Jr., Maria Callas, Ella Fitzgerald, on and on. Listening to the records was always great, but it is priceless to be able to see and hear these artists, their expressions, their movement, the excitement of the performances (even if the artist is a horse!). Thank you to all the devoted fans who find these wonderful bits of film and post them!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fun With YouTube

With the crashing economy, bouts of sniffling sneezing, aching and general plague like symptoms, jury duty, and the fact that Miss. Laurel and I are closet political junkies we have not gotten out as much as we would like of late. I did manage to make it out to the Hampton’s Film Fest on Saturday with my friend Michelle for a premiere party Nursery U a film by entertainment lawyer turned docutmentarian Marc Simon. If you’ve ever thought about chucking it all, moving to Manhattan and enrolling your child in nursery school, see this film, and then we’ll talk. Other than that we’ve been counting our pennies, consuming chicken soup and spending countless hours shaking our first at the TV (or blog, or newspaper, or radio) and precious few getting dolled up and doing the town. Fortunately, we are not alone in this, as many of our nearest and dearest have also been sticking close to home these days, so in the spirit of public service we’ve decided to share with you our other secret passion…The wonderful world of YouTube. When we need diversion close to home we have discovered a world of fun lurking in our very own computers. It’s wacky, it’s diverse, and it’s FREE. This week Laurel and I are each sharing our current top five musical faves from the site.

The Muppets - Danny Boy: The Muppets were very big in my house growing up. Partly because my mother and Mr. Henson were both born in Mississippi, he in Greenville, and she in Hot Coffee (yes, really, I’ve been there). Mostly though they were just hysterically funny. Marvin Suggs and his amazing Muppaphone’s version of Lady of Spain was the first thing to make my son laugh uncontrollably when he was a toddler. You can catch all of Marvin’s greatest hits on YouTube too, but this clip is my absolute favorite. How can you go wrong with Beaker, the Swedish Chef, AND Animal singing Danny Boy?

Johnny Cash – Hurt: One of the final recordings of his career. Simply stunning. If you prefer your Nine Inch Nails covers with puppets there is also a version performed by Kermit the frog, not for the Sesame Street Devotee.

Bobby McFerrin – Ave Maria: The vocal is terrific, but more than that he takes the audience along with him in a wonderful moment of musical improv. While you’re there take a peek at his version of Round Midnight, and Hush Little Baby with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. Speaking of Mr. Meyer, who appeared briefly on this page a few weeks back, there is a clip of a duet he did with Victor Wooten called Coolest Bass Duet Ever that pretty much is. YouTube videos are a lot like potato chips it’s hard to watch just one. One video leads to another and before you know it the day is gone, and you’ve got nothing to show for it except cats that won’t speak to you because you were so engrossed you forgot to feed them.

Keith Jarrett – Then I’ll Be Tired of You: His physicality is unlike any pianist I’ve ever seen, but if that’s what it takes for him to make this sort of music who cares? There are also some great clips on the site of Bill Evans.

Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt – High Sierra: Three fantastic and highly individual singers making music together.

If you want to keep going you can check out the clips of Stephen Sondheim working with the students at the Guildhall School in London (wow!), A gospel medley with Dolly Parton and Carol Burnett (Huh?), and Sarah Vaughn singing The Nearness of You (Ahhhh). Send us your favorite video from the site and we’ll enter you in this month’s 0-10 challenge where we are searching for entertainment that costs less than ten bucks. Our prize is a CD compiled especially for you of cuts by Miss. Laurel and myself. And now…take it away Laurel…..

Friday, October 10, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation… PLUS… October's Reader Challenge…..

It would seem a bit odd that only now when most normal people are deciding which presidential candidate to impersonate for Halloween am I getting around to this post. However, with all of our running here and there over the past few weeks I kept getting delayed and here we are. So without any further delay on my part… my summer story….

