Woog’s World: Emily Hall’s new CD is worth a child’s play
Published 6:27 am, Friday, June 19, 2015
Like the von Trapps, the Hall family has been steeped in music. Bill was a classically trained singer who performed at Carnegie Hall. His wife, Mary Ann, earned a master’s degree in early childhood music education. They started teaching music to young children in Norwalk. When their children, Emily and Daniel, were 8 and 4 respectively, they formed the Hall Family Singers. The quartet has been entertaining kids (and their parents) ever since.
When Emily was a freshman, the Halls moved to Westport. Education — including the town’s superb music program — was a driving force. She dove into the offerings at Staples High School. She capped her career there by playing Sally Bowles in the Players’ 1993 production of “Cabaret.” While at Staples she also worked with a talented musician named Michelangelo Sosnowitz. One of their favorite collaborations was a two-person show, “They’re Playing Our Song,” in the Black Box Theater.
Her father had been Emily’s voice teacher. She studied opera with him, but also enjoyed musical theater. “The stage is my place, where I feel happiest,” she explains. “I always knew I wanted to perform. I didn’t care where, or what.”
Hall chose the Boston Conservatory of Music, because it was one of the few places where she could continue her classical training, and also do musical theater. She ended up concentrating on opera however, and after graduating she headed to Washington, D.C., to join the world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Harold Prince’s “Whistle Down the Wind.”
“I was so lucky, right out of school, to be in what was going to be a Broadway show,” she says. The posters had already been printed. But the creative team had a falling out, and the show never opened.
“That was so disappointing,” Hall recalls. “But it was a great learning experience. The lesson was that things don’t always work out.”
She did shows in New York and other places, including Goodspeed Opera House and James Joyce’s “The Dead” in Washington. Hall finally made it to Broadway in 2001, as part of the “Follies” company. Hall calls being part of the Blythe Danner show “amazing,”
But she was also diagnosed with Graves disease. She took medication, and underwent radioactive iodine treatment.
She got married, and — after what seemed like a long time — got pregnant. Thomas is now 2 years old.
Hall calls her son “the highlight of my light. Music is everything, but he is the world.”
Becoming a mother has been fantastic. It has enabled the children’s music entertainer to dig even deeper into her craft. With her gift for connecting with young children, she’s taken the usual “kid’s CD” idea several steps further.
Hall has taken several original songs, added others from her parents, and created a clever musical concept.
Called “Sun in the Morning ‘Til the Moon at Night,” it is a thematic CD that traces a day in the life of a young child.
One of the most challenging parts of the project was finding a producer.
“I talked to different producers to find the right fit,” Hall says. “My family has always done traditional, folky type music. I love it, but I wanted a more contemporary feel. Something with an edge, but wholesome.”
Every producer she talked with seemed to have a special genre: jazz, R&B, whatever. Suddenly, she remembered another name: Michelangelo Sosnowitz. Her old friend from high school was now a singer-songwriter — and a producer. (His company is called Lemon Shark Productions.)
When they met, she realized how important it was that he knew Hall, and her family. Sosnowitz had even taken voice lessons from her father.
Hall and Sosnowitz worked together on the instrumentation. “He was all about what I wanted, not what he wanted,” she says. “He came up with a lot of good ideas, but he was always open to my ideas too.”
The project took about a year. It starts with “The Backpack Song,” then zips through the ups and downs of a child’s day. The CD ends with an a cappella rendition of “Long Lovely Day.”
The song cycle mirrors a typical day. It starts with high energy, Hall says. By the end, kids are ready to settle down for the night — and the CD is quieter too.
Though Hall’s songs range from pop and country through that a cappella finale, she’s proud of the through line. “There’s a beginning, middle and end. It’s just like our shows — it tells a story.”
Parents are raving about “Sun in the Morning ‘Til the Moon at Night.” Their children dance to it. “It’s happy, fun, feel-good music,” Hall says proudly. “There’s a great vibe to it.”
Just as there is to everything Emily Hall has ever done, dating back to the early Hall Family days. Speaking of which: They’ll be at the Levitt Pavilion again July 6.
(“Sun in the Morning” is available at CDBaby.com, Amazon and iTunes.)