American Song Cycle: A Double Bill premieres at Chapel off Chapel

American Song Cycle: A Double Bill is the latest creative project from industry veterans Lisa-Marie Parker, John O’Hara and Geoffrey Castles and it is set to play at Chapel Off Chapel on November 19. An intimate evening of song, the event will feature two American song cycles – December Songs by Maury Yeston, performed by Lisa-Marie and Songs From An Unmade Bed by Mark Campbell, performed by John O’Hara – as they sit together in this double bill.

Lisa-Marie Parker, Geoffrey Castles and John O’Hara in American Song Cycle: A Double Bill. Image by Chris Parker

The one-night-only event is only weeks away, and with show time fast approaching, we spoke with this dream team about music, creativity and getting the show up at Chapel Off Chapel.

“When December Songs was brought to my attention a few years ago, I fell in love with it. It felt like the perfect fit for me, not only as I am a fan of Maury Yeston’s lush melodies, insightful lyrics and how well he writes for the female voice, but it also felt like my two worlds were finally coming together”, said Lisa-Marie Parker, a versatile vocalist who studied Opera at VCA and has also starred in musical theatre productions as varied as Blood Brothers and CATS.

Lisa-Marie Parker. Image by Chris Parker

Although classical song cycles featured in Parker’s opera repertoire, solo musical theatre song cycles are hard to come by in recital form, and this heartfelt and relatable contemporary Song Cycle, written in Music Theatre style, excited her.

“I had been wondering when and how I could best present this work. I wondered if I could find something to complement this piece”, she explained.

Her hunt for a complementary piece for male voice which could stand side by side with December Songs was not a long one – Australia’s John O’Hara was soon on board.

“I asked my dear friend John O’Hara, who just happens to be a wonderful storyteller and virtuosic singer, if he would be interested in finding a song cycle to showcase the male voice and perspective as a Double Bill. He loved the idea and had been sitting on the idea of Songs From An Unmade Bed since he worked with Geoffrey Castles on Songs for A New World last year.”

The pairing was a match made in heaven, according to Lisa-Marie, as December Songs was inspired by Schubert’s famous and beautiful Song Cycle Wintereisse (A Winter’s Journey) and strangely, there is one reference in Songs From An Unmade Bed about Wintereisse.

“It was a bit too coincidental despite being completely contrasting in writing and vocal styles”, she said.

So the material was set, and with a drive to present the work onstage this year, Parker approached Musical Director Geoffrey Castles (currently Musical Director for Disney’s Aladdin), who jumped at the chance.

John O’Hara. Image by Chris Parker

“Each of these works is so musically rewarding on their own but to have the opportunity to present them both with two fine singers and two incredible musicians is a dream come true”, Castles told AussieTheatre.

December Songs draws inspiration from the great Austro-German song cycle tradition and melds with American cabaret. Yeston’s musical style is romantic and sweeping but he’s managed to convey an intimate feeling of desolation and loneliness with just a voice, piano and cello”, he said.

Castles will perform onstage at the piano for the event, with cellist Tim Hennessy and percussionist Lara Wilson rounding out the company.

Unmade Bed is an incredibly rewarding musical challenge to present. For Tim, Lara, John and myself it requires us to navigate technically challenging passages and break down complex harmonic language from 18 different composers, all with their own unique style and voice. These composers have written across a vast collection of genres from Duncan Sheik who wrote the alternative folk rock style Spring Awakening to Jake Heggie who has written American operas including Dead Man Walking to Steven Lutvak who wrote the English music hall flavoured A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder.”

December Songs portrays a brokenhearted young woman, wandering the snowy paths of Central Park. In this contemporary tale of her journey, she finds the strength to recover and begin her life new. Songs From An Unmade Bed, a work that explores the colourful life of a modern gay man as he navigates his way through life, love, lust and loss in New York City. Mark Campbell’s lyrics on the endlessly surprising experience of urban romance have been set by an eclectic roster of today’s musical artists.

The evening will be a lush musical concert and almost didn’t need a director, but with Lisa-Marie’s husband Chris Parker “in-house” already, bringing Chris onto the project “felt natural”.

“Our focus is on the marriage of lyric and melody so Chris’ eyes on the project will be invaluable. We’ve even had contact with Maury Yeston so this project feels extra special. We are so excited to present and perform these two wonderful works for the first time in Melbourne”

American Song Cycle: A Double Bill premieres at Chapel Off Chapel on November 19 at 5pm. Tickets are available via the official website and at chapeloffchapel.com.au

American Song Cycle: A Double Bill

DATES: November 19, 2017
TIMES: 5pm
VENUE: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
FULL: $60 (Reserved Seating­)

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Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin has written 1,549 articles on AussieTheatre | Read more articles by

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American Song Cycle: A Double Bill premieres at Chapel off Chapel
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