Archive for the ‘acting’ Category

To Webcast Or Not To Webcast

Friday, May 5th, 2017

On May 2, 2017, at 10:00 AM, right after receiving our first general public flyer promoting “Is Anybody Listening? Webcast”, a person, who shall remain anonymous, wrote to me:

“With all due respect, there is nothing like sitting in front of an orchestra as they create sounds with their instruments. I feel that webcasts do not allow us the human contact necessary to intermingle with one another, or watch the person sitting next to you as they smile when they hear a piece of music that thrills them. Or from the beginning of a concert, the search for ones seat, which is such a part of seeing live music.

“Thank you for your suggestion, but I will pass.”

I answered his thoughts with the following:

Hello (Sir),

Thanks for writing back.  You are correct, of course, and that’s why we run the concert live in New York City as well as our webcast. We too love a live show.

But for those who can’t afford to get on a plane from Dallas, TX, much less Paris or some small town in Australia, at one tenth the price of our New York Live show, it’s a pretty compelling experience.  A ticket to a Broadway show now costs between $100 and $500 and up, not to mention the cost of getting there and the extras that “just going out” incur. To view our webcast will cost the individual around $10 or less. And the viewing can be from the comfort of their living room chair with a live visit backstage to meet the stars for a personal talkback at the end that has, so far in the first two webcasts, lasted around 40 minutes plus. In all, a two hour entertainment.

Also, don’t forget television.  It’s not “live”, but it is a powerful entertainment and communication phenomena. I saw a Sting concert the other night on TV that was terrific.  His tour did take him to Madison Square Garden here in NYC, but I was traveling at the time and missed it. I was most grateful to at least experience the better part of it.

Yes, a webcast is an alternative way (with no commercial interruption) to enjoy a performance, and perhaps not as ‘live human’ an experience as one might wish desiring a “live human” performance.  But for those who could never make it in the first place for a large variety of reasons, it’s attracting an otherwise impossible audience all over the world.

One last consideration before I get off my soapbox: We all love our movies.  I used to go out the movies once or twice a week.  Now, if I go, it’s more like maybe once a month and I now watch twice as many movies as I used to from the comfort and enjoyment of my living room chair.  It too is an alternative experience that I’m quite comfortable with.  Also far less expensive …

I don’t expect to change your mind here, rather just give you a deeper insight into why we have gone through so much to do this.  For those who live too far, or cannot afford, we’re finding a most grateful nation. And for those who might just want to stay at home and invite a few friends in for the evening — a great fun and personal experience.  It’s a new world we’re dabbling in and yes, an exciting alternative to a changing world.

I, myself, will renew my Philadelphia Orchestra concerts seats at Carnegie Hall this year and certainly look forward to that!  We hope you will reconsider one night in the future and join us for an extraordinarily reduced cost.  Or join us in the fall in NYC for the next live iteration of “Is Anybody Listening?”  Thanks for listening!

 

Casting In New York

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Casting-Call-waiting-room

For over thirty years I taught the Auditioning course at The Neighborhood Playhouse School Of The Theater here in NYC. At last count I have sat through over 20,000 auditions during my lifetime in show biz. That’s a lot of awkward moments and a few incredible ones.

Auditioning is an art of its own and very few people ever really get it down. First of all it comes replete with nerves. Normally when an entertainer finishes their moment it is met with applause. That’s the culture. But in an audition, when one is finished, it is only natural to be met with a number of critical eyes and at best, silence.

Even the very talented are very fortunate to be “accepted” one out of ten tries. Failure to get the job is the norm for even the best of talents. It’s a tough world.Casting Call 2

Sitting on the other side of the table, as I have done so for over 40 years, has been exciting, tough, boring, awkward and sometimes even painful, and I could regale you for hours with story after story of fascinating moments of human failure and success.

As much as I’ve done it, it never ceases to stimulate the old juices in me to yet again go down that road. Last week was no exception.

On Thursday I saw over 40 singers audition for 4 roles in Is Anybody Listening – Concert Theater and Webcast at the Sheen Center rehearsal rooms in NYC. This was not an open call where anybody could come in if they were patient enough to wait in line all day, but rather a call through a casting director who scheduled top talent through their New York agents..

Still, each singer had only 5-minutes time allotted them to come in, do their thing and knock us out.

Once again I was amazed at the energy of these special creatures – the Broadway kids, the recording artists, the studio singers, the church singers. They sang their 32 bars of an up tempo tune and (in some cases) another 32 bars of a ballad and we had a few words and then they were gone – back out into the streets, and on with their lives.

