Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rita and Victor Costanzi

Rita Costanzi, harpist extraordinaire, and Victor Costanzi, violinist extraordinaire, invited Dulce and me to their Bronx apartment building for a special concert. The concert was a Christmas show and sing-a-long for their fellow apartment dwellers and was presented in the foyer of their building.

Both Rita and Victor are former members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and both decided to move to NYC a few years ago. Vancouver was the obvious loser. Victor and Rita are both outsize personalities and musicians. Rita was twice winner of the American Harp Society's National Competition and recipient of the Lily Laskine award for the most outstanding harp recital. Victor performs with a long list of groups both here and in New Jersey.

Rita is also an actress. From Rita's website : Adding a new dimension to her performance art, Rita Costanzi astounds audiences with the three monodramas written especially for her. The Westcoast Music Awards nominated her solo Classical CD, Of Fields and Forests for “Best Classical Album”. Vancouver Television introduced her in its series Pacific Profiles featuring prominent and unique individuals living in Vancouver and CBC Radio’s Tapestry devoted a documentary to her work playing for the terminally ill. Her fourth and most recent CD, Song of the Stars, an album of Celtic music for contemplation and healing, received a Five Star rating from CBC Radio’s Sound Advice. Her latestcomposition, Beneath Her Heart, for Women’s Choir, Children’s Choir andNarrator,was premiered by Vancouver’s Elektra Women’s Choir in April, 2008.

How do I know Rita and Victor? Along with the obvious downside, there are certain benefits to being a composer. I have written 5 pieces for the harp, two of which have been recorded by Judy Loman, another extraordinary harpist. Correct me if I am wrong - I believe that I am the only composer in history to have written not 1 but 2 works for harp and string quartet:

The Moon in the Labyrinth:
Mvt. 3 :

The Lyre of Orpheus
Mvt. 3 :

Comments from harpists? Vancouver?

The Austrian Cultural Forum

Here's another interesting place to make your NY debut, The Austrian Cultural Forum.

Here's what Wikopedia says:
Concerts and performances are presented either in the in-house auditorium or at various venues in New York. Outside performances are organized in cooperation with American partner institutions, and have included concerts at Carnegie Hall and Judson Memorial Church.
Among other events, Moving Patterns, an electronic music festival first staged in spring 2005, introduces Austrian electronic and experimental musicians in the USA and is considered an important contribution to the electronica scene. The ACF regularly screens films on Austrian subjects or by Austrian filmmakers as part of a year-round series and also shows films in special screenings in the context of other events organized by the Cultural Forum. Activities of the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York also include a variety of podium discussions, readings, and book presentations.

I went to hear a concert given by the Argento Group
This concert supposedly featured music influenced by Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. 
The music, except for a piece by Schoenberg and another by Luigi Nono, was all by living and mostly local composers. Nono's piece featured contra-bass flute.

The players were fantastic, less so the music. I had thought the 12 tone system was good and dead.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Americas Society and Continuum

So you're looking for a place to perform in NYC? Easy enough. But what about drumming up an audience? Not so easy.

If you have an interesting program to present, you might try the Americas Society at 680 Park Ave..
On Monday Dulce and I attended a concert at the Americas Society The concert featured Continuum, the well-known NY new music group, in a program of Canadian music: the likes of R. Murray-Schafer, John Weinzweig, Ann Southam, Diana McIntosh, Giles Tremblay, and Claude Vivier. Not exactly household names here in NY, and yet the concert was well-attended - about 60 people. Note that the Americas Society room is expandable. I would guess that it could seat about 120 people in its expanded version.

The Continuum performers gave terrific, committed performances. After the concert there was a meet-the-performer reception. I was able to touch base with Continuum's directors, Joel Sachs and Cheryl Seltzer.
I also met Continuum's excellent harpist, Bridget Kibbey.

Is this information helpful?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creating buzz in NYC

Dulce, my Portuguese/Canadian wife, finally received her US Visa, after what seemed like an endless time in limbo (which the Catholics say no longer exists). I drove my rented Mazda 5 SUV to Toronto through snow, sleet, rain, and fog and picked her up along with the 2 cats and our remaning earthly possessions. Then with the 2 drugged cats, we drove through a blizzard back to NYC, at one point getting stuck in a snow bank.
Here is a close-up of Dulce as we crossed the George Washington Bridge, in the dark with traffic whizzing on all sides, into NYC.

