Occasional Shivers

Sun 12/24 at 6PM; Sun 12/31 at 4PM
  • Hosted by Branford Marsalis

"Occasional Shivers" Radio Musical Is Back And It's All New For 2017

A reimagining of the language of the Great American Songbook, where jazz meets pop against a backdrop of a 1960s Manhattan love story, returns this year with a new ending, new songs and new performances in Chris Stamey's "Occasional Shivers."  The new radio broadcast debuts Christmas Eve on WUNC and is available now as a podcast.

"We can't wait for you to hear where we've taken the musical this year!" Chris reports.

Occasional Shivers 2017 Cast

Watch a video preview of the program:

Mike Wiley & Branford Marsalis

"After last year's broadcast, we brainstormed on ways to take it further. Mike Wiley (DAR HE: The Lynching of Emmett Till, Wolf Call, Box Brown) came on board, and together we found a way to reshape the material in a new direction. With Mike, and now Presyce Baez in the role of Will, the whole cast became electrified for the new recording. It's more romantic and more fun, this time round. I think we have a winner. But I don't want to give it away ," said Stamey.

Occasional Shivers is hosted by Branford Marsalis and features Mike Wiley in a newly updated script for 2017. Hear Occasional Shivers on WUNC Sunday December 24 at 6 p.m. and Sunday December 31 at 4 p.m.


The Story of "Occasional Shivers"

Over the last several years, 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. In 2016 he, in partnership with WUNC, turned it into a radio play with a seasonally-inspired mix of music and dialogue.

The play features singers Nneena Freelon, Marshall Crenshaw, Don Dixon, Millie McGuire, Presyce Baez, Kirsten Lambert, Django Haskins, Skylar Gudasz and an all-star band that includes jazz greats Scott Sawyer, Will Campbell, John Brown and Bill Frisell. It is by turns a playful and bittersweet show that sounds thoroughly rooted in the season, but does so with all-original music by Stamey.

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.

Chris Stamey at the piano.
Credit Daniel Coston

Listen to the 2017 radio program (or download it to listen later):

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.

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.

Check out one of the songs from the cycle:

Manhattan Melody by Chris Stamey

On April 15, 2018,  University of Texas Press will publish Chris Stamey's book "A Spy in the House of Loud: New York Songs and Stories." Read an excerpt.

Production Credits:

Written and Directed by Chris Stamey
Additional Direction by Caitlin Wells and Julia Stamey
Script consultant: Susan Emshwiller

Principal Cast:

Branford Marsalis (host)
Mike Wiley (as Bags Benmont)
Presyce Baez (as Will Cassidy)
Django Haskins (as Paul Carter)
Kirsten Lambert (as Birdie McDavenish)
Millie McGuire (as Jennifer Delancey)

Supporting Cast:

Marshall Crenshaw (as J.P. Carlyle)
Don Dixon (as Jeffery Cabot, also Slippery Baxter [“Underdog” singer])
Skylar Gudasz (as Sylvia Valentine)


Nnenna Freelon (sings opening song)
Will Campbell: alto and soprano sax
Branford Marsalis: tenor sax (“Manhattan Melody”)
Matt Douglas: additional sax (“I Fall in Love So Easily,” “Beneath the Underdog,” “Lover, Can You Hear Me?”); flute, clarinet
Dave Finucane: tenor sax (Will's "Occasional Shivers")
Danny Grewen: trombone
John Brown, Jason Foureman: acoustic bass
Dan Davis, Tony Stiglitz: drums
Bill Frisell, Scott Sawyer, Chris Stamey: guitar
Jim Crew, Wes Lachot, Julian Lambert, Chris Stamey: piano
Elizabeth Eason, Karen Galvin, Laura Thomas: violins
Matt Chicurel: viola
Leah Gibson: cello

All songs, arrangements, and orchestrations by Chris Stamey.

Recorded and mixed at Modern Recording (Chapel Hill, NC)
Additional recording at the Fidelitorium (Kernersville, NC), Overdub Lane (Durham, NC), Arbor Ridge (Chapel Hill, NC), Dark Horse (Franklin, Tenn.)
"What Is this Music that I Hear?" [excerpt] and "I Didn't Mean to Fall in Love with You" mixed by Scott Solter for Bellaju Music.

Recording engineers (music and dialogue): Chris Stamey, John Plymale, Mitch Easter, Jason Merritt, Jeff Crawford, Ali Kreza, Al Wodarski
Music mastered by Brent Lambert at Kitchen Mastering (Carrboro, NC)
Script Advice: David Brower, Robert Doonan, Peter Holsapple, Julia Stamey, Bland Simpson and Jack Herrick
Produced by Chris Stamey and David Brower for WUNC Radio.

WUNC Special Broadcast On 118 Stations Nationwide

Dec 13, 2016

The 2016 broadcast premiere of WUNC's holiday special "Occasional Shivers" was heard in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, St Paul/Minneapolis, Cleveland, Raleigh and more than 100 other public radio markets across the country. The show was produced in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, by WUNC and was distributed by American Public Media.

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.