Tag Archives: Lua Hadar with TWIST

NOMAD NOTES – Chapter 3 – The Kindness of Strangers

NOMAD NOTES – Chapter 3 – The Kindness of Strangers – In the Air between Tel Aviv, Israel and Warsaw, Poland – August 23, 2016

I must write this NOW; I already feel my mind slipping into a new reality, as LOT Polish Air flight 152 carries me to what I presume to be the land of my mother’s ancestors, who all had names ending with –-sky. Nothing further is known about their birthplace. Those with the info left this life before I had the awareness to ask about it. So I go to stand where they stood. Tonight I will sleep in Krakow, Poland, in the Jewish quarter that still remains, even after the Holocaust, and I will visit Auchwitz, because now I am strong enough to bear it. I hope.


But first a tribute to the kindness of strangers in Israel.


Myth: Everything in Israel is in English.

Myth: Everyone in Israel speaks English.

Myth: Everyone in Israel is Jewish.


The wedding over, the relatives kissed, the presents given, the advice taken in, I took off in my red Kia for Akko, a Mediterranean port near Haifa, which was populated at least as far back as 500 B.C. (Hellenistic Greek ruins have been found; but it’s probably WAY WAY older) and which was the gateway for pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land during the Crusades in medieval times. I did not go straight there; to satisfy my curiosity I took a quick side trip to Tsfat (aka Zefat, aka Safed) high above the Sea of Galilee, a center for Klezmer music and extreme Jewish faith.


gas_station_2977_israel.jpg I stopped for gas. (Which by the way costs more than $50 a tank.) But how to fill it? No English option on the gas pump. If you need someone to speak English in Israel, ask young people. They learn it in school.

A lovely young woman taught me how: first you put the nozzle in the car. Then the credit card. Then you enter your license plate number, then your ID number, in my case my passport number. Then you can buy the gas. Note to USA Homeland Security.


The new navigation app WAZE was invented by an Israeli, and I’ve now downloaded it and made it speak to me in English. It’s great. Up the mountain to Tsfat.


Tsfat.jpgSince I arrived in Tsfat on the Sabbath, I was treated to a demonstration of that town’s extreme faith by the complete lack of activity in the town, which was to be expected. I headed down the mountain and west to the Mediterranean coast, to Akko (aka Acco, aka Acre, aka Akka), in search of my ancient past. It is blazing hot.






spices_2958_LO_copy.jpgIsrael is a narrow country and I arrive about 2 hours later at the ancient Mediterranean port of Akko. It is immediately apparent that I am in a different culture, while still within Israel. The roads are very narrow, the stores have signs in Arabic (an official language of Israel, along with Hebrew), the women are in head scarves and dressed very conservatively, the sounds of Arabic music waft through the air. And here’s me, brazenly coming into town in my red Kia.


A man is headed directly at me on his bicycle. My danger “flares” go up. I consider myself open-minded and progressive, yet in an instant I have identified him as “Arab” and his action as a dare. As if daring me to stop, swerve, or hit him. Is this a power struggle? Is it because I am a Western woman driving a red car? Perhaps just because the streets are too narrow for modern day traffic? I brake and avoid him, of course. He does not slow down. I’m now on my guard. And I’m aware that I just had a demonstration of my own prejudice.


Akko_Minaret_Mosque_Palms_2935_LOI make my way to my hotel, built into the medieval walls of the Crusades era. I park, check in, clean up, and head out at sunset to find a fresh fish for dinner. My short walk to the port confirms that I am in a different culture. Arabic music accompanies a horse-drawn carriage giving rides on the narrow cobbled streets, already crowded with impossible 2-way car traffic and pedestrians. Boats in the harbor also play music, wild and fast, families crowd the port, speaking in Arabic, a mosque in view.


