ARTISTRY & THE ARTIST:SEUNGHEE LEE. REVIEW by VINCENT NAUHEIMER

Artistry and the Artist by V. Nauheimer

Last night, Seunghee Lee opened Charles R. Hale’s 2018 series “Thoroughly New York.” She was an unequivocal success.  

Ms. Lee, a brilliant clarinetist, is a storyteller like Charles, who enhances story through musical performance.  Effectively handled, there is a synergy in which the narrative and the music become greater than the sum of their parts. What made this show different is that Ms. Lee was both the musician and the storyteller, engaging the audience with her humor, life experiences and carefully selected musical scores to punctuate each story. It made for a richly rewarding experience. 

Ms. Lee played her clarinet with ease and grace, but her performance went far beyond her immense musical skills. She shared an inspirational story of how she’d arrived at this time and place in her life and how she’d wrestled with her love for music and roles as a clarinetist, a mother and wife. At one point she described a moment in her life when in despair, she gave up her music, but turned it into a humorous moment by flashing a photo onto the screen of her clarinet, in her home, with a lampshade over it. Ms. Lee explained that even though she wasn’t actively using it at that point in her life she did not want to let it go. Clearly, the world is richer because Ms. Lee came back to her clarinet.

Ms. Lee opened her show with an Elgar piece that is very dear to her, Salut d’Amour Bravo, (Salute to Love) She explained how the piece was written for violin, but because of her love for the work, she became the first clarinetist to record it. It was a pattern that she would repeat often, which included producing a book containing sheet music for the clarinet called “Hidden Treasures.”

Ms. Lee also regaled us with tales of her love of golf even comparing it to music, noting that each discipline required,  “practice, practice, practice…” as well as finding a good teacher, having fun and developing a good rhythm and tempo. To punctuate the story, she played Gabriel Faure’s 1893 piece, Sicilienne, which she stated gave her a sense of freedom and wonder while she played golf.

As the evening progressed, it was clear that little held back Ms. Lee. When it came to performing and her love of her instrument…anything was possible. Nothing underscored that more than her two Puccini arias “O Mio Bambino Cara” from Gianna Schicchi and “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot. I’m an opera fan, but hearing these well known arias performed as clarinet solos was a richly rewarding experience. While Sunny performed, accompanied by pianist Evan Solomon, it would have been impossible not to hear Kathleen Battle or the great Pavarotti, whose signature song was Nessun Dorma, singing these arias.  Quite riveting. 

The most moving moment of the evening was Ms Lee’s tribute to her father, who was taken from her in a most unfortunate and untimely manner. To honor his life, which included introducing her to the clarinet, as well as instructing her, Ms. Lee performed her father’s favorite song, “Danny Boy.” The soul and emotion she put into the song was a magnificent tribute. The audience was on the edge of their seats, the emotion palpable.  

I’d never experienced a classically trained musician of Seunghee Lee’s talent, combine superior musicality and riveting storytelling. A novel concept, superbly crafted.  It was an exceptional evening and if this is a portent of things to come, I await the next performance in this series, “Thoroughly New York,” with great anticipation

Photos by Mitch Traphagen

CHARLES R. HALE PRESENTS: A MUSICAL HISTORY OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE

Clockwise from upper left, Yuri Juarez, Mala Waldron, Ashley Bell, Charles R.Hale, David S. Goldman, Clare Maloney, and Alicia Svigals

Charles R. Hale has developed a reputation as a storyteller who blends imagery and performance art to create uniquely New York experiences. His show, “Jazz and the City” was a sold out success at the American Irish Historical Society last fall and he’s returning with another show, “A Musical History of the Lower East Side.”  

This special concert will present songs reflecting the historically rich ethnicity of the New York City’s Lower East Side. You’ll hear an all-star cast perform Irish laments, Yiddish and Ladino music, operatic and Neopolitan songs, German lied, jazz and blues, all representative of the ethnic groups who have passed through the Lower East Side. The show will also include images and historical narration provided by Charles.

“A Musical History of the Lower East Side” premiered at Rockwood Music Hall in 2015 to a standing-room-only crowd and has been performed at Lehman College and BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center.

