Sunday, December 06, 2015

                                            Fall 2015 Madrigal Singers
A Madrigals Welcome, Mad River Transit's Christmas Lullaby

HSU Madrigal Singers go all a cappella and Mad River Transit jazz singers offer a contemporary Christmas Lullaby on Sunday December 6 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 Within their traditional program of mostly English madrigals (plus one surprise), new director Rachel Samet has challenged the Madrigal Singers in two ways: with a completely unaccompanied program, and with a step beyond the usual four part harmonies, to a few selections in five parts.

 Among the songs are a Shaker tune, “Welcome, Welcome Every Guest,” and madrigals of varied mood, from a lament by John Bennett to a playful tune by John Farmer and a John Dowland love song. 

 The Madrigal Singers also pair a Renaissance song by Thomas Morley (“My bonny lass she smileth”) with a contemporary take by the famous contemporary master of parody, P.D.Q. Bach (“My bonny lass she smelleth.”) 

 Then the Mad River Transit singers take over with their program of jazz, blues and popular music. They   anticipate the holidays with “Christmas Lullaby” by contemporary musical theatre composer Jason Robert Brown, from his show Songs for a New World

 A traditional African-American spiritual (“Soon Ah Will Be Done”) is given what Samet describes as a “fresh and exciting arrangement” by Philip Kern. “Bim Bam” by Joao Gilberto provides a bossa nova beat. 

Except for an a cappella version of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” MRT is accompanied by a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums.

This is the first concert with Rachel Samet as choirs director. “I’m very excited to be working with all these groups,” she said. “I’m impressed with what students have accomplished over a semester and excited for where they can go.” 

 Madrigal Singers and MRT perform on Sunday December 6 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

This year’s Madrigal Dinner will be held in the Kate Buchanan Room at HSU on December 10 at 6 p.m. as an evening of fancy hors d’ouvres and song. Tickets are $10 general, $5 students.

Madrigals & MRT: The Program

Madrigal Singers

Welcome, Welcome Every Guest:  from Southern Harmony (Shaker tune)
 Come again, sweet love doth now invite by John Dowland
 Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone by John Farmer
Weep, o mine eyes by John Bennett
My bonny lass she smileth  by Thomas Morley
My bonny lass she smelleth  by P.D.Q. Bach

Madrigal Singers: (Sopranos)Tonya Bills, Camille Borrowdale,  Ana Ceja,  Ana Cruz, Lisa Ko, (Altos) McKinlee Burkhardt, Jenna Donahue, Rayden Marcum, Renee Ramirez,  Rosemary Torres,  (Tenor) William English,  Victor Guerrero,  Kyler Hanson,  Dustin Kemp, David Vaughan,  (Bass) Luis Cardenas, Matthew Flint,  Joseph Mayer,  Edrees Nassir,  John Pettlon, Alberto Rodriguez, Jimmy Sanchez.
Mad River Transit

Blue Skies by Irving Berlin, arr. Steve Zegree
 God Bless the Child  by Arthur Herzog, Jr. and Billie Holiday, arr. Steve Zegree
 Take the A Train by Billy Strayhorn, arr. Steve Zegree
Bim Bam by Joao Gilberto, arr. Kirby Shaw
Yellow Submarine by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, arr. Mark Brymer
Christmas Lullaby from Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown, arr. Mac Huff
 Soon Ah Will Be Done: traditional African-American spiritual, arr. Brian Tate Anything Goes by Cole Porter, arr. Philip Kern

Mad River Transit Singers: (Soprano) Olivia Bright, Michelle Latner, Kayla LeClair,  (Alto) McKinlee Burkhardt, Catherine Rippetoe, Skyler McCormick, (Tenor) David Cadena, Joshua Roa, Noah Sims,  (Bass) Mark Berman, Jimmy Sanchez, Corey Tamondong.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Calypso Band Greatest Hits Plus Marimba and We Got the Beat 

 A youth group’s return, a marimba classic and some of the Calypso Band’s greatest hits are featured in an all-percussion concert on Saturday December 5 at the Van Duzer Theatre. 

 We Got the Beat is a group of student percussionists (grades 2 through 7) from Fresno. They perform all over California, and last played at HSU in April 2012. “They bring energy, excitement, and a high level of musicianship,” said HSU percussion professor Eugene Novotney, “and will fill everyone’s hearts with the joy of music.” 

 The Humboldt State Marimba Band performs “Omphalo Centric Lecture,” a marimba quartet composed by Australian percussionist Nigel Westlake. Premiered in 1986, this piece is played regularly around the world. Describing it as “captivating” and “mesmerizing,” Novotney said “it explores the beauty of the sound of the marimba in its full range and capacity.” 

 The concert’s first half concludes with the World Percussion Group morphing into a 30-piece samba band playing Samba Maracutu from Northern Brazil, on instruments from the region.

The second half belongs to the Humboldt State Calypso Band, which gears up for its 30th anniversary this spring with some of its greatest hits from past shows, as well as new tunes never heard before at HSU. Included in the mix are three Panorama classics as well as the band’s signature high-energy Calypso dance music. 

 The all-percussion concert Saturday December 5 at 8 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre at HSU. Tickets are $10 general, $3 students, seniors and children from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Directed by Eugene Novotney and Howard Kaufman. “We Got the Beat,” directed by Brenda Myers, also plays a pre-concert set beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Calypso Band & Percussion Concert Notes

Notes by Humboldt State percussion program director Eugene Novotney

The concert will start with a energizing set by the youth percussion group, We Got the Beat. We Got the Beat is a fun and interactive, hands-on, musical experience for young student musicians from 2nd to 7th grade based in Fresno, California.

 Led by percussionist Brenda Myers, "We Got the Beat" performs on a wide variety of percussion instruments and in many musical styles. They have performed throughout the state of California for events such as the California Music Educator’s Convention in Sacramento, the National Association of Music Merchants Trade Show in Anaheim, the Big Fresno Fair, and at the Oakland Day of Percussion with Pete Escovedo. They bring energy, excitement, and a high level of musicianship, and will fill everyone’s hearts with the joy of music.

In addition to starting the show, WGTB will be presenting a pre-concert set at 7:30pm as the crowd enters the theatre.

 The HSU Marimba Band will follow WGTB, and they will be featuring a truly virtuosic marimba piece entitled, Omphalo Centric Lecture, composed by the Australian composer Nigel Westlake. This piece is both captivating and mesmerizing, and it explores the beauty of the sound of the marimba in its full range and capacity.

 The first half of the show will conclude with the World Percussion Group, directed by Professor Howard Kaufman. The WPG will be presenting an authentic arrangement of Samba Maracatu from Northern Brasil on all traditional instruments. This arrangement is as good as it gets, and will feature a 30+ piece samba band playing authentic instruments from Brasil filling the room with pulsating sound.