I feel conspicuous in my mini-skirt as I enter a restaurant and ask for a table for 1. Glad I have my long black cotton sweater on to cover my arms and legs, I sit and order. I’m ready for a vodka, but there is none, and I wouldn’t order it here anyway. The dinner is delicious and by the end I’m asked by the waiter where I come from. When I answer “San Francisco,” he nods knowingly. We smile. That explains it.


Akko_cafe_2923_LODAY TWO IN AKKO: I rise early to head out with my video camera, to capture the ancient streets in the morning light.

At the port, different in the daylight, I come upon a huge dead rat in the street, already being fed upon by insects. I’m revolted, and must remind myself that my dearest Venice, another port city, has its share of these tenaciously disgusting creatures. Both cities have a population of stray cats, which hopefully helps to keep things in check.


Akko_arch_fleurDeLis_2938_LOAfter breakfast, I purchase some items in the open air market on my way to the tourist info center. I walk where the Knights Templar have ridden, where pilgrims were cared for on their way to Jerusalem, traversing underground tunnels constructed 1000 years ago.


In the afternoon, I head off in the car, thinking I’m making a short trip to the Baha’i Gardens, but I miss the turn and so decide to go to Haifa instead, 25 minutes south. Not having researched (word to the wise: if you don’t know the language, do the research first)

I log into WAZE and simply put in Haifa Port.




I end up behind a slow moving line of huge trucks, bound for the port. I’m locked in, there are no turnoffs, my phone is dying, I don’t have my backup charger and I have very few Israel shekels with me. And I don’t actually know where I am going. I want to find a nice café, then a nice place to have dinner after I tour the town.


HA-HA. I finally get out of the truck line and bail to a working class neighborhood, which might have been called HADAR, near Haifa’s City Hall. Triumphantly I find a parking lot that has a system like the Sutter-Stockton Garage in San Francisco; you get a ticket upon entering and pay at a machine before you  leave.


Another fabulous young Israeli woman answers my questions about the parking lot, I go check out the machine where I’ll pay in the end, and I’m off on foot, phone dead, making little drawings and notes with a pen in my diary so I can find my way back. Like breadcrumbs.


Gone my thoughts of dinner in Haifa, over a double espresso I decide I’d better head back to Akko. I pass a cellphone store. A Russian man sells me a car charger for my last 25 shekels. The box is so old he throws it away; the receipt is so faint as to be barely readable. He says I can return it if it doesn’t work. Fat chance.


I put my Wells Fargo bank card in at Bank Hapolim, expecting to get shekels. They don’t accept it.


I re-trace my steps to the parking lot, sure I can pay with my credit card for my parking. Again, no English in the machine. I buzz and ask for help in English. A male voice yells at me in Hebrew, obviously saying “I don’t speak English; don’t you understand?”


Yet another lovely young woman passes and understands my plight. She escorts me up one floor in the elevator, using gestures to communicate. Calls the supervisor to help. Puts my card in for me, helps me pay. I’m good to go. Blessings on you, thank you.


Now, just to get back to Akko with no cell phone, and not even a paper map. As you may expect, the car charger sold me by the Russian guy is a dud.


It’s time to roll down the car window and do it like the old days. Gestures and the name of the destination. At a traffic light, I ask a guy on the curb, “Which way, Akko?” He understands the question but has trouble explaining. I say, with hand gestures, “22, Blue?” (Route 22, designated by blue signs). A triumphant Yes! We have communicated. I’m off to Akko, which I reach fairly quickly with a sigh of relief.


But it’s not over yet.


Akko_Minaret_2919_LOIn the maze of narrow streets and roundabouts, I make a wrong turn. I need to retrace my route in the town. The nightmare of the narrow streets is now mine. Scared I’m going to scratch my rented car, lost, making my second K-turn with no space, it is 7:25pm, the skies are darkening and the Moslem call to prayer sounds from a mosque right near me. But I have no cellphone to record it.


