Showing posts with label Florida Sunshine Pops. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Florida Sunshine Pops. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Copeland Davis Redux

Last night we attended a performance in our subscription series to the Florida Sunshine Pops Orchestra, always a delightful time with a fine orchestra backing up, usually, Broadway-tested singers. These performances, including last night's, are normally under the direction of the orchestra's maestro, Richard Hayman, who is now in his nineties and enjoying his well earned reputation as one of the legendary arrangers of songs from the Great American Songbook.

A talented husband and wife team, Bev and Kirby Ward, joined the orchestra to perform a Dancin' and Romancin' program, a fitting one for Valentine's Day, organized around the music of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers era. Ironically, the Wards, unknown to us at the time, were our neighbors when we lived in Weston, CT (they in adjoining Wilton). The story of how they met and became a team is fascinating. They put on quite a show, lots of Gershwin, singing and dancing with a great orchestra behind them, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable and professional performance.

The evening also belonged to the guest artist, Copeland Davis. When we first saw him a couple of years ago, I said "Remember that name, Copeland Davis....I will go out on a limb and predict that Copeland Davis is destined to go way beyond the Florida market." Apparently, since then he's appeared on the Tonight Show as well as Good Morning, America. It's nice to see such a prediction come true.

It seems like Davis raised his level of playing even further, if that is at all possible. With his first piece, Fly Me To the Moon, accompanied by the orchestra, he seemed to devour the piano, attacking it, producing his unique fusion style of classical and jazz. Then he followed with a solo piece, My Funny Valentine (what else on Valentine's Day?), a memorable rendition, the melody so clear within his jazz phrasing. His last piece of the night was Satin Doll. I like the way he begins to play the piano in the process of sitting down, as if he is saying "let me at it." Satin Doll is in my own repertoire, and I play it often as an exercise in dropping the fifth when playing chords in the bass. The difference between my rendition and Copeland Davis' is like comparing a Model T to a Lamborghini.

He is a marvel to hear and to watch. As Richard Hayman joked, but in humor there is much truth, he is able to play at such a level even though his fingers are still attached to his hands. As Davis played his solo, Hayman just stood at the podium shaking his head, saying, at the end, "you never know how Copeland will play a piece until he just does it." He is that kind of musician, unique in every way and with an impressive, upbeat stage presence. Catch one of his performances if you are in South Florida.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Copeland Davis

Remember that name, Copeland Davis.

Earlier in the year I was inspired to write about the Florida Sunshine Pops orchestra. And, I’ve written before about jazz performers who are in a class by themselves, both those who are well known and those who work mostly in local venues, performing mainly for the love of the Great American Songbook.

The other night we attended the first of the Florida Sunshine Pops concerts for the season, which was a tribute to Richard Hayman and the Boston Pops. Hayman was the principal arranger for the Boston Pops for some 30 years, and today at the age of 89 is still active as the conductor of the Florida Sunshine Pops. Also, as one of the original members of the Harmonica Rascals he can still play a mean harmonica! His arrangements of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film scores are legendary.

This first concert of the season had a special guest performer, someone we’ve seen before, Copeland Davis, whose prodigious talents as a pianist inspired a standing ovation at the end of his first piece with the orchestra, Didn’t We? He brings a rare mix of gifts to the keyboard – first abounding warmth that shines through his presence on the stage, but, foremost, his ability to fuse blues, jazz, pop, and classical in one piece. I have seen some great jazz pianists and the only ones I remember having this ability are the late Oscar Peterson and Claude Bolling. At one point in his performance, in the middle of an arpeggio, Davis turned to the audience, slyly smiling, as if to say, “look, Ma, no hands!” I will go out on a limb and predict that Copeland Davis is destined to go way beyond the Florida market. Although his You Tube performances were not recorded under the best conditions, depriving him of the showcase he deserves, here is one I loved:

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

He jes' keeps rollin’ along

Last night we had the pleasure of seeing the last of the season’s Florida Sunshine Pops series of concerts at our nearby Eissey Campus Theatre. I’ve written about the Pops before and its gifted, octogenarian conductor, Richard Hayman.

