The 60th Annual Downbeat Critics Poll winners have been announced. The 2012 edition of the awards selected Rene Marie in the “Rising Star Vocalist” category. Congratulations Rene! Click here to see the full list of winners »
May 2012 Newsletter
COME CELEBRATE WITH ME!
The Jazz Standard is one of my favorite places to play in NY. I recorded my 3rd CD there – “Live at Jazz Standard” – and have loved playing there ever since.
It’s intimate and laid back with a restaurant – Blue Smoke Barbecue – that serves the best collard greens north of the Mason/Dixon line and barbecued chips to die for.
No wonder it’s celebrating its 10th anniversary!
FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY!
As part of the ongoing celebration join me and multi-Grammy nominee Fred Hersch at the Jazz Standard this Sunday – May 27 – at 7:30 & 9:30
All seating is on a first come, first seated basis. There’s no cover and the ticket purchase guarantees you admission to the show.
As always, if you just can’t make it, please pass this on to someone who can!
Click here to purchase tickets
March 2012 Newsletter
Ooh! I’m so excited! Somebody pinch me!
I’ve been asked to join onstage the inestimable and peerless Dr. John on March 29, 30 & 31 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in a tribute to “New Orleans’ greatest musical son”, Louis Armstrong. This tribute is the first part of Dr. John’s 2012 Artist Residency, “Insides Out”. Other artists scheduled to appear:
Rickie Lee Jones
Blind Boys of Alabama
In addition to the foregoing, I’m adding two more gigs to my itinerary page on the website, but I’m giving y’all the skinny first – as I always do.
The first is with Fred Hersch. Fred is a musician I’ve admired since listening to him for the first time several years ago at own my pianist’s behest!
I love Fred’s imagination, the unabashed freedom with which he plays, the risks he takes and the incorporation of the more personal aspects of his life into his music. Fred’s CD release of 2011 “Alone At the Vanguard” received two Grammy nominations; one for best jazz instrumental album and the other for best instrumental jazz single on that album, “Work” by Thelonious Monk.
And if that’s not enough to whet your appetite for Fred’s music, gift yourself an unforgettable experience by clicking here and reading about “My Coma Dreams”, a series of compositions based on eight specific dreams Fred had while in a medically-induced coma for two months.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done an entire concert of duets only with anyone. I’m starting to get nervous!
May 31 and June 1st will find me back in Denver, Colorado at Dazzle with the most dynamic, innovative and playful ensemble I have ever heard play anywhere – Convergence.
You gotta watch out when you hear Convergence live; their music is like a contact sport – you gonna get hit everywhere. First time I sang with them, I found myself holding on for dear life!
We did a collaboration together a couple years ago where they took some of my original music and arranged it to fit their 6-piece ensemble: Greg Gisbert (tpt); John Gunther (sax); Eric Gunnison (pno); Mark Patterson (tbn); Paul Romaine (drs); Mark Simon (bs). Now we’re back at it again with brand new material.
Individually, these musicians are superb. Together, they are a tour de force. Personally? I’m scared…
Since moving back to Virginia, I have really missed Colorado and all my wonderful friends, so y’all better come. Otherwise, you just might find some gris-gris on your doorstep!
March 20, 2012
forget safety. live where you fear to live.
destroy your reputation. be notorious. ~ rumi
spring is here. that wonderful confluence of all the sassiness, flavor and juice in the universe getting together simultaneously and just “showing off”, as my dad used to call it.
spring is here. and there is no turning back to the darkness and cold of lifeless winter. what’s that? you say you like it cold and dark? you gonna have to go somewhere else to find it these days. you can stay in bed under the covers if you want to, but the birds of spring are conspiring to have you do otherwise. and if those winter cobwebs just refuse to clear from your head, then you need a serious dose of a favorite cartoon of mine that used to rev me up when i was a kid.
spring is here. and i wanna be like those trees just outside my window, sap running through them, letting nothing stop them from blooming and pushing forth new buds, new leaves, new growth. old trees ain’t feelin’ no shame towering over y’all young saplings. we ain’t embarrassed by our crusty old bark, a lifetime of leaves at our feet. ain’t chagrined when we shed old branches. with our growth rings as our autobiography and our arms reaching out to the sun and roots that run deep, trees like us have withstood the test of seasons. a hard wind would flatten y’all younger trees right on over to the ground. that tree you sometimes see growing all by itself on the side of a mountain crag? that’s the tree i wanna be – seemingly defying logic, gravity and good sense; forgetting safety, being talked about by all the other trees who cling to more solid ground, being notorious; not holding on for dear life, mind you – but blooming and springing and singing! and if i fall, i fall. just like love.
spring is here, i say!
what you seek is seeking you. ~ rumi
i am seeking your help – not your money – your help. this year, i am seeking 15 small, black box theatres on the east coast in which to perform my one-woman show “Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean” (that’s me in the pic as U’Dean). “Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean” is a play about surviving some of life’s greatest challenges and thriving as one learns to speak one’s own truths. please click here for detailed description, reviews, etc.
since its premiere in 2009, i have performed “Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean” in denver and boulder, colorado; dallas, texas; and tampa, florida. now that i have moved back to the east coast, i am seeking to bring this show to small theatres that seat no more than 150. the 2-act structure of the play is simple: it requires 4 props; the music is on a CD; the sound and light cues are simple; and there is a talkback at the end. my fee is nominal. i’m approaching it this way because i believe in this play and i believe in U’Dean and her message. it is my desire to bring U’Dean to smaller communities, as well. performing excerpts of it for womens’ shelters in the area is a prime goal. some of you reading this newsletter are directly connected with theatres. and the rest of you who may not be directly connected with theatres most likely know of someone who is, or you may simply live in a town that has the kind of theatre i seek.