The second half of the concert will showcase the festive island sounds of the Humboldt State Calypso Band. This fall, the Calypso Band is gearing up for their 30th anniversary by playing their “greatest hits” from the past 30 years of shows at HSU, as well as some new tunes never before heard at HSU.

The band will feature three Panorama compositions on this show - Ray Holman’s, “If We Really Want,” Boogsie Sharpe’s, “Misbehave,” and Andy Narell’s, “Coffee Street” - as well as a full mix of Calypso dance music. Many student steelpan soloists will be featured throughout the evening, and the Calypso Band’s performance is guaranteed to get you up on your feet!

The Humboldt State Calypso Band prides itself in maintaining an accurate and authentic connection to the roots of the steel band movement and the innovative musicians of Trinidad, the island on which this unique percussion phenomenon was born. The band is dedicated to the performance of traditional and contemporary music from the Caribbean, Africa, Brazil, and the United States.

 In addition to its regular performances at Humboldt State and throughout Northern California, the band has undertaken tours to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Eugene, OR and Seattle, WA. Founded in 1986 by the band’s director, Eugene Novotney, the Calypso Band is celebrating its 30th anniversary at Humboldt State this spring, and holds the distinction of being the first ensemble of its kind in the entire California State University System.

Friday, December 04, 2015

    The Force Awakens at Fulkerson Hall 

 It’s not the new movie, but it is the signature music: HSU Symphonic Band plays two movements of the Star Wars Suite on Friday December 4 at Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 Just weeks before The Force Awakens, fans can warm up with “Yoda’s Theme” and the main Star Wars theme. 

 “It’s hard to find a good arrangement of Star Wars,” said Symphonic Band director Paul Cummings. “But this is a very challenging and exciting version of John Williams’ film music, in the definitive arrangement for college wind band by Donald Hunsberger.” 

 “This is very well written music, using the forces of the wind band in effective ways,” Cummings said. 

 These two movements are a preview in another sense as well, since the Symphonic Band will perform the entire Star Wars Suite in its spring concert, and also take it on tour to northern California junior colleges and high schools in April. 

 The December 4 concert also features Illyrian Dances by Guy Woolfenden, who for several decades wrote incidental music for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The title is taken from the fantasy locale of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” a play written to be performed as part of England’s Christmas celebration. 

 “It’s very dramatic,” Cummings said, “with a lot of variety, by a very gifted melodic writer.” 

 The Band also performs two classic keyboard transcriptions: the six-movement William Byrd Suite (“very tuneful music by one of the great English composers of the period”) and a Fantasia by J.S. Bach, both from eras in which the modern wind band did not yet exist.

 “The Bach piece was written for organ,” Cummings said, “and a good wind band can sound like a pipe organ. It’s is a rare opportunity for our band students to perform a work by one of the greatest composers of western music.” 

 The HSU Symphonic Band performs on Friday December 4 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Produced by HSU Music department.

Symphonic Band: Director's Notes

Notes edited from an interview with Paul Cummings, director.

Star Wars Suite:
Yoda's Theme
Main Star Wars Theme
by John Williams

We're doing a very challenging and exciting version of Star Wars by John Williams, the great film composer. It's hard to find a good arrangement of Star Wars--it's been hacked up and deranged by a multitude of people, but Donald Hunsberger has made the definitive arrangement for college wind bands.  That's the version we're going to do.

In this concert we'll play the final two movements, then the entire suite in the spring semester.  We're also going to take it on tour to various high schools and junior colleges in April.

The fourth movement is Yoda's Theme--very majestic music in keeping with the legendary trainer of the Jedi.  The last movement is the main Star Wars theme, representing the triumph of the Force. This is well-written music, using the forces of the wind band in very effective ways.

Hunsberger was the conductor of the Eastman Wind Ensemble from 1965 to 2001, and a professor at the Eastman School of Music.  This is one of several arrangements he did.  This version of Star Wars is definitely the most challenging one out there.  With the new Star Wars movie featuring some of the characters in the original coming out in just a few weeks, we decided to play it for this concert.

Illyrian Dances
by Guy Woolfenden

The composer was the main musical director for the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1963 until 1998.  He wrote all the incidental music for their productions.  When you're writing incidental music you become very good at your craft, just from the sheer volume of music you have to produce.  It has to fit the scenic and dramatic context as well. This particular piece is very dramatic in nature.

Shakespeare's Twelfth Night takes place in Illyria, which is basically an imaginary land.  "What excited me was the resonance of Illyria itself, and the romance of all faraway, make-believe places," the composer wrote. "Illyria is a never-never land, and the idea of inventing dances for such a place intrigued me."

The three movements of this piece are in fact dance forms: Rondo (which goes back to the medieval period), Aubade (a dawn or morning song) and then a Gigue (a lively dance that goes back to the Renaissance at least.)

There are some rhythmic challenges but Woolfenden is very much a British composer--he writes very tuneful music, a very gifted melodic writer.  He's a good orchestrator, he knows how to write for the instruments.  There's great variety in textures--some passages with the full band but more often alternation of many instruments with just a few, so you'll hear chamber music but also full ensemble playing.

Fantasia in G Major
by Johann Sebastian Bach
transcription by Richard Franko Goldman and Robert L. Leist

Bach didn't write band music.  The medium of the wind band--consisting as it does today of brass, woodwinds and percussion--did not exist in Bach's lifetime.  So band students don't get to play any Bach, unless we do arrangements like this.

Richard Franko Goldman had his own band in New York.  It was his father's band, and he was associate conductor beginning in 1937.  In 1956 he became conductor, and the Goldman Band of New York City played its last concert in 1984. It was a very famous band in and around New York.  Goldman was a great band leader and great arranger.  He commissioned and premiered a lot of band music.

This Fantasia is all one continuous movement.  A Fantasia is a through-composed form, meaning that it does not have a lot of sectional repetition.  Instead it just evolves over the course of the piece.  It's rather a free form, so the composer does not have to fit a prescribed structure.

This was an organ piece originally, so it works well for band.  A good wind band can sound like a pipe organ, so doing music originally written for organ makes a lot of sense.  The challenge is to keep the air flowing through the wind instrument so you do simulate the sound of a big church organ.

One reason we're doing this is to give our band students the opportunity to play music by J.S. Bach, one of the greatest composers of western music.

The William Byrd Suite
1.  Earl of Oxford March
2. Pavana
3. "Jhon come kisse me now"
4. The Mayden's Song
5. Wolsey's Wilde
6. The Bells

We performed a couple of these movements in October, and now we're doing all six. William Byrd was one of the foremost English composers of the Renaissance, known mostly for his sacred choral music.  But he did write secular music for a keyboard instrument of his time, the virginal, the English equivalent of the harpsichord.  These pieces were collected in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book but were forgotten until the 20th century, which is when Gordon Jacob rediscovered them.

