I've always loved the performances of William Bolcom and Joan Morris, the husband and wife team who have been performing the American Songbook for almost 40 years, since their Grammy-nominated After the Ball, which features songs from the turn of the century. I've only seen them in concert once, at the aforementioned Ravinia Music Festival, but their albums remain a total joy.
Pianist Bolcom has had a highly-respected separate career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of symphonies, classical music, and three operas commissioned by the Chicago Lyric Opera, for which he has also received the National Medal of Arts. Morris is a mezzo-soprano whose done some separate performing and directing. But it is their popular concerts and 24 albums together for which they're best known. And still recording and giving concerts.
What I love most about their performing is how through her interpretation and his stylish and charming accompaniment they're able to bring out the intent of old songs, making them sound the way they were meant to performed at the time they were written, yet with a freshness that makes them relatable to a modern audience. Great fun, too, is that they provide the full versions of songs. Usually, we just hear the choruses of songs, which is all that's come down through time, and we think that that is the song. Yet what we never hear are the verses, which often little stories that put the song -- even the famous ones -- in a more full, or even different context.
Here's one, for example. The wonderful and hugely popular "Meet Me in St. Louis." But with the verses that are what the song is actually about.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor