Hope Sings Today with Lisa DeSpain

We had the pleasure of catching up with composer, jazz pianist, educator, all-around "inspirer" Lisa DeSpain last week.

Lisa’s awards include a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Fellowship and an Aaron Copland Fellowship; her commissions range from the ASCAP Centennial Commission Honoring Duke Ellington to the US Air Force Band of Flight and the Airmen of Note. 

She is also writing the musical "Red Light" (nee “Storyville”) with Kristen Anderson-Lopez (FROZEN) and Julia Jordan (Murder Ballad).

Oh - and her “day job” is running the music department at LaGuardia Community College.

How did Lisa come to be doing all the things she does – and does so well?

Lisa is writing a musical, "Red Light" (formerly “Storyville”), with Kristen Anderson-Lopez (“Frozen”) and Julia Jordan (“Murder Ballad”).

What gives Lisa Hope? She’s not the first one to give this answer…

What else gives her hope? This is a great tip for all of us…

This last one really surprised me – and is something I totally share…

Orphan Train, the Musical - Q&A with composer Doug Katsaros

Composer Doug Katsaros' bio is too lengthy and impressive to go into with the depth it deserves. Here are just a few of the names with which he is associated as a composer, arranger, conductor, or performer: Hal Prince, Cher, Ringling Brothers, Bon Jovi, Gloria Estefan, Jacky Mason, Macy's, the Tony's - and he'll create the song of your dreams, too!  

Get all the detes here:  http://www.themusicofyourdreams.com/Biography.html 

(Also, Doug happens to be married to another great composer - Elise Morris. One day we'll do an Q&A with her - check out her collaboration with musicians in Mali - http://www.elisemorris.com/About%20Me.html )

But back to Orphan Train.  I was so curious to hear about Doug's process with the show - hope you are too! 

1) What was your musical inspiration for Orphan Train?

There was a CD of Celtic music that I was listening to which put me in the mood for Orphan Train, but of course, there is none of that influence in the score, as the time and place of the score did not call for it. Still, to cleanse my palette while writing, I would listen to that beautiful CD. IF you mean what gave me the idea to do the musical in the first place, I saw an article on AOL about "Orphan Train Survivor Reunion" and researched it, and had a very vivid dream that night, and called the lyricist and bookwriter into my office the next day to explain the dream to them and tell them to get crackin'!  :)

2) Have you made any big changes to the show for the GCT performances?

Yes - we have cut more than a half hour from the show, both in book and songs. We felt this show should run in one act at about 75 minutes for this production. Otherwise it is exactly the same.

3) Music first or lyric first? (I know, it's an old, somewhat reductive question - but folks always want to know)

Lyric First. I did not even begin to write the score until the book and lyrics were complete for the entire show.

4) What do you hope for the future of the show?

What does anyone hope for their show? to be performed, perhaps on tour, perhaps here in New York, perhaps anywhere in the world, but mostly to have the audiences come away with the feeling that they have experienced a part of our history that has been kept from them, and they are moved to do something about these situations in their everyday lives.

5) What's next for you?

I am the composer for the new Broadway adaptation of Somewhere In Time, opening in New York this coming Summer!



Tamar of the River - Opening!!

I was so happy to be at the opening of the very cool new musical, Tamar of the River.  Marisa Michelson (music/book) and Joshua H. Cohen (lyrics/book) should be proud - as should director Daniel Goldstein and choreographer Chase Brock - for the unusual and affecting show they have delivered.

The actors are incredible - notably Margo Seibert (Tamar) and Erik Lochtefeld (Judah), and the actors who personify the River are vocally astounding and physically mesmerizing (and often play other roles beyond water):  Ako, Jen Anaya, Adam Bashian, Margot Bassett, Troy Burton, Jeremy Greenbaum, Tamrin Goldberg, Aaron Komo, Mike Longo, Mary Kate Morrissey, Vince B. Vincent.

Marisa's music is unlike any other you've heard - though it has echoes of Meredith Monk, one of her idols - and the lyrics and book are poetic and pointed, simple and eloquent.  

Though Tamar is set in a mythical time and land, it has such resonance in these days of upset, violence and misunderstanding in the Middle East and elsewhere. In asking the question whether peace is truly possible, it makes us hope - and believe - that the answer is yes. One day, some way.

At the opening reception afterwards, everyone was glowing - and deservedly so!  


Composer Marisa Michelson (ctr) with supporters Mary Jo and Ted Shen (Shen Family Foundation) 

Composer Marisa Michelson (ctr) with supporters Mary Jo and Ted Shen (Shen Family Foundation) 

Tamar of the River's "Tamar" Margo Seibert (rt) w/writer Laura Eason

Tamar of the River's "Tamar" Margo Seibert (rt) w/writer Laura Eason

Cara Reichel (L) -  Prospect Theater Company, producer  of Tamar w/producer Melissa Huber (rt)

Cara Reichel (L) -  Prospect Theater Company, producer  of Tamar w/producer Melissa Huber (rt)

Tamar actor Erik Lochtefeld w/ writer (and wife) Laura Eason

Tamar actor Erik Lochtefeld w/ writer (and wife) Laura Eason

New Idea: MUSICALS for Change!

Hi - Beth here, founder of Hope Sings.

As some of you know, I lead sort of a double life. In one half, I run Hope Sings. In the other, I write musicals. 

Sometimes, I've felt a bit schizophrenic, like there's a Berlin Wall between my two existences. 

Until recently, when I had an epiphany. That my musicals - and all the musicals I love - are up to the same thing as Hope Sings: harnessing the power of song and story to inspire change.

So coming soon to Hope Sings: a broadened focus to include musicals. 

Coming really soon (a/k/a NOW), a shameless focus on my latest musical, Oneida (I am doing book/lyrics, music is by Lizzie Hagstedt).

I just returned from 10 days in Hanover, NH at the first ever VoxFest at Dartmouth College. Vox Theatre aims to bring Dartmouth alums back to the college to create new theatre works. This festival presented seven new works in various stages of development - including Oneida.

Oneida is about our desire (struggle?) to be happier, better, more loving people - and about the revolutionary community in upstate New York that created amazing ways of living and loving in pursuit of that desire (struggle?). They were front page news for 30 years in the mid-1800's (in fact, the founder coined the term "free love" - way back then!) - but now the only thing most people know is the silverware they made (Oneida - obviously). 

We had an incredible cast that was a combo-pack of professionals and students - here are some of us - and I'm happy to report the audience loved our informal presentation - more news to come!

Oneida (left to right): Paul Frazel, Chris Gallerani, Beth Blatt, Katie Bruestle, Emma Orme, Katelyn Onufrey

Oneida (left to right): Paul Frazel, Chris Gallerani, Beth Blatt, Katie Bruestle, Emma Orme, Katelyn Onufrey

First ever!

My friend Mike Pettry has done something amazing. Read what he says:

"The musical, The Time Travelers Convention, is now available on YouTube in its entirety. We recorded the musical as a radio play with a professional cast, full orchestrations and sound effects, and have posted it on YouTube with an artist's renderings of the scenes. This is the first time anyone has ever created a musical in this way, and it's totally free to watch."


direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQsfQZDL12I&p=3645FFAA2813E725

More info -

The Time Travelers Convention (book and lyrics by Heidi Heilig, music by Mike Pettry) is a new musical that has been fully realized as a radio play on YouTube. It is the story of the three high school nerds who want to go back in time to change their pasts. They decide to hold a Time Travelers Convention, putting flyers in classic books in the hopes that, in a future where anything is possible, the invitations will be found and a time traveler -- with a time machine -- will come to their party. When a stranger does arrive, the characters have to struggle with the possibilities of dealing with the past, or finding a way to live in the now.