Broadway veteran Lynnie Godfrey creates children’s chorus

Click the image to watch the video!

(This article was originally published by 69 News)

Broadway, film and television veteran Lynnie Godfrey visited 69 News Saturday morning.

She currently lives in the Lehigh Valley, but directs and performs in New York and around the country.

When she learned how little music education was available to students in Allentown, she decided to launch a children’s chorus – which is free of charge to the members and is funded, in part, through a grant from the Allentown School District.

Auditions were held in February and students have been rehearsing since then.

Children range in age from 6-12 years old and there will be 15 performing at the concert.

Click here to watch the video

LYNNIE GODFREY TO APPEAR IN ALLENTOWN IN TWO VERY DIFFERENT EVENTS

After not appearing in the Lehigh Valley for a couple of years, Lynnie Godfrey will perform in TWO very different appearances right around Holiday time. Try to make both….At Symphony Hall on Friday, November 30, 2018 and at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on Friday, Dec.7, 2018. (see EVENTS for times and ticket prices)

The first appearance is a fund raiser for one of her favorite venues:ALLENTOWN SYMPHONY HALL. The space is quite limited only 50 to 60 seats…The Symphony has built a million dollar plus LYRIC ROOM and have asked Ms. Godfrey to open it. What a privilege ! With this appearance Ms.Godfrey becomes the ONLY performer thus far to appear in the All performance spaces in the HALL…the Rodale Room for the Jazz Series, the Main Hall for the POP series and now to open the LYRIC ROOM. Her scheduled set will include her favorite standards and surprises for the audience by a special guest or even guests.
ONE NIGHT ONLY AT THIS VENUE !
The second appearance:COME SPEND THE HOLIDAYS WITH LYNNIE GODFREY AND THE ACCC. This performance is shared with her beloved ALLENTOWN’S CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS CHORUS and will feature a Christmas program ONLY.
ONE NIGHT ONLY AT THIS VENUE !
!!Purchase tickets ($5.00 -$20.00) at the door.

54 Sings Eubie July 10, 2018

To commemorate its 40th anniversary, Feinstein’s/54 Below is bringing back, for one night only, the acclaimed Tony- nominated Broadway musical, Eubie!

Buy Tickets Online.

A a toe-tapping, musical celebration of one of Broadway’s most prolific pioneers, Eubie Blake, Eubie! is a celebration of the melodies, mayhem, and mischievousness of the early 20th century jazz world.

The soul and sound of the celebrated composer is evoked in a dizzying collection of songs that span the century, including the classics “Low Down Blues,” “My Handyman Ain’t Handy No More,” and “I’m Just Wild about Harry.”

Featuring:
Ethel Beatty (Eubie OBC, Dreamgirls, Bubbling Brown Sugar)
Leslie Dockery (Eubie OBC, Sophisticated Ladies, The Tap Dance Kid)
Lynnie Godfrey (Eubie OBC,No Place To Be Somebody, TV’s Amen, Brewster Place)
Mel Johnson Jr. (Eubie OBC, The Lion King, Jelly’s Last Jam)
Arbender Robinson (Shuffle Along, Beautiful)
Jeffrey V Thompson (Eubie OBC, Uptown…It’s Hot, Amen Corner)

Produced and Directed by Robert W. Schneider


Lynnie Godfrey sings
The First “Daddy” on Broadway

Photo by Bert Andrews

Lynnie Godfrey
A Later “Daddy” on the Showtime Network

Photo by Showtime Staff

And Today???
Lynnie Godfrey sings “DADDY “
Will I or Won’t I??? More importantly CAN l???
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!!!


Photo by Lori Smith


Photo by Stephanie Gardner

Well… Come and See…Come See the Talented Cast … Some of The Original Cast Members Plus Wonderful Talent of Today and Share the Songs and the Memories!