After six years of administrating a summer conference for singers I announced my intention of taking the summer off. This was met with varied reactions from skepticism to confusion and in the case of my friend Michelle, a plot to kill me. Michelle is my “sporty” friend, gorgeous, all of five feet tall, and one hundred pounds soaking wet, but I’d never be fool enough to bet against her in a fight. She’s fierce, and burns near as many calories as Michael Phelps on a typical day. I’ve seen her eat her six foot six former pro football playing husband under the table when dessert was involved and still fit perfectly into a size four. Life is not fair. Upon hearing that I would be taking time off she announced that idle hands were the devil’s (or maybe Jenny Craig’s) workshop and that she was going to take charge of ensuring that I spend the summer attempting to do all the things I’ve never done before. Namely, golf, tennis, mountain biking, and horse back riding, with a bit of yoga thrown in for good measure. A few trips to the local ER and one near death experience quickly convinced me that I was not cut out for the sporting life and that the better part of valor would be for me to return to the world where I belonged. In this case the recording studio where all I would have to hit would be the correct notes and chances of accidental dismemberment were far less likely. So I ensconced myself in the small recording studio at Rick Jensen’s and worked on putting some of my favorite tunes and arrangements on the record. With Rick acting as arranger, and producer, Miss. Laurel advising, doing some of the co-producing and a back up vocal here and there, and my friend Lisa Poulos providing a few additional harmonies we had a grand old time. I have worked on other people’s recordings and that has always been great, but it’s nothing like doing your own thing.With Rick and Laurel I couldn't ask for better creative partners and that makes it all the more fun. I love being in the studio, and I am looking to do some more recording over the next year. In the meantime, we have been working on getting things mixed and up onto my website( a tune at a time. I’ll keep you posted as things develop, and I hope you enjoy what we’ve done so far. Remember it keeps me safe and off the golf course. Alas, Michelle has not yet given up on her plan. She keeps trying to lure me back to sports with the promise that this gives me the perfect excuse to get a whole new shoe wardrobe. Any shoe that involves a rubber sole is not worth dying for. There are pictures of my sporting odyssey but I fear the world is not ready for snaps of me wielding a gold club.

All of this brings me to our October giveaway…..

First the prize: This month we’re giving away a CD devised especially for our winner with two tracks by yours truly and two by Miss. Laurel. To win you won’t even have to perform any feats of athletic prowess you just have to participate in something we Redheads are calling The 0-10 Challenge. We’re looking for cultural stuff to do that costs less than $10. All you have to do is write in with your suggestions for great entertainment that fall within that price range. Over the course of the month we’ll check them out and write about some of our favorites. The very best one (or maybe even two) will be declared our winner and gets a CD with us warbling away. Not in the NYC area? Not a problem, share some of the fun things going on in your neck of the woods that meet our criteria and you’ll be eligible too. You have till Halloween to get your entries in, so get out there and find some cheap thrills!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Words & Music & Pictures

As promised we remembered to bring out our trusty camera to memorialize our fabulous trip to DC for the Words & Music master class. Here are a few shots of the people who made it a memorable day...

Miss Wendy Lane with Tim Tourbin, her high school chum (and a darn fine singer himself) who along with his partner Jeff offered your Redheads his home for the evening before the class. Note the look of slight surprise on his face: who knew two redheads and their paraphernalia could take up almost on entire floor for on overnight trip!

Miss Laurel & Tim wondering if 8:30 AM on a Saturday is really the best time to take photos.

Class participant Maura Mendoza with our accompanist one of DC's best and best dressed Ron Chiles. (Alas, the tux wasn't for us he was off to another gig right after ours!)

Our DC Singers with Laurel: Left to right Maura Mendoza, Joanne Hyder, Christy Trapp, Laurel, Kathy Reilly, Chris Herman, and Terri Allen.

The moment we discover that we really could use a camera with a timer so that we can all be in one picture. Wendy Lane with the group.

We love coming to DC, and will be back for another class on March 14th. In the meantime big hugs and kisses from us to everyone who shared this experience with us. Special thanks is due to Tim Tourbin and Jeff Hamlin for housing us and feeding us a magnificent meal, to Terri Allen who takes care of all our class needs by booking our studio space, accompanist, and lugging and providing her sound system for our use. We couldn't have done it without you!!!!!

Our next class coming up will be on October 25th in New York City. If you want more details just click HERE and drop an email.

Your Redheads

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The weather was dark and rainy, but the singing was full of light. That is my memory of the great workshop master class that Wendy Lane and I taught in Washington, D.C. last weekend. After a long drive from New York City, we arrived in D.C. in time for a lovely dinner with friends (and then watching the presidential debate). On Saturday morning we met with the six singers who had enrolled in the master class,and spent the next four hours working toward richer and more nuanced interpretations of the wonderful songs they brought in. I want to thank Terri Allen, Maura Mendoza, Chris Herman, Joanne Hyder, Kathy Reilly and Christy Trapp for their great work and wit. And a respectful tip of the Redhead hat to pianist Ron Chiles, who accompanied everyone with perfect taste and contributed his experience and observations to the class. It was an inspiring day.
Our next master class in the D.C area will be in March 2009, and we are already looking forward to it!