Saturday, December 20, 2008

Comforting Joy

Recently your Redheads whiled away a perfectly good afternoon, in which they should have been hard at work, watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and the original (and still the best) How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Aided by the sudden rush of holiday nostalgia, and perhaps a cookie or five we decided to share some of our holiday essentials with you. As a special holiday treat just for you we've added our very first musical sound byte to the site right at the very end of this post so read on....

To Watch: Last weekend in an attempt to expand my holiday horizons I attempted to watch several made for TV holiday movies featured on certain cable networks’ as part of their All Holiday All the Time programming. Never have I seen so many movies featuring so many plucky blondes named Holly, adorable sad eyed children, and childlike yet compellingly attractive men named Nick. In one there was even a mid-air helicopter VS. reindeer chase through the skies of Mid-town Manhattan. Where IS homeland security when you need them? All of which lead me to the conclusion that my holiday horizons are just fine thank you very much, and I’ll stick with my old favorites such as…

Christmas In Connecticut Before there was a Martha Stewart there was Barbara Stanwyck’s Elizabeth Lane faking her way to the top of the homemaking heap. Funny, smart, romantic, and a great way to spend a snowbound evening.

Holiday Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant directed by George Cukor, on of my favorite movies ever. Though not technically a “Holiday” movie despite the title, a lot of the action takes place on New Years Eve so I’m counting it.

A Christmas Story A love story between a boy and his BB gun. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it, but it still makes me howl with laughter.

To Read: There comes a time each and every December when it all gets to be too too, Too many people reminding me that they had everything done by August, too many Christmas letters listing too many accomplishments for any one human being to actually have acquired over the course of one year, too many cars with Christmas wreaths on their grill attempting to run me over in the merriest way possible. When that moment arrives I turn to David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries and Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel. Nothing says peace on earth and good will to men quite like disgruntled elves and Brain eating zombie Santa Clauses.

For the sheer pleasure of reading beautiful writing there are Truman Capote’s short stories The Thanksgiving Visitor, A Christmas Memory and One Christmas.

Finally, because in my house we’re all overgrown children there are the picture books. Every year we read Amhal & the Night Visitors, Chanukah in Chelm, and Cajun Night Before Christmas.

To Hear: Every year it seems they roll out the holiday tunes earlier and earlier so that by the first of December if I hear one more version of The Christmas Song I’ll run screaming into oncoming traffic. So this year I spent some time trying to find some new favorites that you won’t be hearing over and over and over again on the department store muzak tracks.

Northern Lights is a brand spanking new album from one of my very favorite songwriters Gretchen Peters that contain several new songs alongside some interesting arrangements of more traditional pieces. A wonderful recording!

I just rediscovered a CD that my friend DC Anderson released a few years ago called All is Calm, All is Bright. In addition to being a fine singer, and having a great knack for discovering tunes off the beaten track he writes great songs! There’s not much on here that you will have heard before which is what makes it one of my favorites. It may even surprise you to see who wrote some of the material that DC didn’t. Did you know Stephen Sondheim wrote at least two Christmas songs? Do you know what they were? If you can tell me, I’ll send you a little stocking stuffer.

It’s traditional, you probably will find at least one of its tracks on the mall muzak, but I can’t help myself. I have a definite soft spot for Christmas With the Rat Pack. How can you go wrong with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin?

Finally, a little gifty written and performed by my friend Rick Jensen called You’d Better Say Yes. This is our debut podcast on Two Well Read debut so give it a listen

Have a wonderful holiday and a joyous New Year.

Wendy Lane

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ah, that Wendy Lane has taste! Johnny Cash's "Hurt" is one of the most moving combinations of artist, song, and image I have ever seen, and it is one of my favorites.
So here are another five that I love enough to have watched repeatedly. All have music, but none of them are what you would call "music videos", because sometimes I just don't want to follow instructions...

1. Dancing with Drummer
There has never been a dancer like Eleanor Powell. She had it all: grace, strength, sex appeal, humor, and rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. And in this clip, she also has the great Buddy Rich on the drums. Watch this one, and notice that once she starts dancing, you are seeing lo-o-o-ng shots, with virtually no cuts.

2. Dancing with Brothers
I remember seeing the Motown 25th Anniversary Special on TV, and swooning over all the performances, but none more than that of the Jackson Five. As amazing as Michael is on his own, it is good to be reminded that the whole group was electrifying.

3. Dancing without Moving
Before the Andrews Sisters became "the" harmony group of the 40s, there was something better: the Boswell Sisters. These Louisiana girls could sing and swing circles around the Andrews Sisters, and I have heard from several different sources that Connee Boswell was Ella Fitzgerald's favorite singer. Check out their impeccable harmony and gorgeous phrasing. The best. Period.

4. Dancing in the Spirit
A few years ago, Oprah Winfrey gave a weekend party to celebrate and pay tribute to the legendary women who have inspired her. Her guests included Maya Angelou, Patti Labelle, Ruby Dee, Leontyne Price, Kathleen Battle, Tina Turner, Sidney Poitier, Smokey Robinson... the list truly does go on and on. This clip shows what happened at the gospel brunch. There were a lot of singers there; does that give you a hint?

5. Dancing with Horse
This horse and rider team bring tears to my eyes. I have done enough riding and working with horses to have a sense of how incredibly difficult it is to do this "dancing", and how much trust we are seeing in front of our eyes.

