Category: About Art Mob

The Art Mob Is Not Ignoring You

Our blog has been in hibernation, but we’re all good.

Hello, followers of the Art Mob. How’ve you been? We’re all good. In context, of course: Our lives, like yours, have been upended, but you knew that. What you want to know is, is the Art Mob still in business? And are we, the fans, going to be able to hear them sing again?

Yes, and Yes! Make that Hell, Yes! We keep meeting, virtually, every week. (For you punctuation fans, the placement of those commas makes the sentence mean that we are meeting every week—not virtually every week, but literally every week—but we’re meeting virtually, i.e., on a digital platform.) We enjoy this a lot, but we’re all eager to get back to singing.

Art Mob meets virtually
At our weekly virtual gathering; we’re laughing, not singing.

And we will! Some of us are vaccinated already, and the others will be soon enough. No, we didn’t skip the line by virtue (that word again!) of our fame as Mobsters, though that’s always a temptation. Joe Biden is saying there’ll be enough vaccine for everybody by the end of May, so we think we’re in good shape to start rehearsing again in the fall.

In fact, so cocksure are we that we’ve—you’re gonna love this—BOOKED A PERFORMANCE SPACE for December!!! That’s right! And it’s one of our all-time favorites: Tenri Cultural Institute. We’ve got it reserved for two shows in December 2021; more details to come. We’ll be looking for a venue for a third performance when we get a little closer to the time, and as more spaces decide to open up.

But be assured: If it’s not safe, we won’t do it. That will depend on what the Governor says, how Tenri’s policies evolve between now and then, and also on how we feel, individually and collectively. Our crystal ball tells us that it will be OK, but it has been known to be guilty of wishful prognosticating from time to time, so we’re keeping our eyes open, our ears to the ground, our fingers in the breeze, and our (masked) noses up in the air. We’ll see you in December, fingers crossed, and you’ll be hearing from us along the way.

Stay safe, keep wearing that mask, and get your vaccination as soon as you can. The arts are essential to life, the Art Mob is essential to the arts, and you are essential to the Mob.

P.S. If you haven’t yet ordered your copy of “The Art Mob Tops 40,” the first and only Art Mob book, what’s the matter with you?

Order your copy now!

The Art Mob: Still Together

Art Mob meet-up
Central Park, safely spaced

We’re ecstatic to report that the Art Mob is still together. The group shows every sign of surviving the pandemic, despite being separated by miles, and by the high risk of choral singing in an age in which “aerosols” has become a four-letter word.

Monday night is Mob night.
Actual proof that Bree ate a bug.

We’re together every Monday night, in a virtual meeting. (I’ll call it a Zoom meeting. It’s not actually on Zoom.) Mostly, we chat, catching up on the state of each other’s relationships, health, hair, and knitting/sewing projects. Sometimes we have trivia contests, make up poems, or watch our newest and bravest member, Bree, eat freeze-dried bugs. (She’s a vegan; this was just a fling.) We can’t sing as a unit because of the limitations of the software, but we sometimes sing to each other. Music is, needless to say, a central element in the Mob’s existence, but the personal connections among our members are no less important. So we’ve been using the available technology to keep those in as good a state of repair as anyone could expect.

The biggest thing to happen recently, though, was that we got together in the flesh. Taking advantage of the (at least temporary) return of several singers who’d been hiding out from COVID in various far-flung regions, we met at Sheep Meadow in Central Park on the bright afternoon of October 10. We all wore masks, and we did a reasonable job of staying six feet apart, despite an impulse among many of us to hug the others and never let go.

Mob meet-up 1
A fair representation. More next time!

And we sang! You gotta say, singing with a mask on and standing no closer than six feet from anybody else isn’t exactly the aesthetic ideal, but it was emotionally thrilling. We sang some old favorites and some new favorites from our most recent concert: “Africa” (of course!), “Amazing Grace,” “David’s Lamentation,” “The Old Crossroads,” and “Dark as a Dungeon.” Nobody wanted to stop, so we sang them all two or three times.

Then, alas, we had to part. But it was a gladdening preview of things to come. When they’ll come is still up in the air, along with the infectious droplets, but we’ll be ready. See you then!

P.S. If you haven’t yet ordered your copy of “The Art Mob Tops 40,” the first and only Art Mob book, what’s the matter with you?

Order your copy now!


Bound and Determined! The Art Mob Gets Published!

Legends of the Art Mob, Part I

One reader cried all the way through it, for all the best reasons. Another laughed out loud, and we hope that she had the right reasons for doing that. A third praised it as “witty and wise,” while yet another said he liked it a lot, and not only because of the nice things it said about him. The author—veteran Mobster Dean Rainey—says that he started writing it simply as an expanded version of the concert program, but it grew into a history, a series of portraits of our singers, and some reflections about the Mob’s place in the world. And there are pictures!

