A holiday open house without music is like… a Spontaneous Broadway show without music. A bit too quiet. Less dynamic than it ought to be. Lacking an essential quality at the heart of the event.
Which is why you’ll find our own Mark S. Meritt at the piano at Hyde Park’s Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum this weekend, playing holiday tunes as guests tour and take part in special activities on Saturday, Dec. 12. You’ll find him behind the keyboard at each of our Spontaneous Broadway shows, and at plenty of our other performances, too. And after playing in Hyde Park, he’ll be back home to host a sing-along at Mopco HQ—which means you (Yes, you! No personal invite necessary!) can get in on the magic. *
“Playing sing-alongs is one of my favorite things on the planet. There’s nothing better than playing when other people are singing,” Mark says. “I would love to do it much more.” **
So who is this mysterious man-behind-Mopco’s-music? Mark is an improviser in his own right, a composer and songwriter since his teens. Working solo, he relishes the freedom to explore and create whatever he wants. But about seven years ago, he happened to play at a benefit show where Mopco performed, too. A connection was made, and he joined the company in 2010, diving into rehearsals to prepare for a Spontaneous Broadway run.
“It was wild. I was hugely intimidated. It took months to believe people telling me I was doing a good job,” he recalls. “I had been improvising music for a long time, but basically just for myself.”
These days, Mark more often creates music with others, underscoring themes played on stage and actually composing songs on-the-spot with improvisers. It’s a whole new world of collaborating creatively—but by no means one he’d never visited before. One of his earliest achievements includes writing an original musical with some high school friends and convincing the drama club to perform the show. (Not to mention making the smart decision to preserve it on video, so you can see it here.)
Improvised shows don’t stick around quite so long. They’re meant to disappear into the ether soon after they’re created. But the satisfaction and joy that comes from the process? That’s the takeaway Mark knows so well and appreciates so passionately.
“I really love to connect and create with people. It’s this amazing magic trick, creating in the moment,” he says. “It’s incredibly unique and challenging and joyously fun.”
Fun for Mark, but also for improvisers to experience. Fun for audiences to watch. And fun for anyone to be a part of when the opportunity presents itself.
* Here’s how a Mopco sing-along works: Name your tune, and Mark will play it so you can sing along. There’s no pressure to perform, since you’ll be singing as part of a group. You don’t even have to know the words, since Mark has the techno-capability to project lyrics onto a big screen. The next sing-along is set for Saturday, Dec. 12, 7 – 10 p.m. at 309 Union Street, Schenectady.
* * Is Mark available for parties? Yes! And you can connect with him here