Remembering the music

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The Great American Songbook inducts its first members into the hall of fame

The Great American Songbook Hall of Fame celebrated its first four inductees last week at the Center for the Performing Arts’ 2011-12 Encore Celebration Gala, held at the Palladium.

The gala was attended by several national performing artists, including Clay Aiken, Lari White and Andrea McArdie, who was the original Annie in the Broadway musical of the same name.

The evening also saw a performance by Barry Manilow who, along with composers Cole Porter and Alan and Marilyn Bergman, was inducted into the first class of the Great American Song Book Hall of Fame.

“It is the endurance of the song which makes it classic,” said Michael Feinstein, artistic director for the Center and founder of the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative, which seeks to preserve the works of the Great American Songbook – works identified as the best American songs of the 20th century, many of which come from Broadway and Hollywood musicals. “(Our inductees) have all made both music and history.”

The gala additionally served as the culmination of the 2012GreatAmericanSongbookHighSchoolVocalAcademyand Competition, the winner of which was 15-year-old Nick Ziobro, of Manlius,New York. Ziobro received $3,000 and will be performing with Michael Feinstein at his club, Feinstein’s at the Loew’s Regency. He will also serve as the youth ambassador for the Great American Songbook.

 

2012 Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Inductees

 

Porter

Cole Porter

  • Birthplace: Peru, Ind.
  • Born: June 9, 1891
  • Died: Oct. 15, 1964 (age 73)
  • Famous works: “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Can-Can,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “I Get a Kick out of You” and “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love”
  • Bio: The only Indiana native to be inducted in the first class of the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame, Cole Porter was a prolific Broadway composer. The only child of a wealthy Baptist family, Porter’s choice of music as a profession was frowned upon by his family. He wrote his first operetta at 10 years old, and his first stage musical, “See America First,” was performed in 1916. His works have been recorded by artists including Roy Rogers, the Andrews Sisters and Frank Sinatra, and more contemporary artists like U2. Porter is buried in Peru, Ind., next to his wife, Linda Lee Thomas.

 

Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Alan and Marilyn Bergman

  • Birthplace: Brooklyn, N.Y. (both)
  • Born: Sept.11, 1925 (Alan) and Nov. 10, 1929 (Marilyn)
  • Famous works: “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” from “Best Friends,” “It Might Be You” from “Tootsie,” “The Way We Were” and “The Last Time I Felt Like This” from “Same Time, Next Year”
  • Bio: Though Alan and Marilyn Bergman were raised in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn – in fact, they were born four years apart in the same hospital – they didn’t meet until each had moved to Los Angeles. They were married in 1958. In 1975, the couple won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year for “The Way We Were,” co-written with Marvin Hamlisch. They became the first songwriters to ever have written three of the five songs nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song in 1983. Their songs have won numerous other accolades, including an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1973 for “The Way We Were,” and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1968 for “The Windmills of Your Mind.” Alan now serves as a member of the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board, and the Bergmans are both on the executive committee of the Music Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

Manilow

Barry Manilow

  • Born: June 17, 1943
  • Birthplace: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Famous works: “Could It Be Magic,” “Mandy,” “Can’t Smile Without You,” “Copacabana,” “I Write the Songs,” “Even Now,” “Somewhere in the Night” and “Some Good Things Never Last”
  • Bio: Born Barry Alan Pincus in Brooklyn in 1943, Manilow has released 29 studio albums, four live albums and 57 singles during his career. In 1978, five of his albums were on the best-selling charts simultaneously, putting him in the very limited company of only Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Mathis. He was named Radio & Records’ number one adult contemporary artist, and has sold more than 80 million records worldwide. He won his first Emmy Award for Outstanding Special in 1977, as well as a Special Tony Award, and went on to win three consecutive American Music Awards for Best Pop/Rock Male Artist from 1978 to 1980. Manilow was the headliner at the Las Vegas Hilton from 2005 to 2009, and the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas from 2010 to 2011.

 

What’s next for the Songbook

This year, the Songbook vocal academy competition drew in competitors from 11 states. By 2015, organizers hope to reach all 50, according to Karen Kelsey, interim director of the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative.

“We’re going to step back after the success of this year and regroup and look where it makes sense to expand,” Kelsey said.

The initiative will also continue archiving and adding to its collection. According to archivist Lisa Lobdell, the initiative’s collection includes more than 300 books, 5,000 recordings and 37,000 pieces of sheet music. It resides in two rooms on the top floor of the Palladium, totaling roughly 1,400 cubic feet, according to Lobdell. And, Lobdell said, the archives are available for viewing to anyone doing research on the Songbook.

“Michael has been in this business for a long time, and so people will contact him (about donations),” Kelsey said. “We have not started actively pursuing individuals yet, but we are working toward that.”

Among the most recent donations is a piano which belonged to songwriter Johnny Mercer, coming on loan to the Palladium within the next few weeks.

“It’s an ongoing initiative,” Kelsey said. “As people hear about us and want to donate, we accept them.”

For more information about the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative, visit www.thecenterfortheperformingarts.org/Great-American-Songbook-Inititative.aspx.

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