Over the last year, Chapel Hill-based songwriter and producer Chris Stamey has been working on a narrative song cycle set in Manhattan in the early 1960s. Called Occasional Shivers, it centers around a circle of jazz theater performers and their experiences.
Stamey is best known for his work with the legendary North Carolina jangle-pop band The dB's, as a sought-after music producer, and songwriter.
His new work, billed as jazz meets pop against a backdrop of 1960s Manhattan, is set to have its full premiere at Kenan Music Building on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus on Friday September 23 at 8 p.m.
WUNC Morning Edition Host Eric Hodge will be the production's narrator.
The music is scored for jazz combo and string quartet (see music sheet example below). Through the music Stamey reimagines the Great American Songbooks of Gershwin, Porter, Berstein, Berlin and others against a backdrop of pop and 1960s period Manhattan culture.
"I'd grown up with my dad playing these old 40s and 50s songs [on the family piano]. He'd play Jerome Kern. Our family was centered around that. After my father would go to bed I'd sit at the piano and do my own five- and six-year-old versions of those songs," Stamey told WUNC All Things Considered Host Catherine Brand during a recent interview.
"I continued to try to write songs at that same piano until rock n roll swept me away," he said.
Time: 8 p.m.
Venue: Kenan Music Building on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus
These early experiences and songs from his childhood and memories triggered by the return of the family piano were the initial inspirations for Occasional Shivers.
When Stamey visited the WUNC studios recently to talk with Catherine Brand they talked about Occasional Shivers, his book to be published next year, New York Stories (see except below), and more. You can listen to that conversation here:
Here are a couple of songs from Occasional Shivers:
Next year, Texas Press will publish Chris Stamey's book New York Songs. Here's an excerpt:
My artistic heroes tended to be restless souls, people who are always trying to take it further. Picasso, Joyce, Schoenberg, Gershwin, Stravinsky . . . I’ve never been overly fond of rock stars, but I love musicians. Alex Chilton constantly evolved as a player, going from Beatles voicings to blues and folk, then to Real Book jazz and baroque. Closer to home, Marshall Crenshaw had no incentive to resume guitar lessons after many great, successful records, but he did, and I was impressed (and daunted) when he returned to the fray with a greatly expanded chordal vocabulary on songs such as "Fantastic Planet of Love." My composition mentor at UNC, Roger Hannay, wrote all kinds of music all his life, a wealth of material that has yet to be fully explored, which I was privy to as I assembled his audio archives with him in during his last years; his final symphonies were his best, and showed how he continued to expand artistically. In the classical world, rehearsing with the Kronos Quartet and seeing their attention to the smallest details, or watching my friends Karen and Shawn Galvin from New Music Raleigh either practice, teach, record, or perform music at a high level 8-10 hours every single day, put a different light on all the suggestions from labels to instead "spend time building up your social media presence."
Google Map to Kenan Music Building, Chapel Hill
Listen to the WUNC co-produced radio play of "Occasional Shivers":