Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Josephine Sanges

Together – A Benefit Concert Ending NYC Pride Week


At the culmination of NYC Pride week, four 2017 MAC Award nominated vocalists: Celia Berk, Sally Darling, Josephine Sanges, Lisa Viggiano and the year’s winner, Meg Flather,  gathered at Don’t Tell Mama to present songs that reflected the times and title theme. Mutual admiration was pronounced. The concert benefited Trinity place Shelter LGBTQ Youth Programs.

Effectively opening off stage with Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run”, each vocalist introduced the next in a medley of songs rife with hopeful anticipation. (Except for the Gershwins’ “By Strauss.”) The room’s collective mood seemed to swell.

Josephine Sanges; Sally Darling

Josephine Sanges’ waltzy “Pure Imagination” (Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley) was joyfully sincere. Phrasing emerged like longlined skating. Even scat glided…twirled and giggled. An understated, utterly sympathetic “Take Me to The World” showed a different aspect of the vocalist’s interpretive talent. (Stephen Sondheim’s Evening Primrose) Hands at her sides, looking into our eyes, Sanges reached the audience. In complete contrast, John M. Cook’s original, unexpected arrangement of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” (Harold Arlen/ E.Y. Yip Harburg) …Oh we oh, huh oh oh…with snippets of other songs from The Wizard of Oz, brought out the jazz baby in full flower.

Sally Darling offered Noel Coward’s “20th Century Blues” in apt, deadpan tandem with “Strange Days” (Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman.) Darling is all vibrato, enunciating like an actress. …If you don’t like where we’re going/Honey, grab an oar and row…she sang. Right on. Kander & Ebb’s “What Would You Do?” and Sondheim’s awkward “Ah, But Underneath” were committed but confined-the performer shut out her audience.

Celia Berk; Meg Flather

Don Tucker’s very funny “French Song” was enacted by Meg Flather with flair. To hear the wry, ersatz French ride that lovely voice was a study in successful opposites. “Hush, Hush Hush”, a delicate song I found obscure out of context and “If”          (Paula Cole/David Gates), riding rapid, staccato piano in opposition to lyrics followed. Flather’s own, MAC Winning  number “Hold On Tight” (additional music John Mettam) bubbled over with good advice…Hold on tight/Breathe it in/Clear the mind of tomorrow…Sentiments were savored; octaves seamlessly shifted like tickling. Warmth flowed. With this last song, Flather looked back at her fans.

Despite a cold that added Lauren Bacall coloring to vocals, Celia Berk gave fine performances utilizing expressive parlando, innate skill with phrasing, and unabashed accessibility to the audience. Berk sang affectionate, well rendered geography songs with minimal, selective gestures. Her version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sand”, a highlight, was like watching musical monologue- eloquent, nuanced, and palpably fostered by an appealing ssss.

Lisa Viggiano

Lisa Viggiano swung two American Songbook numbers, after which she shifted gears to offer Tim Di Pasqua’s “Three’s A Charm”, written as outreach to GLBT’s anti-bullying campaign. The song was one of that were two simple, stirring, and emphatically on target. ….One-feeling lighter/Two-getting brighter/Three-feeling better…Viggiano sang wholeheartedly in the first verse. The audience provided vocal counting the second lilting time around. It felt like a benignly lead mantra.

The second of these heady numbers, performed by the company, was Ann Hampton Callaway/Michele Brourman’s “Love and Let Love,” …No one tells the sun not to shine/Or tells a flower not to grow…Trust the hand that made us/Just the way we are…Five voices melodically rose in moving support of brother/sisterhood that should’ve been piped over Times Square.

In my opinion, too many numbers did not fulfill the show’s stated intention. Though these were no less enjoyable, a premise had been set. Overall, the concert was entertaining and sometimes inspiring. Jeff Harnar’s unfussy, evocative Direction added craft and style.

This should be an annual event.

Opening Photo: Left to right Celia Berk, Josephine Sanges, Sally Darling, Meg Flather, Lisa Viggiano

2017 MAC Cabaret Award-Nominated Vocalists
A Benefit for Trinity place Shelter LGBTQ Youth Programs
With thanks to Sidney Meyer for donating the venue
Musical Director John M. Cook
Director- Jeff Harnar
Don’t Tell Mama   June 25, 2017
Venue Calendar

Josephine Sanges: To Ann (Hampton Callaway) with Love


Josephine Sanges has a superb voice. That, up till two years ago, she showcased her instrument only at church is something of a surprise. While gifted range and skilled control often dedicate themselves to higher power, Sanges’ s finesse with a world of lyrics describing seriously alternative experience and her facility with other genres are notable.

This show may also be a revelation to fans of Ann Hampton Callaway unfamiliar with her songwriting, but for a television theme song. (“The Nanny Named Fran.”) The author, who writes from the heart, is ably represented. Few artists could offer the material with these muscular vocals, jazz colors, and the clear-eyed spirituality underlying lyrics.

“Come Take My Hand” is a bossa nova. Sanges seems to sing above written notes. This iconoclastic style is rather unique and serves her well. “Music,” with Tom Hubbard’s very cool bass supplying vertebrae, has passages which soar (unstressed) like birds hitching rides on updrafts. Rhythm and mood are infectious.


The tandem “I’ve Dreamed of You” (Hampton Callaway with Rolf) and “I Gaze in Your Eyes” (Cole Porter with music by Hampton Callaway) are episodes of tenderness. Phrasing is eloquent. A small hand gesture and raised shoulder say it all.

“Two And Four” about “getting” jazz, is cleverly framed by Sanges beginning in her choir robe. With a little instruction by Pianist/MD John M. Cook and Hubbard (both wry), what’s operatic gradually gives way to accented, rhythmic swing: Goodbye to my square days/Cause I know the score/You do it on the two and four…The song ramps right into Irving Mills/Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing” replete with interjected hallelujah ! Sanges loosens up during this irrepressible tune.

“It’s All Right with Me” (Cole Porter) and Hampton Callaway’s “Bring Back Romance” are memorable for low key, distinctly original arrangements. Sanges savors feelings. The first elongates lyrics landing like a falling leaf. Piano is filigree. The second is evocatively breathy; bass pulses, piano flickers.


The beautifully rendered, palpably sincere, brotherhood ballad “At the Same Time” and “It’s Hip to Be Happy” buoyed by Cook’s background vocal, bass and scat, are demonstrably characteristic of Hampton Callaway. Sanges is appealingly carbonated.

“Perfect” ends the show backed by crystal wind chimes (piano) and bowed bass. Sigh.

Caveats: “Lady Be Good” (George and Ira Gershwin), custom designed for satin-swathed chorines, doesn’t for a moment sound like someone asking something of his/her lover. “Lullaby of Birdland” (George David Weiss/George Shearing), remarkable for its vocal, alas speeds by like a brakeless train, sacrificing attitude. On the one hand, sambas are just a tad heavy and too physically still. On the other, minimal gestures keep focus where it belongs; the lady has presence.

Josephine Sanges needs to learn to trust us. Numbers in which expression subtly emerges as personal stand out. Warm, economic patter somewhat compensates. With an instinctual toe in jazz, I anticipate her growing freer with riffs. A worthy, entertaining show by a talented newcomer, more savvy than her experience.

Original lyrics penned by MD/Pianist John M. Cook are seamless and clever, eschewing phrases of usually cloying appreciation (to the tribute subject)

All songs by Ann Hampton Callaway unless otherwise attributed.

Photos by Sheree Sano

Josephine Sanges: to Ann with love
Sunday February 19, March 12, April 28

Directed by Deb Berman
Don’t Tell Mama 
343 West 46th Street