And, later, here is Dulce, happy, at Columbus Circle all decked out for Christmas.

Dulce is helping me create a "buzz" for my upcoming show at Symphony Space, The Art of Love."Creating buzz" is the assignment given me by renowned Canadian arts manager Andrew Kwan . How to do it? Sitting over a coffee and reading the NY Times at Cosi, our favorite Manhattan coffee spot, an idea came to me.

Start with the New York Times Arts Section. The Art of Love is both a musical performance, a theater piece, and a multi-media show incorporating a film by Ron Hurwitz: Therefore, check out the music critics, the theater critics, and the film critics writing reviews in the NY Times. For Tuesday, December 7 these were:
Ben Brantley, theater
John Pareles, music
James R. Oestreich, music
Daniel J. Wakin, music
Alan Kozinn, music
Anthony Tommasini, music
Larry Rohter, film
Patrick Healy, theater
David Rooney, theater
Our next task is to write some terrific press releases about The Art of Love, and to the get these off to the above critiics. How? That's our next problem.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Merkin Hall and Kaufman Center

Joseph Campbell, the late great expert on mythology, said this, speaking of our choices in life, "All paths lead to the same place (death). So, given a choice, follow your bliss." Saturday night, I may have witnessed an example of this at a concert at the Kaufman Center/Merkin Hall/ Ann Goodman Recital Hall. I use the word may because there is a second interpretation of what was going on and maybe even a third.

A pianist/composer named Maria Morris was giving a solo recital called "The Prelude Project." I arrived somewhat early and so I was able to read some program notes - I had no idea who Maria Morris was. It seems Maria Morris is someone with a PhD. in Education who teaches at Georgia Southern University.
She is also a pianist, but gave up the piano twenty years ago because of an injury. Now miraculously recovered, at the age of 50 she has not only returned to the piano but has taken up composing. Of her Preludes: " these Preludes have been composed in a postmodern score with few time signatures, no staves, and the musical notes are written as letters."

Interpretation 1: She is someone who is following Joseph Campbell's dictum. She is following her bliss. Why not? We're all going to die anyway.

Interpretation 2: She is a foolish woman following some sort of foolish dream. There were all of 6 or 7 people in the audience. Who were they?

Interpretation 3: She has scheduled and paid for a concert in New York in order to improve on her academic credentials. Maybe she's not yet a full professor. Too cynical? It happens.

Thing is, perhaps it's only fools or villains who are really blissful. As for me, I'm heavy into following my bliss - or is it my passion - at the moment. I really passionately believe in the music I've written and in the point of view I have adopted with Voice Afire Pocket Opera and Cabaret.

But then so does Maria Morris, and I didn't even stay to hear her play. Other allusions in the program to her Christian views and education were just to much for me to take. What's more the Preludes were to be played continuously, and there would be no escape once she had started. I left before she started.

Regarding Merkin Hall. It's just around the corner from Juilliard and Lincoln Center. The Big Hall rents for something like $2000 but by the time you add extras allow about $4000. Don't know how much the Ann Goodman Recital Hall rents for. But don't do it! It's little more than a glorified classroom with a piano at one end. It's probably cheap, and then you can tell your academic committee that you played in NY.  They will never know that only 6 or 7 people showed up.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Don Carlos at the Met

It pays sometimes to have friends in high places, in this case Bob Sutherland, Principal Librarian at the Metropolitan Opera. Met tickets are notoriously expensive. But for some productions the Met issues tickets to their staff for a dress rehearsal. This was the case for Verdi's Don Carlos. Bob Sutherland, my old biking buddy and commissioner of several of my compositions, came up with 2 tickets for Don Carlos. So my wife, Dulce, and I saw Don Carlos at the Met - for free.

The previous evening the 3 of us - Bob, myself, and Dulce - had gone out to dinner at Pau, a Portuguese restaurant in Greewich Village, purporting to have Portuguese Fado music - but not that evening, unfortunately. Bob - a dear friend and an extremely knowledgeable opera fan - and I got into a heated discussion. Perhaps I was annoyed at the lack of Fado music, so I asked Bob, "Why does no-one perform the operas of Alberto Ginastera?" Bob's answer, "It's because they don't work." "What!!" I exclaimed. "And what about all those other operas that the Met never does?" Bob, "The Met does the operas that work - for instance, the operas of Verdi (I'm paraphrasing and simplifying)."

