Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Awakening

The cast of Spring Awakening, performing their Christmas extravaganza at Joe's Pub last night.

Christmas this year for me has pretty much been all about A Very Balthrop Christmas show and album. The notion was that everyone in Balthrop Alabama and a few of our friends would write a new Christmas song and we'd do a whole show of brand new holiday classics.

It was the most fun, creative and satisfying thing I've ever been a part of and I'm right done talking about it except to say that being at the center of one's own Christmas tradition is a good way to go.

The thing about playing a bunch of new songs and throwing my All-I-Got into it is that all the actual things I usually do at Christmas didn't much happen this year. I didn't get Christmas cards out. I barely bought anyone any gifts. I was only free for a couple of local Christmas gatherings (and usually as a stop along the way to some place else). I didn't even decorate my place.

To sort of quote Beamis, I was starting a New Year through most of December.

Also, running everywhere at such a speed, I didn't really hear many actual Christmas classics during the course of the season and those that I did hear (on the radio as I drove down to Virginia or in the shops on the Sunday before Christmas) seemed so rote and so dull and so antiseptic. They were the songs I dedicated my Fall and early Winter to avoiding in the versions that I kind of never want to hear again. All those Christmas songs just sounded boring to me.

Until last night.

Yes, last night, I got a healthy dose of cockel-warming tradition; the kind that shakes off all the dust of an acquired past and wraps familiar songs and sentiments in genuine love and enthusiasm. The pure kind that makes the Grinch's heart grow, causes Ebenezer to spring for the Christmas goose and brings Frosty back to life.

Last night, the cast of Spring Awakening showed up for the second of their two Christmas shows this year at the Pub and celebrated their last Christmas together by banding together and singing Carols, by laughing and crying, by using the opportunity to raise a little money for charity and by sharing generous hearts in song.

There's something about the community that Spring Awakening engenders that's pretty inspiring. There are chat-boards and rabid fans and people who have seen that show more times than that guy dressed as a Jedi has watched Star Wars.

There is also at least one band that has its origins in the show, and even though the people in it now were never in the cast, they still pulse with the positive idealism that actual cast-members practically shoot out of their eyes.

And it's funny, because the show itself is sort of tragic and filled with heartbreak, loss and sadness. It's truly Romantic in the old sense of striving for something better and not getting there because things on Earth just don't end happily.

And now the show is closing soon and the young cast will be looking for work and missing each other and smiling sometimes in rooms of strangers or next to new friends or lovers who will ask what they're thinking about and they'll just shake their heads because it would be too hard to explain.



This holiday season I sunk myself into something new and I don't know where the songs I'm singing will take me, but last night, it was nice to be reminded that the songs on the shelves can be taken down and made new too; they're the songs that bring groups together when times are tough and uncertainty reigns. When they're sung once more with feeling everything old is sparkly and shiny and fresh like untouched snow.

For a precious moment.

OK. I said I was done talking about our Christmas album, but I got one last thing and it's gonna have to be my Christmas card and gift this year. For the last couple of years, I've posted this holiday poem called Into The Next that I wrote a ways back, soon after my Mom had died and I had moved to New York and was traveling around with the ballet, drawing and starting a new life. Like I said a few posts back, this year Josh and Annie turned it into a song and we in Balthrop, Alabama recorded it. And you can download it as an mp3 at the end of this sentence for free because we're starting a New Year today and we're headed Into The Next.

See you in 2009 . . .

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Few Things Held Back

Whoah. I been missing in action and I'll blog a bit about all that tomorrow or the day after. The short version is that getting ready for a big Christmas show and recording an album takes more time than they tell you.

So, here's a couple or three drawings that slipped through the cracks in the last few weeks. That's Yuka Honda and Sean Lennon up above there, celebrating Yuka's birthday by making a bunch of noise with some friends. It was kind of a great show and not just because it was all star-studded (and despite the fact that Petra Haden had to attend to a family emergency and couldn't make it as was originally planned). The high level of sophisticated improvisation in Yuka's work was on full display, aided by Lennon, Michael Leonhart and Cyro Baptista (seen below making music with a small tube).

Then, a few nights back Amanda and Bryan and I went to see Lady Rizo and the Assettes. I've been a big fan of Lady Rizo for over a year, although I've only ever gotten to see her as a guest at other people's shows, so it was nice to see the whole burlesque in all its glory . . . We brought these friends of Bryan who were visiting from Holland to see the show and I honestly believe that no other show playing in New York could have blown away their expectations of American burlesque as well as Lady Rizo. You could say she was performing a patriotic act.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Into The Next

Into The Next from Pascal Balthrop on Vimeo.
Here's a video of us practicing the song, Into The Next, for A Very Balthrop Christmas. I wrote them words a while back and Josh and Annie put it to music. A Very Balthrop Christmas is tomorrow, Friday December 12 at 11:30 at Joe's Pub and I happen to know there's about twenty five tickets left.

Who's coming?