a gesture as uncomplicated as replying to this email with the name of a black box theatre will be a big help. if you have the contact info of someone connected with such a theatre, that’s even better. and if you point me in the direction of someone who could walk me through the steps of getting a grant to bring this play to small towns & community theatres, that would be stupendous!
you’ll notice my itinerary so far this year is quite open. that’s because i believe there are at least 15 theatres along the east coast that are seeking a play like mine and that by means of this newsletter, the itinerary will quickly fill in with dates for “Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean”. and i believe that some of you -as you read this – are already seeking a way to connect me to those theatres. thank you in advance for your sweet, sweet help.
Fall 2011 Newsletter
i wrote this a month ago, but an ongoing medical emergency in my family prevented me from getting this newsletter out to you any sooner.
“standing here before you, song upon my lips;
moving and twisting and turning; got that music in my hips.
now you done come and paid your money to be entertained,
seeking inspiration from my pleasure and my pain…”
thus begin the 1st four lines of the title track of our newest CD, “black lace freudian slip”, released october 11, 2011. these lines were written over 8 years ago, inspired by a wide-eyed woman who grabbed my arm just a little too enthusiastically after a concert, pulled me very, very close to her and said, confidentially, “i know EVERYTHING about you!”
prior to its current metamorphosis, there were several arrangements of songs with those above lines in it. one had a different bass line, one had a different groove, another slightly different lyrics and/or title. none of those incarnations seemed quite right. but this one – yeah, this one feels absolutely right. i’d always wanted to address the emotion behind what i felt when that woman grabbed my arm and spoke to me, more certain that she knew everything about me than i knew about my own damn self. i didn’t get her name, but – whoever you are – i was inspired by you. thanks!
which just goes to show you…uh…something.
usually i give a lot of thought to a newsletter – agonizing over expressing something catchy to say and the proper syntax when i finally do say it. my trusty thesaurus close at hand for those all-too-common occurrences when my insecurities compel me to try to impress y’all with some homespun erudition.
in other words, it takes me forever to compose the newsletter.
it’s because i care.
but not this time.
it’s not that i don’t care, but, hell, it’s stream-of-consciousness time, y’all. ‘cause i wanna tell you ‘bout this black lace freudian slip.
it’s old. a hand-me-down that i’ve had for more years than i care to remember. used to be ashamed of it – tried to hide it from everyone, including myself. tried to follow the advice of my “superiors” by covering it up with more ‘suitable attire’, pretending i wasn’t wearing it.
i started peeling away the layers of “clothing”, allowing myself the pleasure of the sun on my skin, the rain in my face, the wind on my bald head and the mud between my toes. to my delight, i discovered my black lace freudian slip was my natural covering. clothes were just a way of pretending i was protecting myself and others from what lay beneath.
to the casual observer, my black lace freudian slip is nothing to brag about. it’s tattered and worn in obvious places and frayed around the edges. there are even a few places where it’s held together by safety pins and duct tape. but now, rather than apologizing for its appearance, i understand that those are the best parts.
some explain a freudian slip as being a slip of the tongue, when we intend to say one thing, but our subconscious muscles its way past our filter and our real thoughts “slip through”. ‘excuse me, ma’am. your slip is showing.’
but what if what came out was a black lace freudian slip? what would that sound like?
i’m happy to hear your thoughts about this and to answer any questions about the “black lace freudian slip”. send me some questions to put on my Q & A page, why don’t you?
the CD dropped on october 11. there are 13 original tunes – a couple of which are re-makes that some of you may have heard on previous CDs. there are some original tunes by others i’ve always wanted to record, the most important of which is “deep in the mountains”, composed by my son, michael croan. if you know anything about my history, you know it was my son, michael, who encouraged me to sing in the first place. it is an amazing feeling for things to come full circle with him singing one of his own compositions on this CD.
another tune, “serenity prayer”, was inspired by my late friend, opalanga pugh. after pitching a fit at the idea of her telling me what i was going to compose, and when, i now appreciate so much that she had that kind of faith in me. i love the way this song turned out. thank you, opalanga.
there are three remakes:
rimshot – it was on “experiment in truth”, which had a marginal distribution in 2007.
rufast daliarg – originally composed for my youngest son, desmond, and released in 2004 on “serene renegade”, my last project on the maxjazz label. this latest version has a slightly different arrangement that is more energetic.
wishes – also released earlier on “serene renegade”, but this time around, it’s in a slow ? time with a blue grass/country feel – guitar and harmonica, no piano. whenever i sing something that really touches me, my southern country music roots (and a strong southern accent) asserts itself.
there are two songs – “free for a day” & “thanks, but i don’t dance” – by patti mckinney, a lyricist who’s songs are always arresting; composer is my good friend, andrew sussman. you could call “thanks, but i don’t dance” a re-make, but when i recorded it for my first release with maxjazz, it was as a cd-rom and i don’t think the majority of people who bought it even knew the video was on that CD! besides, with such beautiful lyrics, how could i keep from singing it again…?
musically speaking, there’s nothing that gives me a bigger thrill than being validated by another musician. this is what happened when i sent nils petter molvaer, a trumpeter from the netherlands, a recording of “ahn’s dream”. mr. molvaer composed the original tune entitled “on stream” on his “khmer” release with which i became so enamored that i added lyrics. i was so afraid he’d respond that he hated it and how dare i take his music and add lyrics to it, blah-blah-blah. instead, he said he really liked the song and would be happy for me to release my lyrical version of it. yay! the way it happened is that i loved mr. molvaer’s tune so much that one day, i just sat listening to it and started writing about what the music made me think of: a woman who has a dream the night before her wedding. and her future partner is dreaming that she is having this dream…
there’s “fallin’ off a log” which i was almost too scared to put in the line up, but reflects a significant aspect of my black lace freudian slip.
