The Musical journeys back to her beginnings as a young singer enamored of Ella Fitzgerald, against a backdrop of New York City during the 1960′s. Part “memory play”/ part tribute to Ella, me & ella is both a singer’s coming of age story as well as a musical valentine to the First Lady of Song. Making its world premier at Downstairs Cabaret in Rochester, New York, the musical is directed by Paul Kreppel and Murphy Cross, winners of the Tony Award for Jay Johnson: the Two and Only, and featuring Andrea Frierson, a finalist in Star Search and has appeared on Broadway in, among others, The Lion King, and Once on This Island.
Join host Robert Hammond as he showcases Broadway musicals that have won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. He’ll feature songs from numerous musicals that have won, as well as the three that are nominated this year. They are: Kinky Boots, Matilda: The Musical, and Motown The Musical. Kinky Boots won!
Although the name of the award has changed throughout the years, each year since the first Grammy Awards celebration was held in 1959, one Broadway musical has received the Grammy for its original recording. The original Broadway cast recording of The Music Man was the first musical to win. Back then the award was called Best Original Cast Album. As of 2012, the award has been called Best Musical Theater Album, and Last year Once: A New Musical took home the prize.
Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Chair of the Composition Department at the Eastman School of Music and Darren Stevenson, Founding Director and Company Member of PUSH Physical Theatre, joined host Robert Hammond to discuss Comala, the scenic cantata by Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Correction from broadcast: The performance of Comala at The Eastman School of Music’s Kilbourn Hall is Friday, January 24th at 8 p.m.
Alongside musicians from New York, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, and Lexington — in addition to current students at the Eastman School of Music — PUSH Physical Theatre performs Comala with music by Mexican-born composer Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon in Rochester on January 24. Alia Musica Pittsburgh and the Eastman BroadBand perform an opening instrumental act featuring two world premieres. The event is the final in a series of touring performances featuring PUSH Physical Theatre’s Comala. This season, the work has been mounted at the Rialto Theatre (Atlanta, GA), the Degollado Theatre (Guadalajara, Mexico), and at the Cervantino Festival (Guanajuato, Mexico).
Based on Pedro Páramo, the celebrated novel by Juan Rulfo, Comala stages scenes from one of the most influential literary works of magical realism. Fulfilling a promise made to his mother Doloritas on her deathbed, Juan Preciado travels to Comala on an errand to meet his father, the powerful patriarch Pedro Páramo. He seeks to claim “what is owed to him”, as Páramo’s legitimate heir. However, upon arriving to Comala he finds a desolate village that bears no resemblance to the idyllic recollections of Doloritas. His encounters with the spirits, murmurs, and memories that now haunt the village, and with two of its only remaining inhabitants, unveils to him the tragic history of the village and his family, but at the cost of his own life.
The event will take place at the Eastman School of Music in Downtown Rochester. The program is produced jointly by Alia Musica, the Eastman School of Music, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and the University of Kentucky. The event receives additional support from the The Heinz Endowments and the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
The program opens with a performance by the musicians alone, to include an additional work by professor of composition at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Michael Friday, and the premiere of two compositions commissioned for the occasion from Pittsburgh composers John Arrigo-Nelson and Federico Garcia.
Comala: the staged cantata by Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon
featuring PUSH Physical Theatre
Tony Arnold, soprano, and Rob Frankenberry, tenor
Federico Garcia, conductor
Friday, January 24, 2014 at 8:00 pm
Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music (26 Gibbs St.)
$15 general / $10 Eastman students, faculty, and staff with ID
ABOUT THE MUSIC
A finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Music, Zohn-Muldoon’s Comala features legendary new-music soprano Tony Arnold with the Pittsburgh-based tenor and polymath Rob Frankenberry. Performers include also University of Kentucky professor, guitarist Dieter Hennings; professors from Georgia State University and members of the Atlanta-based new music ensemble Bent Frequency, percussionist Stuart Gerber and saxophonist Jan Baker; and members of the world-touring Eastman BroadBand, a collective of students and recent graduates of the Eastman School of Music formed in 2007 by Zohn-Muldoon and fellow professor of composition Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez. This ensemble of musicians will be conducted by Federico Garcia, Artistic Director and conductor of Alia Musica Pittsburgh.