This was a special concert devoted to Rodgers and Hammerstein, the undisputed Broadway innovators who, with Oklahoma!, changed everything about the Broadway musical. Their contributions to the Great American Songbook are legendary.

So yesterday’s concert was a “grand night for singing” and that is what makes this series so special: the level of the talent and professionalism that accompanies the orchestra. Last night’s featured performers were William Michaels, Lisa Vroman, and Stephen Buntrock all leading players on Broadway. They were joined by the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus, giving a truly inspirational dimension to those particular songs that so readily lend themselves to choral accompaniment such as Climb Every Mountain or Oklahoma! (which we learned, last night, was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein in a half hour while the show was being previewed in New Haven).

Another highpoint was the Florida Pop’s rendition of the beautiful Carousel Waltz, no doubt orchestrated by the maestro himself, Richard Hayman. If it were not for Johann Strauss, Jr, I think Richard Rodgers would be known at the “waltz king” as so many of his greatest pieces were in three quarter tempo.

But for me, the solos by Michals, Vroman, and Buntrock, were especially remarkable, not only for the quality of their voices but as Broadway trained actors, by their ability to communicate the emotion of the song as they comport themselves on the stage.

Naturally, I had my favorites, Lisa Vroman has a Julie Andrews voice and in fact sung The Lonely Goatherd, the yodeling ditty so closely identified with Andrews from The Sound of Music.

William Michaels is currently appearing in the landmark revival South Pacific at Lincoln Center. His rich baritone voice lends itself to the role of Emile de Becque but last night he sang what some have called the greatest song from the American musical theatre, Ol’ Man River from Showboat (artistic license: music by Jerome Kern, but lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein). Hammerstein described it as “a song of resignation with protest implied.” Perhaps it is a song for our times and my piano rendition is here.

Then there was Stephen Buntrock’s rendition of Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin the opening song from Oklahoma!, sung by the cowboy, Curly. In fact, Buntrock recently appeared as Curly in the Broadway revival of Oklahoma! so he follows in the tradition of Alfred Drake, Howard Keel, and Gordon Macrae. It’s a delicate, beautiful song, an uncharacteristic opening song for a Broadway musical, but after all, this was the musical that established a new direction for the musical theatre, making the music intrinsic to the plot, driving character development. My piano rendition of Oh What a Beautiful Mornin can be heard here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Coming to America

It took a local concert to briefly snap me out of my funk.

We live near a local theatre, the Eissey Campus Theatre, of the Palm Beach Community College. Over the years we’ve seen some wonderful performers and concerts there, subscribing to series featuring The Florida Sunshine Pops, a 65 piece orchestra under the direction of the venerable Richard Hayman who at the age of 18 started as a harmonica virtuoso in the Harmonica Rascals and became a leading arranger and conductor. And he is still conducting an orchestra at the age of 88!

The series always includes some of the finest singers – light opera and Broadway voices – and the genre is generally the Great American Songbook, my favorite.

The first concert of the season, last night, was Coming to America -- Celebrating The American People, Armed Forces and the individuals who chose America. It was a night filled with memorable patriotic songs and marches. One of the very talented singers was Teri Hansen, a soprano, who has that something extra for the stage – a great presence, a performer who gives her all to an appreciative audience. One of her numbers was a rousing rendition of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B and during the orchestral interlude she boogied down to the front of the stage and grabbed me out of my seat and we did a Jitterbug, one of the two dances I’ve mastered (the other equally complicated one being the Twist). I think Teri was a little surprised.

But the surprise was mine, walking to our car afterwards, remarking to Ann that the night had a special meaning to me because the outcome of the election made the patriotic theme all the more poignant. Where else but in the United States of America can a Barack Obama rise to the highest office? I wrote an open letter to the then Senator Obama about my hopes last May:

The greatness of this nation is its ability to constantly reinvent itself. I wonder what Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin would think of their masterpiece that has managed to survive wars, both internal and external, slavery and reconstruction, depression, assassinations, and the constant ebb and flow of the political tides and, now, more than 200 years later, faces an epic economic crisis. Looking back at some of my prior postings, I lost sight of this underlying strength, our best hope of avoiding the fate of other great nations throughout history. It took a refrain from the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B to remind me of our capacity to rise to such challenges.