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Julie London in Whitehorse

1 Nov

Jazz in the Hall, November 3, 2011

Tonight is the final rehearsal for the concert I’m giving at the Old Fire Hall on Thursday.  I am thrilled and excited and totally battling butterflies.

Once a month from September to May, Jazz Yukon holds “Jazz in the Hall”.  It starts with an “educational vignette” by Steve Gedrose (who used to have a jazz show on CBC radio), then there’s a 45-minute set by a professional local jazz group.  Then there’s a jazz jam to close off the night.  This month, I’m the featured act.

The butterflies are pretty significant because not only am I being billed as The Professional Act of the month, but the whole concert is going to be recorded and videotaped.  That ups the ante right there.  I’m trying not to think about it too much, though, and just focus on have a great live gig.

Fortunately, I have a fantastic band to back me up.  Dave Haddock on guitar, Anne Turner on upright bass, and Ken Searcy on drums, are an ah-MAZE-ing rhythm section.  Plus we’ll have Colleen McCarthy for a trombone solo on one tune and Lisa Preto on flute for another tune.

I am singing all Julie London tunes; she’s the one who first recorded “Cry Me a River”, which I recorded as a demo this past summer.  If you Google her, you’ll find YouTube videos, of course, and lots of pictures of her in all sorts of fabulous gowns.  I wish I could have a costume change between each song!

So, if you’re in Whitehorse, come on out to a great night of jazz.  If you’re not in Whitehorse, send some good vibes my way on Thursday night, would ya?

The music fills my life

25 Oct

It’s noon and I’m still in pajamas.  Jade is at school.  Halia smells of blueberry shampoo.  I’m thinking about my rehearsal tonight, the gala dinner I’m playing music for tomorrow, the piano students I’ll be teaching right before that, the logistics of getting changed and over to the venue, the e-mails I have to send about the music showcases I organized last week…

When I quit my job in June, I was looking forward to a more balanced life.  One where I could feel like I was doing a good job as a mother, but still have time to develop myself as a musician.

Blogging has taken a backseat because in the wake of shedding my employed life, a thousand music-related things have rushed in.  I have never played so many gigs, attended so many workshops, organized so many shows, as I have in the past three months.

I’m not complaining, I’m just sort of stunned.

As I’ve been telling friends, I apparently still need to learn how to say no once in a while.  I thought quitting my job was a huge “NO” to things that fill up my life, but I’m learning there are still NOs I need to say.  I’m so excited to have all this good stuff happening to me, but still need to realize I can’t do it all.  And after attending the BreakOut West conference this past weekend (Read about it here on my new music blog.  As an aside, I feel like I have to find a new voice for that…) I am feeling I need to pick up the blogging ball again.  I’ve missed it, you know.

So, raise your cup (coffee for me) and let’s drink to the idea of finding balance, finding the “right” mix of music and mothering.  I might never achieve it, but I’ll give it my darndest.

Fawn at Arts in the Park 2011

7 Jun

Arts in the Park, June 14, 2001, LePage Park, noon to 1. Featuring Fawn Fritzen with Marg Tatam on piano.  Hot vocal jazz in the summer sun.

Here’s one of the projects that is keeping me busy this month: rehearsing for a one-hour set at Arts in the Park next week.

Please keep your fingers crossed for good weather, as this is an open-air concert!  The show will go on, though, come rain or come shine.

Spread the word!  And if you’re in Whitehorse, I would love to see you there.

Following my star

16 Apr

I have news.

After weeks of stewing and chewing, mulling and waffling, I went to my boss on Friday and told him that I plan to leave my job this summer.

{Pause for thunderous applause}

Thank goodness, my boss is a real prince and managed to be both disappointed and warmly supportive at the same time.

I’ve talked here before about how thin I’ve been spreading myself.  How impossible it has been to balance parenting and work and still make time for my music.  I was so burnt out by the end of February, I had to use vacation days to reduce my work week just to make it manageable.  Something had to be removed from the equation.  (And parenting certainly isn’t an option!)

Over the past few years, I’ve gradually become more and more serious about developing myself as a musician, until suddenly I find myself straddling my old career path and a new one.  Singing has become such a huge part of my life that it isn’t optional if I don’t want lose an important piece of myself.

While I’ve struggled with the decision of whether to quit my nice secure government job, Michael has not.  He’s been staunchly supportive of the idea of ending my government employment and spending more time with the girls and on my music.  (Yes, I consider myself quite clever for marrying my #1 fan.)

Since I’ve talked to my boss about it, it’s suddenly become scarily real.  (Aaaaaaghhhhh!!!!)  But at the same time, I feel I’m doing the right thing.   And I know that I am tremendously lucky to be able to do that: to have my husband’s support, and also to feel that we’ll be able to handle it financially.

I remember my dad asking me, when I was finishing high school and trying to decide what to study, what my passion was.  For years I’ve been distressed that I couldn’t answer that question.  Now I can.

Photo by Christian Kuntz (

For the first time in my life, I am choosing to follow a dream, and not just what’s practical.  For the first time in my life, I am looking ahead at my career and feeling deliciously excited about the possibilities.  I’m not expecting fame and fortune; but to feel the rush and excitement and to follow my heart… that’s priceless.

Rockin the Casbah

17 Mar

I am so excited about the bellydance show I’m going to be in on Saturday!  Someday I would love to learn how to bellydance, but for now, I’ll settle for helping to provide the music.

Nita Collins, who is the teacher of Celebrations Bellydance school and the leader of the Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble, also happens to be the Big Band’s bari sax player.  For this show, she decided to combine her love of Big Band music with her love of dance.  I don’t have enough superlative adjectives to say how much fun the fusion is!