A lovely Arabic man rescues me, guides me through a narrow passage and instructs me how to get back to my hotel. In English. I’m SO grateful, and silently vow to toast him with a vodka in my hotel bar immediately upon my return.


Which I do. I’ve learned a lot in Akko.


My Reality Check Bounced


Cherry BlossomsIt is fully spring in our little town north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate. The cherry trees are in the full burst of Sakura and every day the rose bushes, cut back severely in January, look taller and stronger. They’ve made it through the winter, and so have I.

My Reality Check Bounced

My Reality Check Bounced

Sitting in Candace Forest’s kitchen after a session with an entertainment lawyer and a contract, Candy pulls this cocktail napkin out and we both laugh hysterically in the knowledge that this is true.

I’m in the throes of a big shift.

Readers of this blog may remember that almost 4 months ago in January I vowed to be like Athena, forging on to handle the tough stuff, the legal and organizational underpinning of what’s apparently necessary to get a DVD out into the world.

Like A Bridge

Like A Bridge

Yeah.  This is a major reality check:  I am required to be not only a publicist and producer, but also to understand the legal and financial ramifications of licensing and distribution.  Who bargained for this? If you are an independent artist, you get to do this too.

Face of woman whose reality check is bouncing.

OY VEY. This is not my cup of tea.

But I tell you, there comes a time when you just need to get some expertise on your team and then you can sleep nights! I will never underestimate the need of a trusted entertainment lawyer.

Then there is the big reality check of doing your taxes (do not underestimate the need of a trusted accountant) when one can deeply appreciate the cost of having created the product.

And do not underestimate the need for a trusted financial advisor to salvage what’s left so you don’t end up on the street.

Lua with Twist at Yoshi's - Curtain Call

Lua with Twist at Yoshi’s – Curtain Call

It was right about then, with big plans in my head for Twist, I had the realization that I had to put  Studio NPG on hold and use its space a little differently for a while. I’m happy to say a new studio mate is arriving to join Allison Lovejoy and I’m sure you’ll be hearing from them.

Billy-ElliotBecause I’m going on tour. Reality check: full time teaching on the road with a Broadway show, as a studio teacher to lots of kids – a responsibility and  NO KITCHEN.  I have many food intolerances.

Let’s Eat Home has taken on a new meaning. So I’m stocking up on gluten free instant oatmeal and rice cakes, packing vitamins and teaching materials. Talk about a change of reality!

with Nini Giacomelli

with Nini Giacomelli

Susanna Mariotti with me in Sausalito several years ago. Haven't seen her since

Susanna Mariotti with me in Sausalito several years ago. Haven’t seen her since

Verona, friends old and new

Verona, friends old and new

And then, my friends, with my hard-won frequent flyer miles, I am going to Italy and France and Switzerland to hug those who have known me since another time.

Paris_Eiffel_TowerAnd spend my birthday amidst the all-night French national festival of music making, La Fête de la Musique.

Swan Bar, June 29, 2013

Swan Bar, June 29, 2013

And sing a concert in Paris with my dear friend Sheldon Forrest and my dear friend Albin Suffys.

Studio NPG Music Pary

Studio NPG Music Pary

So Studio NPG, our classes, music parties and salon concerts, will be on hold for now. While, for my producing company, New Performance Group, “anywhere I hang my hat is home.”

Keep checking in.


The Accidental Film Producer

Hallelujah, Baby! The DVDs are DONE! I can hardly believe it.

A little over a year ago, blithely, I said, “well, as long as we are going to record the new CD live, why don’t we make a video, too?” HA HA HA

Little did I know what that comment could imply, what JOURNEY (OMG I hate that word – perhaps PILGRIMAGE would do) that would take me on, HOW STEEP the learning curve would be, JUST HOW MANY things you can DO to a video AND HOW MUCH THEY COST, how to establish working relationships and share information. AND ALL THE POSSIBLE THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG.

