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

Confidence

I hear it again and again, students of mine want to “build confidence” with their singing voice.  The following was taken from a message to a student who’d recently sent me a self-assessment of her level of preparedness for a role.

“One note about “confidence” while singing…If confidence is the measure of how good we feel about how we’re doing, as singers we can come about this in a variety of ways.  The most readily available is to listen to ourselves in the moment and assess how pleasing the sound is to our ears.  The only problem with this model of developing confidence is that we will invariably sound LESS good to our audience if all we’re focused on is making our sound SOUND good to us.  Instead, focus on releasing the sound as much as you can.  Think about the way that you would shout your words from the roof tops or across rice park.  Throw your voice out of you the way that you’ve used your voice before…  Anytime we call out to someone or cry for help, it uses ample space, direction, purpose, resonance,  articulation, etc.  AND we don’t stop to think about how it sounds.  Focus on the feeling of releasing/throwing/giving your voice instead of improving your audible sound.”

I believe that we’ve been built this way on purpose.  A good voice is something that is functioning its best when it is being shared in a selfless way.

Packing for a Journey?

Luggage.  A room full of suitcases, bags, parcels as diverse in size, shape and color as you can imagine.  I was grateful for the glass wall between us and the probably musty jumble of containers.  It was the luggage of those traveling into the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  How would I pack if I was being forced to leave my home for an unknown destination?  I was in Oświęcim, Poland on a tour of Auschwitz I in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.  

Our tour included passing several other rooms filled with items taken from the possessions of the detainees upon arrival, and some items removed from their bodies, such as human hair.  We stood for a while at the firing wall, some pausing to say a prayer.  We walked into the gas chambers…but we walked out of them too.  This was not the case for the hundreds of thousands of people exterminated there.  

This experience I had was similar to that Dr. Sean Vogt had.  He’s the director of the Apollo Male Chorus with whom I have been singing for a year and a half.  Inspired by a similar visit he’d made to Auschwitz in 2013, Dr. Vogt has built a program to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the its liberation.  This “Liberation of Auschwitz” program will be Tuesday, January 27th at 7:00PM.  The music will include Arnold Schoenberg’s rarely performed “Survivor from Warsaw” whose complex texture and disjunct melodies (utilizing 12-tone technique) seem a fitting portrayal of the suffering of so many.

As a contrast to the Schoenberg the evening begins and ends with the world premier of James Bassi‘s newly commissioned joyful and resolute Five Prayers scored for men’s chorus, baritone soloist, orchestra and dancer.  

This concert may be a hard journey.  Emotionally and aurally it has some challenging material.  However, it will have an impact on this community and hopefully stick in peoples minds, just like that room full of luggage…lest we forget.

Please make an effort to come to this show.  Tickets can be purchased directly through the Ted Mann Box Office.

 

LOCATION
Ted Mann Concert Hall
University of Minnesota
2128 4th Street South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Tickets: $38-$88 (there is a discount available for groups of 10 or more)

Available at the Tedd Man box office site here.

Questions: 612-624-2345

NorrSound Tenors

 

The NorrSound Tenors trio was first conceived in the mind of Dave Hoehl in 2014, then the music director at Wooddale Church.  When I had attended Wooddale, I’d sung several times with the choir and toured Ukraine as a soloist with their Wooddale Chorale Tour in 2008.

When Dave contacted me wondering if I’d put together a tenor trio and arrange a few Christmas pieces to perform little did he know that I’d actually been hoping to do that very thing.  Little did I know that we’d still be singing as a trio today!

Our original trio consisted of Chanhassen favorite Aleks Knezevich(Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, and Lancelot in Camelot), MN Opera Resident Artist David Walton and myself.

Over a weekend we performed our original arrangements for an estimated 4000 people at the annual Christmas at Wooddale.  A month later, we’d been contacted by the concert series manager from Chanhassen Dinner Theatres wondering if we’d like to featured on their concerts in December.  Despite a change in personnel during that year and the addition of Aaron Humble, a capable ex-cantus member, we sold out our two nights very fast for a debut performance on the series.Three Tenors (medQ)

Our 2015 show consisted of wonderful variety and a surprise appearance of Olaf from Frozen singing “In Summer.”  We were pleased that entire families were enjoying what we brought to the table.  In a world where we are inundated with entertainment via our media it’s exciting to see quality vocal talent sung in person.  Our ‘Three Tenors Christmas offered audience members the opportunity to hear some familiar tunes sung in exceptional ways with plenty of “spine tingling high notes.”