“this for joe” was inspired by one of the best teachers i’ve had: a club owner who helped me understand the importance of being myself when i compose and when i’m onstage. and in the process i learned that sometimes our most important lessons come in the least expected wrappings.
“gosh, look at the time” is a ballad which i started writing back in 2003 but was too afraid to finish because of its import. i finally got the nerve to finish it last year…
and the last song on the CD is “tired”, a tune with a message that’d been running through my mind for years. but one day, i walked past my mirror and i got a good look at my black lace freudian slip and that’s when i knew i couldn’t put off singing it any longer…
the lyrics for each song are in the CD booklet.
go to www.renemarie.com for details on CD release parties in
albuquerque, new mexico
rochester, new york
mamaroneck, new york
elmer, new jersey
hard, drenching masculine rains
gentle, steady feminine rains
it’s getting cooler
perfect weather for lounging in front of the fire
book in one hand, glass of brandy in the other
my shawl wrapped around me
gentle repose in my
black lace freudian slip…
June 2011 Newsletter
here i am – on the road again
there i am – up on the stage
here i go – singing these songs again
where i go – turn the page
Photo credit: MaryLynn Gillaspie
hey, y’all…it’s been crazy ever since i got back from israel! i’m packing boxes in preparation for a move, packing suitcases in preparation for the tour, trying to get the final touches done for the next CD coming out, trying to keep my sanity and remember to breathe!
ain’t nothin’ but a mess ‘round here…!
but i carved out just a little time to keep you abreast of my touring schedule for the next 6 weeks. notice that my last concert listed here is in chicago at the mayne stage. but that ain’t our last gig for the tour! oh, no-no-no. from chicago we head out of the country to several cities in spain and the edinburgh jazz festival in scotland. you can go to the itinerary page for those details.
on top of that, with this tour we get to break in a new bass player – none other than the inestimable kevin hamilton (referred to affectionately as slam) from charleston, south carolina. it’s been a while since i broke in a new musician for our group and i can’t WAIT to get my hands on him – or, rather, my music in him…well, you know what i mean! unh-unh-unh. somebody gonna be hollerin’ up on that stage and it ain’t gonna be me!
oh – one more thing!
(drum roll, please quentin…)
i’m happy to announce the winners of the “voice of my beautiful country” contest
please go to www.voiceofmybeautifulcountry.com to see the winning submissions
maggie council – musical composition
steve ingemansen – painting
gail hollander – sculpture
kelle jolly – musical composition
linda mizell – photo
a sincere thanks to all of you who participated and, yes, even those of you who thought about submitting something. next time, perhaps?
oops! gotta run – the train’s leaving me…!
p.s. good news!
according to writer/blogger patrick jarenwattananon on “a blog supreme,” voice of my beautiful country has been listed in his “best of jazz” for 2011. check it out!
December 2010 Newsletter
end of year greetings to all you beautiful homo sapiens, mammals, hominoids, mortals, bipeds, primates, water babies, cave dwellers, cloud-hoppers, apartment tenants, stargazers, moon-howlers, sun-bathers, basement occupants and ivory tower inhabitants!
there’s a bitter-sweet sadness accompanying this newsletter and not a little trepidation. i hardly know how to put this – you’ve been so supportive through the years, so responsive and enthusiastic when receiving my newsletters. but…this is the last newsletter you’ll be receiving from me… in this format!
after much pushing and shoving from an un-named, but extremely persistent and forward-thinking manager/booking agent (thanks, keith), all future newsletters will be sent in a modern newsletter format more befitting the 21st century. ‘but rene’, you say, ‘why isn’t this newsletter in that modern format?’
well, because this last one is for those folks who like to save things for sentimental reasons.
(do people even do that anymore?)
so print this one off and put it in a safe place. it’s gonna be worth a whole lot one day, even if it’s only worth a whole lotta laughs. i gotta tell ya, just before sitting down to write this wintertime newsletter, a “poem” appeared out of thin air and jumped onto the page. it needs to be read aloud with a touch of uppity-ass, nostalgic, southern pining, a stopped up nose, a delicate hanky in one hand and a stiff drink in the other.
my haiku is titled
Haiku for a December Afternoon
wish i had me a
poem for the coldest of
oh, sure. go ahead and snicker! laugh on, you laughers. scoff on, you scoffers. because i know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking “poem” is only one syllable, but that’s where you’re wrong. i looked it up.
what’s that you say? you think you can do better?
ok, fine. it’s on.
send me your winter haiku! email them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org), post them to my facebook (facebook.com/renemarie) or twitter ’em (@manaymanee)
send as many as you like. i’ll post my faves on my website and in my next newsletter. and if yours is especially good, it may be used it as a blurb on my next CD or inspiration for a song – with your permission, of course. who knows? just remember: when you compose your haiku, they must be written in 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, and uses highly evocative allusions on the subject of nature or one of the seasons. your haiku does not have to employ “highbrow language” unless that’s your style. just use any words you like, legitimate, illegitimate or adopted. if you’re not sure how many syllables a word has, look it up because i’ll call you on it!
