Three Tenors (medQ)

My Christmas with Cantus

This is the weird and wonderful story of how my one and only Christmas with Cantus led me to meet tenors David Walton and Aaron Humble who are joining forces with me for my upcoming “A Three Tenors Christmas” at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.  

plug:

  • Tuesday, December 22 at 8:15 P.M. (dinner seating at 6:15) get tickets
  • Wednesday, December 23 at 8:15 P.M. (dinner seating at 6:15) get tickets

Fyi, as of this writing, availability has gone from “excellent” to “good”….so don’t wait too long to get a ticket!

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The three tenors rehearse with pianist Herb Johnson.

My life is strange.  I’ve known for some time that anybody who willfully puts himself or herself up on a stage in front of other people is unusual.  Being a man that sings really high in front of people makes me a freak of nature.   I shouldn’t be surprised then, that this story is also strange.  Some call it luck but looking back all I can think is that Someone was orchestrating.

When I was in my last semester of grad school, I met Aaron Humble of Cantus as he was getting a tour of Denver University’s Lamont School of Music before the ensemble’s performance that evening.  I’d heard of Cantus on Minnesota Public Radio but had never been to any of their productions.  I decided I needed to look into this group, and I applied to audition that spring.  They hold annual auditions to attract the top male vocal talent in the nation, regardless of any open positions in the ensemble.  They invited me to come to one of their live auditions. That alone was worth the plane ticket.

Instead of singing for a director, or a panel of judges, you sing for the men of Cantus.  After all of the auditionees had sung their songs, we were invited back into the room and then magic happened. We got to sing WITH Cantus.  As I’d prepared my parts for the music ahead of time I had imagined the sound we’d achieve.  It surpassed all of my expectations.  I flew back to Denver with an even deeper respect for the organization.  I was saddened to hear some time later that there were no open positions in the ensemble, but still very glad to have sung with them, even for a day.

While singing a role in Italy at the tail end of the summer I received a call from Doc Rainbow, director of theatre at my undergraduate alma mater, University of Northwestern – St. Paul, inviting me to come sing the lead role of Father in Children of Eden that fall.  We sold or gave away nearly everything we owned and returned to our native Minnesota, anticipating a one month stay and then a circuit of audition trips out west.  Then, just a few days after arriving in Minnesota, I got a call from Cantus.  One of their tenors had taken a leave of absence and they needed a tenor to replace him for their upcoming “Christmas with Cantus” concerts and was I in town and AVAILABLE!?  I was ecstatic.

Rehearsing with them for six hours a day and learning an entire show in two weeks was a rigorous and rewarding experience.  Getting to perform with them was So. Much. Fun.  My contract included singing on their Christmas with Cantus CD in 2011.  That recording is still a favorite in my household, frequently being chosen by our young daughters as their bedtime music.

In the spring of 2012, Cantus was looking to fill this tenor position with a full-time singer, and I was hopeful that I may be able to join this group for the long term. Though I was bummed that they chose someone else, I totally understood their reasoning. David Walton possesses  a tenor range that I only dream of.  On my first encounter with David, I remembered thinking – just from his speaking voice – “wow, this guy is going to go far.”  Which he has. Find out more about him here.

I’ve been so privileged to have performed with David since then in various productions and was thrilled that he joined me and Aleks Knezevich for the debut performance of our tenor trio last year for Christmas at Wooddale in Eden Prairie Minnesota.

As plans for this year’s Chanhassen concerts developed, we needed to find a new tenor, as Aleks was not available this year.  David suggested Aaron Humble, also a long-time Cantus member who is currently on faculty at Augustana College in Illinois.  He is not only a quick study but brings such confidence and experience with him.  You can find out more about him here.

While I never purposed to create this year’s tenor trio with former members of Cantus, it makes perfect sense that that’s what has happened.  Cantus attracts top male talent to the state and the entire community benefits from it.

I’m thankful for the boldness to take chances.  This Christmas I’m especially thankful for the men of Cantus 2010 who took a chance on me.  I will always be grateful for the institution of Cantus.  It continues to create amazing music with many new voices and creating opportunities that go far beyond the ears that hear them.

(By the way, the 2015 “Christmas with Cantus” series starts tonight!)

Three Tenors (medQ)

photo credit: Bethany Jackson of Twin Cities Headshots

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Two Things Wright

I’ve been enjoying learning a little bit more about the birth of flight as I prepare for Test Pilot in a few weeks.