We’re thrilled to be asked back for this year.  While our 2016 performance has also required a change in personnel, we’re excited to bring you a great show.  There will be many new pieces and completely different structure to the evening.

We welcome John deCausemeaker to the trio.  John and I performed in several MN Opera productions when I’d recently moved back to MN from graduate school.

This year we added a PR performance at the IDS Center’s Holiday Under Glass Series in the Crystal Court.  It was nice to bring a little holiday cheer to downtown Minneapolis!Tenor Trio (2 of 2) Cropped.jpg

Our Chanhassen dates are 20th, and 21st at 8:15.  Tickets are $40 and there are a handful left as of the writing of this post.  We’d love to see you there!  Merry Christmas!

Remember Those Summer Nights? A Glimpse from Above the World

Where did the time go?! Considering that our last post here was just prior to the final A Summer Night Romance concert, there is a bit to fill in!

SNR basic picture

A Summer Night Romance

This concert series was so much fun! Each venue was unique and beautiful and served as a great backdrop for the nostalgic jazz concerts. The trio of instrumentalists (two trios, in fact, for the different days) were stellar!

Here is Timotha Lanae owning the stage of the Club Theatre at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

Timotha Lanae owning the stage of the Club Theatre at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

And Eryn Tvete lighting up the porch of the Smith Douglas More House (Dunn Bros) in Eden Prairie:

Eryn Tvete lighting up the porch of the Smith Douglas More House (Dunn Bros) in Eden Prairie

And Nathan Bird and Christy Jones singing “Cheek to Cheek” on the Terrace of the Stillwater Public Library:

Nathan Bird and Christy Jones singing "Cheek to Cheek" on the Terrace of the Stillwater Public Library

To see lots more pictures from each of the concerts check out the albums in our Facebook page and click on the “photos” link. And if you haven’t, be sure to “like” the page while you’re there so that you can get the little updates and blurbs that we send out through that channel.

Newsletter

Speaking of updates, we now have four monthly newsletters that we have sent via email. They include summaries of recent happenings, Nathan’s upcoming performance schedule, and a performance calendar for friends of ours.  To sign up to receive it in your inbox, fill out the form here. To view archive copies, go here.  (If you thought you signed up, but haven’t received anything, check your junk mail or promotional folder, as it may have been filtered out; then be sure to select for our emails to go to your main inbox.)

Above the World so HighFBeventHeaderATWSH13

We are less than a month away from our next big concert production!

Above the World So High
a virtual journey around the world via the lullaby and other children and family songs
Sunday, November 10, 6:00 pm
Redeemer Covenant Church
7801 Brooklyn Blvd., Brooklyn Park, MN

This will be a fun family friendly event. You can find more info here at our Kickstarter campaign.

That’s right, we are full swing into raising funds for this concert via the Kickstarter platform, a great means for group sourcing creative projects. Even a small amount helps toward reaching our goal of $1800.  No one gets charged unless we do in fact get that minimum amount.  Any funds beyond that amount will go toward us and our team of talented writers and performers. 

Seven days to go! We can do it! Some pledge amounts will reward you with tickets, some with a song recorded just for you.  There is also the option of donating $30 toward helping a family to attend who wouldn’t be able to afford the tickets.

As a backer for the project, you will receive email updates about the creative process along the way, sort of an inside look at how this all comes together. Please consider partnering with us! And spread the word!

Have a blessed week!

Nathan and Naomi Bird

Introducing the Cast of “A Summer Night Romance”

Clip art musiciansJust over two weeks to the first show! We’re pretty excited. Not only do we have a great lineup of music and gorgeous venues, but there are some downright grand people on the program.  This post introduces you to some of them.  Nathan will share how he got to know them and [some of] the reasons why he is happy to share the stage with them again. I haven’t even met some of them yet!  If Nathan’s intro here reaches you as it did me, then I look forward to seeing you when you come out to see these folks in concert.