Jacob selected these six out of some 70 Byrd pieces and arranged them for wind band. The Suite is now a classic in the wind band literature.  Like the work of most English composers, these pieces are very tuneful.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Quiet Fire, one of five HSU Jazz Combos in two separate shows November 15: Eric Simpson, David Semon, Courtney Abajian, Vance Umphrey, Kyle McKinnis.

One Night, Two Shows: Jazz Combomania

 In two shows with different groups in each, HSU Jazz Combos take the Fulkerson Recital Hall stage on Sunday November 15.

 Three combos (Moon Carrot, Tuesday Combo and Hindsight Bias) perform at 7 p.m. and two more (Quiet Fire and the 2:00 Combo) at 9 p.m., mixing new and classic jazz with original tunes. 

 For the 7 p.m. show, the quintet Moon Carrot plays two tunes by contemporary jazz group Ryan Keberle and Catharsis, two tunes by classic trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, and “Sister” by singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, featuring vocalist Olivia Bright.  Andrew Henderson is on trumpet, Craig Hull on trombone, Ryan Woempner on bass and Eric Tolfa on drums. 

 The Tuesday Combo (Siqueira Barros, alto sax; Leo Plummer, guitar; Christian Hower, bass; Logan Harriman, drums) goes international with tunes by Heitor Villa-Lobos and Japanese hip hop producer Nujabes, as well as “Close To You” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

 Playing classics by Miles Davis and John Coltrane, plus “Sky Turning Grey” by contemporary jazz pianist Brad Mehldau will be Hindsight Bias: Abraham Loaiza (tenor sax), Max Marlowe (piano), Ricardo Cueva (bass) and Felipe Pezzoli (drums.)

 In a separate show beginning at 9 p.m., Quiet Fire plays originals by alto sax player Kyle McInnis and guitarist David Semon, as well as its version of “When You Wish Upon A Star.” The quintet includes Eric Simpson on bass, Courtney Abajian on drums and Vance Umphrey on steel pans. 

 The 2:00 Combo goes entirely original with compositions by band members Jake Burns (guitar), Alan Spencer (tenor sax) and Jared Margen (bass.) Mike Deason is on drums. 

 HSU Jazz Combos perform on Sunday November 15 at 7 p.m. and at 9 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now.

Jazz Combos: Concert(s) Notes

There are two going to be two concerts on Sun., Nov. 15 - one at 7 pm and one at 9 pm. Performing the 7 pm concert are:

Moon Carrot
 Olivia Bright - vocals Andrew Henderson - trumpet Craig Hull - trombone Ryan Woempner - bass Eric Tolfa - drums 
They're playing two Freddie Hubbard tunes, "Red Clay" and "Little Sunflower" and two tunes first performed by the jazz group Ryan Keberle and Catharsis: Keberle's "Gallop" and a cover of the singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens' "Sister".

The Tuesday Combo 
Matheus Siqueira Barros - alto sax Leo Plummer - guitar Christian Hower - bass Logan Harriman - drums
They're playing "Trenzinho Caipira" by Heitor Villa-Lobos, "Close To You" by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and "Aruarian Dance" by the Japanese hip hop producer and DJ Nujabes.

 Hindsight Bias 
Abraham Loaiza - tenor sax Max Marlowe - piano Ricardo Cueva - bass Felipe Pezzoli - drums 
They're playing "Nardis" by Miles Davis, "Mr P.C." by John Coltrane and Brad Mehldau's "Sky Turning Grey"

 Performing the 9:00 concert are:

Quiet Fire
 Kyle McInnis - alto sax Vance Umphrey - steel pans David Semon - guitar Eric Simpson - bass Courtney Abajian - drums 
They're playing two original compositions, "Doo-Wah" by Kyle McInnis and "Running Water" by David Semon, along with "When You Wish Upon A Star", written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, and "Little Secrets" by Andy Narrell.

The 2:00 Combo
 Alan Spencer - tenor sax Jake Burns - guitar Jared Margen - bass Mike Deason - drums
 They're playing three originals, "Coeur D'Alene" by Jake Burns, "Morning Headache" by Alan Spencer and an as-yet-untitled tune by Jared Margen.

--Dan Aldag

Saturday, November 14, 2015

   Assistant Conductor Audrey McComb with members of the Humboldt Bay   Brass Band 

 Humboldt Bay Brass Band in “Destiny of Knights & Cossacks”

 From opera overture to musical comedy, a Veterans Day tribute to a holiday season preview, Humboldt Bay Brass Band presents its autumn mash-up and its only HSU concert of the school year, “Destiny of Knights and Cossacks,” on Saturday November 14 at Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 After the stirring overture to the opera Force of Destiny by Verdi, and selections from the musical Oklahoma, HBBB tackles Call of the Cossacks by contemporary British brass band composer Peter Graham that employs musical styles from Gypsy to Klezmer. 

“This five movement work tests all sections of the band,” notes director Gil Cline. “It highlights five soloists—one brandishing our so-called Cossack Horn.” 

Knights Templar by 20th century British band composer George Allen is “a roller-coaster major-minor masterpiece in counterpoint,” Cline said. Blades of Toledo by Trevor Sharpe, long-time musical director of the Coldstream Guards, “shreds notes at a furiously fast tempo, as if brandishing the famous swords of Toledo, Spain.” It features the HBBB trombone section.

  Also on the program are contemporary composer John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music” anticipating the December holidays, and a special version of Taps to commemorate Veterans Day.

 HBBB is the only authentic British-style brass band in northern California, featuring 25 brass instruments plus percussion. Assisting conductor Gil Cline is Audrey McCombs. 

 Humboldt Bay Brass Band performs on Saturday November 14 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Mad River Union, Eureka Times-Standard Urge, North Coast Journal, Humboldt State Now

Humboldt Bay Brass Band Concert Notes

Concert Notes by Dr. Gil Cline, director and conductor

Kicking off the concert is the powerhouse overture Force of Destiny by Giuseppe Verdi.

 Following is Raymond Burkhart’s tone poem “Ozark Point,” and then a selection of Rodgers and Hammerstein melodies from Oklahoma.

 Ending the concert's first half is the tour-de-force Call of the Cossacks by Peter Graham. This 5-movement work tests all sections of the band, and highlights five soloists (one brandishing our so-called “Cossack Horn”) from within the band.

 The second half of the concert begins with Knight Templar, a roller-coaster major-minor masterpiece in counterpoint by George Allan.  John Rutter's “What Sweeter Music,” anticipates the December holidays.

HBBB’s stellar trombone section is featured in Blades of Toledo -- shredding notes at a furiously fast tempo, as if brandishing the famous swords and sabres of Toledo, Spain.

