Tuesday, August 19, 2008

There's music everywhere...in New York!

It's Tuesday, and I have to blog about a weekend (plus) of music and discovery. I'll try to be quick, or I might (probably) break it into a few blog posts. I fear in the future it will be literally impossible to blog on every musical adventure I have in this city - the place is literally crowded and packed with countless theaters, cabarets, music halls and other venues to see music.

Thursday, the 19th, I finished work for the day and took the train/walked through the pouring rain to the famous Algonquin Hotel on West 44th St. Each Thursday, Mark Janas hosts an open mic called the "Algonquin Salon" in the Oak Room. This Thurs, the room was filled to the brim with singers, people coming off the street, and regulars. Raissa Bennett had taken over for a vacationing Mark, and David Caldwell was at the piano.

Each Algonquin Salon has a theme for the week which singers can gain inspiration from or use as an excuse to sing a song they've always wanted but never had the opportunity to sing. However, one is also able to sing anything, bring instruments, read lyric sheets, sit and play the piano themselves, even read poetry or content from books if wished. This week's theme (garnered from the weekly email mailing list) was "Gender Benders," meaning women could sing songs originally meant for men to sing, and vice-versa.

I was excited and appreciative of all the talent up there. Composers got up and sang new material, cabaret artists sat on stools to recreate pieces they've done before, an author read a shatteringly funny piece from a book of his about his early life in New York, people who just loved to sing and obviously wanted to share that with people, everything was there. I had two songs to sing at the ready, although I had printed out lyric sheets: "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha and "Go Home With Bonnie Jean" from Brigadoon. I was able to sing "The Impossible Dream," and it felt so good to sing full-out without any expectation or pressure.

I was also able that night to meet up with Jennifer Wren, who is hosting the 1930's Idol singing night on Weds the 20th. She is an enthusiastic singer and overall positive person. I was also able to briefly meet Bill Zeffiro, our music director for the night as well. In addition, there were a couple of singers who are going to be sharing the stage with me that night, so I introduced myself. Later, I even met & petted the hotel cat, Matilda.

That night, I left extremely positive and looking forward to the future. It's such a wonderful feeling to know that there is a huge group of enthusiastic people out there, just wishing to sit around and enjoy each others talents and passion for the same love of music.

Friday, after work, I met up with my cousin Stephen, his niece Mary, and his boyfriend David for dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant called Apizz, which I later learned was an American-Italian slang term for "pizza". I had a great slake fish dish, but we all ate off each other plates like a proper family. Had my first vodka Gimlet and shared a few desserts all around.

Afterwards, we walked a few blocks through the wet asphalt to the Rockwood Music Hall on the recommendation of one of Stephen's friends. There, we caught the solo guitar/vocalizing of Emily King and the band of Richard Julian (whose song "Syndicated" particularly hit my ears with its witty lyrics about America's spread around the world). The Rockwood Music Hall, while small, is a good venue for solo or small bands and is cozy with good drinks. There's also a second, smaller room off to the side to stand and talk without disrupting the musicians, and it as a video feed from the hall itself if you want to keep in touch with the music.

We all had an adventurous time taking a cab back towards David's neck of the woods (Hells Kitchen). I hadn't taken a cab this entire time in New York, and I had forgotten how much of a rollercoaster ride it is. Things went by in a blur!

Stephen (left), me, and David (right)

Next post: New friend, new audition project, and Monday Nights New Voices.

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