Penny Freeh with guys Test Pilot

Rehearsing airplane choreography with Penny Freeh

While most of what I’ve been learning has to do with what to sing or how to move, there are two things about the Wright brothers that really stick out to me.

As they were trying to figure out this whole flight thing, they were working in their bicycle shop.  They had been trying to figure out how to maneuver the plane once they were to get into the air. The solution that they ended up using was arrived at by simply playing around with the box from a tire inner tube.  (The process is called “wing warping.”)  Not only did they arrive at the solution by just noticing the world around them, but they were solving problem C before they had even passed problem A.

They were open to finding a solution before they even needed it.  They were dreaming. And they were planning on their dream coming true.

The second thing that really inspired me this week is about an equation – the all important equation for lift.  They were finding all of these dead ends in their attempts to solve it until they realized that part of the equation – which had been “proven” to be the case – was actually false.

So the two things…

1. Plan ahead.  Don’t get caught up in the problems of today such that there is no energy to dream about solutions for tomorrow.

2. Question. Question the status quo.  Don’t let the “rules” by the experts keep you on the ground.

 

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Wright-Glider-LC-DIG-ppprs-00571” by (unknown) – http://lcweb2.loc.gov. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

SNR flyer for Stillwater

Right around the corner: Discounts, Deals, Dancing, and Dean Martin

It’s here. Almost!

The final of our three A Summer Night Romance jazz concerts is TOMORROW, Friday, August 16 at 8:00. Stillwater Public Library.  On the terrace. Outside. Live music. Candles. Dancing.

We’ve mentioned previously how this particular location is kind of sentimental for us because the first place we called “home” when we got married was the upstairs of a little house on Hickory Street, just 0.7 miles away from the library.  I used to walk to the terrace to write wedding thank you cards.  All this to say….we think it’s quite fitting to have a Romance-themed concert at this venue.

sale tag clip artIn honor of this thought, we’ve got a special deal going just for the next 24 hours (23 now – eek!).  Until 2:00 pm on Friday, you can get two Section A tickets for $40!  Or one for $20 if you don’t have a date – which is totally OK too.  Either use this link, or enter the promo code “HickoryStreet” at checkout to get the discount.

You still have the option of getting a Section B seat with no cost up-front (contributions will be accepted during and after the event), but the best seats in the house, or rather, on the library, will be reserved for Section A-ers.

Either way, please, please, please, check out the special discounts that are available around Stillwater tomorrow for our ticketholders. I’ll paste the list at the end of this post as well.  Thanks so much to the Stillwater shops who have offered the cool deals for you, and another special thanks to the shops who have helped sponsor this event.

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Nathan Bird and Christy Jones – what’s not to love?

Keep in mind that we really would love to bring A Summer Night Romance back next year.  We have had so much fun with the shows in Chanhassen and Eden Prairie so far, and I’m pretty sure there are a few folks out there who would welcome our return.  Together we can make tomorrow’s show the best one yet and finish this run on a high note!  (Actually there will be lots of high notes in this concert, and some low ones, and quite a few in between.)

Four of our performers have CDs that will be available for purchase at the event. Be sure to stop by the table to say Hi, sign up for the newsletter mailing list, and get a piece of candy!  Remember that we have a Facebook page for updates too.

Can’t wait for the show! Hope to see you or your friends there tomorrow!

Cheers!
Naomi, for Nathan and the rest of the Summer Night Romance gang
see below for discount list

photo credit: Andrew Kurcan

SNR flyer for Stillwater

Discounts for Ticketholders of A Summer Night Romance in Stillwater

*You must present your paper or digital Eventbrite ticket to receive the discount.
*Unless otherwise noted, all discounts are only valid on 8/16/13.
*Hours listed are specific to 8/16/13.

