Keith Lockhart and Ann Hampton Callaway Tour with The Streisand Songbook
While northeast America was bracing for one of the biggest blizzards in decades, Maestro Keith Lockhart was sounding pretty jovial on the phone. Calling while on the road with the BBC Radio Orchestra, he was in Iowa and the weather was the diametric opposite of what would pelt the east coast in a few hours. Of course he was concerned about what effects the storm would have in Boston because his wife and three sons were still there while he was on tour but he was enjoying the fine weather.
Lockhart had been named the principal conductor of the London based orchestra in 2010. That, and his position with the renowned Boston Pops, keeps him well stocked in frequent flyer miles.
His upcoming Southeast tour with the Pops will begin on February 24th and will continue into March. The tour will play Newport News, VA, Greenville, Athens, GA before heading down to Florida. This particular tour will feature Ann Hampton Callaway who is familiar to Broadway audiences from her performance in the musical SWING! which played at the St. James Theatre from 1999-2001. "Ann's done a lot of stuff with us over the years," Lockhart explains, "and she came to us a couple of years ago with this idea of a tribute to Barbra Streisand. Ann has a personal connection with Barbra Streisand: she's written songs for her and they have a good working relationship. Ann's almost as well-known as a songwriter as she is as a performer. She actually got Barbra's blessing to go ahead and do this project. It's really wonderful to hear these songs that are so iconically associated with Streisand in somebody else's hands."
Lockhart is quick to point out that this is not a Streisand impersonation, but rather an "homage" to a performer who is so very iconic. "Like Sinatra and Judy Garland, we associate the songs more with the performance than the person who wrote them," he says.
The Boston Pops program will also include music written by composers who influenced Streisand. That roster includes Jule Styne, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim. Lockhart adds, "The death of Marvin Hamlisch gives us the opportunity to pay tribute to a man who had a huge influence on Barbra Streisand. He not only wrote songs for her like 'The Way We Were' but also served as her musical director. We're tipping our hats to somebody who died way too young and had a huge influence on American and Broadway music."
The Greenville concerts will be a collaborative effort with the Furman University's music department. Lockhart is an alumnus of the University and had been asked to do a teaching-sort -of -thing at that concert. "As a result," the maestro explains, we're going a side-by-side concert in which the Furman Symphony Orchestra will join the Boston Pops. For that concert we're changing the program and performing more Boston Pops standards like 'The 1812 Overture '. For the other concerts, the first half of the program will consist of Broadway-centric music and feature music by composers who have some connection to Streisand. Among the pieces to be performed will be Jule Styne's overture to GYPSY and the title tune from Jerry Herman's beloved HELLO, DOLLY! The second half of the evening will be songs associated with the FUNNY GIRL star performed by the incomparable Ann Hampton Callaway." Speaking of Callaway, Lockhart becomes effusive in his praise for her, saying: "One of the first things I think of when it comes to Ann is that she's hugely intelligent. She's not only a performer, she's also a serious and gifted musician who knows exactly what she's doing and why she's doing it at every step along the way. That makes her a very rewarding collaborator."
When apprised of these glowing comments in a subsequent phone call on Valentine's Day, Ann Hampton Callaway giggles girlishly and is quiet for a moment. "What a beautiful thing to say! I love working with Keith and feel we have a nice collaborative energy. We trust each other and in these situations we don't have very much time to rehearse, so it's those moments when you know you can trust someone and communicate quickly, you understand what needs to be done and the more you know the language of music, the more beautiful the music will be in that period of time."
She continues by saying, "Keith and I have climbed some very tall mountains very quickly and it's always an honor to sing with him. He's fun to work with, he knows his music inside and out and he's one of the great maestros of our country. It's always inspiring to sing with Keith Lockhart and trust his baton. He's a great listener and he continually brings great things out of the orchestra-and me. He's also nice on the eyes. Now that may sound shallow but he's a sweetie and a cutie and that's a great combination."