It’s The Art Mob Tops 40, the first book ever about the Art Mob, available now at Blurb.com.

Looks like this on the outside …

The author of The Art Mob Tops 40 is the same guy who writes the program notes for our concerts, and he tells us how he got that enviable job. The notes for our 40th anniversary concert series, in fact, are included in the book and provide its structure. From this base, it wanders down sinuous pathways of Mob lore and expands into chapters like “The Marcia Mystique” (on Marcia Tucker, the group’s founder) and bonus features such as a comprehensive listing of Art Mob singers since 1992.

…rollicking stories on the inside!

There are rollicking old stories, and there are hopeful looks into the future. You’ll get a longtime insider’s view of Mob goings-on, and you might learn things about some of the singers that you would never in a million years have suspected!

While you’re waiting for the end of the pandemic, when we can sing together again, The Art Mob Tops 40 makes for an entertaining and informative read about your favorite a cappella group. What’s more, the Art Mob gets $5 for each copy sold on Blurb, so you’re helping us survive by getting yourself something fun to read. If you’re an Art Mob fan, you want this! Get yours now!!

—Dean Rainey


Curtain Up! Light the Lights!

We got nothing to hit but the … yeah, we got nothing.

We’re cancelled. It’s Concert Weekend, and we’re locked down. Shut in. But wait! Who says we haven’t been busy, creative, mentally agile? Yes, we have! Even in lock-down, the Art Mob has been meeting every Monday evening, our regular rehearsal night. We’ve been safe, we’ve been virtual, we’ve been virtuous. We have not been singing! It’s almost impossible to be in sync on Google Meet or the like. Heck, it IS impossible.

We’ve continued with our mission to entertain ourselves and others—ourselves, first—with recitations, show and tell, games, and, most successfully, poetry (of a sort). They’re linked below. Let us entertain you!

Like a timely limerick? We’ve got some doozies! Challenged to write from a sharp-edged list of prompts, our imaginations took flight.

PLUS, a multi-stanza ‘stravaganza; a video QVC-esque limerick from Bree!

Are Clerihews news to youse? Meet an oddball, light-verse form from the oddball past—exactly right for the Art Mob, you’ll agree.

So, we do have something, after all. Enjoy, and have faith that the Art Mob will celebrate Year 41 in December—somewhere, somehow, some way safe.


At 40, a View from the Top

As the spring flowers begin to blossom, the Art Mob’s 40th anniversary concert program begins to take shape. We’ve got the songs and we’ve got the order in which we’ll sing them, and some of them are sounding like music in our Monday night rehearsals.

The Mob is like a shark that must move forward to keep breathing, so we’re not looking to the past for our anniversary program: there is more new material than old, and we can once again guarantee—as always!—that you will hear music you’ve never heard before and may never hear again. We’re willing to bet that the number of living ears that have enjoyed the strains of When George III Was King, Over the Top for Jesus, or I’ll Do It All Over Again, divided by two, times the square root of all the vintage music videos on YouTube, is basically nobody. On the other hand, we’ve salted the program with a few popular favorites like As Time Goes By and You’re the Top, in world-premiere Art Mob exclusive arrangements.

In fact, there are no fewer than thirteen Mob arrangements on the list, some of which are reprises (Connie’s Come Home, Father, Dean’s Ruby), but most of which are brand new for this concert. Bernadette makes her Mob arranging debut, joining our veterans Dean, Connie, and Hannah.

It’s a bit late for us to take on new singers for this season, but we do hope you’ll try out for the next one. Male voices—a risky term to use in the gender-contentious present, but one still current in the world of vocal music—are in particu larly short supply, but that doesn’t mean you should stop reading if you’re an alto or soprano. We’d love to hear from you, and our corps of arrangers would be able to add more divisi to the parts.

Remember: Friday May 17 and Saturday May 18 at 8 pm, and Sunday May 19 at 3 pm. Friday and Sunday are at Ronald Feldman Gallery, 31 Mercer Street; Saturday is at Tenri Cultural Institute, 43A West 13th Street. In both venues you’ll get to see brilliant art while you listen to our enchanting music. Yes, this is a lot to remember. That’s why we wrote it all down for you.


Art Mob Muscles In On Giving Tuesday

We are deserving of your largesse because you love us; you know you do.

Donations, donations, donations.
You, you, you.

We all know that Giving Tuesday is a cynically contrived event, ginned up by the retail industry to salve the consciences of consumers who have just emerged from a luxuriant wallow in the cesspits of Black Friday. But we participate anyway, because Giving Tuesday has created an overflowing trough at which every non-profit organization wants to feed. With sharpened elbows, the Art Mob now presumes to vie for our share of the spoils.