 Closing is HBBB’s observance of Veterans Day, this year with an echo version of Taps, then our custom arrangement of songs of six of the US military service branches. Encores are typical!

 Humboldt Bay Brass Band is directed and conducted by HSU professor Dr. Gil Cline, with assistant conductor Audrey McCombs. HBBB is the only true U.K.-style Brass Band in the North of California with 25 brass and four percussion. Far from some old “summer-park-concert-brass-band,” HBBB plays a very wide variety of music: very old to very new; marches to movies; and Gabrieli to grooves.

HBBB has recorded a full-length CD, performed often locally and on tour in Oregon while on the way to a festival in Seattle, re-introduced local historic music, and contributed newly-written works to current literature for “world band.”

Friday, November 13, 2015

photo: front: Nick Hart, Adrien Bouissou, Sador Rangel, Leo Plummer. Back: Jonathan Hernandez, Evan Dowadakin, Andrew Heavelin.

Guitar With A French Accent 

From “Claire de Lune” to Ravel, HSU Guitar Ensemble plays with a French accent—including homegrown music in the same spirit—in its concert on Friday November 13 at Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 Guitarists Andrew Heavelin and Leo Plummer perform the classic Debussy “Claire de Lune,” as the first of four selections by 20th century French composers.

 Heavelin and Plummer are joined by Kenneth Bozanich and Adrien Bouissou for Maurice Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess. Francis Poulenc’s “Mouvements Perpétuels” is played by Sador Rangel and Nick Hart. 

 “Paraboles” by French composer Jacques Ibert “is a decidedly Spanish piece,” said Guitar Ensemble director Nicholas Lambson. Hart and Jon Hernandez perform part of this work. 

 Besides also being captivated by Spanish music, Debussy and Ravel were especially influenced by the Impressionist painters (like Monet) and French symbolist poets (like Rimbaud.)  So was the Russian composer Alexander Scribian. Bozanich, Rangel and Evan Dodakin perform two of his Twelve Preludes.

 The concert also features “The Jester,” a piece for four guitars and bass by HSU guitar and composition student Kenneth Bozanich. “It includes some of the same stylistic elements as the other pieces on the program, with extended jazzy harmonies,” Lambson said. It’s performed by the composer plus Plummer, Heavelin and Bouissou.

 The HSU Guitar Ensemble performs on Friday November 13 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, North Coast Journal, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now

Guitar Ensemble: Program and Notes

 Claire de Lune by Claude Debussy
 Andrew Heavelin and Leo Plummer

 From Twelve Preludes, Op.11 by Alexander Scriabin:  No.4 & No. 17
 Kenneth Bozanich, Evan Dowdakin, Sador Rangel

 Paraboles by Jacques Ibert I
Jon Hernandez and Nick Hart

 The Jester by Kenneth Bozanich
 Leo Plummer, Andrew Heavelin, Kenneth Bozanich, Adrien Bouissou

 Mouvements Perpétuels by Francis Poulenc
 Sador Rangel and Nick Hart

 Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) by Maurice Ravel
 Andrew Heavelin, Kenneth Bozanich, Adrien Bouissou, Leo Plummer

Program Notes
 by Nicholas Lambson, director

This semester’s program is essentially French. We will be performing a wide variety of pieces within this theme, including immediately recognizable favorites such as Claude Debussy’s “Claire de Lune,” and an original student composition.

 Nationalism was an important theme for many composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some trends were universal, such as the use of national folk songs, but each nation had a unique style as well: the Italian style emphasized sing-able melodies; the Germans featured a more intellectual and bombastic style; and the French style included music that was textural and nuanced.

While some French composers continued to develop their national artistic identity in the 20th century, some were also influenced by music from other times and places. Claude Monet’s painting, "Impression, Sunrise" essentially coined the term "impressionist" that later became a buzzword for the music of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel; this was meant to convey a somewhat abstract and textural "impression" of something else.

The impressionist composers' music remained tonal, unlike the music of some their contemporaries (such as Arnold Schoenberg), and was generally more progressive than radical. Debussy's infamous statement on the guidelines for music and practice, "pleasure is the law," conveys this sentiment succinctly: essentially, if it sounds good, then it’s good! Indeed, rather than dispose of hundreds of years of musical development, he sought out both new and familiar styles to cultivate something that he found to be pleasurable, including everything from medieval music to Indonesian gamelan music.

Similarly, Ravel was highly influenced by jazz and the music of other cultures. Therefore, these composers are not the revolutionaries that they are sometimes believed to be. They also did not particularly like being called impressionists; rather he and his compatriots preferred to be called symbolists. The French symbolist poets sought to describe the indescribable through reference, allusion, and suggestion, rather than tangible and overt statements.

While Debussy and Ravel where clearly linked with this French school of thought, other major composers were also heavily influenced by it, including the Russian composer,  Alexander Scriabin.  Scriabin, in a word, was kind of a weirdo. Beyond being part of the so-called Russian Symbolists, he was a mystic; a force for the Russian dictatorship; he had synesthesia (a neurological condition in which the other senses are associated with sound - in his case color); and although he went to school with Sergei Rachmaninoff and wrote in a similar style early on, he developed his own tonal language later in life, which shared some of the same aesthetic goals as the symbolists and atonal composers.

Also on this program is a decidedly Spanish piece by Jacques Ibert. Like many other French composers, including Debussy and Ravel, Ibert was captivated by the music of the exotic sounds of that bordering nation, and he wrote a number of highly effective pieces in the style, colored by his own French disposition.

Finally, there is one piece for four guitars and bass written by a current HSU guitar and composition student, Kenneth Bozanich, which features some of the same stylistic elements with extended "jazzy" harmonies.

This is the first of several more works to be written for the ensemble. Next semester, we will be doing a collaborative project with the composition majors at HSU, and we hope that you will join us for that on April 2nd, 2016 at 8pm in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Stormy Beethoven, Jazzy Bolcom with Cindy Moyer & John Chernoff

 Violinist Cindy Moyer continues her project of playing all the Beethoven violin sonatas with the stormy Sonata in C Minor, plus a contemporary jazz-influenced sonata by William Bolcom and a lyrical sonata by Gabriel Faure, in concert with pianist John Chernoff on Sunday November 8 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 "This is perhaps the most dramatic of all the Beethoven sonatas," Moyer said. "It's in the same key as the famous Fifth Symphony, and even more tempestuous."

 Contemporary American composer William Bolcom has won the Pulitzer Prize, National Medal of the Arts and two Grammy awards.

 His Second Sonata for Violin and Piano is "quite varied in style," Moyer said. "Some is very modern and dissonant--you gotta love a movement titled 'Brutal,' and it is. Some of it is very jazzy." The final movement is dedicated to Giuseppe "Joe" Venuti, an early 20th century Italian-American musician considered the first star of the jazz violin. 