We called back the cream of the crop, about 15 of them, the following day and spent about 15 minutes with each working with them and finding out more about their vocal instrument, their acting ability within a song, their true sense of pitch, their innate sense of rhythm, their stage personalities, their charisma, their dedication, their ability to handle the curve ball, their ability to take direction, their vocal range, and probably most important, their ability to focus under fire and their grace at being a joy to work with.

audition-1024x768-300x225A lot to gather in 15 minutes, but hey, I’ve been doing this for 40 years, so repetition teaches one to watch for certain things very carefully in order to make the right judgment in the end.

My overall rule is this: The audition is a microcosm of the entire experience you will have with the talent. So if they’re 10 minutes late to the audition, you’ll end up firing them in rehearsal for being late all the time. If they’re a little bit pitchy in the audition, you’ll end up firing them at some point for singing off key. If they treat the pianist improperly because they’re nervous, they’ll make enemies in the cast. And if their nerves affect them a lot in the audition, then how good will they really be opening night when everything really counts in front of the NY critics?

Another thing I often do during callbacks is to, in some way in the course of the experience, throw them a curve. They say in baseball, “You’ll never make it to the majors if you can’t hit the curve ball.” The same holds true for show biz. Everyone is always trying to be on his or her best behavior in an audition. It’s only natural to want to put your best foot forward. But I want to find out how you’re going to act three weeks into rehearsal when everyone’s struggling to learn the lyrics, remember the choreography, sing the right part and absorb the daily changes constantly thrown at them.

So I throw a few curveballs – just to see how they might handle the unexpected.

In the end, after the last note has been sung and the holding room has cleared, we, the staff, sit around the table, spread their pictures out on the table before us and talk each person down with all our thoughts about how good they were, how graceful they were, and essentially if they were the right type for our show. There’s always someone who just knocks our socks off, but just doesn’t fit the type. These, for me, are the toughest to turn down because, well … I just love talent! When that person can really bring it, I don’t have to even think. The chills that run up and down my spine when they’re singing tell the tale. So after they do so well and prove themselves so solidly, it’s really tough to turn them down just because they might not “look” the part.

On those two days of casting, seeing 60-100 performances, we were very fortunate to have at least 20 chill moments. NYC is always full of exceptional talent. The streets just ooze with it. And I must say that those two days were better than a Broadway show! The talent is just amazing.

Irving_Berlin_Portrait

Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin & Oscar Hammerstein Casting

In the end we hired two. We’re still considering one of the others but waiting to decide based on a whole slew of things.

But the two we hired brought tears to my eyes and hope to my heart. The tears were tears of joy at the talent that poured from them. And I just keep thinking, “Wow! I get to work with them! I get to have them in my show.”

Now if we can just raise the rest of the money …

But that’s another story.

God Is Your Rock

Monday, November 30th, 2015
Ragan Courtney Back Then

Ragan Courtney Back Then

“God Is Your Rock” is a make over of a song that began decades ago from the pen of lyricist Ragan Courtney. Ragan was my best friend at the time and we roomed together in Greenwich Village and lived our hippie lives.

Ragan was also an aspiring NYC actor at the time and we had met studying acting at NYC’s Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater where we studied with Sanford Meisner, one of the fathers of American Method acting.

The song, lyrics by Ragan and music by yours truly, was entitled “I’ve Tried Hard” and referenced the Biblical lines about foxes having holes and birds having a nest, but Jesus (as a baby) having no place to lay his head. It was catchy and fun, but strangely a downer because ultimately it said,

I’ve tried hard
I’ve done my best
But now there’s nowhere to go except the road

And that’s just what Ragan did. Eventually, he left NYC and went back home. However, here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn. He became a huge star both as a lyricist/playwright, actor and inspirational leader in the Christian Music world. There he married one of the top singing stars of that world, Cynthia Clawson, and the two of them had wondrous careers and even had their own very popular church for a decade or so in Houston, Texas where Cynthia sang and Ragan preached.

Ragan Preachin' / Cynthia Clawson at Piano

Ragan Preachin’ / Cynthia Clawson at Piano

I was always proud of my pal, Rags.

When Julia and I moved a little over a year ago out of NYC to the country (after 40 years living two blocks from Times Square any place with trees is the country) I reorganized all my past files and notebooks of decades of writing into new and better files. I found myself sitting in my basement for a week every day going through my life as a songwriter and looking through hundreds of songs. With most of them I could remember parts and pieces – the ones that never got recorded, but a few I could not remember at all.

Then I came across “I’ve Tried Hard.” As I read through the lyrics, the entire song came back to me as if it had been written yesterday. I thought to myself, “Hmm, this one’s really sticky. I could really do something with this.”

So I started fiddling with the lyric and one day I just decided to turn it positive and out popped the God is your rock concept. So I finished the new lyric, using much of what Ragan had written before, and called him to see if he might approve.

He did and “God Is Your Rock” was born again.

Jenny Burton

Jenny Burton

It did seem the perfect song for Jenny Burton. You might call it a Gospel flavored rock-a-billy song and I knew she could eat it up. I needed a song for Julia’s Duets album that both she and Jenny could sing together. Julia, being a classical crossover artist would not have been my first choice to sing this funky little song with Jenny. But the idea kept coming up.

