Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Sam Davis collaboration

Several years ago, back in the days when I was a part of the New Voices Collective (Let's all sigh with sadness that those concerts no longer exist. SIIIIGGGGHHH.), my friend and artistic director Joel Fram gave me a call and told me that our mutual friend Sam Davis was looking for a lyricist for a few songs. There was a quick deadline but I had time, so I said, sure, why not? Usually I get asked to be the composer for other lyricists but I thought this sounded like a fun challenge.

Sam is a beautiful composer and as much as anything, he is a great melodist. So for the first step, he handed me lead sheets of his lush melodies with the chord symbols above them. The songs were titled things like "New Ballad" or "Duet" or "Political Song" and it was up to me to figure out what they should be about. We wrote several songs this way before life and its extenuating circumstances got in our way.

The two most popular of these songs are on my album, "This Ordinary Thursday." Sam wrote music and I wrote lyrics for the song AIR (sung by Will Chase) and PERFECT SUMMER (sung by Kelli O'Hara). But there were several others we wrote and just didn't record. The sheet music for two of those songs has just been made available at my favorite digital sheet music store, Musicnotes. (Click HERE to view my sheet music catalog there.)

The first of the two is a song called "Invested In You." (Sheet music HERE.) It's a duet, and I was playing around with the lyric, trying to write a love song using a whole lot of financial jargon. (Sondheim has a song called "Love's a Bond" from the show SATURDAY NIGHT which was probably my inspiration.) At my last Birdland concert in NY, I had Kate Baldwin and Graham Rowat sing it together. They're actually married, so it was extra-cute. (And I was pregnant, so I was not.)

The second song is a tune called "If I Could." And it's your pretty old-school musical theater ballad (for a tenor) that is both romantic and tinged with melancholy. An actable love song - that was the goal. I don't have video footage of it, but you can listen to Dan Reichard sing the song (its premiere, at the New Voices Collective, SIIIGGGGHHHHH) HERE. My friend Kevin Odekirk has just recorded the song with a full orchestra (!), so as soon as that's released I'll let you all know.

Sam is on the road these days as the conductor of DREAMGIRLS. So if you happen to go see the show, head down to the orchestra pit, say hello, and tell him you heard his songs!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

JRB's Songwriting Blog

Okay, I know I'm biased, but I want to share with you guys the latest blog entry at Jason has started teaching a songwriting class at USC and he's blogging about it. I never got to take a songwriting class, but this is the one I would have wanted to take had the option been available to me. One of the many reasons I love this man is because he's so passionate and eloquent about the craft of musical theater. Whether you're a writer or a performer, there is much to appreciate here. Chalk it up to another set of words I wish I'd written.

Click here: Songwriting for The Theater, Week 1 (by Jason Robert Brown)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

End Of Year Quiz (even though it's January)

I surf the web a lot. It's the thing I do to clear my head when I'm writing. I write for a while, then check Facebook, then write for a while, then read someone's blog, then write for a while, then actually get out of my chair and walk around. I find that when I come back to the work, even if it's only been a few minutes, I'm often able to see with fresh eyes.

So anyway, in surfing along, I found this end-of-the-year quiz and it seemed like a pretty good one as far as these things go. Fun. Distracting. Maybe even a little bit informing in a reflective kind of way. And totally self-indulgent, so I forgive you if you skip this particular entry. It's probably more for me than for you.

Thanks to "All & Sundry" for the questionnaire. (Apparently she lifted it from someone else originally, too. Such is the internet.)

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Got a manager. Wrote for four saxophones. Gave in to having a fake Christmas tree.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Not even remotely. In recent years I've tried just to make one resolution and to make it something totally reasonable. I think this year's resolution was to call my parents more regularly. And there was one stretch where I think I went about two months without calling my dad. So I didn't make one for this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
REALLY close. Me. Also several girlfriends.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
I'm afraid to answer this question. But no.

5. What countries did you visit?
Denmark. Germany.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A production of one of my shows. Patience. A waistline.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The birthdate of my second daughter.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Having a baby. Sorry, I'm sensing a theme here.

