November Meeting Recap

Hey songwriters,

Sorry to get this out late. I’ve been slammed.

“Death” works. With 20 songwriters in attendance at the Nov. 3 meeting of Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle, just about everyone showcased a song about or including death. Four first-timers participated as the Circle also revisited last month’s assignment — detailing individual songwriting processes — and explored major- and minor-key variations that can help to communicate nuances of tone and attitude that lyrics alone can’t convey. It was a really good meeting.

It had been a while since the last featured set by Sue Gartland ( In terms of songwriting, vocals, musical performance and stage skills, her 30-minute set may have been one of her best performances ever. It was followed by a diverse and interesting open stage.

If you haven’t experienced the well-crafted progressive rock-folk songs of Liss Victory (, do yourself a favor and check out her featured set following the Songwriters Circle’s 7 p.m. Dec. 1 meeting at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. The optional songwriting assignment is “funny,” to be interpreted however you choose.

Lots to cover below. Sorry for the long message.

Album project

CDs are in. Congratulations to everyone involved, including the project’s new producer Mike Hickman ( Our standard distribution: 1,000 units minus 20 for Calliope, 20 for the group, five for Mike, five for CDBaby and five for media. With 25 participants, we each get 37 copies.

CD processing: I could use some help rubber-banding seven loose units to a box of 30 CDs and wrapping it tightly in a plastic supermarket bag that will be passed to participants. To lend a hand (and get your CDs), swing by BBT at about 8:30 p.m. Tue., Nov. 17.

CD pick up: Get ‘em at the next group meeting, at the open stage every Tuesday at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern (I usually get there about 8:30 p.m.), or at the Dec. 11 CD release event in Shadyside. Or make arrangements for drive-by pickup at the new Post-Gazette office, 358 North Shore Dr., North Shore, across from Bettis Grille (no need to park — make arrangements with me a day in advance to arrive at a particular time, call me at 412-335-1446 when you’re five minutes out and I’ll be out on the curb with your CDs). Or, contact me to make other arrangements.

CD release event

All album project participants are invited to perform Fri., Dec. 11 at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Shadyside  (6300 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232). Hey group members who are not on this year’s album — please show your support for the group and project by attending the listening-room event. Admission $7, children 12 and under free. Free parking at PCA lots.

– Producer Mike Hickman ( and group members Sue Gartland ( and Brian Price ( will appear live on Saturday Light Brigade radio (WRCT 88.3 FM) 11 a.m.-noon Sat., Dec. 5 to promote the CD release with talk and live performances. SLB also airs on WNJR 91.7 FM in Washington, Pa., so Sue will also advance the group’s Concert for City Mission benefit, Dec. 12.

– IMPORTANT: Before Dec. 11, please email a brief bio about yourself to MC Steve Gallo ( Stage time is extremely tight, so keep your bio introduction short. Here’s an example:

John Hayes is manager of Pittsburgh Songwriters Circle and this compilation album series, and since 2005 he has hosted Calliope Songwriters Open Stage at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. This marks the 11th song he’s placed in this 11-year album series. John lives in the South Hills and is the outdoors editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He’s accompanied tonight by Derek Allen.

– Our annual CD release raffle raises funds that are paid forward to cut recording costs on the following year’s album project. Prize baskets include donated concert tickets, mugs, T-shirts, Songwriters Circle CDs and group members; independent CDs and other merch. Raffle prize baskets are pre-wrapped, so please donate your stuff in advance. At the Dec. 1 meeting would be a good time, or during the open stage 9 p.m. every Tuesday at Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. Or make other arrangements.

– Our access to the venue is extremely limited. Load in 4 p.m. Doors 6:30 p.m., show 7-10 p.m., doors locked 10:30 p.m. When you’re onstage, no long speeches — this isn’t the Academy Awards.

– Maximum two accompanists. Two songs (or one long song — we’ll each have about 7 minutes of stage time). Performers are comped at the door, but there’s no guest list.

– Keyboards, drum sets — make advance arrangements to load-in before 6 p.m.

– No pre-drawn performance roster, you will not know in advance at what time you’ll play. That’s sneaky a bit of stagecraft intended to discourage your fans from not showing up until you’re on — we want your family, friends, etc., to experience all of us. On arrival, get yourself on the roster run by stage manager Marty Zundel’s ( First come, first served.

– PCA gets room rental and beverage sales (beer, wine, soda). Calliope pays our rental fee (taking a loss every year) and gets the door. A food vendor (upscale sandwiches, snacks, coffee) gets food sales. Songwriters Circle gets 100 percent of raffle and CD sales.

Concert for City Mission

There’s still space available for anyone who wants to play a short solo set in support of our benefit show to raise money for Washington, Pa.’s City Mission, which is recovering from a fire this summer. Contact John Hayes.

Christmas shows

Got an original Christmas or holiday song? Share it with someone who needs it.

It’s become a bit of a tradition for Songwriters Circle members to play unique Christmas shows at homeless shelters, where we include our holiday originals with traditional Christmas songs. People love it — especially the little kids. We usually do City Mission, but that’s not possible this year. On Tue., Dec. 15 6-7 p.m. we’re playing at Light of Life Mission on the North Side. We have an invitation to play a 1-2 p.m. lunchtime Christmas party at Senior Life senior Center in Greensburg (I was told we could do it just about any weekday in December). And we still have the option to reprise last year’s Bloomfield Bridge Tavern Christmas show 7-9 p.m. on a Saturday in December ($5 door, canned food donations go to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank). Not only did we collect money and food for the hungry, our hungry families and friends benefitted the bottom line at BBT, which has provided our meeting space for free every month for the last decade.

Last year’s Christmas events were a blast. Please get back to me soon to confirm your interest in playing any of these shows. Reply now while you’re thinking about it.