On Thursday 9/28 at 7 pm I unleashed for the first time The Pass, to an audience of 20 privately invited guests. It was held in the home of my director Gretchen Cryer. The performance was an extremely rewarding experience for me on many levels as I had worked so very hard to prepare for this event. I’d been working with a vocal coach, (Tania Travers) rehearsing long hours with my accompanist, Marta Sanchez, and with my director, as well as tweaking the script a lot before the show. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
I had told myself before I started the show that after I was done with my last final word of the script and had sung my last note if I asked myself “why did I do this?” I wouldn’t perform again. My first visceral response, I can’t wait to do it again!, was my Geiger counter–I WILL keep on performing the Pass, hopefully, many times. Once it was completed I was 100% ready to do it again. Now I am fine tuning all details, making the show even more special and full of impact.
The Pass coincided with the solemn time of Yom Kippur; I didn’t want to do any social media until Monday, after the High Holidays. Monday morning I was confronted with the dire news about the Las Vegas shooting. This tragedy did eclipse a lot of my inner triumph. What really affected me was that it was during a music event–and music to me is about what saves us, what gets us through the tough times. Here this 64-year-old man murders, destroys, at a music event–this stopped me cold in my tracks. It brings up the art of promotion; when is it appropriate to promote yourself or when should you concentrate on the tone brought about by a devastating interruption?
It’s Tuesday now, as we all try to swallow the facts about the Las Vegas shootings. Then more bad news…As a great performer, Tom Petty, leaves us, we realize how important every minute is. Friends attended his Hollywood Bowl performance last week; they said he was amazing. My song In a Matter of Moments is playing in my head. Still we must face that life just keeps going on, no matter what. You’ve gotta find the strength, the reasons to do what you do, to love what you do, to love the people you love and support and find a purpose even when things seem so insane. So my afterglow was dimmed; but there will be more afterglows to follow.
For several decades now, since the highly individualistic 60’s, people seem to have gravitated more to group dynamics than to self-expression. Until recently that is. With the election of Trump, and with corporate politics being constantly questioned, people are again realizing the value of forming their own opinions, instead of having their ideas dictated to them via peer pressure.
Too often we put ourselves into boxes and then stick labels on them, so we are stuck with whatever judgment or perceptions these labels have generated. In time we may need to get out! Staying fluid, we may come off as wishy-washy. Is there a way to keep your opinions fluid and on a personal level? Leaving the generalizations and stereo types aside and hence allowing more diversity in our lives.
My show, THE PASS, is very much an individual journey. I have always seen the value of following my own path – listening to my own voice even when there were others doing everything they could to convince me otherwise – was often a challenge especially when I first got started. I titled my first CD SELF and the front panel (a sticker made from Mylar on which we printed only the word SELF and inserted into the package; we went to great lengths to find these!) acts as a mirror when people pick it up. Self-awareness when you pick up my music was the intention.
Be an individual, stand out from the crowd and listen to your own voice. That way you’ll always be sure to be heard.
Had a great 4 hours today working with Grumpy Films’s Daniel Sears and Jason Jude on a sizzle reel to promote THE PASS. I answered questions, played a few pieces from a few songs featured in the show. I even read a vignette about the time I walked out on a London stage, the first performance of the LUCKY STARS tour with Dean Friedman, in 5 inch heels! Talk about shaking in my knees.
We walked around my neighborhood in the West Village and in particular the corner of Gay & Christopher Street. I was pointing out points of interest including a former neighbor’s home Ruth McKenney where she worked on My Sister Eileen which later turned into the Broadway musical Wonderful Town. Ruth and her sister Eileen, an actress, lived in one of my landlady’s building’s when her father owned it. I also shared how friendly all the neighbors were when I first moved in, this very intense guy always said hello to me as I anxiously walked down Gay Street to the NYU piano rooms to practice. Turns out it was the radical lawyer and civil rights activist William Kunstler.