YES, I have survived ALL THIS! 🙂

Yesterday, I picked up the finished DVD’s from a highly competent Bay Area manufacturer, Isomedia. My contacts there, Greg and Charmaine, had been immensely patient with the production calendar, a barrage of questions and requests, changes, and even a petite freak out (mine) just the other day. They are HEROS! As well as their technical associate, Kevin Lu.

Also heroic have been my Editors at InVision Productions in San Rafael. Andy Neddermeyer and Elaine Trotter have really put all their creativity, technical knowledge and research into creating the best possible product at the highest quality, putting me also in touch with Acme Posts and DVD authoring guru Dave Smith, bringing in resources of many kinds (including the amazing Vince De Quattro, who helped design the main motion menu, when I didn’t even know what that was), and teaching me the ropes of how a DVD is constructed.

In this process, I could not have succeeded without the creative and unbelievably responsive Paige Smith, who not only did a fabulous job of creating our branding graphic, the CD cover and the DVD cover, but ALSO (who knew we’d need this?) created graphics for the menus and the splash page of the DVD.

At a certain point, our Director Lawrence Jordan, who has really become a mentor to me through this whole process (did HE know what he was in for??) said, “who is going to do the Q & C?”  “Duh, what’s that?” responded I, and he told me it stands for Quality and Control. You need a super-techie to do this, a person who has the equivalent of X-Ray vision and hearing, to look at and listen to the product and make sure that the best possible technical specs are in place. Where was I going to get somebody like that? This isn’t Hollywood. That person was none other than my Music Director Jason Martineau, who is an equally fabulous geek.

And when we needed extra footage of this, or a cameraman for that, or research on such-and-such, my partner Hamilton Everts was there, as Technical Producer of the live recording event, as cameraman for the interview that became the philosophical structure for the project, and in so many other ways.

And who has kept me sane throughout this process that can drive anyone insane? Candace Forest, my co-producer, who, even through the months she was back east caring for her mother, kept up on the dramas and trials of my video production saga, all through the summer. When she came back to the Bay Area in the fall, it was just in time to hold my hand on final decisions, help me get the Premiere venue nailed down, and help to spearhead PR.

Talk about “it takes a village.” And I, in the process, have become an Accidental Film Producer, learning every single thing the hard way, as I always seem to, but at least surrounded by teachers. When we decided that it was going to premiere in a movie theater instead of showing excerpts at a live performance, I finally got it that I had — with a team of dozens — created an independent – dare I say it? film.

Next challenge: how do I sell this thing?

Picking up the DVDs yesterday; I couldn’t believe it!

So you want to know where I’ve been? UP the mountain

sneak peek at the DVD menu created by 3 artists in collaboration. This is a freeze; it actually moves. I learned it is called a Motion Menu.

Begun 8/5/12, continued 9/26/12

Those of you who read this blog may be wondering where the heck I’ve been. The last line of my last blog, written in March 2012 refers to the folksong ‘The Bear Went Over the Mountain” (and what do you think he saw?) The answer in the song: “He saw another mountain.” (and what do you think he did?) “He climbed the other mountain.” This pattern repeats and is very useful for singing on long field trips. It is also Buddhism for tots. Life presents us with mountains, which we conquer, only to find that there is NO PLATEAU (which is what I used to hope for, exhausted), just more mountains to be conquered. This is what I have been doing since March.

April: NYC CD Release Concert, and the chance to reconnect with many long time friends and family. It was also bookended by the passing of two mentors, one on each coast, within days of each other.

One of these mentors, the erudite and ebullient interviewer Joe Marchi, received a posthumous gift from his producers, a tribute entitled Regards to Broadway – Curtain Call.  I was honored to be called upon to sing in this broadcast on Pacifica Community Television, where Joe had done about 150 shows over the years.

Right after that followed an intimate concert for San Francisco International Art Festival and the June CD Release Concert at The Jazzschool in Berkeley.

The Next Mountain: The DVD edit.

