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Song of the Day: November 27

Steven Blier (photo Liv Hoffman)NYFOS is celebrating our co-founder Steven Blier this week! In honor of his birthday on November 25, each Song of the Day post this week will be a tribute to him.  Happy Birthday, Steve!  We hope you enjoy these and have a wonderful week!

Today’s post comes from longtime friends of NYFOS composer William Bolcom and singing actress Joan Morris. Joan is up first:

Steve Blier has been our dear friend for so many years.  I first worked with him when he coached me in the role of Polly for The Beggar’s Opera done at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Steve’s friend Alvin Epstein was running it and asked Bill to complete the score that Bill’s teacher Darius Milhaud had partly arranged from the John Gay 1728 compilation of well-known tunes of his time. (Only one of those tunes shows up in The Threepenny Opera, by the way.)

Steve also coached me for the premiere and recording of Bill’s Fourth Symphony, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and showed such painstaking patience and support during our work sessions.  I began my career as an actress and began serious musical work later in life so that many things didn’t come easily to me, especially working in so-called ‘serious music.’  Because of Steve refining my abilities and taking care that I honored every musical value, I was able to be confident when I got up in front of the audience.

And Steve was always a pleasure to hang out with.  We shared many silly jokes and gossip and stories during those rehearsals. Much later Bill and I were lucky to work with NYFOS on several occasions, plus I admired and learned a lot from Steve’s elegant program notes on the composers and lyricists they featured.

Here’s Bill:  In 1969 Alvin Epstein, Martha Schlamme, and I began a run of a Kurt Weill evening originally put together by Alvin and the pianist Will Holt.  After our first showing at Yale, we went on to small theaters in New York, and very soon after I met Steve when he took over the piano reins; I was struck by his resourcefulness and strong theatrical sense.  In 1978 when Joan played Polly at the Guthrie, Steve was very much around; our duo Bolcom & Morris was at its hottest then, and not long after NYFOS would be born with the idea of drawing from classical and popular music sources in the same evening.

In retrospect it all seems like a natural growth, but at the time what we did was nothing short of revolutionary.  Both Steve and I pioneered the idea of the pianist speaking to the audience about the songs as we performed them, and Steve’s notes for the NYFOS programs would continue the idea of informing the audience in an engaging way—he is a wonderful writer!

NYFOS’s approach has energized the often-moribund voice recital for so many years, and Joan and I are extremely proud of him.  But more than that, Joan and I sing in chorus when we say, “Love you, Stevie!” and “Happy Birthday!”

Best, Bill & Joan

For one of our favorite people, here are some of our favorite things:

(“Three Penny Things” performed by Bill and Joan)

Song of the Day: November 25

Steven Blier (photo Liv Hoffman)NYFOS is celebrating our co-founder Steven Blier this week! In honor of his birthday on November 25, each Song of the Day post this week will be a tribute to him.  Happy Birthday, Steve!  We hope you enjoy these and have a wonderful week!

Today’s post comes from Steve’s former student and NYFOS artist Hal Cazalet:

My song of the week for Steve is “Till The Clouds Roll By”, music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by P G Wodehouse from the 1917 Broadway musical Oh Boy!

“The Schubert of the American Song” – Steve Blier describing Jerome Kern.

Happy birthday to you, my dear Mr Blier. I wanted to send you a birthday tune I know is close to both of us and that I hope makes your day even more beautiful.

There is something quite wonderful about the impression this music has on our sophisticated ears nearly 100 years on. There seems a bygone innocence in the style and manner, a simple truth in the melody, naivety in the lyric, yet for all its lighthearted charm and fun, there seems something inexplicably moving in its effect. Music that goes to the heart is rather rare in stage musicals today, but it seems the great inaugurators of the American musical, Guy Bolton, Jerome Kern and P G Wodehouse, had the ability to connect with the emotions of their audience without ever seeming to make an effort.

Oh Boy! was one of the Princess Musicals and notably, made a name of Beatrice Lillie who took the roll of Jackie in London production in 1919 following the Broadway transfer. The plot is full of the usual Wodehouse/Bolton antics – Polo Players, a character described as ‘a Dandy’, a befuddled leading man trying to elope with the girl while avoiding her Quaker aunt. All wonderful stuff that is a perfect tonic in the uncertain world we live in today. Strange, and yet heartening to think that when America joined WW1 in April 1917, Oh Boy! was on Broadway and would continue its run for most of that year – just think of the comfort it must have given to the New York spirit back then. George Orwell described the fanciful world of the Princess Musicals as ‘The Garden of Eden’, a haven of escape, delight and joy. I hope, SB, that your day is jam packed with all three. I suppose all honest music moves us because it needs no where to hide.

Happy birthday old horse,
Hal x

I am sending 2 versions. The first is the John McGlinn recording and the second is the original which is so wonderfully audacious!

http://secondhandsongs.com/work/133854/all

Song of the Day: November 24

Steven Blier (photo Liv Hoffman)NYFOS is celebrating our co-founder Steven Blier this week! In honor of his birthday on November 25, each Song of the Day post this week will be a tribute to him.  Happy Birthday, Steve!  We hope you enjoy these and have a wonderful week!

Today’s post comes from NYFOS’s co-founder Michael Barrett:

Now that Steve Blier is turning 64, I find myself thinking not so much about Steve’s resilience, his continuing professional productivity, or his unfailing stamina. Those traits all seem miraculous in the face of his fight with FSH Muscular Dystropy, but since I am around him lots, I really just see them as part of Steve’s character and work ethic. But what it is, on his 64th birthday that leaps out to me is Steve’s youthfulness. He’s eager about the future. He revels in discovery. He loves going out to shows in the evening. Is it any wonder his students become his friends and colleagues while they are still in school?

In honor of Steve’s secret to staying “among the very young at heart” is not THAT song, but the last movement of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. “Himmlische Leben” by Friedrich Rueckert portrays a child’s view of heaven. Heaven is full of fun and games, the best food, the best music. It’s where everything awakes to joy, all in G major. I’m wishing Steve a wonderful birthday, and to his continuing enthusiasms and exuberance.

Here is soprano Edith Mathis singing, accompanied by another guy who hung on to his youthful mojo—Leonard Bernstein. The back-up band is the Vienna Philharmonic.
—Michael Barrett

Song of the Day: November 23

Steven Blier (photo Liv Hoffman)NYFOS is celebrating our co-founder Steven Blier this week! In honor of his birthday on November 25, each Song of the Day post this week will be a tribute to him.  Happy Birthday, Steve!  We hope you enjoy these and have a wonderful week!

Today’s post comes from Steve’s lifelong friend Matthew Epstein:

In May of 1965, Steven Blier and I gave a song recital at the Fieldston School. We were both students there, he a 13 year old, I a venerable 17!

It was my ONLY recital appearance, but it was Steven’s FIRST appearance as a collaborative pianist.

Over fifty years of friendship, I have learned a lot from Steve and I like to think he was a bit influenced by me….

I treasure our friendship and revere his amazing accomplishments.

On that 50 year old program was Handel’s “Where ere you walk”, which pointed my way to five decades of Handel!

I have found a You Tube of Rockwell Blake, singing this piece with an astonishing breath control. He was Jupiter in my 1985 Carnegie Hall concert with Kathleen Battle, Marilyn Horne, and Sam Ramey…..20 years after Fieldston and 30 years ago.

Along with our friendship, what a glorious and memorable life in music Steven and I have shared!!

–ME

Handel’s “Wher’er You Walk” from Semele sung live in concert at Carnegie Hall by Rockwell Blake

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