ABOUT THE CAST
PUSH Physical Theatre. Seeing award-winning PUSH Physical Theatre is like watching a live action-movie. This talented group of performers inspires awe with physical illusions and gravity-defying, dance-infused, acrobatic high-jinx. You have NEVER seen anything like this before — it’s cool, it’s athletic, it’s entertaining, it’s impossible to resist. Founded in Rochester, New York in 2000 by husband-and-wife team Darren and Heather Stevenson out of a desire to “push” the boundaries of traditional theatre, the company has performed for theatres, festivals and events in the U.S., England, and Malta. They have been profiled on PBS and NPR. They received the Anton Germano Dance Award from the “Community of Color” and the Artist of the Year Award from the Arts & Cultural Council of Greater Rochester. It’s all about the stories. The narratives of our lives played out with hope, strength and optimism — the strength of the human soul expressed by the power of the human body. PUSH’s repeated sold-out performances have established them as the masters of physical storytelling.
Darren Stevenson, founding director/company member, PUSH Physical Theatre. Darren Stevenson was born and raised in England and studied physical theatre at The Center in St. Louis, MO. He co-created International Expression with his partner and wife Heather Stevenson. They toured the US and England and continued studying with Several Dancers Core in Atlanta, Pilobolus collaborator; Bill Wade in Cleveland and The Goldston & Johnson School for Mimes at Kenyon College. In 1997, the Stevensons founded the Studio School of the Arts. In 2010 Darren was invited to speak about PUSH’s unique artistic process at TEDx. Darren currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Rochester Fringe Festival
Heather Stevenson, founding director/company member PUSH Physical Theatre. Heather Stevenson, a New Jersey native, co-created International Expression with partner and husband Darren Stevenson. In 2000, they founded PUSH Physical Theatre. Heather has been a teaching artist for the Monroe BOCES, Rochester and Buffalo school districts, Young Audiences, New Jersey’s Project Impact and Atypical Entertainment. In 2002, Heather developed PUSH Pins as the children’s division of PUSH and from a week-long pilot program for children ages 5-8, the camp has grown into an annual event.
Tony Arnold, soprano. John Von Rhein of the Chicago Tribune writes “anything sung by soprano Tony Arnold is worth hearing.” Hailed by the New York Times as “a bold and powerful interpreter,” she has gained international acclaim for sparkling and insightful per- formances of the most daunting contemporary scores. In 2001, Ms. Arnold was thrust into the international spotlight when she became the only vocalist ever to be awarded first prize in the Gaudeamus International Interpreters Competition. On the heels of that triumph, she claimed first prize in the 15th Louise D. McMahon International Music Competition. Since that time, Ms. Arnold has established a reputation as a leading specialist in new vocal repertoire, receiving consistent critical accolades for her many recordings, as well as performances with groups such as the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, New York New Music Ensemble, Ensemble 21, eighth blackbird, Contempo, Orchestra of St. Lukes, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Fulcrum Point, and many others.
Rob Frankenberry, tenor. The Pittsburgh-based tenor, pianist, and conductor Robert Frankenberry was born and raised in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, where both his parents made music. Robert holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance from Mercyhurst College and a Master’s Degree in Voice performance from Carnegie Mellon University. His vocal instructors have included Louisa Jonason, John Shirley-Quirk, Judith Natalucci and Diana Walters. At the piano, Robert Frankenberry is a member of the Pittsburgh-based IonSound Project, and has worked in various pianistic capacities for Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham College, the Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. As a pianist, he performs both standard and contemporary chamber music and has premiered more than 150 works by living composers. Robert Frankenberry has filled faculty positions at several colleges and universities, most recently as instructor of voice and bassoon and director of orchestral studies at Mercyhurst College. He lives in Lawrenceville and frequently travels for rehearsals and performances across the USA.