First Rehearsal of the Allentown Children’s Christmas Chorus

Allentown Children’s Christmas Chorus

This is the First Rehearsal of the Allentown Children’s Christmas Chorus!!

Auditions are over and the the Allentown Children’s Christmas Chorus has officially launched. The first rehearsal has been held as the group prepares for  a performance with Ms. Godfrey at her holiday concert at St. John’s in December, 2018.

In addition to rehearsing holiday songs, Godfrey plans to invite guest performers to the rehearsals to teach students about acting, vocal technique and the audition process. She says she was inspired to create the chorus after discovering how little time and funding is allocated to the arts in Allentown schools.

“It came as a shock and I needed to do something about it,” Godfrey explains. “Growing up in Harlem, I attended The Modern School, where arts were infused into everything we did. I always say my ability to memorize a script goes back to learning and reciting poetry for our school festival. No matter what career path, the arts are vital to a child’s education.”

Godfrey, who was recently named President of Friends of Music in Bethlehem, says after seeing the success of that organization’s music education grant program in the Bethlehem schools, she wanted to do something to benefit children in Allentown.

Corporate sponsors are needed underwrite uniforms, sheet music and some other costs of the program and Godfrey says she is grateful to St. John’s Church and the Allentown School District, for partnering on this first-time project.

Broadway Veteran to Launch Allentown Children’s Chorus

Lynnie Godfrey to Audition Youth to Sing in Upcoming Concert

ALLENTOWN, PA — Lynnie Godfrey’s resume includes roles on Broadway, at the Kennedy Center, in television series and on film. Now, is ready to share what she’s learned with a group of Allentown children, who will perform with her in concert. The Lehigh Valley resident is holding auditions for a new “Children’s Chorus” on Saturday, February 24, 2018 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 37 S 5th Street in Allentown (www.stjohnsallentown.org).

Download Allentown Children’s Chorus Audition Flyer (PDF)

Children in grades kindergarten thru fifth grades are eligible to audition. They may sing any song they choose, either a cappella, or if they bring sheet music, an accompanist will be provided.
Auditions and participation is free. Approximately 12-15 students will be selected and commit to two rehearsals a month, leading to a performance with Ms. Godfrey at her holiday concert at St. John’s in December, 2018.

“This is not about finding the next contestant for “The Voice,” Godfrey explains. “Enthusiasm is more important than talent. We want to create an opportunity for children who love to sing and will benefit from the experience of performing.”

In addition to rehearsing holiday songs, Godfrey plans to invite guest performers to the rehearsals to teach students about acting, vocal technique and the audition process. She says she was inspired to create the chorus after discovering how little time and funding is allocated to the arts in Allentown schools.

“It came as a shock and I needed to do something about it,” Godfrey explains. “Growing up in Harlem, I attended The Modern School, where arts were infused into everything we did. I always say my ability to memorize a script goes back to learning and reciting poetry for our school festival. No matter what career path, the arts are vital to a child’s education.”

Godfrey, who was recently named President of Friends of Music in Bethlehem, says after seeing the success of that organization’s music education grant program in the Bethlehem schools, she wanted to do something to benefit children in Allentown.

Corporate sponsors are needed underwrite uniforms, sheet music and some other costs of the program and Godfrey says she is grateful to St. John’s Church and the Allentown School District, for partnering on this first-time project.

Last year, Godfrey, who has performed with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, directed two new plays at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem. Her production company, Godlee Entertainment, includes “Essence of Acting,” an African-American acting troupe based in New York City that recently performed “Greenwood: An American Dream Destroyed,” about the 1921 race riot in Oklahoma.

For questions about the chorus auditions, email: goleeentertain@aol.com

 

Classical: Lynnie Godfrey sings with Allentown Symphony Orchestra

red-dress-gold-robeIt’s been nearly six years since Broadway, television and film actress and singer Lynnie Godfrey traded the high-energy hustle of New York City for the relative tranquility of Lowhill Township. Yet the Harlem native had other goals in mind than a quiet retirement when she arrived here. One of them was to bring the sassy sizzle of a big city-style cabaret to her new home.

