Liz Callaway Delivers Holiday Joy With Her Voice
Who could ever forget Liz Callaway stopping the show cold with a simple plaintive Maltby and Shire song called "The Story Goes On" back in 1983 in the Broadway production of BABY? Or, of course, Stephen Sondheim's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG? Or her Grizabella? Or any of the amazing albums she has made over the years, either solo or with her sister Ann Hampton Callaway?
My "go to" Liz Callaway album is still, and has been for years now, 2001's THE BEAT GOES ON. My story with Liz goes in and out over the years with experiences ranging from MISS SAIGON, to Carnegie Hall, and Barbra Streisand. She has one of the most stunning vocal instruments, which has served her well both on stage and gloriously singing pop music and standards. She sings with the ease of Karen Carpenter and displays, like Lea Salonga, a voice that easily travels from "chest" to "head" voice. She is also one of the nicest people in the world and now brings us her first Holiday recording, Liz Callaway Merry And Bright, which is also her first self-produced project, and on all accounts, a winner.
Doing a Christmas album, she says, has always been a priority for her and the fact that this is a five song EP has turned out to be a very good idea indeed. The thing about Holiday albums is that they have an amazing shelf life and people pull them out year after year because they love a particular singer. The real joy and skill always reveals itself in approach and arranging. There are only so many Christmas songs and everyone sings the same ones, but that is the fun of it: hearing singers discover new ways to perform these classics to which everyone already knows the words. Liz Callaway on this recording IS Christmas.
The song list includes "Joy to the World," David Foster's "Grown-Up Christmas List," "Silent Night/Mary Did You Know" a duet with her sister, "Santa Claus is Coming To Town," and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." They are all arranged and orchestrated by a collection of talented individuals, and, I must say, beautifully produced by Ms. Callaway herself, which is where our conversation started.
We chatted on the phone and, after catching up, I asked her how she felt about producing her first project. Liz loved producing, found the experience somewhat scary, learned a lot and has a whole new respect for the people who have been doing this for a living throughout all her previous recordings. But one of the most important things that I gleaned from our conversation was the beauty of having total control, both artistically and without time restraint. Usually Christmas albums have to be delivered before a "drop date" for the record distributors to get word out and get included in catalogues/listings. Liz's release of MERRY AND BRIGHT is admittedly a late entry, but she has enjoyed every minute of it and is feeling the warmth from fans, friends, and family. She also loves the immediacy of putting out an EP, which allows you to be "in the moment" as opposed to waiting 8 years between recordings. I chimed in that I thought that that was a great notion and would allow more frequent recording and releases if the concept flies, the album is well received and she can recoup her investment. She admitted to being cautious, frugal, and wise and is very happy with the product, not forgetting to thank all the people who helped along the way. Not unlike her musicianship, Liz has an uncanny ability to be candid, communicative, and sincere and it has served her well over the years.
This is now one of my favorite Christmas recordings.
On "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," her son, (with actor-director Dan Foster), Nicholas, both arranged and sings on the track. I had no idea that he had musical inclinations and found out that he attended Kenyon University in Ohio, with double majors in music and political science. But while at school, he became very involved with A capella arranging and singing. Liz would attend his concerts, be blown away, and wanted to sing A capella, too. Interestingly, this was not the first time they had sung together, as Liz explained that when her dad was alive he had a show on PBS where the family was invited to sing.
In a year where I witnessed Barbra Streisand singing with her son Jason Gould and now hearing Liz's story and recording with Nicholas, it is the undeniable truth, as Richard Maltby and David Shire taught us: THE STORY GOES ON.
ENJOY these photos that Liz sent us for this piece. "Liz Callaway Merry and Bright" was released on November 26th, 2013 and is available at Amazon.com, iTunes, and other digital services. If you would like to hear samples, go to http://amzn.to/MerryAndBright and http://www.LizTunes.com/