There are so many more clips: Sammy Davis Jr., Maria Callas, Ella Fitzgerald, on and on. Listening to the records was always great, but it is priceless to be able to see and hear these artists, their expressions, their movement, the excitement of the performances (even if the artist is a horse!). Thank you to all the devoted fans who find these wonderful bits of film and post them!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fun With YouTube

With the crashing economy, bouts of sniffling sneezing, aching and general plague like symptoms, jury duty, and the fact that Miss. Laurel and I are closet political junkies we have not gotten out as much as we would like of late. I did manage to make it out to the Hampton’s Film Fest on Saturday with my friend Michelle for a premiere party Nursery U a film by entertainment lawyer turned docutmentarian Marc Simon. If you’ve ever thought about chucking it all, moving to Manhattan and enrolling your child in nursery school, see this film, and then we’ll talk. Other than that we’ve been counting our pennies, consuming chicken soup and spending countless hours shaking our first at the TV (or blog, or newspaper, or radio) and precious few getting dolled up and doing the town. Fortunately, we are not alone in this, as many of our nearest and dearest have also been sticking close to home these days, so in the spirit of public service we’ve decided to share with you our other secret passion…The wonderful world of YouTube. When we need diversion close to home we have discovered a world of fun lurking in our very own computers. It’s wacky, it’s diverse, and it’s FREE. This week Laurel and I are each sharing our current top five musical faves from the site.

The Muppets - Danny Boy: The Muppets were very big in my house growing up. Partly because my mother and Mr. Henson were both born in Mississippi, he in Greenville, and she in Hot Coffee (yes, really, I’ve been there). Mostly though they were just hysterically funny. Marvin Suggs and his amazing Muppaphone’s version of Lady of Spain was the first thing to make my son laugh uncontrollably when he was a toddler. You can catch all of Marvin’s greatest hits on YouTube too, but this clip is my absolute favorite. How can you go wrong with Beaker, the Swedish Chef, AND Animal singing Danny Boy?

Johnny Cash – Hurt: One of the final recordings of his career. Simply stunning. If you prefer your Nine Inch Nails covers with puppets there is also a version performed by Kermit the frog, not for the Sesame Street Devotee.

Bobby McFerrin – Ave Maria: The vocal is terrific, but more than that he takes the audience along with him in a wonderful moment of musical improv. While you’re there take a peek at his version of Round Midnight, and Hush Little Baby with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. Speaking of Mr. Meyer, who appeared briefly on this page a few weeks back, there is a clip of a duet he did with Victor Wooten called Coolest Bass Duet Ever that pretty much is. YouTube videos are a lot like potato chips it’s hard to watch just one. One video leads to another and before you know it the day is gone, and you’ve got nothing to show for it except cats that won’t speak to you because you were so engrossed you forgot to feed them.

Keith Jarrett – Then I’ll Be Tired of You: His physicality is unlike any pianist I’ve ever seen, but if that’s what it takes for him to make this sort of music who cares? There are also some great clips on the site of Bill Evans.

Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt – High Sierra: Three fantastic and highly individual singers making music together.

If you want to keep going you can check out the clips of Stephen Sondheim working with the students at the Guildhall School in London (wow!), A gospel medley with Dolly Parton and Carol Burnett (Huh?), and Sarah Vaughn singing The Nearness of You (Ahhhh). Send us your favorite video from the site and we’ll enter you in this month’s 0-10 challenge where we are searching for entertainment that costs less than ten bucks. Our prize is a CD compiled especially for you of cuts by Miss. Laurel and myself. And now…take it away Laurel…..

Friday, October 10, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation… PLUS… October's Reader Challenge…..

It would seem a bit odd that only now when most normal people are deciding which presidential candidate to impersonate for Halloween am I getting around to this post. However, with all of our running here and there over the past few weeks I kept getting delayed and here we are. So without any further delay on my part… my summer story….

After six years of administrating a summer conference for singers I announced my intention of taking the summer off. This was met with varied reactions from skepticism to confusion and in the case of my friend Michelle, a plot to kill me. Michelle is my “sporty” friend, gorgeous, all of five feet tall, and one hundred pounds soaking wet, but I’d never be fool enough to bet against her in a fight. She’s fierce, and burns near as many calories as Michael Phelps on a typical day. I’ve seen her eat her six foot six former pro football playing husband under the table when dessert was involved and still fit perfectly into a size four. Life is not fair. Upon hearing that I would be taking time off she announced that idle hands were the devil’s (or maybe Jenny Craig’s) workshop and that she was going to take charge of ensuring that I spend the summer attempting to do all the things I’ve never done before. Namely, golf, tennis, mountain biking, and horse back riding, with a bit of yoga thrown in for good measure. A few trips to the local ER and one near death experience quickly convinced me that I was not cut out for the sporting life and that the better part of valor would be for me to return to the world where I belonged. In this case the recording studio where all I would have to hit would be the correct notes and chances of accidental dismemberment were far less likely. So I ensconced myself in the small recording studio at Rick Jensen’s and worked on putting some of my favorite tunes and arrangements on the record. With Rick acting as arranger, and producer, Miss. Laurel advising, doing some of the co-producing and a back up vocal here and there, and my friend Lisa Poulos providing a few additional harmonies we had a grand old time. I have worked on other people’s recordings and that has always been great, but it’s nothing like doing your own thing.With Rick and Laurel I couldn't ask for better creative partners and that makes it all the more fun. I love being in the studio, and I am looking to do some more recording over the next year. In the meantime, we have been working on getting things mixed and up onto my website( a tune at a time. I’ll keep you posted as things develop, and I hope you enjoy what we’ve done so far. Remember it keeps me safe and off the golf course. Alas, Michelle has not yet given up on her plan. She keeps trying to lure me back to sports with the promise that this gives me the perfect excuse to get a whole new shoe wardrobe. Any shoe that involves a rubber sole is not worth dying for. There are pictures of my sporting odyssey but I fear the world is not ready for snaps of me wielding a gold club.