9. What was your biggest failure?
The end of a collaboration, kind of breaking up with a partner and letting go of a piece. Also, sometimes I was really bad at returning phone calls. And note the above new year's resolution fail.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Hand infection that required surgery in October.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new house. Also, Ugg boots. I love them. But I really love the house more.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Molly gets the big sister award of all time.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
People who trade (upload, download, re-sell) copyrighted sheet music and prevent the copyright holders from being able to sell their product. (See "Georgia's 2009 Soapbox.")

14. Where did most of your money go?

15. What did you get really excited about?
Family. Commissions. New projects on the horizon, new collaborators.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Single Ladies

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? happier, fuller
– thinner or fatter? fatter, but it's post-baby so I have an excuse for a few months at least
– richer or poorer? poorer. more mouths to feed, less work

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
exercise, cooking, sleeping, writing (always writing)

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Facebook, procrastinating, wishing for things instead of making them happen

20. How did you spend Christmas?
In NYC two weeks before, on Christmas day it was family and close friends at home. I cooked a rib roast.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
I am constantly in love with my husband and newly in love with our baby.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Hate is too strong a word. I don't hate. I really don't. I'm disappointed. I'm annoyed. But I don't hate.

24. What was the best book you read?
Thornton Wilder, THE EIGHTH DAY

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Fauré Requiem. I didn't know it before.

26. What did you want and get?
A new house, a second child, good reviews for ALPHABET CITY CYCLE

27. What did you want and not get?
Back into my skinny clothes, a production of my show, a finished second album, Hawaii

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I went to dinner with some of my best girlfriends in LA. And then my husband and I went away for the weekend.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More time with extended family, less barking dog

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Functional maternity

32. What kept you sane?
Jamie. Rita. Elizabeth. Susan. Ali. Bruce. Alastair. Kevin.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
My crushes tend to be on real people. I can count three that I had this year.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
It's the year of Health Care, isn't it? The recession has been going on for a while but this is the year it hit home. I wish I had unbelievable amounts of money so I could support the non-profits and charities that are struggling.

35. Who did you miss?
Always miss Grandpa Stuart. Miss friends in NY when I'm in LA, friends in LA when I'm in NY. Now I'm missing the Friskes, who moved across the country.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Bruce. Jean Owen. Cheri.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
Do not overpack. I hope I can remember it.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
All Things In Time.

Monday, January 04, 2010


Happy New Year, everyone! I've been on self-imposed maternity leave for almost three months and I've missed you people! I'm going to ease my way back into this blogging thing and am hoping that 2010 brings me many exciting things to write about.

First of all, yes, she's here, and her name is Susannah. For the privacy of my family I'm trying not to print too many details about either of my kids this year, but I will give you this one photo. (Proud momma can't resist.) She's almost ten weeks old and we're just getting into the new rhythms of our larger family. I may not be sleeping much but I'm having a most wonderful time. Molly is a dream of a big sister. I know I'm gonna have a hard time when they're both teenagers, but for now, I'm in pink heaven.

So. Back to it. Professionally, I realize there are a lot of things I missed in the time when I was hibernating. The biggest, most important thing I want to tell you about is the release of my friend Kate Baldwin's album, Let's See What Happens (PS Classics). It came out in late October (I was kind of busy with other things that week), and it's a dreamy collection of golden-era songs written by Yip Harburg and Burton Lane, separately and together. I mention this album for two reasons. 1. I wrote the orchestration to one of the songs, a tune called "Moments Like This." It's track #3, a torchy ballad that I scored for four saxophones, piano, bass, and drums. The band said it sounded like Lawrence Welk and I took that as a compliment. Also, 2. Kate Baldwin is the singer on the recording of my "Alphabet City Cycle" and I think she can do no wrong. Beautiful woman, beautiful voice, beautiful spirit. You should check out her website (, order or download her record, and keep your fingers crossed that you get to see her on stage. (You've got about two weeks to catch her in the Broadway revival of Finian's Rainbow before it closes.)

Okay, that's enough for tonight. Thanks for reading! Woo-hoo -- I got a whole thing completed without a peep from that sleeping baby. Will wonders never cease?