as we say back home, “bring it!”
it’s fun blathering on like this, but not very productive. so, on with the production! first the news…
NEW LABEL! NEW CD!
the most exciting step i’ve taken this year: joining the motema label.
it’s so new, the info may not be on their website yet, but rest assured the deal was sealed with the recording of our latest CD, voice of my beautiful country. it is scheduled for release march 8, 2011. whoo-hoo! i’m excited! the songs on the CD are: John Henry, White Rabbit, O Shenandoah, Strange MeadowLark, Angelitos Negros, Imagination/Just My Imagination, Drift Away and the title track, a suite entitled Voice of My Beautiful Country. now, if you’ve been to any of our concerts in 2009/2010, you may have heard some of these songs. that’s the way we do it ‘round here – we work the songs, then we record them. listening to each track, it’s difficult to choose a favorite. the goal was to combine these tunes into a musical pastiche of rhythm, dialect and lyrical american history. can’t wait for you to hear it & then get your feedback. (twitter me!) okay. march 8. mark those calendars now! (on another happy note, motema’s latest artist, gregory porter, has just been nominated for a Grammy for his CD, “water”. congratulations to gregory and motema!)
right on the heels of our new release we’ve begun working on the next! on jan 7-9, 2011 the guys and i will be recording right here in denver at the only studio most jazz musicians from miles around prefer: mile high music, owned by pianist and composer jeff jenkins. i’ve used jeff’s studio many times for smaller projects, and it will be my second time recording a full CD there. my group, high maintenance – kevin bales, rodney jordan and quentin baxter, will be flying in not only to record, but also to play at dazzle restaurant and lounge on jan 8 & 9. with my dear friend pianist and composer bruce barth coming on board as producer, it’s gonna be a sweet project of all original tunes and a very busy weekend. bruce has some serious credentials, but a sweeter cat you won’t find. check him out.
UPCOMING 2011 APPEARANCES
see the itinerary for dates and details.
i’m on it.
new stuff is being added more and more frequently now that i’ve stopped kicking and screaming about it. truth be told, i’m actually enjoying it! it’s also linked to youtube.
i’m on it. got my own page, even.
videos being added weekly. check it out and leave a message!
holla! @manaymanee (pronounced muhNAY-muhNEE). confused? well, just say it real fast a few times and eventually it’ll make sense.
AND FINALLY…A FAVOR
sometime in january, i’ll be sending out my first newsletter in the aforementioned updated format. it will be much briefer and contain a survey for you to fill out.
i know, i know. i hate filling out surveys, too.
but after all that holiday partying it’ll be time for you to slow yourself down and recuperate. plus, this survey is for the purpose of finding out where my fan base is so that those who answer the survey can be expressly contacted when i’m in your neck of the woods, receive discounted advance tickets to shows, special prizes, etc. AND for those who complete the survey, there’s a reward at the end for all your hard work! you’ll possess something reserved only for those who fill out the survey! i want to thank you in advance for doing me this small favor.
ok…this is it.
the end of this newsletter and the end of the year.
may peace and prosperity accompany you into the new year!
p.s. don’t forget those haiku!
Summer 2010 Newsletter
honey bees love pussy willows; flowers love the sun and rain
grass don’t mind being cut ’cause it’s just gonna grow again
spiders building their summer homes; birds eating bugs on the lawn
run to the beach! escape to the mountains! spring’s done come and gone
picnics and fireworks; the fair on the outskirts of town
humidity and chores to shirk; slow your fast self down
watermelon and lemonade; tomatoes heavy on the vine
run like hell ‘n find some shade! ’cause honey, it’s summertime
yes, honey. it’s summertime…
the fans are on high, i’m in shorts and a tank top, the flowers in my garden are freshly watered and hershey, the neighbor’s cat next door, whose owners are on vacation, has received her daily petting and rub-down. the other neighbors on the other side are in charge of her feeding, entrance and egress. somebody up the street from us just celebrated their 40th birthday yesterday and their “friends” surprised them by putting toilet paper in the trees, suspending 20 assorted bras across their garage door in a “40 cup salute” and sticking 40 lollipops made out of tissue paper in their yard. i love my neighbors…
i wound up the last session of my SLAM (Sing Like A Murderer) Vocal Therapy Workshops this past weekend. boy, have i learned a lot. whoever it was that said “talking about music is like dancing about architecture” surely spoke the truth (i’ve heard it was thelonious monk). seemed like as soon as i opened my mouth to talk about my approach to singing, the whole thing felt watered down, diluted and less than it was than if had i simply kept my mouth shut and just sang (an audience member said that to me once: “just shut up and sing!” i had to laugh. and sing). but, in spite of all that, i’m considering conducting another series of vocal therapy workshops in the fall, though i’ve not totally committed to it yet.
if i do – or don’t – it’ll be in the next newsletter.
we’re going back to the studio in Charleston, SC in august. me, Kevin Bales, Rodney Jordan and Quentin Baxter – and hopefully some special guests. after our “Voice Of My Beautiful Country” tour last year, we realized we have so much more to say, musically speaking. most likely, the CD will have the same name as our 2009 tour.