All of this brings me to our October giveaway…..

First the prize: This month we’re giving away a CD devised especially for our winner with two tracks by yours truly and two by Miss. Laurel. To win you won’t even have to perform any feats of athletic prowess you just have to participate in something we Redheads are calling The 0-10 Challenge. We’re looking for cultural stuff to do that costs less than $10. All you have to do is write in with your suggestions for great entertainment that fall within that price range. Over the course of the month we’ll check them out and write about some of our favorites. The very best one (or maybe even two) will be declared our winner and gets a CD with us warbling away. Not in the NYC area? Not a problem, share some of the fun things going on in your neck of the woods that meet our criteria and you’ll be eligible too. You have till Halloween to get your entries in, so get out there and find some cheap thrills!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Words & Music & Pictures

As promised we remembered to bring out our trusty camera to memorialize our fabulous trip to DC for the Words & Music master class. Here are a few shots of the people who made it a memorable day...

Miss Wendy Lane with Tim Tourbin, her high school chum (and a darn fine singer himself) who along with his partner Jeff offered your Redheads his home for the evening before the class. Note the look of slight surprise on his face: who knew two redheads and their paraphernalia could take up almost on entire floor for on overnight trip!

Miss Laurel & Tim wondering if 8:30 AM on a Saturday is really the best time to take photos.

Class participant Maura Mendoza with our accompanist one of DC's best and best dressed Ron Chiles. (Alas, the tux wasn't for us he was off to another gig right after ours!)

Our DC Singers with Laurel: Left to right Maura Mendoza, Joanne Hyder, Christy Trapp, Laurel, Kathy Reilly, Chris Herman, and Terri Allen.

The moment we discover that we really could use a camera with a timer so that we can all be in one picture. Wendy Lane with the group.

We love coming to DC, and will be back for another class on March 14th. In the meantime big hugs and kisses from us to everyone who shared this experience with us. Special thanks is due to Tim Tourbin and Jeff Hamlin for housing us and feeding us a magnificent meal, to Terri Allen who takes care of all our class needs by booking our studio space, accompanist, and lugging and providing her sound system for our use. We couldn't have done it without you!!!!!

Our next class coming up will be on October 25th in New York City. If you want more details just click HERE and drop an email.

Your Redheads

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The weather was dark and rainy, but the singing was full of light. That is my memory of the great workshop master class that Wendy Lane and I taught in Washington, D.C. last weekend. After a long drive from New York City, we arrived in D.C. in time for a lovely dinner with friends (and then watching the presidential debate). On Saturday morning we met with the six singers who had enrolled in the master class,and spent the next four hours working toward richer and more nuanced interpretations of the wonderful songs they brought in. I want to thank Terri Allen, Maura Mendoza, Chris Herman, Joanne Hyder, Kathy Reilly and Christy Trapp for their great work and wit. And a respectful tip of the Redhead hat to pianist Ron Chiles, who accompanied everyone with perfect taste and contributed his experience and observations to the class. It was an inspiring day.
Our next master class in the D.C area will be in March 2009, and we are already looking forward to it!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Divo Triple Header

It truly has been raining men in these parts. Hot on the heels of Miss Wendy Lane’s weekend adventure comes not one but THREE more of our beloved musicians of the masculine persuasion. And ON THE SAME NIGHT! What’s a Redhead to do? Well, in the case of this titian tressed duo we put on our party faces, fortified ourselves with Cream of mushroom soup and quiche (ahh… the culinary pleasures of fall) and sallied forth. Our first stop was midtown Manhattan where we took in our Aussie Pal, Tyran Parke’s US debut. Tyran has been making a name for himself in his homeland as a premier musical theatre performer. He just wrapped up a run there playing George Seurat in a rapturously received Sunday in the Park With George, A show which holds a special place in your Redheads’ hearts. Just the sound of the opening chords has been known to reduce Wendy Lane to tears. On this night Tyran took the stage as himself, and a charming self it is. To hear him sing is truly a wonderful experience and his performance of Sondheim’s Finishing the Hat (from Sunday in the Park) was one of the great highlights of a memorable evening. A side benefit for us was sharing a table with some of our favorite show folk including Jim Caruso, Alex Rybeck and Julie Wilson. After a quick congratulatory hug to Tyran, and a kiss to his musical director, Christopher Denny (whose talent is only exceeded by his great height, he makes even your vertically advantaged Redheads feel petite) we were off uptown as fast as the NYC transit system could carry us. Our next stop was the final moments of a house concert given by Mandolin Phenom and former Nickel Creek member Chris Thile along with bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer. Consummate musicians and lovely human beings both there is no musical style that these two cannot conquer. It was the perfect end to the evening for your Redheads who returned home to their beds quite tired but absolutely musically sated. The only downside to the evening was that we were so busy getting from one event to the next we had no time to remove the camera from the dark recesses of the bag in which it spent the evening. You’ll have to take our word for it that everyone looked divine, and we’ll make up for it in our next outing. Tomorrow we’re off to teach in DC. We’ll file a full report upon our return.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday in the Theatre with Jason

I spent this past weekend with two of my favorite men on the planet, the amazingly talented, and awfully darn nice Jason Graae and Rick Jensen. Jason, one of the funniest humans I have ever met, flew in from LA to do a gig in the wilds of New Jersey, and he invited me to come along as a special guest artist. Knowing a good time is always to be had when one is with Mr. Graae I leaped at the chance. My pal Rick, composer, arranger, accompanist and all round good egg was at the keyboard for this one. It was a great gig! Jason never fails to make me laugh uproariously even after having seen and worked with him many times over the past few years. He is a master of making every moment feel fresh and spontaneous. There are always a few delightful surprises when he's on the stage. With Rick keeping up with him on the ivories much beautiful music was made. I got to sing and be silly, and it was all bliss!!!!!
Here are some snaps of my wonderful weekend...