The performers include Charles R. Hale, (Narrator, Writer); Ashley Bell, (Opera Singer); David S. Goldman, (Vocalist, Guitarist, Music Director); Clare Maloney, (Vocalist); Yuri Juarez, (Guitarist, Composer) Alicia Svigals, (Violinist) and Mala Waldron, (Vocalist, Pianist).

The show takes place on June 12, 2018. Showtime is 7:00pm and will be followed by a wine reception. The American Irish Historical Society is located at 991 Fifth Avenue (Between 80th and 81st) For tix and additional information CLICK HERE

 

 

ARTISTRY & THE ARTIST: SEUNGHEE “SUNNY” LEE, WEDNESDAY at THE CELL

 

Seunghee Lee, “Sunny”

TICKETS FOR SEUNGHEE LEE ON MAY 16  CLICK HERE.

“Now here is a talent…  who has as warm, silvery, and woody a tone as anyone could imagine with fast and keen finger work to match… amazing expressive capabilities… positively lovely” – Review by Allmusic.com

Seunghee Lee is a multi-faceted musician, international recording artist, and musical entrepreneur, Seunghee (Sunny) brings a vivacious energy, an exquisite elegance and extraordinary precision to all her endeavors. Ms. Lee has been recognized by the Clarinet Magazine as “an uncompromising soloist, destined to be an upcoming contender of top stature”.

Sunny’s 2017-2018 season included a tour of northern Italy performing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, visiting professorship at Yale School of Music, and a Sold-Out debut recital at Carnegie Hall. An advocate for exploring new ideas, embracing all musical genres, one of the greatest highlights was her collaboration with DEEPAK CHOPRA on his new album & book: HOME: Where Everyone is Welcome, a collection of thirty-four original poems and twelve songs inspired by a diverse group of immigrants.

Click here to listen to Sunny performing “Gabriel’s Oboe” with composer Andrea Morricone, who is also the composer of the “Love Theme” from Cinema Paradiso, which you can hear Sunny perform here.

Join us for, “Artistry & the Artist, a great night of music and storytelling.  TICKETS FOR SEUNGHEE LEE ON MAY 16  CLICK HERE.

“WOMEN WHO HAVE OVERCOME” at LEHMAN COLLEGE, MAY 10, 2018

Join Mala Waldron, Theresa Sareo, Connie Roberts and Charles R. Hale.    

On Thursday, May 10th, 12:30pm, Artists Without Walls, in conjunction with Lehman College’s City and Humanities Program, presents “Women Who Have Overcome,” a discussion with three women who, despite being presented with major obstacles at different points during their lives, have gone onto successful careers in the arts and education. 

Jazz pianist/vocalist Mala Waldron, poet Connie Roberts and singer/songwriter Theresa Sareo will be discussing their lives as well as sharing their talents with the audience. Charles R. Hale will moderate the event. Special thanks to Professor Joseph McElligott for sponsoring this program. 

The event will be held in the Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College. For directions to Lehman, click here

Photo montage by Mitch Traphagen. 

Theresa Sareo, Connie Roberts and Mala Waldron

BIGGER THAN LIFE….AFTER LIFE: JOHNNY HARTMAN, EVA CASSIDY AND ETTA JAMES

Bigger than life…after life.  

Johnny Hartman

A number of singers didn’t get the recognition they deserved in their lifetime for one reason or another. Johnny Hartman, the quintessential romantic balladeer, earned critical acclaim early in his career, but he wasn’t well known. He recorded a brilliant album with John Coltrane–“John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”–in the mid-sixties, but it wasn’t until 1995, twelve years after his death that his reputation grew considerably. When the film “Bridges of Madison Country” was released in 1995, four of Hartman’s songs were featured. You might remember the scene in which Merryl Streep and Clint Eastwood danced in the kitchen.  They danced to Hartman singing “I See Your Face Before Me.”  Here it is…“I See Your Face Before Me.” 

