Finding my Funny Bone

I have known for a long time that I like to make people laugh.  I didn’t think I was very good at it though.  Just ask my wife.  She has the unfortunate task of being my sounding board for jokes that haven’t fully matured.  However, when watching an episode of Seinfeld’s new show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee he mentioned the act of writing jokes.  Now I already knew that comedians have to write a lot.  And that they were constantly editing – honing their craft… but it hadn’t clicked yet.

I had a mini-epiphany: if I started keeping track of some of this stuff that I find funny, I might have some material.  Or at least prevent the cringes and scowls from my lovely bride.

I used to think that either you had it or you didn’t. That strange and beautiful funny bone. Some people feel that way about singing. I’ve learned that no matter how much talent someone’s born with, they can always improve if they work at it. And, you’ll never know how much you’re capable of, unless you try. I’m so excited to try. Putting this together has been So. Much. Fun.

I couldn’t do it alone, however.  I’m not THAT crazy. I’m not going to subject myself to an entire show of stand up, never having done it before.  With a great affinity for the work of Mr. Keillor, on his long-running “A Prairie Home Companion” and with a nod to NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” I’ve assembled a variety show of comedy. It will include, but is not limited to the following:

 

  • Stand up by yours truly
  • Musical parodies written by the incredible performer and playwright, Christy Jones
  • A cameo of Goose Nissley playing someone very far removed from the character we know and love from the Goose Radio Broadcast
  • A certain silent special guest
  • Several scripted scenes sure to please
  • A live house band
  • Fake commercials!

 

What: Tuesday Night Live

When: April 5th, 7PM

Where: Redeemer Covenant Church, Brooklyn Park, MN

How: Tickets available here, or at the door. First come, first serve. $Pay-as-you’re-able

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

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.

Summer Starts

We’ve been a bit silent here on the blog for a while.  As the season changes, and our schedules along with it, here is an update about what to expect in the near future from Nathan and the Birds.

Summer Lessons

Clip art musicians

After Nathan’s second spring student recital this coming Tuesday, he will have officially wrapped up another year of voice lessons through Waconia High School, Prior Lake High School, and his own private studios at home and at Colonial Church of Edina.

Beginning this week he will be primarily teaching at our home studio in Northeast Minneapolis, while maintaining the Edina and Prior Lake studios as well.  This allows for a much broader and more flexible schedule.  Click on this link or open this pdf (Call for voice students Summer 2014 (general memo)for information about purchasing summer lessons.  We are using sort of a punch-card system this year.  Check it out. Pass it on. Sign up!

Weddings

Nathan and I are looking forward to performing together in two weddings late in June.  Wedding gigs have always been one of our favorite things – in fact it was doing this sort of thing together that kept us so connected when we first became friends 12 years ago (yikes!).

Know of anyone looking for voice or piano music for a late summer or fall wedding?  We’re game!

Concerts

Details aren’t being made public quite yet, but based on the success of last year’s A Summer Night Romance concerts, it’s fair to say that there are plans brewing.  Nathan has been working with a growing team of professionals to help develop his processes as a concert producer. Expect great things to be happening as the year unfolds.

On Sunday, June 8, there will be a fun jazz concert with the Apollo Male Chorus and the George Maurer Group. Nathan has been working as one of their section leaders and will be singing with them on this event. See link above for tickets, and let us know if you’ll be there!

As always, check out the events page for info about upcoming productions involving Nathan.

Newsletter

Our monthly newsletters have been on hiatus as well, but we are reviving them soon, like within a couple days soon. If you’re not sure if you’re on the list, sign up here. If you don’t get around to doing that until after we’ve sent it out, you’ll be able to find it on the archive page, and I’ll be sure to get you on the list for the next one.  This next May/June edition will share more about how we have each been engaged professionally in the recent past, as well as more about summer plans.

Baby!

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The girls (and Nathan) are pretty excited about bringing another boy into the family.

And if that newsletter doesn’t end up getting to you in the next few days like I ‘promised,’ it’s probably because we decided to take a vacation at the hospital.  Our baby boy is due to arrive around June 9 (which also happens to be our wedding anniversary), but this mama would be really ok with any time now.

Thanks for following and supporting us on this journey – both professionally and personally!

Hope you have a great weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather.

~Naomi, for both of us

Check out:
Facebook Page
Recordings

 

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)

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

Did I mention live music…untitled-80-20

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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