Jason and Me: Putting our heads together

Rick & Jason: If you see these two on a stage you know you're in for a good time!

Friday, September 19, 2008

I Could Have Danced All Night

It is a wonderful thing to sing at a great club, and Birdland is definitely a great club. The sound was terrific, the lights also fine, the piano is a Bosendorfer. The staff is friendly and respectful, and the audience was wonderful last Monday night. Really, all I had to do was sing.

Back to that piano - it has extra keys at the bass end. We had no call to use those keys, but I think having extra bass strings changes the overall sound of the instrument. It was dark and rich like...hmm, like a really good Bordeaux, or like dark chocolate (two things I don't indulge in when I am performing, so it was extra sweet to have that piano).

I am already looking forward to returning.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Monday! Monday!

The only thing blue about this Monday was the nine foot electric blue Bosendorfer that shared the stage with Miss. Laurel as she warbled away at NYC's famed Birdland. The other half of your flame haired duo Miss. Wendy Lane worked the other side of the footlights on this one as creative collaborator. Here are a few pix of our grand adventure in the Land of Bird....

Your Redheads...We're a little dazed, slightly confused...but thoroughly thrilled!

Laurel with He Who Does it All, Jim Caruso
Laurel and the too marvelous for words Julie Wilson
Many thanks to the music makers who shared the stage with Miss. L, Tex Arnold who piloted the Bosendorfer, Rich DeRosa on drums, and Mike Finck on Bass. Thanks to Jim Caruso for being the most gracious host we could possibly ask for (and for providing the photos of Wendy Lane and Julie). To Sean Corcoran who ran lights and sound, and the rest of the wonderful Birdland staff you have our undying gratitude. Finally, a virtual hug and kiss to all of you who came out to share the evening with us, it could not be done with out you!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

and the winner is...are...

Aitchd , you answered the questionnaire, and intrigued this redhead with by referring to a "Keatsian ecstasy" and to mowing the lawn with a push mower, one of my favorite sounds of childhood summers. Because you say you live too far away to come to my Birdland show tomorrow night, I am going to send you a copy of my CD, Feather and Bone.

Philomena was first to comment on our "Redheads on the Town" post, so she gets the ticket to the show.

Please email us at for details.

Thank you both!!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

One Last Chance

Just a reminder: to win that free ticket to my performance at New York city's famed Birdland this coming Monday night, September 15th, you will have to post your answers to our musical questionnaire by 5 PM Eastern time Saturday evening (the deadline having been arbitrarily extended to reflect the benevolence of the Redheads). That's tomorrow, my dears! So put on your thinking caps, and surprise us!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We'd Like to Teach the World to Sing

September always makes us a wee bit nostalgic for the whole "back to school" thing; fresh notebooks, sharp pencils, new clothes (Well, mostly the clothes) and the excitement of starting all over again. Since we're both a bit long in the tooth to be boarding the big yellow bus, we decided that perhaps it is better for us to celebrate this time of year by enjoying a classroom of our very own. We are thrilled to announce that we will be doing our Words & Music: a Master Class for Singers in two locations here on the East Coast. On Saturday September 27th we will be in Wendy Lane's former home base Washington, DC, and Saturday October 4th we will be in our current home town New York City.

We both love to be on stage ourselves more than anything, however helping other performers to hone their skills in a supportive and FUN atmosphere runs a close second. The fact that we encourage singers of all genres to participate only adds to the creative environment. We've had Jazz singers, cabaret singers, folk singers, pop singers, musical theatre singers, and Christian singers all in one class and the results have been amazing. It is wonderful to see how performers take coaching and change before your very eyes, but it is equally striking to see a group of eight to ten performers who were strangers bond and cheer each other on. We try to cover as much ground as possible in our sessions, and make sure we are aware of what each student's goal is in taking the class. For time and location details look at the blog calendar to the right of this column. If you’d like more information about enrollment, what the class covers, etc. contact Park Road Management.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Proust The Musical Part II - Starring Jim Caruso

As we mentioned in our previous post we are devoted fans of Jim Caruso. Jim is a performer, producer, writer, and all round entertainment mogul. When he's not traveling the globe to perform with Liza Minnelli he can be found every Monday night running the show at Birdland's Jim Caruso's Cast Party. In addition to his many other accomplishments he is the award winning creator and producer of the Broadway at Birdland series. In an effort to discover more about the man of many chapeaus that is Jim we decided to give him our Musical Questionnaire....

The Questionnaire
Starring Jim Caruso

What is your current State of Mind?
Pleasantly confused

What was the first song you ever performed in public?
Three Little Fishies on The Ricky & Copper Show, WTAE-TV, Pittsburgh, PA

What was the first musical act you ever saw in person?
My parents took me to The Holiday House in Pittsburgh to see Ben Vereen's nightclub act. It changed my life. He wore a brown jumpsuit with puffy white sleeves, sang and danced “Magic To Do.” I almost wet my pants. I also remember going to The Americana Hotel in NYC to see Phyllis Newman, and I got her autograph.

What is your idea of perfect musical happiness?
James Taylor singing Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight

What do you regard as the lowest depth of musical misery?
German Oom-pah Band/Autoharp

Name three composers you wish would write a song for you?
Jimmy Webb, Adam Guettel, Maltby & Shire

What virtue do you consider essential for every musician?
Senses of swing and humor

What Profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Architect. It just sounds cool, and you get to wear interesting eyeglasses.