Eva Cassidy

Eva Cassidy is another. Her recordings of a number of American Songbook classics are sublime. But Eva, who died of cancer in her thirties, received little recognition during her lifetime. Now, many of her recordings have become modern day standards. Here’s one of my favorites…Autumn Leaves. If you haven’t heard Eva sing this tune, you are in for a treat…beautifully sung with intense longing. 

 

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Etta James

And then there’s Etta James. A few of her songs were hits during her lifetime, including “At Last,” but she is only now getting the recognition she deserves. Listen and watch here  “I’d Rather Go Blind,” as Etta performs with Doctor John.  Etta was, in my opinion, an  underrated talent. No more. 

There’s a reason I feature Hartman, Cassidy’s “Autumn Leaves” and James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” in two of my shows, “Jazz in the City” and “Crossing Boroughs.”  They’re fabulous. 

 

 

 

GRATITUDE

Seven years ago I had very little contact with musicians, actors, writers…artists of all stripes. First I met author/historian Peter Quinn, then director/editor Martha Pinson and Professor Joe McElligott and from there I met one great artist after another. My life has been  immeasurably enriched by my acquaintance and collaborative work with each. I thank them all. 

The mosaic above, which was created by Mitch Traphagen, features fifty artists with whom I have collaborated…past, present and a number with whom I am working on a future project. 

If you hover your mouse over the page, a name will appear…click on the image, you’ll be taken to the website or featured work of each person…well, almost every person. 

Thank you all for adding so much to my life. 

CELEBRATING our TWENTY-FIFTH PERFORMANCE of “JAZZ IN THE CITY”

Once a month for the past two years, the David Raleigh Quartet and I have taken our audience on a journey…a musical journey, incorporating story and song. Our performance at the Duplex, in Greenwich Village, this past Thursday was our twenty-fifth performance of “Jazz in the City.” In addition to the Duplex, the show has been performed in New York City at The Cell, Lehman College, The American Irish Historical Society and the Triad.  

The show features the stories and songs of the artists and composers who for the past 375 years have paid homage to city they call home. Many of their songs were popularized in New York’s venues like the Village Vanguard where Miles, Mingus and Monk performed and venues that are long gone, such as Cafe Society where Billy Holiday debuted “Strange Fruit.” And then there are the stories and songs that I associate with New York through ancestral, familial and personal recollections.

I grew up listening to music of the sixties: The Ronettes, from uptown, the Crystals, from Jamaica, Queens, where I was born, Dion and Belmonts from the Bronx and the New York stylings of the Drifters. But there were always two radios on in my house: One in my room and the other wherever my mother was. My mother listened to WNEW, a station that showcased the tunes of Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer and George Gershwin.  Thus, I learned about and came to love the wonderful and enduring music of the “American Songbook.”

And how fortunate am I to be performing with four incredible musicians, David Raleigh, Tony Carfora, Danny Weller and Daniel Glass. What a wonderful experience. You can come out and share the experience at our next show at THE DUPLEX , in Greenwich Village in NYC on June 21, 7pm. For tickets and additional information CLICK HERE

Photos by Mitch Traphagen.

Danny Weller and Daniel Glass

 

David Raleigh, Tony Carfora and Danny Weller

 

David Raleigh, Tony Carfora and Danny Weller

 

Charles R. Hale

 

David Raleigh

 

Danny Weller

Tony Carfora and Danny Weller

CHARLES R. HALE PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS: “THOROUGHLY NEW YORK”

From top left: Miho Hazama, Nicole Zuraitis, Sunny Lee, Charles R. Hale. From bottom left: David S. Goldman and Yuri Juarez

Charles R. Hale Productions’ series “New Yorkers: Together in Story and Song.” was both an exciting and succesful experience. Each of the seven shows filled The Cell theatre and consistently offered superior performances to appreciative audiences.

This year’s series, “Thoroughly New York” is set and our performers and I are looking forward to rewarding our audience with another great season of top-notch entertainment, in a great setting–The Cell–at a very reasonable price. The “New York” performers are Seunghee Lee, Yuri Juarez and the Afroperuano Group, Miho Hazama and m_unit, the Nicole Zuraitis Quartet and David S. Goldman and Charles R. Hale.

