THE EXPRESSIVENESS OF SILENCE

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.

GRAMMY AWARD NOMINATION FOR “NICOLE ZURAITIS”

Earlier this year I produced Nicole Zuraitis show, “Generations of Her: Women Songwriters and Lyricists of the Past 100 Years.”  Now we’ve learned that Nicole and her husband, Dan Pugach, have been nominated for a Grammy in the category “Best Arrangement for Instruments and Vocals” for their version of “Jolene.” 

For any Recording Academy Members, please click on the link here…listen… and consider voting for this duo. If you know someone who is a recording academy member please consider sharing this link with them. Nicole and Dan work incredibly hard at their craft, so let’s support them in spreading the word about their nomination.

Congratulations Dan and Nicole and thanks to future Grammy nominee, Niamh Hyland, for sharing this great honor on Facebook. 

 

 

A REVIEW OF BROADWAY’S “COME FROM AWAY”

Just returned from seeing the Tony awarding winning (Best Direction) and highly touted Broadway production, “Come From Away.” I thought it might have been one of the worst, if not the worst, Broadway show I have ever seen…and it was very expensive.
 
I’m reading reviews saying there won’t be a dry eye in the theatre and I’m wondering if we were watching the same show. (Truth be told, I didn’t have a dry eye realizing I’ll never get back the two hours I wasted or the money I poured down the drain.) I had no interest in a single character, it completely minimized 9/11, the jokes were sophomoric, including a dopey knock-knock joke and gay jokes that were beyond embarrassing–when was the last time you heard someone say of another “He’s my sexretary”? Huh!
 
Watching the show I thought of high school productions I’d been to over the years. There were a couple of talented singers but that was about it. The New York Times’ reviewer Ben Brantley wrote, “…sounds like a show most New Yorkers would run a city mile to avoid. I mean, come on guys, a feel good 9/11 musical created by a husband and wife team….”
 
What?
 
Yes, in my opinion, New Yorkers and all others should run a mile to avoid this show.

ARTISTS WITHOUT WALLS’ HOLIDAY SHOWCASE AT THE CELL, DECEMBER 19

Looking forward to Artists Without Walls’ Holiday Showcase this Wednesday, December 19 at The Cell Theatre.  

Performers include:
Clare Maloney
Hyland & Brunnock
All My Friends are Stars
Jack O’Connell
David Goldman
Charles Hale
& a few Surprise Guests!!

Doors at 6:45pm, performances begin at 7:30pm. It’s a free event and we’ll have a few surprise guests popping by!

Montage by: Mitch Traphagen​

CHARLES R. HALE PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS: IMPRESSION at THE CELL

Charles R. Hale Productions Presents: Impression…Ravel and Debussy.
In celebration of the centennial of Debussy’s death, IMPRESSION will explore the erotic languor of French Impressionism by weaving the chamber music of Debussy and Ravel with the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé. Debussy’s seminal Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, for Boulez the beginning of modern music, will serve as the focal point of the performance, presented here in a new octet arrangement for the first time in New York.
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Mallarmé: The Afternoon of a Faun
Ravel: Introduction and Allegro
Debussy: Première Rhapsodie [octet arrangement by Todd Palmer]
Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun [octet arrangement by Graeme Steele Johnson] — New York Premiere
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Graeme Steele Johnson, Artistic Director and clarinet
Matty Oaks, reader
Ji Weon Ryu, flute
Hannah Lash, harp
Adelya Nartadjieva and Rachel Loseke, violins
Matthew Cohen, viola
Ari Evan, cello
Jordan Calixto, double bass
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Wednesday, December 12, 8pm at The Cell Theatre, 338 West 23rd St, New York, New York.  Doors open at 7:15
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December 12, 2018

JOYCE’S “THE DEAD” RETURNS TO THE AMERICAN IRISH HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Last night, for the third year, I was transported to the Dublin home of the Morkan sisters for the Irish Repertory Theatre’s production of James Joyce’s “The Dead.”  The show, directed by Ciaran O’Reilly, is performed in the most perfect setting, The American Irish Historical Society’s beaux arts building, located on Fifth Avenue across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

A number of my friends appear in the show, among them the fabulous Peter Cormican as the loquacious and at times, riotous Mr. Brown, and the brilliant Aedin Moloney as the staunch Irish nationalist Molly Ivors. 

The show, which stars Rufus Collins as Gabriel Conroy and Melissa Gilbert as Greta Conroy, is a feast for the eyes, as well as the palate, since the ticket-holders get to share dinner at the Morkan sisters’ residence. 

The show is a marvelous holiday experience, which deserves to become a holiday tradition. I look forward to being invited back to the Morkan’s again and again. 

