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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's talk next about the music of Measha Brueggergosman, who can sometimes be heard in the right karaoke bar in Toronto belting out something by Journey or by Blue Oyster Cult, "Don't Fear the Reaper."

Brueggergosman is a ringer on the karaoke circuit. She's known to international critics for her performances of classical art songs. She loves to sing barefoot. And her new CD called "Surprise" certainly has its surprises. She has recorded cabaret songs by the team of William Bolcom and Arnold Weinstein, Erik Satie and the forbidding Arnold Schoenberg.

As part of the series Musicians in Their Own Words, Measha Brueggergosman sat down on the floor and explained why she loves to sing cabaret.

Ms. MEASHA BRUEGGERGOSMAN (Singer): Cabaret to me is classical music letting its hair down.

(Soundbite of song, "George")

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing) My friend George used to say, oh, call me George or hon. Get yourself a drink.

It's not, you know, pastoral poems about love, longing and lust. It's about a dog or a crazy man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: Of transvestite being murdered by a Navy officer like allows you to comment on all of the stories using the language of the Western classical tradition.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing) One fine day a stranger in a suit of navy blue took George's life with a knife joined to face the fight, an apple pie he's (unintelligible) and stabbed him in the mirror (unintelligible) a stranger who works in the United States Navy.

I think that music without drama or character is uninteresting. And that's what I kind of like about these repertories is that it feels like it's an extension of who I am and in me.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing in French)

Arnold Schoenberg has been the punch line about many a joke about contemporary atonality but you do love a good joke. And he did love the art of song.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing in French)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: William Bolcom and I met in Ann Arbor, two men cancelled and he ended up playing his cabaret songs while I sang them. So I went from hoping that I could maybe sing them for him and ask him a few questions to performing them with him in concert.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: I had really wanted to ask him about the character of Black Max, is it an actual person? Is it the plague? Is it syphilis?

(Soundbite of song, "Song of Black Max")

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing) He was always dress in black, long black jacket, broad black hat.

When I asked Bill about it he was like, well Arnie, meaning Arnold Weinstein, used to hang out in Rotterdam for a time, and there was this character that wore black who all the time who was been and had a hat.

(Soundbite of song, "Song of Black Max")

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing) He would raise that big black hat to the big shots all the timeā€¦

And the song is about the misfits of this weird guy.

(Soundbite of song, "Song of Black Max")

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing) Never knew they were bowing to Black Max.

It makes the song easier to sing because I can really be a storyteller without having to impregnate the simple words with a deeper meaning like in a daaah(ph). And also it's a story of a time of mystery and a lot of decadence.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing) There were women in the windows with bodies for sale. Dressed in curls like little girls in a little dollhouse jail.

I think that singers can't help at some point to feel very empowered because of all the sound they can make just with their own body.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: For me, the inside of my body is extremely technical and what happens on the outside is extremely emotional. And you do spend a lot of time trying to meld the two.

(Soundbite of music)

But at the end of the day it is still about breathing with, like, a supported scream.

(Soundbite music)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing) Oh. Sometimes I feel exciting.

There's a comfort in knowing that I'm doing the right thing.

(Soundbite music)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: Being patiently ambitious like I am. I want to work at a high level and then get to an even higher level, and just do more for classical music because I think it's the best art form in the world and I'm on fire for it.

(Soundbite music)

Ms. BRUEGGERGOSMAN: (Singing) (Unintelligible)

INSKEEP: Measha Brueggergosman on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

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