The Music of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”

Music was at the heart of the long-running PBS children’s television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I was reminded of this last week as I watched the timely new documentary film, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? The film opens with a youthful Fred Rogers, seated at the piano, relating far-flung harmonic modulations to difficult adjustments in children’s lives. Rogers, a talented pianist, wrote all of the show’s songs. Dialogue between characters in the “Neighborhood of Make-believe” …

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Broadway’s Jerry Goldberg Remembers Barbara Cook

Yesterday, my friend Jerry Goldberg shared with me his memories of Barbara Cook, the legendary singer who passed way earlier this week. Jerry spent decades in the Broadway theater as a pianist and conductor, working on such notable shows as A Chorus Line and rubbing shoulders with some of Broadway’s greatest performers. He worked with Cook on two occasions. The first was in preparation for Cook’s appearance in the leading role of Fanny Brice in Jule Styne’s Funny …

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Remembering Barbara Cook

Barbara Cook, the Tony Award-winning lyric soprano who came to prominence during Broadway’s Golden Age and later re-emerged as a star of cabaret and concert hall, passed away yesterday. She was 89. Cook was known for her wide vocal range and her magical ability to color musical phrases and shape lyrics. In her later years, her voice darkened and she performed to great acclaim into her eighties. In 1956, she played the …

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Remembering Conductor Jeffrey Tate

The English conductor Sir Jeffrey Tate passed away on Friday. He was 74. In the early 1970s, Tate worked as a repetiteur and coach at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden under Sir Georg Solti. His international conducting debut came in 1979 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He went on to lead the English Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. He overcame the tremendous …

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“Der Rosenkavalier,” Renée Fleming, and the Passing of Time

Time is a strange thing. While one is living one’s life away, it is absolutely nothing. Then, suddenly, one is aware of nothing else. It is all around us – inside us, even! It shifts in our faces, swirls in the mirror, flows in my temples. It courses between you and me – silent, as in an hourglass. Oh, often I hear it flowing, irrevocably. Often I get up in the middle of …

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Remembering Allan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth, the legendary British-born jazz fusion guitarist, passed away earlier this month. He was 70. Holdsworths’ stunning virtuosity and harmonic innovations influenced rock guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen. He was called “the John Coltrane of the guitar.” In 1983, the New York Times’ Jon Pareles wrote: He pours out notes in a liquid rush without slurring a single one. His sense of harmony reveals itself in daring melodic extrapolations and in chords that …

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Remembering Stanislaw Skrowaczewski

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Polish-American conductor and composer, passed away last week. He was 93. Following his defection from Poland, Skrowaczewski served as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1960 to 1979. He is credited with raising the level of the prestigious ensemble, as well as advocating for the construction of Orchestra Hall. Eugene Ormandy described him as “the last great music director,” adding that “They just don’t make us anymore.” Skrowaczewski talks about his life …

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