What profession would you not like to attempt?

What is your greatest extravagance?
Ralph Lauren

Who are your heroes in real life?
Tom Viola for his tireless work at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
Robert Kennedy, Jr. for his environmental crusade
Kay Thompson for coaching every performer I love and jazzing up the sound of the movies

Thank you Jim for taking a minute to answer our questions, and we give you our solemn vow not to bring our autoharps to Cast Party. For the complete info on Jim you can visit his website at It's a great site and has more photos like the one above from our favorite photog Bill Westmoreland.

Post your own answers to the questionnaire in our comments section and you could win a free ticket to see Laurel Masse' at Birdland on September 15th. If you aren't in the NYC area don't that stop you we'll send you a CD if your entry is chosen. All answers need to reach us by September 10th.

Redheads on the Town

As mentioned in our previous post Miss Laurel has a gig coming up at NYC's Birdland, so Monday night we strapped on our stilettos, hopped the A train and headed down to the club to hang out at Jim Caruso's Cast Party. And are we glad we did....Jim Caruso's Cast Party on Monday night at Birdland is one of NYC's great entertainment adventures. Jim Caruso is the dapper and unflappable host of the proceedings who gets our vote for the hardest working man in show biz. Each week he takes a head spinning variety of acts who come through the door from the famous, to the near famous to the not even close and combines them into perhaps the only true variety show left on the planet. On any given week you're likely to see singers from every genre, the cast of the latest Broadway hit, dancers, comedians, impressionists, instrumentalists, composers, ventriloquists, contortionists, you name it. It seems like everyone in town drops by to promote their latest project, try out new material, or to see and be seen. You'll never know who will be there.

This week on the audience side you had actress Mary Louise Parker, singer/songwriter Christine Lavin, busloads of tourists, scenesters, Broadway babies, and your very own Redheads. On the other side of the footlights were swinging singer Carrie Jackson, LaLa Brooks of the Crystals (remember Da Do Run Run?), cast members from the upcoming Off -Broadway show Enter Laughing, Luba Mason, the new cast of Alter Boyz, our own Miss. Laurel AND...LIZA MINNELLI. Your redheads are not normally star struck, but she rendered us twitterpated. It was a ten minute master class on performance. We have rarely seen anyone command a stage like this. With Billy Stritch on piano and without fancy costume (She looked tremendous, by the way) she was in complete command of the stage. We are still in awe. A good time was definitely had by all!!!!

It occurs to us that since Laurel will be in concert at Birdland on Monday September 15th at 7:00 PM, you could make it a twofer. Come for Laurel stay for Cast Party! You could even see Laurel free if you make a comment on this blog between now and September 10th. Just pick your favorite question from our musical questionnaire and you'll be eligible to win a free ticket to Laurel's show at Birdland. Not in the NYC area? That's okay, we'll send you a CD instead.
Cast Party happens at Birdland every Monday night beginning at 9:30 for more info visit their website . Tell 'em we sent you!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Proust the Musical…..

We must confess to being fans of both Vanity Fair Magazine and James Lipton and his TV show Inside the Actor’s Studio. Our favorite part is the questionnaire that closes each. The questionnaire is “adapted” from French talk show host Bernard Pivot, who “adapted” it from Marcel Proust, who “adapted” it from an English source, who “adapted” it from heaven only knows. Let’s just say that the use of a questionnaire to get to know the deep inner thoughts of relative strangers has a long and distinguished history, as anyone who has ever gotten certain email forwards knows all too well. Your Redheads certainly like the idea of using a few well-worded questions to reveal their current state of mind, but felt that existing versions of it didn’t specifically address their musical needs. With a tip of our lady-like bonnets to all the sources that came before here is our more musical version.

What is your current State of Mind?

LM: Happy

WLB: Expectant Agitation

What was the first song you ever performed in public?

LM: The Ballad of Davy Crockett

WLB: Paper Roses in the third grade Talent show.

What was the first musical act you ever saw in person?

LM: Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians

WLB: The Osmonds at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, VA. (Give me a break, I was nine….)

What is your idea of perfect musical happiness?

LM: Perfect harmony with all

WLB: Being surrounded by musicians I love and respect to collaborate on projects that let me use my skills as a singer, writer, and creator.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of musical misery?

LM: Being prevented from doing my best

WLB: Watching other musicians have all the fun while I do the paperwork and schlep the bags.

Name three composers you wish would write a song for you?

LM: Randy Newman, Adam Guettel, and James Taylor. But if they're too busy... Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Chris Thile, Lorraine Feather, James Bassi, Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman, and Ann Hampton Callaway. And me. I wish I would, too!

WLB: I think I’m going to exceed my limit on this one, but here goes…Amanda McBroom & Michele Brourman (since they frequently write together they count as one), Gretchen Peters, Willie Nelson, Stephen Sondheim, and John Bucchino. Johnny Mercer too, but since he’s no longer among us I think he falls into a different category.

What virtue do you consider essential for every musician?

LM: Compassion

WLB: The Ability to listen

What Profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

LM: Other profession? I am completely happy being an artist, and I would
like to expand with writing and public speaking. But a different
profession? Hmmm. Chat show host? Traveling evangelist? Dog trainer?

WLB: Historian/Museum Curator

What profession would you not like to attempt?

LM: Formula One racing. Definitely.

WLB: Anything that involves being confined in a cubicle.

What is your greatest extravagance?

LM: Books and the time taken to read them.

WLB: Wildly impractical and terribly expensive shoes.

Who are your heroes in real life?

LM: Everyone who walks or stumbles though life with a measure of grace and compassion, and is able to change the lives of others for the better. Some get more publicity than others: Mother Teresa. Dr. Martin Luther King. St. Paul. Some are unknown. It might be you, beloved reader.