Well, Bob, and anyone else who's listening, Dulce and I left Don Carlos at the first intermission. Reason: Don Carlos no longer works. Let me explain. The libretto for Don Carlos was adapted from a play by Schiller.  I don't know the original play, but the Italian adaptation is a melodrama of the 19th Century variety. 19th Century melodrama was  a plague on theatre - finally stamped out by Henrik Ibsen. Melodrama is defined by mono dimensional characters who gesticulate in an overraught, stylized manner. Think early silent movies.

Verdi, for whose skill and professionalism I have nothing but awed admiration, thought of himself above all else as a dramatist. His operas are about enhancing the drama itself. In the case of the Italian Don Carlos drama, it no longer work because the drama itself no longer works. No one would go to see the thing merely to hear it spoken. They go because of the music, and because of the singing, and because it is by Verdi. I figure that would have really enraged Giuseppi Verdi, the dramatist.

It would have also enraged him that opera singers mangle vowels incessantly. They do this in order to produce what they think is a more beautiful sound. Think of a person trying to speak with no tongue. Even the most fluent Italian speaker (Dulce speaks Italian) can't understand more than one word in a hundred. But then of course, who cares about the drama, and who cares about what Verdi had in mind. And who cares if the opera no longer works as drama. We are there only to bathe in melifluous vocal crooning.

Myself, I'm trying something different. If you've a mind check out my pocket opera version of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. It works as drama.

On the other hand, if Dulce hadn't been there, I would have stayed for the whole opera, just to get a lesson from Verdi in rhythmic pacing and in using the orchestra to support the voice.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ISPA International Society for the Performing Arts

More than one person has recommended I attend the ISPA Conference being held in NYC this January. Most recently, Ann Summers, with whom Voice afire is collaborating.

From the ISPA website:
ISPA is a network of over 350 individuals, organizations and institutions from more than 40 countries around the world.  Members include some of the world's most significant presenting organizations, independent artists, performing arts organizations, artist managers, cultural policy groups, foundations, consultants, and many others who share the desire to advance the field of the performing arts on a global scale.

ISPA conferences are held around the world.
Host cities have included Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Paris, Vienna, London, Toronto, Birmingham, Jerusalem, Stockholm, Vancouver, Berlin, Sydney, Lucerne, Singapore, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Durban and São Paulo.

• New York 2011 ISPA Congress on January 11-13, 2011 in New York, NY, United States
• Toronto 2011 ISPA Congress on June 15-18, 2011 in Toronto, ON, Canada

ISPA does something called a pitch session. Very interesting. Here's a link to a pitch session:

Any collaborators out there?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Visas for Canadian Musicians

Here is the latest info for Canadian musicians needing a visa to perform in the good old (?!) USA.

Effective November 23, 2010:
  1. The fee for P & O visas is $325 USD.
  2. The premium processing fee is $1225 USD.
The above fees are payable to "Department of Homeland Security", and must be submitted under USD money order. If applying through the premium processing unit, please submit that fee under separate money order. 

November 17, 2010 will be the last day AFM will accept petitions with the present fees of $320 (regular/standard processing) and $1000 (premium processing). 

Effective January 1, 2011:
  1. The AFM's P2 administration fee is $100 for musicians only (this is not per musician, it is per band/petition).
  2. When also applying for crew/technicians/all other supplemental workers integral to the main performance unit (band), the fee is $200 (this represents $100 per petition; $100 for the musicians, an additional $100 for the supplemental workers)
For more information please contact Liana White,, 1-800-463-6333 ext 232. If you would like to learn more about AFM's immigration services, please see the October issue of the International Musician (pages 20-21), article entitled: Performing in the US or Canada 101: What AFM Members Need to Know, or, read it on the web

New Immigration Processing Fees for Union Consultation Letters required for P1, P3, O1 and O2 Visas 

The AFM Consultation Letter fee will be $250 (or $300 for expedited service) for each visa consultation letter prepared for US Citizenship and Immigration Service. This charge shall apply to all petitions and petitioners in all visa categories. This is one charge per I-129, and the fee must be pre-paid in advance of receiving the complete consultation. 

Petitioners who mail or hand-deliver an I-129 packet to the AFM office (1501 Broadway, Ste. 600, New York, NY 10036) must enclose a corporate check, certified check or money order payable to "AFM Immigration Processing". 

For more information please contact Steve Gelfand, Director, AFM Touring, Booking and Immigration,, 1-800-762-3444 ext 1231.
Let me know if this is useful.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

MCM Arts and Entertainment and Close Embrace

Good news! Tom Gallant at MCM Arts & Entertainment has looked over Voice Afire's show Close Embrace / A Tango Cabaret.

Here's what Tom said:
"Hi Ray – took a look – I see what you are working to do as far as a different kind of presentation that is more of a chamber music concert.  My feeling is though that you will need more of a theatrical element to it, lighting, and more of a scripted show to get it booked.  If you could come up with something that is appealing to the chamber music crowd as well as others who would not normally go to a chamber music concert you would have a winning combination.  Also, the other thing to consider is that you have quite a few people to bring on tour so the fee would need to be higher – so all the more reason for a more theatrical presentation that would command higher fees and ticket sales."

I couldn't agree more! I'll be working on it. Tom also suggested conferences -
Western Arts Alliance, Performing Arts Exchange, and Midwest Arts Conference - all taking place in September. 

I'll be shooting for a revised show in January of 2012 and showcasing in September of 2012.

Are there any tango enthusiasts out there?


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Andrew Kwan Artists Management

There are advantages to having been in the music business so long. One of these is that I know Andrew Kwan, an arts manager extraordinaire in Toronto . Yesterday, in the midst of a busy day preparing for Contact Ontario, Andrew gave me an hour and a half of his valuable time. We were talking specifically about the various possibilities for showcasing and touring with The Art of Love / Into the Labyrinth, Voice Afire's multi-media show written for Canada's premiere piano duo, Anagnoson and Kinton, a client of Andrew's. But we were also talking in general terms about what I needed to do to get Voice Afire Pocket Opera and Cabaret really up and running.

Here are some of Andrew's tips and insights:
  1. Count on at least 5 years to start getting established.
  2. Attend the music trade shows and do it year after year. One year absent and you are beginning to fade.
  3. The U.S. is divided geographically into 4 trade shows: Arts Northwest, Arts Midwest, Southern Arts Exchange and Western Arts Alliance
  4. Of the 3 conferences happening in New York in January (APAP, Chamber Music America, and ISPAA) ISPAA is probably the best for touring classical music groups. APAP  is a grab bag of all sorts of entertainment.
  5. For Voice Afire and its New York location: identify the presenters in an hour and a half radius of New York and try to make contact. 
  6. Presenters receive something like 100 e mails a day from artists and arts managers. Use any and every method to try to get their attention: e mail, snail mail, telephone, and any other method you can think of.
  7. Start a "buzz." i.e. articles in newspaper and magazines, concert notifications, etc.
  8. Classical music is a hard sell. Therefore, sell your concert as something other than a classical music concert. Use Andrew's show The Schumann Letters, " a story of love and music in the shadow of madness", as an example
Obviously, arts management is a tough, full-time job. Voice Afire needs  collaborators. Is anyone out there listening?

Friday, October 22, 2010

San Francisco Pocket Opera

Here's the history of the San Francisco Pocket Opera as published on their website

"Pocket Opera is the creation of its Artistic Director, Donald Pippin who, in 1954 began presenting and performing with chamber, Renaissance, and small ensembles in North Beach cabarets. Unexpectedly, these instrumental performances metamorphosed into vocal recitals, culminating with some a number of one-act operas which became wildly popular. Mr. Pippin felt strongly about making opera accessible to as wide an audience as possible and created original English language transcriptions, many of them rarely performed. In 1960, these operas were presented in concert at the Old Spaghetti Factory. In 1977, prompted by the tremendous success of these performances, members of the audience met and incorporated Pocket Opera as a non-profit organization.

By 1979, a subscription series was established, and the size of the audience forced the company out of the cabarets and into the theaters of San Francisco. In the years since, Pocket Opera has performed an annual spring season with a growing repertory of operas. The many achievements of the company include rediscoveries, premieres, and revitalization of works long unjustly neglected--some of them previously unperformed in this country."

The San Francisco Pocket Opera seems to be the oldest pocket opera organization. Did Mr. Pippin invent the term? I don't know. SFPO has a mandate or vision: making opera accessible.

That is not the vision of Voice Afire Pocket Opera and Cabaret. My vision: to recreate the form itself, making music and the voice the servant of the drama - again. To read the letters of traditional opera composers like Mozart or Verdi or Puccini, et al, that would seem have been their purpose as well. But, it seems to me, this traditional opera no longer works. These operas no longer work because in most cases the drama behind them no longer works. Audiences go to hear the voice and the music, not to experience a drama enhanced and elevated by music.

