Connie Converse

A Valentine for Connie Converse

Have you ever just wanted to quit? Have you ever been so worn down by the unkind and the uncaring people in your particular sphere of work that you just decided that it wasn’t worth it any longer?  Have you ever reached a saturation point of disappointment and smashed hopes and dreams and fantasized about just giving up on the thing or things you’re most passionate about because you just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, pay the price required to keep those dreams alive any longer? Have you ever just had enough?


Connie Converse (1924-?) decided she’d had enough.  After spending the best years of her life trying to make it as a songwriter and composer in New York City, she quit.  She turned her back on the music managers and agents and record producers who rejected her, over and over and over again, over the course of her fifteen sum odd years living in Manhattan.  And she turned her back on her music -- the beautiful, haunting, ingenious, intensely personal music that she finally became convinced no one wanted to hear.


Connie spent the next portion of her life in Ann Arbor, Michigan working in academia, a time sadly devoid of almost any personal creative output. She made a mark for herself in the academic world, but she also sank into depression, alcoholism and mental illness.  In 1974, she left again, this time for good.  One day she simply drove away, leaving notes behind to friends and family that she needed to go and make a fresh start somewhere else. She’s never been heard from again.


Connie Converse’s music has since been discovered and embraced by legions of fans around the world. Recordings that she made while living in New York in her prime were released a few years ago on an album called “How Sad, How Lovely.” And now, an entirely different corpus of piano art songs have come to light, and have been recorded by the young artists Charlotte Mundy and Christopher Goddard. A new album --“Connie’s Piano Songs” -- will be released on Valentine’s Day, with a CD release show to follow on Feb. 17 in NYC.


The music industry people who told Connie Converse that no one would be interested in her songs are gone.  The record industry people who told her that her music wasn’t commercial enough are gone.  The producers and agents who condescended to her, the experts, they’re all gone. No one remembers them. No one cares who they were. They are forgotten.


Connie Converse’s music lives on, inspiring a new generation of listeners, revealing more and deeper shades of beauty and meaning as the years go by.  Her music will continue to live on, as long as there are people with open ears, open minds, and open hearts.


Come hear Connie’s Piano Songs live and breathe for the first time ever on February 17th at Le Poisson Rouge.  Come and celebrate the genius of this singular woman.


Tickets are here.


Connie's Piano Songs


On Febrauary 14, 2014 the world will finally get to hear Connie Converse's art songs for voice and piano for the first time, a half-century after their completion.  The songs were left behind in manuscript form at the time of her disappearance in 1974, and never recorded until now.

Connie's Piano Songs features the recording debuts of soprano Charlotte Mundy and pianist Christopher Goddard. The world premiere concert/CD release show will take place on February 17, 2014 at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. Tickets are on sale now.

Those of you who have followed the progress of "A Star Has Burnt My Eye," my music-theater-documentatry piece about Connie Converse, may be especially interested in learning more about this music.  I wrote a fairly extensive essay about her for the album's liner notes -- you can read it here.

It feels appropriate to release this new CD on Valentine's Day. Producing it was a labor of love for me. I hope you'll join me in celebrating, at long last, the release of this beautiful music.


EVERYBODY WAS FRIENDLY: Notes From The Road, Sept. 2011

Poster from the Ann Arbor show

Just back from debuts in Michigan and Ohio.

It's true what they say about people in the Midwest -- they're kinder and more friendly than East Coasters.  By and large, everyone we encountered on this trip seemed genuinely happy to talk with us, help out with questions, or was just generally as pleasant as can be.  More than once, I heard members of the band practically exclaim with astonishment: "People are so NICE here!"

I arrived in Ann Arbor a couple of days before the band so I could spend some time with Connie Converse's brother and sister-in-law, Phil and Jean Converse. They graciously offered up their time to me and to documentarian (and fellow Brooklynite)  Andrea Kannes, who synched up her trip with mine to minimize demands on the Converses' time. Phil and Jean spent the better part of a couple of days answering questions, reminiscing, and allowing us unlimited access to CC's papers.  I'm fascinated by the latter's music and life, and have been performing some of her songs at recent shows.

Connie Converse

* * *

The band arrived on Friday, and what a band it was!  People often ask at shows -- "how long has the band been together?"  Anyone who's seen more than a couple of my concerts knows that this is a hard question to answer, since I have --essentially -- a collective of a couple dozen stellar musicians who all know my music and perform with me regularly. Who I have with me at any given gig generally depends on scheduling and availability. This particular version of the group included Mazz Swift, Etienne Charles and Nathan Peck.


Photo By Bianca Garza

Our first show, at the Kerrytown Concert House, was terrific and packed with an enthusiastic, smart audience that made us feel completely welcome in our first Ann Arbor outing.  We can't wait to go back there! 

Of course, it didn't hurt that the venue was just a block away from Zingerman's Deli. Oh man. If you're ever in Ann Arbor, this is a don't-miss. And if you're craving some delciious Korean, stop by Seoul Street, a little hole in the wall in the back of a strip mall that serves up the authentic goods and sources their ingredients locally. Alas, everything is served in not-very-green throwaway plastic takeout dishes, but the staff is friendly and accomomodating, and finding this place open late-night one evening was a godsend.

* * *

One funny aside about the Ann Arbor show -- at the intermission, while people were (literally) mobbing the CD table (who knew that people still buy CDs? They do in the Midwest!), a young woman introduced herself and said she'd enjoyed hearing my songs about Romania, her home. "Oh," I asked, "and what part of Romania are you from?"  "Maramures," she replied. "Wow", I said, since this was the area I was traveling in when I was there. "Where in Maramures?"  "Baia Mare," she said.

Well, that was a first. I've been playing these Romania-inspired songs for a couple of years now, but have never before met someone from Baia Mare (the subject of a song by the same name that I wrote and recorded for the CD "No Further Instructions").  I had to apologize to her in advance -- it's not a pretty song.

The Black Swamp Arts in Bowling Green was the following afternoon and, again, we were received with such warmth and enthusiasm it left us wondering why we don't visit the Midwest more often.  Impresario/presenter Kelly Wicks knows what he's doing...all of the food in the artist hospitality tent was grown and harvested on local, sustainable farms. And the coffee was roasted at Kelly's own local coffee shop, Grounds for Thought.  I think the best part of the Bowling Green festival for me was the fact that there were so many little kids there, enjoying the music with their families.  I love playing for kids, and only wish we got a chance to do it more often.

We drove home after our set on Saturday, a straight ten-hour shot back to NYC, arriving home around dawn.

Next up, the Algonquin!