After 21 shows in 12 days (whew!) to benefit a worthy outreach program, Urban Stages traditionally ends its annual Winter Rhythms Festival with a show called From All of Us to All of You: Seasonal Songs and Disney Too. One might think holiday songs would be presented with Disney numbers centered on love, brotherhood and friendship. Instead, subject matter is unnecessarily all over the map. Piano, unless noted, Daryl Kojak.
Stephen Hanks opens the evening with its Jiminy Cricket title song and a bit of lighthearted, ersatz dance. (Piano Mathew Martin Ward.) Later, he presents a spirited “Have Nagilia.” In a more original vein, Karen Gross delivers Tom Toce’s wry, crossover “Shalom Santa” as the daughter of “a lapsed Catholic and a cultural Jew.” Gross imbues the lyric with vexation and irony, but vocally pushes a bit too hard.
Stephen Hanks, Sandra Bargman, Billie Roe
Stephen Sondheim’s beautiful “I Remember” (Evening Primrose) is ably rendered by Sandra Bargman who wraps herself in melancholic longing, palpably excavating each vision. The vocalist seems to have slipped the word Christmas into her lyric. Billie Roe performs a version of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” with impeccably wicked characterization. Attributable to the witch in Little Mermaid, the song couldn’t be further from anything seasonal. (Piano Mathew Martin Ward.)
Sarah Rice introduces a lovely, lilting medley from Bedknobs and Boomsticks and Snow White quoting songwriter Robert Sherman’s* modus operandi: “to help children be good, productive people and to have hope,” establishing something of a reason for inclusion. Rice’s familiar timbre and skilled soprano do the songs justice. (Piano and effectively echoing backup vocal Matthew Martin Ward.)
Sarah Rice, Joshua Lance Dixon, Gabrielle Stravelli
Charlotte Patton imbues “He’s A Tramp” (Lady and The Tramp) with easy swing and low key flirt. Carly Ozard’s “Perfect Isn’t Easy” (Oliver and Company) displays a big warm voice and contralto bark. Gabrielle Stravelli’s “If I Were a Bell”/ “Jingle Bells” mash-up is a musical stretch, but adroitly rendered by the excellent performer.
Also featuring: Renn Woods’ laudably controlled gospel/R & B (deft piano Michael Raye), Joshua Lance Dixon’s sympathetic “Proud of Your Boy” (Aladdin), Jeff Macauley who still needs to take it down, enthusiastic, Hechter Ubarry, over expressive tenor Blake Zolfo, Marieann Meringolo’s reverent “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, Daryl Kojak’s jazz instrumental of “Silent Night”, Rosemary Loar straddling American Songbook and Jazz, Rob Davis with a classic medley that should’ve ended the evening.
Mary Sue Daniel’s’ “I’m Flying,” from television’s 1960 Peter Pan rather than the Disney version (!?) destroys every bit of soaring exuberance with an inexplicable interpretation oblivious to lyrics or context.
Photos by Maryann Lopinto
*Most classic Disney songs were written by brothers Robert Sherman and Richard Sherman
2017 Urban Stages Winter Rhythms Festival presents
From All of Us to All of You: Seasonal Songs and Disney Too
Producer/Host- Stephen Hanks
Musical Director- Daryl Kojak
December 23, 2017
259 West 30th Street
Conscience is hard work. So, don’t blame Jiminy Cricket, or Pinocchio, or even Walt Disney if you haven’t heard a small voice telling you exactly the choice to make in a situation where there is likely more than one answer. Turns out it’s up to you.
The good news is that you have everything you need to recognize and make the right choice when confronted with sometimes competing options. And when that happens, conscience gets the last word.
Popular culture recently gave us a couple of reminders of that truth in the just-ended year. The 2016 Mel Gibson film Hacksaw Ridge told of a soldier who, for reasons of his faith, refused to carry or use firearms, and went on to become the first conscientious objector to be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor for service above and beyond the call of duty. In another example occurring on December 19, 2016, a member of the U.S. Electoral College departed from his predictable script and chose not to vote for the candidate he was expected to name. Presumably the judgment of conscience occurred because of information observed, discovered, or revealed after being named an elector, but before having to act by casting a vote. Both examples show us what is meant by the phrase “a resolved conscience.”
The road begins with recognizing that conscience is a judgment. It’s the decision you come to when you’ve looked at the various sides of a question, weighed the evidence, consulted the experts whose opinions carry weight, including your own beliefs and principles. It comes about as the result of a process not unlike what happens in a court room. Depositions are gathered. People tell of what they have seen or experienced, or read or studied, of how it looks or looked to them. Analyzing all that varied input, all the parties of the trial go to work to make a case for what they are presenting, what at that point they believe is the truth of a situation. How it really is, versus how it looks on the surface.
That’s not as easy or automatic as it sounds. It takes some courage, maybe a jot or two of humility. I’m hoping I’m not the only one who tends to listen most carefully to the people, the media, the preachers, the pundits who agree with my current or favorite point of view. A piece of advice I read at the time or our recent (interminable) campaign and elections came as a happy illumination. Make sure not to isolate yourself from “the other point of view.” Listen respectfully and let it add a dose of honesty to your own. You don’t have to adopt it as your own, but it will help you resolve your own conscience so that it includes respect for those who come down on a different side of an issue. So in those battlefield scenes or in that gathering at a state’s designated voting place, we can take it that there were serious differences of opinion that made individuals take different paths, both or all choices made in “good faith.” Individuals weighed similar evidence and reached different resolutions.
That process of resolving is a key ingredient of a judgment of conscience you can trust. Unless and until you come to that key point of “resolution” you’ll be standing on shaky ground. An unresolved or doubtful conscience can’t support a good, ethical or moral decision. Or think of it this way: you want to get to the top shelf of the bookcase or the highest shelf in the closet. As you plan your path, would you want to count on a one-legged ladder? You tell me. That’s why the experts on ethics warn that a doubtful or unresolved conscience can never lead to a morally acceptable path to action. If the process of an honest look at the evidence leaves you with a “maybe,” you proceed at your own risk.
Two other bits of wisdom about conscience are the “two Cs.” If you want to be guided by your conscience, don’t copy and don’t condemn. Nobody else’s conclusions or resolutions can provide you the support you need. And don’t be quick to conclude that another person’s or group’s honestly resolved conscience should be discounted or disrespected.
With all due respect for Jiminy Cricket, each one of us is equipped to be a much more successful, supporting actor in our own life stories. No charming insect on our shoulders. But a really authoritative voice. So, farewell, Jiminy. Hello, the voice of conscience we are prepared to tune up by a lot of hard, rewarding work that delivers peace of mind and the courage of our own well considered convictions.
Top photo from Bigstock.