Federico Garcia, conductor. Born in Colombia in 1978, Federico Garcia moved to the US in 2001 to pursue graduate studies in Composition and Theory at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been Artistic Director of Alia Musica Pittsburgh since its inauguration in 2007, and is also Music Director of the East Liberty Community Engagement Orchestra and of Ensemble Ripieno. His music has been performed throughout the world, from his native Colombia to Thailand, across the US, and most recently in Bulgaria and Mexico. He has shared stages with new music artists of the stature of Cliff Colnot, Lisa Kaplan, Robert Dick, George Tsontakis, and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon. His “Passacaglia on a theme by Bach” won first prize in the Colombian composition competition for symphony orchestra in 2001, and is recorded in the 2013 album “Orchestral Masterworks” of ABLAZE Records.
Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, composer. Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon is Chair of the Composition Department at the Eastman School of Music, Zohn-Muldoon has in the past held positions at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and the University of Guanajuato. Zohn-Muldoon’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Tanglewood Music Center (Omar del Carlo Foundation), Camargo Foundation, Endowment for Culture and the Arts of Mexico, a Mozart Medal from the Embassy of Austria in México, and commissions from the Fromm Foundation, Meet the Composer, the Barlow Foundation, and the US / Mexico Fund for Culture.
It was a rainy day in April 2009. I will never forget it! The National Broadway Tour of RENT was in Rochester for a week. The tour included several cast members from the original Broadway production, including Anthony Rapp (Mark) and Adam Pascal (Roger). Rochester’s own Broadway sensation Nicolette Hart (nee Michelle Lipman) was in the role of Maureen, a role she played on the Great White Way for several years. Broadway and TV star Telly Leung was in the role of Steve.
Nicolette’s father was too ill to attend a performance. That didn’t matter! On their day off, the entire company of RENT took RENT to Mr. Lipman, who, at the time, was living at the Jewish Home. They performed “Seasons of Love” a cappella. Broadway truly does care! I’m honored that Nicolette let me record the once in a lifetime performance.
Since then, Nicolette has become a dear friend. She called me on Christmas Eve to let me know her father had passed away. The first thing that ran through my mind was that precious time in 2009 when Nicolette was sitting on her daddy’s lap surrounded by her RENT family singing “Seasons of Love” at the Jewish Home. Below is the recording that first aired on Stage Notes in 2009. It is followed by a song penned by Nicolette, “I’ll Survive This” (off her CD Nobody’s ChoirGirl). Special Thanks to Telly Leung for his contribution. Dion Miglioratti, Nicolette’s amazing boyfriend, has been her and Agnes Lipman’s (Nicolette’s mom) tenderhearted rock during this difficult time.
At the memorial service Nicolette said her dad lived life to its fullest. She concluded her exquisitely written eulogy with one sensational Hebrew word: l’chaim.
Click above to hear the entire broadcast, including several selections from Johnny’s new CD.
Described as “the best ballad singer in the world,” three-time Grammy Award winner Johnny Mathis joined host Robert Hammond for his annual holiday edition of Stage Notes. He talked about his new CD, Sending you a Little Christmas, his parents, and his extensive music career that began in 1955.
The fourth of seven children, John Royce Mathis was born on September 30, 1935 in Gilmer, Texas to Clem and Mildred Mathis. As a small boy, the family moved to Post Street in San Francisco. It was there that he learned an appreciation of music from his father who taught him his first song, “My Blue Heaven”. At age eight, his father purchased an old upright piano for $25. When he brought it home, it wouldn’t fit through the front door. So that evening, Johnny stayed up all night to watch his father dismantle the piano, get it into the small living room of their basement apartment and then reassemble it. Clem Mathis, who worked briefly as a musician back in Texas playing the piano and singing on stage, would continue to teach his son many songs and routines. Johnny had proven to be the most eager of the children to learn all about music. He sang in the church choir, school functions, community events, for visitors in their home as well as amateur shows in the San Francisco area.
Johnny was 13 years old when Clem took him to see Connie Cox, a Bay Area voice teacher, who agreed to take on the youngster in exchange for his doing odd jobs around her house. Johnny studied with Connie for six years learning vocal scales and exercises, voice production, classical and operatic skills.
At George Washington High School, Johnny was known not only for his singing ability but his athleticism as well. He became a star athlete on the track and field team as a high jumper and hurdler and played on the basketball team.