 The music of 20th century French composer Gabriel Fauré is “famously lyrical and gorgeous,” Moyer said. His Sonata No. 1 “mixes the lyrical with some drama, though not nearly as intense as the Beethoven or the Bolcom.” 

Violinist Cindy Moyer and pianist John Chernoff perform on Sunday November 8 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Tickets are $10 general, $5 students, seniors and children from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. This Faculty Artist Series concert is produced by HSU Music Department. 

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, Mad River Union, North Coast Journal The Setlist, Humboldt State Now

Cindy Moyer & John Chernoff: The Program and Notes

Faculty Artist Recital: Cindy Moyer, violin
 John Chernoff, piano

Sonata in C Minor for Piano for Violin, Op. 30, No. 2  by Ludwig van Beethoven

 Allegro con brio
Adagio cantabile
 Scherzo: Allegro
 Finale: Allegro

 Second Sonata for Violin and Piano by William Bolcom
 Summer Dreams
 Brutal, fast
 In Memory of Joe Venuti

 Sonata No. 1 in A Major, Op. 13 by  Gabriel Fauré
 Allegro molto
 Allegro vivo
 Allegro quasi presto

Notes on the Program 
by Cindy Moyer

 Beethoven Sonata in C: Continuing my project of playing all the Beethoven sonatas.  This sonata is perhaps the most dramatic of all the Beethoven sonatas. It's in the same key as the 5th symphony – and perhaps even more tempestuous as that most-famous piece.

 Bolcom Second Sonata:  William Bolcom is  a living American composer. This piece is quite varied in style – some is very modern and dissonant (gotta love a movement titled “Brutal” – and it is…) – and some of it is very jazzy. The final movement is dedicated to jazz violinist, Joe Venuti – and is largely jazzy in style.

 Faure Sonata No. 1 : Faure’s music is famously lyrical and gorgeous. This piece mixes lyrical with some drama, although not nearly as intense as either the Beethoven or Bolcom.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Composers Concert Presents Prize-Winner

New works by three student composers, including a prize-winner, are presented in the HSU Composers Concert on Friday November 6 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

Featured is a song cycle by Michael Barrett Donovan for voice and piano entitled “The Dignfied Lonely Person.” Donovan won this semester’s John W. DeLodder competition for best composition with this work.

 Mr. DeLodder, a local resident who sponsors the competition in partnership with the HSU Music department, will present Donovan with the $1,000 award during the concert. The competition is held every semester and is open to all HSU students. 

 Members of the HSU Jazz Orchestra will play works by Kyle McInnis and Kenneth Bozanich. Humboldt Symphony members will perform “Attribution” by Michael Donovan.

 Also on the program are a number of chamber works for instrumental ensembles including violins and percussion, saxophone quartet and guitar quartet. 

 “These works use various 20th century compositional techniques consisting of unique harmonic, rhythmic and tonal languages that produce an unusual tapestry of sound,” said HSU composition professor Brian Post. 

 The Composers Concert is presented on Friday November 6 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kiss Me, Kate: Reviews and Final Weekend Ahead

The Kiss Me, Kate reviews are in:

 “It takes a couple of strong actors to pull off the fireworks demanded by Kiss Me, Kate, and happily director Susan Abbey found them in Anna Duchi and Gino Bloomberg.” With a “regal bearing and rich, warm voice” Anna Duchi “is utterly convincing as a ‘40s film star...Bloomberg brings just the right mix of over-the-top cockiness and wounded vulnerability...” 
 Lauraine Leblanc, Mad River Union

 “A scintillating score of marvelous, memorable music...A staggeringly lavish production...sparkling, comedic...a truly classy, classic musical comedy.”
 Beti Trauth, Eureka Times-Standard “Urge” Magazine 

 “It’s awfully fun to watch. Make sure you don’t miss it.”
 Kate Haley North Coast Journal

 Kiss Me, Kate is on the Van Duzer Theatre stage Thursday through Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Kiss Me, Kate: Oct. 16-25

Is it real or is it Shakespeare—or is it both? High-spirited singing, dancing and a classic Broadway-sized orchestra take you back to a 1948 theatre stage, where couples behave badly but love conquers all in Cole Porter’s most applauded musical comedy, Kiss Me, Kate. 

The HSU production of  Kiss Me, Kate is performed in the Van Duzer Theatre on Friday and Saturday October 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday Oct. 22-24 at 7:30 with one matinee on Sunday Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15, $10 seniors, students and children from the HSU Box Office (826-3928.) Kiss Me, Kate is a co-production of the HSU Music department and the HSU Theatre, Film & Dance department. More information in the posts below, and at HSU Stage & Screen.

Advance Media: Mad River Union (photo & story), Humboldt State Now (photo& story), Lumberjack (photo & story), Times-Standard Urge (photo & calendar), North Coast Journal (calendar.)
“It’s a big musical the way big musicals used to be,” said director Susan Abbey. “It’s not the spectacle-based musical of today—it’s driven by a great story that’s fun and funny, celebrating the magic of theatre and the power of love.”

Adding excitement for audiences is an orchestra of 20 community and HSU musicians, playing the original arrangements as they were performed on Broadway—an increasingly rare event. Though this music was meant for a full orchestra, “often it’s watered down to a combo or a few synthesizers and a drum machine,” said Paul Cummings, musical co-director and conductor of the orchestra.

Lilli (played by Anna Duchi) is a fading and angry movie star, Fred (Gino Bloomberg) is her recent ex-husband, an egotistical actor-producer with a roving eye. 

From Shakespeae's sunny Padua to the Baltimore backstage of a 1948 production of The Taming of the Shrew (Modernized), they are fuming and fighting-- as are the characters they play (Kate and Petruchio)-- and it gets harder for everybody to tell the difference.

Plot twists involve Shrew actors Lois (Tossa Hayward) and Bill (Christopher Moreno), Lilli's new beau General Howell (Matthew Atkins), and a couple of sometimes comic gangsters (Ivan Gamboa and Mickey Thompson.) Many songs and dances ensue while lessons are learned so that true love can triumph.

The original Kiss Me, Kate opened in 1948 and won multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical while setting box office records. It is generally considered to be the best musical of Cole Porter’s long and legendary career.

 “People know these Cole Porter tunes,” said musical director Elisabeth Harrington, “even if they don’t know they are from this show.”