Julia Wade

Julia Wade

For a period of time Julia grew up in Georgia, so she had a sense of southern funk to her. On top of it all, Julia’s an actress and is great at morphing into characters when she performs. So we went to work on it. I’ll have to admit that she really surprised me. I think she did herself proud on this song and further expanded her amazing range of styles.

Jenny was a big help as well leading the way stylistically. For her it was a natural and she brings both a spiritual commitment and also a fresh sense of humor to the song.

When you get a chance to see and hear our theatrical concert and webcast, “Is Anybody Listening?” you’ll see the song performed by the two songbirds. It’s truly a fun moment in the show and raises the roof a few inches.

God Is Your Rock

Music by Peter Link

Lyrics by Peter Link and Ragan Courtney

Julia

Foxes have holes

Birds got a nest

But Jesus had no place to lay his head

And now I know

Just how he felt

 

Mountains are high

Oceans are wet

Well I’m about as low as I can get

And I know

I’m all by myself

 

I’ve tried hard

I’ve done my best

Jenny

But maybe your best just ain’t good enough

Without the Lord in your life

 

Girl it’s a long hard road

Julia

Yes it is!

Jenny

When you’re goin’ it alone

Julia

It’s so lonely

 

Jenny

So why not make it a little easier

Julia

Uh huh …

Jenny

Uh with the Lord by your side

He’ll carry you all the way home

 

Remember God is your rock

God is your rock

And his faith in you is solid as stone

 

Julia

You mean he’d carry me

All the way home?

Jenny

That’s right!

Julia

There by my side?

Jenny

Yes sir!

Julia

Bearin’ all my burdens like a long lost friend …

Well I don’t know girl

I think I been gone too long

 

Jenny

But Julia

God don’t hold

No bad blood

Forgiveness is the essence of His humble heart

God is your rock

An’ He don’t let ya’ down

 

Julia

I’ll try hard

I’ll do my level best

To open my mind back to letting him

Come in and be in my life

 

Jenny

And when the road gets long

He’ll always be your song

Step by step settin’ your mind at ease

With all the rhythms of His soul

They’ll carry you all the way home

 

Remember God is your rock

Julia

God is my rock

Both

And His faith (in you) is solid as stone

 

So people take heed

We got what we need

God is always with us when the trouble comes

God is your rock

Mighty in His power

 

Foxes have holes

Birds got a nest

An’ now ya’ know the truth about what God knows best

That God is your rock

And God IS your home

 

[Ad lib Section]

 

God is your rock!

She’s Leaving Home

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Lennon & McCartney

Question: How wise is it to create an alternate version of a Beatles song?

Answer: Not very wise at all.

So the idea of doing a cover of Lennon and McCartney’s absolutely fabulous song, She’s Leaving Home, was met with some trepidation by yours truly. You can’t improve upon those guys; you can only do it differently. Joe Cocker had some success with Beatles covers because his whiskey voice was so different than John and Paul’s. There have been a rare few covers that have been successful, but “rare” is the operative word here.

Many elements on our end seemed right, however. The dramatic idea of a little brother singing this song about his older sister struck both Noah and me as an interesting way to further dramatize the song. His voice and the quality of his acting raised the hopes of speculation. And then, of course, the classical nature of the song thrust me into a more classical approach to the orchestration.

What we ended up with, I believe, is valid. Valid, because it’s different. We’re not in any way trying to improve upon the Beatles. Only a fool would try to do that. That would be like the modern equivalent of trying to improve Mr. Beethoven.

So we approached the song more theatrically. Julia Wade and I played the parents of a daughter who runs away from home one morning and Noah, her little brother, watches it all go down.

Noah was great at living the moment. He has an older sister whom he adores. It would not be a great stretch of the actor’s imagination. I think he nailed it. Hope you agree.

Lennon26mccartney

She’s Leaving Home

Music and Lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Italics = The parents

Wednesday morning at five o’clock

As the day begins

Silently closing her bedroom door

Leaving the note that she hoped would say more

She goes downstairs to the kitchen

Clutching her handkerchief

Quietly turning the backdoor key

Stepping outside she is free

 

She

We gave her most of our lives

Is leaving

Sacrificed most of our lives

Home

We gave her everything money could buy

She’s leaving home

After living alone

For so many years

Bye, bye

 

Father snores as his wife gets in

To her dressing gown

Picks up the letter that’s lying there

Standing alone at the top of the stairs

She breaks down

And cries to her husband

“Daddy, our baby’s gone”

“Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly

How could she do this to me?”

