Conference Call: Migguel Anggelo and Grace McLean: "The Songbook of The Americas"
After a successful 10-city Russian tour in 2016, my friend and acclaimed Downtown performer Migguel Anggelo returns this year with his very special guest actress-singer-writer-teacher Grace McLean (The Great Comet of 1812), as a cultural attaché under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State. Together they are bridging the gap between countries, people, and cultures with their international Russian tour The Songbook of the Americas, a mashup of the music from The Great American Songbook with iconic songs of the Latin Americas written within the same time period.
With just two stops left, Thursday, Mar 1 at Saratov Philharmonics, Saratov & Saturday, Mar 3 at Jazz Philharmonic Hall, St. Petersburg, this has been one whirlwind tour that started on February 12!
After the tour concludes, you can catch Migguel & Grace working on solo projects here in the US.
Migguel Anggelo returns to Joe's Pub with his acclaimed show So Close: Love & Hate on March 28 and April 4 at 7:00 PM. Click here for tickets and watch our 2017 interview to find out more about this show!
Grace McLean and Them Apples will be performing at The Sheen Center on Friday, April 20 at 7:30 PM. Come hear some original tunes & covers in an evening of great music! Click here for tickets!
1. This February & March you are touring Russia together under the auspices of the U.S. State Department with your concert The Songbooks of the Americas, a dynamic evening that parallels the music of The Great American Songbook with iconic songs of the Latin Americas that were all written within the same time period. What similarities do you notice between The Great American Songbook & the iconic songs of the Latin Americas? What's the biggest difference between songs?
Migguel Anggelo: For me, both the American and Latin songs are very contagious -- whether a ballad, a bolero or a classic song from the States, they stay with you. For example, "When I Fall in Love" by Victor Young and Edward Heyman is so beautiful and powerful, but so is "Besame Mucho" by Consuelo Velasquez. The only real difference to me is language, but that doesn't really matter because the sentiment is real. I mean, we are in Russia where the majority of people don't understand English or Spanish, but they feel these songs.
Grace McLean: I think what we're trying to demonstrate through this program is that the music from these different cultures, written at the same time, speak to each other in a really delicious way. It's especially in the rhythms that you can hear the distinction in style, and we have had a lot of fun playing with that - doing songs from The Sound of Music with Latin rhythms is perhaps surprising, but this asks you to hear the music in a new way.
2. How did you two decide to tour together?
Migguel Anggelo: Our mutual friend Mary McBride who has performed many a State Department tour herself introduced us, thinking we would be great on stage together. Of course, I was blown away when I saw Grace on Broadway in Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812, and I thought, damn, what an incredible voice and presence! It's an honor and joy sharing the stage with her and such incredible musicians here.
Grace McLean: Yes, Mary had the truly brilliant idea of introducing me to Migguel! Mary orchestrated a tour of Pakistan that my band did with the State Department a few years ago and I have been looking for a way to get back to this kind of work as an artistic ambassador. I was about to reach out to Mary actually to pitch her something of my own when she suggested I team up with Migguel! This has literally been a dream come true, as I've always been a casual Russophile, and I love working with Migguel! I'm humbled and honored to work with him and our group of incredible musicians, I'm always learning something new from them.
3. What has been the most fun about working together? What has been the biggest learning curve?
Migguel Anggelo: Grace is a brilliant collaborator, and it’s been fun to take this show from what could have been an elegant concert to a more theatrical experience. From costumes to movements, I am really proud of the energy we create together, and we laugh a lot. We joke on stage about being a little like Lucy and Ricky (Ricardo), but I hope our lunacy is as fun and infectious for the audience as it is for us when we are performing.
When you don’t know someone, it always takes a little time to learn their energy, their humor, their pace, but going on tour, you learn about a person much faster. That can either be awesome or well, less so. In this case, thankfully, it’s really awesome!
Grace McLean: Migguel has an infectious energy and I love being around him, on and off stage. And he's such a generous performer, not only giving everything he's got during the show, but also making sure he makes a special effort to interact with the new musicians we meet in each town on our tour. He makes a little family wherever we are! And YES, Migguel mentioned there'd be dancing when we first met, which is NOT my strong suit! But he was so patient with me, and we came up with some really lovely, totally doable moves that I think add an extra dimension to the program. It's not just about music, it's about the way the music literally moves you.
4. Of the songs being performed, which one speaks to you most and why?
Migguel Anggelo: I love all the songs, but as an actor, there are a few that I truly love to perform because they are like mini-plays in their own right. For example, "Balada para un Loco" by Astor Piazzolla is a wild song in which a crazy man is let go from the mental institution only to find that the "regular" folks he meets on the street are "crazier" than those that were in the hospital with him. As an encore, we do a version together of "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music as a cumbia. It's super fun, and Grace and I compete to see who can hit the highest note!
Grace’s rendition of “Moon River,” simply accompanied by piano gives me (and the rest of the audience) goosebumps.
Grace McLean: I love watching Migguel perform "Besame Mucho" because it's a song the Russian people love, and he gets to flirt with the crowd every night. If the audience isn't already in the palm of his hand, they are begging to be after this song! One of my favorite songs to sing is "Summertime" because it's a moment where I get to really play vocally - I have a whole scat section that ends up being wildly different every night, depending on how I'm feeling, who's playing with us, how the band feels behind me...it's a moment of pure freedom and joy!
