Celia Berk, 2015

Tell us a bit about your professional background.

I recently released my debut album, YOU CAN’T RUSH SPRING, arranged and conducted by Alex Rybeck and co-produced by Tony Award-winning sound designer Scott Lehrer. Even before its release, YOU CAN’T RUSH SPRING began attracting attention from some of the most prominent proponents of The Great American Songbook. Michael Feinstein said, “I so enjoy Celia’s beautiful vocal sound and style, and her taste in song choices.” Jonathan Schwartz added a selection to his playlist on WNYC/93.9 FM and The Jonathan Channel.org. Songwriters from two of the album tracks provided endorsements — Alan & Marilyn Bergman (“It’s always nice to hear an obscure song of ours, and even better when it’s a wonderful performance.”) and Ann Hampton Callaway (“Lovely, understated elegance”). Reviewers and listeners are praising what Amanda McBroom calls my “velvet intelligence” and song selections, which include hidden gems from great songwriters.

Since its release, the album has been finding a steadily growing global audience, with airplay and sales extending across the US and into Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada.

I recently appeared at Jazz at Lincoln Center as part of the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s 25th Annual Cabaret Convention and have just made my solo cabaret debut at New York’s Metropolitan Room. Together with Rich Flanders, I also perform DOUBLE STANDARDS, a program of duets and personal favorites.

When and why did you become involved in Broadway Direct Concerts?

Sarah Rice! Sarah Rice! Sarah Rice!

We share the same voice teacher, Laura Thomas. When Sarah heard some demo tracks I had recorded about 6 years ago, she invited me to join the monthly concerts. I hadn’t performed in about 20 years, so it was frightening and thrilling in equal measure. In fact, many members of our group have found their way back to performing thanks to Sarah’s invitation.

How do you pick songs?

I tend to gravitate toward ‘hidden gems from great songwriters’. That’s certainly what is on my debut album.

And our concert group is always suggesting material to each other. We sing a lot of duets and group numbers together. That’s how I got to know Rich Flanders. He and I created a program called DOUBLE STANDARDS after we met in Sarah Rice’s living room, and we tend to look for songs that can be arranged in very tight harmony.

The other kind of material I look for when it comes to Broadway Concerts Direct programs are songs that I might not try anywhere else. That could be because it’s not my “type” of song in a traditional sense, or it needs someone very specific as a partner, or the very eclectic nature of the BCD programs allows for things that might not make it into another evening. Or it might be something I’m considering for a recording or future performance that I need to give a test drive with a smart, receptive audience.

How do you prepare?

I think about what has happened before the song starts. I look at the arc of the song. I explore it as a spoken monologue. I definitely take it to my voice teacher (before and after it’s performed!). And because you never know who and what kind of song it’s going to follow in a BCD concert, I think about “patter” that would help orient the audience quickly and easily before I start to sing.

What do you like about performing?

The audience is the final collaborator. They tell you so much without their even realizing it. They cause the adrenalin boost that shifts everything in a live performance. And I particularly love the BCD audiences who have watched us grow over time. They are really ‘family’.