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HARMONY

HARMONY 

There is something so viscerally satisfying about singing at the edge of range, and then holding notes or melodies against other singers holding theirs. Nothing compares. Nothing.

Last month at Sub Culture I was lucky enough to do a few duets with the extraordinary Jo Lawry and Tiger Darrow.

This month, NEXT WEEK in fact, September 18th I will have the exquisite joy of singing with Jo Lawry (Just back from her tour in Australia for her new record!) AND Anne-Marie Milazzo. (You might remember Annie from the Live IN New York DVD, above). Three part harmony is something like ecstasy.

I am again curating my little set-list. What about “God Only Knows?” OMG sublime with the three of us. “Landmine” - say no more; maybe “Because I Told you So.”

It’s hard to explain how speechlessly, deeply happy I am to be singing again. Ben Butler on guitar and Rich Mercurio, percussion/drums, of course will round out the bliss.

I Hope you can join us at SUB CULTURE NYC!

p.s.

And THEN, on the 21st I have the pleasure of returning to one of the most beautiful places on the planet: Bend, Oregon. Every time I’ve played in Bend has been dreamy. It is an unhurried, fresh-air-fresh-people place. I hope to see all my lovely Oregonian pals there!!

Cheers, 

JB

 

 

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ROUTINE SHMOUTINE

I am curating my little set list for my concert at SUB CULTURE. You’d think I’d never done this before!! I guess an Off-Broadway run is  a little different than a JBro evening, but I swear I’m tongue tied and nervous like a newbie.

But I’m the one who always says, “If I’m not terrified then why bother.” Medicine I will dutifully take! 

I am realizing that much got put on hold when I moved mom in in 2010. New record? nope. Touring? nope. Writing? Yes, but a very new kind, born of survival instinct - hence “4 Noses.” I keep forgetting that there IS finally a new record… Did you get yours? 4 NOSES THE RECORD!

But my old routine has been jumbled for four years now. I used to make a record, tour, write, rinse, repeat! Now every day brings a different assignment. I’m working on three new musicals, still chipping away at a larger book idea, and planning other cities for “4 Noses.”  So there is no routine. And like it or not, everything is speculative. The music business has changed drastically. From some decent digital revenue (I-Tunes was a great model while there were still people buying music) to none. Streaming is lovely and wicked convenient, but does little to sustain the life of the working musician.

Ok, so, onward. There are still great opportunities, stiff upper lip and all that. It is kind of funny that the left turn the universe threw me was Musical Theatre - probably the least stable alternative.

But I love my job. I get to write. I get to sing. I don’t know where the next paycheck will come from, but I do know I still have a lot to say, and I’m not done saying it.

So, I hope you can come to Sub Culture on August 14. I’ve invited some stellar musicians to join me…. Rich Mercurio, Ben Butler, Kate Spingarn, Gil Goldstein, Tiger Darrow, and Jo Lawry. What could be better than THAT??

I might try a new song. And I will delve deep into the archives for some old beauties.

Hope you can make it.
See you THERE.

jb

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Just a little singin’ goin on. With the dreamy Jo Lawry. Get your tickets for August 14. #chicksingerswhorule #subculture

Just a little singin’ goin on. With the dreamy Jo Lawry. Get your tickets for August 14. #chicksingerswhorule #subculture

SUB CULTURE AUGUST 14!

 

I am getting very excited about my SUBCULTURE gig in a couple of weeks! I decided after my “4 Noses” adventure, that until the next run of that show, and further workshops of the other three musicals I’m developing… well, a girl’s still gotta SING!!! I was getting a little homesick for my songs!

Hence the idea of a monthly gig here in the NYC.

Each month I want to focus on a different thing I love about my job.

So August? Harmony, complexity, the circus. My guests this first month will be Ben Butler on guitar, Gil Goldstein on accordion and keys, and Tiger Darrow on vocals and hopefully cello too. I want to re-visit a little of that vocal intensity from the early days, the story-telling of the circus trilogy, and a few more recent songs with a little bit of a different approach. I might even try something brand new from QUADROON. (courage)

I just can’t wait to play! I hope you can make it. TICKETS HERE

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The skinny on QUADROON

 

Finally, a weekend to take a breath and tell a little more about this summer’s project! Joe Sample and I are working on a new musical called QUADROON.