KUVO 89.3, denver’s jazz radio station (and the place i met my sweet, sweet husband) celebrates its 25th anniversary on aug 14 and i’ll be joining in the celebration by singing a few songs with Ken Walker and his sextet. and, because it’s the 25th anniversary, KUVO is going all out by having my photo and ken’s put on bottles of syrah and cabernet, respectively. and i’ve seen some of the proofs, y’all. we look good. and it’s gonna be hot!
speaking of august, it’s only been 5 years since the winds of Hurricane Katrina uprooted the lives of thousands of folks living along the gulf coast and beyond. some of us are still reeling from its impact in our lives or the lives of our family and friends. at the same time, it’s been the source of inspiration for artists of all genres. Ted Hearne, an award-winning composer, has composed a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that speaks to the events surrounding Katrina, and has entitled it The Katrina Ballads. Ted has asked me to be one of the 5 singers and 11 musicians involved in this amazing and moving project and i have happily accepted. we will be performing the Katrina Ballads in NY on august 24 and in Houston on august 28. details of all this and more are in the attached itinerary.
if you can’t open the attachment, you can always just go www.renemarie.com and click on the “itinerary” page where everything is listed with links.
let’s see…what else?
oh, yeah! an online interview with the Jazz Diva Joan Cartwright sept 1, the Jazz Kitchen in indianapolis on sept 3, Chicago Jazz Fest on sept 4, the Jazz Standard sept 9-12 and Dazzle on sept 17 – it’s all in the attached newsletter.
heading into the fall, Carla Cook, Allan Harris and i will be stirring things up with a great big ol’ spoon at the Kennedy Center on october 15 & 16. i had this crazy idea to put together a show called “Two Skirts And A Shirt”. it’s a lotta lipstick and legs, fine-ass singin’, cuttin’ up and carryin’ on and gettin’ down in three-part harmony. and that’s just me and Carla! Allan just stands there lookin’ all fine and singing that smooth and sexy way he does while the women sit there drooling. we give him a hard time up on that stage, but he loves it! awww, i’m tellin’ you, you’ll just have to come see it. betcha five dollars you won’t be disappointed!
and finally, please take special note of jan 28 & 29, 2011 because, out of this entire itinerary, that’s the date i’m most proud of: my one-woman show, “Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean”, is coming to Dallas! ever since the play premiered in october of last year, we’ve been working so hard trying to “get the show on the road”. it’s a new arena for me. i mean, i think i got the music thing down in terms of getting booked at various venues. but it’s been quite an adventure figuring out how to introduce myself as a playwright and actress. i’ve learned one doesn’t book a play in exactly the same way that one books a gig. nope. it’s a whole new world out there…
but i believe in U’Dean.
i believe in her story, her personality and her…uh…ahem…’charm’. it’s hard to describe her, except to say once you’ve met U’Dean, you will not forget her! lawd, i love that woman! many thanks to The Black Academy of Arts and Letters for bringing U’Dean to Dallas. may it be the first of many more venues outside of Denver. there’s more on my website about U’Dean and her story, and you can check the itinerary for details of the Dallas show.
the itinerary takes us further into 2011 with dates in Atlanta at Spivey Hall and overseas into Israel for a week. if you can’t download the attachment, just go to my website and click the “itinerary” page. it’s all there.
well, that about does it, y’all. i’m off to put the finishing touches on the email for our family reunion. and when you have your next barbecue, throw an extra ear of corn on the grill for me – extra butter!
love your family
love your neighbors
love the world…
April 2010 Newsletter
Hello all you wonderful homo sapiens…!
i’m looking at the world around me today, as though for the first time; like a baby bird poking its head over the rim of its nest to see what’s on the other side…
i have been so fervently bent over blank manuscript paper these past few months (which didn’t stay blank for long), i hardly knew winter had come and gone. i looked up – and suddenly, it’s spring!
ah, spring. my favorite time of year, next to autumn. but here in colorado lovely spring is frequently accompanied by fickle changes in the weather. a perfect match for my mood, it seems…
this notice is brief. very brief. briefer than any newsletter i’ve ever written! suffice it to say that i’ve been working on music – there are lots of gigs coming up with various musicians and musical instrumentation which calls for different charts for each group with whom i’ll be sharing the stage. i’m terribly slow at writing out these charts – i do it by hand instead of using a software program because…well, because it’s a better way to learn. for me, anyway.
aside from the upcoming gigs, i’m doing “slut energy theory – u’dean” again for one day only as a benefit for the bias incident hotline in boulder, colorado. see below for the specifics. a big thank you to all of you who have purchased the “slut energy theory – u’dean” soundtrack – especially those of you who haven’t seen the play! i take that as a true vote of confidence. we are furiously working on bringing the play to other parts of the u.s. but, as i am painfully and exasperatingly finding out, it takes some doing…
i’m excited to announce a series of 3-day workshops i’ll be conducting here in colorado this summer. it’s what i call “vocal therapy” and the theme of the workshop is “sing like a murderer”. now, don’t get all upset by the title, y’all. i’ll expound upon things in another email that will closely follow on the heels of this one. but for now, the tentative dates are june 18-20, july 9-11, july 16-18. the cost is $250.00 for the entire weekend. there will be no more than 10 participants for each workshop. if you think you’d like to attend, do not send in a deposit to reserve a spot just yet. it’s too early. just give me a little bit more time to finish working out the details. i should have everything cemented by the end of april and then i can start accepting deposits and taking reservations.
well, aside from what i’ve written above and the dates listed below, that’s it for now. told ya, didn’t i?
