Memphis the Musical

Memphis the Musical
Memphis the Musical

I was wondering if  anyone has seen “Memphis” the musical and what they thought about it. All I know is that it’s playing February 2009 at the 5th Avenue in Seattle, WA. One of the writers is from Bon Jovi and it’s been receiving “critical acclaim” since it’s off-Broadway debut in 2002.

I’m always fascinated when artists cross from mainstream art into more “legit” forms like theater and film. Comments?

Continue reading “Memphis the Musical”

Skoochies, City Beat and The Monastery

monasterywa-exteriro-darrelleroy.jpgSeattle, WA – A little flashback here. I’m wondering how many people remember the early and mid 80’s clubs in Seattle that was Skoochies, City Beat and The Monastery. I’m also interested how many of those people ended up being in the arts as a profession.

I was talking to a theater director a couple days ago. He’s one of those people I feel a connection to and don’t quite know why. He’s very well read with a Master’s Degree in Theater and a Bachelor’s from Cornish. He was in the early Seattle Grunge scene playing in concerts with Alice in Chains before they got signed. And off the cuff I mentioned “Do you ever remember a club called The Monastery” – his eyes lit up and he said “SKOOCHIES!”.

These clubs are a difficult thing to describe if you weren’t there. They weren’t just clubs, they were entire sub-cultures. Every once in a while I overhear someone put down local Goths and I kind of smile (and usually remain silent.) I was what you might call a “Goth” in the early 80’s (we called it “Bat Cavers”) – did the all black outfits, ratted out the hair, wore makeup, danced all night til 4 am and carried all the intellectual faux we could muster. As an adult I don’t regret any of it, in fact it was a very formative time and I shudder to think that I would have ever missed it.

Our favorite bands were The Cure, OMD (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark). Bauhaus, The Art of Noise, Spandau Ballet, Prince, The Eurhytmics, etc….







Maybe it’s a Seattle thing, maybe it’s an art thing, maybe it’s a Washington thing, maybe it’s just because I was raised outside Seattle. There’s a bond up here like I have never felt anywhere else. I’ve lived in Miami, Los Angeles, spent 20 years in Southern California and I can tell you – THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING LIKE THE ARTS AND EXPRESSION IN SEATTLE AND SKAGIT COUNTY. It is so rich you can taste it.

These clubs were a place for expression, for those of us that felt pigeon-holed everywhere else. Especially at The Monastery, it was a place to take things right to the edge. I recognized back then that this was a thing “for a time”, few things last forever. It is unfortunate I had many friends from that time that didn’t recognize this and they didn’t get out in time, and they are no longer with us. At the time many adults viewed us as having the “hubris of youth”. Now having a 20 year retrospect I don’t see it that way. It was a place for us to carve our identity, and some of us needed a little edgier carving than most desire.

Skoochies, City Beat and The Monastery all closed down. I know specifically The Monastery was a thorn in Seattle’s side for many years and finally got closed down after many attempts. But for us that were underage and wanted to experience life on the edge, it was a great place.

The innocence of the under 21 crowd in those clubs was evident, and there was a dark side to the older crowd that infiltrated some of those clubs, especially The Monastery. I don’t think those clubs would ever get off the ground in this day and age. For those that didn’t have a strong sense of self I’m sure there are countless horror stories and emotional scars.

I cannot tell you how many times in producing music or in the studio I pull from the sensations created in those clubs. Especially for dance tracks and avante garde scores, it takes me only a moment to remember The Monastery experience. For that I am very thankful because it is so unique. And I don’t regret any of. I’m also thankful I got out of the scene before it devoured me. For those that didn’t, I remember you and my heart goes out to you.



charles-mudede.jpg Cultural conservatives rely upon the singular example of the Monastery to bolster the argument that all-ages clubs necessarily result in perversion and debauchery. George Freeman ran the Monastery under the constitutionally protected cloak of the separation of church and state. The Monastery wasn’t a club but a religious sanctuary, free from the financial and legal restraints of the city government. It was an after-hours, all-night anomaly, defined and clothed in religious speak; one could only gain entrance to the place by becoming a member of Freeman’s church, paying tithes. There was a “baptismal” pool, and Freeman gave nightly sermons.

Although it raised the ire of parents who were alarmed at the pan-sexual nature of the clientele and the drug use within, the city finally clamped down on the club due to the panic over bathhouses and the spread of AIDS. Those same conservatives, however, ignore the fact that the Monastery was but one of a few clubs that were open and intended for all-ages shows. The one I remember best was a place in Pioneer Square called the Metropolis, because I frequented a reggae night they had there.