WLB: My mother, who taught me to love fiercely and that to survive with wit and grace, is the highest art form.

Not being content to gaze endlessly at our own navels in a fruitless search for answers we want to hear from YOU. We’re inviting you to take one or all of the questions from the questionnaire and answer them yourself, or if you’re feeling especially inspired make up your own question. Post it in our comments section and you will be eligible for our current fabulous give away. The winner, chosen at random, will get a free ticket to see the taller half of your redheads (that would be the fabulous and fierce Miss. Laurel) at Birdland in New York City on September 15th. If you don’t happen to be in the NYC area don’t let that stop you; if you’re our lucky winner we’ll send you one of Laurel’s CD’s. All entries are due by September 10th so get to questioning…..

Monday, August 11, 2008

Better Late Than......

We RedHeads seem to be enjoying our summer hiatus just a little too much. So much in fact, that we are a wee bit late announcing that the winner of our July give away is Naomi Hanks. Naomi, your prize is on its way. We'll be returning from our fun in the sun shortly to bring you an all new topic and an all new prize so y'all come back now.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

On The Road With the RedHeads

Or, as we like to call it Trapped in the Car With Wendy Lane and Laurel as They Try to Find the Gig…Random musings, insights, and other stuff from our summer road trip….

  • A MATH PROBLEM: If a car leaves New York City carrying two redheaded chick singers on a three hundred mile drive how many times can they stop and still make a 7:00 PM gig the following evening?
  • WILD ANIMAL SIGHTINGS: 3 deer, a herd of Alpaca, 1 cranky snapping turtle, a raven, wild turkey (of the non alcoholic variety)various pigs, cows, cats, dogs, horses and one vicious snake which Laurel swears was only a garter snake. Wendy Lane did not stick around to ask it.
  • Being roundly trounced at Scrabble by a DRUMMER is not something of which to be proud.
  • Is a large taxidermied bear an appropriate souvenir? Does he have to wear a seatbelt?
  • There was a gig in here somewhere. Music was made, applause was heard and all was right with the world.
  • Ice cream is always better when heralded by a giant chicken sign.
  • A trompe L’Oeil fireplace in a hotel room is a nice touch but it cannot make up for marshmallowy beds, spiders in bathroom, and lack of a mini-bar.
  • Is it really possible to maintain deep philosophical discussions on the nature of life and art when there are outlet malls every fifty miles?
  • While we’re on the subject if we stop and shop at said mall on the way back from a gig is it tax deductible?
  • Mapquest is NOT our friend.
  • ROAD TRIP WORK RULE: No matter what work you bring along, or how well intended you may be the only thing accomplished in your million hour car ride will be much staring out the window while muttering “I really should get to work”.
  • Don’t hit the skunk. Do. Not. Hit. The. Skunk.
  • You cannot post pictures of your trip on your blog if the camera never leaves the confines of your bag. “Want to see my pictures of Altoids, assorted hygiene products and loose change?” does not have the same ring to it as “See I told you big foot really does exist!”
  • ANOTHER MATH PROBLEM: If you drive five miles out of your way to save three cents a gallon on gas will that justify an extra scoop of ice cream at the Big Chicken?
  • Large doses of Diet soda and Smartees may keep you awake, but they won’t make you any more interesting.
  • You can have a hat, or well coifed hair, not both.
  • Mile #598 of a 600 mile trip is not the best time to begin your blog post. (especially after copious quantities of the aforementioned stimulants)

So what are you up to this summer? Are you traveling? Working? Just hanging out in the backyard with your feet in a kiddy pool? What’s your greatest road trip story ever? Do tell all, and you could snag this month’s RedHead award, a nifty travel version of Scrabble, guaranteed to save you the humiliation of ever losing to a drummer! We’ll announce the lucky winner on July 30th.

See you around the BBQ!

Wendy Lane & Laurel

Friday, June 27, 2008

Toto, The Envelope Please...

We are pleased to announce that the winner of this month's RedHead Award is Melissa Fox from the great state of Kansas. For sharing her thoughts on the art of the artist memoir with us she wins a copy of Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation. Keep watching this space as we're on the verge of posting our new topic and an all new fabu prize for the Month of July!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hi Diddle Dee Dee and then a high C

Like Wendy Lane, I have been a lifelong nose-in-a-book girl, with a special affection for autobiographies and biographies of adventurous women. I read about Isabella Bird, who travelled. About St. Teresa of Avila, who levitated. About Virginia Woolf and Colette, who wrote. And, to be perfectly honest, I was never convinced that Scarlett O'Hara wasn't real. For that matter, I knew Jo March was real, because she was me.

Several years ago, I was again ensorcelled by the artistry of Maria Callas, and read every biography of that great singer that I could find in print. She never wrote her own book, though, and I wished she had. Callas was a very controversial singer; some hated her voice, others worshiped her. I wish I knew what she thought, rather than what others think she thought.

