Sunday, October 21, 2012

Follow Your Heart, Follow Your Head...That is Success

Concordian Dawn - Christopher Preston Thompson, Brian Mummert, & Nicholas Tamagna
(photograph by Joshua South)
I remember how I felt when I heard Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane's album for the first time. At a bar with friends, I had to sit back and let the tracks wash over me. I went to the jukebox and programmed it to play the entire album. Twice. To this day, that album is one of my favorites and my foundation of what I call experiential music.

I recently spoke with Christopher Preston Thompson, co-founder of Concordian Dawn, an ensemble of three musicians who present Medieval and early Renaissance music. These men perform acoustically and each is a singer and instrumentalist. Before you think that early music is not your cup of tea, in Christopher's words, this power trio is "a Medieval boy band." Take that, One Direction. Christopher describes the early music they sing as "raw, purely and innately human, nothing fabricated." 

Earlier this year, Christopher, a tenor and gothic harpist, joined Nicholas Tamagna (countertenor and percussion) and Brian Mummert (baritone and portative organ) to establish Concordian Dawn. The trio's premiere concert was on October 5, 2012 at NYC's Church of the Transfiguration. It was called Here: Then and Now. And that captured perfectly why this is the time for Concordian Dawn. Christopher said, "We, as human beings, haven't changed [since the Medieval era]. Things around us - technology, the way we say things - are different but in large part we're singing about the same things as people did then."

The men believe "very simply that early music has a place in the contemporary scene." How can this be, I wondered, centuries later. The music is "Relevant. Philosophically, Socially, Spiritually, Tonally," Christopher shared. With passion in his voice he went on, "And there are similarities and differences between the music of then and now. We highlight those because the perspective is evocative for today's listener." 

One way Nicholas, Christopher, and Brian evoke perspectives is through mixing Medieval and contemporary songs. While highlighting similarities and differences, mash-ups of Albertet de Sestaro, Gace Brulé and Alanis Morissette and Peire Vidal and Bjôrk bring to life intensity, joy, anger, hope, and so much more. Upcoming mash-ups include Lady Gaga and the Dixie Chicks. 

When an a cappella singer, I dabbled in Renaissance music and I never understood why the technique needed to be specific. Christopher explained, "Concordian Dawn applies historical performance practice and that opens up a whole new soundscape." Soundscape is ideas, culture, and music in a variety of combinations. The performance precision makes for truer messages.

As I'm committed to being yourself to make our world better, I asked Christopher why Concordian Dawn is a trio and not a solo act. The group is "good friends and good colleagues who work well and sing well. And [they] trust each other." Add true musical talent to those and their connection and commitment are clear to the audience. Check out this terrific combination of classic and new. You can hear some of their work here

Like always, support up and coming musicians and artists. Today's talents can be tomorrow's spotlit Grammy winners with our encouragement and love.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Make the World Being Yourself

Modesto Flores Community Garden, NYC, 10/06/12
(photograph by Kate Harvie)

Top of the fourth quarter 2012. Lots of intense things going on around the globe. Some we can do things about and some we cannot. That's challenging for everyone be they problem solvers, solution providers, caring witnesses, those caught in the experience, and anyone observing.

And to make your life - and the lives of those around you (which will have a ripple effect on communities, villages, and populations) - happier and more livable, apply what's below here. While I do not stand as an expert on anything related to this, I know what I know. 

Being who you are with ease and honor is underscored by these four things:

1) Ask for what you need.
This includes everything from needing Lactaid for your coffee because you're lactose intolerant to asking people to call you when they get home because you care. Matters not why you need it. You need it. And you are better off by seeking this instead of suffering in silence. People are not psychic (at least none that I know) and they would rather do their part to get you healthy, happy, and true. Trust that. Believe it.

2) For work, do what you want. Rather, be who you want.
Check this: you majored in something as an undergrad. You went to grad school for something else. You joined a family owned business. You worked in an industry for a decade. And you want nothing to do with any of those things. News: you will provide more, make a difference, contribute greater, stand as a stronger role model, and be happier when you have a job that you love. There is no absolutely no shame in this. Speaking as someone who has been on this path (and continues on it) the world needs you to be God honest about this. Costs very little and everyone (globally) benefits, especially you.

3) Be inspired by those you admire. Without apology.
Each of us is encouraged, motivated, and brightened by different people. And that's how things should be. Just as the best burger you've ever eaten can be from a local dive (Swenson's in case you were wondering) and not from an establishment known for its decor and luxury pricing, we find our spark from anyone. And that's beautiful. It keeps our world interesting.

Personally, my light shines brighter thanks to Daniel Milnor, Chris Guillebeau, Robin Thicke, Andrew Byrne, Danielle LaPorte, Scott Stratten, Mastin Kipp, and Iyanla Vanzant to name a few.

I don't know where I would be without Mikala, Josh, Lisa, Hanif, Dave, Corinne, Laura, and more friends who'd lay on train tracks for me as I would for them. Whoever the people and wherever the places are for you, be glad to know them. Share the inspirations they provide you with others.

4) Express love. Without holding back.
Beyond the people you love who love you, sharing your appreciation with those who make your life better is an everyday...hmm...not an everyday task and not an obligation. It's an everyday joyful responsibility. The person who makes an impeccable martini at your local bar. The person who holds the door for you. The person who let you know that you had spinach in your front teeth at the restaurant where you were on a date with someone so your big smiles looked like they were made with green Chiclets (ask me about this). 

Look someone in the eyes. Smile. Say "thank you," "you're awesome," "I love you," something clever and grateful and meaningful. Easy to do, costs nothing, everyone benefits.

On this and on these, please comment, share, and remind yourself every day and twice on Sunday that the world is ours to make great. And we can do that by being ourselves.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Get your read on, friends

Azalea Garden, Philadelphia, PA 4/18/12
(photograph by Kate Harvie)

Change of seasons always brings an uptick to gym attendance, swimsuit shopping, and that hopeful wait for beach weather. Let's get that sunshine. Stat. Apparently New Yorkers have the lowest Vitamin D in the country due (according to reports) to lack of exposure to the out of doors.

While you're waiting for the transition from t-shirt to tankini and D'Angelo's long awaited album (wait, that's my virtuous patience at play) you need to read these books.

The Fire Starter Sessions by the incomparable Danielle LaPorte

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that Danielle is an icon as far as I'm concerned. I have guru/genius Tim Intagliata to thank for making me aware of Danielle several years ago. She does herself proud with her book of what once was a deeply meaningful workshop for business founders and business dreamers.  

If there is a book out there that teaches you, empowers you to shine your light on the world in the healthiest, truest, and best ways, The Fire Starter Sessions is it. Many thanks, Danielle.

I have been intellectually in love with Chris Guillebeau for years. Upon reading The Art of Non-Conformity I learned that there is a place for those of us who don't fit into categories and who cannot be labeled. The inspiration of his trips around the world and joined by his wisdom to others how to be travel hackers (which means traveling on tickets that are funded by frequent flyer miles) set him apart from people who call themselves business advisers and life coaches.

And now he honors us - those in their nascent stages as business founders and those who have accomplished things - with The $100 Startup. At the first book signing the week of publication (in NYC at Housing Works SoHo on 5/8/12), Chris spoke about freedom and inspiration. And how we all have inherent skills to build something successful. Sign me up for that.

Both of these book you can take intravenously. And I hope very much that you'll check them out. In the meanwhile, be kind to others and be kind to yourself.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Inspiration Is Present...Always

Portland, OR 04/06/07
(photograph by Kate Harvie) 
2012. Even the number looks good. 

People talk about their resolutions for the new year. And this year needs to be about revolutions.  Your revolutions. Your business's revolutions. Your friends', colleagues', lovers', family's. 

How on earth does one find the courage - and inspiration - to revolutionize life? 

I can't speak for everyone and what follows here is my Q&D (quick and dirty) of who inspires me. While I'll describe each one briefly here, I hope that you will take the hyperlink path to each one's lustrous and luxurious combination of the heart and the head.

Author of The Fire Starter Sessions, speaker of White Hot Truth (which should be trademarked) icon, no bs talking, motivator, truth teller in the most believable and trusting voice, straight up badass.

Author of The Art of Non-Conformity, creator of Six Ways to Change the World, provider of some of the most generous and informative material for new businesses, expert on world domination (and that is not exaggerated).
Singer, composer, lyricist, leader on stage like few performers today, absolutely eclectic and deeply talented, one of the best artists I have seen in the last five years, someone who has you hear and feel. Concert side note: happily, blessedly I will see him (and Taylor McFerrin) perform for the fourth and fifth times on 02/10 and 02/11.  
Author of Laugh Your Way to Grace, stand up comedienne who is laugh your ass off funny, preacher at Madison Avenue Baptist Church, attorney, teacher of this truth: the armor we wear is a living, breathing force. 

Check out each of these righteous and inspiring people. I'll be listing more remarkable folks throughout this year.

In the words of a sign I saw on a wall in Tribeca during the summer of 2008, Today is the Day.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Change of Season Means Amazing Music - Autumn '11 Greatness

We're officially in October and autumn is my favorite season. I mean, I love spring and the lush joy of spring doesn't last that long. Autumn, however, goes for weeks. From the crisp chill to the change of leaves to the apple picking to the ways the sunset looks different to the amazing concerts that happen once we're in a new school year.

And I saw two such spectacular shows within the last week and a half. If you aren't familiar with these artists, please become familiar.

Van Hunt. José James. Remember these names.

Van Hunt
Van Hunt, The Studio at Webster Hall, 09/19/11
(photograph by Kate Harvie)
Growing up in Cleveland, there were two memorable things about Dayton, Ohio: horses were bred there and apparently Rob and Chad Lowe are natives. More important than both of these is that Van Hunt was born and raised in southern Ohio.

A master of R&B, soul, electronica, stagecraft, and lyricism, Van Hunt self promotes like no agent could. In his many albums (LPs and EPs from 2004, available on iTunes and on his stellar website), you accompany him gladly and intensely on a journey of passion, grit, joy, anger, realization, and truth.

And a talent like his must not go unrecognized.

The new album, What Were You Hoping For?, dropped on 09/27 and is him at his most complex and questioning. Tracks like "Eyes Like Pearls" and "A Time Machine Is My New Girlfriend" are sung and played in voices heavy and intense. Yet they are rooted in the emotional searches for things we can't provide ourselves. To paraphrase Mr. Hunt (and my favorite track on the album), "It's A Mysterious Hustle." And one we can manage for ourselves. 

His tour continues today through 10/04 in Austin, Dallas, and Little Rock. If you're in these cities, go to his show.

José James

José James, included here with permission from the artist from his website
There is something remarkable about the mesh of jazz, soul, beatbox, and hip hop. José James blends all those in a series of songs that tell stories, prompt responses, and while he conjures memories of and respect for Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane, he is his own musician.

At his shows at Jazz Standard (full disclosure: I attended on 09/29 and 09/30) which run through 10/02, Mr. James not only did us the honor of performing his first completely composed piece before it's released, "Trouble," he introduced us to and celebrated his accompanying exceptional artists: Chris Smith (bass on 09/29), Ben Williams (bass on 09/30), Kris Bowers (piano and keyboard), Francisco Mela (drums), Takuya Kuroda (brass), and Taylor McFerrin (beatbox and vocals on 09/30). 

This kind of partnership and leadership are rarely seen in vocalists. Mr. James managed the stage with panache and power, and you could hear every musician contributing yet not competing. When he performed "Equinox" which John Coltrane (who would have turned 85 on 09/23, of which Mr. James reminded us) there were tears streaming down my face both nights. This song was a new side of Trane and while honoring him, Mr. James brings it to life in a way that identifies José James as an artist who is redefining vocals and spoken word.

Like Mr. Hunt's, the albums released by Mr. James are a spectrum of so much. They're on iTunes and Amazon.

Mr. James is appearing next in NYC at Le Poisson Rouge on 10/18 alongside Taylor McFerrin, and Robert Glasper Experiment. Join me there. I already have my ticket.

Welcome to October. Enjoy the shift to cooler temperatures and more rugged apparel. Discover artists and composers who remind you that well delivered reverb carries the music's messages.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Search for - and Find - Musical Greatness with THESE 3 Tenors

Everyone who knows me appreciates that live music is one of my favorite ways to spend time.

The Broadway and Off-Broadway stages were for some time the locations for the musical theatre wonk in me. And of late, other than "Memphis," these hallowed locations have not been providing what I seek.

What I seek is the tough to find trifecta of exceptional voices, cleverly written lyrics, interesting and beautiful notes.

Blissfully, this trifecta - enhanced by sock you in the gut humor - exists in "3 TENORS...IN SEARCH OF ACT 2," with two upcoming performances on June 21 and 24 (details below this post) at Don't Tell Mama.