I find at every turn I am naïve and under-educated about the reality into which I insert myself, blithely thinking that it will all just somehow happen magically. Instead this has been the most amazing learning curve. From location scouting beginning about 10 months ago to shooting the concert part of the project in 2 days last February, getting a call from Yoshi’s and performing there (The Holy Grail!) to the CD Release concerts produced in New York and in the San Francisco Bay Area. And now the myriad layers of understanding to be had about all SORTS of things technological, artistic, and interpersonal. I am reassured by the continued presence of director Lawrence Jordan, who has mentored me at every turn, and there have been many.

In the meantime, a transformation occurred in me, not in small part due to the discovery that I was intolerant to gluten, the removal of which from my diet was most fortuitous for a woman about to go in front of video cameras, no matter how much she misses croissants.  But I also felt different about myself, and that was part diet but also part the strength I derive from collaboration with those I trust to create something that speaks. Forging on to the next mountain. OMG I need a vacation.

So for a while here I think I am going to do short, decontextualized blogs about the process; sort of letters from the Front.

Here’s something from one of my early lists, when I young and innocent,

back in June.


The live performance video resources for the DVD are, in addition to Fantasy shoot: 

1 – Yoshi’s (board feed only) (+ I have an iPod recording of some sound, captured from the audience and iPhone track of GGBridge)

2- NYC (house sound only – 2 prosumer cameras, plus B roll on Flip Camera of audience, lobby meet/greet)

3- Jazzschool (house and board feed on separate audio track.)

4- optional rehearsal shots from my studio, which we might choose to cut in, recorded on Flip camera and Larry’s prosumer video camera.

5- optional footage from France cultural exchange performance 2010

6- optional interview footage from Joe Marchi interview on the project (DV tape)

7- Larry Jordan and I will also record some interview video over the summer, to fill in gaps and introduce features.




The beauty in the Menu for the Live Studio Concert is a creation between Paige Smith, Elaine Trotter and Vince De Quattro, and actually it was first Vince who suggested that a Menu need NOT look like a poster. (what did I know? Its my first time out here J  He took the clip and the sound that Elaine and I provided from the Fantasy shoot and treated it into a moving vignette. Elaine worked on it further and created the basic page. Then Paige developed the graphics and the buttons, working to supply Elaine with Menus that had both lovely design and good function. Paige answered every request for Graphics for the project, using the band’s signature that was her creation. So it has really been a long distance collaboration; although Elaine and Vince both work in the 32Ten Kerner in San Rafael, and Paige lives in L.A. now.

We’re very much assisted by the online services that allow us to send big files, which has also been of great use to the Sound department of the project.

Email to a friend who had received the CD, Like A Bridge, extra details from the sound booth… 

Hi, Jerry! Ah, so glad you like Beyond the Sea; it was the first tune we recorded in the life-changing 2-day session last February, and I was crying with gratitude between takes. We have video of all of us in the booth shaking our heads yes as we heard back the first playback and it became a reality that we could actually pull this off. Up till then nobody told me that what I had planned to do was in reality impossible.


Did I mention that the DVD is not ready yet at this writing?  The premiere is at the historic Balboa Theater in San Francisco, and by now it should have in and out of manufacturing but that has not yet come to pass. I’m tense.

Ah, cool, the CD’s on Rhapsody.

A Bridge Exemplified – A New Year to Welcome In

Jason and Fumiko with koto

Jason Martineau and Fumiko Ozawa working with Lua Hadar on 'Like A Bridge'

Lua Hadar 12/31/11

12/29/11: Wrapped in worries and struggles of producing my most ambitious project yet, today I had an experience that reinforced to me WHY I am doing this. A ‘Bridge’ experience.