5. Considering our political climate here in America with all the Russia investigations going on, how do you feel this concert tour could help bring people together or bridge the gap between our divisions?
Migguel Anggelo: Collaborating with Russian orchestras and conductors, performing for people across Russia, we are reminded again and again that art and music transcend political systems and idealogical differences. At the end of the day, we are not all that different. We all love music.
Grace McLean: I completely agree with Migguel. Music IS the universal language, it's something we all understand. When we use music to collaborate cross culturally, as we do with this program, it's easy to hear how we all desire and deserve the same things.
More on Migguel:
Migguel Anggelo is breaking barriers on the American stage, creating unique works that are reflective of the multicultural, multi-lingual, changing demographics of our country and times. The Brooklyn based, Venezuelan born artist began his career at 13 as "Pinocchio" in a South American touring production of the Broadway musical. He trained for a dozen years in classical ballet, studied voice at the Conservatory of Music in Cologne, Germany, has written music throughout all of his journeys as an immigrant in several countries, and has released two albums, the most recent being La Casa Azul (co-written/produced by musical director, Mau Quiros and mixed by Grammy Award-winner Felipe Tichauer).
In addition to performing on many of the world’s greatest stages including Teatro Teresa Careño in Caracas, Venezuela; Teatro Insurgentes in Mexico City; Teatro Lola Membrives and Teatro Gran Rex in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and The New World Center in Miami, Florida, Migguel performs regularly at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater in New York City. His works include, So Close: Love & Hate, Another Son of Venezuela, I, Inmigrante, and Between Dreams. Another Son of Venezuela was developed at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia as part of a theater residency program. In the summer of 2016, Migguel Anggelo and the Immigrants performed a ten-city concert tour of Russia as a cultural attaché under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State and will be returning again this year.
The collaborative trio of Anggelo, Quiros and Drake are currently at work on two new music-theater projects, the first titled: The Suitcase Project, was developed in part during a BRIClab Residency at BRIC (Brooklyn, NY). The Suitcase Project explores issues of Hispanic immigration and assimilation into the United States of today through original music, characters and theatrical storytelling, chronicling what we carry and discard in the quest to follow our dreams. The second, a piece called So Close: Love & Hate is a rich song cycle that includes an array of brand new compositions punctuated by Latin classics, American standards, Broadway, opera, and Björk. Migguel will be returning to Joe’s Pub for two nights this spring (March 29th and April 4th) to pour his lush voice and enormous soul into this intimate new show addressing divisiveness, humanity and hope.
Most recently, he explored what it meant to be a Latino member of the LGBTQ community in the sold-out one-man show, Welcome to La Misa, Baby. Swirling through a gallery of characters, Migguel responded to the Pulse Nightclub shooting by introducing us to the diverse array of multi-dimensional characters found in a gay nightclub, and showing us how sacred such a place can be.
More on Grace:
Called “electrifying” by The Huffington Post and “phenomenal” by The New York Times, Grace McLean is a multi-hyphenate actress-singer-writer-teacher on the rise. In addition to performing on Broadway (Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812), Grace also makes time for her acclaimed original music, both as a solo artist and with her band Grace McLean & Them Apples. With a sound that combines Regina Spektor's quirkiness, Nellie McKay's jazz sensibilities, Fiona Apple's irreverence, Kimbra's sass and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs' rhythm, Grace adds up to one beautiful weirdo. Manhattan User's Guide writes, "This pop and jazz singer writes seriously infectious melodies with seriously antic lyrics. Her voice can raise the roof, or she can slide off a note and break your heart,” and Stephen Holden of The New York Times says “Ms. McLean’s voice [is] a flexible instrument with unexpected reserves of power...Behind her playful adventurousness lies a well of passion.”
Grace was a headlining performer and vocal instructor at the SingStrong a cappella festivals in DC and Chicago in 2014 and in 2015 her band participated in a US State Department sponsored tour of Pakistan. Grace McLean & Them Apples headlined the Lincoln Center American Songbook in both 2015 and 2016, and Grace is the 2017 recipient of the Hunt Family Emerging Artist Award through Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Grace’s work as a performer and educator has taken her to Jamaica, Scotland, Italy, Croatia, Serbia and Pakistan. In New York, you can find her band at Joe’s Pub, 54 Below, Rockwood Music Hall, Ars Nova (where she developed the interactive concert experience Grace McLean: Lives in Concert), and the Museum of the American Indian, where they performed as part of a panel discussion on storytelling for The Economist’s 2012 Ideas Summit.
As a solo performer Grace has been seen at Lincoln Center, New York City Center, The McKittrick, BAM, the ACE Hotel (where she collaborates monthly with The Dance Cartel’s show OnTheFloor) and numerous other venues both uptown and downtown. She is also a frequent contributor to Obie winning investigative theater company The Civilians’ cabaret series Let Me Ascertain You. Grace has developed work at CAP21, SPACE on Ryder Farm, The Orchard Project, Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed, and her pop opera about 12th century mystic Hildegard von Bingen has been commissioned by Lincoln Center Theater. Grace released her newest EP in May 2015, featuring the single, and her first feature video, “Natural Disaster". The band will release a new full-length album in 2018.