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BWW Feature: Celia Berk Inspires Hope With A SIMPLE PRAYER

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Celia Berk brings new meaning to a nineteen year old song.

BWW Feature:  Celia Berk Inspires Hope With A SIMPLE PRAYERIt has been said that timing is everything. That's true in comedy and it's true in life, and sometimes it's just a matter of the pieces coming together in the right moment in history. The pieces came together recently for Celia Berk, and it has given the music world, indeed the whole world, a lovely and profound piece of artwork.

Exactly two years ago Ms. Berk attended a Michele Brourman show at the cabaret dinner club Pangea and, for her encore, Ms. Brourman sang a friend's song, a song that spoke, immediately, to the award-winning Berk, who felt a strong urge to sing it. Never having heard the song, Celia reached out to Brourman, believing this to be a serendipitous moment ("If I went looking for that song, I'd never find it, but Michele sang it and I knew"), with a request for the music. A songwriter herself, Ms. Brourman, first, obtained Michael Silversher's permission to share his creation, then sent it over to Ms. Berk, who performed it at a fundraiser for a Catholic charity event, and then again in a holiday show at The Beach Cafe in December 2019, each time with generous response from the audience, confirming what she had, long, believed: she needed to record this song.

The thought of recording A Simple Prayer had been floating around inside the mezzo's mind for a while but the opportunity to do so continually avoided her ("I really wanted to put this song out but it's not right for the album I'm working on"), so she decided the best way to get it done was to just do it - she had recording dates to record the album - she would record it, then, as a single: in the Spring of 2020.

Well, that didn't happen.

As the health crisis of 2020 grew and the artists of New York City stayed in quarantine, the song A Simple Prayer kept coming back to Celia Berk. She couldn't get it out of her mind. The more she thought about it, the more she wished that recording session hadn't been cancelled because of the Coronavirus. "This song has taken on a new meaning, from 9 11 to now. There is new meaning in the lyrics," says Berk. As a seasoned artist, Celia has learned to listen to that voice in her head, so in August she went into the recording studio with her musical director, Alex Rybeck, and the dream of recording A Simple Prayer became a reality. Except, how do you record a song in an enclosed space during a time of social distancing?

"We went to Kilgore and recorded the song with everyone in masks, with Alex at the piano in the studio, and I did my vocals from inside the tech booth."

And with M.P. Kuo recording and Scott Lehrer mixing, these two cabaret artists created the very first, ever, recording of Michael Silversher's A SIMPLE PRAYER; the resulting release is one of the loveliest recordings this writer has heard in a long time. Indeed, Mr. Silversher's composition seems to inspire in Ms. Berk a level of connection that is almost otherworldly - perhaps it is the time in which we are living, maybe it's the marriage of artist to art, but this will come to be known as one of Celia Berk's great achievements, not surprising when one considers her description of the recording process.

"The vibe in the recording studio was the nicest I have ever had. There was such quiet happiness, such gratitude."

The gratitude did not stop in the studio. Since the song was released on September 20th, Ms. Berk has received messages of appreciation and hope from many people in many places. She has had emails from old friends, from past acquaintances, from fans ("I've heard from people I knew in the 6th grade... from people you never hear from!"). One message Celia got was particularly inspiring. A friend in London who confessed to being sad on so many levels emailed to tell her: "Celia, I sent this to our vicar and he loved it and played it at our open air mass this afternoon. It was quite an emotional experience for me, hearing your voice on the most beautiful autumn day with sunshine and blue skies! Everyone was so moved."

"This is why we do it," says Celia, "For the people who don't know you, who are just people listening to your voice and the lyrics that are so universal. Every couple of days someone connects with me on Twitter or Facebook because of the song. Every song has its moment and this is this song's moment. And Michael is so happy."

BWW Feature:  Celia Berk Inspires Hope With A SIMPLE PRAYERThere was one final touch that needed to be added to the song before it could be released, and it's a touch for which Berk says she is especially proud. "It doesn't happen every day, but sometimes I really do have the RIGHT idea, and I did when I called Helane Blumfield to do the photos for the single and the video." Blumfield, one of the premiere photographers documenting the cabaret industry, had recently reopened her photography studio where she had been (and continues to) shooting socially distanced sessions with artists not only needing new shots but hungry for the creative process of getting pretty, getting into the studio, and feeling active again. The photos created for the release of A Simple Prayer capture the message and meaning Berk, Rybeck, Kuo and Lehrer were all going for. As for the incomparable Rybeck, all Berk has to say about her musical colleague is this: "Alex is like a little orchestra - even though it's just him and a piano on the single, it sounds like there are other instruments. That piano was singing!"

And with the release of A Simple Prayer, a lot of people are singing: singing Berk's praises, singing Silversher's composition, singing for joy, singing for hope.

Now is a perfect time for it.

A Simple Prayer is available on Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and all other streaming platforms.

See the video for A Simple Prayer below.



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From This Author Stephen Mosher