TUESDAY, APRIL 20 @ 7:00pm – “SLUT ENERGY THEORY – U’DEAN” in BOULDER, COLORADO at NOMAD THEATER: 1410 Quince Ave., Boulder, CO 80304. ONE NIGHT ONLY! A ONE-WOMAN SHOW ABOUT INCEST, ABUSE AND PUSHIN’ ON THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE. WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY RENE MARIE. Read a review at Westword. PERFORMANCE TO BENEFIT BIAS INCIDENT HOTLINE PROJECT. Tickets $20. To purchase tickets, visit Brown Paper Tickets.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21 @ 7:30pm – PRIVATE EVENT FOR THE GATHERING PLACE. The Gathering Place is Denver’s only daytime drop-in center and exists to support women in distress and their children who are experiencing homelessness or poverty by providing a safe daytime refuge and resources for self-sufficiency. An average of 365 women and children are assisted every day. On November 30, 2009, The Gathering Place served 649 women and children in a single day – their busiest year since opening in 1986.
FRIDAY, APRIL 30 @ 8:00pm – IN CONCERT AT COLORADO MOUNTAIN COLLEGE in BRECKENRIDGE. Tickets are $20. Please call 970-453-6757 to purchase.
SATURDAY MAY 1 @ 7:00pm – IN CONCERT with SOUND CIRCLE at Broomfield Auditorium located at 3 Community Park Road in BROOMFIELD, CO. Sound Circle, the 16-voice Boulder-based women’s a cappella ensemble, will collaborate with photographer Christopher Brown, jazz vocalist Rene Marie, Southwestern singer/songwriter Becky Reardon, harpist Christine Tulis with percussionist Kem Stralka, and Tree Andrew playing Native American flute. The goal of this performance, a continuous flow of song, soundscape and visual imagery, is to offer the audience a contemploative journey through the Grand Canyon. The concept for this performance was borne out of passions for both the Grand Canyon and choral singing shared by Sound Circle Artistic Director Sue Coffee and Christopher Brown. The concert will move between visual and aural, realistic and abstract, song and sound. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and children. To purchase tickets, go to Brown Paper Tickets or call 1-800-838-3006; advance purchase is recommended.
SUNDAY MAY 2 @ 1:00pm and 5:00pm – IN CONCERT with SOUND CIRCLE at Broomfield Auditorium located at 3 Community Park Road in BROOMFIELD, CO. Sound Circle, the 16-voice Boulder-based women’s a cappella ensemble, will collaborate with photographer Christopher Brown, jazz vocalist Rene Marie, Southwestern singer/songwriter Becky Reardon, harpist Christine Tulis with percussionist Kem Stralka, and Tree Andrew playing Native American flute. The goal of this performance, a continuous flow of song, soundscape and visual imagery, is to offer the audience a contemploative journey through the Grand Canyon. The concept for this performance was borne out of passions for both the Grand Canyon and choral singing shared by Sound Circle Artistic Director Sue Coffee and Christopher Brown. The concert will move between visual and aural, realistic and abstract, song and sound. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and children. To purchase tickets, go to Brown Paper Tickets or call 1-800-838-3006; advance purchase is recommended.
TUESDAY MAY 11 @ 7:00pm and 9:00 pm – IN CONCERT in RICHMOND, VA for RICHMOND JAZZ SOCIETY’S GUEST EDUCATOR’S SERIES at the Capital Ale House, 623 East Main Street (6th and Main St.) Richmond, VA 23219. Tickets: $20 in advance for Students and RJS Members; $25 in advance for General Public; $30 at the door. To purchase tickets, call Richmond Jazz Society @ 804-643-1972. Advance purchase is recommended.
SATURDAY MAY 15 @ 8:00pm – IN CONCERT in NORFOLK, VIRGINIA for VIRGINIA ARTS FESTIVAL at Attucks Theatre. 1010 Church Street, Norfolk, VA 23510. Tickets: $20. To purchase tickets in advance, call 757-282-2822. Click here to purchase tickets online.
SUNDAY JUNE 6 @ 3:00pm – IN CONCERT in PORTLAND, OREGON with SOUND CIRCLE. Hosted by Portland Gay Men’s Chorus at First Congregational Church. 1126 SW Park Avenue Portland, OR 97205. Tickets $15 (economy) and $20 (premium). To purchase, click here.
JULY 25 – AUGUST 1 – WORKSHOP in PORT TOWNSEND, WASHINGTON sponsored by CENTRUM. Whether you’re a working professional, aspiring professional, or committed avocational vocalist , the week long workshop at Jazz Port Townsend, July 25—August 1, 2010, is the perfect opportunity to meet other excellent musicians, soak up a week of jazz in a seaside paradise, and leave as a better musician. For more information on the workshop or to register, click here. Then, starting on Thursday, July 29 and running through Sunday, August 1, we hit the lights and the renowned artist/faculty take to the stage for mainstage performances in Fort Worden State Park’s WWI-era McCurdy Pavilion, and for club performances in Port Townsend’s historic downtown and uptown districts. Tickets (for these performances go on sale to Centrum Members on April 15 and to the General Public May 1). Click here to purchase tickets.
December 2009 Newsletter
DECEMBER 2009 – TOURING! A NEW CD! GOING GREEN! A ONE-WOMAN SHOW! OH MY!
End-of-year greetings to one and all –
It’s me. René. Most likely you’ve been wondering what happened to me.
Or maybe not.
I got chastised by someone recently for not having sent out a newsletter since 2007. I just knew she was mistaken, so I checked and y’know what? She was right.
Ouch. Well, I did release a statement in July 2008 about “you-know-what” (see below), but, in all fairness, that wasn’t a bonafide newsletter.
But this one is!
