Michael John LaChiusa: Heaven

Written by Steven Blier

Artistic Director, NYFOS

In category: Song of the Day

Published September 27, 2019

Our final subscription concert is set for March 17. It’s called The Art of Pleasure, a show I first devised at Wolf Trap and later repeated in Long Island. This time it will come out of our collaboration with Caramoor’s Vocal Rising Stars program, an annual art song zen-retreat in Katonah. I’ve just completed casting, and am extremely happy with the quartet of singers. I can’t go public with that info just yet, but you’re going to flip, I promise you. 

We are living through tumultuous, abrasive times, and I thought we all could use a reminder of life’s potential for sweetness and fulfillment. The program is wide-ranging, from Catalan art song to Tom Lehrer, from Rachmaninoff to The Kinks. Act I deals with romance, the delights of the seaside in the summertime, the restorative powers of sleep and dreams. Then Act II goes into guilty pleasures—those secret drives you might not want your parents to know about.

The program ends with a song by Michael John LaChiusa called “Heaven,” taken from one of his unproduced musicals. Composer/lyricist LaChiusa has written a slew of off-Broadway shows, including “First Lady Suite,” “Hello Again,” and “Queen of the Mist,” as well as two that played on the Great White Way, “Marie Christine” and “Wild Party.” His work may be a bit too arty for the mass appeal of “Les Miz,” but he is prized by some of our greatest exponents of musical theater including Audra McDonald and Mary Testa. It was Mary who brought me today’s song. Programming our recent gala in celebration of NYFOS’ 30th anniversary, I asked her to sing a contemporary song that she thought would still be around in 30 years. “Heaven” was her suggestion, and I fell for it instantly. I’ll be happy to keep this song alive for three more decades. 

Mary Testa, with orchestration by Michael Starobin

author: Steven Blier

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Called “the coolest dude in town” by Opera News, master collaborative pianist and coach Steven Blier is the co-founder and artistic director of New York Festival of Song. Here on No Song is Safe From Us, Steven blogs about the NYFOS Emerging Artist residencies, writes the engaging and erudite program notes for our Mainstage concerts, and contributes frequently to Song of the Day.


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