Clarinetist Seunghee Lee/”Sunny” is a multi-faceted musician, international recording artist, and musical entrepreneur, Seunghee brings a vivacious energy, an exquisite elegance and extraordinary precision to all her endeavors.  Of Sunny, Allmusic.com said, “Now here is a talent… who has as warm, silvery, and woody a tone as anyone could imagine with fast and keen finger work to match… amazing expressive capabilities… positively lovely” May 16, 7:30pm. Tickets are on sale now at $25 if purchased in advance– click here.  Tickets are $30 at the door. 

Yuri Juarez has performed in a number of shows written by Charles R. Hale, including, “The Musical History of the Lower East,”” New York: A Shining Mosaic” and Yuri appeared with his Afroperuano band in last year’s series “New Yorkers: Together in Story and Song.” Yuri and his band are proof that the music of Peru is fast occupying a prominent part of the world stage. If you haven’t heard these musicians perform you are in for a great treat. Yuri and the members of his band are internationally acclaimed and their shows are nothing short of fabulous. June 13, 7:30pm

Tokyo born composer Miho Hazama, one of New York’s most astounding young talents, will be performing with her signature ensemble “m_unit.” Lauded in Downbeat as one of “25 for the Future,” Miho is quickly establishing herself as a force of nature on the world’s stage. Her masterful understanding of harmony and orchestration combined with a who’s who of musicians results in riveting performances to packed adoring audiences at venues such as the Jazz Standard, Blue Note NYC and Tokyo, Dizzy’s Club Coca-cola, the Jazz Gallery and wowed the crowd at The Cell last year, as part of CRH Pro’s series “New Yorkers: Together in Story and Song.” July 12, 8:00pm

Audiences worldwide have been enchanted by the seismic talent of inspired jazz vocalist, keyboard player and songwriter Nicole Zuraitis who blends bountiful songwriting skills, an effervescent presence and dazzling vocals in a consummate package that has thrilled audiences. Nicole is the 2016 New York City Songwriting Competition Coffee Music Project Winner, 2015 second runner-up in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition and the 2014 Herb Albert ASCAP Young Composer Awards Winner. Nicole has headlined the Blue Note (NYC) and maintains residencies at the 55 Bar (every second Thursday of the month), Rockwood Music Hall (with the Dan Pugach Nonet), and Redeye Grill. August 14, 7:30pm

David S. Goldman is a world-traveled singer-songwriter who performs in many genres, including blues, folk, pop-jazz, and the romance and other foreign languages. He has appeared at Tarrytown Music Hall, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Irvington Town Hall Theatre, etc. and recently did a reading of his original work at Deepak Chopra’s CD and book release.  Charles R. Hale has written a number of  “New York” centric shows that blend imagery and performance art to create uniquely New York experiences. His historically-themed shows, including “Crossing Boroughs” which was recently performed at the Museum of the City of New York, incorporate story, music, imagery and dance.  David and Charles share a great love for the family “characters” who came before them and the New York neighborhoods they inhabited. Using music and story, a central part of each of their lives, Charles and David re-create the stories of their family’s lives, some sad, some uproarious. November 19, 7:30

A very big thank you to our Executive Producers, Chris Grygon and Michael Fletcher, Gail and Joe McElligott, John Moran, Tom Myles and Lisa Sullivan for once again making another great series possible.

Tickets in advance of each show are $25. CLICK HERE for Seunghee Lee’s show. Ticket links for the remainders of the shows will be added shortly. A subscription to all five performances is $90, which is a 28% discount CLICK HERE

 

 

 

THE EXPRESSIVENESS of SILENCE and SPACE in STORYTELLING, MUSIC and ART

 Here’s a story that I wrote, which was published a few years ago: 
.

Recently, a few friends and I gathered in a local pub when the subject turned to “silence and space” in art. When one of my friends mentioned that he once heard Pete Seeger say, “It’s not what you put into a song, it’s what you leave out that counts,” the music of jazz great Miles Davis came to mind. When I began listening to Miles I was struck by his ability to do more with silence and empty space than any musician I had ever heard. Miles didn’t fill every second with sound. He understood the power of silence. Listen to “It Never Entered My Mind.”

