What Is A Saloon Singer?

We’ve had the good fortune to watch a DVD of a recording made of a set the legendary cabaret performer Mabel Mercer recorded at Cleo’s Restaurant in New York City in 1979 entitled “Mabel Mercer:  A Singer’s Singer,” and the performance was wonderful.  The video is available at Netflix.  There was a man at the very beginning of the video that commented on what constitutes a “saloon singer,” and the following is a transcription of what he said:

Frankly, there is a difference between saloons and to know what constitutes a good saloon singer you have to know what a saloon is.  A saloon is very different from a place where you go to have cocktails or even a nightclub.  A saloon has an overtone of familiarity.  It’s like a comfortable chair, you know.  There is a coziness about it.  In a saloon you feel a friendliness with people that makes them feel that they are a part of you.  You become very close with your audience in saloons.

Perhaps it is different in the heart of cabaret located in New York City, but out here in the hinterlands of Washington State, there are damn few venues that you could classify by this man’s definition as a saloon.  It makes it difficult to find appropriate performance venues for what we want to do.  However, we continue to work on our act and continue to look for venues that might work.

We worked with the wonderul William Warren today, of Portland’s own Lyndin and Warren Song and Dance Team, on our upcoming performance at the Lake Oswego Farmers’ Market.  An open-air venue means not the cozy atmostphere found in a club, and so we adjust the song choices to more upbeat tunes and have to let some of the ballads that need an audience’s attention go for another gig.  However, it is wonderful to work and to prepare a set.  KJ is coming up with some great arrangements for us, and it should be a very fun show for ourselves as well as our audience.  You can find out more information about this upcoming gig here.

Please leave a comment–according to this man’s definition, are there many saloons where you live?  Is there much going on in terms of cabaret performance in your neck of the woods?  We’d love to hear from you!

 

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About Athena at McElrath Cabaret

Athena McElrath is an entertainer with a love for theatre and singing. She enjoys delving in the area of historical cabaret, researching the singers and clubs that were in business from before 1920 to the present, in New York and beyond.
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