The larger problem, though, isn’t the obvious fact that idle youth who have nowhere to go resort to drugs and crime, but rather that American pop culture and the larger politic is almost wholly dependent on rampant youth for its life and vigor. Rock, punk, new wave, and hiphop are entirely youth entities. Without that deviant input, what we’ll end up is staid and fossilized–hence the Experience Music Project’s wholly fossilized youth culture.

To the current Goths and champions of counter-culture – I am too old to be part of your experience now, but I remember it well. Don’t let us old farts tell you how to dress or express yourself, and remember who you are through the experience so you can make it out in good form. I can tell you there is no reward for an early death (and no drama worth retelling) but there are great rewards for coming out the other side strong and bold. Be safe, realize it’s for a time and get out if you see things starting to crumble around you. If it gets REAL bad, please email me.

What made me get out? The innocent playfulness of the scene changed drastically when I turned 21. It was not playtime anymore. Every couple weeks you’d hear about someone you were acquainted with that had died, the late night intellectualism slowly revealed itself as drug induced repetitive blabbering, and most of all was seeing those who were older not accomplishing much. When I stripped away my rebelliousness from my visual presentation and focused it on ideas and art, I found life to be much more full for me.

Part of your Rite of Passage is when you realize you have been given gifts and they should not be focused inward, but outward in service. And of course, only an old fart would say something like that……

So give a shout out if you remember The Monastery, Skoochies or City Beat – and I’d be very interested to know what profession you are in now. You can post anonymously on this thread.

Update 12/08 – I’m also catching up with a lot of you on Facebook, so please add me as a friend there.*

Update 09/09 – There is an active Skoochies group on Facebook, and a reunion has been scheduled for Sept or Oct 2009 – so join that on Facebook. Lots of pics uploaded, you may spot yourself in one!

Update 10/09 – October 3, 2009 was the “Skoochies Resurrection” reunion. 740 people attended in Seattle, Wa. I believe it was held at the actual original Skoochies building.

Update 07/10 – Here is the graphic from the 2010 Reunion Red Party for The Monastery (1977-1985). There is also an MP3 download of the music from that evening available. Should I make it available here?

UPDATE 09/19 – Conrad Askland’s fourth full length musical “Pray the Gay Away”® takes place in 1982 and includes an LGBTQ+ support group called “Youth Pride”. Some of the Youth Pride member costumes are being based around the look of people that went to Skoochies, Monastery and City Beat. Info about the show available here on this blog at or at the official PTGA website: Pray the Gay Away

Ave Verum Corpus – W.A. Mozart

mozart_1.jpgAve Verum Corpus by W.A. Mozart – MP3 Sample, Free Sheet Music Download and History. Motet in D, “Ave verum Corpus” (K. 618) – Composed in June 1791 by W.A. Mozart. He would die on December 5, 1791.

1 – Sheet Music Download for Mozart’s AVE VERUM CORPUS

2 – MP3 Audio File of AVE VERUM CORPUS

3 – MP3 of William Byrd’s AVE VERUM CORPUS

While working on this post I have listened to Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus about a dozen times. I have heard this piece hundreds of times in my life, and each time it becomes a little more beautiful to me. It is my absolute most favorite piece ever written. If I could only listen to one musical work for the rest of my life, this would be it (and I would have few complaints about that!).

Enjoy the free sheet music download of Ave Verum Corpus. It also includes the middle two bar interlude which to my ears is correct (some editions only have a bass continuo line).

I sang this piece as a boy soprano with the Northwest Boychoir in Seattle, WA. This Sunday I am leading our church choir in Ave Verum Corpus for our service. At our rehearsal tonight (somewhere in the Bible it must be written that church choir rehearsals have to be on Wednesday nights!) the choir was so absolutely beautiful in their final run through I was nearly brought to tears. I would not let them sing anything after that – why? There is nowhere to go after hearing Ave Verum Corpus sung well. It is THAT powerful.

At a glance I can see the theory of the piece easy enough – but when coupled with a reverence for the text; I know of no piece more powerful than this. To say “his side was pierced and out flowed blood and water” in one line, and a few paces later to say “to give us a foretaste of death”, or more properly “to give us an examination of the death experience” – AND THEN to know that WA Mozart wrote this piece within six months of his own death. Let this settle on you for a bit.

When all things are stripped away and we are at our core, we have the beauty of our relationships and the base denial and unbelief of our own eventual death. Which of us can truly accept and admit our own pending death? Not in passing, but to absorb that thought. I actually think it is beyond the scope of our imagination. But we have a composer like WA Mozart who can create a piece so powerful and solemn that we are humbled to our knees to accept the fact – and perhaps to bend our thoughts to the sublime mystery of Christ’s crucifixion.

Working with our choir has given me a rebirthed passion for this piece. In rehearsal we are able to think about the slow passing of each line of text, and how we want to express each syllable, word and phrase. It is how I think a sculpture must feel – slowly chipping away til the art takes form.

And as our church choir works on each minute detail to make this piece our best, as countless choirs have also done on this piece for two centuries; I start to smile as I realize this is our worship, the musician’s time to worship, the way we relate to the mystery of the Trinity and our mortal coil – our worship takes place between the notes as we practice and work. It is delicate as a flower.

mozart_2.jpgAve verum corpus is a short Eucharistic hymn dating from the 14th century and attributed to Pope Innocent VI (d. 1362), which has been set to music by various composers. During the Middle Ages it was sung at the elevation of the host during the consecration. It was also used frequently during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

The hymn’s title means “Hail, true body”, and is based on a poem deriving from a 14th-century manuscript from the Abbey of Reichenau, Lake Constance. The poem is a meditation on the Catholic belief in Jesus’s Real Presence in the sacrament of the Eucharist, and ties it to Catholic ideas on the redemptive meaning of suffering in the life of all believers.

mozart_3.jpgIn April of 1791, Leopold Hofmann, who was Kapellmeister at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, fell gravely ill. Mozart, who had never been an avid composer of sacred music, nonetheless saw an opportunity to enhance his income, and maneuvered to succeed Hofmann. Towards this end, he turned his attentions again to sacred music, culminating ultimately with his Requiem. (As it happens, Hofmann survived Mozart, and died in 1793.)

Mozart set the Eucharistic hymn Ave verum corpus in June 1791. This setting was dedicated to his friend, Anton Stoll, who was chorus master of the parish church in Baden, and it was first performed in Baden at the Feast of Corpus Christi.

It is possible that Mozart set this hymn, mindful of the Imperial ban on elaborate concerted music, or it is possible that he was working with the limitations of Stoll’s choir. One way or another, his setting is remarkable for its compact simplicity. There are a mere forty-six bars of music, with orchestral writing that serves to provide introduction, transition, and ending, and double the choral parts. The choral setting is simplicity itself, with the choir mostly singing the same text at the same time. This direct approach would suited a reform-minded Austria where textual clarity and brevity were all-important in church music.

Mozart’s setting is far from pedestrian or undistinguished. (It actually isn’t even complete; the text below includes the last two verses, which Mozart omitted from his setting.) There is an unusual modulation from D major to F major at the text, “whose side was pierced, whence flowed water and blood,”, and the simplicity is the sort that Artur Schnabel famously described as too simple for children and too difficult for adults (after all, simple music like this exposes any lapses of rhythm, intonation, or ensemble). And the music seems to encompass a universe of feeling in forty-six short bars.

Ave Verum Corpus – W.A. Mozart
Latin Text and English Translation
Ave / verum / Corpus, natum / de / Maria / Virgine:
Hail / true / Body / born / of / Mary / Virgin,

Vere / passum, / immolatum / in / cruce / pro / homine:
truly / suffered / was sacrificed / on / cross / for / mankind

Cujus / latus / perforatum, / unda / fluxit / et / sanguine:
Whose / side / was pierced / from where or water / flowed / and / blood

Esto / nobis / praegustatum / in / mortis / examine.
Be / for us / foretaste / in / of death / testing


Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary,
who has truly suffered, and was sacrificed on the cross for mankind,
whose side was pierced, whence flowed water and blood,
Be for us a foretaste of heaven, during our final trial.


Latin and English are very different languages. Latin has fewer words which are often longer, due to the varied endings. Because the part that the word plays depends on its ending rather than its position in the sentence, word order is flexible. The poetry of Latin derives from the position and the rhythm of the words. For example, “Stabat mater dolorosa” and “Mater dolorosa stabat” both mean “the sorrowful mother was standing”, but the former emphases the standing because that word comes first. In English there is a greater choice of words but their order is fixed within the sentence, and the poetry derives more from the choice and rhyme of words.

Latin anthems are printed with an alternative English translation below the Latin words, with the same number of syllables and often in rhyming couplets. Unfortunately the English words cannot correspond exactly to their equivalent in Latin. When composers set Latin texts to music they emphasize crucial words or phrases, by repeating them, having suspensions, changing the harmony, or other musical devices. When sung in English, these devices often emphasize the wrong words and so the musical sense is lost. Moreover, because of trying to shoehorn the Latin into foursquare rhyming couplets, the effect in English often borders on doggerel. At St Peter’s, when the choir sings the anthem in Latin we have tended to print this English verse in the service sheet rather than the Latin text.