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- British-born / New York City-based artist Anna Dagmar cites influences including Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel and Leonard Bernstein. Dagmar is an Eastman School of Music graduate, a Gold Prize Winner in the Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest, a Kerrville New Folk Finalist and a member of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. This summer (2012), the NYC-based pianist, arranger and singer-songwriter released a new album, "Satellite", produced by Ben Wittman and featuring Marc Shulman, Lucy Kaplansky and Natalia Zukerman.
Loved performing at Caffe Lena w/Connor Garvey and Dean Batstone. We each played solo sets then an in-the-round of original songs. Really fun to jam on each other’s tunes. I decided to include a little classical with Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu. We closed with a group cover rendition of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Thanks to Sarah Craig for having us at this lovely Saratoga venue!
The character and mystique of the Old Faithful Inn cannot be truly captured in photographs – the knobbed wood interior, tree branch banisters, log-cut steps, floors becoming ceilings – somehow all strangely skewed like an Escher drawing. Little library desks with stained-glass lamps shed a warm glow, while large wooden arm chairs and chocolate-colored leather couches look out into the atrium. There is a three-story chimney tower rising up through the middle of the lobby, hosting an enormous pendulum clock. Traveling down the hallways of the inn, there seem to be endless hideaways, nooks and crannies, each storing a whispered hint of history. A few lucky visitors have the chance to climb up to the rafters, accompanied by a bellhop, whose job it is to raise the outdoor flags in the morning.
There is a grand piano situated in one corner of the second floor, tucked away during the day, but played almost every night throughout the season. The sound of the piano carries through all three floors, down the halls, and through a window which opens toward the dining room below. This summer, I was invited to fill in for the regular house pianist for 23 nights, which gave me the opportunity to live in Yellowstone National Park for a month. The self-reliant, fortress of an original, indie singer-songwriter in me was a bit shy to tell people about this stint as a lounge pianist. But then I remembered my first piano teacher Nancy LeClair, whom I love dearly, performing in hotels and restaurants. And if it was good enough for Billy Joel…I figured I’d give it a whirl. So on the first night, I set up and started out with, “Piano Man,” which became my regular opening number. Along with the songs I know by memory or can play by ear, I had an array of books from the regular Inn pianist. These certainly filled in the gaps when listeners requested cowboy love songs or tin pan alley hits. Over the weeks, I built up quite a range of material. A typical night might include:
Summertime, Moon River, Man in the Mirror, Rondo all a turca, The Pink Panther, Tennessee Waltz, Killing Me Softly, Beautiful Dreamer, Firework, Jardins sous la pluie, If I Loved You, Downtown, Joy Spring, Norwegian Wood, Can’t Help Falling in Love, Crazy, Fantasie Impromptu, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, Anything Goes, Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, Sir Duke, Solace, Drunken Sailor, Time After Time, Don’t Stop Believing, Soon It’s Gonna Rain, Simple Gifts, Stand By Me, Umbrella, Somewhere, It Don’t Mean a Thing, Us, Chopin Nocturne Op. 62 No. 1, Georgia, Bohemian Rhapsody, Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, Waltz for Debby, If You’re Happy and You Know It, Blowing in the Wind, Bicycle Built for Two, Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2, Wind Beneath My Wings, Hackensack, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Misty Mountain Hop, Cold Cold Heart, Happy Together, My Favorite Things, Rachmaninoff Prelude Op. 32 No. 12, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Hedwig’s Theme, Shenandoah, Corcovado, I Got Rhythm, Blackbird, The River Flows in You, Claire de Lune…
Honestly, I can’t think of another gig where you can jump straight from Steven Foster to Katy Perry or from Queen to Beethoven without jarring the audience. But the energy in the room was bright and engaged, and the folks I talked with appreciated the surprises and the variety. Some people made requests and sometimes I just looked around the inn to try and guess people’s ages, where they might be from, and what kind of music they might like. One of the greatest joys was meeting little kids who approached me timidly to say they were learning to play piano and wanted to watch my hands.