RIght around that time I found The Diva's Mouth, subtitled Body, Voice, Prima Donna Politics, by Susan J. Leonardi and Rebecca A. Pope in a used-book store. The book itself was interesting; the bibliography was a treasure trove, and for about a year I went on a tear of reading books about and by the great prima donnas of opera. As I look back at the list of my favorite volumes, I realize that the subjects are all unusual even for their field and time. Rosa Ponselle began her meteoric career in vaudeville, Renée Fleming started in jazz. Gerry Farrar's path took her to Hollywood, where she starred in over a dozen silent films. Mary Garden presaged Madonna in her relentless self-promotion. Emma Calvé, considered one of the greatest of Carmens, prepared for the role by going to Spain to hang out at a cigarette factory like the one in the opera, to get a sense of the lives of the women who made the cigarettes, and to learn traditional Spanish dances. Lotte Lehmann was a prolific writer (eight books published in her lifetime) and recording artist (more than 500 recordings) who has a star on Hollywood Boulevard. And finally, Marian Anderson, one of the most beautiful singers we have ever known, the first African-American singer to be a regular company member at the Metropolitan Opera. It is wonderful to learn more about these inspiring women, and most particularly wonderful to read their own words. Here is a list of the autobiographies I love:

My Lord, What a Morning, by Marian Anderson

My Life, by Emma Calvé

Such Sweet Compulsion, by Geraldine Farrar

The Inner Voice, by Renée Fleming

Mary Garden's Story, by Mary Garden and Louis Biancolli

Midway in My Song, by Lotte Lehmann

Ponselle, A Singer's Life, by Rosa Ponselle and James A. Drake

I want to add one more book, though it is not technically an autobiography, and it is not written about or by a singer. For not very much money one can buy The Diary of Frida Kahlo, An Intimate Self-Portrait. It is diary and sketchbook, and one of the most fascinating books I have ever held in my hands.

Now that you have heard from Wendy Lane and from me, let us hear from you!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Artist's Life for Me

I have always preferred real life to fiction. Growing up the stories I would beg my mother to tell me over and over again were the ones about her family and growing up in the Deep South. Handsome princes and happily ever after were nothing compared to stories about Herman the rooster, and relatives named Titto, Junior, and Aunt (pronounced Aint) Minnie. This could be why I gravitate to biographies in my choice of reading material. As a teenager my favorites were Anne Edwards’ Vivien Leigh, Katherine Hepburn’s Me, and Lauren Bacall’s By Myself. At sixteen I dreamed of becoming a combination of these women. Odd that none of them could carry a tune in a bucket, but at the time I was planning to devote myself to being a “serious actress”. These were the books that helped to see what was possible. No one in my family was a performer, and I really didn't know anyone who made the arts their living, so these books and a few hundred others like them, gave me my first inklings of what it took to turn myself into a performer. I still have my original battered copies of these books. I don’t need them for the same reasons anymore, but I keep them like I keep the broken blue bowl that my mother served mashed potatoes in at every holiday because somehow they’ve become a part of me. Maybe not in the way I originally planned, but they’re there all the same.

I still find real life more fascinating that fiction and I still read more biographies than anything else. Some of my recent favorites are:

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin – I should say something along the lines of “A wonderful primer on building a career from the ground up”, which it certainly is, but more than that it’s just a great read!

Tallulah: the Life and Times of a Leading Lady by Joel Lobenthal: Tallulah Bankhead was one of the most fascinating theatrical divas EVER!!!

Foreskin’s Lament: A Memoir by Shalom Auslander: Not a performer’s bio, but a writer’s. It made me laugh out loud and cry, sometimes all at once.

So here’s the challenge for May…We want you to share your favorite artist biographies/autobiographies with us. Which ones have you loved? Why? Post it here on the blog in the comments section and you could be the one chosen at Random for this Month’s RedHead Award, a copy of Girls Like Us- Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller.

Monday, May 12, 2008

We Have a Winner

For her creative use of a hoop skirt to avoid on-stage catastrophe we are pleased to announce the winner of our first ever RedHead award is Joanne Schmoll. Joanne will receive a copy of Stop The Show: A History of Insane Incidents and Absurd Accidents in the Theatre by Brad Schreiber. Blame it on Miss. Scarlett, but your redheads are a sucker for a hoop skirt story!

Keep your eyes on this space because in just a little while we'll be announcing this month's topic and our next great giveaway!!!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Extra! Extra!

The New Jersey paper the Daily Record paid a visit to our class last Monday evening, took some pictures, and chatted with us and several of our students. The result was a lovely article about our class. For a peek at what goes on in our workshops check it out. For the article visit , and for the complete pix go to .

Monday, April 21, 2008

Just a few Minutes More

We couldn't help ourselves, we've been having such a blast with this topic, reliving our own war stories and hearing yours, that we just couldn't be prevented from extending it for just a wee bit longer. If you haven't yet shared your story with us you have until April 30th to post it here. The one that we like the best will win our first ever RedHead Award, this month it's a copy of Stop the Show: A History of Insane Incidents and Absurd Accidents in the Theatre. Come on and join the conversation!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Define "Disaster"

Hi there! Laurel here.

As I read your comments, I started to think harder about my own onstage disasters, and have been surprised to realize that nothing I have experienced constitutes a real disaster. Perhaps this is because so many of the things that can go wrong onstage have gone wrong on, and more than once, and yet I survived, with bruised feelings and ruffled feathers, but also with such great stories to tell that the mishaps look like little presents when seen in hindsight.

I have driven from upstate New York to a gig in Indianapolis, only realizing that my clothes were still hanging by the front door of my house when I was but 50 miles from my destination. No open shops - the gig was on a Sunday - so I borrowed clothes from one of the very kind waitresses at the venue, and spent the rest of the evening alternately singing songs and explaining why I wasn't bringing the drinks.

I have been in the middle of a ballad when - on separate occasions - the following things happened: pedal assembly fell off the piano (loud sound), steamboat bellowed its horn (very loud sound), sound board patches in a multi-theater venue got switched and I was suddenly and briefly a rock musical (louder still), and (my favorite) as I was singing "Interlude", at the line "a fly-by-night affair" a big ol' horsefly moseyed past my face about an inch from my nose, and I swear it waved at me as it was going by (small sound of choked hysterical laughter followed by about a month of not being able to sing that song at all without laughing to the point of tears).