 

She

We never thought of ourselves

Is leaving

Never a thought for ourselves

Home

We’ve struggled hard all our lives to get by

She’s leaving home

After living alone

For so many years

She’s leaving home

Bye, bye

 

Friday morning at nine o’clock

She is far away

Waiting to keep the appointment she made

Meeting a man from the motor trade

 

She

What did we do that was wrong

Is leaving

We didn’t know it was wrong

Home

Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy

Something inside

That was always denied

For so many years

She’s leaving home

Bye, bye

Bye bye

Bye, bye

Review of Nitya Thomas’ new CD/Interview with Nitya

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

blog_amy_duncan
Guest Blogger, Amy Duncan


Review of Nitya Thomas’ CD, Awakenings

Awakenings_500pxBy Amy Duncan

For her debut CD, Nitya Thomas offers three songs that were obviously chosen with great care and love.

The first is a popular hymn from the Christian Science hymnal based on the traditional Irish melody that we know as “Danny Boy,” with words by Rosa M. Turner. Nitya enters humming gently over a lovely, delicate electric piano intro, and we’re immediately captivated by her disarming sincerity, exquisite phrasing, and most of all by the purity and warmth of her voice. Peter Link’s backgrounds are subtle, gently supporting and building just enough as the melody builds…never too much.

The second song, “My Grateful Spirit Sings,” with music and lyrics by Sally DeFord, has Link setting the stage with another deft, tasteful intro—this time with acoustic piano and brass—and then Nitya’s voice enters, singing the uplifting lyrics with comforting simplicity, riding gently over orchestral backgrounds that accompany beautifully the rising and falling of the melody.

The third and final song—a brand new setting for the well-loved Psalm 23—marks Nitya’s Thomas debut as a composer, and we hope to hear more from her. With its gorgeous, soaring melody, it’s plain that this composition flowed straight from the heart, as Nitya herself comments in the liner notes. Link expertly underpins it all with a background of piano and lush strings.

Awakenings is an album to listen to over and over…to savor. When you hear it, you’ll want more. Nitya Thomas’ voice is a one to be reckoned with—it’s not only gorgeous, but her singing is uplifting, effortless, disarmingly unaffected, and sincere—you can tell she means every word. Her pitch is spot on, her diction impeccable—overall, a sheer pleasure to listen to.

You can listen to samples and buy Nitya’s CD here:

http://watchfiremusic.com/artist.php?arid=111

Interview with Nitya Thomas

Nitya at First Church of Christ Scientist, New York

Nitya at First Church of Christ Scientist, New York

So Nitya, you were born in India, right?

Yes, I was born in Bangalore, India, and lived there till the age of 17, when I left home for college. Since then I have studied, lived and worked in the U.K. (London), in the US (in Philadelphia and now New York) and also in Mumbai (India). My family is still based in India, and I visit them every chance I get!

Do you come from a musical family?

Yes I do, although I am the first one from my family who has had the opportunity to study music seriously. My dad is a wonderful guitarist and singer and is a well-known musician in my home-town. I have tremendous respect for his musicianship, because he never had formal lessons, and pretty much learnt everything by ear. My mother studied the piano, and played the organ in church for many years. So I definitely grew up with a lot of music, both sacred and secular.

When did you first become interested in music?

My parents started me off learning the piano when I was six years old, and I took to it very naturally. I also was very often picked to sing solos in both my church and school choirs, as well as to lead smaller ensembles. I always loved singing in harmony, and was always the one who would be asked to sing with the harmony sections that were not strong enough, whether that was alto or soprano! I was primarily a pianist growing up, however. It is very common in India to follow the curriculum of the Royal School of Music, UK, and so I did all their exams concurrently with my schooling and passed all of them with distinction. My piano practice always came before all else, even my studies! Later on in my teens I started taking voice lessons as well, although it was hard to find a teacher in my city who was able to teach vocal technique.

I understand that you had a career in finance. Tell me about that.

When it came time to go off to college, despite all my achievement and dedication to studying the piano, I wasn’t quite ready to focus solely on music as a career. It’s hard for me to really know why, although a large part was probably due to the fact that this is not at all the norm in my country, particularly at that time. Also, as I was very keen to study abroad, and considering this required a substantial financial investment, I was not sure that music was the right field for me at the time. I ended up majoring in Math and Economics and graduated from the London School of Economics. With this background, it was quite natural to find a job in the finance world. My intention was to spend a few years getting some experience and earning some money to repay my student loans. I ended up staying for 4.5 years, and by then, I was very sure that I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life. I ended up taking a year off, and it was during this time that I was led to re-start my musical studies.

Tell me about how you came to the US, and why.

During that year off after leaving the finance world, I applied for a few summer programs in music here in the USA, and ended up doing a Summer Vocal Institute at the Manhattan School of Music. I really enjoyed the program, and decided to apply for a full-time undergraduate program once I finished the summer. So the next year, I came back to New York City, to begin my studies at Mannes College of Music.