I hardly know where to start, so how ’bout I re-cap the whole year, taking it month by month? (bear in mind these are just the high spots here)
Started preparing music for our upcoming “Voice Of My Beautiful Country” tour. I wanted to feature tunes on this tour that reflected the musical soundtrack of my life thus far – the music I’d been influenced by as a child, teenager, young mother and mature woman. It was so hard narrowing down all such music into a manageable set list! Some of the tunes I had in mind: Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”; Dave Brubeck’s “Strange Meadowlark”; Mentor Williams’ “Drift Away”; folk tunes “O Shenandoah” and “John Henry”; “Angelitos Negros”; “Disconnect” – an original of mine about disenchantment w/religion; “Serenity Prayer” – I composed a melody to some additional words of this beautiful prayer that a friend sent me; a medley of “Imagination” and “Just My Imagination”; “I Hope You Dance”; and, of course, the suite “Voice Of My Beautiful Country” after which the tour was named.
You can get a free download of this suite in part or in its entirety by visiting the music page of this website.
I did some work with Sophia’s Sisters, a choir made up of women who are inmates at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. I was introduced to this choir by Kerry Kurt, an amazing woman of action for whom the phrase “git ’er done” must have been invented. Working with Kerry, the two conductors Pat Magurkurth and Pat Wimberly, and the women in this choir was one of the most rewarding musical interactions I have ever experienced.
March – June 2009:
After the tour I got right to work on an idea for a one-woman show that had been percolating for quite some time. Several years, to be honest. I decided to name it “Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean”™. Now, don’t let the word “slut” throw you because it’s used tongue-in-cheek. I mean, we all know how the word “slut” is typically used, don’t we? It’s used along with over 70 other denigrating words for women whose sexual activities mirror a man’s.
The idea for “Slut Energy”™ had its conception about 7-8 years ago during a late night conversation over a bottle of wine with a friend about the counterproductive effects that romantic/sexual relationships can have on creativity and productivity, with some women expending seemingly endless energy pursuing sex or sexual relationships rather than on creative, spiritual or intellectual endeavors. The term “Slut Energy”™ was coined to describe this pre-occupation with sex.
This conversation led to more questions later: when are girls first made aware of the sexual aspects of their bodies, and by whom? What forces or influences move girls away from their sexual innocence and into a life that centers on sexual activity? How do these forces color their view of the world and of themselves? Is it possible — or even necessary — to free oneself from these forces? If so, how?
“Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean”™ is one woman’s story about incest, abuse, laughter, life, philosophy & pushin’ on through to the other side. Told through music, spoken word and monologue, U’Dean Morgan speaks her mind as an elderly, yet ageless, woman whose harrowing life experiences have left her anything but speechless. Her favorite quote? “It ain’t what you done lost, it’s what you got left!” From the opening song, U’Dean doesn’t mind telling you exactly what she thinks about sex, heaven, god, lies, truth, you, herself and whatever else you might ask her — if you have the nerve!
Nearly five years in the making, all components of the play — music, lyrics, spoken word and monologue — are my original works. This is my first ever one-woman show. It is directed by donnie l. betts and produced by donnie l. betts and myself.
October & November 2009:
“Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean”™ premiered October 1-3 and 7-10 to sold out crowds. The response was so favorable that we did an encore presentation November 20-22. Survivors of sexual and domestic abuse are so often full of shame — it is difficult to talk to others about, even to trained professionals. The feedback i got from those in attendance has made this absolutely THE most rewarding experience of my musical career thus far.
For more on the one-woman shows, including reviews, interviews, and photos, click here.
Then, almost as an afterthought, I decided to record the music from the play into a soundtrack. The release date of the NEW CD of the soundtrack from the show was December 3, 2009.
The CDs arrived the last week of November and Aurora Muse, who is customer support for renemarie.com, is chomping at the bit to send you some new music!
To listen to some of the tracks and download “Nothin’ But Love” for free, click here.
To purchase the entire CD, click here.
Finally, I’m so excited to announce that we have begun implementing green methods in the packaging of the “Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean”™ soundtrack:
- The new CD is printed on recycled cardboard and the CD tray is made from 100% post-consumer plastic (recycled soda bottles).
- Instead of using shrink-wrap on the CDs, we chose a simple adhesive wafer seal.
- For insulating the CDs against damage when shipping them to you, we are phasing out bubble wrap and using shredded paper and recycled plastic bags. our hope is that, upon unwrapping the CD, you will find a way to continue recycling as well – especially during this season of giving.
- We are gradually eliminating the use of mailing labels. aurora will be writing directly onto the CD mailers in her own handwriting!
So…those are my 2009 highlights! I. ain’t. doin. NOTHIN’. else. this. year.
…except singing a couple of songs with Allan Harris when he plays Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge in Denver, CO on December 19.
See, earlier this year we recorded a rendition of “baby it’s cold outside” together for allan’s christmas album. We’ll definitely do that tune together, plus one or two more. 2010 will be a very busy year &emdash; more plays, more music, another CD and a west coast tour!
UPDATE – December 25, 2009: I just received some hard-to-believe news! The Denver Post theatre critic, John Moore, has nominated my one-woman show to receive the Ovation Award in two different categories — Best Solo Performance and Best New Work. Read about the nominations at DenverPost.com.
UPDATE on the Ovation Awards Update – January 4, 2010:
The votes are in and Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean was the Reader’s Choice for Best Solo Performance of 2009, receiving 35.3% of the popular vote! Click here to see for yourself.
You’ll need to scroll down a bit to get to the category of Best Solo Performance.
You guys are the best! You took time out of your busy and hectic holiday schedules to vote and I am so grateful to you for that. What a way to start the new year!
