Friday, June 24, 2011

Lovely Music

One of  my favorite NPR programs is "From the Top." which celebrates young musicians from all over the country, kids from 10 or so through the teens. It features singers, instrumentalists of all types and classical and jazz expertise. (I fully expect my great nephew Drew to be on it some day. After two years as a cellist, he can rip off a Bach piece with ease. He's in the Columbus Youth Symphony and quite dedicated.)
This past Saturday, the program was broadcast from Indiana, and featured, among other things, a performance by Mikael Feinstein, who has just been names director of the American Songbook Collection in Indiana. I am going to attempt to send it along with this blog, because it is just such a beautiful rendition of a Gershwin tune.
Many years ago, Alec Wilder had a program on NPR, called the American Popular Song. He featured all the excellent American  songwriters: Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rogers and Hart, Rogers and Hanmnmerstein, Julie Styne, Withing, Frank Loessor, et. al. He had the fine singers to perform those songs, too, like Mel Torme, Margaret Whiting, Tony Bennett (when he could still sing) and a lot of New York cabaret and jazz singers. It was such a fine program. I think he (Alec Wilder, a composer himself)  was responsible for creating the whole idea of honoring our songwriters as legitimate musicians, on a par with the lieder composers of the 19th century.
Michael Feinstein has carried on that tradition himself. He started out as an assistant to Ira Gershwin, annotating and cataloguing the great music of the Gershwin bothers. I guess it might have been possible that without these kinds of efforts, some of this music could have been lost, delegated to "Tin Pan Alley" hack work, instead of a valuable part of American culture.
My friend Helen Welch, an excellent singer, has made these works a vital part of her repertoire and has developed quite a following ,  singing with various symphony orchestras in Ohio , New York and Pennsylvania.
It's mighty good stuff. And Feinstein's version of "Love Walked In" is really beautiful. He's accompanied by a teenage string quartet, harpist in a superb arrangement.

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