The Mighty Wurlitzer at the Castro Theatre, San Francisco

San Francisco, open your Golden Gate
You’ll let no stranger wait outside your door
San Francisco, here is your wanderin’ one
Saying I’ll wander no more

The Castro Theatre was our neighborhood picture palace back in San Francisco. Went to dozens of movies there, sometimes with Mr Grumble, sometimes with the Bograt, sometimes with both: King Kong, Casablanca, The Garden of Allah, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, that movie Steve’s son was in called Brokeback Mountain, etc etc etc. But the organ was always the best part.

Here’s David Hagerty between evening shows giving the best of The Mighty Wurlitzer and ending, as he always does at every performance, with an inspiring rendition of my spiritual birthplace’s official anthem, “San Francisco” (Bronislaw Kaper and Walter Jurmann, lyrics by Gus Kahn, 1936).

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“Changing My Tune” from The Shocking Miss Pilgrim by George & Ira Gershwin, Sung by Betty Grable

Castles were crumbling
And daydreams were tumbling
December was battling with June
But on this bright afternoon
Guess I’ll be changing my tune

We can thank composer/arranger Kay Swift, Gershwin’s secret lover, for making sure this song found its perfect setting in this 1947 20th Century Fox musical after Gershwin’s untimely death ten years earlier.

“Chanson de Maxence” from Les Demoiselles de Rochefort by Jacques Demy and Michel Legrand, Sung by Anne Sofie von Otter

Je l’ai cherchée partout j’ai fait le tour du monde
De Venise à Java de Manille à Angkor
De Jeanne à Victoria de Vénus en Joconde
Je ne l’ai pas trouvée et je la cherche encore

Je ne connais rien de lui et pourtant je le vois
J’ai inventé son nom j’ai entendu sa voix
J’ai dessiné son corps et j’ai peint son visage
Son portrait et l’amour ne font plus qu’une image

Cleansing my aural memory of John Wilson’s 2000 recording of Legrand’s “Chanson de Maxence” (in English clumsily rendered as “You Must Believe in Spring” or some such). Bonny John conducts his eponymous orchestra in an arrangement by Richard Rodney Bennett, who had absolutely no feel for this song. With such a strong melody (reminiscent of Fauré) and strong lyrics, all it needs is a strong emotive singer and a backup piano. I note with some distress John himself did some other arrangements in this album, particularly for “Miss Otis Regrets”. With no lyrics! What the hell good is such a hilarious song without the words???

John and the JWO are okay, but just okay. I suppose when he was 28 my bonny boy’s loftiest ambition was to be the next Ray Noble.

“I Have Confidence”

And right around the time James “Smiling Cobra” Aubrey was turning MGM’s historical music scores into LA landfill and baby John was home in Gateshead falling out of his high chair in excitement over the brand-new BBC news theme, forty-five years ago today—even down to the day of the week—I fled Minneapolis for New York (on the pretense of auditioning at Juilliard) and took a shared room at Sage House, a genteel women-only boarding house on 49 West 9th Street in Greenwich Village.

With 2 meals a day included it came out to $33 a week. You read that right. A place in Greenwich Village, breakfast and dinner, for thirty-three dollars a week. Try to imagine the mischief I got into with all the money I had left over from my weekly paycheck from my first job at ASCAP, that it’s summer in NYC, it’s 1973, I’m eighteen, cute as a button and old enough to drink, and gorgeous men are everywhere. And imagine too that I’m singing a song (in my heart and sometimes while bounding down the street) that every American girl of my generation inspired by Julie Andrews sang:

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have con-fi-dence in meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Sage House NYC

Get-a-Room Sexy with Bernadette Peters and Conductor John Mauceri

I’m a pot of joy for a hungry boy,
Baby, I’m cookin’ with gas.
Oh, I’m a gumdrop,
A sweet lollipop,
A brook trout right out of the brook,
And what’s more, baby, I can cook!

The queen of Broadway Bernadette Peters entices conductor John Mauceri with her many, many assets, courtesy of Leonard Bernstein and the great lyric team of Adolph Green and Betty Comden. “I Can Cook, Too” from On the Town. Fun starts here at 4:45.

Peters Mausceri.jpg

 

All the Things You Are by Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II, Conducted by John McGlinn

You are the promised kiss of springtime
That makes the lonely winter seem long.
You are the breathless hush of evening
That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.

You are the angel glow that lights a star,
The dearest things I know are what you are.

High culture and nothing less. The most beautiful song ever written, sung in the classiest concert in the world, conducted by the sweetest musical theater restorer/preservationist who ever lived (John McGlinn, who died too young at 55), hosted by the most glamorous hostess in New York, Kitty Carlisle Hart. Orchestration of this Jerome Kern classic by Robert Russell Bennett. Milton Babbitt, that champion of musical theater and Stephen Sondheim’s teacher, wrote an analysis of this song having to do with tritones and inverted fifths which I was never able to entirely grasp, but you’re welcome to take a crack at it here.

A London Symphony by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Played by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Conducted by John Wilson 1

Posting this so I don’t forget why I’m in love with him. This is part of John’s “reel” filmed by his management and shows off his performance style very nicely. At the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, 23 January 2014.

John, I’m sorry for what I said about your nose. You are, actually, the angel glow that lights a star, the dearest things I know are what you are…