Primary Urges Part 6: The Penultimate Weekend

October 31, 2007


The Primary Urges cast: (l. to r.) Marilyn Bennett, Michael Bruno, Rachael Goldman, Doug Smith, Mary Jane Bruno, Michael Miyazaki

 Please come see our show!!!

It’s our next to last weekend.  We’ve got a grip on what we’re doing (i.e. I’ve finally learned the choreography for the closer).  And it’s a charming, fun show — intimate space and a terrific band. 

Primary Urges, Warehouse Theater, Friday and Saturday, 8:00pm.  More info click here.

Local Girl Plays Feinsteins

October 31, 2007

Potomac, Maryland’s own Mrs. Robert A. Altman will be presenting a musicale programme at the Regency Hotel in New York.  

And the Times even did a preview article.

Washington Post on Judy Kuhn

October 31, 2007

Nelson Pressley review of Judy Kuhn’s salute to Lara Nyro at the Kennedy Center: “With the lovely weirdness of “Stoned Soul Picnic” (“Can you surry/Can you picnic?”), the shifty and ebullient antiwar anthem “Save the Country” and, by way of an encore, a delicate piano and cello arrangement of “Mother’s Spiritual,” the modestly beaming Kuhn had made a solid case for her Nyro infatuation.”

Steve Martin Solves an Age-Old Cabaret Problem

October 30, 2007

The October 29th issue of the New Yorker has a terrific memoir by Steve Martin about his early performing career called “In the Bird Cage.”  While the overall article is terrific I love the following bit of advice he received, and think it solves something that we in cabaret struggle with constantly:

Fats Johnson, a jovial folksinger who dressed to kill in black suits with white ruffled shirts and wore elaborate rings on his guitar-strumming hand, often headlined inthe club.  One night, I asked him about his philosophy about dressing for the stage.  He said firmly, “Always look better than they do.”

Cabaret Workshops — Santa Fe & Boston

October 30, 2007

Lina Koutrakos and Rick Jensen are teaming up to offer intensive cabaret workshops in Santa Fe (Nov 29 – Dec 2) and Boston (Jan 4-6).

RickThey are an amazing teaching team.  Lina has a special ability to really hone in on what any given singer needs to improve his or her performance.  And while she is blazingly direct and open, she handles each individual with respect.   And it is a special treat to sing in the amazing musical hands of Rick Jensen. 

The other thing that is special about these workshops is that they allow you to spend time away from everyday life, surrounded by other people who love music and love cabaret.

For additional information about the workshops, contact Tim Schall —

DC Cabaret Network Workshop on the Music Business

October 30, 2007

An announcement of a new workshop from the DC Cabaret Network:

 Come hear and get valuable face time with senior officials from all 3 performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) at a seminar that the DC Cabaret Network is co-sponsoring with the Songwriters Association of Washington. Network members get a discount!

Making Music Our Profession – Can We Quit Our Day Jobs?

             The DC Cabaret Network joins the Songwriters’ Association of Washington (SAW) to bring the music industry to DC to feature “Making Music Our Profession – Can We Quit Our Day Jobs?” on Saturday, November 10, from 10:00am-1:00pm. Other co-sponsors include WAMA, NSAI, and the Baltimore Songwriters Association.

Representatives from all three Performing Rights Organizations will present an outstanding panel discussion on becoming a professional in the music business. Panel members will include ASCAP’s Assistant VP of Musical Theatre and Cabaret, Michael Kerker, and Director of Membership and Creative Affairs, Jason Silberman; BMI’s Senior VP of Government Relations, Fred Cannon; and SESAC’s VP of Writer Publisher Relations, Linda Lorence Critelli. These experts will have an interactive discussion with our region’s songwriters on “how to make it in the music industry,” covering the following:

  1. What’s a realistic goal for you? What are the odds of success?
  2. How to gauge your audience – what do they want to hear and what will they buy?
  3. Do you need an agent, manager, or anybody to help? Can you do it all yourself?
  4. How to NOT get ripped off.
  5. Do independents have a chance to get on radio or have songs in movies and on TV?
  6. How has the internet changed the music industry?
  7. How can the Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) help you? Why are there 3 PROs? Which one should you join?
  8. What is the state of the record industry and what are the issues that will affect songwriters and artists?