Great artists have the ability to create with less, allowing us our own space to develop our own story: Francisco Goya, in his Tauromaquia series used blank canvas and shadings of grey and white to create the feeling of space. In this sketch, Goya uses empty space to dramatize the fury of a singular moment of horror during a bullfight.

Johan Sebastian Bach understood the power of silence and space as well. During Bach’s B Minor Mass, at the end of the section marked Crucifixus (Crucification), the music slowly sinks into silence, followed by a pause—a moment of contemplation, a moment of space—and then, an explosion of joy and revelation in the Et resurrext. (The Resurrection)

A year ago I received a note from a friend. “Would you read a story I wrote? Something’s missing. I’m looking for a word or words that will give the last few paragraphs more impact, more oopmh. Nothing seems to work.”  I read her story and while I claim no great editorial skills, I felt the character development was wonderful, the story had great pace, from the inciting incident, which created conflict, through the midsection’s rising tension, right up until the crisis point or conflict resolution. The ending was perfect. I sent my friend a note. “I could see your character in the last scene and I understood his problem. I knew his motivations and I was there with him. You didn’t have to tell me the character was desperate or frantic, you’d done all the heavy lifting earlier. Your shorter words and shorter sentences built a moment of high drama. Your writing shows great respect for your reader; you allow them the space to be creative; you allow them the space to furnish the emotion. Less is more. In my view, that’s what often makes for great storytelling.”

The power of space and silence were never more evident to me than when I spoke before a gathering of college students and their families a number of years ago. The subject was the value of family stories. I was undecided about including the story of my mother’s sister’s death, a baby who died seven hours after she was born, until the moment I began speaking. I feared that I’d have difficultly controlling my emotions, yet, within a few minutes—I don’t know why—I started telling the story.

As I feared, her death and burial, and the emotions that the story evoked in me, were still too raw. I bowed my head and my eyes filled with tears; I had no idea how I would go on. Finally, I looked up. I was astonished. The entire front row was crying. I regained my composure. I was able to finish my story.

The events of the day became clear to me later in the evening. During the story’s build-up a number of listeners were probably experiencing a bond with my grandmother, grandfather or me. They were sharing a powerful story and many may have assumed the role of one of the characters in the story. Other listeners may have experienced the same wound and so they filtered my story of the baby’s death through their past. When I paused, the listeners may have been provided the space in which they could explore their thoughts, furnish their own emotions, and develop their own stories.

Miles Davis once said, “‘It’s not about the space you play, but the space you leave.” Allowing for space and silence may be one of the keys to effective creative expression, not only for the artist, but the artist’s audience as well.

“CROSSING BOROUGHS”: REVIEW by VINCENT NAUHEIMER

Crossing Boroughs appeared at the City Museum of New York on Jan. 28, 2108:

 

The audience at the Artists Without Walls’ presentation of “Crossing Boroughs,” which was written and created by Charles R. Hale, was treated to an outstanding mix of singing, dancing, music, and history last Sunday afternoon at the Museum of the City of New York. Weaving together the intricate blend of the music, dance, history and culture that defined each of New York City’s boroughs, “Crossing Boroughs” showcased the magnificent tapestry that defines New York City. Combining a superb narrative, slideshows, singing, dancing and monologues, the show transported the older members in the audience back to the days of their youth, while giving the younger folk a glimpse into New York City’s past.

Vocalists David Raleigh and Niamh Hyland

The opening slideshow presented visual snippets of New York City, which provided the backdrop for Niamh Hyland who sang “Midnight in Harlem” with enough soul to rock a congregation. Charles R. Hale picked up from there, narrating a brief history of Manhattan and its past, his words accenting and explaining the slides flashing across the screen. This background material led to a duet, “Manhattan,” a song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and performed by Niamh and David Raleigh.

Jack O’Connell, while holding a Spalding, known as a “spaldeen,” recounted Brooklyn born Pete Hamill’s description of “stickball” as he knew it growing up in Brooklyn, including the fact that Spaldings were not manufactured during WWII because of the rubber shortage caused by the war effort. Growing up in the Bronx, I can attest to the fact that stickball was played with the same rules across boroughs.