Godfrey’s first area gig, at the Fowler Blast Furnace Room at SteelStacks in November 2011, was a rousing, sold-out success. She’s since followed that performance with numerous other cabaret-style concerts, play readings, two CDs and a book, “Lynnie Godfrey: Sharing Lessons Learned While Seeking the Spotlight.” Her rich, creamy voice has been accompanied by such talented local musicians as Dave Roper, Craig Kastelnik, Kevin O’Connell, Neil Wetzel, Gary Rissmiller and Greg Eichler…

Read full article here: Classical: Lynnie Godfrey sings with Allentown Symphony Orchestra

 

Awesome Snow Storm Thwarts All Efforts for The Snow Queen: Lynnie Godfrey to Perform with Symphony Orchestra in Allentown, PA

Lynnie Godfrey as “The Snow Queen” with actor Ashton Holmes Photo by Timothy H. Raab

Lynnie Godfrey as “The Snow Queen” with actor Ashton Holmes
Photo by Timothy H. Raab

There is NO GOD like GOD and if you want to hear GOD laugh say that YOU have a plan.

I guess you say what a funny way to start a piece of writing…but it applies. I should start by saying that around 1998 I was introduced to the role of the magical Hans Christian Anderson fairy queen: SNOW QUEEN and performed that role for several years and may reprise it in the future.

As I referred to my calendar book of 2015 I see the date Thursday, January 22 at 1 PM as the first gathering of the team that would compose the performance event of LYYNIE GODFREY CARESSES THE STANDARDS. (Yes, that was the original title). The team: Ron Demkee, Ken Moyer, Donna Fritchney, Diane Wintry and myself…(Sheila Evans, the Executive Director couldn’t make it that day) gathered that day.

There we sat around an nondiscript round table hashing out the beginning of what would be a year long journey to the January 23, 2016… Full Orchestra concert for Lynnie Godfrey. Our conversation was rapid and enthusiastic and many things were not touched on but we all knew it would be an event.

Many changes occurred: the Executive Principles decided that the wording CARESSES was too provocative so after a bit of consultation I presented them with the alternative of EMBRACES. Quite frankly, the title will always be LYNNIE GODFREY CARESSES THE STANDARDS wherever else we go (and we’ve tested it and everyone else loved it!) because that is what we are doing on that stage!!

2016 was a banner year for me.. I started on the plans of the concert, I would come to direct 2 readings, travel to engage theatrical interest in the plays, rehearse for the concert and write a book.. It was like 1933 for Ethel Waters when she started singing “STORMY WEATHER” written by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler under the musical direction of Duke Ellington at the famed Cotton Club and then was on star on Broadway in the Irving Berlin hit: “AS THOUSANDS CHEER” and to sing the two classics “ HEAT WAVE” and ‘SUPPERTIME” both written exclusively for her.

Now don’t get me wrong I am not comparing myself to the great WATERS…. just the run of work of the two of us. What a YEAR!!! But not all that year was great…

During the summer I would become increasing concerned with the health of my last blood relative in my family nucleus…Jo-Ann. I would make efforts to transfer her from her sweet Randolph, NJ cottage-like apartment to the Lehigh Valley to monitor her health more carefully. You see Jo-Ann suffered from muscular dystrophy and had had it for 54 years and in the last 18 months it was progressing very quickly leaving her bed bound. October 4, I was invited to a cabaret performance of one of my lovely actors and colleagues:  Alexander Foucard in New York. Jo-Ann had been sleeping a lot and reaching her on the phone was becoming increasingly difficult. I talked to her earlier in the day and then it became difficult to reach her (I liked to call her about 4 to 5 times a day). Just as I began to worry about her she answered the phone and told me to “You go on to New York, don’t send Carl over, I’m just sleeping today”. So I went riding with my friend Melba Tolliver to New York. We had a little supper with her friend Hans and then attended the performance. There must have been some difficulty with the mechanics because they started quite late. That meant I would get home late.