"3 TENORS...IN SEARCH OF ACT 2" stars Steven Tharp, Edd Clark, and Bill Brooks

"3 TENORS...IN SEARCH OF ACT 2" brings together joy, laughter, and superior musicianship. While the idea of three tenors began in the 90s and was some of opera's finest singing together, this show is for everyone, not just those who love Puccini, Verdi, and the like.

Exceptionally and enthusiastically reviewed, the show began in 2004 as a heretofore un-combined mingling of opera, pop, operetta, and musical theatre sung by three tenors with different styles and voices. Edd Clark and Paul Stephan wanted to gently and effectively spoof "The Three Tenors." The tenors and music director/arranger Paul wove humor, harmony, and intelligence into the show's premiere run. The show sold out several of its March performances earlier this year. This is my kind way of telling you to arrange your tickets now. [smile]

Seeking and combining the talent and experience of three tenors (Bill Brooks, Edd Clark, and Steven Tharp), with varying experience and expertise, the show launched successfully and later this month, the three tenors are returning to the stage. The merging of opera, Broadway, and cabaret come together in ways that are fun and truly experiential. The show's debut won a Bistro Award in 2005. For those of us unfamiliar with theatrical prizes other than the Tonys, the Bistro Awards recognize some of theatre's and music's signature talents, including this year's honorees Michael Feinstein, Dionne Warwick, and Carol Channing among others.

Sometimes hearing a song that is meaningful and messaged (this is a word that I will find a way into the English language) sparks feelings and emotion. The tenors' performance of "Circle of Friends" did that for me. Dare I say it will do the same for you. If you're feeling the need for humor, no one sings and plays "Just Couldn't Stand it No More" like these gents and Paul.

Secure your tickets now for one or both of the only two performances this month.
9:15pm on Tuesday, June 21 and Friday, June 24
Don't Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues
$15 cover ($10 for MAC and members of Cabaret Hotline)
Two drink minimum, cash only
Make reservations on 212/757-0788 or Don't Tell Mama's website.

It's officially Spring (though it feels like Summer) and there's no better way to celebrate the much needed change of season than by supporting talent, hearing terrific music, and laughing until your belly hurts far from the mass market scene.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Being Normal Matters Far Less Than Being Courageous

Those of us tapped by the entrepreneurial spirit have a series of challenges facing us. Not the least of these is how to finance the dream project, the company, the idea. Kickstarter does everyone a service providing not only initial investment opportunities (thanks to the contributions of people around the world) as well as access to a series of entrepreneurs' creativity and invention.

Ben Bisbee is such an innovator.

His book, The Underground Flower, is smartly written by Ben and beautifully illustrated by artist Carolyn Hayes. And while it appears to be a book for children, and is titled that way, this book is brought to life by the reader, regardless of age whether read aloud or visually.

The Underground Flower tells the story of a little girl who planted a flower that, let's just say, wouldn't win any horticultural prizes. It's shaped differently. Its roots grow above soil. And underground, a gopher, a worm, an ant, and a centipede behave as gossipy, nosy creatures. They attempt to justify the flower's existence and rationalize it. Because this is their domain.

In the grasses above, things are no better for this unique flower, as the colorful blooms are afraid and suspicious of and confused by it. The flower is not welcomed into either of these earthen communities.

Planted by a wise child (the flower's only friend and supporter), there is no love shown by this young gardener's mother. A protective parent, to be sure, the mother wants to weed the flower and clear space in the yard. The flower is different and looks nothing like the plants known to brighten a room and be worthy of bridal bouquets. The little girl knows that even though this flower looks different, it is worthy of her care and attention.

Ben's inspiration for this important story of community, acceptance, love, and the damage of exclusion stems from his own life. Growing up with the challenges of a young person, and those were bolstered by hyperactivity, poverty, and being gay, Ben never felt accepted or embraced by people surrounding him. We can all empathize with that.

The real challenge emerges when how we express ourselves - for whatever reason - doesn't communicate who we are and what we are. We are all flowers. Regardless of texture, leaf shape, color, scent and height, we may have different depictions. And we are flowers. Full stop.

No one wants to be average or labeled as anything other than who he/she is. "Normal" is nothing bad, to be sure. And the little girl who planted the underground flower showed courage, which is so much more important.

Should you believe in what Ben's book is providing - underscored by humor, quirk, and sweetness - contribute to his Kickstarter project.

With Memorial Day happening soon, this beautiful week is chance to be inspired by people who showed courage and people who are doing that today.