A Chicago native, Ann Hampton Callaway and her sister, Liz Callaway consider themselves "The Von Trapp Family of Chicago," because they grew up with a mother who was singing torch songs in the middle of the day and was a singer/pianist who continues to teach voice in New York these days. Their father was a well-respected journalist with CBS and then the PBS affiliate in Chicago. "Dad was a jazz lover and my mom loved classical music and the Great American Songbook, so Liz and I grew up with all this wonderful creative energy. I don't think Liz and I knew we were talented; we just felt that music was a natural part of life. It wasn't until third grade when my teacher heard my voice and told me I was talented that I suddenly had an idea that something about me was special and that maybe I could do something with that special thing." Callaway explains that she'd always been drawn to the arts and enjoys writing, painting, composing and singing.
Callaway found herself in an unusual situation in college when she felt her teachers weren't nurturing her the way she needed and she moved to New York. "On my third night-the night my sister moved to New York-I got my first singing job and I've been singing ever since. I've had a very interesting, exciting and surprising career but it hasn't been without its share of ups and downs. I finally feel that I'm doing what I love in a more interesting way and with incredible people. It's been great working with people I've admired deeply."
One such project for Ann Hampton Callaway is the Streisand Songbook that she will be performing with the Pops. She, too, remarks that it is NOT an impersonation. "That would be such a bore! This is not to say anything about people who are fabulous female impersonators who do Streisand. They're very entertaining. When you're a singer like I am, if I was impersonating Streisand, why would anyone pay to hear me when they could actually hear Barbra?"
Callaway continues by saying, "When I actually wrote her manager and her about what I was doing, I made it very clear that it was a daunting task to do this kind of show and Barbra wrote me back this weekend when I invited her to my concert in Los Angeles. She thought the idea of doing the Streisand Songbook was wonderful because she loves these composers and wants the flame of these great writers to be carried on. She thought it was a lovely idea to celebrate the great writers that she'd recorded down through the years-and whom we both love. I thought it was a beautiful acknowledgement of the intention for the show. One of the things I talk about in this Streisand tribute is the fact that when she was twenty years old and about to sing with Columbia Records, she had the chutzpah to ask for final say in all her song selections. Something like that was unheard of...and they almost didn't sign her. Barbra has this incredible taste in music which included songs no one had ever heard of as well as old fashioned songs that nobody thought could ever be commercial. As a result, she had some huge hits and I admire the fact that Barbra stuck to her guns and was true to herself."
One of the songs that Ann Hampton Callaway will sing in this tribute is Jule Styne's "People". She explains, "It was the first song I heard Barbra sing when I was a kid. My parents brought home the album and I took it out of the record collection and put it my own room and played it on my Sears record player over and over again. In the show I put it together with Sondheim's "Being Alive" which is an incredible combination because it almost makes those two songs even more beautiful. Audiences respond strongly when I sing that medley. In fact, when I did the Boston Pops premier in May, I didn't know whether people would like the show but we had nine standing ovations during the concert." When the normally staid Bostonians rise from their seats and cheer, one knows that the performance was truly exceptional.
Keith Lockhart confesses that when it comes to Ann Hampton Callaway and her sister Liz, he often gets them confused on stage. "There are times when I've introduced Ann and Liz comes out, and times when I introduce Liz and Ann walks out. I guess it's a matter of old age on my part." Ann Hampton Callaway laughs heartily at this story. "Liz and I couldn't be more different as singers or as people. Maybe it's because I met Keith first and I have a longer name so that sticks in his brain. Fortunately we all have a sense of humor about it."
Surely there won't be any introductory problems on this tour. The only Callaway sister on the stage will be Ann and she'll be singing music associated with Barbra Streisand. Now, if Maestro Lockhart gets Ann Hampton Callaway confused with Barbra Streisand, that'll be a calamity which will be remembered for a long time in the annals of music!