One of the qualities I've always admired about VOCAL is its ability to deal with change. From securing performance venues, to challenges presented with the pandemic lockdowns, and a host of other "little things" that would bog down other non-profit arts organizations, Matthew Costello and the leadership and membership of VOCAL have managed to find unique, workable solutions to these and other issues.
For instance - what happens when the VOCAL Songwriter of The Year and the composer of the VOCAL Song of The Year, both member-voted accolades, who have the honor of sharing the playbill for the next Songwriters Showcase...but both award winners are the SAME person?!? And there's never been a Songwriter's Showcase featuring a SINGLE performer?!?
Solution - you put aside tradition for one evening, hand the virtual microphone over to the "Cute Girl with Glasses", and get out of her way!
This was the case at this year’s September Songwriters Showcase, when Keely Burn, the 2022 VOCAL Songwriter of The Year, and composer of the 2022 VOCAL Song of The Year, "Your Company", stood alone, center stage, and showed us why she was so deserving of this year’s top honors.
Keely performed a 12-song set of her greatest hits, alternating between her keyboard and several ukuleles, while recovering from the travel lag associated with a wedding she sang at the weekend before. Oh, and there was the unplanned technical delay due to Facebook's procedure change for livestreaming without notice or warning (see VOCAL’s ability to deal with change above).
Keely shared insights into her songwriting process and inspirations along the way, and the common theme for her is relationships. Her opening selection "Waltz" explored the dynamics of marriage. "When I'm Acting" searched for acceptance in a complicated relationship. "Masterpiece", a classic Keely Burn song, clearly laid out parameters and expectations in a troubled relationship. "Broken Heart" was originally a collegiate exercise in Dorian mode that evolved into a breakup song. Here, the audience was treated to a wonderfully fresh freedom in Keely's lyric and melody.
Keely took a moment to say that yes, relationships are her guiding songwriting inspiration, but her lyrics often explore conflict and the resulting reactions that are NOT typical of Keely personally. "Your Company" was such a song, where she drew her inspiration from close friends and a Sondheim work with a similar name. Keely followed our 2022 VOCAL Song of the Year with "Lightning" a fiery, spirited ukulele song.
Keely has an EP project in the works, which she tells us is all about anxiety. "Bed of Nails", one of the songs from her forthcoming project, deals with adults making friends in the digital age, and how individual backgrounds can, well, complicate things. "Doorstop" was her audition song for the prestigious Summer Camp of the Interlochen Center for The Arts. It was a treat to hear a song from Keely's younger years, a clever song of empowerment. In this song, the audience could hear clear lines between yesterday's raw talented teenager and today's polished energetic artist.
The set continued with "Come Down Love" - a primal and declarative work, because what's a love affair without a few rough edges to work out? Keely's next song was a change-up, called "Strike Three" - but it wasn't about baseball (wink). The next song was one of our favorites, "Cute Girl with Glasses" - love her, don't love her, it's all good! But don't forget the ukulele!
Keely wrapped up the night with "Out of The Flood", a reminder that even in hard times, life washes away the things that drag us down.
Congratulations on a historic, vibrant Songwriters Showcase performance, and congratulations to the 2022 VOCAL Song of The Year writer AND Songwriter of The Year, Keely Burn!
~ David Atkins