The funny thing is writing THE PASS has given me a 90 minute look at my life with an original soundtrack score to add to the drama & laughter.
As a songwriter it is important to keep track of your song catalog. This is your intellectual property. ASCAP, SESAC and BMI handle the performance end of a song’s activity (radio, live & internet) in the USA. Publishers (you can be your own publisher) are responsible for handling the mechanical (sales) licenses for songs which are to be recorded by artists other than the original songwriter. There are also master sync licenses and sync licenses. I can go into those more in another blog.
Let’s focus on a mechanical license. Record labels have to acquire a mechanical license in order to release a song from a writer if their own signed artist has not written it. They need permission and often they have to pay a fee.
In 1989 King Records in Japan released the album VISUALIZE from the Japanese recording artist Miskao Honjoh with my song EYE UPON YOUR AIM on it. I wrote the song while living in the UK. I happen to have found out about it because a label owner who was doing business in Japan heard and saw the record / single and my name was on it. A close friend of mine was his assistant so he knew of my work. He brought the record back for me.
The label never asked my permission nor did they send me a license for me to sign/approve allowing their artist on their label to record it, release it and earn on it. I was like “cool” and then I listened when I was given the CD. They changed the lyrics, while translating it to Japanese and even added to the title, “JUST A CARNIVAL (EYE UPON YOUR AIM)” – though they gave me full credit for the words and music on the album.
The album and the song have been reissued as recently as 2014 and there is even a live performance from 2015 of the song at a club by the artist in Japan on – you guessed it–youtube.
I never did anything about it because it was before the internet and I was too busy moving forward. Is it too late to do anything about it now? Stay tuned…
Giving thanks in a very profound way this Thanksgiving! It is my favorite holiday after all. This year I am grateful for so much including all the support I have received for my new project THE PASS.
When I do anything for the first time, it’s a big deal. There’s the initial idea, the process of putting it together and the emotions that go with attempting something new. Then there’s the Euphoria once I do it… I actually did it! Next up, what’s next?
THE PASS had its first run through last night at Gretchen Cryer’s house with Brendan Littlefield at the piano and yours truly singing and reading the 16 vignettes created to tell my story. I was in a very numb state of mind before and after the run through. I was pushing myself so hard to get it done and then realized it had taken me less than a year to put it together. I am so very excited to keep polishing the show and share it!
Here’s a photo of myself with Gretchen Cryer, my teacher and director and pianist Brendan Littlefield just after we did the run through. It was the first time we all met and first time since I finished the script and added the songs in order, and it went thanksgivingly well.
OK so I did it. At yesterday’s concert on 10.16.16, I read a few vignette’s from my show THE PASS interspersed with songs at yesterday’s concert. I really did it and I am excited and also feeling such a sense of euphoria. Here is a photo of me, Brendan Litttlefield and my new Behringer Europort PPA 200 with Klark Teknik Effects built in, after the concert. Having my own PA is amazing, it is a much needed tool, compact, powerful with great effects.
Denise Marsa & Brendan Littlefield 10.16.16 concert Palmer Museum, Springfield Library, NJ
Brendan and I rehearsed quite a bit and we had two rehearsals back to back on the 2 days before the show. We put together a strong set and worked on new arrangements and played my songs from the past 4 decades – from the 80’s thru 2016! and it was a blast and the audience really enjoyed and told us so! I am really fueled up now to work more and harder on THE PASS.
Library gigs are cool. The good news is they pay for the programs they bring in. Some of the libraries have bigger budgets depending on the size of the town and population. Libraries offer programs to their communities for free.
We performed in the Palmer Museum in the Springfield Library where they have a very old piano – one that Brendan truly enjoyed playing. There’s an exhibit as well and the current exhibit is from Sam Caponegro. Here’s one of Sam’s paintings:
This was my second concert at Springfield Library in Springfield, New Jersey and I loved it. I had the chance to test the waters for THE PASS and the audience was entertained.
And I am still basking in the delight of the euphoria…