 

Rufus Collins as Gabriel Conroy

Peter Cormican as Mr. Browne, Ciarán Byrne as Freddy Malins, Terry Donnelly as Mrs. Malins, and Melissa Gilbert as Gretta Conroy

THE WRITING IRISH OF NEW YORK: EXCITING BOOK LAUNCH AT THE IRISH ARTS CENTER

Last night’s book launch of Colin Broderick’s “The Writing Irish of New York” was quite a success. The evening’s highlight’s…Malachy McCourt’s humor,  Maura Mulligan and Honor Molloy’s readings… and Peter Quinn’s  history lesson and conversation with Colin. The Ryan brothers and the Campions supplied the music and Pauline Turley and Rachael Gilkey of the Irish Arts Center hosted this wonderful event.

I’m proud to have contributed to this outstanding compilation of essays. 

Malachy McCourt, Peter Quinn, Honor Molloy, Charles R. Hale, Daniel James McCabe and Don Creedon

 

I LOVE NEW YORK…AND MY TALENTED FRIENDS

A few months ago a friend of mine asked, “If you could live or retire anywhere in the world where would it be?” My response was immediate…I spread my arms and said, “I”m there.”

I know New York City is not for everyone, but for me, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Last night’s event– my friend Serena Jost’s performance at Pangea on the Lower East Side–served to confirm what I already know. This is home.

I walked into Pangea and noticed a few friends, including Marty Plevel, a great patron of the arts and Theresa Sareo, an enormously talented singer/songwriter, sitting at a table. I joined them for some chat and good times and then we settled into Serena’s performance. 

Thursday night I’ll be at the Irish Arts Center for the book launch of “The Writing Irish of New York” and Saturday evening I’ll be at the American Irish Historical society for a live production of James Joyce’s “The Dead.” 

I am a very fortunate man.  

Theresa Sareo, Serena Jost and Marty Plevel

 

JACKIE ROBINSON, MY FATHER AND THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

I keep track of upcoming events at New York City’s museums and it was with great excitement that I noticed that the Museum of the City of New York has an upcoming exhibit titled “In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson.

I spent a great deal of time in my youth studying the history of baseball…way more than my parents would have wished for me. I particularly enjoyed the history of New York City’s teams and players. Jackie Robinson was one of those players:  

I was a little boy when my father took me to Ebbets Field…the Brooklyn Dodgers versus the Cincinnati Reds.  I loved it all: The sights…Duke, Campy, Pee Wee and Jackie in their royal blue caps with the letter B on the front….the smells….cigars, beer, popcorn…and the sounds…”cold beer, getcha cold beer”…the crack of a bat.

“Gee, the Dodgers can’t get this new kid out, Charles, what’s his name?” my father said. As if he didn’t know.   

“Frank Robinson, Dad,” I said, pounding Dad’s old glove that he let me wear to the game. “Yeah, he’s great.” 

But it was another Robinson we came to see…Jackie. But as good as Jackie was, on that day Jackie didn’t win the game for the Dodgers. In fact, he didn’t even finish the game. In the eighth inning, Jackie hit a ground ball down the third base line that was ruled a fair ball—Jackie thought it was foul and hadn’t run to first—he argued the call and the umpire tossed him from the game. An inning later the game ended. The Dodgers lost two to one. 

Dad put his arm around my shoulder and we walked out of the ballpark onto McKeever Place and began the drive through Brooklyn to our Queens home. I was sitting in the front seat of Dad’s Chevy, pounding his glove, thinking about the game as we pulled up to a light on Eastern Parkway.  And then, “Hurry…Son…look who’s next to us.”

Is that Jackie Robinson? Are you kidding me? 

“Say something, Charles.”

What does a seven-year old say to a legend? ”Hi, Jackie.”

Jackie smiled and responded with something like, “Hello, young man.”

But my father, seeing the bedazzled look on my face, flashed a smile at Jackie and came to my rescue with some brilliant repartee. “Hey, Jackie, the umpire’s call was horseshit.”

My father always had a way with words.

We all laughed, the light turned green and we drove on. 

There was something about baseball and my father…no matter how contentious our relationship might become, baseball always provided a middle ground. Dad and I could lose ourselves in the joys of the game, its nuances and intricacies, and subsequently, the pleasure of each other’s company.   

I think of my father on warm summer evenings…walking by a ballfield…hearing the crack of a bat…the memories coaxed by twilight’s lengthening shadows.

I’m looking forward to the Jackie Robinson exhibit, which opens January 31, 2019. 

COMING SOON: “JAZZ IN THE CITY II”

Over the past thirty months, the David Raleigh Quartet, including Tony Carfora/sax, Daniel Glass/drums and Danny Weller/bass or Evan Gregor/bass and I have taken our audience on a journey…a musical journey, incorporating story and song.  The show features the stories and songs of the artists and composers who for the past one-hundred 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.

We are now working on an all new Jazz in the City, which will feature great jazz standards, some well-known, others equally great but not as popular. Once again, we’ll be blending the music with New York themed stories.

Certain songs jump out at me for personal reasons and are contenders for inclusion in the new show. One of them is “You’ve Changed” a 1941 tune written by Bill Carey and Carl Fischer. Click here to hear what I consider the quintessential recording of this tune:  Eva Cassidy  “You’ve Changed”

More details to come in the following weeks.