Christmas in New York is like nothing else! And finally…after almost three years in a pandemic, it feels like the magic is back. That magic is in large part due to the Broadway community and its amazing artists. If you read this blog regularly, you will know that one of “Un-Block the Music’s” favorite performers is Eric William Morris. I was excited to see that this star of King Kong is part of the Arts Ignite Concert at Joe’s Pub, Monday December 12 at 7 pm.
This is the 13th year for this benefit concert. It has been conceived, produced, and music directed by Drama Desk-nominated orchestrator Lynne Shankel (Cry-Baby, Altar Boyz, Allegiance, Perpetual Sunshine and the Ghost Girls ) and directed by Laura Brandel. Lynne told “Un-Block The Music” that after Cry Baby closed on Broadway, her creative juices were flowing and she wanted to work on new arrangements of standard songs What could be better than working with well-loved Christmas songs? Lynne thought about doing a benefit concert. The perfect recipient was ASTEP (now Artists Ignite). Her friend, famed Music Director Mary Mitchell Campbell (Mean Girls, Some Like It Hot) founded that organization.
Arts Ignite teaches young people to think like artists, helping students develop skills that will serve them throughout their lives. As described on the Arts Ignite website, teaching artists lead communities of young people through arts-rich learning and experiences in varied genres like theater, dance, painting, improvisation, songwriting, videography, photography, and more.
Lynne decided ASTEP’s mission aligned with her goals and the first annual benefit concert was born at NYC’s Zipper Theater in 2008. Sh-K-Boom Records released the “New York City Christmas” album featuring Lynne’s new arrangements sung by concert performers that included Lindsay Mendez, Raul Esparza, Sierra Boggess, Lauren Pritchard and so many more. That album will be available for purchase at the concert.
Since that first release there have been three additional songs available for purchase including “All I Want For Christmas Is You” recorded by Telly Leung, “I Got All I Need (This Christmas)” by Lindsay Mendez and Derek Klena and an R&B spin on the poem “Twas The Night Before Christmas” performed by Aurelia Williams, Kenita Miller and Alice Lee. All are on the Yellow Sound label.
In addition to Eric William Morris, performers announced for the December 12th concert include: Soft Power’s Alyse Alan Louis (who by the way is Eric’s wife), Gerard Canonico (Be More Chill, Almost Famous), Kayla Davion (Tina Turner, King Kong), Chester Gregory (Sister Act, Crybaby, Hairspray), Marina Kondo (KPOP, Frozen), Claire Kwon (Almost Famous) , White Girl In Danger), Lauren Marcus (Be More Chill, White Girl In Danger), Melody Madarasz (HoT), Isabelle McCalla (The Prom, Aladdin), Cheeyang Ng (Eastbound), Diane Phelan (School of Rock, Here Lies Love), Zachary Noah Piser (KPOP, Dear Evan Hansen), Sally Wilfert (Assassins, Trevor: A New Musical), Lindsay Roberts (The Phantom of the Opera), Samantha Williams (Caroline, or Change), Ashley Wool (How to Dance in Ohio), Iain Young (Mean Girls), Tony-award nominee Elizabeth Stanley (Jagged Little Pill, Crybaby, Company), and more!
All proceeds from tickets and album sales go to supporting Arts Ignite. Even if holiday music is not “your thing,” you can still donate to the organization. Check out their website at https://artsignite.org/.
Get concert tickets here: https://publictheater.org/reserve/reserve?productionseasonNumber=46430&performanceNumber=46431).
“Un-Block The Music” also talked to Eric about his album, “Do You Understand” which was released in March. His approach to the pandemic shutdown was to tap into his songwriter/rocker side. His interest in being a musician started young! By age 14 he was already playing in bands. While theater has been his focus for the last several years, thre songwriter in him is dynamic still! I thought I would just tease readers with this story, as Eric has a lot of exciting news to tell. Check out the blog next week for more about his album and his upcoming projects.
Lynne, will also have some exciting news to share. If you don’t subscribe to this blog, follow it now, and you will be emailed as soon as I post a new story. (Scroll down and hit “follow” on the right bottom of the screen.)
In the meantime, for more fun reading, check on past blog posts about Eric and Lynne.