For instance, Carmen. The gipsy throws a rose at Don Jose, and he is immediately in love. Credible only as opera, not as drama. In the original story, it is quite clear that the gipsy is a sorceress - if you buy that as a dramatic possibility.

For instance, Rigolettobased on Victor Hugo’s verse play, "Le Roi s'Amuse". Has anyone out there read the play? I doubt it would work at all for a contemporary audience.

For instance, Madama Butterfly. There is really no reason in the world why we should accept the idea that Butterfly would fall for Pinkerton. Is it his voice she loves? And Pinkerton! Why should we sympathize with this self-centered egotist? Fact is, in the original play, David Belasco does give us reasons. But of course, they are really not needed in opera, so the Italian librettists excised them. 

In the Voice Afire version of Madama Butterfly I have reinstated Belascos reasons. I have tried to recreate the opera in such a way that it actually serves a credible story. Yes, it is all Puccini's music (or most of it), but there are subtle, and not so subtle changes to the libretto. 
This version stands on its own. It is not trying to sell opera to hesitant audiences.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Festival of the Sound

Festivals! Next summer Voice Afire Pocket Opera http://www, will be performing The Pocket Madama Butterfly at The Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ontario. This is Ontario's longest running and most prestigious summer music festival.
Parry Sound is a beautiful town nestled on the even more beautiful Georgian Bay. The Festival takes place in Stockey Hall as well as on the Bay itself on cruises.

Voice Afire has previously performed at the International Chamber Music Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Something I have discovered about Festivals: the name "festival" is a bit misleading. The name would seem to indicate that a Festival represents a very special performance or group of performances. Nothing of the kind! Festivals usually put on a pot-pourri of concerts. There's little or no time for rehearsal, and performers often put on concerts that don't require much rehearsal. Part of the reason for this is that Festivals often exist on shoe string budgets.

This won't be the case for Madama Butterfly
We'll be having extra rehearsals on our own. Karen Wood will be our director. We have great singers, a great actor in Colin Fox, and terrific players. It will be a wonderful show. Hope the audience appreciates what it's getting! In any event it represents exposure,something that may lead to other gigs. And that's why people perform at Festivals.

Comments about Festival performances?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pocket Opera of New York

Last Wednesday night I attended the opening concert and reception of PONY, Pocket Opera of NewYork They performed Ravel's  L'enfant et les sortileges and Debussy's La chute de la maison Usher (what there is of it). It was marvellous, done in English with piano accompaniment and some staging. 14 singers! PONY has large pockets. PONY has been around since last year. I was as much impressed with the organizational skills of the PONY admin. team as I was with the performance and with the quality of the singers.

I talked with Wei-En Hsu, Artistic Director and also the excellent accompanist for PONY. They had 6 weeks of rehearsal on a low budget!"This is New York. We had auditions, and singers from Chicago  offered to come, paying their own way." What happens when a singer gets a "paid" gig that conflicts with a production like this? This from one of the singers: "There are lots of little opera organizations in New York. Most double or triple cast each role. There are so many hungry singers here that it's possible to do that."

PONY is obviously not into touring, with such a large cast. Voice Afire Pocket Opera and Cabaret is.
Perhaps there's some synchronicity there?

PONY performed at the Bechstein Showroom at 207 West 58th St.

Any singers wanting to audition for PONYtry:

Ensemble Schumann at Port Washington

Sunday I took the Long Island Railroad to the beautiful town of Port Washington on Long Island.
I had been invited by Steve Larson, violist with the Adaskin Trio to hear a concert of  Ensemble Schumann at the Port Washington Public Library. The Adaskin Trio premiered my piece Tango Dreams in Elgin, Quebec. Tango Dreams is part of the Voice Afire show Close Embrace / A Tango Cabaret

Steve wanted me to meet Tom Gallant, oboist with Ensemble Schumann, manager of the Adaskin Trio, and Managing Director of MCM Arts and Entertainment.

The concert was a traditional show of 18th and 19th Century music. It was well played, to be sure. The audience was of a "certain age." But frankly, it is not something I would otherwise even cross the street to hear. That's me, the classical music heretic speaking.

