Sunday, 10 August 2014

Bard on Hudson Weimar, The O'Neill, Connecticut and Vortex Jazz, Hackney!

Its been a hectic three weeks. I left for the States in mid July and arrived into the sweltering hot sauna of  NYC. Thanks to my great friend, Jane, I had an empty apartment for the night, so I wondered out into the East Village and had a simple Japanese meal. As that was SO healthy ice cream found its way into my bag for the sofa surfing resting on my return. Awaking refreshed on Saturday morning I bounded about in sports calorie and ice cream burn gear before heading out to Penn Station where I picked up a train to the middle of the wilds, for the handsome and debonair Earl Dax's Weimar Nights at Bard On Hudson. The journey was marvellous, the train line hugged the mighty Hudson river shore and mountains, monumentally long bridges and forest slipped by. On the train was Needles Jones. An extraordinary being I met as we disembarked to be picked up by a bright young thing who drove us - a raving Brit and an even more raving Needles Jones, to our destination - the summer campus of Bard on Hudson. 

That night we appeared in a performance hosted by the stunningly acidic Justin Vivian Bond - I'd never seen Justin perform before, I am now an absolute fan. He went so far, and then further. I liked that a lot. On the bill also were Taylor Mac - simply brilliant, I'd heard about Taylor and now I know why.  Curtis Eller's fabulous American Circus Band gave us joy and thank you for the forest walk, Hugh, Carol Lipnik sang of mermaids, the extraordinary Dirty Martini (what to do when courted by a swan in flimsy clothes - a must see), Kenny Mellman, (pianist and lovely human being extraordinaire), The Pixie Harlots, (a scream), a glorious gorgeous giant of a blonde babe man dressed as a unicorn playing the accordion...
Justin and Taylor Mac on stage. 

A night out at Bard On Hudson - the car park afterwards - cavorting with an accordion playing unicorn…..
and more……

We slept in nun-like dormitories and on the Sunday I went back to NY with my new friend Kenny Mellman (who'd accompanied me on my 3 Dylan killer songs) in the "bus" which was a people carrier. It was hot and heady but our bus party was the best given that it comprised the two of us, Carol and a Pixie Harlot. NYC was roasting - again, but I had a fabulous dinner with Gail Bond in a midtown Italian restaurant with prosecco and pasta unlimited and air conditioning of fridge freezer temperatures…..

Then on the Tuesday one of New York's top MDs and accompanists, songwriter and general all round wonder woman and yogini Tracy Stark picked me up and we headed up to Connecticut and the New England coast to take our places on the dream team assembled by the wonderful John McDaniel, which included the stunning musicians Mark Hartman, Matt Baker, Brad Simmons and Mike Lunoe, and the writer and comedian Eric Kornfeld - my main man team buddy. We began an extraordinary 12 days of workshops and performances in scenery both magnificent and idyllic, with shared food and space, interns from all over North America - some of the nicest people you could wish to meet - and Fellows and Junior Fellows who came to work with us and who all became lodgers in my heart for all time. It was an utterly magical time.
The back of the Mansion, my room is just above the awning on the left there, 3 windows long
 The gloriousnesses included concerts of Sondheim performed by some of the best singers who originated roles in various key productions, with Mark at the piano, and directed by John himself. Billy Stritch and Jim Caruso's full show, which was so warm, witty and perfect I felt I'd been caressed by NY musical velvet. The legendary Mimi Hines and Betty Buckley, and the Junior and Senior Fellow shows - both very different and both very moving. The Juniors performed Stevie Nicks and honestly - she would have loved this show - Stevie's work in Brad Simmon's arrangements with the band headed by Mike Lunoe in Aaron Spivey's superb lighting - well, it was like being at a stadium in 19 something something. We were blown away by those talented young people. And the Senior Fellows who'd worked with Eric, John, all the master class leaders and I, showed what they'd done. All of them, Gabrielle, Caitlin, Michael, Jay and David, were lovely. Moving and sweet, and generous and honest. Here's some pictures of everyone doing everything……

The whole Junior and Senior teams with Betty after her masterclass.

Bard and I singing Islands In The Stream accompanied by Tracy in Blue Gene's piano bar after a show.

Eric Kornfeld and I - a dream team. 

Pinning my programme with John McDaniel in the bar - an O'Neill Tradition.

Gabrielle Lee and I

from l to r - Caitlin, David, Michael, Barb Gabrielle and Jay

Before my Man In The Long Black Coat show with Tracy on piano and Mike on percussion

With Annie, Pam, Mark and Chip after thrilling Sondheim show and masterclass.

With the wonderful Tom Vertel, a lovely man and a terrific producer and supporter of  theatre and cabaret

The Senior Fellows giving their all on their night.

There was a piano bar night where on one memorable night ALL the MDs played piano simultaneously in a virtuoso display of jaw dropping brilliance. You can share it here….

We did my old and beloved 'Man In The Long Black Coat' Dylan collection, and Mike Lunoe joined us on percussion. I loved that so much that Mike will join Tracy and I performing Hard Rain at 59E59 for 2 weeks at the end of October - you can book that here -

There was a night we all went to the beach and sang and played, to be evicted by a kevlar wearing policeman with a torch, and there were many wondrous piano bar nights after nearly every show. There were bike rides along the coast to fried fish joints with awnings and one afternoon a swim in the ocean - once only - as big floaty neon pink jellyfish were out in force and got Eric stung first which got us all out of the water pretty sharpish! The days flew by. The last night was truly poignant with everyone hugging and another night beach excursion. Magical. New friends too many to mention but the youngest is Braidon Sunshine and the oldest Mimi Hines. In the middle of that is literally every other person I met there, in every corner of the days and nights. Thank you John McDaniel for the best summer camp ever. So far. Gauntlet thrown!

Then back to NYC and a night with an old and close friend, Jane, and her son Luka (now towering above me like a glorious Goliath) and then back to Corby rehearsals - get your tickets now -

All Corby info here

and the Vortex last night - which was a joy. Packed house, great vibe, glorious to sing the Hard Rain songs and know that they're being heard. Particularly when the messages are crystal clear at this tricky time for humanity.

Back at the Vortex Jazz Club with Simon Wallace at the piano.

And with Hard Rain in mind, I ask our politicians and all people in power to grasp this and grasp it fast.
And Matt Lynch's short film, in case you haven't seen it, feel free to share this and the piano youtube links far and beyond….

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