Last week I performed with the Jewish Music Ensemble at New England Conservatory - it was an uplifting delight, as this ensemble always is. Unfortunately I don't have any video of the actual performance, but my friend and fellow ensemble member Rafael Natan took this fun video of the Hassidic duet that I performed with singer Eunjin Ahn and pianist Seyun Park. (It's truly a candid video - I didn't know he was filming it!) I'm the singer on the right wearing grey, singing the top voice. It's not every day I get the chance to do scat-singing in Yiddish!
Here's another little sneak peak at a song I'll be singing on my recital on April 23 at 4pm in Boston. This is an excerpt from "Crazy" by Willie Nelson (perhaps best known via Patsy Cline), with dynamic superhero Jacob Hiser on piano.
My big Boston concert on April 23 is just a couple of weeks weeks away. I am so excited to share this event with family, friends, and fans. I've been planning this concert for well over two years, and it is a very personal performance that will be very close to my heart.
This concert is the culmination of two years of intensive study at New England Conservatory. With this recital (and subsequent graduation a month later), I somehow become a Master of Music. That's gotta be good, right? The program includes works by Johannes Brahms, Duke Ellington, Kurt Weill, Willie Nelson, and more - plus five of my original songs. I'll be joined by two incredible pianists: my inspiring studio teacher Hankus Netsky, and my friend and colleague / piano superhero Jacob Hiser.
I will also sit at the piano myself for one set, including the bulk of my original material. I've been trying to write songs for 20 years, and previously had always failed... but finally I have written complete songs, and it is a terrifying and exhilarating experience to share them with the world.
I hope you can join me at this special concert on Sunday, April 23 at 4pm in Pierce Hall, 241 St. Botolph Street, Boston, MA.
Free and open to the public. Let me know you'll be there on the Facebook event page!
I am getting very excited to share my recital concert with you three weeks from today. I am thrilled that the pianist superhero dynamo Jacob Hiser will be joining me. He is incredibly talented, I'm loving every minute of working with him... and you're gonna LOVE him too!
The program will feature works by Brahms, Kurt Weill, Willie Nelson, Duke Ellington, and more... plus five of my own original songs.
For now, here's a little teaser of one verse from "God Bless the Child" by Arthur Herzog Jr. and Billie Holiday. Jacob and I recorded this in a rehearsal last week, and the full song will be on the concert on Sunday, April 23 at 4pm, 241 St. Botolph Street, Boston - in New England Conservatory's Pierce Hall.
I'm really looking forward to offering my voice to a special event in Exeter, NH on Martin Luther King Day. I was honored to be invited, and I'll be singing my a cappella rendition of the classic freedom song "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." It's fascinating how social justice leads to more social justice, and art leads to more art: I got this gig from singing the same song at the Exeter Transgender Day of Remembrance event (which I wrote about previously here), and a kind soul heard that performance and asked me to repeat it for this MLK service. I couldn't be happier about that outcome, and feel very strongly how important it is that I offer my voice in the spirit of social justice and remembrance... because let us not forget, Dr. King was murdered -- assassinated -- for his (nonviolent) work pursuing racial justice. Not to put a dark spin on it, but this is one of the relevant aspects of how art can create change, a concept on which I've been musing a lot lately.
You can find out more about the event on my event calendar and the Facebook event page, and you can use Eventbrite to reserve your ticket in advance. The community celebration includes a breakfast before the service.
I am just coming off of a reflective "high" from having been a musical performer at the Exeter Transgender Day of Remembrance (Resilience) Gathering. It's over now, but I wanted to talk about this event for a few reasons... first, to thank the organizers Lisa Bunker and Alex Myers for putting together this incredible evening - it was... so much. So many things. So moving. So powerful. So painful. SO IMPORTANT. (At the end of the service we all lit candles while two young students read the names of all the transgender people who have been killed in hate crimes throughout the world in the last year. Let that sink in for a moment. The list was LONG, folks, and these were just verifiable-via-media-sources trans-specific hate crimes.) The event was very well-attended, the crowd was warm and proud and out and queer (more trans people than I've seen in one location anywhere in NH for sure!), and the ally-ship was inspirational. And there was media coverage! I don't have a TV so I can't watch the actual broadcast, but it seems that this will appear on tonight's NH1 10pm news, and should be on the NH1 website tomorrow. So anyway, Lisa and Alex are heroes, as was anyone who spoke or offered their voice at the event. And from a personal standpoint (I am inarticulately kvelling here, but if you're still reading at this point, yay!), this event was a powerful catalyst for me to realize that as an artist, THIS IS WHAT I CAN DO. I can, and will, offer my voice to stand up to injustice. I can, and will, bring my voice to protest, and to be an ally, and to chronicle my own experiences. I have never been more galvanized, to quote Lisa, with an "upwelling of zeal" that in this scary and dangerous time, I can use my music to give voice to protest. I can. And I will.