Kiss Me, Kate: Our Cast and Production

Our Cast

Lilli/Kate: Anna Duchi
Fred/Petriuchio: Gino Bloomberg
Lois/Bianca: Tossa Hayward
 Bill/Lucentio: Christopher Moreno
 General Harrison Howell: Matthew Atkins
 Gangsters: Ivan Gamboa, Mickey Thompson
Harry/Baptista: Bob Service
Sadie/Priest: Janet Waddell

 The following members of the cast play multiple roles and/or are members of the Company: Makenna Baker, Joshua Banuelos, Justine Bivans, Camille Borrowdale, Ambar Cuevas, Tyler Ewell, William English III, Ethan Frank, Erin Henry, Christopher Joe, Stephanie Lemon, Magdelinda Leyra-Garcia, Luz Meja, John Pettion, Fuafiva Pulu, Carolina Rios, Elio Robles, Samantha Kolby, Noah Sims, Ayanna Wilson, Jonathan Wisan, Britney Wright.

Our Production

 Director: Susan Abbey
Musical Directors: Elisabeth Harrington, Paul Cummings
 Choreographer and Dance Director: Sharon Butcher
Scenographer/Scenic Designer: Derek Lane
Lighting Designer: Santiago Menjiver
 Costume Design: Alexander Sterns, Izzy Ceja, Veronica Brooks
 Props Designer: Brynn Allen
 Stage Manager: Heidi Voelker
Asst. Director: Chelly Purnell
Asst. Music Director: Jessie Rawson
 Asst. Orchestra: Starsong Brittain
 Asst. Scenic Designer: Maggie Luc
Asst. Stage Manager: Sarina Rodriguez

Publicity photos by Kellie Brown
Publicity/site text & design by Bill Kowinski

Kiss Me, Kate: The Voices

Anna Duchi as Lilli Vanessi
Kiss Me, Kate is often called a classic musical comedy. It’s from the American musical’s golden age, and it has stood the test of time in entertaining audiences and thrilling them with its songs. But in terms of the music itself, it also means a closer relationship to classical forms.

 “This is classic musical theatre,” said Elisabeth Harrington, musical co-director of the HSU production. “Voices are used in their full range—vocally and emotionally. There’s a lot of sustained singing and high singing. There are classical demands that today’s students may not be used to, so it’s a continuing challenge.”

 “At the same time, our students are totally digging the upbeat quality of the music, the jazz chords, the sexiness of songs like ‘Too Darn Hot.’ They love the comedy. They’re enjoying all the colors in Cole Porter that make his songs so unique. It helps them understand and embrace the difficulty of the vocal techniques involved, and that’s really neat to see.”

 The two leads—Anna Duchi as Lilli and Shakespeare’s Kate, Gino Bloomberg as Fred and Petruchio—are experienced singers as well as actors. “Anna Duchi has sung in the Mad River Transit jazz choir. She comes from a musical theatre family—her mother owns and operates a musical theatre in the Bay Area, so she has grown up with all kinds of music. Gino Bloomberg has been in tons of musical theatre locally. He’s studied voice for a long time, he’s grown up doing that.”

 But the show also features a fair amount of ensemble singing, which includes those who are primarily actors or dancers. “When I saw the scope of this—it’s a ton of music and it’s hard—I decided to approach this in a different way than I had before. I started with the whole group together learning the ensemble songs, rather than with the leads. Sometimes it’s a stretch for them but they’re really embracing it.”

 For some this includes joining voice classes. Nine members of the cast took private lessons from Harrington.

 Apart from operatic high notes, there are tempo changes, “tricky harmonies that are very tight, with syncopated rhythms,” and those famous Cole Porter lyrics, which include words and phrases in German and Italian.

 But experiencing the artistry of it is part of the excitement, for singers and the audience. “The songs are expertly crafted, and that shows through, regardless of the singers’ level of experience. That will be great for audiences, too, because they’re going to recognize the skill of the material itself.”

 “People know these tunes—even if they don’t know they are from this show. They’re going to love the production—the students are coming at it with such energy and enthusiasm.”

 “I’ve never actually been involved in a production of Kiss Me, Kate before," Harrington said. "I’ve sung songs from it and taught songs from it, but never got to go through every bar of music. It’s a real joy to be able to do it. It’s a beautiful score.”

Kiss Me, Kate: The Orchestra

Two nights before the first ever public performance of Kiss Me, Kate, the company had a complete run-through of the show, including songs and dances, but without costumes, scenery or the orchestra. The music was played by a rehearsal pianist.

 The show’s producers had several notables observing from the darkened auditorium, in order to get their reactions. Eminent playwright and director Moss Hart thought it was a disaster. So did eminent choreographer Agnes de Mille. So did others.  The cast knew nothing of this, but nevertheless some also had their doubts about the show.

 The first performances were in Philadelphia, a tryout before Broadway. From the first night, the show was a major hit with critics and audiences. After being held over for three weeks in Philadelphia, the same response was repeated on Broadway: immediate success, and eventually one of the longest running shows in Broadway history to that point.

 What was the difference? Writes Cole Porter biographer William McBrien, quoting the female lead of the show, “Pat Morison recalled that only in Philadelphia, when the cast heard the orchestrations of Robert Russell Bennett for the first time, did they realize what a brilliant show Kate was.”

Robert Russell Bennett
 “We’re going to fill up that pit in the Van Duzer Theatre with players,” said Paul Cummings, Kiss Me Kate musical co-director for the HSU production, and its orchestra conductor. “We’re using the original full Broadway orchestration. The show was revised in 1999 and it’s difficult to know just what changes were made. But by and large I think we’re dealing with the 1948 orchestration by Robert Russell Bennett.”

 “Bennett did most of the major Broadway orchestrations from 1945 to 1965. He was the go-to guy, an absolutely brilliant orchestrator.”

 “ Bennett often doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his creative contribution because he’s listed as an arranger or orchestrator. But a Broadway orchestrator was more than a guy who transcribed notes to instruments—he actually did some composing. In fact he is responsible more than anyone else for the sounds that live in our memory from many famous Broadway shows in that 20 year period, including Kiss Me, Kate.”

 “It’s very difficult music. There are many uptempo dance numbers with the notes just flying across the page. There’s lots of great lyricism in this score, lots of great tunes. The ballads are beautiful, lovely vehicles for the lead singers.”

 Twenty community and HSU student players will be in the pit, but the range of instruments will be even greater than that number. “Not only is the music freakishly difficult, many will be playing it on five or six different instruments. So as soon as you’ve finished 25 measures on tenor sax, you switch to an English horn, then to an oboe, and then to a soprano saxophone.”

“So it’s very challenging, but we’re happy to be doing the original orchestration. Often these shows are watered down to a combo or a few synthesizers and a drum machine. If you go to a New York show now you’re likely to see four or five instruments in the pit, two of which are synthesizers, one a drum machine and maybe a bass and guitar. You’re not likely to see any woodwind or brass instruments.”

 “That probably is an economic issue more than anything, but in a university setting we do try to do things as the original calls for. It’s especially rewarding to be doing Bennett’s original orchestration because it’s great writing. It fits the instruments, and players can tell.”