In 1954, Johnny enrolled at San Francisco State College with the intention of being an English and Physical Education teacher. While there, Johnny set a high jump record of 6’-5 1/2”. This is still on the College’s Top 15 list and was only two inches short of the Olympic record of the time. Just as when he was in high school, Johnny’s name was frequently mentioned in the sports sections of the Northern California newspapers. He was often referred to as “the best all-around athlete to come out of the San Francisco Bay Area”.
A fellow student, whose sextet was working at the Black Hawk nightclub, brought Johnny in for a Sunday afternoon jam session. It was at the Black Hawk that Helen Noga, co-owner of the club, first heard him sing. She decided that she wanted to manage his career.
In early September of 1955, Johnny landed a job singing weekends at Ann Dee’s 440 Club. After repeated attempts, Helen convinced George Avakian, then head of Jazz A&R at Columbia, to see him. Avakian came to the club, heard Johnny sing and sent the now famous telegram to his record company: “Have found phenomenal 19 year old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.”
Avakian left for New York after telling Johnny that he would eventually send for him. Johnny continued his studies at San Francisco State and gained additional fame as a high jumper. In early 1956, Johnny was asked to attend the trials for the 1956 Olympic teams that would travel to Melbourne, Australia that summer. At the same time, Columbia Records requested that Johnny come to New York to start arrangements for his first recording session. Clem helped his son decide that his future and best interests were with the recording company. So, Johnny gave up his chance to become a member of the USA Olympic Team. He went to New York to record his first album in March of 1956.
The first album was a collection of jazz oriented renditions of popular standards entitled: Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song. It included jazz musicians Gil Evans, John Lewis and Teo Macero and songs like “Angel Eyes”, “Easy to Love” and “Babalu”. The album enjoyed only moderate success because jazz vocal albums were not good sellers. Nevertheless, Johnny remained in New York and landed bookings at some of the leading nightclubs such as the Village Vanguard, The Blue Angel and Basin Street East.
Soon, Columbia placed Johnny under the supervision of producer Mitch Miller. Mitch favored using Johnny’s voice to sing soft, romantic ballads. At his second recording session, in the fall of 1956, Johnny recorded two singles. These songs were to become among his most popular all-time greatest hits: “Wonderful, Wonderful” and “It’s Not For Me To Say.” Subsequently, MGM Studios signed Johnny to sing “It’s Not For Me To Say” in the film Lizzie . He played a tavern piano bar singer. In 1958, Johnny made another motion picture appearance. This time it was for 20th Century Fox in A Certain Smile. In this movie, he sang the title song playing himself in an elegant nightclub scene. Since then, Johnny’s voice has been used in countless Hollywood movies for theme songs, background music and to enhance a particular setting or segment.
“Wonderful, Wonderful” and “It’s Not For Me To Say” reached their peaks on the BILLBOARD pop chart in July of 1957. These successes were followed by the monumental single “Chances Are” which became Johnny’s first #1 hit.
In June of 1957, Johnny appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show where he was introduced to the record buying public and became a national celebrity and household name. Columbia Records continued to release albums of Johnny singing beautiful and romantic ballads, classic standards and the best songs from Broadway musicals. These albums, like the singles, became immediate successes with sales in the millions. It was not uncommon for Johnny to have as many as four albums on the BILLBOARD Top Albums chart at the same time. In late 1959, Johnny recorded another song that became synonymous with the name of Johnny Mathis, the Erroll Garner composition, “Misty”.
Johnny’s accomplishments are numerous and varied. He holds many records and has set many precedents in the music industry. In 1958, two years after being signed by Columbia Records, Johnny’s Greatest Hits was released. It began a “Greatest Hits” tradition copied by every record company since then. Johnny’s Greatest Hits went on to become one of the most popular albums of all time and spent an unprecedented 490 continuous weeks (almost ten years) on the BILLBOARD Top Albums Chart. This record has been noted in the GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS.
At one point in his career, according to record historian Joel Whitburn, Johnny was one of only five recording artists to have Top 40 Hits spanning each of his first four decades as a recording artist. Amazingly, his second #1 Hit Single, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” (recorded with Deniece Williams), came almost 21 years after his very first #1 Hit Single, “Chances Are”.