Mostly, Mozart and Schumann and the rest bore me to tears. For me, music is not just about pretty (or un-pretty) sounds. For me, music has a meaning and is actually saying something. This music, written for either a decadent upper class or a self-satisfied middle class, speaks to me of grandiosity (call it "uplifting") or of acute narcissism and bathos. Yes, as a composer, I love it, technically speaking - it says what it says very well.However, if this music were translated into drama, it would be the worst kind of soap opera; and  no-one would go to see it performed.

Comments on my rant?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Symphony Space

Speaking of concert venues in New York, there's Symphony Space on Broadway at 96th St., a very respectable venue indeed. Actually, in Symphony Space there are two halls. From the website:
Our 756-seat Peter Jay Sharp Theatre with proscenium stage and fixed seating is available for rental 7 days a week 9:30 am to 12 am (Sundays after 2 pm only). Our 168-seat Leonard Nimoy Thalia with platform stage is available for rental 7 days a week 9:30 am to 12 am (Sundays until 2 pm only).

I'm renting Thalia Hall on June 6. 2011. Anagnoson and Kinton, duo pianists, and actor Colin Fox will be performing my The Art of Love / Into the Labyrinth. there will be visuals by Ron Hurwitz.

This piece is a case in point for how the music business really works - or doesn't work. When
I first joined the Toronto Symphony I made it my point to meet important people in the music business - my connection with the TSO gave me that opportunity. I talked with conductors, performers, music publishers, etc. My question: "How does a composer make it in this business." All of them said, "Spend some time promoting yourself, but not too much. Keep composing. If your work is good, it will get played. Find a champion" That's romantic baloney.

And so I'm renting Symphony Space (Thalia Hall) to get a complete performance of what I
think is my best piece, The Art of Love / Into the Labyrinth, written eight years ago. It will cost me in the neighborhood of $3000 or more. That includes $1200 to rent the hall, $600 to rent and move a 2nd piano, and other costs related to a screen and microphones and publicity.  Anagnoson and Kinton, bless their hearts, are paying their own way down as is Colin Fox, as is Ron Hurwitz.

Music makes it not on its own merits but with some of your own cash and with help from your friends.
Do check out Youtube for last June's performance of excerpts from The Art of Love at Symphony Space:

Monday, October 11, 2010

York Theatre Company

Beware of any theater company not based in the UK or Canada that spells theater as "theatre". That "theatre" company is either very pretentious or very professional and very well-established. For the York Theatre Company it is definitely the latter. I saw one of the shows in their Musicals in Mufti series, I Remember Mama by Richard Rogers, at the Theatere at St. Peters Church at 619 Lexington Ave. It was on book, with piano accompaniment, with minimal staging, and on 30 hours of rehearsal. All the same, it was tremendously professional. The performers were stunning.

In Toronto when I mentioned doing something with musicians involved or with more that 4 performers, the  theater companies treated me as if I had invoked the name of Mephistofeles himself. Here in NYC these things are happening all over the place.

Now, let's say you have a musical - or at least something that uses singers and actors and musicians. Does the York Theatre Company accept manuscripts? Wonder of wonders, yes they do! Here are the conditions (found on their website):

-The York Theatre Company is one of the only theatres in the country that accepts unsolicited scripts - we receive scripts from around the world, from both established and emerging writers.
-York's mission concerns musicals only; we do not accept submissions of plays
-A completed script, as well as a sound recording of at least most of the songs.
-Only when the submission process is open.  The process is currently CLOSED.  Please check back periodically to see if the process is open or closed.  Any scripts received while the submission process is closed will not be considered.

York Theatre Company
The Theatre at Saint Peter's
619 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Anyone have a musical lying in a desk drawer? Well I do, and I'll be checking their website periodically.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Le Poisson Rouge

Yes, The Red Fish. Since moving to NYC, I have begun investigating New York concert venues, and this is one of the most interesting. They put on eveything from rock shows to very heavy weight "new music" concerts. I went to see a Japanese pianist perform Boulez, Webern, and fellow "old hat" modernists. (Hey! I was imitating this style 40 years ago - it's not "modern" anymore!) It was wonderfully played. the place was packed with the young and the older. You could have heard a pin drop. This week's performances by the Kronos Quartet were sold out.

This is the hip place in NYC to put on a show. If you are not a rock band, pay no mention to the blurb that says you must sign up with GigMaven
Rather one sends a message to Catch is, they will only let you know 1 or 2 months ahead of time if you are booked.

