Stephen Sondheim: The Girls of Summer

Written by Emily and James Kennerley

Soprano and arts administrator; Conductor, keyboardist, tenor, and composer

In category: Song of the Day

Published May 2, 2017

‘The Girls of Summer’ by Stephen Sondheim has long been a favorite song of mine. It was a treat to hear it sung so beautifully last week by Meredith Lustig at the NYFOS gala at Carnegie Hall, with Sondheim himself in view of the stage. What a perfect song this is: sultry and mournful, with a twist just at the end. This is a song that I remember from several NYFOS programs, and I have a fond memory of singing it a few years ago, accompanied by James at the piano. Yes, my English husband can play Sondheim just fine.

I have practiced Bikram Yoga since April 2002; a practice that began in Santa Fe where I attended college, and this practice continued when I moved to NYC. James and I practice yoga together in the hot room, and we started taking classes together soon after we started dating in the summer of 2011. Bikram NYC is a wonderful community of people and every so often the owners of the studios present a cabaret performance featuring students and teachers from the community (all proceeds are donated to a charity). The Triad Theater on west 72nd street often hosts this cabaret evening, and I had the pleasure of performing on the program several years ago. It is fun to be out with people in the world when you typically see them for 90 minutes of grueling exercise in a 110 degree and 40% humidity room wearing minimal amounts of clothing!

Drag Queen Chelsea Piers was our hostess for the evening, and when James accompanied me to the stage she asked, “who is this?” and I replied, “my pianist”. “I bet he is,” Chelsea replied. There may or may not be a video on YouTube somewhere of this performance.

James and I were lucky enough to share the stage that evening with Brad Mehldau and his wife Fleurine, who, incidentally, are also students of Bikram Yoga. It was a memorable evening! I sang Jake Heggie’s ‘Animal Passion’ from Natural Selection, a throwback from my master’s recital program in addition to ‘The Girls of Summer’. Those chords are so nostalgic, especially during these first days of spring as we have a foretaste of the summer ahead. This version contains some stunning singing by Dawn Upshaw; she spins this tune so beautifully. And we are happy to share this song on a hot day that feels like the dawn of summer here in NYC.

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James Kennerley is an English conductor, keyboardist, tenor, and composer. Emily is an American soprano, manager of alumni relations at The Juilliard School, and a great friend of NYFOS, serving as our gala consultant and event manager in 2015 and 2016.

This musical husband and wife is co-hosting Song of the Day together in anticipation of our first NYFOS Next evening curated by a married couple, Lauren Worsham and Kyle Jarrow, on May 10 at National Sawdust. Get your tickets today!


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