Blog

Message from the Memory Palace, or, Kringled Memes, Anyone?

If we were computers, this would be so much easier...

If we were computers, this would be so much easier…

“If he nabs you, jabs you, NO! If he nabs you, grabs you, jabs you!  He will bring you, fling you, NO! He will bring you, sting you, fling you…”

My neighbors probably heard something like this coming through our party wall this week. The singing, the reciting, the cursing, the repeating. . . They may have seen me on the sidewalk, silently mouthing some words, then slapping my head, shuffling index cards, then mouthing and slapping some more  It’s all part of Art Mob Cram School, a semi-annual event undertaken alone or in small groups.

Got. To. Memorize.

Everyone has their own methods. For the music, some of us listen to recordings of rehearsals, look at the sheet music, and ta-da! they’ve got it. I need to set an audio track of just my part on infinite repeat, and drill it into my brain.  This sometimes works.

Then there’s writing out the lyrics; typing out the lyrics; highlighting, underlining, coloring in, and creating mnemonic devices. (The three difficult entrances in “Crawdad” can be boiled down to OY, OY, WasIt?)

And there’s the Memory Palace, where you construct a mansion of many rooms, furnishing it with visual representations of whatever you need to remember. But tell me, where should I put the “dying worms”? (Shape-note lyrics have the most memorable images, but you still have to sing them in order. The great white throne sits in front of the crystal sea, and please do not rearrange the heavenly furniture.)

The Jukebox of My Mind

I wake up to “Ragtime Goblin Man” playing inside my head; by bedtime, I’m on “Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think” (and it usually is), and round and round I go. I’ll be unplugging that particular jukebox on December 18…I hope.

Kringled Memes!

There are dangerous patches on the memory highway, though.  Like black ice, we can encounter inverted and mispronounced words, not to mention hysterically funny bloopers, at any moment.  And boy, do they stick; they move right in like field mice in autumn. Why, just the other day, Brent said “kringled meme” when he meant “mingled cream.” He probably doesn’t remember, but unfortunately I’ll never forget. Will I be blurting it out while we sing “Lines on Ale”? Come to the concerts this weekend and find out.

Hook, Wine, and Thinker! Concerts

Bad puns, low humor, sweet spiritualism, all in one evening!

 


The Special Quality of Art Mob

XXV Laulupidu

We’re a theater of words and music.

XXV Laulupidu [By ToBreatheAsOne (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

XXV Laulupidu, the Estonian song celebration: 30,000 singers, 80,000 listeners! There are only 15 of us.

Every season the Art Mob presents a program of around 22 songs, a cappella and “hands-free,” meaning we memorize the words and music for all the pieces. WHY do we do it? It’s hard work, and sometimes we need a pep talk to fortify us for the task. Connie, our Assistant Music Director and Sous-Chef, delivered this one to us just the other week:

“I know that many groups do not think it is a big deal to be “on book “— that the music is the most important thing. With large choruses and orchestras, I reluctantly agree.

However, the experience of the Art Mob audience is, to me, closer to that of theater because the content (the words, the stories they tell, even those silly ones like “Ragtime Goblin Man”) is really important, and it is more effective if it is internalized within us before being sent out to the audience. (Imagine if you came to see a play and everyone had little books they very skillfully scattered around the stage and to which they would refer.)

It is not so much that the stories themselves are such high-quality poetry (with the exception, maybe, of Poe and one or two of the shape-note authors) but precisely *because* they are prosaic, and we turn them into something that makes “prosaicness” very human and profound. That is the special quality of Art Mob.”

Here are short bits of Victoriana, Tin Pan Alley, and more. Give a listen.

Art Mob Aural Snippet 1 Art Mob Aural Snippet 2 Art Mob Aural Snippet 3 Art Mob Aural Snippet 4

Hook, Wine, and Thinker! Fall Concerts

bad puns, low humor, sweet spiritualism, all in one evening!


Where Did You Find That Song?

The Art Mob has a particular fondness for overlooked or forgotten (sometimes justly), music of past eras. These rescued gems aren’t usually just lying around; we have to hunt for them. Here’s how Dean found one of our favorite entries for the December 2017 concert, “Hook, Wine, and Thinker”:

Yard Sale Treasure

Dean’s yard sale treasure

“Yard sales are a huge source of material for the Art Mob. That’s where several of us have gotten old songbooks that we mine for our obscure repertoire. The usual scenario is that a family is selling off an aged or deceased ancestor’s personal stuff, and that not infrequently includes sheet music. A couple of generations ago, it was as common for a family to own a piano and have at least one person who could play it as it is now for us to subscribe to a music streaming service. (I almost wrote, “to own a CD player,” but those are being dumped in the yard sale pile now, too.)

In 2014 I found, at such a sale in Rhinebeck, NY, a little book called “Jewish Folk Songs for the Young Pianist.” As the title suggests, it’s pitched to keyboard beginners, and the arrangements are very spare, just a melody and one or two notes in the left hand. All the songs have words, in Yiddish with a brief translation. And there are some great songs: the book has so far yielded up “Amol Is Geven a Mayse” (“Once Upon a Time”), which we sang in our “For Better or Voice” concerts, and now “Di Alte Kashe” (“The Old Question”) on our upcoming “Hook, Wine, and Thinker” program.

The melodies are hauntingly beautiful, and the minimal piano parts give the vocal arranger (me) maximum freedom. Besides, the songs are a healthy antidote to the overload of explicitly Christian pieces that end up in our repertoire simply because they are so common in the literature.”

Come hear us sing “Di Alte Kashe” in December and find out what the old question is that the world keeps asking us, but we can’t answer.

Hook, Wine, and Thinker! Fall Concerts

Bad puns, low humor, sweet spiritualism, all in one evening!


Songs for the End of Daylight Saving Time

The days are short now. It’s getting cold and depressing, but the Art Mob has its seasonal affective disorder under control, with a leafy pile of songs about the season: how it’s dark; how everything’s dying; how the weather portends the scriptural end of days … and makes us happy! Really.

Take the well-named Autumn, penned by Samuel Johnson, no less, in the 18th century. What’s his soothing thought for the season? Listen:

O, what remains, what lingers yet /To cheer me in the darkening hour?

The grape remains, the friend of wit /In love and mirth of mighty power.

Yes, wine will keep his pulse cantering and his girlfriend looking good.   Here’s what else we sing:

I’ve got the wonder where he went and when he’s comin’ back blues…

What care I how time advances, I am drinking ale today!…

The world asks an old question, to which there is no answer…

We’ve got more songs, more music, more proven remedies for the blues.

Come and hear us sing them all: December 15, 16, 17

Hook, Wine, and Thinker! Fall Concerts

Bad puns, low humor, sweet spiritualism, all in one evening!

  We’ll cheer you up.

 


Fishing for Singers, Hook, Wine, and Thinker.

It’s September, and in line with our December concerts’ fishing/drinking theme, The Art Mob is trawling for new singers (especially tenors).

You who receive this message: You already know how much fun you’ll have, so come on and join us. And if you know someone else who’d be interested, forward this message, or slip us his or her name and email address, and we’ll be right over with our nets.

The rest of you: visit www.artmob.org and sample our audio clips, read all about us, write to Brent (he really wants to hear from you; see below) and get on board.

Here’s how we describe our unpatented Art Mob process and program: Our song selections, which are made by consensus, are notoriously quirky and eclectic.If you like  gospel, Victoriana, children’s ditties, jazz, and country songs along with who knows what other styles, you’ll feel right at home in The Art Mob. We rehearse every Monday evening. If you want to join in the fun, get in touch with our musical director, Brent Frederick. His email address: brent@brentfrederickmusic.com.


Want to Sing with The Art Mob?

The Art Mob needs more singers, especially in the bass and alto sections. If you are are interested in joining us, or if you know someone else who might be, we’d be delighted to hear from you.

Our song selections, which are made by consensus, are notoriously quirky and eclectic. If you enjoy a program that includes gospel, Victoriana, children’s ditties, jazz, and country songs along with who knows what other styles, you might feel right at home with The Art Mob. We rehearse every Monday evening, with a break between the May concerts and Labor Day. If you want to join in the fun, get in touch with our musical director, Brent Frederick. His email address: brent@brentfrederickmusic.com.

Our next performances are December 16, 17, and 18 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, 31 Mercer Street, NYC. The singing starts at 8 PM Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday it starts at 3 PM.

Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

 

 

 


Two New Voices and a Deep Need

The Art Mob is over the moon about our two newest members: Emilia Mahaffey (soprano) and Ray Narva (alto). We hope you will come to one of the concerts in our next series, The Best Laid Planets, May 20, 21, and 22, to hear them and welcome them yourself. 
 
We still need male singers, especially in the bass section. If you want to audition, email our music director, Brent Frederick: brent@brentfrederickmusic.com. And please spread the word to any men you know who might like to join us.

We Need Singers

The Art Mob is auditioning for all voice parts for our next concerts, which will be May 20-22. A reasonable ability to sight-sing and an outstanding ability to blend in a small ensemble are the qualities we seek. We rehearse on Monday evenings in Greenwich Village.

If you’d like to sing with us, please contact our music director, Brent Frederick, brent@brentfrederickmusic.org, to arrange an audition.


Another Chance to Have Your Boat Rocked!

St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is celebrating its 160th anniversary tomorrow with an open house that will include a performance by The Art Mob. We will sing most of the songs from our recent Rockin’ the Boat concert series, starting at 3 PM. St. John’s is at 81 Christopher Street. The open house, from 1-6 PM, is free and open to all, come as you are. The church, which has a tradition of supporting local arts groups, has been generously providing The Art Mob with rehearsal space.


We love our fans!

Thanks to all who attended our Rockin’ the Boat concerts in December.

We had a record crowd for the Friday performance!

On Saturday we got a standing ovation!

We are still feeling the love, and we’re sending it right back to you.

Our next concert series is May 20-22. Watch for more news as those dates approach.