How did you meet Peter Link and Julia Wade?

I love telling this story! It was Julia that I first got to know. I had been listening to Julia and Peter’s music for quite a few years, and was already a big fan. I finally got a chance to hear Julia sing in Boston, at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the same summer that I was in the US to study voice. I remember going up and introducing myself and having a little chat – I was super excited to meet her in person, as I was such a fan! I was amazed at how humble and friendly she was. We became Facebook friends, and when I returned to New York to study at Mannes, I got in touch with her, and showed up at a Watchfire Music Listening room concert and we connected once more. I eventually got to know Peter through my friendship with Julia.

And now you work for Watchfire Music…tell me how that came about.

While studying at Mannes, I was part of a Women’s Leadership Program at my residence hall (International House, New York). As part of this program, we needed to find a mentor for ourselves. I just knew that Julia would be the perfect mentor for me. I wrote and asked her, and was thrilled when she said that she would be able to help. During this year of mentoring, I learned a lot, and Julia also got to know my skills and interests. After the program, it turned out that they were looking for somebody to do some part-time work at Watchfire, and it was really the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about this world. I started out just one day a week, and gradually over a period of time, my hours increased, until I was much more involved in the business. Every time I think back on this story, I am just so grateful for this fit of the skills that they needed and those that I was able to provide, and vice versa.

When did you first become interested in Christian Science, and how did you find out about it?

I first heard about Christian Science in my early teens through a family friend who was a Christian Scientist. I also attended a Sunday School camp in Mumbai, India quite early on, and remember thinking how wonderful the people that I met there were! Something about the atmosphere really struck me. Over the years, my aunt, who is a Christian Science practitioner, would often share with me ideas that I found very helpful. There was no church in my city in India, so the first time I attended a Christian Science church was when I went abroad for college. I managed to get a little time in Sunday School as well. The more I learnt about Christian Science, the more it just felt right and intuitive to me. It was like coming home to what I already knew deep down somewhere. All the many questions I’d had about God throughout my childhood were finally being answered in a way that felt peaceful and right. I started attending church very regularly, and was led to take class with a teacher in London. Years later I became a member of the Mother church in Boston.

How has being a student of Christian Science affected your musical aspirations and career?

I think Christian Science definitely played a key role in my decision to study music so much later in life. Humanly speaking, this would not seem like the most rational decision to make—giving up a lucrative career that I had invested in, to go into a world where I would need to begin again from scratch. It was my understanding of Christian Science that enabled me to really listen and pray about my purpose—to give up any sense of fear, and follow where I felt I was being divinely led. It was not easy, particularly in the beginning. I had many people (including teachers) asking me why I was doing this, and telling me that it did not make much sense, which was very disheartening. But every step of the way, despite all the hurdles, there was just something within me that knew this was the right thing to do. Also very importantly, from Christian Science, I have gained the understanding that my abilities are simply the expression of God’s infinite ability, and therefore cannot be limited by age, experience, bad habits, personality, education etc. I’m so deeply grateful for this understanding—it really has really been the foundation of all of my growth and progress in this field.

You are now the soloist at First Church of Christ, Scientist in New York City. How do you think this experience is helping you, or will help you, both spiritually and in your musical career?

It has just been such a wonderful experience at First Church so far, and I am so grateful to the members of this Church for giving me this opportunity. It is such a beautiful and sacred space, and I am so happy every Sunday to be there and to be a part of the service. The position definitely required me to step up right from day one—singing in such a large reverberant space is not without its challenges! But it has been an amazing experience to learn how to do this more effectively and to grow into this role. I am still learning, but very grateful for the progress

I am very fortunate to work with a highly talented, experienced and very supportive organist, Ron Berresford, who makes the whole process such a joy. I’ve also always really enjoyed doing the spiritual study involved in picking out solos—this is one of my favourite parts of the job.

This is your first recording. What was it like for you, preparing for it and then actually recording your CD?

Yes, this was my first experience in the studio, and it did take a lot of learning and preparation. Having worked almost entirely in the acoustic space for the past 4 years, I was very apprehensive of working with mikes. Luckily for me, I had one of the best teachers in the business! Peter Link was very encouraging and worked tirelessly with me to navigate this steep learning curve. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to figure it out, and there was a lot of learning that happened “on the job” so to speak, but thanks to him, the whole experience was really wonderful, and I can’t wait to work more in the studio and get even more comfortable in there!

What plans do you have now that your first CD has been released?

One of my favourite parts of this whole process was getting to work on my own composition, Psalm 23. It was really a thrill to go through the whole process of writing, and then recording it for the first time, and finally getting to hear the finished product. I hope to write more sacred songs over the rest of the year and work with Peter on getting this material recorded and out there!

I heard that you have thought of yourself as shy. How have you been able to overcome this?