I’m having one of several sessions during this season with my Music Director, Dr. Jason Martineau. We’re jamming to get the arrangements ready for our new live recording project, ‘Like A Bridge.’ Today, my friend Fumiko Ozawa, who plays the koto, has come to create, with Jason and myself, our arrangement of the Japanese pop song, Ue o muite aruko, known in the 60’s as Sukiyaki, a food which has nothing to do with the song, but which, for a non-global 60’s world, signified Japan and helped to brand the song to worldwide popularity.

The song was heard during the past year as Japan weathered a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant crisis, on a TV public service commercial featuring many famous Japanese singers, encouraging Japan to ‘walk with its head held high’ through the crisis. Deeply concerned for my friends in Japan, I decided to learn it. Jason and I performed it in a salon concert last June, and it received the stamp of approval from my friends Yoshiko and Russell, as well as the rest of the audience. I determined to record it, and dreamt of having Fumiko, who also made her koto debut at the Herbst Theater in this past year, to play on it.

She arrives today at Jason’s studio with her 6-foot koto, a long wooden traditional Japanese 13-stringed instrument played with the hands and picks worn on the fingers. She brings with her the koto version of the music for the song, which had to be mailed to us all the way from Japan. The song is so global it was hard to find in koto music literature, but you have to love the Internet for that.

Jason is not called Dr. J for nothing. He has a wide knowledge of world music styles and even speaks a little Japanese. We set up the koto and then Jason set about educating himself as to how the koto was tuned, how to change the tuning to the key we sing the song in (Gakujoshi tuning works for the western key of C, I learned), what kinds of stylistic language was available to us, what the terminology is in Japanese. Within 3 hours we have worked Fumiko into the arrangement, created a special part and sheet music for the piece and created an audio practice track. It was amazing and inspiring to watch Dr. J at work.

I sat by taking photos and video, singing the lyrics when needed and marveling at how, every day, each of us has the opportunity to be a Bridge, in some way, to some one. A few days ago, Jason’s Bridge, his cultural sensitivity reinforced by his knowledge, talent and skill, allowed me to connect musically with my friend Fumiko, on a new level, bringing her into our band as a musician. His Bridge allowed me to know more about her music than I knew before. All three of us were enriched by the experience. We hope that the audience will be enriched as well.

Being a Bridge is my theme for 2012 and for our new audio and video recording project, ‘Like A Bridge,’ which uses the Bridge as a metaphor for the connections we can make to each other to foster world unity and harmony. Each song represents a part of that Bridge, either because of its language or because of its message, such as Bridge Over Troubled Water, which we will twist with a world beat.

The instrumentation is:

Core band: vocals, piano, bass, drums, global percussion, reeds

Specialty instruments: cello, koto, jazz accordion, and a small Zulu Choir.

We will record on February 18 and 19th, here in the Bay Area.

The CD will be released on April 14th at an East 52nd street jazz club in Manhattan which has a sister club in Tokyo.

The Bay Area release will be in late May/June.

Stay tuned because we’re getting ready to rock.

2012, come on in!!

In gratitude,


Lost high notes – anybody see them?

The most bizarre thing happened yesterday. I’m singing at the Bliss Bar, my favorite haunt in San Francisco. We had added on to our usual very simple sound installation, because the club is long and those further away from the band don’t get to hear as well. It is possible that was a factor. Then again, maybe not.

When we perform there, we usually do a long first set, a shorter second set and a very short third set. The crowd peaks around the middle of the event, and yesterday was no exception.

I sang the first set without a hitch, except for my distraction during my first number, due to sound regulation with the new setup.

Allison Lovejoy was the guest performer and I brought her up in the second half of the first set, doing 4 numbers with her from a semi-classical and vintage French cabaret Bastille Day program we had just done a few days ago. Those 4 numbers were more in my soprano range, but they all went great and my voice felt strong.

We take an intermission, and yes, I was wearing a strapless top and yes it was beginning to get a little cool and foggy the way San Francisco is bound to be in the late afternoon. And yes, DJ David was making crepes out front, and yes a lovely attendee was wearing a fabulous hat and she let me try it on and we took pictures outside. And yes, I was drinking ice water. A little.