We are part of old, authentic New York, before all the corporate development. Marcia Tucker, a curator before she was a singer, formed the group in 1979, before people like her were priced out of Soho. We have faithfully made our semi-annual appearances every December and May, to sing you songs you’ve never heard before and to fill the room with the sound of music made by people who do it because they love singing together. In this world of stress and bad vibes, that’s important.

We need money from you, and not just love, because it costs money to put on our shows, even with the minimal requirements that we have. When you last heard from us, a year ago, our expenses had ballooned because of performance venue costs, and we were hanging on only by getting free rehearsal space through the generosity of a local church. Guess what: that’s over, and a place to rehearse is now a recurring expense for us.

Because we’re on such a shoestring, even a small donation from you makes a difference. Go ahead and donate to larger arts organizations, and, for goodness sake, to humanitarian and environmental ones, too. Just carve out a little spot for us.

At artmob.org, you can donate using PayPal. You can also support us on Amazon Smile, as explained here.

Or just come to the concerts and drop some money on us there. Your donations are fully tax deductible because we are punctilious about discharging our obligations to the IRS and the New York State Charities Bureau.

We thank you a whole lot for helping us out.


JOIN THE MOB THIS FALL!

JUST WHAT YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR!
The Art Mob (16-voice SATB, a cappella) is recruiting for all voice parts, especially male voices.

Since 1979 the Art Mob has entertained audiences and ourselves with a quirky mix of outdated and
unfashionable songs from a variety of ever-to-be-forgotten sources from the 18th through the mid-20th
centuries. Bravely singing without instrumental backup (or sheet-music coverup), the Art Mob pounces
on obscure pieces found in attics and tag sales, musty old hymnals and tattered choral books, offering
listeners a taste of what life may have been like way back before smartphones and cat videos, when
group singing was a popular form of entertainment. Plus, we’re good. Our music director, Brent
Frederick, brings out the best in the singers and the songs.

IF YOU LIKE gospel, Victoriana, children’s ditties, jazz, shape-note and Appalachian folk tunes,
temperance songs as well as drinking songs, Tin Pan Alley as well as country songs, along with who
knows what other styles;
IF YOU WANT TO write arrangements; collaboratively create programs; perform to a high standard with
a tight group of dedicated musicians; tell jokes and enjoy yourself; forge a new link in a musical chain
stretching back to the dim reaches of the 1980s;
CALL BRENT and arrange an audition. He and a thousand telephone operators are standing by.

*Rehearsal Night: Monday
*Neighborhood: Greenwich Village
*Next concerts:“In Gut We Trust” 12/14,15,16
*Contact: brent@brentfrederickmusic.com
*Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artmobsingers/
*Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theartmob79/
*Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/theartmob

 


A Herd of Cats and a Hoard of Music

The Things We Sing: “I Had a Dream Just Now, Mother”

Art Mob treasurer, arranger, and bass Dean Rainey tells the story behind this Victorian exemplar:

Our Spring 2018 “Keep a Lid On It” program includes this spooky 1854 lament, representing a genre that dates from a time when infant mortality was far too common.

I Had a Dream sheet music

The original sheet music in Helen’s book.

The popular music industry of the day took advantage of this tragedy as an opportunity to pull on consumers’ heartstrings, which are reliably connected to their purse-strings.

In the case of this song, publisher W. C. Peters & Sons, of Cincinnati, sold a copy to the Thibault family. Helen E. Thibault, perhaps a musical daughter, included it in a bound collection of her sheet music, with her name engraved on the front. You can barely read it now.

Helen's book

Helen’s book

Time passed, and we don’t know exactly what became of Helen E. and the rest of the Thibaults. Her sheet music collection survived, though, and fell into the hands of an eccentric great-uncle of mine. I don’t recall ever meeting him; he lived in Southern California, where he worked, for decades, at a bookstore. A recluse in his later years and apparently a hoarder (he never let anyone into his house, so we have only the word of the people who cleaned it up after he died), he left no heirs, but his will divided his estate among three relatives, including my mother. His many books and his other property—of which there seems to have been very little other than a herd of cats—were sold off and the proceeds doled out as directed.

But there were some things that nobody wanted. Besides Helen’s volume of music, damaged by time, mildew, and cats, there were a hefty stack of loose sheet music, dating from the teens through the thirties; a boxful of Hollywood movie magazines; and miscellaneous movie star photos. All this was shipped to my mother’s address, where I pounced on the music. I have mined the loose sheets for many an Art Mob arrangement, but I always felt most emotionally attached to Helen’s book, since it connects me with a real person: a person who, judging from its contents, sang sentimental duets (“Our Wild Woodland Home,” “Gently Sighs the Breeze”) and played salon pieces for piano four hands (Overture to “Le Cheval de Bronze” by D. F. E Auber) and solo (“Le Carnevale de Venise” by Th. Oesten) when she was not singing about departed children. She also, charmingly, believed in fairies: the Mob sang “Tell Me Where Do Fairies Dwell,” one of several such songs in her book, in 2011 for our “Dwelling On It” program.