I wouldn’t say shy, as much as introverted. I grew up being quite internally focused, and so being in the limelight is not always the easiest thing for me. I find what really helps is being able to really focus on the idea that I’m communicating. It’s then that I lose my sense of self, and therefore self-consciousness, and am able to be much more free. It’s a process I’m still working on and Peter and Julia have been so helpful in this regard. On their advice, I have been taking acting lessons for the past year, in the Meisner technique. This technique places a strong emphasis on really being in the moment, and being truthful to the situation. It has helped me tremendously in my performing. Getting to perform every Sunday in church, has been and continues to be a great discipline and practice for me.

Besides music, what are your favorite things in life…what do you like to do in your spare time?

Hmm, I don’t have a lot of spare time at the moment—I’m so deeply involved in the things that I am working on! I find that now that I’m doing what I love, I don’t necessarily need a lot else. But living in New York city, whenever I do have some spare time, I like to get out into the open and do something active. I love to run by the Hudson river or in Central Park. I am also a huge fan of salsa dancing, and attend classes quite often. As much as I can, I try to make use of living in this amazing city by attending as many performances as I possibly can—whether that is acting, dancing, music or anything else—there is just such a wealth of things happening here!Studio Session nitya-4800 small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview With Noah Marlowe

Friday, April 18th, 2014
Noah Marlowe Celebrating Life w/ Butter Beer

Noah Marlowe Celebrating Life w/ Butter Beer

Noah Marlowe – Age 12

Broadway
Act One                                    Mossy/Bernie                        Lincoln Center

Off-Broadway
Fun Home                                Christian                        The Public Theatre

National Tour
Elf the Musical                          Michael                                    National Tour

Boy Stuff
Baseball, Basketball, Skateboarding, Dance Ballet, Dance Jazz, Dance Tap, Singer

Recording
Miracle Of Faith                        The Boy                      Watchfire Music

Interview Conducted by Amy Duncan

So Noah, have you always enjoyed singing?

When I was little I’d always sing with my sister in the car…we’d always sing Seussical, the musical, together.

Have you had any musical training? I know you don’t read music, but how about vocal lessons?

I’ve had four or five years of vocal training, which started when I was around seven or eight.

Do you think it’s important to know how to read music, or is it enough to have a good ear?

I think that reading music is a really good skill, but in the projects that I’ve done, I haven’t found it necessary because they’ve always just taught me the music, so I haven’t had to learn how to read it.

So you must have a really good ear, then!

Yes, I try…thanks!

You made your Broadway debut in Mary Poppins when you were ten. Did you do any performing in public before that?

I’d done some regional work before that, but not anything of that caliber and prestigiousness.

Actors and singers often say they perform differently each night because the audiences change. Is that true for you?

Yeah, I think it’s very true. The audiences respond differently every night, and so do the performers. What I find really interesting is that with lines that aren’t even funny, people laugh—audiences have their own way of taking in what’s going on, so I feel like the actors often change their performances due to the audience’s reaction.

I bet you can feel the audience’s vibe the minute you walk out onto the stage.

The first time I was in front of an audience, right when I got out there, I was like, I want to do this for a living. Once you feel the audience’s presence like that, it’s just really amazing.

I see that you’ve studied dance. Have you done any dancing in your performances?

We’ve done a lot of choreography, kind of like jazz, but not any tapping or ballet or that kind of stuff. But in Mary Poppins, for instance, there was a lot of choreography.

Let’s talk about Miracle Of Faith, the project you did with Peter Link. What did you think when your dad told you about the job?

It sounded really interesting, and I looked up Peter, and I was just amazed at how much he did. And at the first appointment I had with Peter I knew that this was going to be an amazing project.

And what about when you saw what it involved? You’d never recorded in a studio before and you don’t read music…how did you feel about that?

It seemed like a challenge, but I knew that Peter and everyone would help me through it. He always emphasized getting into the character, which was really helpful in terms of learning the song. Peter’s a great guy, he’s really nice.

It’s a long song, too! How did you go about memorizing it?

In the recording booth, there was a music stand just in case I needed to look at it. But I knew about 95% of it, because we went over it every night, constantly saying the lines and continuing to go over them. Eventually when you familiarize yourself with it so much, it just kind of gets into your bones.

There’s hardly any information about this boy with the basket of fish and bread in the Bible story. As an actor, how did you prepare for the character?

Well, the lyrics did a lot of that for me—they were very informative and I thought they were very good, and as you get into the character you find the story. So once you get into the character, you just kind of make these acting choices. And Peter did so much, and he helped me so much with making this character what it is, with forming this character for myself.

I listened to the recording, and thought it was magnificent. I kept thinking it would be great if it could be staged—did you feel that, too?

Yes, it was a very powerful album and I thought it was great—that’s very funny you should say that, because I was thinking that before! (laughs)

What about your school? What happens when you’re touring?