15 minutes later I get back up to do the second set and I had NO HIGH NOTES. NO HEAD VOICE. Singers know what I am talking about. They were just GONE. I’m talking lyrics, I’m jumping down the octave when the song melodies went up out of my chest voice range, I’m asking for hot water and lemon. The band, to their credit, was terrific, Jason Martineau and Sam Bevan, they followed me, worked with it, supported me. I eliminated a song that I knew would not work, finished the set fine with Una Notte a Napoli, which is all in the chest range.

Drank more hot water, came back for the third (short) set, the high notes were better.

Today I’m fine. Just tried the voice.

BIZARRE. Is all I can say.

If it were really voice strain it would not have come back so fast.

WHAT WAS THAT?  An allergy??

Paris venue report and Lille rehearsals

Lille May 28, 2010

So much has happened in the last week I hope I will have the patience AND MEMORY to write about it all.

PARIS CONTINUED: I ended up finding one venue in Paris that was a possible match for our band, with a very good piano. It is not one of those really super-atmospheric underground venues, because, as I learned in tooling around with Jean-Francois and Alexandre, (and also by myself) either you get the atmospheric black-and-white-movie-esque-underground-vaulted-ceiling “cave” with no piano or a clavinova (which is not terrible, but it is not a piano) OR you get an above ground venue with a piano, but 9 times out of 10 it is a hotel lobby. The true venues as I know them seem to be few. And a few of those true venues really book NAME acts, which I am not, as YET ☺ But I did find a venue that books a variety of styles, as well as jazz, has a Fazioli piano and would be great if I can work it so that Jason (Martineau, my San Francisco-based music director) can be here with us. It is called Archipel, like archipeligo. I did not get to see all the venues on my list, but will return to Paris this Monday, May 31, for one last trip around town before I get on a plane to L.A. The best venue I have seen so far was in the worst neighborhood. New Morning. Fully equipped with sound, light and piano, a next-door rehearsal studio, great layout, everything, and in a neighborhood that made THIS New Yorker (who is not easily daunted) a little creeped-out, IN THE DAYTIME. It is not all that far from Archipel, but it crosses the line.

Then there is the lineup of places on the very busy Rue des Lombards, which I have not been inside of, but they really are the bread and butter of the Paris jazz scene. I’ve still yet to see Le Petit Journal de Montparnasse and the Petit Journal de St. Michel. I have a feeling I am not famous enough for the first, but hope to check out the second on Monday. It looks accessible, has an upright piano and a small band space, but these are the venues. There is a famous club that hosted many French singers before it closed and has reopened in the past year, called The Three Donkeys, up in Montmartre. I hope to see that one too. The Cave de la Huchette I have heard is great, but it is on such a touristy street I can’t get myself to go in there. I sang at an open mic at Café Universel, with a house bassist and drummer and John Florencio at the (grand) piano. We pulled off Sous le Ciel de Paris in front of a Parisian audience and I was quite happy. You know, come to think of it, why not THAT venue?? It is small, but how many people do I know in Paris? Hopefully I successfully linked to a video shot with John’s Flip camera at the Cafe Universel on the night of May 18.

A typical cover charge is 15 Euros, and there are some places that don’t charge a cover but instead they have very high drink prices to compensate. I have not yet had a conversation about how a non-EU person gets paid, but I am assuming it is in cash, just like many of the clubs back home.

WELL, on to Lille.

