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February 20, 2017:

THE ART OF SONG

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, the ear thing is still with me and if it’s still with me by the time I awaken, then I shall call a recommended ENT in Burbank so we can get it taken care of sooner than later. Of course, maybe we’ll have a miracle and it will just be gone by the time I awaken, but it was so annoying most of yesterday that I have to nip this in the proverbial bud. Otherwise, yesterday was a perfectly pleasant day. I did have a rough night – I simply ate too much and didn’t have enough time to digest it all and so my tummy was a bit in turmoil – nothing terrible but enough to keep me awake for a bit. I think I probably got six hours of sleep all told.

Once up, I answered e-mails and had a telephonic conversation. Then I got ready for the day’s main event, judging the finals for the singing contest. Kay Cole and I had decided to meet early and get something to eat – I like to do that to get a good parking space. So, she, her ever-lovin’ Michael Lamont, and I went to P.F. Chang’s, where we were told there’d be a fifteen-minute wait, despite there being about ten empty tables directly in view. We said no thanks and went ten steps east to Five Guys hamburgers. I had a bacon cheeseburger, Kay had a hot dog, and Michael had what I had. We had fun chat, and then headed back. On the way, we stopped in at See’s Candy, as I had a gift card and a gift certificate that have been sitting here for years. I got a pound of dark chocolate nuts and chews, and got some butterscotch caramels and some cashew brittle. That will make for some lovely snacking over the next week.

We got back to the Colony Theater and chatted with fellow judges, and then we all took our seats and the show began. We heard eighteen people sing one song and we gave our scores for each. The top five were chosen from all the accumulated scores from the past weeks. We also had the option to “save” one singer to make it six finalists. Kay and I both wanted to save a gal who’d struggled and gone up on her lyrics, only to finally recover and do a fine job on The Life I Never Led. Both Kay and I really liked the girl and thought she deserved a second chance, but alas, another singer was “saved”, a male. Then the six finalists had their sing off and we voted. I figured the winner would be one of two people and I was right – and for the first time in the history of this contest, which has been going on since 2006, a male won, the very male who’d been “saved.” He’s a talented young man who is still in school. Kay and I both spoke to the girl we wanted to save and let her know not to beat herself up and how much we enjoyed her and that going up like that has happened to the best of the best and there’s no shame in it. I know we made her feel better, so that’s good.

As to the majority of the songs, many of them were from newer musicals, and I just cannot stand these songs. They are all cut from the same exact cloth, the disciples of Jason Robert Brown, only without a shred of his talent. Lots of open fourths and fifths, melodies that are either boring or completely without melody, and worst of all, lyrics that are blatant, trite, without subtlety, rather like bumper stickers filled with platitudes of no interest. They don’t come out of character or anything inner – they just sing at you and they all sound exactly the same. Those of us who take this craft seriously, especially writing show songs, well, we take it seriously and we know our craft. I write lyrics that come from somewhere, that aren’t platitude-laden, that aren’t laid on with a trowel, that are either funny, touching, or do whatever they need to do, with melodies that are melodic and not the same as everyone else’s. And there are other songwriters who do the same, but not these new guys. It’s not any wonder that I care for so few new musicals these days. But every time someone would finally sing a real song by real writers, it was like a breath of fresh air and you’d sit there and go, ah, yes, that’s a song.

There were several interesting folks in attendance, including Dee Wallace, who starred in E.T. And for the first time ever, even though we’ve met several times, I got to tell her I was in the movie – she just looked at me trying to figure out what I could have possibly played, and then I told her that the real AT&T commercial about phoning home was one in which I played the dad. It was funny. Dawn Wells was there, as well as Allison Arngrim – why these people were there is anyone’s guess. Anyway, it ran longer than it was supposed to, close to three-and-a-half hours.

After, I came right home, sampled a few pieces of See’s candy, then saw the final front and back cover of the new book and approved that. We’re adding one little thing to the back cover, but I’m thinking that Grant will be able to turn all this in by Tuesday, maybe even today. If that’s the case, then I should see a galley in about a week or so, and I usually approve all that within an hour or so. At that point, the book goes to the printer and I get my sample copies to approve and then we should have books about two weeks after that, so it should all happen pretty quickly from here on out, at least that’s the hope.

I had a little visit with our very own Doug Haverty, and then I did some work on the computer.

Today, if the ear isn’t better, I’ll make an appointment with the ENT and see what’s what. I’ll also make a show order and begin writing the commentary, which I want to have done by Wednesday. I’ll eat, hopefully pick up some packages, and then do whatever else needs doing.

The rest of the week is meetings and meals, a work session for the Kritzerland show, seeing Sandy Bainum’s new club act at the Gardenia, and lots o’ other stuff. And then we begin the Kritzerland rehearsal week.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, either have an ear that’s better, or visit the ENT doctor, I must eat, hopefully pick up packages, make a show order, start writing commentary, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: What do you think about today’s musicals and the songs therein? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, where I shall happily think about real show songs that do what they’re supposed to do.

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