"MINED AND UNMINED MUSIC OF COLE PORTER"
LAST THURSDAY LECTURE SERIES AT THE CENTER FOR THE ARTS
November 29, 2007
Center for the Arts
On Thursday, November 29th at 7 PM, the Center for the Arts in Homer presents Michael Lasser, lecturer with vocalist Cindy Miller and vocalist/pianist Alan Jones in a special Last Thursday Lecture Series evening of performance and discussion of the music of Cole Porter. This presentation is free and open to the public. With a combination of enthusiasm, passion, and a sense of humor, Cindy Miller and Alan Jones sing a wide range of Cole Porter's songs written between 1919 and 1956, from "That Black and White Baby of Mine," cut before it was ever performed, to "True Love," Porter's last important song. Michael Lasser says, "I've thrown every kind of song at them, including some they'd never heard of, from ragtime to 19th century sentimental ballads to rock 'n' roll. They love the challenge and the playfulness." Michael Lasser interrupts the singing long enough to offer entertaining anecdotes and uncommon insight into Porter's life and songwriting. The mix of crooning and conversation makes this concert unique, and who better to listen to and hear about than Cole Porter.
Good friends for many years, Cole Porter (1891-1964) and Irving Berlin were among the few songwriters of their time who wrote both words and music. Unlike Berlin, who could write every kind of song with enormous skill and emotionalism, Porter's range was narrower but deeper. Most songwriters prided themselves on being able to write everything, but Porter was the acknowledged master of the style of songs that he made his own. Nobody possessed such effervescent wit, and nobody equaled his pulsating eroticism. Nobody could interweave the erotic and the romantic so convincingly. At the same time, there was nothing he enjoyed more than mocking propriety, whether it was the notion that romantic love without sex was "eternal," or that somehow the rich had anything to envy aside from money - even though he was born into wealth and never needed to earn a living.
Unlike his populist contemporaries, Porter rarely wrote about "the man in the street." His lyrics usually portray a world of elegant manners in which everybody always knows what to say and what to wear. Yet even for those who lived "on the ninetieth floor," nothing is simple, few things last, and the natural state of human affairs is ambiguous. In that topsy-turvy world between the Wars, initially carefree but eventually troubled, Porter gave us characters in song who evoked poignancy yet often practiced what Ernest Hemingway called "grace under pressure."
Despite his wealth and his great success, Porter's life was not what he worked so hard to have it appear. Although he was devoted to his wife and she to him, theirs was largely a marriage of convenience in a time when being gay remained in the closet. He had the easy manner and cool riposte of an aristocrat at ease in his world, but he also endured failure in the 1920s so discouraging that he fled the country for nearly a decade. A riding accident in 1937 left him in intense pain and virtually crippled for the rest of his life.
Like most of the major Broadway songwriters, Porter wrote great scores, especially for Anything Goes (1934) and Kiss Me, Kate (1948), but even for disappointments and downright flops, he wrote great individual songs. Some of them we remember and some we've forgotten - the "Mined and Unmined Cole" of our title. Attendees at this presentation often leave humming some familiar songs they've rediscovered but also delighting in some Porter songs they've never heard before.
Michael Lasser is a lecturer, writer, broadcaster, critic, and teacher. He and Philip Furia are co-authors of the recent book, America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley. Since 1980, Mr. Lasser has been the host of the nationally-syndicated public radio show, "Fascinatin' Rhythm", winner of a 1994 Peabody Award for letting "our treasury of popular tunes speak (and sing) for itself with sparkling commentary, tracing the contributions of the composers and performers to American society." He is the former theater critic for The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and for nearly 25 years has spoken at museums and universities all over the country. His talks are known for their combination of substance and humor. "His stories brought history to life and entertained the crowd. Education as entertainment in the best sense. An audience survey resonated with enthusiasm." Catherine S. Amidon, Director Karl Drerup Gallery, Plymouth State College. Mr. Lasser has a web site at www.american-song.com.
Vocalist Cindy Miller warms up on arias and then jumps to jazz - or whatever other style that is demanded by Cole Porter's music. She sings every kind of song, and does it with wit, warmth, and conviction. Her engagements have ranged from intimate clubs to stadiums. She performs regularly with the Gap Mangione Big Band, and has appeared with the Benny Goodman Tribute Band, the Utica Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Central New York Jazz Ensemble. Ms. Miller is a graduate of Nazareth College and received her master's degree from the Eastman School of Music. She performed for actress Meryl Streep when Ms. Streep received the George Eastman Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Art of Film, appeared at the New York State Fair Celebration 2000, and was guest soloist at the 2004 International Marine Tattoo. New York City appearances include The Blue Note (with Gap and Chuck Mangione) and Danny's Skylight Room. She receives rave revues for her cabaret acts and has released several CDs, Love You Madly and I've Got the Music in Me. She has a web site at www.cindymiller.biz.
Alan Jones, singer and piano player extraordinaire, is best known as a cabaret performer. He and his long-time partner, Phyl Contestable, have been guest artists with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Brockport Symphony. Together they have been the opening act for Bill Cosby, Rich Little, and Jackie Mason. They have entertained at many resorts and hotels, including Trump's Castle in Atlantic City, The Concord Hotel, and The Royal York in Toronto. Jones and Contestable also performed a series of concerts for the Ryder Cup in Rochester, NY, in 1995. They have released two recordings and continue to be among Western New York's most popular entertainers. Jones is a graduate of The Capital University Conservatory of Music and earned a Master's degree from The Eastman School of Music. His work as an educator, songwriter, arranger, and performer has gained him inclusion in Who's Who of American Teachers.
The Center for the Arts in Homer, located at 72 South Main Street in the village, at the corner of Routes 11 and 90, just off exit 12 of I-81, provides the region and community with a broad spectrum of cultural and artistic activities that provide education, enlightenment, and entertainment. While performance is premium at the Center for the Arts, the Center is an accessible facility for year-round classes, workshops, exhibits, summer camps, and conferences devoted to the visual and performing arts.