Songbook has been airing in Braintree for almost 18 years.
What have you been missing if you’ve never seen Songbook? I’ll tell you what you’ve been missing: just the best music to be heard on community television anywhere. Every week we give a new, unrehearsed, spontaneous performance of the Great American Songbook.
I handle the vocals while John Capavella tickles the tunes out of the ivories. And I mean tunes. Broadway, traditional pop, movie scores, jazz, big band hits.
Sometimes guest artists wander in—other musicians, the tops in their trade, the best of the area’s music scene.
Sometimes viewers send in requests. We love requests, and we haven’t been stumped yet.
Sometimes it’s all about memories, with a healthy dose of music history—where the songs come from, why they were written.
Sometimes it’s a holiday special or a show devoted to one phase of our American popular music culture. Maybe it’s Sinatra. Maybe it’s Richard Rodgers or Harold Arlen or Johnny Mercer or another giant of the industry like Tony Bennett.
One thing it always is, is fun. Because Songbook is music for grownups of all ages. Music for you.
And now we have a new way to stay in touch. Now we can exchange ideas and explore the American songbook. Here, on our brand new blog on our brand new website.
So, let me know what you think and let’s keep talkin’ music.
Sincere thanks to all the fans, friends, and family who came out to our concerts this summer in Milton, Holbrook, and Quincy.
John Capavella gathered the best of the best Boston area professional musicians for our 3 great adventures: Elmer Drotos on reeds, Steve Taddeo on drums, Hank Wictoricz on bass, and Don Gorder on trumpet.
We all had a great time together and everyone in the audiences had lots of fun getting into the music for grownups of all ages. I’ll keep you posted about future events as they come up.
Remember, Songbook continues to bring the best of the American Songbook to you every week on BCAM-TV. If you missed the latest shows, catch up by clicking on VIDEO ON DEMAND.
A SONG OF NOTE
On August 4, 1914, just five weeks after a Serbian national shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on a Sarajevo street, and when the prospect of battle still captivated a young generation of adventure-seeking young European men, Germany declared war on Belgium; Great Britain declared war on Germany; Germany attacked French holdings in Algeria, and the United States declared its official, if short-lived, neutrality. World War I, after simmering for years, had suddenly boiled over.
On that same day in New York, Charles Frohman, impresario extraordinaire on both sides of the Atlantic, was preparing for the Broadway opening on August 24 of an “Edwardian” musical play, The Girl From Utah, fresh from a successful run in London.
Frohman knew the comedic themes of the play needed Americanization, and, given the nascent wartime environment, some softening as well. What it needed was a solid love song or two.
Frohman asked his colleague Jerry Kern to compose some lighter tunes to add to the play. Jerry—that is, Jerome Kern—accepted the assignment, as he had many times before. Kern was an acknowledged master of interpolation, buttressing less-than-perfect scores by weaving better-than-average, if not terribly memorable, songs so deeply into the style and fabric of the existing music that audiences wouldn’t notice the tunes were the creations of separate composers.
But this time Kern did something different, something that rechanneled his career, influenced the careers of dozens of composers who came after him, and re-shaped American musical theatre. You see, one of Kern’s five new songs for The Girl From Utah,” is a turning point in musical history.“They Didn’t Believe Me,” floats on an inventive structure and presents a rich, no-cutesy-gimmicks melody. It’s free of imitation and mimicry, unfettered by stodgy European conventions or 19th century American clichés. It is, as they say, a sign of things to come.As a result, music critics and historians cite “They Didn’t Believe Me’ as the song that marks the true beginning of uniquely American popular music. To many, it’s the first tune in the Great American Songbook as we know it today. Kern, as prolific as he was inventive, went on to be recognized as, in the words of the NY Times, “…one of America's foremost composers of music for the theatre and screen.” In a career spanning 40 years, he was credited for the music in over 100 Broadway and Hollywood productions.The vast Kern library of standards, includes "Ol' Man River," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,"“Long Ago and Far Away,” “All the Things You Are,” “Look For The Silver Lining,” “I Won’t Dance” and too many more to list here.But it’s “They Didn’t Believe Me” that provides the first convincing evidence of the depths of Kern’s creativity, talent, and skill, and sounds as fresh and new in August 2016 as it did in August 1914.Hear it for yourself. Dozens of recordings of “They Didn’t Believe Me” can be found on the Internet. Here’s one of the best from a 1985 album by Sandy Stewart with Dick Hyman on piano.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAsHlHAPSL4
BTW: Sandy Stewart is pianist Bill Charlap’s mother. Last year, Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap won a 2015 Grammy for their album of Jerome Kern Songs. Sandy Stewart, like Tony Bennett, is still active. She occasionally appears and records with her son.