Johnny has been honored to make several appearances before various heads of state. Starting in June of 1973, he sang at a State Dinner held in honor of the President of Liberia. In 1978, Johnny sang for the British Royal Family at A Command Performance held at The London Palladium. He performed for President and Mrs. Reagan at the State Dinner held in honor of the Prime Minister of Japan in April of 1987. Four years later in April of 1991, he sang for President and Mrs. Bush in honor of the President of Nicaragua. Most recently, in May of 1994, Johnny sang for President and Mrs. Clinton (along with the other five living First Ladies) at a very special First Ladies Tribute.
He has also been honored by entertainment heads of state. In June of 1972, he was awarded his own star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has participated in the Academy Awards presentation many times to sing the song nominated in the “Best Song” category.
Johnny has received four Grammy nominations. The first was for “Misty” in 1960 in the category of Best Male Vocal Performance – Single Record or Track. The second was in 1992 for “In a Sentimental Mood / Mathis Sings Ellington” in the category of Best Traditional Pop Performance. He also was nominated in 2006 for “Isn’t it Romantic” in the category of Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Johnny has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame two times so far. In 1998, he made the famous Hall’s list with “Chances Are” (Columbia Traditional Pop Single 1957). In 2002 he made the list again with “Misty” (Columbia Traditional Pop single 1959). Most impressive of all is his 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
In 2004 he sang “Over the Rainbow” with Ray Charles on Mr. Charles’ “Genius Loves Company”. (Johnny was very honored that Mr. Charles requested the song be played at his memorial service.) Also in 2004, Johnny recorded “Isn’t It Romantic” a standards CD that was released in February 2005.
2006 marked Johnny’s 50th anniversary as a recording star and was very busy for him. “Johnny Mathis – Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration” and “A 50th Christmas Celebration” were both released and PBS taped a special called “Wonderful, Wonderful”. The PBS special was later released on DVD as “Johnny Mathis – Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration”. 2006 also marked the year that he was honored with receiving the Society of Singers coveted Ella Award.
2010 was a special year for Johnny as it marked his first foray into classic country music. The Grammy nominated “Let It Be Me – Mathis In Nashville” was released in September. Vince Gil provides beautiful background vocals for “Loving Arms” and Alison Krauss is wonderful as she sings with Johnny on the song “Let It Be Me.”
The Grammy’s were held in Los Angeles in 2011, “Let It Be Me – Mathis In Nashville” didn’t win, but Johnny was so appreciative that his work was recognized once again.
In his free time, Johnny loves to golf. He plays golf almost every day when he’s not traveling and has sung at many golf banquets such as the Ryder Cup. In 1985 and 1986, Johnny hosted his own golf tournament, The Johnny Mathis Seniors PGA Classic, which was held in Los Angeles. Johnny has also hosted a charity golf tournament, The Shell / Johnny Mathis Golf Classic, which was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Johnny’s other favorite avocation is cooking. He is a gourmet cook who cooks for himself and often others when he’s home or traveling. His mother taught him at an early age how to cook up a storm and do it well. He has enjoyed doing so all his life.
Click above to hear a sneak peek of the program
Johnny Mathis Joins Robert Hammond on this week’s Stage Notes to talk about his new holiday CD, Sending You a Little Christmas and his massive musical career. From WXXI live stream Saturday (12/14) at noon (EST) at WXXI.org/listen. Several of Johnny’s holiday songs will be featured, as well as touching stories about his family and career.
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Brought to town by the Rochester Broadway Theatre League and four-time Tony Award winner Albert Nocciolino, “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical” is a wonderful night of whimsical fun for the entire family. The ninety-minute production (no intermission!) is just right for the little ones, and allows Mom & Dad to stay comfortably settled in their seats. The sets, sound, costumes, and performances take you on a festive ride to whoville. Old Max (Bob Lauder), the narrator, has a glorious, Santa-like voice. He keeps the musical moving seamlessly, accompanied by Young Max (Andreas Wyder). The Grinch (Stefan Karl) is just what the Dr. ordered: perfect! His comedic timing is top-notch –it is obvious to anyone he’s having a blast in the role. Cindy -Lou Who (Piper Birney) was downright precious, and what a voice! As they say in the south: bless her heart. Head to your sleigh! Don’t miss the Grinch in Rochester through December 15. Information available at RBTL.org.