Chamber Festival Co-Founder Hits A New Note|
The Gloucester Daily Times, Thursday, February 16, 2006
by Gail McCarthy
A cabaret songwriting-singing duo that includes a founder of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival will bring a show about "smart-alecky songs for serious times" to the West End Theater this weekend.
Composer David Alpher, who co-founded the Rockport festival and has gone on to found another in New York, has teamed up with wife, Jennie Litt, to present ... a show designed to showcase humor and satire in a cabaret setting...
Their original cabaret songs focus on the realities of surviving modern American living in the 21st century.
Alpher is known on Cape Ann as a composer of modern chamber music and a classical pianist. But this event showcases a new side of Alpher, who follows in the Tom Lehrer vein for this act "to the tune of a virtuoso piano."
"The duo tackles topics as diverse as the weaponization of space, the Food Network, driver-recognition technology, and the timeless mystery of weight loss, all with tongue held firmly in cheek," according to the theater's description of the show. "Alpher's sophisticated, tuneful, humorous – and decidedly un-classical – music embraces styles from jazz to blues to faux Elizabethan and beyond."
... The couple, who married in 2002, met while attending an eight-week residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire in 1999. Alpher focused on composing while Litt worked on writing fiction.
"At the time, I was singing avocationally, and the first time David and I got together, we were in his studio where he had a piano, and we sang the great standards like Gershwin and Cole Porter," Litt said.
"During the residency we did a cabaret show, and before we knew it, we were kind of a cabaret act," Alpher said.
From that meeting, both a relationship and a new path in music blossomed for the pair.
This is not Alpher's first appearance in musical theater. He served as musical director of Israel Horovitz's Gloucester Stage Company for more than a decade, from 1985 to 1996.
"I've always had a foot in the musical theater world, but I never participated in a cabaret act before unti I met Jennie," Alpher said. "This is exciting, and it's a lot of hard work, but it is work that is fun."
... The couple also created a work song for people who operate small home-based businesses or who telecommute.
"Sailors have their sea shanties and cowboys have their 'home-on-the-range' songs, and now here's a song for the telecommuter who never sees anybody," Litt said.
Litt has taken a sabbatical of sorts from fiction writing, but she now pursues her writing through the creation of lyrics while Alpher composes music.
The couple lives in the Hudson Valley, about two hours north of Manhattan in a community called Stone Ridge, now the home of the Chamber Arts Festival of Marbletown.
Alpher and Litt have performed throughout the Northeast, with appearances at Bard College, the Albany Institute of History & Art, the People's Voice Café in New York City, the MacDowell Colony and the Chamber Arts Festival of Marbletown with Jay Ungar and Molly Mason.
Alpher's last performance on Cape Ann was in 2001 at the 20th anniversary of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. He was in Rockport last December for the town's annual tree-lighting ceremony, which also marked the 20th anniversary of "Christmas in Rockport" which was composed 20 years ago by Alpher and Dorothy Stoffa, who wrote the lyrics.
He and Litt will perform next June at the Rockport festival when they will compare the songs of Rodgers and Hart with the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
"What's particularly newsworthy about this appearance by David is that he's working in a whole new genre–cabaret," resident Dianne Anderson said. "This 'popular' side of David is a side that Cape Ann residents have only glimpsed before."
Eleanor Hoy of Rockport, who first became acquainted with Alpher through ... the chamber music festival, said she is thrilled at his continued musical compositions.
"When I think of David, he usually has a smile on his face, and then I am reminded that he has a wonderful, quirky sense of humor. Since we knew each other best in the early, sometimes harrowing days of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, it is a pleasure to see him now, happy with Jennie, busy, productive, and working hard with a new chamber music festival in New York as well as putting together these cabaret performances."