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JUNEAU - Barney McClure is one of many people who have come to Alaska for a change in pace. Before his move to Fairbanks in 1999, he lived a hectic life on the road as a touring musician. He visited the north for the first time in 1985 as a guest artist for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Meeting a special lady and the allure of a more relaxed lifestyle were reasons enough to cement him into one place for a while.
Barney McClure brings cabaret to Juneau 012109 AE 2 CCW Staff Writer JUNEAU - Barney McClure is one of many people who have come to Alaska for a change in pace. Before his move to Fairbanks in 1999, he lived a hectic life on the road as a touring musician. He visited the north for the first time in 1985 as a guest artist for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Meeting a special lady and the allure of a more relaxed lifestyle were reasons enough to cement him into one place for a while.

Photo By Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Kari Groven sings "Dat Dere" as Barney McClure accompanies her on the piano during the 2007 cabaret show "Swingin' in the Rain" at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. McClure is again offering a cabaret workshop in Juneau Jan. 25-29. The workshop will culminate in a performance Jan. 30 at 8 p.m.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Story last updated at 1/21/2009 - 11:45 am

Barney McClure brings cabaret to Juneau
McClure to teach workshop culminating in a 'Singing' in the Rain' performance

JUNEAU - Barney McClure is one of many people who have come to Alaska for a change in pace. Before his move to Fairbanks in 1999, he lived a hectic life on the road as a touring musician. He visited the north for the first time in 1985 as a guest artist for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Meeting a special lady and the allure of a more relaxed lifestyle were reasons enough to cement him into one place for a while.

McClure will return to Juneau this weekend to offer a 5-day Winter Cabaret Workshop through Juneau Jazz & Classics. The workshop will culminate in a "Singin' in the Rain" performance, which will be a fundraiser for Juneau Jazz & Classics.

McClure is an accomplished jazz pianist, composer, and teacher, and has performed with many other esteemed musicians. He grew up playing the trumpet, taking after his father. Their family had a piano, but there were no teachers in the area where they lived, so he waited until he got to college, at which point he "decided to be a piano player."

"I love all kinds of music," McClure said. Though he primarily plays jazz, he said he doesn't have a favorite genre. Years before his move to Alaska, he was known as "The Jazz Mayor" in Port Townsend, Wash., where he served as mayor and started Jazz Port Townsend, an annual music festival which is still going strong.

"I'm a jazz player who pursues music from a scientist's point of view, always reinventing and looking for some new truth," McClure said.

His latest composing work has been for a musical that will soon be opening in Fairbanks called "Cinderella and the Prince," a modern twist on the classic story. He said he has had more time lately to focus on composing than any other time of his life. He also gives piano lessons and plays concerts around the state from time to time, either as the headlining act or as piano accompaniment for someone else.

McClure's goal for each of his students is to match each singer with "the song they were born to sing."

"I can practically guarantee this: by the end of the week, everybody will be like a family all pulling together, and everybody will have a really good time," McClure said.

The idea of a cabaret performance is to simplify a piece and perform it in an intimate setting, McClure said. The style originated with the Germans and French during the times before and during World War II. Their love of American music manifested itself in smoky nightclubs and many singers did it at great risk.

"It was a chance for singers to really elaborate on a song and make it personal," McClure said.

The contemporary version of cabaret simply involves more personal involvement in the piece and casual contact with the audience as opposed to a big concert on a stage where the singer is far removed from the crowd. In the workshop, students will learn techniques like microphone handling, interpretation, and stage presence, all of which will help them to successfully present the vocal piece(s) they will sing at the final performance. The main focus will be to take a piece of music and make it their own, rather than just covering a copy of the original.

"The science of doing cabaret is more of bringing to the floor all of the experience I've garnered all my life working as a professional player and working with a host of famous and major players," McClure said. "We'll be allowing each person who is in the cabaret the opportunity to do a tune in a performance that is totally professional."

McClure has taught similar workshops in Juneau before, as well as in Fairbanks, Ketchikan, and Nome. He said he has noticed more interest in cabaret in Alaska compared to larger communities in the lower 48 that don't have as much of a personal touch.

"It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of your community to perform," McClure said.

"Where almost everybody knows everybody, you're sure when you're standing on that stage that a good percentage of the audience knows who you are. I find that people are that much more willing to let their hair down and have a great time."

The Winter Cabaret Workshop will take place Jan. 25-29 with the "Singin' in the Rain" performance on Friday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. The workshop is open to singers of all skill levels. Registration and tickets to the final performance are available online at jazzandclassics.org, in person at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, or by calling 463-3378.

The idea of a cabaret performance is to simplify a piece and perform it in an intimate setting, McClure said. The style originated with the Germans and French during the times before and during World War II. Their love of American music manifested itself in smoky nightclubs and many singers did it at great risk.

"It was a chance for singers to really elaborate on a song and make it personal," McClure said.

The contemporary version of cabaret simply involves more personal involvement in the piece and casual contact with the audience as opposed to a big concert on a stage where the singer is far removed from the crowd. In the workshop, students will learn techniques like microphone handling, interpretation, and stage presence, all of which will help them to successfully present the vocal piece(s) they will sing at the final performance. The main focus will be to take a piece of music and make it their own, rather than just covering a copy of the original.

"The science of doing cabaret is more of bringing to the floor all of the experience I've garnered all my life working as a professional player and working with a host of famous and major players," McClure said. "We'll be allowing each person who is in the cabaret the opportunity to do a tune in a performance that is totally professional."

McClure has taught similar workshops in Juneau before, as well as in Fairbanks, Ketchikan, and Nome. He said he has noticed more interest in cabaret in Alaska compared to larger communities in the lower 48 that don't have as much of a personal touch.

"It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of your community to perform," McClure said.

"Where almost everybody knows everybody, you're sure when you're standing on that stage that a good percentage of the audience knows who you are. I find that people are that much more willing to let their hair down and have a great time."

The Winter Cabaret Workshop will take place Jan. 25-29 with the "Singin' in the Rain" performance on Friday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center. The workshop is open to singers of all skill levels. Registration and tickets to the final performance are available online at jazzandclassics.org, in person at the Juneau Arts & Culture Center, or by calling 463-3378.


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