Music cover with Jenny Lind

19th-century musical superstars Jenny Lind and Marietta Alboni

I arranged “I Had a Dream Just Now, Mother” in 2010 for the Mob’s “Out of Our Element” concerts. The rationale for reprising it this time is—well, the real reason is that I had been haunted by a desire to sing it again and was looking for any excuse. The fig leaf of legitimacy is the “wreath of golden hair” with which the angel is bedecked. His lid.

I can find no trace of this song on the famously comprehensive Internet. Solon Nourse, the composer, is there, but as a hymnodist. The lyricist, A. J. Shively, has been totally eclipsed by a young Broadway actor of the same name. Helen is gone for good, and the baby left with the angel, but we can make the music come back to life. Come to the concert and enjoy this Art Mob hyper-exclusive.

 

 

 

 

Keep a Lid on It!

Hats and rabbits; sex and secrets; whistles and wails–Shhh!

 

 

 

 

 

 


An Art Mob Secret Revealed!

OUR PROCESS

We’re continually pestered with questions about how we compose our program for each season’s concert (one person asked), so we’ve decided to open our kimono.  Our Process is a delicate, multi-step affair that takes weeks of extreme effort aided by alcoholic beverages, internet databases, and a trash can. Here’s how we start:

Music falling into trash can.

It’s happening …

At the end of every concert weekend we gather for a potluck dinner. After all are sufficiently relaxed, we determine the theme for the next season’s concert. Past concert themes have included The Best Laid Planets; Blood, Sweat, and Cheers; and Hook, Wine, and Thinker. (Eventually we tired of puns, so our current season’s theme is Keep a Lid on It!) Being highly collaborative, collective, cooperative, democratic, and fair, we all contribute themes and then vote on them. Our decisions are always unanimous.

Now comes the hard work. We all (but some more than others) go hunting for songs that somehow fill the bill. For example, we may include songs about hats this season. In fact, we will include songs about hats. What else can we keep a lid on? How about Egyptian sarcophagi? Alcohol consumption? Rabbit reproduction? Secrets? Extreme emotions? All that and more.

But back to the Process: At rehearsals, we gather our sheet music. We arrange ourselves in a circle around a ritual trash can. (The circle is very important. Perhaps we should have said a ritual circle, instead of a ritual trash can. When no can is available, the floor does almost as well.) We sing a selection, sometimes two or three times. We subject it to a evaluative rubric:

Does it fit the theme? (i.e., is there even one single word in the lyrics that could be interpreted as the theme?)

Has it been sung by the Art Mob in the past (x) years? (this variable can be from 5-10 years.)

Full trash can of rejects.

The Process is almost completed!

Is it too new, or to put it another way, not old enough? (This variable keeps creeping further into the 20th century—or is it us, creeping inexorably into the 21st century?)

Does it sound too much like something else we like better? (This happens a lot with shape-note music.)

Will Brent threaten to cut his throat if he has to direct it? (This happens a lot with shape-note music.)

After every aspect of the piece has been thoroughly checked, we vote on adding it to the program. Over the weeks, many pieces are voted down.

The defeated music sheets (we call them “losers”) are flung into the ritual trash can in the center of the ritual circle. When the can is full, a Mobster is chosen to ritually stomp them down, for good measure.

Art Mob Process: Stomping the losers.

Lauren delivers the coup de grâce.

 

When we reach the Magic Number (20+) we are done. We ritually welcome our season’s music selections (aka “winners”) by arranging them in alphabetical order. Then it’s snack time.

Hear the results of our Process when we present Keep a Lid on It! on May 18, 19, and 20. Times and locations are here.

 


The Things We Sing: We’re Nutty about Tutty!

Old King Tut sheet music

In Old King Tutty’s Day– Hip Hooray!

Such Tut Fun!
The year 1923 was a big one for all things Egyptian—not because Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered—that happened in 1922—but because no fewer than five hit songs came out of Tin Pan Alley to celebrate those fun, fun feelings we all get when we think of Old King Tut.

OK, he wasn’t old. (He died at age 19.) And he probably didn’t cut a rug. (He had a clubfoot and scoliosis, and used a cane.) But Tutankhamen inspired our singing, dancing grandparents with tunes like this:

Now Old King Tut was just a nut as you can see
Still proud was Tut about his nutty ancestry
His daddy was a Pharoah too
His mom an Ashkenazi Jew
In old King Tut Tut Tut Tut Tut Tut—King Tut-ty’s day!

and many others. We’ll be giving it our best, tutting away and doing that two-dimensional dance, in “Keep a Lid on It,” our May concert series.