Gabriel Kahane’s ‘February House’ Personifies 7 Middagh Street’s 1940s’ ‘Bohemian Commune’

Burgeoning eclectic classical composer & performer Gabriel Kahane is featured in a lengthy profile in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, titled “Gabriel Kahane Is a One-Man Cultural Cuisinart.” The 30-year-old resident of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, composed music & lyrics for “February House” (see previous BHB post here), based on the true story of the Brooklyn Heights mansion at 7 Middagh Street, where W.H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee, among others, lived in the 1940s. The musical opens May 22 at New York’s Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street.

Also note that the musical is based on a book by former Brooklyn Heights resident Sherill Tippins. The descriptor on the Public Theater website offers: “Visionary and flamboyant editor George Davis transforms a dilapidated Brooklyn boardinghouse into a bohemian commune for these leading lights of 1940s New York. The residents create a tumultuous and remarkable makeshift family searching for love, inspiration and refuge from the looming war in Europe. The exciting score, written by up-and-coming composer Gabriel Kahane, mixes elements of classical operetta, jazz and musical comedy with modern folk-pop.”

The New York Times praised the production, in a review written by Sylviane Gold: “Gabriel Kahane has confected nearly two dozen exquisite songs to tell the story of a ragtag Brooklyn Heights town house that once served—ever so fleetingly—as a kind of all-star artists’ commune. Along with Seth Bockley, who fashioned the equally compelling ‘February House’ book, Kahane, it seems clear, will be one of the artists nudging musical theater in new directions in the 21st Century.”

Kahane is best known for his 2006 “song cycle” “Craigslistlieder,” and has also released two albums, a self-titled collection in 2008, and “Where Are the Arms,” in 2011. In 2010, he performed as part of the American Songbook at Lincoln Center, and in March 2012 as a soloist alongside the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

(Photo: New York Times)

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  • Judy

    I feel like it should be mentioned that this musical is based on a fabulous book by former Heights resident, Sherill Tippins. Such a great read—can’t wait to see this performance.