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Gilbert & Sullivan: The Sun Whose Rays

Song of the Day turns 3 this week!  Here’s a look back at our first week of songs (beginning June 15, 2015) from NYFOS’s artistic director Steven Blier. 

The first professional singer I ever accompanied was English soprano Valerie Masterson. I met her through Matthew Epstein, who went to high school with me. Even at age 17 Matthew was the master of going backstage, honing his skills during the D’Oyly Carte company’s periodic visits to New York. That was how he’d ingratiated himself with Valerie, who agreed to go out to dinner with him and his 13-year old friend, a tiny, shy boy named Steve (me). After sandwiches at the Tip Toe Inn on 86th and Broadway, she and her husband went back to Matthew’s house where she sang all kinds of stuff—the contralto numbers from G&S, Patience’s entrance song “I Cannot Tell What This Love May Be,” and “Una voce poco fa” in German. Yes, there is a tape of this somewhere. No, I don’t have it. Valerie’s voice—so pure and soaring, so huge to my bar mitzvah-age ears, so elegant, so ENGLISH—was the Scent of Blood. Already hooked on opera and mad for Gilbert and Sullivan, I found my calling as a collaborative pianist when she opened her mouth to sing at Matthew’s place on 81st Street. Here she is performing Yum-Yum’s Act II song from The Mikado. It’s a rare bit of footage, not the 1966 movie but an even better 1973 rendition for television. She still brings tears to my eyes. 

Valerie went on to sing opera all over the world, of course, and is now a voice teacher. Matthew has enjoyed one of the most illustrious careers in opera as manager, producer, and consultant. And me? Well….

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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