 “So nobody whines or complains, or says why am I switching to oboe when this could have been done on clarinet. The music fits the instrument it is written for. That’s true in his own compositions as well. He has total command of what each instrument is capable of. That’s the genius of Robert Russell Bennett.”

Kiss Me, Kate: The Composer

“In a way no other songs of the period quite did,” wrote journalist Walter Clemons, “Porter’s created a world.”

 But the man who personified continental elegance and Manhattan sophistication grew up in a small Indiana town on the banks of the Wabash River. Its only distinguishing feature was as the winter home for a circus, and it was watching circus acts rehearse for the next season that young Cole got his first taste of show business.

 His maternal grandfather made a fortune, starting with a dry goods business supplying miners during the California Gold Rush. His mother, Katie Cole, was born in Brandy City in Sierra County, now a ghost town.

His grandfather was determined that Cole would be a businessman, but his mother supported his artistic expressions. Cole went to Yale where he wrote over 100 songs and was the center of most musical and theatrical activity. His grandfather insisted he go on to law school, but after Porter’s disastrous first semester, the Dean of the Harvard law school himself suggested Cole pursue songwriting, and sent him over to the Harvard School of Music.

 He continued his musical studies in Paris, where he met and married another American, Linda Lee (a descendant of Robert E. Lee.) Though Cole Porter was actively gay and this marriage was in part a cover in an intolerant time, he and Linda remained devoted to each other until her death. He relied on her judgment for every song. Said Saint Subber, producer of Kiss Me, Kate, “Linda was the air that made his sails move.”

 They were in Paris in the 1920s, among notable American expatriates in the unique artistic ferment of this time and place. One summer the Porters rented a seaside chateau at Cap d’Antibes, an unheard of place to spend the hot months.

 They invited Porter’s Yale friend Gerald Murphy and his wife to join them for two weeks. The Murphys loved the area, and returned for many summers afterwards, bringing with them such friends as Picasso, Stravinsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Eric Satie. The Murphys (celebrated in Calvin Tomkins’ book, Living Well Is The Best Revenge) essentially created the Riviera. But Cole Porter had discovered it.

 In 1923 Murphy and Porter collaborated on an American ballet to be performed as a curtain-raiser for La Creation du Monde, a ballet by French composer Darius Milhaud. Porter wrote the score, a “witty parody of the piano music played in silent-movie theaters” (according to Calvin Tomkins) while Murphy wrote the story and painted “a striking backdrop, which was a parody of the Hearst newspapers of the day.”

 Murphy also helped Porter’s musical education. He arranged with Jimmy Durante’s drummer to send him the latest American jazz records every month, and he knew and sang still obscure American folk songs and spirituals.

Murphys and Coles Venice 1923
 Throughout his life Porter loved to travel around the world. He absorbed the local music wherever he went, and made use of it in his songs. In this era, if you wanted the world’s music, you mostly had to go and find it.

 Porter’s ballet score and his songs for various theatrical events won the enthusiasm of the artistic community and wealthy sophisticates in Paris and New York, but they were not mainstream enough for Broadway in the 1920s.

 Then popular tastes caught up to him in a big way in the 30s. He got his first Broadway revues thanks to recommendations by Irving Berlin, and a string of hit shows followed, notably the enduring classic Anything Goes.

 He transitioned to Hollywood with the star of one of his Broadway shows, Fred Astaire. Porter alternated between Broadway and Hollywood, often doing one show and one movie a year. His movie work continued into the 1950s.

A performer friend described him as “kind, gentle, very elegant.” A journalist called him “The Indiana lad with the Buddha gaze.” He lived in luxury in a huge apartment in Manhattan’s Waldorf Towers with his two cats, Anything and Goes.

 But in the mid 1940s he’d hit a dry spell. Though it had been nearly 10 years since a riding accident crushed his legs, he was still in near constant pain. He saw that musical theatre was changing, and he wondered if he could change with it.

 Then he was presented with an idea for a Broadway musical based on, of all things, a play by Shakespeare. Kiss Me, Kate became his biggest hit and as a complete show, his most enduring success.

Kiss Me, Kate: The Songs

“People know these Cole Porter tunes,” said Elisabeth Harrington, music director of the HSU production of Kiss Me, Kate, “even if they don’t know they are from this show.”

 Songs from this show like “Another Op’nin', Another Show,” “From This Moment On,” “Too Darn Hot” and others have had lives of their own, but one notable feature of Cole Porter tunes is that they nearly all were introduced in Broadway shows or Hollywood movies, sung by Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, Mary Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly, among others.

 But these tunes (including “Don’t Fence Me In,” “I Love Paris,” “Night and Day,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “True Love” as well as “Night and Day,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Let’s Do It,” “Anything Goes” and “You’re the Top”) were kept alive through recording and reinterpretations by several generations of singers: from Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald through Elvis Presley, George Harrison, Natalie Cole, Elton John, Carly Simon and Celine Dion to U2, Annie Lennox, Elvis Costello, K.D. Laing, Alanis Morisette, Sheryl Crow and Diana Krall. Lady Gaga has recorded several Porter songs, and calls him one of her favorite composers.

 Another notable feature of Cole Porter’s songs was that he wrote both lyrics and music. Along with Irving Berlin (Porter’s lifelong friend and supporter, who got him his first Broadway assignments), Cole Porter is exceptional among songwriters of his era in this regard.

 So while his lyrics are legendary, his music is strong enough to be recorded on its own, by big bands and jazz instrumentalists including Artie Shaw (who plucked “Begin the Beguine” out of a forgotten show and made it famous), Benny Goodman, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley and Charlie Parker.

 Though Porter wrote songs or parts of songs and kept them “in the drawer” for possible future use, he tended to write pretty much to order for specific shows. This was especially true for Kiss Me, Kate, since it was his first show to integrate the songs so completely with the story.

He could write quickly, as the four day weekend when he wrote three of the songs in this show, including “Another Op’nin’, Another Show.” But there was some trial and error involved.

 When the choreographer complained about one particular song, he dropped it and substituted “Too Darn Hot,” which the choreographer immediately loved because he could see it as a dance. Harold Lang, who played Bill/Lucentio in the original production, complained that his part wasn’t big enough and he didn’t even have a song. Porter wrote “Bianca” for him, pretty much on the spot, with cast members shouting out rhymes for "Bianca."

 Cole Porter wrote 23 to 25 songs for the show. Some were cut in rehearsals, but 17 remained. Kiss Me, Kate was so successful in its Philadelphia tryouts that no further songs were cut. In fact, a couple of choruses of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” that had been dropped were added back.

