Theater Folk Gather To Sing Irving Berlin Songs At His Home
Friends and admirers of Irving Berlin from New York's theater community--continuing a tradition they began back while Berlin was alive--recently gathered at his former home in New York City to remember him in song. They sang such Berlin classics as "God Bless America," "White Christmas," and "Always," complete with rarely heard verses. Berlin (1888-1989) composed the scores for 18 Broadway shows and 19 films. He wrote more standards and made more money than any of his colleagues in the Golden Aged of American Popular Music.
Although Berlin was reclusive in his later years, he was so touched to hear people singing his songs outside of his home, that he invited everyone inside his home to thank them, when the tradition first started back in the 1980s. The late singer/songwriter John Wallowitch, a friend and neighbor of Berlin's, started the tradition, which continues today under the direction of Jacqueline Parker, a charter member of the original group.
The home where Berlin lived from the 1940s until his passing, 17 Beekman Place, is today the Luxemburg Consulate. The nation of Luxemburg acquired the Berlin home because Berlin famously set one of his musicals, "Call Me Madam" (which Berlin composed in that very home) in a thinly disguised version of Luxemburg.
The singers gathering to honor Berlin include (as seen from left to right, in the photo copyright by Steve Ember): Daryl Sherman, Rick Hinkson, Judy Davis, Jane Goldman, Jacqueline Parker, Riki Kane Larimer, Keith Anderson, Michael Lavine, and Chip Deffaa. Deffaa (who has written and directed several shows about Berlin, including one in which Keith Anderson portrayed John Wallowitch), noted: "I think John would be mighty pleased to know that a tradition he started more than 30 years ago continues to this day. Berlin's songs are pure Americana and they'll live forever."
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