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.

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

 

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. 

 

THE WRITING IRISH OF NEW YORK IS NOW AVAILABLE

I’m proud to announce that the book “The Writing Irish of New York”, which includes an essay I wrote, is available for purchase in hardcover. The book, which was conceived and edited by Colin Broderick, is now available at Amazon. You can click here to order now  

They’ll be an official book launch at the Irish Arts Center in  Manhattan on December 6th.

In the ten years following the Great Famine Irish flooded into New York at an astonishing rate.  By 1860 one in every four New Yorkers was Irish, and by the 1920s Irish-American authors like Eugene O’Neill and F. Scott Fitzgerald had transformed the American literary landscape and lay the foundation for a century that would put Irish writing at the forefront of American letters.

This series of essays by and about Irish-American writers traces that heritage from it’s humble origins through the twentieth century. Editor Colin Broderick provides background essays on Brendan Behan’s New York, Maeve Brennan’s heartbreaking decent into madness, Frank McCourt’s rise from school teacher to literary phenomenon, and 23 of today’s top Irish-American authors—including Colum McCann, Peter Quinn, Luanne Rice and Dan Barry—provide personal accounts of how they found their voices in the Big Apple. Taken together, the stories provide a vivid portrait of a community of authors who continue to fight for Ireland’s place at the top of literary canon. 

There is a fine green thread that binds them all. These are The Writing Irish of New York.

The Writing Irish of New York includes original essays by:

Peter Quinn, Luanne Rice, Larry Kirwan, Kathleen Donohoe, Daniel James McCabe, Mike Farragher, Malachy McCourt, Don Creedon, Maura Mulligan, Kevin Holohan, Kevin Fortuna, Christopher John Campion, Dennis Driscoll, Billy Collins (poem), Honor Molloy, Colum McCann, John Kearns, Charles R. Hale, Dan Barry, Seamus Scanlon, Brain O’Sullivan, Mary Pat Kelly, and Colin Broderick.

And essays by Colin Broderick on:

Maeve Brennan, Frank McCourt, Eugene O’Neill, Jimmy Breslin, Frank O’Hara, J.P. Donleavy, John F. Kennedy Jr., Brendan Behan and Oscar Wilde.

WRITTEN AND CREATED BY CHARLES R. HALE

Shows that were written and created by Charles R. Hale

Charles R. Hale Presents: A Musical History of the Lower East Side

Jazz in the City

“Crossing Boroughs” at The Museum of the City of New York

New York City: A Shining Mosaic

Charles R. Hale and David Goldman: New York/A Musical Memoir

“Crossing Boroughs” A Charles R. Hale Production

 

 

CHARLES R. HALE & DAVID S. GOLDMAN: NEW YORK, A MUSICAL MEMOIR

Three years ago David and I met and immediately realized we had a shared interest in New York history, our quite divergent family histories and music. It turns out that our families lived very close to each other in Queens and, unbeknownst to us, we grew up only a few blocks apart. Having put on several smaller versions of “New York: A Musical Memoir,” we recently presented the first full-length version of this musical memoir in progress.  Our stories take us through our early love of music, a family Christmas, our relationships with our fathers, discovery of girls, epiphanies and reflections on the struggles of our ancestors.

A special thanks to Renata Hinrichs for introducing David and me and for her role as narrator and my fourteen-year old dream girl “Denise.”

“I’m in love with you, Denise, scooby-doo
Denise, Denise, oh, with your eyes so blue
Denise, Denise, I’ve got a crush on you.”

 

And thanks to Vera Maura for the photos. 

 

Charles and David performing Jacques Brel’s “Sons Of”

David S. Goldman and Charles R. Hale

Charles R. Hale, David S. Goldman and Renata Hinrichs after the show.

David S. Goldman and Charles R. Hale

ARTISTS WITHOUT WALLS’ NOVEMBER SHOWCASE AT THE CELL

Join Niamh Hyland and me for Artists Without Walls’ Showcase at The Cell Theatre, tomorrow, Tuesday, November 27. The Cell is located at 33 West 23rd St, in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. The doors and bar open at 6:45 and the presentations begin at 7:30.

Featured performers include Rebekah Madebach and Dan Brown, Eddie Brill, Jim Hawkins, Robert Clohessy, Susan McKeown and Roisin McKeown as part of CualaNYC. 

Niamh and I are hosts and emcees. Hope to see you there!

JAZZ IN THE CITY AT LEHMAN COLLEGE

Join the David J. Raleigh Quartet, including Tony Carfora/sax, Daniel Glass/drums, and Danny Weller/bass and me as we take a journey through New York’s musical history, weaving personal recollections of New York with the songs of the composers and artists who for years have paid homage to the city they call home.

You’ll hear the music of the Gershwins, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter, which evokes the high life of the thirties…tuxedos and top hats, jazz and cocktails. But there was another side of the 1930s, the life and struggles of the common man. You’ll hear that music as well.

Lehman College, Lovinger Theater, Thursday, 12:30pm. Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Blvd, Bronx, NY

CHARLES R. HALE PRODUCTIONS AT LEHMAN COLLEGE THIS FALL

Charles R. Hale Productions is excited to announce this season’s series of shows at Lehman College, which are produced in collaboration with the City and Humanities Program and Professor Joseph McElligott:

Sept 6: Storytelling in a Digital World/Charles R. Hale
Sept 13: Women Who Have Overcome/Theresa Sareo
October 11: Yuri Juárez and the Afroperuano Group
October 25: Generations of Her/ Nicole Zuraitis
Nov 15: From Beyonce to Bach/Jiin Yang & Wayne Weng
Nov 29: Jazz in the City/Charles R. Hale and the David J RaleighQuartet

All performances, which will be in Lovinger Theatre or the Studio Theatre, begin at 12:30pm.

Montage by Mitch Traphagen