Saint Croix Vineyards Winery – BOGO wine-tasting cards *Good through 12/31/13* (6428 Manning Avenue; open 10am-6pm)

Domacin Restaurant and Wine Bar – 10% off entire order (102 2nd Street, Stillwater; open 4pm-11pm)

Lake Elmo Inn – 25% off an entrée (3442 Lake Elmo Ave N, Lake Elmo; open 11am-2pm and 5pm-10pm)

Joseph’s Family Restaurant  – 10% off entrée, not including specials or features (14608 N. 60th St.; open 6:30-10pm)

Quickfire Pizza, Made-to-order individual woodfire pizza – 10% off orders of $20 or more (116 South Main St; 11:30am-2:30am)

Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop  – 10% off entire order (131 Main Street South; open 11am-9pm)

Cherry Berry, Self-serve frozen yogurt – 20% off  (125 South Main St; open until 11pm)

Candyland old tyme candy store 15% off in-store purchase (212 Main Street North; open 10am-10pm)

Stillwater Olive Oil Company  – $1 off of a bottle (208 Main Street South; open 11am-7pm)

Valley Bookseller – 20% off book purchase (217 Main Street North; open 9am-8pm)

Papa Wheelies Surrey – $5 off a surrey rental (204 North Main Street; open 11am-dusk)

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The Summer Night Romances

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-Notes from our 2013 Production-

What a weekend!
We launched A Summer Night Romance – a jazz concert full of classic crooner tunes and heart-warming melodies from the 20s-50s.

It took many hard working people to make it all happen. Thank you so much!  We’ve got a bit of work yet to do for our final performance, but after the overwhelmingly positive responses to the first two, we are encouraged and inspired to successfully complete this bold production.

Friday was in the Club Theatre of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Great crowd. Splendid treats. Fabulous instrumentalists. It was a really fun jazz club style performance. (Thanks to technical issues, those pictures are forthcoming.)

Sunday was magical. untitled-44-13

Who doesn’t dream of the perfect outdoor concert?

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And who in the western Minneapolis suburbs doesn’t love the Eden Prairie Dunn Bros at the Smith Douglas More House?

Bet you’ve never seen the patio looking like this, though, have you?

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Perfect weather + live music + homemade desserts + coffee + wine + candles =

photo credit: Andrew Kurcan

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We were so happy to have some Eden Prairie city councilmembers present who were instrumental in saving the historic Smith Douglas More House.  They confirmed that this music would indeed have been celebrated by the home’s former owners. How special it is to perform such timeless and nostalgic music in an historically appropriate venue.

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Each venue for these events is so beautifully unique. Each performer is so beautifully talented. But don’t just take our word for it…

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SNR

Summer Night Romance Concerts: Where and Why

It’s been an exciting whirlwind around here lately, and we have succeeded in officially launching ticket sales for our upcoming concerts.

Even if you’ve already read the details on our Facebook announcement earlier this week, look over this post for a little extra info about why these events are special to us.

A Summer Night Romance Concert Production

Join us for an evening of nostalgic music featuring some great Twin Cities talent, including performers from Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, The Guthrie Theater, Cantus, Bloomington Civic Theatre, Chameleon Theatre, and the Minnesota Opera Chorus. You will hear a program that is all about LOVE – early musical theater, classic popular songs, and crooner tunes with a splash of operatic and folk music flavors performed with a jazz trio and some other various instrumentation that you are sure to enjoy.

For reasons that no one ever needs to justify, we just love this music.  Have for as long as we can remember. Nathan’s uncle sings lots of Sinatra and Martin at events, so maybe he has influenced Nathan’s affinity for it. Naomi has used these tunes with older adults casually for fun as well as professionally as a music therapist. Whether in concerts, at nursing homes, or in our own living room, we have had some great times with these tunes.  And who doesn’t like the idea of going out to a whole live concert of classic love songs? 

Musicians for this event will include: Nathan Bird, Andrew Cooke, Stephanie Cousins, Natalie Cromwell, Andrew Foreman, Daniel Greco, Paul HillChristy Jones, Timotha Lanae, Dan MusselmanEryn Tvete, Colyn Tvete, Shahzore Shah.

photo: blogs.citypages.com

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
The Club Theater

Friday, August 2, 2013 at 8:00pm

Enter Promo Code “CHAN50” for tickets half-off

~ Nathan was born in the town of Chanhassen and raised in nearby Excelsior, MN. While the Club is NOT used by the dinner theater for shows, it is a fun, unique space that deserves a little more attention.

For more information about this event, click here.

Smith Douglas More House

Smith Douglas More House
Sunday, August 4, 2013, at 7:00pm

~ We are super excited about this venue because 1) We love coffee shops, 2) We love historic old houses, and 3) We’ve been fans of this location since before we even dreamed of music careers ,and it’s always fun seeing different realms of our lives and interests combine. Speaking of which, this house sits pretty much exactly half way between the home where Nathan grew up and the home where Naomi grew up. Coincidental perhaps, but charming nonetheless.

When Ol’ Blue Eyes was born, this venue was 38 years old.

Enter “BabyBlueEyes” for a 38% discount.

For more information about this event, click here.

photo: splevents.com

Stillwater Public Library
Friday, August 16, at 8:00pm

~ We are thrilled to hold a concert in the beautiful town of Stillwater. Within a couple miles of this library is where the Ns lived for the first year of their marriage. Naomi would walk from their home on the north hill to this very terrace to write wedding thank you cards. From this library we gained resources for building our music careers and pursuing Nathan’s graduate studies. Once again, talk about combining different circles!

For more information about this event, click here.

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As you consider whether or not you want to attend one of these events, keep in mind that it’s really only well suited for those who:

  • like having fun
  • like old love songs
  • like nice people
  • like fantastic musicians
  • like dessert
  • like the Birds

Remember that even if you are unable to attend the concert for some unfortunate reason, we still really want your friends to be able to tell you about it, so please TELL THEM!

If it just kills you that you can’t make it, because you so want to be in this fantabulous event, consider making a financial contribution.  We are still working to cover some of the up-front costs and every dollar helps make it happen. To do so, click on this link, or contact us.  At this time your donation is not tax-deductible.  Nonetheless, it is going to a good cause and will be much appreciated!

Can’t wait to see you – and/or your friends!

Cheers,
Nathan and Naomi Bird

AubieGuthrie

Getting Your Family Involved at the {Guthrie} Theater

This weekend was full of some really spectacular festivities at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater. Nathan had the honor of being one of the performers for the 50th anniversary gala event on Saturday, and I had the honor of attending. It was truly an epic evening.

As sort of a newcomer to the theater scene, it was a great education for me as well. It is incredible how much of an impact this theater has had on many really talented and famous performing artists. And even with quite a number of those individuals involved in the performance it was so clear that they all love what they do and love working with the people of the Guthrie.

There was so much energy and excitement throughout the show. There were video montages of actors such sharing their memories of past work at the Guthrie. There were scenes from Death of a Salesman, Private Lives, The Royal Family, and The Tempest.  There were impassioned performances of “Lot’s Wife” (from Caroline, or Change) by Greta Oglesby, “Almost Like Being in Love” by Tracie Bennett,  “Somewhere” (from West Side Story) by Cantus, and the specially commissioned “Hamlet 3.2” (by Shakespeare and Jason Robert Brown) by Brian D’Arcy James and the whole ensemble. The crew all came together again in the end with “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide.

I came away with this intense desire to learn more about it – to go see shows – to read plays – to learn about these actors. There is truly something so powerful and transformative about the performing arts. Honestly I haven’t naturally been in love with them; it’s been more of a quest toward something that I know is good for me.  That’s why this evening was so fabulous. It was this celebratory sampling of highlights from the theater leaving my palette intrigued, excited, and inspired to pursue it more.

Believe it or not I actually did not set out to write a review of the evening, but I guess it was hard not to.  What I wanted to share was some info about some great programs that the Guthrie has going on. Programs that are definitely a step in the direction of pursuing a deeper understanding of the theater:

1 –  Summer Camps! (for the younger theater enthusiasts in your life)

2 – Play Care! (for the parents AND the younger theater enthusiasts in your life)

Check it out! – Childcare so that you can go see a play.

3 – Tours. This page has some fun resources for peeking behind the scenes at the Guthrie and learning more about the space and goings-on of the theater.

There really are a lot of other things to do at the Guthrie as a family, even if just a stroll around inside the beautiful structure.  Through Nathan’s time there in Pinafore and this event, we have had the girls around the place quite a bit and they love it.

It’s not just a place to see great theater, it is a place from which to see the beautiful city of Minneapolis in a spectacular way.

photo credit: openbuildings.comg

See, our daughter loves the place🙂

Photo: On top of the town. Minneapolis is so cool.

Just some Birds perching in the 9th floor

(p.s. I’m finding it rather funny that I totally forgot to mention that Whoopi Goldberg was also on the program.  Yup, she flew down from the ceiling after the two hostesses did a sketch in chicken suits.  Anyway…)