Hello all! Suzi Stern here looking ahead toward some notable events in the coming year!
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Hello all! Suzi Stern here looking ahead toward some notable events in the coming year!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Dylan Thomas set to sounds of toys, instruments, words
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Once upon a time, three Austin jazz musicians went Christmas shopping. They came home with snow, wistful memories of snow, tall quiet drifts of snow. They also came home with a storybook, a nostalgic Christmas tale by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. And they came home with toys: whistles and bugles and squeaky rubber ducks.
The jazz musicians sat together with their gifts, their memories, their instruments. And then they created a piece of art - part music, part spoken word, part toy symphony - inspired by Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales."
These three jazzers - singer Suzi Stern, saxophonist Alex Coke and pianist Rich Harney, with newcomer Buddy Mohmed on bass - have been performing this Christmas-time piece for five years now. As Austin holiday traditions go, it is one of the most eclectic: a blend of literature and music, a blend of recitation and improvisation, a little bit of Wales and a little bit of Texas.
The format: Stern recites Thomas' entire story - so rich with rhythm and rhyme that it sounds like poetry - backed by music and Coke's playful sound effects. Along the way, the musicians take left turns out of the text to interpret specific passages as musical pieces. It makes new poetry out of classic literature, inviting listeners to linger in the different moods of the story.
"Dylan Thomas had the ability to recall being young in a profound way that still brings tears to my eyes," says Stern, who sings three original songs crafted from Thomas' text in the performance . "Everything he said, I wish I'd written it.
"It's the most perfect little piece of prose, and it touches me to the quick. I try to read the text exactly as Dylan Thomas did; I try to honor his words exactly. And then it's almost like a digression - where we'll 'repeat' his words in songs based on his lyrics, tapping in to how those words inspired me."
All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued seas, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find.
- Dylan Thomas, 'A Child's Christmas in Wales'
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) grew up in Swansea, "a crawling, sprawling, slummed, unplanned, jerry-villa'd" seaside town on the southwest coast of Wales. "A Child's Christmas in Wales" is rich with the imagery of his childhood - "when there were wolves in Wales," but not an Xbox in sight.
"A Child's Christmas in Wales" first appeared in Harper's Bazaar Magazine in 1950, fashioned from two shorter essays Thomas composed in the mid-1940s. The magazine paid him $300 for it. A year before his death, the poet recited a version in America for a record album. It is believed that Thomas, an alcoholic, was drunk during the recording session.
Yet the beauty of the prose prevails: the precision of imagery, those "harp-shaped hills," the elegant juxtaposition of winter warmth and winter melancholy . When the piece came out in book form in 1954, The New York Times referred to it as "poetry that shines with an unearthly radiance."
"What I love so much about the poem is the impression of snow," says Stern, who has known the piece since childhood . "I lived in Buffalo, (N.Y.) As a kid, where snow was always in drifts, way over my head. I might as well have been in Wales! These flakes would come down, relentlessly and quietly. The way Dylan Thomas describes the sound and the smell and the taste of snow in so sensual. The way the blue cast is on it. Even though it's night, everything is lit up from the ground up, the little warm houses glowing along this icy blue pathway in the moonlight."
Silent, one-cloud sky drift on to the sea Two snowblind travelers lost, lost on the north hills, returning home through the poor streets where only a few children fumbled with red fingers bare in the wheel-rutted snow, wheel-rutted snow.
- Suzi Stern, 'Snow Travelers,' based on 'Wales' text by Dylan Thomas.
Five years ago, Alex Coke was brainstorming with literary friends at the University of Texas. The challenge: how to blend words and music, in an original way, to mark the holidays for the Ransom Center's "Poetry on the Plaza" series. He liked the idea, immediately, when Stern suggested "A Child's Christmas in Wales."
"The original idea was to have a piece of poetry and music that had a narrative structure but was very much improvised," says Coke . "It started off loose, very free. But with each year, there has been a push and pull to it. "
Though Stern gravitated toward the snowy, end-of-season textures in Thomas' work and wrote brooding poem-songs off the text, Coke connected with its sense of play . Sure, he could play lovely winter-wind passages on his flutes. But Coke loves all sounds. He collects toys. So he incorporated all manner of squeaking, blatting, chiming toy-textures into the "Wales" musical narrative - and wrote one passage in which every instrument is a toy.
