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Take a song, make it your own

Cabaret workshop gets to the story behind the music

Posted: Thursday, March 06, 2008

The jazz/cabaret week will begin with lessons and classes held in Soldotna High School's green room, starting on March 16 with a meeting at 7 p.m., followed by five afternoons and nights of lessons from March 17 through 21. The week will end with a Gala Concert at The Crossing Restaurant in Soldotna on March 22.

"I strive to accompany every person in a way that complements their tune. If they're doing country western, that's what we're going to do. If it's Nova Scotian clog music that's what we're going to do," said Barney McClure of his approach to accompanying vocalists in his upcoming cabaret workshop.

According to McClure's biography, he has been everywhere and done everything. McClure is an accomplished pianist, composer, teacher, and author. His book "There Is No Such Thing As A Mistake" is a "how-to" in improvisational jazz and is a popular hit with teachers who use it as a curriculum guide, and students who can use it as a self-help guide.

He has been the mayor of Port Townsend, Wash., where he helped establish the Port Town Townsend Jazz Festival, followed by a term as a Washington state legislator. He has performed and recorded with such performers as Jimmy Witherspoon, Big Joe Turner and the late Sonny Stitt. He is, perhaps, best known for his jazz piano and Hammond B-3 stylings.

"It goes beyond just piano, of course. When we hear a certain style of music we tend to think of it as jazz. And what that style can be, is different for different people, but for the most part, I'd say the most universal concept of jazz is that it utilizes both improvisation and syncopation a style of syncopation that is uniquely jazz," McClure said.

McClure's broad spectrum of experience makes him uniquely qualified to lead the upcoming cabaret workshop sponsored by the Performing Arts Society.

"Cabaret is a little different than jazz. Cabaret is an outgrowth of a popular nightclub concept that originated in Germany and France around World War II, maybe 10 years, 15 years after the flapper days. In the United States, the cabaret environment we think of a sultry Marlene Dietrich or Edith Piaf various singers who lived and sang at that time, even Josephine Baker, who was an African-American lady who went to France and became very famous over there. They sang songs about which maybe they told a story, or built a story around. It was almost mini-musical theater in a way. So the song became the vehicle for a role. They got into it by dress, and by what they said about it and how they sang it," McClure said.

"Cabaret has come to mean something a lot broader. It's still the same thing, in that a singer has an opportunity to really get behind the story of the words of the song, but also the style of music has changed quite a bit. I mean, I'll get everything thrown at me from country western, to rock and roll, to Disney movie tunes."

McClure encourages participants in his cabaret workshop to select a few different songs he can work on with them. Each participant may only perform one piece, but it gives them the flexibility to work on just the right songs with just the right arrangements.

"The way it's worked out over the years I've been doing this cabaret concept it would seem amazing to most people that the singers are only singing one song, but we spend a week working on that one song. ... We work on the intro, we work on the ending, we work on our particular arrangement. Because one thing I encourage people to do is their own rendition of a song, not a copy of a recording," McClure said.

"The tools that I bring to cabaret from my jazz experience are the ability to be able to play in any key and the fact that I know, like 40,000 tunes. My history as a jazz musician does help a lot, but that's not what I'm there to teach."

McClure's week-long cabaret workshop consists of private lessons, group classes, and a concert. The jazz/cabaret week will begin with lessons and classes held in Soldotna High School's Green Room, beginning on March 16 with a meeting at 7 p.m., followed by five afternoons and nights of lessons from March 17 through 21. Singers ages 18 and older are encouraged to register to study cabaret styles and presentation of songs.

The workshop registration is $100 for the week, including one 30-minute private lesson. Singers can arrange for more private lessons for an additional $25 per half-hour. Space is limited to 30 participants.

Registration forms are available at River City Books in Soldotna, or Already Read Books in Kenai, or by calling Dick Troeger at 262-5387, or Maria Allison at 283-3024.

The week will end with a Gala Concert at The Crossing Restaurant in Soldotna on March 22. Reservations for the show and dinner may be made at by calling 262-1906. The Crossing is offering a special dinner reservation for audience, family and friends.



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