Crossing Over

performed by: Tom Bogdan
piano: Harry Huff
directed by: Terry Creach
featuring works by: Ricky Ian Gordon, Meredith Monk, Chris DeBlasio, Tom Bogdan, Donald Ashwander, Richard Hundley

Performance Schedule:
January 3rd - 13th
Thursday - Saturday 10:00pm
Sunday 5:30pm
The Club
New York Times Review January 8, 2002

CROSSING OVER is a new music theater cabaret with Tom Bogdan (vocals) and Harry Huff (piano), directed by Terry Creach. The title of the show has a double-meaning. On one hand, it refers to that new hybrid genre of the American art song which "crosses over" the boundaries of classical music and the best of pop and musical theater. On the other hand, it contrasts the two sides of our post-9/11
minds: the side which is heightened by patriotism and fear, and the side which embraces the precious dullness of our everyday lives. Tom Bogdan is a pioneer of "cross over" singing. His concerts have also been considered definitive works in the application of the gay sensibility to music.

Commentary on our state of mind since the terrorist attacks is inevitable, and this evening aims to provocatively juxtapose our media-driven, heightened emotions with our longing for "normal" existence. Throughout, Bogden will move through differing kinds of 9/11 imagery. "Crossing Over" develops the notion of our heightened awareness of the gap between " media reality"--where nothing seems to matter beside war and terrorism--and the fact that we seem to struggle on, with out meager loves, health concerns and overdue bills. The evening culminates with Meredith Monk's "New York Requiem," which was originally written in response to the AIDS crisis which seems to be most pertinent now after the losses at the World Trade Center.

Bogdan received a Bessie Award as a member of Meredith Monk's Vocal Ensemble and has appeared as soloist with opera companies, choruses, symphony orchestras and at music festivals throughout the USA. He is on the faculty of Bennington College and has recorded on ECM, Electra, Catalyst, Columbia, Vox Premier and Turnabout Records. He has previously explored the unique niche of cross over singing in his eclectic cabaret show as well as two theater pieces, "Tell Me the Truth About Love" and "L'Amour Bleu." Both were presented by Danspace Project in NYC and the last, subtitled "a gay celebration of love in song," is offered on CD.

Bogdan was a fairly conventional legit singer until his musical life was "re-invented" when he began working with Meredith Monk in 1990. Reviews of his classical career repeatedly attest to the sweetness and expressiveness of his voice and the vibrant color, drama and emotion he brought to the poetry he sang. Deborah Jowitt (The Village Voice), reviewing "Tell Me the Truth About Love," called the work "a recital shaped with rare sensitivity into a theater piece" and Bogdan "more than a fine tenor. He shapes a song with body, soul, and subtle intellect."

Stephen Holden (The New York Times), reviewing a cabaret show by Bogdan at Horn of Plenty, chronicled the evolution of the singer as one who had made his name as a young Baroque singer and successfully located a "middle ground between the formal refinement of the Baroque aria and the more freewheeling, idiomatic manner of contemporary pop." He elaborated, "Endowed with a pure, quivering high tenor that shades into an even more ethereal countertenor, he turns pop songs into almost Baroque-style arias."

The La MaMa evening features compositions by Ricky Ian Gordon, Meredith Monk, Chris DeBlasio, Tom Bogdan, Donald Ashwander, Richard Hundley and others. Overall, the music will have a classical integrity and resonance with an immediate accessibility that crosses over musical boundaries and speaks easily to the heart and imagination as the best pop or musical theater.

Stephen Andrews (LGNY), reviewing the CD release of "L'Amour Bleu," called Bogdan "a unique talent who defies easy classification as a singer and performance artist," adding, "Certainly he's the only tenor I know of who can do Bach's 'St. Matthew Passion' one night, Peter Allen the next, and a Meredith Monk show the following evening." Distinguishing Bogdan from practitioners of too-familiar naive gay musical happenings, he wrote, "Naiveté is surely not a problem for Bogdan--his creation goes so far afield that he pretty much breaks the mold of gay performance art. He achieves this with a vivid imagination and the help of some of the big guns of musical creation ."

