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Soprano Mary Mackenzie and pianist John Chin merge jazz and art song in the debut recording of John Harbison's Songs After Hours.
93 backers pledged $12,766 to help bring this project to life.

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The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours

Huh, what is this?

Hi Mary Mackenzie, here! As I've been talking to friends about this project for the past few months, I've been telling them that this project is 5 years in the making.  But really, it's more like 61 years in the making, if you consider that the earliest tune in John Harbison's Songs After Hours anthology was written in 1952 ("A Big Orange Moon"). He was still in high school!

It was 5 years ago when I discovered that this classical composer, whom I admire greatly, had lived kind of a secret life as a jazz composer. John Harbison had been steadily writing tunes since he was teenager, and even played in a jazz combo at a young age. Some of the tunes in the anthology were even written for Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul and Mary) for a comeback album that never was. Today, John is on faculty at MIT and acts as director of the Vocal Jazz Ensemble.

WHO KNEW??

I was really taken by John's tunes when I first sang them. They are as creative and varied as his classical music, and I always felt that they needed to be known by a wider audience. Who doesn't love a good tune? Plus, it's a really unique opportunity in that they have never been recorded. That's right, this will be the debut recording of these songs!

Whoa, that sounds kind of neat.  But who are you?

I'm a professional opera singer living in New York City and I'm originally from Madison, WI (John Harbison and his wife Rosemary have a summer home just outside of Madison). I specialize in singing contemporary music, art song, and chamber music (this is how I first met John Harbison). I've sung at Carnegie Hall and with lots of ensembles around the country. I love working with great musicians. You can click here, or on my name up above to read and hear more.

I've always had a connection to jazz music, especially standards. I grew up listening to jazz music with my grandparents, who played in dance bands together in the 40's.

My partner in this venture is John Chin, who's a jazz pianist based in New York City. John was one of the first graduates of The Juilliard School's Artist Diploma jazz quintet. He plays regularly in New York City at Smalls Jazz Club, Dizzy's at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and other venues both in and outside of New York.  John is extremely inventive; it has been a fun challenge studying these songs and approaching our arrangements as you would any other jazz standard. That is, the piano part in the anthology is a framework, but it's our job to interpret and expand on it in whatever way we feel.

The rest of the band includes Joe Martin (bass), Dayna Stephens (saxophone) and Dan Rieser (drums). These guys are busy playing all over  the world and I love each of them as musicians. They are also great people, which it just as important as musical talent.

The group we've assembled is very unique. The sound we've created for this album is definitely modern, but also very accessible.  Some of our arrangements are toe-tappers, and others will really move you.

So, when are you recording?

We're going into the studio January 3 and 4, 2014 at Sear Sound in New York City. I'm thrilled that we'll be working with 3-time Grammy award-winning engineer, James Farber.  

Once we're out of the studio, the record will have to be mixed and mastered, and then we will send it off to Albany Records for production.

Before we go into the studio, we're doing a show at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City on Sunday, December 29th, 2013 at 7:30 pm.  Live shows are the best way to get pumped up for the studio!

Cool!  So, how can I help?

Making a record is never inexpensive. There are so many financial obligations that go along with creating an album: musicians, studio rental, engineer for recording and mixing, mastering, hard drives, food, production of CD's and booklets, artwork, and publicity.

I’ve created a nifty little pie chart so you can see how the costs are broken down.

The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours Production Budget
The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours Production Budget

We're running this campaign to raise a portion of our funds. We are also actively looking for sponsors and applying for some grant funding. If we exceed our goal here on Kickstarter, that would be incredible!  

Many of the perks we're offering give you the opportunity to experience Songs After Hours. The more you give, the more ways you'll get to experience it.

You can get a digital download of the album, a CD, a single admission to Smalls Jazz Club, the Songs After Hours anthology sheet music, a limited edition book of The John Harbison Project charts, dinner with John Chin and myself (we're a good hang!), house concerts, and credit in the album as Associate or Executive Producer.

As a special offer, the first 50 funders at any level will get access to the live video stream of our show at Smalls Jazz Club on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm.

Risks and challenges

Our Kickstarter campaign is designed to fund a portion of the project (the entire project from the first notes in the studio to the album in your hand will cost close to $30,000). That's not an unreasonable amount for an album of this quality, but it's a little scary! Beyond this campaign we are applying for some grant funding and also looking for sponsors. While we hope it all works, there is certainly always a chance that it won't. Delays in funding would mean delays in final album production and then possibly a delay in our release date. We will certainly continue to fight to find funding and get this album out there, but every little bit you can give now - even if we surpass our Kickstarter goal - will help immensely to get this fantastic album out to the world.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project: Mary, John, Joe, Dan, and Dayna.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Digital download of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album before the official CD release and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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    30 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    CD of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album, signed by Mary Mackenzie & John Chin, and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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    21 backers
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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Single admission entrance to Smalls Jazz Club in New York City, plus a CD of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album, signed by Mary Mackenzie & John Chin and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Copy of John Harbison's Songs After Hours anthology, plus a CD of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album, both signed by Mary Mackenzie & John Chin and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $175 or more About $175

    Copy of John Harbison's Songs After Hours anthology signed by Mary Mackenzie & John Chin, single admission entrance to Smalls Jazz Club in New York City, a digital download of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album, and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Limited Edition Collection of The John Harbison Project's Songs After Hours charts - signed by the entire band, plus a CD of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album, and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    Like craft beer? Like to cook? Our vocalist, Mary Mackenzie is a beer connoisseur and homebrewer! Available to funders in the NYC area, this perk includes: consultation, ingredients (barley, hops & yeast), brewing and bottling equipment, a brewing session in your home with Mary, and a bottling session in your home with Mary. Plus a signed CD of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Want to know how an opera singer and a jazz pianist work together? Come have dinner in New York City with Mary Mackenzie & John Chin (meal costs additional). Plus a signed CD of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,500 or more About $1,500

    Songs After Hours: Unplugged. A house concert with Mary Mackenzie & John Chin (travel costs additional, if outside NYC). Plus a signed CD of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $3,000 or more About $3,000

    Songs After Hours: The Full Experience. A house concert with The John Harbison Project - Mary, John, Joe, Dayna and Dan. (travel costs additional, if outside NYC). Plus a signed CD of The John Harbison Project: Songs After Hours album and a personal thank you card from The John Harbison Project.

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  12. Select this reward

    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Associate Producer - Credit in the album as an associate producer. PLUS, signed copy of the CD, Anthology, and Limited Edition Chart Collection; Single Admission to Smalls Jazz Club in New York City for the Songs After Hours performance on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm. and CHOOSE ONE (1): dinner with Mary & John in NYC, Unplugged house concert, or full band house concert. (Travel costs additional if outside NYC.)

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  13. Select this reward

    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    Executive Producer - Credit in the album as an executive producer. PLUS, signed copy of the CD, Anthology, and Limited Edition Chart Collection; Single Admission to Smalls Jazz Club in New York City for the Songs After Hours performance on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 7:30 pm., dinner with Mary & John in NYC,and CHOOSE ONE (1): Unplugged house concert, or full band house concert. (Travel costs additional if outside NYC.)

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Funding period

- (30 days)