- Singing Scientist Podcast
I was honored this week to sing on a nationwide commercial for the Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信), one of Taiwan’s leading telecommunications companies. Big thanks to Ming-Hsueh Lin, Owen Chen, Jeff Lee, and everyone who made this opportunity possible!
Check out our new video—the work of brilliant Taiwanese filmmaker Jessie Chang—on YouTube. We are thrilled to feature violinist Yu-Wei Hsiao and cellist Owen Chen, and exceedingly grateful to sound engineer Ching-Pei Chang. We hope you enjoy our music!
Hello, When We Were Young. Never been the greatest Adele fan, but this is everything. She has outdone herself—in songwriting, in delivery, in artistry, and in live performance. The song has repetition, but not to the mundane extent of “Hello“. Both songs capture a feeling of longing so common, every songwriter wonders why they failed to think of it. But here her vocals are better. I’m a little annoyed by the speech-singing and pronunciation of “movie” throughout, but she makes it work. My favorite (often spine-tingling good) moments are listed below.
—Fabulous gay boy better do her hair.
—Her lows on the [u] “move” at 1:10. Turn up that low end.
—Her look at the camera at 1:16. On “watching you,” of course.
—Finally a free vibrato on the [o] “song” at 1:56.
—Controlled crack on “case” at 2:09.
—I love the giant wart of a misplaced breath, smack dab in the middle of the sentence (“though we might be exactly…) at 2:12 and 3:19 (the better one). To me, it communicates the emptying of herself to the point of breathlessness and vulnerability as she expresses what she’s saying. So good.
—Slide up to a straight-tone [ʌ] “young” at 3:10, which I actually prefer to the later slide because it’s so crystal clear, doesn’t glitch, and is perfectly in tune.
—Despite her Patti LuPone-like lack of clear diction, her tongue flopping around like a loose sponge, every word is nevertheless discernible. She’s finally found the perfect balance between tongue freedom and enunciation.
—The moment everyone’s living for: the slide on [ʌ] “young” up to Bb5 and then up to Eb6 at 4:29-4:36. This is, by the way, the same note Idina Menzel can’t make happen in live performance on the last note of “Let it Go”, and on virtually the same vowel. Adele’s vibrato isn’t exactly free or consistent here either—I personally think it’s coming more from the twitching movement of her head rather than a free laryngeal oscillation—but it is SO well done nonetheless and full of raw emotion and determined execution. Unlike Menzel, her larynx is healthily low instead of shooting out her nostrils, which is how she can make it happen (with a rasp, but still).
—MY OWN FAVORITE section: 4:44 she grabs the mic in a gesture of abandonment to the music. At 4:55 she throws in a neighboring high grace not on “were” that is SO well-done, followed immediately by an [o] “before” that has the perfectly deep laryngeal position to allow a free vibrato, and culminating in the best part of the song from 5:04-5:10. The words are new (“Oh, I’m so *mad* I’m getting older, makes me reckless”) and check out her lower lip on “older” at 5:07. Incredible. It’s an “old”-looking face (acting) and the lip pursing actually stabilizes her larynx at the same time (vocal technique)
—She finishes and immediately at 5:24 shrugs her shoulders to her (awestruck) band, as if to brush off the seriousness of the song. It’s a defense mechanism, which makes it clear how true the song rings for her. She’s kind of a jerk and diva to everyone around her, but at her core she is the source of all the angst of this song—human and beautiful.
I am so excited to see a preview of the new Broadway show Allegiance in October! Lea Salonga (voice of Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin and Eponine in Les Miserables), whose voice was so influential to me when I first fell in love with musical theatre, stars as sister of the main character. The story is based on the life experiences of George Takei, famous actor and LGBT activist, whose family overcame great adversity in the face of imprisonment and discrimination against Japanese in the U.S. during World War II. Salonga and Takei are joined by Godspell and Glee star Telly Leung under the direction of Stafford Arima at the Longacre Theatre. Plan on seeing it, and witnessing how Takei gets to apologize to his father years after the latter’s death. You’ll also learn a bit more about the sins of American history and hegemony, and walk away with greater hope and inspiration for the future.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a demo recording for Satan in High Heels, a new musical based on the old movie by the same name. Written by Robbie Robertson, and with music and lyrics by Kevin Carter, this is a hilarious story of lust and its consequences. Others involved in the demo include Chris Cockrell (vocals and keys), Vicky Saye Henderson, and Caroline Jones Weidner. From the official site:
“An early 60s sexploitation movie bounces back to life….in the musical adaptation of SATAN IN HIGH HEELS written by Robbie Robertson, with music and lyrics by Kevin Carter. SATAN tells the tawdry tale of Stacy Kane, a cunning and ambitious carnival striptease dancer who sleeps her way to the top in her sociopathic quest to become a Manhattan lounge singer. As she prepares for her NYC debut, Stacy engages in a series of torrid affairs with everyone from lesbian nightclub manager, Pepe, to the club’s owner, womanzing Arnold Kenyon—and even Arnold’s naïve college student son, Larry. Add in a drug addict ex, sex games and a shocking murder and you’ve got a sizzling stew of sleazy satisfaction.”
Having had a reading in New York City last week, we’re hopeful that the musical will take off! Check out the demo below, and listen to my songs at 2:43 and 3:28, and check out that choir diction on “tits in a tent”! Also LIKE the Facebook page, here.
A few weeks ago, my family and I visited our local pharmacy in Holland, MI (my hometown), where there was a new book on display about the town. To our surprise, my picture appeared on the cover. Indeed, the photo credit describes me as a marching band member from the 2004 Tulip Time Parade. Duane Haring appears in the background on snare. It comes as a special sort of satisfaction that my photo was selected among the many possibilities, and that this conservative Midwestern town thereby inadvertently chose an LGBTQ activist to appears on the cover. Another photo of my fellow saxophonist, Ryan Gamby, and I, is shown here, as we perform the klompen dance. Come enjoy Tulip Time in May!
After favorable reviews from Jasper Magazine (“The cast is top-notch… Scott Vaughan was a beautifully compassionate Jesus”) and Onstage Columbia (“… there are no weak voices…you won’t find a better realization of one of the most popular and influential of modern musicals”), GODSPELL has been held over at Trustus Theatre through April 18. The revival has also been featured by New York’s American Theatre Magazine on their Facebook page and website, featuring a shot of Kayla Cahill’s “Day By Day”performance. If you haven’t yet seen our production, please considering catching us before our new closing date!
Trustus Theatre’s Godspell revival opens this Friday, March 20, and runs through April 11. With masterful direction by Dewey Scott-Wiley, Randy Moore (music), and Adrenaline Dance’s Caroline Lewis Jones (choreography), the script introduces new music and more room for play than the original, itself Tony nominated. Musical highlights include “Beautiful City” performed by Jesus (Scott Vaughn), a gospel reprise of “Learn Your Lessons Well” featuring brilliant soloists, and much more. I even get to squeeze out (emanate?) a high D in “We Beseech Thee.” On behalf of everyone at Trustus, I ask you to join us for a Godspell unlike any you’ve seen or heard before!