Photo Flash: Opening Night of NY Festival of Song's 'Great American Songwriting Teams'
Theater and cabaret stars Jason Graae, Sylvia McNair and Mary Testa joined New York Festival Of Song's Artistic Director and pianist/host Steven Blier for a delightful and moving celebration of songs by legendary composer collaborators in Great American Songwriting Teams, November 17 and 19 at Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Center.
Besides singing such classics as Dietz and Schwartz' "You and the Night and the Music," and Lerner and Loewe's "Before I Gaze At You Again,," the company performed comic rarities like Kander and Ebb's "Sara Lee," -- an ode to the cake brand; Bock and Harnick's "Popsicles In Paris (detailing the international foods available at the 1964 World's Fair pavilions)" and "Two Short Years," a lovely ballad Rodgers and Hammerstein cut from their Allegro.
The other special surprise of the evening was the instrumental talents of the performers: Sylvia McNair, an accomplished violinist before turning to voice, was a scintillating string soloist and member of the instrumental ensemble at several points, Jason Graae swung on the clarinet, and Mary Testa expertly provided sound effects as musical accompaniments.
Great American Songwriting Teams was also presented November 13 at the Terrace Theater at The Kennedy Center, under the auspices of The Vocal Arts Society of Washington, D.C. For this performance, the exciting young mezzo-soprano Liza Forrester, soon to debut at the New York City Opera in L'Etoile, replaced Ms. McNair.
NYFOS's upcoming concerts include Killer B's: American Song From Amy Beach to The Beach Boys (January 13), the fifth annual NYFOS@Juilliard concert at The Juilliard School; The Voluptuous Muse (February 16 and 18) a survey of the last vestiges of lush tonality and decadent Romanticism at the dawn of the 20th century; The Sweetest Path, the first great flowering of French art song performed by America's brightest new vocal stars as part of the Caramoor Vocal Rising Stars program, March 13 at Caramoor and March 16 at Merkin Concert Hall; and The Newest Deal (May 4 and 6) featuring recent American works, including the premiere of the Harold Meltzer song cycle Beautiful Ohio*, created for and performed by tenor Paul Appleby.
New York Festival of Song was founded in 1988 by Steven Blier and Michael Barrett. NYFOS is dedicated to creating intimate song concerts of great beauty, humor and originality. Combining music, poetry, and history, NYFOS performances entertain, educate and create community among audiences and performers. With a far-ranging repertoire of art songs, concert works and theater pieces, its thematic recitals have included programs from Brahms to the Beatles, from the nineteenth-century salons of Paris to Tin Pan Alley, from Russian art song to Argentine tangos, from sixteenth-century lute songs to new music. NYFOS particularly celebrates American song literature and culture, and specializes in premiering and commissioning new American works, including the double bill of Bastianello / Lucrezia, which premiered in 2008. They have produced five recordings on the Koch label, including a Grammy Award-winning disc of Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles, as well as the Grammy-nominated recording of Ned Rorem's Evidence of Things Not Seen on New World Records, and the Bridge Records release of the NYFOS program Spanish Love Songs, called "One of the best of 2009" by Opera News. NYFOS's concert series, touring programs, radio broadcasts, recordings, and educational activities have sparked a new interest in the creative possibilities of the song program, and have inspired the creation of thematic vocal series around the world.
Sylvia McNair plays the violin
Jason Graae plays the clarinet