Every once in a great while an artist comes on the scene for whom there is no category -- no quick one liner that successfully describes his gifts for all to understand.  Mark Turnbull is such an artist... welcome to his website!

Mark Turnbull was born in Glendale, California into a show business family, and made his professional acting debut at the age of five on CBS' The Jimmy Durante Show.   His professional musical debut came at fifteen as guitarist for Glen Yarbrough.  He quickly went on to serve as an opening solo act for Bud and Travis, Ian and Sylvia, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, the Dilliards, Muddy Waters, and many more of the leading club and concert acts of the period.

At the age of seventeen, while his high school jazz quintet was taking runner-up honors in the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival at the world famous Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, Turnbull was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Children's Album" with A Happy Birthday Party with Winnie the Pooh on Walt Disney's Buena Vista record label.  A year later he made his own album, Portrait of the Young Artist, for Reprise Records.  It was a Billboard pick in 1968, and Turnbull was  listed in F.M. & Fine Arts Magazine -- along with Randy Newman, Laura Nyro and Bob Dylan -- as one of the finest songwriters of the time.

Despite early success, Turnbull turned his back on the music business ("Too much business, not enough music," he said), and concentrated on his writing.  However, in 1972 Mark was ready to move again, and as record industry humorist Mr. Bonzai wrote in Mix magazine, "Like Jack Kerouac and Charles Kuralt before him, Turnbull went on the road."  Traveling up and down the western seaboard, Turnbull honed his performing skills at many different clubs and colleges, even being employed for a while by the Berkeley Repertory Theater as performer (Yankee Doodle) and lyricist (Mann Ist Mann ).

 

In 1975 came the Public Television production, The Words and Music of Mark Turnbull, and in 1976, at the request of The Lyric Opera Association of Orange County, Turnbull adapted the play Dark of the Moon   as a musical.  Soon he had formed his own company, "Prisoners in Paradise," and throughout the next four years he devised fourteen original cabaret revues ¡ª writing, directing, musical directing, and starring.

In 1978 Turnbull's second album, When I was Six I got a Ukelele , [sic] was released on Beachtown Records.

1981 saw the publication of Mark's paean to his favorite lyricist, Popular Poetry From a Classical Mind - The Genius of Lorenz Hart, in Songwriter Magazine .  The article prompted a middle-of-the-night phone call from Dorothy Hart, the keeper of Hart's estate, telling Mark, "This is one of the best things I've ever read on Larry."

Mark's original book musical, Tales of Fannie Keenan, Better Known as Dora Hand, was produced in 1982 at the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach California.  The production was later picked to represent the United States at the Olympic Theater Festival at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. 

From 1984 to 1991, as resident musical director and composer for the Laguna Playhouse, Turnbull wrote incidental music and orchestrations and acted in many shows (his personal favorite being Harold Hill in Music Man, which he also scored for a Dixieland jazz band).  This association with Laguna Playhouse culminated in a major mounting of his own epic musical, Manet!, a biography of the seminal French painter¡ªwhich broke all box-office records at this "oldest continuously running playhouse west of the Rockies".  Turnbull was named "Orange County Theater's Man of the Year."  Turnbull was also musical director for The Laguna Playhouse's production of the musical play Quilters, which won the national AACT competition and went on to represent the United States at an international drama competition in Dundalk, Ireland.  Quilters was the festival's only musical; it took second place and received eight other awards.

In 1994 Turnbull's Mark Turnbull and Friends ¡ª A One Man Show, produced in both Orange County and Los Angeles, was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as the work of "...a genuine artist ...with nearly two dozen songs, all of them worth hearing, many worth treasuring."  The Times also named the show as "Best One Man Show for 1994."  Two more solo shows followed ¡ª The Music of What Happens (1996) and Grandma's Shoes: It's a Strange and Wonderful Thing (1997).

In 1996, Davy Jones Locker, Mark's musical collaboration with composer Phil Marshall and the Bil Baird Marionettes, was awarded the First Place prize at the prestigious Houston Children's Film Festival.  The team's went on to create a second Bil Baird musical film, Ali Baba .

In 1999 Mark began seasonal touring of schools throughout Southern California with a six person troupe through Laguna Playhouse's TheatreReach program, performing three curriculum based musicals of his own composing: By The Great Horn Spoon! (from the book by Sid Fleishman); Charlotte¡¯s Web (from the book by E.B White); and Mark's original Tall Tales and American Legends .  Except for one six-month stint at Disneyland's Golden Horseshow Review, Mark has continued touring with the group each year.

In June of 2003 Mark released his newest C.D, Father¡¯s Day (Simplicity Himself), a collection of songs illustrating -- as the Los Angeles Times put it -- that...¡±Turnbull seems like nothing less than a performer on a spiritual quest, unwilling to pander even when he¡¯s being funny, full of quiet conviction, poetic vigor, clever whimsy and touching insight.¡±

Ashland, Oregon has recently become a second home for Mark.  Since 2009, he's done three shows in this world-famous theatrical destination:  His own Tales of Fannie Keenan, Better Known as Dora Hand at Oregon Stage Works; and Kickin' The Clouds Away and Holiday Memories at the Oregon Cabaret Theater, where he served as Musical Director, arranger, and composer of  original scoring.

Mark continues to produce original material and perform his one-man show along the West Coast, 2010 will also see a production of Tales of Fannie Keenan... in its original setting -- Dodge City, Kansas.  "Dora" is coming home!


Copyright 2003-2010 Mark Turnbull

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