As was my practice I always called Jo-Ann on my return…I thought it was too late and I would call in the morning not to wake her up. Strangely my phone rang at 12:50 from her but because it was in the back seat in my purse I missed the call. I immediately reached back and retrieved the phone and tried several times to call Jo-Ann back but her battery had died on BOTH phones…landline and mobile. I decided I would go first thing in the morning…take that 100 mile trip and fuss at my dear for letting the battery die and then stock her with food and make sure she was secure.

None of that was to be, for as I arrived at her place the next morning I got no answer to my regular cry:” Jo…It’s me”. Too extreme and terrifying silence I walked into her bedroom to find my sweet girl GONE…with the television on…the phone in one hand and the check writing bills in the other. Attempts by me and the paramedics to revive her failed…I was and still am (as I relive those moments) devastated…My Josie was gone…

My life was changed forever!!!!

Months, days and minutes that followed were a blur of grief and work…work…work  to escape the pain of loss…

Fast forward to the month of December… rehearsals are going forward, the final of the book was due…all good to keep me…my mind busy… busy after losing my Jo…

Now January is upon us…television, radio, newspaper and live appearances the concert and book signings are being done. The weather looks grand and then about a week before a disturbing forecast: Snow…

Well …It is Thursday, January 21..we have a great rehearsal but now on my phone I am receiving notices that businesses are cancelling their performances for the weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Our year-long effort was in jeopardy… Now at 4:30 on Thursday, the Governor declared a state of emergency status for Pennsylvania. I was not aware of that…I was being told by Symphony we would be put in a hotel on Friday as planned and then walk across the street and perform. Then more weather reports: not just a storm but a winter north eastern blizzard to say the least… Well, then came the phone call about not a cancellation but a POSTPONEMENT until Saturday, August 27 @ 7:30. A good date for a performance…after Musikfest at Arts Quest which I love to attend and before the last breath of summer Labor Day…Not bad…not a bad date at all.

Relief that everyone would be safe in their homes and the stress to try to make unsafe trips is off their minds and my mind. My audience and me …we are all safe…so it’s grand!!!

Then, came floods of calls: Will you perform before that? Will you accept a New York date offered before?.… What about the scouts/representatives that were coming to book you elsewhere…won’t you miss that chance?

Well…first, I believe one does not miss anything…if it is for you GOD will make a way. The representatives from other places will see me and the opportunities will come…faith…stepping out on a staircase that you don’t see… A date In New York…cannot do… contractually obligated to Symphony until after August 27 so NO!!!No New York gig right now.

Now it the time to do more book signing to promote the book, travel to book the plays, cast and rehearse for the play reading of…. LOIS”S WEDDING by Bathsheba Monk, the reading due Monday, March 21, 2016 and then rehearse for the summer event of my YEAR… SATURDAY, AUGUST 27, 2016 @ 7:30…SEE YOU THIS SUMMER!!!!

Great Article in The Morning Call by Dave Howell

Concerts, plays and a new book keep Lynnie Godfrey on a happy whirlwind

Lynnie Godfrey has hit the Lehigh Valley like a whirlwind since she moved here five years ago, with sold-out jazz cabaret shows at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown, concerts and play readings at Bethlehem’s SteelStacks, two CDs, and, on Jan. 23, a pops series concert with the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.

Godfrey is the same onstage or off, full of warmth and vitality. In a conversation at the Hotel Bethlehem, she calls the pops concert one of the highlights of a long career that has included Broadway, film, and television.

“Working with an orchestra on this level is wonderful,” she says. The songs span the years 1926 to 1973, and include “Lush Life,” “Send In the Clowns,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”

Read full article here: http://www.mcall.com/entertainment/music/mc-lynnie-godfrey-allentown-symphony-20160114-story.html 

Mother and Daughter

mother-daughterMaggie Mae Wood Godfrey  in 1945 and her Daughter Caroline Lynnie Godfrey Lee at a commercial shoot on November 3, 2015

The Play’s The Thing

By Melba Tolliver

     Once upon a time there was a place called Greenwood.  Let it never be forgotten.

This is the last line in Celeste Bedford Walker’s Greenwood: An American Dream Destroyed. When I heard those words in the first public reading of Walker’s play they left me wondering.  Were the words a desperate plea? An ominous warning?   Or both?   They come at the close of the play’s final act, spoken by the photojournalist character.  He is an outsider invited to document the glory of an unapoligetically all-black Oklahoma town. But the visitor ends up bearing witness to the town’s destruction  in two days of race riots in 1921.

Back row: Bernadette Drayton, Lawrence Cherry,Jimmy Gary Jr., Dathan B. Williams, Byron C. Saunders, Akil Williams, Guy Whitlock, Marlene Villafane, Charles B Murray, Anthony Goss, Elijah Bland and Jalene Goodwin. Seated: Playwright: Celeste Bedford Walker Yvette Ganier, Director: Lynnie Godfrey and Brenda Denmark

Back row: Bernadette Drayton, Lawrence Cherry,Jimmy Gary Jr., Dathan B. Williams, Byron C. Saunders, Akil Williams, Guy Whitlock, Marlene Villafane, Charles B Murray, Anthony Goss, Elijah Bland and Jalene Goodwin. Seated: Playwright: Celeste Bedford Walker, Yvette Ganier, Director: Lynnie Godfrey and Brenda Denmark

For now, the place called Greenwood and the people—proud and  prosperous —-who built it are not forgotten.  Far from it. Both are being remembered—in fact and  in fiction—in Bethlehem, in New York City , in Los Angeles—-and wherever folks have access to cable TV if a production now being developed pans out.   

First,  to Walker’s Greenwood.  An  original work by the Houston-based playwright, it  had its first public reading last month at  SteelStacks in Bethlehem. The reading, directed by award-winning actress  and Broadway veteran Lynnie Godfrey, played to an enthusiastic and engaged audience, most of whom had never heard of the Oklahoma town or the riots that ruined it . 

 Walker spent years digging into the facts surrounding the town’s destruction by white terrorists. Writing and re-writing, incorporating history with the story of  a Depression era community whose wealth and self-sufficiency had earned it the title “ black wall street”  Walker finally felt the work was finished and let it go.   A regional theatre took over production of the piece, originally Black Wall Street.   

But as fate and the creative muse would have it, Walker wasn’t done yet. The regional production was an audience failure. As it happened, Lynnie Godfrey got wind of the play and the story moved her, she saw  huge potential in Walker’s work.  So Godfrey reached out to the playwright,  shared her vision of how to re-work the play and together they began taking it to another level.  In phone conversations and  email and maybe with a bit of ESP thrown in, the author and the director took the play down to its bare bones and then re-built it scene by inspired scene.

 “We did not intend it as a documentation of the event,” says Godfrey speaking about the real Oklahoma race riot.  “ But what it (the race riot) did to people.  We built it around the family.”

And so it is not the gunfire, not the dead bodies of 300 black residents, not the arson fires that wiped out businesses, hospitals, schools and  left 9-thousand people homeless, and  not the vicious rioters  that keep Greenwood audiences riveted in their seats. Instead they watch  generations of the  fictional Boley family face and then deal with raw truth:  social prominence and wealth may appear solid, but are in fact only tentative,  always subject to forces beyond one’s control, forces fueled by envy and hatred.