Nevertheless, I have gone ahead and requested a booking for my multi-media show
The Art of Love / Into the Labyrinth
with visuals by Ron Hurwitz

By the way, whether or not Le Poisson Rouge picks us up (Us being me and Anagnoson and Kinton ), The Art of Love is on for June 6, 2011 at Symphony Space / Thalia Studio See you there!

Ray Luedeke
Voice Afire Pocket Opera and Cabaret

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Catch 22

A Catch-22, coined by Joseph Heller in his novel Catch-22, is a logical paradox arising from a situation in which an individual needs something that can only be acquired by not being in that very situation; therefore, the acquisition of this thing becomes logically impossible.

Tour ready: This is the very situation of a musician trying to tour, i.e. you won't be hired to tour unless you have already toured.  For instance, the people at the Ontario Presenting Network told me that to showcase at Ontario Contact I would need to be "tour ready." That means that I would have already have toured and have performed in at least 10 different and geographically distant places. And not only that! I would need reviews from all these places. Thing is, if I were already that successful, why would I need to showcase at Contact Ontario? Same from Jeunesses Musicales "We would love to help you tour. When can I see your next show on tour?"
Keep in mind that one-offs (single concerts) don't count.

Next level: If I am already successful enough to be touring, why do I need these people? Here is an answer from a seminar at Arts Midwest, this concerning arts management: "We are here to take you to the next level." The problem remains:
how do I get to level one?

Money: As always, money is the answer. Or, as an arts mangers told me,
"Become a not-for-profit corporation, build a board, and the board will raise money." That particular arts mgr.has obviously never dealt with the problem of trying to get a board to raise money: subject for another blog. Or the psychology of a not-for-profit board: another blog. What would money pay for? With money I could rent the halls to create my own tour. I could hire a publicity agent and pay for publicity to publicize the tour. I could have money up front to pay for the expenses of rehearsal. I could guarantee payments to performers.

That requires a lot of money! In the absence of large amounts of cash, I need a little help from my friends.

One more necessary item: a logo. Thanks to Bjay Nathan in Toronto. Like it?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Arts Midwest Conference

"It wouldn't matter if it were the greatest piece ever written.  We wouldn't record it".

Years ago, that's what was said to me by an A&R man (Artists and Repertoire Man - do they still exist?)  at RCA Victor (that doesn't still exist for sure).  At the time, one of the world's great string quartets and a great harpist was set to record my harp quintet.  On a whim, I had called RCA Victor - in the days when people actually answered phone calls - and that was the response.

After a long and varied career in music, the words of that A&R man still stick in my craw.  This blog is about my response to those words.

Over the last fifteen years, I have composed and/or arranged a series of music theatre pieces.  Now I have abandoned the performance part of my career to spend my time composing and promoting these shows.  Voice Afire Pocket Opera and Cabaret is the name of my production company.

Most performing musicians know a little about the business side of putting on concerts or booking tours.  Neither did I.  But I am learning.  As part of my learning process, last month I attended the Arts Midwest Conference  Along with hundreds of others I had a booth in a huge convention centre in Indianapolis.  Here's a picture of my booth.

Presenters, the people who put on concert series, were there in their hundreds to make contact with performers.

In three days, six hours a day, sitting in front of my booth, not one presenter stopped and asked, "Who are you? Tell me about your show."  Not one.  Unfortunately, this would seem to prove the words of my A&R man.  After all, my shows had all been performed numerous times.  Audiences loved them, performers loved them, and if I do say so myself, they are very fine.

I used my free time, there was lots of it, to wonder the hall and make contacts and learn.  Here's what I learned:

  • Preparation is all important.  Contact Presenters before hand and make appointments.  At least, let them know you exist.
  • Arts trade shows are all about networking.  Not art.  About personal relationships.  "I'll hire you if I know you and if I trust you".
  • Nobody wants to take a risk.  Everybody wants a sure bet.  The problem is how to become a sure bet. 
I was saved from utter despair by 2 things:
  • Matt Brown, another new comer to the convention, was ignored almost as completely as I was.  Matt is an absolutely wonderful performer of traditional Appalachian folk music.  I know this because I heard his showcase.  Why weren't Presenters flocking to his booth?
  • I had the support and encouragement of four veteran Arts Managers:
    • Kenneth Wentworth at
    • Laurelle Favreau at
    • Annick-Patricia Carriere at
    • Manuel Prestamo at

Special thanks to all the above.

Readers, please send comments, suggestions, additions, etc.  My next trade shows will be APAP in New York  and then Chamber Music America