Normally I go to public school, but when I was touring, unfortunately they didn’t provide the tutors, so we got a lot of work from our school and did that. But I’m doing a show at Lincoln Center right now, and during the rehearsal process they provided tutors—multiple tutors for the different subjects. There are only two kids in the show.

What do the kids you go to school with think about your career?

I don’t really think that they take notice, I mean I don’t really go around talking about it. When I leave school they notice, but they don’t really have any interest in this field, so…

Getting away from music for a bit, what do you like to do in your free time?

I love to read—I read all the time. I always have a book in my hand. I loved The DaVinci Code, and I’m reading a book right now that I really like a lot called Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. He’s a famous author, and it’s just a really good book about an author and his mentor.

Have you ever wanted to be a writer?

Uh, yeah! Just seeing the process really fascinates me, and I think it would be really fun to write some day.

What else do you do in your free time?

I play video games on my computer and on some of the consoles that I have at my house. When it’s nice out I like to go biking, and, uh… I guess that’s kind of it!

What do you think the best thing is about living in New York?

You don’t really see it where I live, but I love New York because you get to meet so many different people—so many different types of people. And it’s really amazing getting to know all these people. Especially in this business, you get to make your own family in the cast, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to close a show. I keep in touch with some of them…a lot of them have a lot that they’re doing, but I do keep in touch with them.

Do you think you’ll want to do what you’re doing now when you grow up?

I definitely want to do this. It’s so much fun, and you just feel like you can escape from the world when you’re on that stage, doing what you’re doing. It’s really great, so I think I want to do that when I get older, also.

So you really enjoyed the experience of singing in the studio and recording. Would you like to do more of that?

Yeah, it was so much fun with Peter, and it’s just a great experience recording songs, so I’d love to do that again.

 

 

Amy Duncan’s Interview with Noah Marlowe

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

blog_amy_duncan
Guest Blogger, Amy Duncan


photoMiracle Of Faith – A Trilogy, is an inspirational suite for orchestra and voices produced and composed by Peter Link with lyrics by Dora Redman and Link. It’s based on the story of Jesus and the loaves and fishes from the Bible, and features three characters: Mary Magdalene, sung by Julia Wade; Thomas the disciple, sung by Peter Link; and a young boy, sung by 12-year old Broadway star Noah Marlowe.

Noah made his Broadway debut at the age of ten as Michael Banks in Disney’s Mary Poppins, and has been busy ever since with other stage roles. He was thrilled to originate the role of young Harvey Milk in June, 2013, in Andrew Lippa’s operatic musical, I Am Harvey Milk, and is currently performing at the Lincoln Center Theater in Act One, a play written and directed by James Lapine from the autobiography by Moss Hart.

I recently interviewed Noah on Skype about his experiences recording Miracle of Faith, and invited him to share his thoughts about his career and life as well.

So Noah, have you always enjoyed singing?

When I was little I’d always sing with my sister in the car…we’d always sing Seussical, the musical, together.

Have you had any musical training? I know you don’t read music, but how about vocal lessons?

I’ve had four or five years of vocal training, which started when I was around seven or eight.

Do you think it’s important to know how to read music, or is it enough to have a good ear?

I think that reading music is a really good skill, but in the projects that I’ve done, I haven’t found it necessary because they’ve always just taught me the music, so I haven’t had to learn how to read it.

So you must have a really good ear, then!

Noah drinking "Butterbeer" (cream soda) at Harry Potter World

Noah drinking “Butterbeer” (cream soda) at Harry Potter World

Yes, I try…thanks!

You made your Broadway debut in Mary Poppins when you were ten. Did you do any performing in public before that?

I’d done some regional work before that, but not anything of that caliber and prestigiousness.

Actors and singers often say they perform differently each night because the audiences change. Is that true for you?

Yeah, I think it’s very true. The audiences respond differently every night, and so do the performers. What I find really interesting is that with lines that aren’t even funny, people laugh—audiences have their own way of taking in what’s going on, so I feel like the actors often change their performances due to the audience’s reaction.

I bet you can feel the audience’s vibe the minute you walk out onto the stage.

The first time I was in front of an audience, right when I got out there, I was like, I want to do this for a living. Once you feel the audience’s presence like that, it’s just really amazing.

I see that you’ve studied dance. Have you done any dancing in your performances?

We’ve done a lot of choreography, kind of like jazz, but not any tapping or ballet or that kind of stuff. But in Mary Poppins, for instance, there was a lot of choreography.

Let’s talk about Miracle Of Faith, the project you did with Peter Link. What did you think when your dad told you about the job?

It sounded really interesting, and I looked up Peter, and I was just amazed at how much he did. And at the first appointment I had with Peter I knew that this was going to be an amazing project.

And what about when you saw what it involved? You’d never recorded in a studio before and you don’t read music…how did you feel about that?

