“As I sing [it’s as if] birds are flying out of me. They infuse the orchestra with energy.” In We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time, David Cale describes his experiences as a nascent entertainer. That same soaring sensation is captured in this musical memoir’s sumptuous and elegant music, written by Cale and arranged and underscored by Brooklyn-based music director Matthew Dean Marsh.
“It’s very much like a film score,” Marsh says of the music, which he will perform live on piano at every performance, accompanied by a quintet of musicians. “The song structures harken back to American Songbook-type songs—but with a contemporary flair. It’s folksy, but lush and romantic. I’ve been really inspired by orchestrations of Phillip Glass and Sufjan Stevens.”
Cale and Marsh hit it off from their very first collaboration—a workshop for the New York-based The Civilians theater company—leading Cale to invite Marsh to accompany his monthly concert residency, More Songs for Charming Strangers, at Pangea Restaurant and Bar. There, they perform a mix of comic songs and emotionally-driven pieces, the latter very much present as Cale reflects on his tumultuous childhood in We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time. “I’m honored David chose me to help tell this story, because it’s so personal and delicate,” Marsh says. “You just want to make sure you do it justice and everything sounds how it deserves to sound.”
Originally from the Detroit area, Marsh began playing piano at age five and discovered an affinity for gospel music while working in downtown churches. After moving to New York to become a singer/songwriter, he found that the city’s theater-heavy cultural landscape provided unexpected opportunity, including score composition for theatrical pieces and accompanying stage notables like Tony Award nominee Sherie Rene Scott. “It’s never boring,” he says of his career, “I’ve been exposed to many different areas, and I’m constantly shocked by how many amazingly talented human beings are on this Earth.” Marsh should count himself among them: his music career continues in tandem with his stage work, having recently debuted his own concert series, Aimless, at Pangea.