Sunday, January 10, 3:30pm & Tuesday, January 12, 8pm
Pre-concert talks at 3pm & 7:15pm
Trinity St. Paul's Centre, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto

Programme notes
by Laura Jones

For four seasons now, I have had the honour of being asked by my great friend Mary McGeer to curate an evening of popular song for the Talisker Players. In the course of preparing these arrangements over the years I have found myself at various times excited, overwhelmed, frustrated, and even blocked, but one thing has not failed: the inspiration to be found in the source material.

In the past three seasons, we've shone a spotlight on three polymathical titans: Noël Coward, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, all of whom wrote both music and lyrics for their songs. This year, though, I wanted to do something different, and thus "High Standards" was born. This programme celebrates the collaborative aspect of the American Songbook – partnerships between composers and lyricists that brought us some of the world's most beloved music.

In this concert you'll hear music from some of the iconic teams of Broadway history: Rodgers and Hart, Lerner and Loewe, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. These collaborations are legendary; but for me the interesting fact that underlies these pairs is the interconnection between all the great composers and lyricists in the 40 years spanned by our selections. For instance, Jerome Kern teamed up with Oscar Hammerstein II (later of Rodgers & Hammerstein fame) for Showboat, which revolutionized the Broadway show by integrating songs with a newly sophisticated plot. Not many years later, Hammerstein would meet, and go on to mentor, a 10-year old named Stephen Sondheim. And, of course, Sondheim's first big Broadway success was as the lyricist for Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. I have discovered many more examples of the close-knit ties of the Broadway creative community in the course of my reading. It must have been incredible to be in the midst of so much talent!

Broadway is not the only source of hit songs, needless to say; Hollywood has provided its share to be sure. The glamour (and lucre!) of movies and the warmth of southern California lured most of the great Broadway composers, some for a short stay, and some for good. Both Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen moved to Hollywood permanently, and wrote some of the most memorable songs in the American Songbook for the movies. Two of them won the Oscar for Best Song, and you'll hear them in this concert.

I would be remiss not to mention one other collaborative relationship: that between the songwriters and their arrangers. I have found inspiration in the work of many great arrangers, among them Robert Russell Bennett, Nelson Riddle and Marty Paich. If the arrangements you hear on this programme bring you a fraction of the pleasure I've found in listening to and playing the work of these artists, then I've done my job.

concert listing