Pianist Harry Huff has been a long-time collaborator with Bogdan. He has also collaborated with many other celebrated and diverse performers including Jessye Norman, Haken Hagegard, Judy Collins, Meredith Monk, Bill T. Jones, Lar Lubavitch, Martha Schlamme, Al Hirt and Eleanor Steber. For two years he was pianist at the Oak Room of the Plaza, where he appeared with Joan Rivers and Barbara Streisand. He is also an acclaimed organist.

Director Terry Creach is a noted choreographer and artistic director of Creach/Company (formerly Creach/Koester), the company of six men he founded in 1980 with Stephen Koester. He previously staged Bogdan's "Tell Me the Truth About Love."

New York Times Review
January 8, 2002
by Anthony Tommasini

New Meanings in Old Songs, in Tribute to the Dead

The mixing of different artistic styles and genres is often taken as a sign of vitality. But there are pitfalls to this undertaking.

It's one thing when, say, opera composers bring elements of musical theater into their works, and vice versa. But too much stylistic mixing can result in amorphous works that lack clear roots and the grounding of a tradition.

Nevertheless, a new generation of American song composers, among them Ricky Ian Gordon and John Musto, have been merging elements of the art song, the musical theater song and the pop song in their works. In recent years the tenor Tom Bogdan has championed such songs. With his colleague Harry Huff, a pianist, and the director Terry Creach, Mr. Bogdan has put together a new music-theater cabaret show, "Crossing-Over," which opened on Thursday night at the Club at La MaMa, the storied East Village theater and cabaret still going strong at 40.

The title of "Crossing-Over," which runs through Sunday, has a couple of meanings, as Mr. Bogdan told the audience. On one level, he said, it simply describes a group of composers who "can't quite be categorized," whose songs aim to be "expressive, passionate and, especially, accessible." More important, Mr. Bogdan said, the title refers to the collective crossing over of a perceptual divide that we have all experienced since Sept. 11.

Suddenly songs Mr. Bogdan has sung for a long time spoke to him anew, he said, as presented in works by Mr. Gordon, Mr. Musto, his longtime colleague Meredith Monk and the gifted composers Chris DeBlasio and Richard Hundley. Their themes — heartbreak, loss, illness, prejudice, the struggles of gay relationships, the anxieties and routines of busy urban life, the balm of nature — did take on more resonance.

The show's concept was simple. Mr. Bogdan wanted to recreate the atmosphere of musical soirees at Mr. Huff's home. The piano was decked with photographs of friends and loved ones. Nearby was an old easy chair, a reading lamp, a small table also crowded with photographs, and a pile of rumpled newspapers on the floor.

Mr. Bogdan's program was intended as a tribute to friends who died over the years, some from AIDS, one who lost his life in the World Trade towers, even his cat, a companion for 20 years. As he told stories in between the 16 songs, he lighted candles and created a shrine of remembrance on the steps to the stage. This was clearly meaningful to him and no doubt to some members of the audience. But it also had the effect of turning the cabaret show into a sometimes maudlin memorial, for which criticism seems inappropriate.

Artistically, the format Mr. Bogdan devised for what was, in effect, a song recital, was interesting. Away from the protocols of the concert hall, the cabaret setting was an apt and pleasant place to hear works like Mr. Musto's "Litany," a wistful setting of a powerful Langston Hughes poem, and two beautiful songs by Mr. Hundley: a lilting, bittersweet setting of Robert Louis Stevenson's "For Your Delight" and a harmonically poignant love song to Kenneth Patchen's "Maiden Snow."

Though Mr. Gordon has ardent admirers, I find his work terribly uneven. In general he is best when direct, lyrical and unabashedly sentimental, as in "Will There Really Be a Morning" (Emily Dickinson) and "Luck" (Hughes). When he tries to use genres for irony or humor, he can be stiff and lame, as in "Coyotes" his tango-tinged setting of a Ray Underwood poem.

Mr. Bogdan has worked prominently as a tenor in Baroque and contemporary music ensembles, including Ms. Monk's, but his voice now seems somewhat worn. When he sings quietly, his sound is sweet and his words wonderfully clear. When he tries for power, his voice gets badly strained and patchy.

He deserves credit for offering an alternative way to experience art songs that cross styles. Ultimately, though, "Crossing-Over" is a deeply personal work, and that is also its limitation.

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