We had an enormous experience here, which is not over yet. Candace and I arrived, she from London and I from Paris, (ah, how continental that sounds, but it is true) on Wednesday, May 19, at around 4pm. We were OVERJOYED to see our dear friend, (like a little brother), the brilliant and hard-working bassist Albin Suffys. He took us to his family’s house, which is also the headquarters of the family theater company, Les Chantiers de L’Inedit. We arrived at 164 Montebello Boulevard, to a lavishly laid out Happy Hour and Albin’s parents, Pierre and Severine, there to greet us. Albin was extremely happy to have his American “family” and his French family meet at last. After several months of planning, emailing, Skype calling, translating, press release writing and chart-sending, here we were finally, to make the music. What a thrill. We were given the tour of bedrooms, basement music rehearsal studio, costume and equipment storage, kitchen, dining room, living room, and Albin’s workroom and bedroom in the sky, on the top floor of the house. I was to understand over the next week how much he works and just how prolific a young composer and arranger he is.

The next few days we worked at a fever pitch, in small rehearsals with members of the band. First night with two brass players (firecracker trumpeter Nathalie Goutaillet who played despite a busted lip, and a terrific trombonist, Alexis Lahens) on the opening number for the show. The next day, Candace, Albin and I rehearsed the new song Candace had written for world premiere at the concert, Come Back to California. This was followed by a long rehearsal of several tunes with the rhythm section. The pianist, John Florencio, who lives in Paris, would not arrive until Friday, but we rehearsed with the three percussionists and the guitar player, all of whom are fabulous, and at the end I was elated and sure that the concert would be wonderful. Cedric Brabant, from Trinidad, played steel pans, timbales and other percussion, Magalie Sonneville played congas and the udu (for Nature Boy). She also played marimba in Albin’s band, the Musiconoclast’ Orchestra (and she often plays it in symphonies) so she is great. The sweet and talented Tohery Ravaloson comes from a very musical family from Madagascar, and was our kit drummer. Then Julien Marga on the guitar – really the first guitarist I’ve worked with that I hit it off with musically. He also speaks terrific English, so that was most helpful. We were to be joined at the dress rehearsal by an oboe (for No Borders), and two super sax players for the opener (Simon Autret) and for All I Want, (Philippe Leroy – the director of the music school!!) Albin had it all worked out and showed immense leadership, musicianship and responsibility through the whole thing.

I also had an immensely useful meeting with the jazz vocal teacher, Marine Ottolini, who had selected and prepared the students for the master class. Weeks before Albin had emailed me for what to write on the registration form for the class, and there the forms all were, in French, filled out, with the structure I had suggested, and the info I needed. Marine briefed me on the students’ levels and personalities, helped me to identify whom to work with first, and contributed greatly to the ultimate success of the class.

The following day, Friday 5/21, a week ago at this writing, we toured the music school, had a meeting with the director (Philippe Leroy), and met the Deputy Mayor of Lomme, which is where the school and the theater are located. Lomme is a municipality of Lille and is attached to Lille geographically. The Town of Lomme is the major donor to the School of Music and Dance of Lomme, which has 30 faculty members and hundreds of students from 5 years to 50 years old. The director, Philippe, has been in his position for 15 years and it is the fulfillment of his dream to open the door to music for those who would not normally have the chance. Instrument rent is something like 20 dollars A YEAR, they have several bands, private and small group lessons, a classical department, a jazz department, a dance studio, and a theater with lights attached to the school. We had an immediate meeting of the minds, took some photos together and were shown where the master class would take place the next day.

This was great because in the meantime, our pianist, John Florencio, had arrived with his partner Fred Belda. Fred flies with Air France, but luckily he was free to come along and ended up by being one of our official translators, so we were lucky to have them both. We used one of the practice rooms for a rehearsal with John, with whom I had not rehearsed since March in San Francisco. Our last act of the day was to visit the rehearsals of the youth band and the community big band, to whom Philippe wanted to present us.

All through these intense days of preparation we were sustained and taken care of by the Suffys family, for whom nothing is too much. I came to call them The Flying Suffys; in French Les Suffys Volants. The truest beauty of cultural exchange is in the relationships you form with the people you meet.

MASTER CLASS AND SHOW DAY, our subsequent radio interview and article in La Voix du Nord, and forecast for next year – in the next blog