"Some of my toys have worn out since we wrote this piece," says Coke. "Every few years, I have to go to stores, look for replacements - and that's changed the music a bit, too, as we've added new sounds."
As an aficionado of classic radio serials like "The Shadow," Coke always has appreciated picturesque elements in a world of sound. And so it is that Austin's treatment of "A Child's Christmas in Wales" sometimes feels a bit like a radio show - or a movie musical, for the way the landscape shifts between word and song.
"As many years as I'd read the poem to my children, I feel almost as if I still didn't get what 'A Child's Christmas' was all about when we prepared to stage it for the first time," says Stern. " And even now, something will pop out at me from the text as if it's the first time I ever read it. "
'A Child's Christmas in Wales'
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 (doors 7:30)
Where: St. David's Episcopal Church, 304 E. Seventh St.
Cost: $10, discounts for children/seniors
Monday, December 7, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Thank you to everyone who ventured out in the freezing cold rain this past Tuesday to join us for the LEAP OF HEART c.d. release concert! It was truly a joy to sing in that space...one could hear a pin drop on a ballad, hearing even a breath or the most subtle nuances of a bass solo by John Fremgen , yet the acoustics in that hall could handle the most driving arrangements with Brannen Temple's unbelievable drum solos. George was in heaven getting to play on the newly tuned Steinway, and I thought Bobs horn sounded clear and sweet! We will definitely be booking concerts there again!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Heads up on our exciting c.d. release performance on Tuesday Dec. 1st!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Tonight, Thursday November 19th
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Hello everyone! Here's some news about upcoming events worth checking out (well, in my opinion they're worth checking out! )
Thursday, October 1, 2009
December 11th (Friday night) we will be doing our version of Dylan Thomas' A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES at St David's Church, downtown Austin.
The Harry Ransom Center has a new director and has decided NOT to host us this year.
Please mark this date! It may be our only opportunity to present this program publicly.
More information will be coming soon!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The following link takes you to a video done by Victor Engel of last weeks Elephant Room gig. I performed with GATO 6 in Austin, and this particular tune had musicians changing rolls. Pianist George Oldziey switched to the accordion, and John Mills put down his sax to play piano. The song is a composition I recently wrote in memory of Tina.
October has us traveling to N.Y.C. for a conference on Music, sound and engineering. I'll be back in Austin mid October to host a concert for long time friend, jazz guitarist Margaret Slovak on Oct. 26th. feel free to email me for more info. on that upcoming event at firstname.lastname@example.org
George Oldziey and myself look forward to the December release of our C.D. "LEAP OF HEART" on Aardvark Records, with Brannen Temple and John Fremgen.
See you all in October!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
This Sat. August 15th7:30 to 10:00 p.m.Suzi Stern and special guest Clay Moore
performing at:The Treehouse
"Stern is a gifted artist who simultaneously defines and reinterprets what jazz is today. "- ARTVOICE
Buffalo Evening NewsCheck out the latest news about Suzi or order c.d.s on her Web and blog, all found at:
Monday, March 9, 2009
Check out the link below for info. on the upcoming Temple Jazz Festival.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
I have a spelling correction on world class Jazz pianist Joe Locascio's last name!! Sorry about the earlier error Joe! It is indeed spelled Locascio and he will be performing with me at Cezannes in Houston Texas on Feb. 20th and 21st along with Woody Witt, Sebastian Whittaker, and David Craig.
and a giant "thank you" to D.P. for showing me how to Blogg! Thank you Dianna!
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Suzi Stern will be performing on Feb. 20th and 21st 2009.
Address: 4100 Montrose Blvd, Houston, Texas
I will be teaching a jazz vocal clinic on Sat. the 21st from 1:00 to 4:00 at Cezannes as well. Contact Jane Vandevere to learn more about it at: email@example.com
On the 12th of March I will be performing with G.A.T.O. 6 at The Elephant Room in Austin Texas from 9:30 to 1:30 (3rd and Congress)
G.A.T.O.6 is: George Oldziey piano, J.J.Johnson drums, Kris Afflerbaugh bass, John Mills sax
March 26th come catch my set at the Temple Jazz Festival in Temple Texas with Ben Irom piano, Utah Hammrick bass, John Mills sax and Kyle Thompson drums! Contact Ben for more info. at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will also be teaching a jazz vocal clinic that day in Temple...Ben has the info! email@example.com