On top of playing piano with the Big Band for about half the dances in the show, I’ll be singing two songs.  I’d love to tell you what they are, but that’s top-secret.  I will say that they’re both beautiful tunes I adore, and I can’t wait to sing them.

Thank goodness I got the flu early enough to recover from it, right?

(Touch wood.)

New Year’s Eve at Tippler’s

6 Jan

How did you celebrate New Year’s?

Michael went out and did a winter camping trip on the night of the 30th, so he was happy to veg at home for a few hours on New Year’s Eve while I took my parents out.  The three of us hurried home to be with Michael before midnight and we toasted the New Year with sparkling wine, sparkling juice, jelly donuts, and deep-fried sesame balls, staying up and gabbing until the wee small hours.

But before all that, there was jazz.  Some friends of mine were playing jazz at Tippler’s that night and invited me out to sing a few tunes with them.  My parents hadn’t seen me perform jazz before, so I really wanted them to come out.  You see, sometimes real magic happens when you’re playing live with great musicians.

Jazz is, at heart, about improvisation.  In vocal jazz, the usual formula goes like this: the singer sings through the melody once or twice and then the instrumental musicians get to take over for a while.  They take turns, improvising and riffing over the basic structure of the tune, maybe using the original melody, maybe coming up with something totally different.  Then the singer comes back in.  And the singer can improvise, too.

Sometimes, playing with other musicians, stuff comes out of me that I never thought to do before, that I never would have thought of doing if I weren’t there, in that moment, playing off someone else’s energy, someone else’s groove.  Sometimes it comes out of the blue and leaves me breathless at the end.  And that’s what makes it all so exciting.

My dad took a couple of pics and videos from New Year’s Eve.  (Thanks, Dad!)  He didn’t catch any of my very favourite moments — they happen so randomly! — but I thought I’d share one video with you here.

(Can I also add how amazing cameras are at taking videos nowadays?  The video-taking conditions were truly less than ideal.)

I’m not doing anything spectacular here (I was totally concentrating on not flubbing all the words at the end because I decided to come back in with the German lyrics!) but there are some very cool moments in the instrumental solos.  Grant Simpson takes the first solo on piano.  (You can just see the top of his head behind the music stand for a couple of seconds.  The pianist always gets buried from sight…)  Steve Slade comes in next on harmonica.  (He is a harmonica god.  Too bad the camera’s pointing the wrong way during his solo!)  Finally, Duncan Sinclair solos on tenor sax.  And there’s Jon Heaton on the upright bass and Ken Searcy on drums.  A great group of guys and a great group of musicians.

Black Coffee

19 Nov

Michael’s been out of town for a week and I am feeling the effects.  I don’t drink my coffee black, but I do like it strong, and this past week it has been the sorry saviour in my life.  And I serenade the sweet, sweet, drink at the end of this post.  No wait, I guess it’s not sweet if it’s black.  Whatever.

Here’s a quickie update on the week past.

Halia had her birthday last week and we had a wonderful day.  I wanted to write a post about the incredible little person she is, because she is an impish ray of sunshine who deserves a thoughtful post dedicated just to her.  But we spent the whole day being together as a family and then the next day Michael left and well, there you have it.  Sorry, sweetheart!  I’ll make it up to you in hugs and kisses and letting you walk up the wall, since that’s one of your favourite things to do.

Jade had an eye-opening visit with an audiologist — wait, is that an oxymoron?  Anyway, she has failed a couple of hearing tests (just in one ear) in the past two months, and this week she saw an audiologist who determined her hearing is normal (or it was on that day, anyway) but there was, despite no sign of infection, fluid in her middle ear.  We’re going to test her again in a few weeks, but it looks like the fluid might be a chronic problem that gets worse whenever she gets a cold, which currently is monthly because she’s being reintroduced into a school environment.  This might shed some light on her motor / balance issues and possibly some things going on with her speech, as well.

I went to a lunch information session at the Child Development Centre to talk about transitioning Jade into Kindergarten next year.  I won’t lie, ya’ll, I am petrified.  Nobody here has ever seen a child with Jade’s particular needs before.  How are we going to make this work?  I am repeating to myself Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous proclamation: “You must do thing you think you cannot do.”

Then there’s my birthday tomorrow.  32!  I’ve always loved birthdays, particularly as an excuse for a party.  I haven’t had one in years, though (parties, that is, ahem) so this year I’m breaking the drought by having a brunch with friends on the weekend.  Most of them have kids around Jade and Halia’s age.  I’d really have liked to do a music jam type party, but the logistics of having an evening party when we have kids who have early bedtimes just made my brain melt, so having a kid party is much more realistic.

Anyway, wow, this post wasn’t supposed to be this long.  How did you make it this far?  Wasn’t the whole point of this post to show you a video?  Yes!  Actually, I also wanted to tell you, half-sheepishly, that I now have a fan page on Facebook.  (Go ahead.  “Like” it.  You know you want to!) And tonight I thought I would upload, at long last, a short clip from my gig at The Capital Hotel way back in February.  But Facebook wouldn’t let me upload the darn thing, so I’m posting it here, instead.

As I say on the YouTube description, it’s interesting to watch this video and realize that I’ve done a lot to improve in the last nine months.  But anyway, it’s a taste of the jazzy-type stuff I’m totally obsessed with these days.  To the huge detriment of my sleep.  (And necessitating yet more coffee.)

(Props go out to the lovely and amazing Annie Avery on that one grand piano, and the fabulous and always-charming Grant Simpson on that there other one.)

Oh look, it’s my birthday now!  Um, I think that means I should go to bed.