Ann Miller in 1953 movie version
It was common for songwriters to lift songs from other shows (especially those that didn’t do so well) but Kiss Me, Kate had a unique variation of this. The play itself had finished its run after two years, and a Hollywood film version was being prepared. At the same time, Porter had written songs for another Broadway show that had personnel problems, with the director being replaced. The new director threw out one of Porter’s songs, so it was never heard.

 But when the Kiss Me, Kate film producers asked Porter for another song, he gave them this rejected one. It was “From This Moment On,” now one of Porter’s all-time classics. This song was then included in the 1999 Broadway stage revival, and it’s been in Kiss Me, Kate ever since.

 Cole Porter and Shakespeare

Two of the songs in Kiss Me, Kate include lyrics by Shakespeare as well as Cole Porter: "I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua” and “I Am Ashamed Women Are So Simple.” And despite the show’s title—Kiss Me, Kate—sounding like a snappy modernization, Petruchio actually speaks those words several times in The Taming of the Shrew.

 Even though Porter had his doubts that a musical built around a Shakespeare play would attract Broadway theatregoers (something that potential backers also doubted), he seems to have found a kindred spirit in one aspect of the Bard’s comic writing: his use of wordplay, especially double entendres with sexual innuendo.

 Cole Porter was a past master of this himself, and it’s evident in this show in “Too Darn Hot” and “Always True to You in My Fashion,” for example. But Porter made the connection explicit in “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” when he playfully turned titles of Shakespeare’s plays into sexual banter.

 More Lore 

There are stories about many of the songs, and they may even be true.

 “Wunderbar”: When Kiss Me, Kate was in early stages of preparation, the leading candidate to play the lead role of Lilli/Kate was opera star Jarmila Novotna. She was a social friend of Porter’s and one evening she brought a pianist with her to his apartment, who specialized in playing Viennese waltzes. When he finished she kept crying “Wunderbar! Wunderbar!” (“Wonderful!") The song by that title in the show is also a waltz.

“I Hate Men”: Several cast members told Patricia Morison, who ended up playing Lilli/Kate (see Kiss Me, Kate Meets Cinderella) that this song would embarrass her. It wasn’t going over in rehearsals. She mentioned her own misgivings to Porter, who remembered an operetta he’d seen in which the singer had emphasized a line by pounding his fist on a table. He suggested that she slam the metal tankard she was carrying. The effect worked so well that it was further emphasized by having her bang the tankard down on a couple of metal trays to make more noise. The song became a show-stopper.

 “Always True to You in My Fashion:” Cole Porter had that phrase of the title in his head but he couldn’t remember the source. The show’s writers, Bella and Sam Spewack, told him it was from a poem by Ernest Dowson, a late 19th century English poet who also contributed the phrase, “the days of wine and roses.” Porter’s song doesn’t bear much resemblance to this poem except for that repeated line of the title.

 “Brush Up Your Shakespeare:” Bella and Sam Spewack, who had worked with Porter before, were writing the script (“the book”) of Kiss Me, Kate. But at some point in creating this story about a couple having conflicts that bleed into the conflicts of the couple they are playing on stage, Bella and Sam themselves split up when Sam ran off with a ballerina.

 They’d split before, and would get back together again this time as well, but for awhile, Bella didn’t want to have anything to do with Sam. Sam’s major contribution to the story was the gangster subplot, and Bella was determined that it remain a small subplot, without a song involved.

 Unfortunately, Cole Porter came up with “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” for the two comic gangsters. When Bella recognized its quality—and guessed correctly that it would also be a show-stopper—she dropped her objections.

 “So In Love:” A song that Cole Porter said he’d intended for a movie musical, but was persuaded to use in Kiss Me, Kate. It was subsequently became a top 20 hit for Patti Page, Gordon McRae, Dinah Shore and Bing Crosby—all in the same year of 1949. More recently it’s been recorded by K.D. Laing.

 “We Shall Never Be Younger:” This song was one of those cut from Kiss Me, Kate (because, according to Porter biographer William McBrien, “it reduced the audience to tears,” presumably at the wrong time.) It never made it into another show, nor was it published in Porter’s lifetime. But it, too, has had a life since, included in Porter songbooks and recorded by Bobby Short.

Kiss Me, Kate Meets Cinderella

What would a hit musical be without a Cinderella story? In this case it wasn’t in the plot but in the original production.

Cole Porter often wrote songs with the vocal range of the actor/singer in mind. But he started writing for Kiss Me, Kate before all the roles were cast, especially the female lead, the characters of  Lilli and Kate.  In the early stages, opera star Jarmilla Novotna was the likely choice.  But eventually she couldn't commit to the show.

Cole Porter offered the role to another operatic singer and actor, Lily Pons, and considered yet another opera singer, Dorothy Kirsten.  Pons couldn't do it, and Kirsten wasn't interested.  So Porter found himself without a leading lady.

The show’s director suggested an unknown: Patricia Morison, not an opera singer or a professional singer of any kind.  She was a working movie actress in supporting roles, from B pictures (Queen of the Amazons) to a cut above that. She has the distinction of performing in the last film of three popular series: the Thin Man, the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan and the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes.

 Though she sang for soldiers on USO tours and at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II, she hadn’t sung a note in the movies. Cole Porter invited her to sing for him at his house in Hollywood. Her agent told her it wasn’t for any particular role, and she did it just for the contact and the experience. But according to Porter, as soon as she walked in he knew she was the one—if she could sing.

He accompanied her on piano, and discovered, yes, she could.

 After she’d taken lessons to strengthen her voice, worked on some of the show's songs and brushed up her Shakespeare, Porter was even more convinced. He believed that overnight she might become “a great new star.”

 But the producers were still considering other possibilities, and the writers had to be consulted. Unfortunately they were all in New York, and Patricia couldn’t afford the plane fare to go meet them. Then out of the blue she was invited to sing at a Bob Hope USO reunion concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The producers and writer Bella Sprewack were in the audience, and they all were enthusiastic.

Patricia Morison got the role as Lilli Vanessi. She was an immediate success. At the opening night party, after the rave reviews came in, she told everyone that she felt Cole Porter “has just lifted me out of my pumpkin coach.”

It was a Cinderella story for real. After 1,077 performances on Broadway, Patricia Morison starred in the London production for another 400 performances.

In the backstory she created for Lilli, Morison used her own life--disillusioned with Hollywood, seeking redemption through a hit stage play.

 Morison had another success in the original production of The King and I, both on Broadway and on its national tour. She subsequently sang in many touring musicals, and performed her starring role in Kiss Me, Kate many times, including in a television movie in 1964, onstage in Seattle in 1965 and for the last time, in Birmingham, England in 1978—30 years after her Broadway opening.

Patricia Morison turned 100 earlier this year, and is the last surviving member of the original cast of Kiss Me, Kate. She lives in southern California.