Molly Boley, played by Godfrey  is the class conscious,  steely gatekeeper of the family’s social  status.  A veteran of Broadway, Godfrey is superb in the role, peeling  away what Molly uses to cover her vulnerable core  as a  wife and mother and the family member who  is most devastated  by the riots.  In what turns out to be excruciatingly  bad timing, Molly  has invited a photojournalist to town expecting he will come away with a glowing report about Greenwood.   Instead, the riots, sparked by accusations of a young black man making advances on a white woman, upend Molly’s attempts at self-promotion and give the photojournalist fodder for an entirely different story than the one Molly intended.  The family’s rude awakening is shared by other characters whose lives intersect with the  Boley’s. 

Walker acknowledges that playwriting, as with any writing, can be pretty lonely and she says having a partner in Godfrey was a blessing.  “I was so delighted to work with someone as gifted as Lynnie.  She made great contributions to this script.”

Collaboration is obviously part of the total Godfrey package and keystone of a process  she has aptly named “From the Page to the Stage and Screen.” With SteelStacks as the venue and ArtsQuest as the artist incubator, Godfrey is the catalyst for providing a safe space where the projects of  writers, actors,  and other word-workers and performers can be polished and road-tested.  Charles White is an example. A playwright and lawyer, White had the benefit of Godfrey directing a first public reading of his Unentitled last June. “I once heard that you should make your plays director-proof because directors will ruin your vision,” White says.  “That is not the case.  She (Godfrey) was a marvelous director, wonderful to work with.”

White’s Unentitled, like Walker’s Greenwood, explores the dynamics of financially well-off black families.  What happens when unexpected events force hard choices on such families,  threatens their status, and undermines the images they hold of themselves? Q&A sessions  which Godfrey held immediately after both  readings gave the  director and the actors a chance to hear audience comments and field their questions.

Most of the Greenwood audience  admitted that their knowledge of American history didn’t include the Oklahoma riots or those that wrecked  58 similar  black communities in the early 1900’s. One person  even remarked that he found the wealth of Greenwood blacks, “unbelievable ” because he had no idea that wealthy black people existed.

Godfrey’s collaborative approach saw both Bethlehem readings repeated at off- Broadway venues in New York City. And five actors from Unentitled  were in the eleven member cast of  Greenwood.   Jalene Goodwin brought a youthful and winning playfulness to both readings as a daughter who takes for granted the material things her moneyed parents can give her, but rebels against their class-conscious rules.  Brenda Thomas Denmark was  a standout in both readings. Though the characters differed, Denmark was thoroughly believable , both as the stylish mother-in-law in Unentitled  and the entrepreneurial  Boley family matriarch who  helped keep Greenwood money circulating within the community. The photojournalist was  given a strong presence as played by Dathan B. Williams.  Willing to see and report the picture Molly wants to paint of her beloved town, he  cannot escape the racial undertow  surging  just below its surface.

   

What’s next for Greenwood and Unentitled?  The question pops up after every reading and Godfrey and crew have been ready with some possibilities:   Workshop productions with sets and costumes. Maybe even Broadway if the readings result in the kind of word-of-mouth that attracts “angels” with investment dollars.

Yet more evidence of Greenwood’s re-surfacing  is Tulsa a 4-hour made-for-tv mini-series currently in development for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) where money is apparently not a challenge.  Based on the same 1921 race riot history that inspired playwright Walker’s Greenwood, Tulsa also reportedly plans to  center its plot on a fictional family.

In a call to a reporter for the Tulsa World who wrote one of the first stories about the OWN mini-series I learned that it is still in the works, though the cameras have yet to roll  and it’s not certain when or where it will be shot. 

Almost daily, news headlines from Missouri, and Staten Island and elsewhere in America give weight to Walker’s closing line, “Let us not forget.”   Are those words  a passionate plea? Or a worn-out warning?  And who among us is really listening?

Meanwhile, Godfrey already has plans for her and ArtsQuest’s next project:  a play reading in March of Lois’s Wedding by Bethlehem publisher and writer Bathsheba Monk.