Once during a Manhattan Transfer performance, Alan Paul took off his tuxedo jacket and tossed it toward me. I caught it with my very long perfectly manicured fingernails... all of which broke at once. I was in a snit for a while, but it was a fine performance gesture on his part.

Somewhere in Australia I was surprised by a fan who jumped up on the stage, lunged at me, and bit my leg. She was in turn surprised by the sound man who grabbed her and removed her from the stage.

All of these (except the fly) felt shattering when they happened...and not one of them has left any residue other than a good story and a certain comfort level with things going awry. The audience's response to anything that goes wrong onstage is determined by how we react. Generally, if we can handle it, they can, too.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines disaster as "a sudden or great misfortune; an event of ruinous or distressing nature, a calamity; complete failure". Its origins are Latin, dis astrum, meaning ill-starred, or an unfavorable aspect of a star.

Which of course is something we never want to be inflicting on the audience.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Oops Factor (Plus Prizes)

It is a fact if you perform live, sooner or later you will meet with a genuine, bona fide onstage disaster. Generally, these seem to fall into two categories. The first is the self-made conflagration where lyrics evaporate into thin air, the high note that was there at sound check mysteriously vanishes in performance, clothing falls apart, and stools move themselves about the stage so that you find yourself in a heap on the floor. I could go on, but being the superstitious type I’ll stop here.

The second is the stuff performance legends are made of, those moments where, despite your diligent rehearsal and careful plotting of every moment, elements beyond your control enter in and all hell breaks loose. Sometimes it comes from your fellow musicians onstage, sometimes from the tech booth, and sometimes from that ever unpredictable element, the audience. No matter the source, this is the moment where you learn that today’s abject humiliation is tomorrow’s great story.

Scene I: A dimly lit venue, three singers are onstage performing their opening number. The door opens and a couple enters. They are on one side of the stage their seats the other, what are they to do? Remembering that their teacher once told them that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line they precede accordingly…right across the middle of the stage.

Scene II: Another dimly lit venue, another opening number on a postage stamp of a stage. Cast of characters one Singer (me), one back up singer, and one very energetic pianist. It’s the second set, we’re loose, we’re having a good time, we’re singing our hearts out… until… a loud thump…the music ceases…I look to my right…no piano player (has he been raptured?) …from the depths of the floor comes a voice…. “I’m All Right”. My energetic piano player has played himself off, literally. He fell off the back of the stage bench and all. Fortunately no musicians were harmed in the making of this tale, and the show went on.

Ahh…but what good is disaster if you can’t profit a wee bit from it? With that in mind we are using this topic to inaugurate our monthly RedHead Award. We want you to send us your hilarious, humiliating, and utterly true stories of real life performances gone haywire. Send us your tales of onstage disaster by March 30 and you will be among those considered for our fabulous prize. This month it’s a copy of Stop the Show: A History of Insane Incidents and Absurd Accidents in the Theatre. There is only one rule. The incident in question must be one in which you were personally involved as a performer, or personally witnessed as an audience member. Urban legends, previously published disaster stories, things you read on the WWWeb, and tales heard from your cousin’s mother’s chiropractor “Who was there” will not be considered. The winner will be chosen by us with no other criteria other than what makes us laugh the most while cringing. While you’re at it if you’ve got a topic you’d like the redheads to cover send it along. We're all ears (or eyes as the case may be)!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Continuing the thought

Wendy, I am glad you brought up George Hall, because he is the perfect embodiment of the single quality I find most indispensable in a teacher: respect. As I think back - hankie at the ready to catch the stray tear - I can see that the common trait of the worst teachers I ever endured was their complete lack of respect for the individual student. The great teachers, the ones who made you hunger to learn regardless of their field, had in abundance the passion, humor, and connection you talk about plus - or perhaps first and foremost - a profound respect for the student.

It is this respect that allows the great instructor to listen, to carefully observe, to treat each student as a unique and infinitely valuable human being rather than as a case, a type, a capita, or a regrettable nuisance.

That's the Holy Grail of Teaching.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Back to School...

Laurel and I are getting ready to teach a series of workshops which brings to mind all the teachers who have influenced me over the course of my life. Some for good and some for slightly less good, but all of them have certainly had a role in shaping my own behavior as an instructor.

Sometimes it feels as if the negative experiences loom larger… The Elementary school PE teacher who said that I’d never succeed in life, or have any friends if I was not good at sports (I am happy to report that my inability to play a proper game of kickball has in no way hampered my career prospects or my ability to sustain long term relationships.)… The acting teacher at an august drama school who abused and hounded one of my classmates until she dropped out of school before the end of the first month … The teacher at a music camp who seemed to feel that abject public humiliation was the surest route to musical success… From these people I learned the words and actions of a moment can take a lifetime to undo, and that meanness does not equal greatness. Fortunately, I have had many good and even great teachers. While all bad teachers seemed to be unique in their tourtures, the good ones always have several attributes in common.

Connection: There is nothing more wonderful that a teacher who can connect with each student on an individual level.

Passion: An instructor with a real love of their subject can make all the difference between loving a class and hating it.

A Sense of Humor: Okay, if I were completely honest this would be at the top of my list. one of the most wonderful teachers I know, George Hall, told me that Judy Dench once said that she could not work on a set where there was no laughter. I think a classroom should be the same way. There’s nothing to be gained by unremitting gloom.

I could make a list that goes far beyond this, but it’s time for my partner in crime Laurel to weigh in on the matter. We’d like to hear what you think too! Tell us about your most influential moments in the classroom. If you could create the perfect learning environment with the perfect instructor what would that be like? Let’s get the conversation started…