It seemed like a challenge, but I knew that Peter and everyone would help me through it. He always emphasized getting into the character, which was really helpful in terms of learning the song. Peter’s a great guy, he’s really nice.

It’s a long song, too! How did you go about memorizing it?

In the recording booth, there was a music stand just in case I needed to look at it. But I knew about 95% of it, because we went over it every night, constantly saying the lines and continuing to go over them. Eventually when you familiarize yourself with it so much, it just kind of gets into your bones.

There’s hardly any information about this boy with the basket of fish and bread in the Bible story. As an actor, how did you prepare for the character?

Well, the lyrics did a lot of that for me—they were very informative and I thought they were very good, and as you get into the character you find the story. So once you get into the character, you just kind of make these acting choices. And Peter did so much, and he helped me so much with making this character what it is, with forming this character for myself.

I listened to the recording, and thought it was magnificent. I kept thinking it would be great if it could be staged—did you feel that, too?

Yes, it was a very powerful album and I thought it was great—that’s very funny you should say that, because I was thinking that before! (laughs)

What about your school? What happens when you’re touring?

Normally I go to public school, but when I was touring, unfortunately they didn’t provide the tutors, so we got a lot of work from our school and did that. But I’m doing a show at Lincoln Center right now, and during the rehearsal process they provided tutors—multiple tutors for the different subjects. There are only two kids in the show.

What do the kids you go to school with think about your career?

I don’t really think that they take notice, I mean I don’t really go around talking about it. When I leave school they notice, but they don’t really have any interest in this field, so…

Getting away from music for a bit, what do you like to do in your free time?

I love to read—I read all the time. I always have a book in my hand. I loved The DaVinci Code, and I’m reading a book right now that I really like a lot called Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. He’s a famous author, and it’s just a really good book about an author and his mentor.

Have you ever wanted to be a writer?

Uh, yeah! Just seeing the process really fascinates me, and I think it would be really fun to write some day.

What else do you do in your free time?

I play video games on my computer and on some of the consoles that I have at my house. When it’s nice out I like to go biking, and, uh… I guess that’s kind of it!

What do you think the best thing is about living in New York?

You don’t really see it where I live, but I love New York because you get to meet so many different people—so many different types of people. And it’s really amazing getting to know all these people. Especially in this business, you get to make your own family in the cast, which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to close a show. I keep in touch with some of them…a lot of them have a lot that they’re doing, but I do keep in touch with them.

Do you think you’ll want to do what you’re doing now when you grow up?

I definitely want to do this. It’s so much fun, and you just feel like you can escape from the world when you’re on that stage, doing what you’re doing. It’s really great, so I think I want to do that when I get older, also.

So you really enjoyed the experience of singing in the studio and recording. Would you like to do more of that?

Yeah, it was so much fun with Peter, and it’s just a great experience recording songs, so I’d love to do that again.

Noah’s website: http://www.noahmarlowe.com/

You can listen to and purchase Miracle of Faith here: http://watchfiremusic.com/album.php?dcid=230

MiracleOfFaith_197px

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miracle Of Faith – Part 4A

Monday, March 24th, 2014
Noah Marlowe in Vocal Booth

Noah Marlowe in Vocal Booth

Note: I suggest that if you haven’t yet read Miracle Of Faith – Part 1, 2, or 3 yet you start there.  This way you’ll get the whole story.

Installment 4A

The Session:

After 4-5 rehearsals I thought Noah was ready to record.  He had memorized the song, we had gone over the acting moments repeatedly, we had looked closely at all the vowel sounds of the song and discussed how he would negotiate the phrases and we had spent several hours in the vocal booth learning many of the techniques of vocal recording.

At age 12 Noah continued to gather and sustain information each step of the way at an amazing rate.  His work ethic was so deeply appreciated by me.  In the middle of the month of rehearsals he came down with a bit of a winter cough, but quickly came back from that sure and strong.  I looked forward to spending the 3 hours with him on the song.

3 hours is a real workout for any pro singer.  The concentration it takes to pull off a great vocal is so intense that it’s usually the mind that goes before the voice begins to tire.  Most people think you just get behind the mic and sing the song a few times, but not with me.  It’s almost always a marathon of exploring, technical correction, fine-tuning, emotional focus and joyful endeavor.

After each take I give notes – usually no more than 5-7 and then send the singer back in the booth to sing the song again incorporating the notes.  That doesn’t seem so bad, but after 7-11 takes, that’s a lot of notes to remember and incorporate.  This is why preparation is so crucial to a great vocal.  Learn as much as you can before the session, not during the session.

I wondered if a 12-year old boy would have the stamina to do 10 to 12 takes.  Once we hit #5 I began to ask him how he felt, if he was tiring, was his throat sore, could he do one more.  His repeated answer was, “I’ll give you whatever you need.”

to be continued …


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