I’ve been back and forth to Houston, TX (Lord it’s hot and humid) for a few months now…. the culmination was a reading of QUADROON with the Ensemble Theater this past Saturday that allowed us to HEAR, in the air, and with strong rich voices… our work. It was a revelation. Joe and I are so proud of our new songs. And the actors rose to every challenge we threw their way.

I’d like to formally congratulate our talented cast, and crew, and give them their props!!

Shirley Whitmore                                          DIRECTOR

Marc Mantell                                                 BOOK WRITER

Joe Sample & Jonatha Brooke                      MUSIC AND LYRICS

JoAnne Davis-Jones                                       DRAMATURG

Cast:

Constance Washington                                 HENRIETTE DELILLE

Brandon Delagraentiss                                 GERARD TRISTAN

Sean Patrick Judge                                        ETIENNE ROUSSELON

Crystal Rae                                                     BETSY, SISTER MARIE, PROSTITUTE

Andrea Boronell                                            POUPONNE

An’Tick                                                           JULIETTE, PROSTITUTE

Kendrick “Kay B” Brown                              FATHER ANTOINE, DR. ROBERGE,                                                                                       NARRATOR, STAGE MANAGER     

Damian Harris                                               SOUND

Josh Smith                                                      REHEARSAL PIANIST, COPYIST      

QUADROON tells the story of Henriette DeLille, a free woman of color who lived in New Orleans (1813-1862) Her mother was a quadroon, married - in the common law manner to which many beautiful light skinned black women were - to a wealthy white merchant. Henriette was expected to enter into the same system of “placage.”

She had other ideas. From a very early age, Henriette felt called to care for the poor, sick, orphaned, the slaves for whom there was no safety net. And this calling was from God. She wanted to be a nun. Obviously at that time there was no way the Catholic church would recognize a black woman as a Sister.

So Henriette founded her own informal Sisterhood. Originally called Sisters of the Presentation, the Vatican finally recognized her work and her devotion in 1867 when the name was changed to Sisters of the Holy Family. The Sisters started an orphanage, a home to care for the elderly, and a network of Catholic schools in the Southwest between Louisiana and Texas. And it’s in the Sisters’ school in the fifth Ward of Houston, Texas where Joe first started to hear of Sister DeLille’s Holy work.

For the last 16 years, Joe has made it his mission to tell her story, and to involve the larger community in bringing about her canonization. She is, as we speak, in the final stages of the process in Rome.

And so, our musical. Enter Rousselon, a French Priest sent from Lyon to New Orleans to help with the Catholic mission there. He struggles with his faith, and purpose, and his feelings for Henriette. Gerard, a childhood friend, is the local “mover and shaker” - also in love with Henriette. And of course, there is Henriette, steadfast despite the racism of the time, plaçage, slavery, the hypocrisy of the Catholic church.

All set against the backdrop of turbulent, and exotic pre-civil-war New Orleans. Needless to say, it’s DEEP!!!

I can’t wait to bring it to the next level.

jb

                       

                                    

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My amazing QUADROON team. Workshop #1? Fabulous. Inspiring. Thank you ALL. #henriettedelille #quadroon #ensembletheater

My amazing QUADROON team. Workshop #1? Fabulous. Inspiring. Thank you ALL. #henriettedelille #quadroon #ensembletheater

Hamburg

Hamburg. What a beautiful city. And I got three days there. My rock star pal Johannes Strate (Revolverheld) was working on a gorgeous version of my song: “I’ll Try” for a Disney compilation coming out in Germany in September. He made a duet out of it, so I got to sing with him. Well, I think it’s beautiful. It’s such a thrill to hear someone you adore and admire singing one of your own songs.

Then Wednesday night was the 5th anniversary of “Feels Like Home” - it’s the concert series that Johannes and his partner Dannie Quilitzch created to bring artists together in front of a new audience, and raise money for music education. Magic.

Five years ago, Ian Axel showing up with just his ukelele. (His luggage got lost somewhere in the Heathrow Vortex)

He had just written “Say Something.” He sang it for the first time that night. I was gutted. The rest is history.

