News & notes from Claudia Hommel

September 1, 2010

A very intense and creative quarter has just flown by, dominated by the production of staged readings of the Jazz Fauré Theatre Project. We called it "Summer on the Seine" and how apt it was. The script by Amanda Hartley was perfectly matched by an incredible "dream team" of singer-actors. Here's the cast of characters.

Over 150 fans attended the two evenings and another 30 or more sent in donations from near and far, totaling more than $6000 in contributions. I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of support. MERCI MILLE FOIS!

The talk-back sessions, the discussions by phone, email, in person were immensely positive and constructive and Yes, we're revisiting key elements of the show to strengthen the book, dig deeper into the poetry and meaning of the songs, and come out with a new project—or three! One project continues developing a book musical; the second project will create a theatrical song cycle that can tour with a smaller cast, without staging; the third is to record the songs in English with members of our cast and me (I'll finally get to sing some of Arnie Johnston's lyrics!).

I'm taking a break from curating cabaret nights at the Little Bucharest Bistro. The Second Friday Singers' Showcase continues apace under the able hands of Beckie Menzie and Carla Gordon. With accordionist Djula Milo back in Belgrade, I'm working on repertoire with a new accordionist so the monthly French Nights are on hold. However, on October 14, I will be back at Little Bucharest to open for Eric Vincent, the most engaging wild-haired Frenchman you'll ever fall in love with.

This being the "new year" for performers and students, it's a pleasure to resume the Songshop sessions at DePaul. A batch of newcomers join the veterans. The July cabaret shows were a great success for all.

Two weeks ago, I led a performance-skills workshop for Ravinia's roster of teaching artists. Wow! what's it like helping fabulous performers get even better? The session was surprising, intimate, revelatory. It was an honor to touch and be touched by these artists of blues, jazz, classical music, folk and more. Ravinia's education coordinator promises there will be more.

Memorial Day weekend 2010

Our concert at Ravinia on May 7 was a grand success. By 6 PM, the facilities crew was bringing in rows and rows of more chairs. Cabaret tables, red curtains and flood lights were judiciously placed to create the ambiance. I was putting on Michelle Coughlin's new gown. The buzz was palpable as Ravinia regulars mingled with my tried-and-true fans. By the end of the evening the artistic manager was texting the Ravinia director, "We have to find other ways to have Claudia perform here again." And the post-show testimonials and Pioneer Press review concurred.

The very next day I was driving with Amanda Hartley to South Haven, Michigan, to meet with our playwriting collaborators Arnie Johnston and Debby Percy. Forty-eight hours later, we had the first solid draft of our new musical The Luncheon of the Boating Party, based on the music of the Jazz Fauré Project and characters inspired by the Renoir painting of the same name. A few weeks later, the first gathering of our directors and arranger, Lara Filip, Elizabeth Doyle and Bobby Schiff was throwing us even more ideas including the radical decision to ditch some of the most delicious elements of the Jazz Fauré repertoire in favor of keeping the music all by Fauré (no more Cole Porter and Jacques Prévert).

The creative process can be wrenching and inexorable; the results, awe-inspiring. And our characters definitely have a mind of their own. Lydia the seamstress is huggable (and Johnny will certainly take advantage of that!); René, the artist is finding a love that's more than lovely; there may even be a redeeming song for our industrialist Mr. X.

Come meet all 13 of our characters, Monday and Tuesday, August 2 and 3. Meanwhile, visit the jazzfaure website to learn more.

March 2010

Coming up next: I am a Rising Star at Ravinia and May 7 is the magic night. For the first time ever, Ravinia is creating—in their new "Private Dining Room"—a cabaret venue to feature a Chicago cabaret “star”. For the occasion, I’m introducing an English-language version of Yvette Guilbert’s Madame Arthur. “Madame Arthur is quite the dame, of whom they talk and talk and talk and talk!” And let me tell you about her je ne sais quoi.

Claudia at Ravinia

Our Vernon Hills High School performance of Souvenirs of Paris 1950 and the dialogue with French III students was a rousing success. I especially loved the question from a young woman, "How do you make the emotions in a song true when you haven't yet had the experience that's told in the song?" And later, in a one-on-one, she asked further how to bring that level of emotion to her violin playing. Now there's a subject I would love to explore with her and others more deeply. We face the challenge to keep music and arts-in-education alive in our schools. School engagements are being cut not only for lack of funds but for the crazy idea that this activity is not "basic" to their education. And what becomes of the passion for living and creating?

Cabaret at the Little Bucharest Bistro is getting rave reviews from our fans—for the music, the warm welcome, and the food. Repeat customers aplenty! So come on over Wednesday nights to catch the great Jeannie Tanner's jazz-pop-blues cabaret and Friday nights for a variety of wonderful cabaret evenings. First Fridays are French.

BucharestFridays (164K)

February 2010

The new year took us by storm, and not just the snowy kind. I'm catching my breath after a flurry of Valentines. What wonderful audiences we've had: seniors at Autumn Green, a packed house for Espresso's Valentine Brew in Palos Park, rendez-vous with so many Barrington fans whom we'd not seen since July, and a new entourage of fans led by the Dean of North Park University is already planning our return next year with the Travel Abroad Quintet.

NorthPark Homepage

Cabaret nights at The Little Bucharest Bistro each Friday night are a delightful surprise. Folks have been grabbing floor space to dance while my singer friends like Tecora, Andrea, Carla grab the microphone.

We'll slow down enough to catch our breath and get ready for the tour of "Women of Paris" from Oak Lawn to Ravinia (not on the lawn) and on to Ohio! Mary Horton continues to help me with publicity and Kristina Buhlinger is my new booking assistant. She's successfully pursuing museum-exhibit related tours for 2010-2011.

And take a look at our new Jazz Fauré website as we prepare to launch the musical version of the Project with staged readings this summer. Amanda Hartley and Arnie Johnston are steadfast and great writers with whom I'm collaborating.