In closing, let me take a moment to express my deep appreciation to all of you for your kind encouragement and support this year. Whether you attended one of my shows, purchased or listened to some of my music, volunteered with the play, or just sent an email to say “hello” or comment on the music, I am so grateful to you. There is so much wonderful music in the world, so many talented and dynamic musicians and singers. The fact that you spend your time and money listening to my music means more to me than you’ll ever know. Thank you.
May each and every one of you experience an abundance of joy and love this season and in the coming year!
July 2008 Newsletter
Voice of My Beautiful Country
What you’re listening to is my love song to America; my latest attempt to express how I feel about living in this country as a person of color. It had its germination over three years ago when, during an interview in Russia, the interviewer referred to me as an American. I started to interrupt her, to tell her she was mistaken. But I caught myself and was extremely surprised and dismayed to discover that I didn’t feel like an American. The rest of the interview I don’t remember because I was too focused on this startling and disturbing discovery.
On the flight from Moscow, I felt anxious to get back home. Yes, ‘home’. And yet, I had nearly corrected the Russian interviewer when she called me American! Why? I didn’t know, but I wanted to find out.
Flying across the Atlantic, I thought about how, from the time I was a very young child, I had always loved singing “America the Beautiful”, “God Bless America” and how my heart always swelled with pride, how I always teared up whenever I heard the beginning strains of the “National Anthem”. I loved these songs, loved singing them. I loved my home – the dirt and the sky and the trees and the grass and bugs of my home. I loved the people in it, the way we walked and talked and interacted. I loved the way things are done here, problematic though they may sometimes be. I tried to imagine living permanently in another country – and couldn’t. I loved this land! So why didn’t I feel like I was an American?
For the next few weeks I puzzled over it, analyzing every little thing I felt. I dug deep. And this is what I came up with:
Beautiful as those songs are, when I learned them as a child, the black community was still living under Jim Crow laws. Seating was segregated at theatres. There were certain stores in town that black folks simply could not enter. My siblings and I went to segregated schools where the books, desks, chairs, tables, lunch trays and playground equipment were never new, always hand-me-downs from the all white schools. My parents taught at those schools and, rather than being bitter, we were raised to be proud, stand tall, speak clearly, look others in the eye and be true & respectful to ourselves and everyone we met, regardless of their color.
Even at such a young age, however, I sensed on a fundamental level that there was a disconnect between the patriotic songs I loved to sing, the Pledge of Allegiance I took pleasure in memorizing and repeating every day and the humiliating, not-quite-a-citizen experiences that black folks were enduring on a daily basis. For instance…
One year, my mother and father, along with about 5 other black couples, attempted to integrate the segregated lunch counters in my hometown, Warrenton, Va. My parents were assigned to Frost’s Diner on the by-pass. On the door of that establishment was a sign that read, “No Dogs. No Niggers”.
In a manner of speaking, my parents were successful that night. They went into the diner, ordered dinner (though they were never served) and left with only verbal insults ringing in their ears as a warning. Later that year, however, as a result of this protest, my father was blacklisted – fired from his job as a teacher and unable to find employment anywhere in the county sufficient enough to support seven children and a wife. And they were considered the lucky ones. This is the kind of unspoken – yet very real – disconnection black families lived with day in and day out.
As children, we are hardly equipped with the verbal skills to express such a disconnection. But the disconnection lingers until one day, whoop! there it is. And you’re left with trying to figure out why you don’t feel the word ‘American’ has ever really applied to you.
We went to church. And there we listened to our pastor try to make sense of the inequality he and his entire congregation was faced with day after day, to instill in us joy and hope where there was adversity and sadness and grief. When the fourth of July fell near a Sunday, we opened our hymnals to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” or “America the Beautiful” or the “National Anthem” and we sang. We sang loud and long and clear and spirits soared at the prospect of God’s truth marching on. Our eyes misted over to think that God might shed his grace on us and crown his good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. We adored the sentiments expressed in the National Anthem but felt excluded because the land of the free was not free for us and those in our homes who were brave enough to confront the Jim Crow laws risked their lives or their livelihoods in so doing. So we sang “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” in our churches, too, and at our schools and other community gatherings because that song spoke of our hopes, our situation. It came to be known as the “Black National Anthem”, and for good reason, though it, too, was exclusive in that it validated the daily struggle of black folks and gave us hope and encouragement when, oftentimes, nothing and nobody else would or could.
Music is a second language to me. From as far back as I can remember, when I couldn’t figure out a way to express whatever I was feeling, my emotions could always find their expression in music. So on the flight home, I wondered: Could I take the sentiments of these songs that had meant so much to me – that still mean so much to me – and re-frame them in a musical context that more accurately reflects the America I live in now? The America with which I more honestly identify? The America I love?
I was inspired to write a suite entitled “Voice of My Beautiful Country”, moving from sentiment to sentiment and utilizing American music: Jazz, Blues & Gospel. I use three movements: “America the Beautiful”, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and, the movement that has garnered the most attention and criticism, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” sung to the melody of the “National Anthem”. The title, “Voice of My Beautiful Country”, expresses for me the dichotomy and contradictions of being a person of color in America.
“Voice of My Beautiful Country” is my love song to America – the land I love living in. I love singing this suite; it has given me room to feel the full spectrum of emotions I most strongly connect with – joy, pain, love, pride, sentiment, unity, hope – when I think of my family, my country and my national community. It has been a journey toward making peace with the contradictions that still exist within me when I think of my past, a conduit for hope when I think of the future and given me the freedom to finally feel like an American.