Blazer, James and Luker Sing Songs by Rising Composers, and Kander Surprises, Sept. 29

News   Blazer, James and Luker Sing Songs by Rising Composers, and Kander Surprises, Sept. 29 Rebecca Luker, Brian D'Arcy James, Judith Blazer, Kate Baldwin and Michael Winther are the singers on hand for the New Voices Fall Songfest, Sept. 29 at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre in Symphony Space in Manhattan.
Rebecca Luker.
Rebecca Luker.

True to the mission of the New Voices Collective, the 8 PM acoustic concert features a range of songs by a range of working composes and musicians. The Sept. 29 evening features the work of Jeff Blumenkrantz (Urban Cowboy), Peter Foley (a Yale music school alumnus) and Joseph Thalken (Harold and Maude, Was), plus the art songs — and the premiere of several songs — by one of the theatre's most renowned composers, John Kander.

Kander, who penned jazzy scores to Chicago, Cabaret, Zorba and The Visit (all with lyricist Fred Ebb) has a trunk of art songs with texts from varied sources and writers.

Kander admits to being a huge fan of opera and classical music, but is known internationally for his show-tune vamps and hummable melodies to "New York, New York," "Razzle Dazzle," "All That Jazz" and more.

Kander found out about the collective's mission of art songs, theatre songs and pop songs though the group's associate producer Jen Bender, who was a music intern on The Visit.

Now in its second season (the first season's concerts were sold out), the songs are in a wide range of styles, from new American art songs to cabaret songs to songs from musicals currently in development, many of which were written for this event. Kate Baldwin (Arena Stage's South Pacific) and Brian D'Arcy James (Broadway's Titanic, Sweet Smell of Success) play a married couple in the pre-Broadway run of Barry Manilow's Harmony in Philadelphia this fall. Luker was Maria in Broadway's most recent The Sound of Music, and Marian in The Music Man. Blazer appeared in Broadway's Titanic, the premiere of Polly Pen's The Night Governess and is heard on several cherished studio recordings of vintage Kern, Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart shows. Winther is a respected actor and singer who recently appeared in The Public Theater's Radiant Baby and is joing Broadway's Mamma Mia! as Harry.

The Fall Songfest concert is sweetened by Grant Wenaus (piano), Clay Ruede (cello) and Ed Matthew (clarinet).

The performance is at 8 PM. The evening will be hosted by Danny Burstein, and the entire event is directed by Annette Jolles. The NVC producing partners are Doug Okerson, Joel Fram and Jen Bender.

Tickets ($25) can be purchased on the internet at http://www.symphonyspace.org or by phone at (212) 864 5400. Symphony Space is at Broadway at 95th Street.

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The New Voices group, which debuted in January 2003, is expanding its mandate beyond just giving voice to pit musicians who are composers, Fram told Playbill On-Line earlier this year.

While still focusing on the new or little-heard, the group will explore "American songs in whatever form that is."

Fram explained, "We present cabaret songs, American art songs and theatre songs and we present them equally. We don't distinguish among them. We want to look at all the different styles and invite healthy comparisons."

One aspect of each concert is showing off a little-heard side of a known composer — cabaret and theatre composer David Friedman's art songs were heard at NVC's April 21 show, for example. Kander is next.

New Voices Collective, run by artistic director Fram, producer Douglas Okerson and associate producer Bender, is in the process of incorporating toward not-for-profit status and has an agreement with Symphony Space to present four concerts in the coming year — September 2003, January 2004, April 2004 and July 2004.

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