“Crossing Boroughs” creator Charles R. Hale

Stickball transitioned to baseball when Charles shared a personal story…his father taking him to his first baseball game at Ebbets Field. It was his first chance to see the Dodgers and Charles recounted the game and the chance meeting with Jackie Robinson at a stoplight as Charles and his dad drove home from the game. This personal touch, acknowledging the importance of the father-son bonds that were formed over the game of baseball, drew the audience in as they reflected on their ties to baseball. To add to the realism of the baseball moment, midway through Charles’ story, Jack O’Connell, to the sounds of a ballpark crowd, walked down the aisles dressed as a ballpark vendor: “Peanuts, popcorn, cracker-jacks….getcha cold beer…cold beer here….soodaaa, soodaa.”

Actor Jack O’Connell

From Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, we were transported to Coney Island when Jack O’Connell (Man of a Thousand Faces) appeared as a carnival barker from the Midway where he pitched the various sideshows that were flashing on the screen behind him. This seamlessly transitioned into the story of another carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, from the 1945 Broadway show “Carousel.” Niamh Hyland once again wowed the audience with her rendition of “If I loved You,” Julie Jordan’s thoughts on her relationship with Billie

Moving from Brooklyn to Queens, Charles took the audience to the 1939 World’s Fair and the introduction of nylon stockings, which led to the opening dance number, “Nylon Stockings.”  David Raleigh sang the song, which featured  the very talented young dance duo, Laura Neese and Johnathan Matthews.

Dancers Laura Neese and Jonathan Matthews

Continuing through Queens, Charles once again brought the audience into his early life as he recounted his fond memories of Saturdays at one of the five New York Metro “Loew’s Wonder Theaters.” A short video depicted the grandeur of those theaters, which struck a solid chord with all who had the opportunity to spend time at those theaters, regardless of which borough they hailed from.

From Queens, the show moved over to the Bronx where once again, Laura and Johnathan traversed the floor in magnificent style, dancing the Lindy Hop to Dion and the Belmonts, “I Wonder Why.” The dance scene was followed by a fascinating narrative in which Charles combined the opening of the Triborough Bridge with the concurrent history of the Randall’s Island stadium, located beneath the Triborough, and the part it played in selecting the runners who represented the United States at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Every show has its highlight: This shows highlight was Niamh Hyland’s performance of the Etta James’ song “I’d Rather Go Blind.” Niamh nailed it, boxed it and delivered it to an audience that devoured every note. At the end of her song, thunderous applause spontaneously erupted as several members audience jumped to their feet paying tribute to the superb performance they had just witnessed.

Vocalist and music director Niamh Hyland, guitarist Shu Nakamura and bassist Mary Ann McSweeney

Once again, back in Manhattan at McHale’s Bar, Jack O’Connell took the stage to give us a sobering portrayal of a bartender speaking to an invisible customer (or the audience?) while reciting Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row.” A poem that perfectly describes the seedier side of life–desolation–in New York.

As we headed out to the final borough, Staten Island, footage from the Staten Island Ferry with the Manhattan skyline in the background filled the screen. Accompanying the visual, David and Niamh sang “Leaving New York.” The entire experience was made complete by the accomplished musicians who provided the musical accompaniment led by renowned guitarist Shu Nakamura, drummer Shirazette Tinnin, keyboardist Steve Okonski and bassist Mary Ann McSweeney.

The Band for Crossing Boroughs

For this Bronx boy, who has lived and worked in New York City most of his life, this was a terrific afternoon. It is not very often you see a show that skillfully combines New York City nostalgia, song, dance, music, and fun into one package. Kudos to Charles Hale Productions and everyone that contributed to making “Crossing Boroughs” a most enjoyable show.

Crossing Boroughs was created and written by Charles R. Hale. Charmaine Broad directs the show and Niamh Hyland, in addition to being the show’s lead vocalist, is its musical director.

Photos by Mitch Traphagen