I've sung extensively in both German and Hebrew, but this was my first venture into Yiddish. Some of my older family members speak some Yiddish, and I heard Yiddish words and phrases in my family growing up, but I had never heard an entire verse in it, and I'd never tried to say more than the occasional word, let alone sing it. Neither German nor Hebrew are known as the most "singable" of languages -- the consonants they use don't exactly roll off the tongue or out of the throat -- but I really enjoy singing in both languages, and am very comfortable in both. I thought Yiddish would just be a combination, but... not quite! It's been years since I had to practice just saying the words to get a mouth feel, but I did for this one.
So how does one learn a Yiddish swing trio from a recording? Everyone has different methods; I assume if you've read this far, you're interested in learning mine.
I begin with the form, and as a singer, I base that in part on lyrics. I did have a sheet with the lyrics, thanks to inspiring ensemble director Hankus Netsky. Using the lyrics sheet as a sort of map, I figured out the chords by listening to the recording. I work extensively by ear; if that sounds difficult to you, trust me that it gets much easier after lots of study and years of practice. I assure you it was not too tricky, with this upbeat minor tune. The form is also essential - for example, I wrote in where there was a clarinet fill. Line by line, I noted the time in the recording, which helped for reference in learning the piece on my own, and in rehearsing it with others.
Then I transcribed both the vocal lines, in my chickenscratch shorthand. (I call my transcription "chickenscratch shorthand" because I am generally more concerned with notes than rhythms, so the notes are all accurate but many rhythms are absent - we could all pick those right up from the recording, and they weren't worth taking the time to transcribe accurately... also my rhythmic transcription can be, *ahem,* lacking.) I noted times in the recording which corresponded to specific measures: a very helpful tool when learning as well as transcribing, to be able to jump directly to a passage in the recording for reference. (For transcription and study, I use the excellent Voice Record app which allows you to bookmark spots in a recording, as well as speed it up or slow it down: a very good friend to the musician working with recordings.) After completing the transcription, I learned both the vocal lines during practice time on my own.
Then, the fun part: rehearsing with other musicians! (Well, it's all fun, really - but collaborating with other musicians brings new dimensions that I find deeply rewarding.) I began with wonderful singer Jenny Herzog, who took the top line while I took the bottom; both of our voices fit well with that division. Though the original recording is sung by a duo, we added another fantastic singer, Burcu Gulec, to the mix; in collaborative trio rehearsals, Jenny, Burcu, and I wrote a third line for Burcu. She covered the lower harmony and Jenny always took the top line, so I sang the middle voice (which is the melody here, as it generally is in a vocal trio).
After a rehearsal or two as a vocal trio, we joined the band for the whole megillah, as it were. Hankus had parts for the ensemble, very faithful to the original recording, and in no time at all, we were swinging along. We performed this piece at our ensemble performance set on April 16, 2016.
NEC 2016 Jewis Music Ensemble musicians:
Franzi Seehausen, voice
Burcu Gulec, voice
Ilona Tipp, voice
Jenny Herzog, voice
Rafael Natan, oboe/violin
Artavazd Tadevosyan, duduk
Rubin Hohlbein, trumpet
Daniel Bitran, clarinet
Zach Mayer, bari sax
Elinor Speirs, violin
Zhongjia Chen, ghuzheng
Davey Harrison, mandolin/voice
Matthew Okun, guitar
Yaniv Yacoby, percussion
Jeremiah Klarman, piano
I love this combination in a practice room. I wasn't expecting to see the drum in this room (where I practice a lot), but it seems fitting.
If I had something cool to say, it would go here. In the meantime, aren't my cats adorable? Oberon (M) is the black one and Stella (F) is the torbie, and they love to cuddle with each other.