This year I was lucky to share the stage with Kat Frankie (brilliant) and Jonas David (divine)

Equally gutted. Johannes and Dannie know how to choose the artists with the hearts and souls that translate the world for me. THANK YOU.

  

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Joe is a Genius

Where did May go? It’s true, I jumped from one moving train to another. We wrapped “4 Noses” at the Duke on 42nd Street and I got right to work with Joe Sample on songs for our new musical QUADROON. We’ve got a reading coming up in July with the Ensemble Theatre Company in Houston, so… “All Aboard.”

I’ve been back and forth to Houston (help me Jesus it’s hot and humid there.) And I am so excited about this work. Joe just slays me. The minute I think he’s burned out and we need to call it a day? He comes up with the most soulful, to die, rip your heart out melody and pushes me to my most soulful, ripped out heartful lyrics.

I am indeed a lucky girl. Joe? Genius!

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Tycho Brahe’s Noses

So I’ve been catching up on a few things that fell by the wayside during the run of “4 Noses.” Yesterday I got a check-up with my doctor, and was telling her a little bit about the show.

"Oh my goodness, that’s so funny because my nine year old is obsessed with this guy who had four noses - Tyco B____… I’ll have to ask her. He lost his nose in a duel or something. Apparently he had gold, silver, brass noses - each for different occasions. She’s been doing all this research and a report for school."

 

I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this guy! Sure enough I googled ‘Tyco four noses,’ and there he was: Tycho Ottesen Brahe, Danish, 1546 - 1601; "The first competent mind in modern astronomy to feel ardently the passion for exact empirical facts." (Exactly what I struggle with in the play!)

Apparently, he lost the bridge of his nose in a duel with a third cousin over a mathematical formula. Since neither could prove they were right, the duel was to settle it. Tycho lost his nose. He made up with the cousin a few weeks later, but from then on wore prosthetics attached with paste or glue.

The facts about his death are a little inconclusive. Mercury poisoning seemed likely from all the metal noses. Then there was some suspicion of foul play. But there was also an excruciating kidney incident shortly before he died: Banquet, Prague, no polite way to excuse himself to pee, Uremia.

After Danish Scientists exhumed him from his tomb in Prague and did more tests, (2012) they ruled out murder and mercury. Tycho Brahe died from a burst bladder. Exact. Empirical. Ow.

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I’m Trepid Joseph

My mother’s poems still surprise me, I am finding her very essence in them.

Today, it’s “Each Joseph:”

Each Joseph

Intrepid Joseph, far from home, hated by

brothers who had cast him in a pit, taken

his coat of many colors, sold him into slavery –

this youngest brother still refused to hate.

Perhaps we too, with spiritual certainty, can learn

to trust in God’s design, deliverance, and love. Our

Father’s grace will keep grim moments and uncharted

journeys free, revealing sure and tender ways He

speaks to everyone and leads us safely home….

Darren Stone

Late into our first fall together, the white space around her poems started bothering her. She would cut and cut and cut to within millimeters of the edge of each stanza. She would pull pages out of books of others’ poetry, even her beloved hymnal, and then slowly trim them down. One day she even started ripping the photos and remembrances out of her wedding album before we could protest.

This was just one of our devastating “new normals.” Why would mom destroy those pictures, that beautiful handbound book? The hymnal that was her comfort?

I wondered, as I did during much of her descent: “What is it that she sees? What is it that she needs?”

Maybe it was that she wasn’t able to create anew. But “editing” was something she could still do, - the actual physical changing of the space and words a literal way to satisfy.

We joined her. Chopping poems, re-typing and re-printing ones that upset her. Changing words that no longer felt right to her. I started printing her poems on colored paper, thinking the margins wouldn’t be so shocking, that the colors would make the work feel new and exciting.

Yesterday I found the carefully cut, pasted, cut-some-more, scotch-taped, amended, and stickered “Each Joseph.” She’d even colored in the bits of white sky that peeped through the purple on the bit of postcard she’d collaged in.

Of course she’d added: “Please return this if it doesn’t appeal.” (Ever prepared for rejection)  

 

But I hadn’t noticed her addition at the top until today:

"I’m trepid Joseph, Far from home."

Only my mother, my beautiful demented mother would have come up with that. Still trying to find her way home, still playing with the words she lived for.

 

 

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