I soon discovered that the music I chose was just the beginning of the conversation, and that I would need to keep playing while people came over to talk with me. One night just a few bars into “Piano Man,” a guy came running over delighted to tell me it was his favorite song. He soon returned with an open laptop and as we shared our admiration for Billy Joel, he showed me his bird watching photos – each bird named for the lines and characters in the song! By this point I had begun playing Debussy’s “Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum” and was finding it pretty hard to concentrate on accuracy, so I improvised an entire middle section, and when the conversation subsided, returned to the page. Moments later a father approached and thanked me for playing a favorite of his daughter’s piano repertoire, so I had to admit my version might have been slightly different!
Another night my background performance gradually turned into a Broadway singalong, with one of the dedicated fans making suggestions on impromptu medley’s. He was a lot of fun and we came up with his nickname, “My Lone Arranger.” Just a few nights in, I met a man who was deeply touched to hear “Claire de Lune” and asked me about my own songs. It was a perfect moment to share a song I’d co-written with Kevin Wanzor in the BMI program, “Hang a Paper Lantern on the Moon,” which has a little hint of Debussy’s classic. Some nights, especially earlier in the evening, groups of young tots would start dancing next to me. Once I rescued a family from their four-year-old’s impending temper tantrum with a quick rendition of, “Twist and Shout.” Makes you wonder at what point exactly when we’re growing up do we stifle that irresistible urge to dance?
An elderly gentlemen who stayed for about two weeks made a point to greet me every night, and introduced me to some wonderful songs like the Scottish, “Loch Lagond.” One night when I was on a Fiddler on the Roof kick the same person came up and told me he’d once had beers with Zero Mostel (Tevve)! An eleven-year-old girl came and sat right next to me for a couple of nights in a row, and said she was on a trip with her grandmother who had been coming to the park for more than forty years. I got a little teary-eyed just thinking about my grandparents, and I told her to treasure that special time. A group of Norwegians were all crowding on a couch one night, and it took me about a half hour while playing some other music to remember a Scandinavian folk song I’d learned in Sweden called, “Vem Kan Segla” (Who Can Sail?). I snuck that one in to their surprise and made a real connection with my “Dagmarian” roots. Early one night I segued straight from “The Muppet Show Theme” to “Rainbow Connection.” Stopping with no applause, I thought sadly to myself, “maybe kids these days don’t know about the muppets?” Suddenly I saw these two little thumbs up pop out from behind one of the library desk, which had been shielding a youngster who was reading on the other side!
I met adult piano students, piano teachers, a composer who also graduated from the Eastman School of Music, and one night I even met a guy from my hometown of Chelmsford, MA who turned out to be related to a close friend of mine! There were employee music requests too, and the front desk favorites seemed to be anything from “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings.” So on the last night, several of the employees bought me drinks and huckleberry candy. In a few short weeks, I’d really become a part of the fabric (or grain?) of that place. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and certainly exceeded my expectations of what it might mean to be a cocktail pianist. It may be a cliche, but music brings people together. It enlivens us, grounds us and reminds us of the dearest moments in our lives. There is much more of a canon of familiar songs across the generations than I’d ever realized. And I feel more in touch now with all of the styles of music I’ve grown to love over the years.
Anna is having a summer in nature! She spent one month in Yellowstone Park and is now working on a farm in New Hampshire.
Aug. 17 at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY www.caffelena.org
However you can catch her for these upcoming concerts:
Aug. 17 at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY www.caffelena.org
Aug. 18 House Concert in Bennington, VT rsvp: email@example.com
Sept. 20 Our Times in Garden City, NY www.OurTimesCoffeehouse.org
Sept. 21 Live on WFMT Folkstage Radio in Chicago, IL www.WFMT.com
THANKS to everybody who tuned into my birthday concert today!
For my birthday this year I am giving my first online concert of original songs and covers on Sunday, April 14 at 7PM Eastern Time. I’ll be performing on my Steinway parlor grand. By going to this link (http://goo.gl/cVMvk) you can watch the concert live. I hope you can be a part of this special night!
Here is an interview about my musical background and the album “Satellite,” published in Dec. 2012 International Musician Magazine.