 Cost for the seminar is $30 for members of SAW, WAMA, NSAI, BSA, and DC Cabaret Network, $40 for non-members, and $20 for students. Advance registration is highly recommended to reserve your spot. However, walk-ins are welcome if space is available. To register, download the registration form from Pay by credit card or send a check to SAW, 4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW, PMB 106-137, Washington, DC, 20016.

Contact info: or call Lynne Revo-Cohen at (703) 405-7133.

PLEASE NOTE!!! The location for this Saturday’s (Nov. 10th) SAW seminar called “Making Music our Profession — Can We Quit our Day Jobs”? has been moved to a new location.  It will now be held at:

ASAE Building

1575 I Street, NW

East Central Board Room, Lobby level

Washington, DC


Directly across from the McPherson Sq/White House Metro exit.  Street parking and lot parking available on I Street and other streets nearby.


Date and Time is the same, Saturday, Nov. 10th; 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.


Bring photo ID.

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Diva 5+1: Susan Werner

October 29, 2007

Susan Werner is one of the most amazingly versatile talents working today.  Although nominally a folk performer, she has a regular stint at the Bradstan, so I’ll designate her an honorary cabaret performer.  Not only is she as funny as a stand-up performer in her concerts, but she accompanies herself on piano and guitar.  She’s also a great writer and has an amazing CD called I Can’t Be New with an accompanying songbook that is a must for the cabaret library.  Locally Terri Allen has the song Much at All in her repertoire which has also been recorded by Lee Lessack.  Her latest CD is called The Gospel Truth and tackles issues of religion — from the point of view of a self-described “evangelical agnostic.” And lucky us,  she’ll be appearing at the Barns of WolfTrap on November 1st

I’ve modified the “5 Questions” slightly for her.  Here they are:

1.    Please describe a “perfect” performance experience that you’ve had. 

“perfect” almost always seems to happen as a result of a duet with somebody else – either singing a beatles ballad with lucy kaplansky, a song she and i hardly know, we just scribble out the words on paper with sharpie, and wing it… and i sing harmony, then she does…and we wind up someplace really lovely and vulnerable.  or with vance gilbert when i sing louie armstrong and he sings billie holiday, and we don’t know how or when we’re going to end the song, we just follow each other around singing, and the audience is in pieces laughing.  and there was one night with the harp (not harmonica, i mean the big stringed thing) player dee carstensen, and i, in boston.  we played something… an instrumental duet.. i was playing a grand piano.  and it was just – like we found our way to eachother – while we just happened to be in front of 1,000 people.  it was, well, kinda transcendent like.   i think the perfect moment has to meander through about ten other moments when the audience doesn’t know what’s going to happen, and neither do the performers.  that’s the stuff i love more than anything else about performing.  really. 

2.     What is a recent song you’ve been struggling with?  Have you won yet?

i started a song the other day, and realized pretty soon into it that it wasn’t exactly me talking – and it came to me that it was a bad girl of some kind – a girl who likes trouble – or found herself in it, anyway – and i realized it could be the voice of bonnie parker, of bonnie and clyde, the criminal duo from 1930’s texas… i’m still wrestling with it, because i have to make sure these words sound like words bonnie would use.  not me.  her grammar, her vocabulary, has to be that of somebody who never went to college, somebody who maybe never even finished high school.  and someone from texas (and i’m, well, not).   this is a great challenge – writing as someone else – who speaks differently – and have i won yet?  nope.  but bonnie might say “nope”, too.  so, there’s hope.  🙂

3.     There are times when you accompany yourself and other times you work with (what I assume) is a pick up band. How much rehearsal do you do?  What are the steps you take to get everyone quickly on the same page?

actually, i don’t work with pick up bands.  i have a longtime bass player in boston that i fly around the country as i need him.  there’s also a great harmonica player out of new york, trina hamlin, who’s been coming around doing shows with me recently.  but i’ve just accepted that, for me, it’s too crazy to try to get all these details nailed down in one afternoon, with musicians you meet on the spot.   when i start working with a new ensemble, i’m in the habit of doing pseudonym gigs to start a string of dates.  i do concerts on odd nights in little rooms under a made up name – and let the info leak out to a few friends and fans – just so maybe ten people show up to create some live feeling in the room.  and then me and the band do a show, allowing ourselves to make mistakes – but in the context of feeling what the songs are about, in the context of actually expressing something.   i just hate rehearsals. hate em.   i had a great voice teacher who said there’s no such thing as practice… he insisted that you never just do scales or just “run thru” something.  you gotta be emotionally connected with every performance, no matter what the setting.   and i’ve found that to be pretty good advice. 

4.     What is a particular image that you can rely on to be an effective sense memory when you’re performing?

now that’s a good question.  i like that question a lot.  when singing songs from I Can’t Be New, the songbooky songs record, i often see a couple in a corner booth, at a restaurant.. it’s late, like, 10:30… their wine glasses are empty,  they’re drinking coffee now.  and she’s leaning in.. and she has something important to tell him… and she’s going to say it with a quiet voice.   and that’s an image that often helps me with those type of songs.  i have little triggers in my head for most songs – but i don’t wanna give em all away.  🙂

5.    What is the most pressing need the folk world has today?

funny, but i just saw ani difranco play to 3,000 screaming people at the Auditorium theater and i don’t know that the folk world looks like it needs much of anything, seen from that perspective.  and she had tables for planned parenthood out in the lobby, along with amnesty international… i mean, her politics were as real as her business is successful.  i also think the myspace/itunes landscape of the music business actually favors those of us who say controversial things, those of us who create unconventional music.  we can get it out there.   this’ll sound strange but – this awful war has been really rather good for folk music.  people realized they needed vehicles to express their anger, their outrage… and we songwriters have been here for them.  folk music gets tougher when things are easier, to tell the truth.

 +1 You are one of the most amazingly versatile talents I’ve ever seen, as a singer, performer, musician, writer (in many genres)…  How do you know what direction to go in at any given time?

well, thank you for that compliment.  i don’t know that i ever know what direction to take… but a pattern that seems to have emerged over the years is that i get fascinated with a certain kind of music… a new style i can play myself on piano, or guitar, or both.  and somehow while learning that new style – over the years it’s been great american songbook songs, ragtime piano, bluegrass gospel…the best songs seem to show up.  once i’ve mastered it, the fun’s out of it.  the best songs always show up before i have the whole thing figured out.   that’s how it works for me anyway… probably better for business if i’d stick with one thing.   but, hell, what are you gonna do? 

Review: Betty Buckley at Town Hall

October 27, 2007

The current Playbill Online Diva Talk column has a great review of Bety Buckley’s Town Hall concert:  “At a time in her career when many would simply offer rote interpretations of their signature tunes, Buckley manages to find new meaning in her best-known songs, and she performs them with an emotional fragility that is entrancing.”

 There’s also a great interview with Sutton Foster.

Potomac River Jazz Club”Woodshed Jazz Session”

October 27, 2007

Potomac River Jazz Club [ ]Here’s something that sounds like a great idea.  Take a bunch of jazz musicians, randomly assign them into six different combos, and watch them go!

That’s exactly what the Potomac River Jazz Club is doing on Sunday, November4, 2:00 – 5:00pm at the Calvert House Inn in Riverdale Maryland.

Pre-Sale at PS Classics

October 27, 2007

PS Classics has an interesting offer.  They have a pre-release price for a package of CDs by Victoria Clark (star of The Light in the Piazza), Andrea Burns, and Lauren Kennedy for $39.95.  For another ten bucks, you can throw in the new(?) recording Jonathan sings Larson, posthumously released demo tracks recorded by Jonathan Larson (Rent).