It’s no secret that a huge part of what drives Nathan’s musical passions is the whole experience of collaborating – interacting, sharing, creating, and growing through developing a program and performing music with others. These Summer Night Romance concerts started with an idea of just me accompanying Nathan, but boy aren’t you glad that has changed! Believe you me, these people offer a much more entertaining package for this particular concept than I do. Their cumulative experience and energy belong only to seasoned performers who are bound to deliver a fabulous event. Three fabulous events, that is.

Allow us to introduce…

Andrew Cooke from chanhassentheatres cot comAndrew Cooke (8/2), keyboard

“I met Andrew during H.M.S. Pinafore at the Guthrie  and appreciated how he is such a nice guy – so humble, approachable, and very talented as a composer/arranger/music director.  I’m so grateful that he took time out from a night in his role as music director at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres to do this concert with me!”

daniel grecoDaniel Greco (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“I met Daniel when we were both singing in Hamlet with the Minnesota Opera chorus.  We hit it off pretty easily.  I love his infectious passion for performance and teaching. It’ll be exciting to watch his career, especially with his upcoming move to New York for grad school. Thanks for fitting these concerts in amidst the busyness of packing!  You will be missed!”

Christy Jones from cjosings dot comChristy (Anderson) Jones (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“I’ve known Christy longer than anyone else on the program. As undergrads we  performed a ton together in choir, musicals, and opera workshops; and have grown to be close friends over the years. I really value her flexibility and diversity of interests – lyricist, performer, administrator – she brings a lot to the table every time we collaborate.”

Eryn Tvete from reverbnation dot com slash eryntveteEryn Tvete (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“I met Eryn through the Minnesota Opera chorus also, and got to know her more through her work with Opera on Tap, for which I really appreciate her administrative organization. When I saw her as a performer and emcee I was floored by her stage presence and knew she would be a great part of these shows.”

Timotha-Lanae-from minneapolis dot media institute blog dot comTimotha Lanae  (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“I met Timotha during Pinafore as well. We had a blast playing Bananagrams together during almost every intermission, and then some. I really appreciate what she brings to the stage. Besides her amazing talent as an actress/singer/dancer, she also is an incredibly kind and authentic individual.”

Colyn Tvete (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“Colyn was one of my favorite people to talk to during rehearsals at Minnesota Opera chorus. When I was new at it, he helped show me the ropes and welcome me into the MNOp chorus family.  He’s a very jovial-spirited and talented tenor, as you will see.”

NatCrom-7-1024x682Natalie Cromwell (8/2, 8/16), voice

“I met Natalie when she was in the hospital after an operation. Her sister, who studied music with me during our undergrad,  invited my men’s vocal ensemble to sing for her. Yes, friendships start in interesting ways.  It’s exciting to watch her career take off as she has aggressively pursued her recording and occupational goals in Christian music.  She is honest and ambitious and generous – all of which make for a great collaborator.”

Stephanie Cousins from stephaniecousins dot comStephanie Cousins (8/4), voice

“I met Stephanie at an admissions dinner at our alma mater when she was still in high school. I was singing for the event, and we sat at the same table. Later we shared the stage in Fiddler on the Roof, my first theater gig after getting my degree.  I have a lot of respect for her. She is multitalented and dynamic on the stage.”

Shahzore Shah from cantussings dot orgShahzore Shah (8/2, 8/16), voice

“Shahzore is one of my favorite voices in Cantus. For the short time that I sang with them a couple years ago, I was intrigued by Shahzore’s balance of professionalism and personableness. And we share interests other than music, namely cooking and gardening. I’m pretty stoked about the specific songs he is singing for the events.”

There are a few others on the program (if you were doing the ‘math’ – no the show does not consist of only keyboard and voices), all of whom will be playing with Nathan for the first time and come highly recommended. There will be Andrew Foreman the bass player, Paul Hill the drummer, and Dan Musselman the pianist.

Like a said – a pretty nifty lineup, huh?

For more information about tickets to the events, you can click through on the dates above, or go here.

See you at the show!