Monthly Archives: March 2020

Let me entertain you

Apologies to everyone who went to the original link I posted. I couldn’t get that stream to start, so had to start up another one. Next time, I’ll get this all sorted out, and won’t be what the French call “les incompétents.”

I was supposed to conduct Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion this coming Friday, but by now, in the throes of the Coronavirus outbreak, it should be obvious that that’s not happening.

So instead, I’ll go deep into the catalog of cabaret songs that I’ve amassed over the past 20 years. It’s a livestreamed YouTube event, Friday, March 20, 2020 at 8 pm ET / 5 pm PT / other times in other places.

Now, likely if you’re reading this, you know me mainly as a composer or a conductor, so what’s all this about cabaret songs? Well it all started when I was in high school, hanging out with these wannabe jazzbos. They didn’t really like me that much or think I was great at the piano (I wasn’t) but I was the best they had if they wanted to practice their soloing skills.

So I learned to be a one-man rhythm section, walking the bass lines and comping in my right hand. And since I always loved singing, it was a natural next step to add my own voice to the mix. By the time I went away to college, I had a big chunk of The Fake Book and The Real Book under my fingers.

It turned out that that was a valuable asset in Hyde Park. Through various machinations, I ended up falling in with a hard-drinking, highfalutin garden party crowd mainly centered around the old Quadrangle Club (not to be confused with its current incarnation. For more, see this and this.) For the next several years I played piano in a variety of lounges, living rooms, cocktail bars, and cast parties.

I learned a lot of songs over those years. A lot of the attendees were born in the 20’s and 30’s, but even the ones who were born in the 60’s and 70’s expected me to have complete familiarity with the Noël Coward songbook. I was also doing lots of theatrical work, conducting musicals and operettas, which nursed my lifelong love of showtunes.

The big thing that’s kept me in the lounge lizard game though, has been my participation in the famous Sara Salon series in Hyde Park, which has been going on for at least 10 years now. From what I can tell, it’s the only 19th century Parisian salon in 21st century Chicago.

The idea is this: my friends Sara Stern and Ted Fishman invite all of their artistic friends over for an evening of food and performing. Everyone brings a number or an act. It can be anything from an aria to a poetry reading to a karate demonstration. One time, members of eighth blackbird played Steve Reich’s “Piano Phase” on toy pianos.

I’ve tended to accompany myself at the piano, preferring to do songs with multiple characters. So for example, “Erlkönig” has become a cabaret song for me, as has “Someone in a tree” from Pacific Overtures. Whether or not I’m in drag, you can assume that I’m singing my songs in the style of an aging chanteuse, such as Marianne Faithfull, Lotte Lenya, or Bea Arthur.

So anyway, that’s the idea. Have requests ready and I’ll take them if I can. See you Friday.

If you’re bored, try some of this music

Now look, I know this quarantine thing probably isn’t impacting me as much as it is some of you. I’ve spent several years of my life as a self-employed freelance composer, plus I don’t drink, and I’m a vegan. So social distance is par for the course for me.

But some of you might be going stir crazy, so I’m posting a bunch of pieces that I’ve worked on and tinkered with over the years, or that I’ve written for friends and special occasions, and you’re welcome to download them and try them out. Send me feedback ( or tag me (insta / twitter @willcwhite) and let me see what you do with them. It’ll be fun.

Solo cello suite (also with viola and bass)

For many years I played around with writing a solo cello suite. Some of the movements I’m happy with, others not so much. Some of it is probably unplayable. But give it a try.

Here’s a version for viola:

And here’s one of the movements arranged for bass:

Trumpet Duets

These were an exercise in keeping my composition chops up to snuff. I wrote one a day during January 2017. No idea if they’re any good.

Kin for percussion trio

I wrote this for my friend Kyle Ritenauer and his brothers, all amazing percussionists. They were trying to get a percussion trio off the ground way back in 2013 but they ended up pursuing different avenues (all very successfully!) so they never tackled this. It’s very hard, but conveniently for a quarantine situation, it only requires materials commonly found in a suburban garage.

Lemn de Viata for violin and clarinet

I wrote this one for my friends Peter and Lisa, who have been chewing on it for a bit but haven’t yet been able to perform it. They’ve sent me some rehearsal clips though, and I think it works!

Circumpolar for 2 oboes

This was an auxiliary piece to the Oboe Quintet I recently wrote. It was written for a scientist who works at the north and south poles, and who happens to play the oboe.

The Will White Songbook

Various songs that I’ve written over the years for cabarets and revûes, few of which will make sense outside of their given contexts, but do with them what you will. I’ll be singing them at my livestream cabaret on Friday, March 20, 2020.