Anna Dagmar: Blending Styles
By Kayla Turo
One of the greatest benefits for musicians today, is the high respect the population has for eclectic music. Now more than ever, musicians can happily dip into all of the genres that they love, in order to please listeners across the nation. Singer/songwriter, Anna Dagmar of Local 300 (Lowell, Massachusetts), has pleasantly landed herself in the midst of jazz and American folk music. Dagmar, who started as a student of jazz piano, let the integration of music cultures throughout her travels mold her into the musician that she is today. “Having a background in jazz has meant that my composing consists of a lot of rich and interesting harmonies,” explains the 34 year-old Dagmar. “I like the chords to move in unpredictable and refreshing ways. At the same time I like songs; I like melodies that you can remember, that are catchy and are fun to sing. So I’ve always bordered that line between something that is artistically interesting and something that is more accessible to a wider audience.”
These two genres have benefited Dagmar who focuses on the chord conjunctions and intricate harmonies that have symbolized jazz music, while also utilizing the creative and focused storytelling method that popularizes folk music. This utilization has led to the growing popularity in the young artist who has recently released her 4th album titled Satellite, in which she demonstrates this combination of jazz and folk music.
“My lyric inspiration often comes from personal relationships. Sometimes if I meet someone that really makes an impression on me (even if I don’t fully know them) I might imagine a story that surrounds them. So there will be a certain amount of exaggeration in my lyrics that’s not necessarily based on fact,” Dagmar laughs brightly. “It really is an expression that comes out of a need to express. When I write lyrics it is because I have feelings that I want to let out into the world.” The title song of her album tells the story of her parents, using the metaphors of the Garden of Eden, followed by the Big Bang Theory, and ultimately the metaphor of herself as a “satellite” which, being at a great distance, is able to see the world from a wider viewpoint. These metaphors are contributed to her parents from whom Dagmar attributes her broad views of science and spirituality.
Dagmar was raised by her parents in St. Albans, England before moving to the United States at the age of six. She took up classical piano at seven years-old and gleaned her talent from two instructors, one specializing in classical music and the other in jazz. Dagmar was deeply affiliated with all of her high school’s musical performances and organizations and she joined the American Federation of Musicians while still enrolled in high school. “I had all of these experiences as a younger person, and it was almost like professional training. My parents were very supportive of that as an idea and their thinking was even though it is a challenge to create a life as an artist, if you work hard and you learn the most that you can and you keep pursuing it and stay organized and responsible, you’re going to find a way to do this,” Dagmar says. After high school, Dagmar pursued a dual degree in Classical Music and Music Education from Eastman College in Rochester, New York.
Today, Dagmar is a freelance musician in New York City, performing at least 50 concerts a year across the country, composing, recording, and accompanying, all while teaching piano to 20 private students. Over the past year, Dagmar was awarded a finalist position in two lyric writing contests, including the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival lyric contest in Lyons, Colorado. Dagmar will continue to compose her original music, record albums, and tour across the country, performing her personal blend of music.
Here is a new interview with Dan Nosheny on his podcast Sound Decisions. I admit, we did geek-out a little on music theory. But hey, I’m playing a toy piano and talking about chords in the song, “Satellite.” It was a delightful experience!
On Saturday, November 17 at First Acoustics in Brooklyn Heights, I will be performing my songs with original string quartet accompaniments for the first time in Brooklyn, NY. To have a sense of the sound, watch our Bennington, VT premiere in this live music video:
“Let the Waves Come in Threes” by Anna Dagmar, featuring original string quartet accompaniment.
New Video! August 19, 2012 live performance in Bennington, VT.
Featuring Sarah Briggs (violin), Joe Jewett (violin), Delores Thayer (viola) and Perri Morris (cello). Videography by Joel Patterson of Mountain Top Studios.
Special thanks to my concert host, Robert Dewar!
I’m enjoying the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on musical styles and influences and how we define ourselves as independent artists. In this article I explore the crossover between jazz, classical, pop and folk sounds in my music and make some suggestions for how other artists might describe their own work. Read the article here:
I was recently interviewed in A Voice To Hear, where I talk about the defining moment that made me want to become a professional performer and what I see as the power behind music to influence positive change in the world. You can also find out what kind of shoe I think best seems like me!!! Read full interview here: