Monday, March 24, 2014

Ken Radnofsky and Damien Francouer-Krzyzek play the third movement, "Christopher Street," of David Amram's Greenwich Village Portraits.

I've been fortunate to know David Amram since my Bells of Hell and Lion's Head days. Last month he presented a performance of his recent works at Le Poisson Rouge, a performance venue that occupies the space once belonging to Art d'Lugoff's Village Gate. My wife and I attended, along with a good number of other Lion's Head alums. One of the compositions on the program was Greenwich Village Portraits, with three movements dedicated, respectively, to Arthur Miller, Odetta, and Frank McCourt. The last of these, titled "Christopher Street," evokes the memory of the Lion's Head, which was Frank's favorite bar. It was performed by saxophonist Ken Radnofsky and by Damien Francouer-Krzyzek on piano. I made the video above from our table, some distance from the stage, which explains the people walking past and the unfortunate clattering of flatware. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised that the sound came through as well as it did.

The movement begins with a sprightly Irish jig tune, the name of which escapes me (perhaps a reader can help) announced on piano, then developed in variations on sax. At 2:40, the piano announces the second theme, based on "Wild Mountain Thyme (Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?)," picked up by the sax at 3:50. At 4:59, Radnofsky begins a variation at turns happy and mournful, but at 6:00 this gives way to a lively development that resolves back briefly to "Wild Mountain Thyme" at 7:50 before ending joyously.
"Wild Mountain Thyme" was a traditional closing song at the Lion's Head. The video above is of David playing it, and assembled Lion's Head veterans joining in voice, at the Cornelia Street Cafe two years ago.

Addendum: David offers the following news about future events:
They are presenting an evening of my chamber music, performed by members of the New York Philharmonic,  The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Boston Symphony April 29th. Woody Guthrie's daughter , Nora Guthrie will also be there to speak about the   formal release of my new CD THIS LAND: Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie, which I conducted with the Colorado Symphony, based on her father's iconic song, and the evening will be dedicated in memory of Pete Seeger, with whom Amram often collaborated with for the past half century.

The opening event will be April 26th with a screening of Lawrence Kraman's new documentary film "David Amram:The First 80 Years".

following the Q.and A. after the screening, there will be an urban hike through the Upper West Side, where I will revisit many of the places where I have collaborated musically over the last  60 years with a great variety of gifted people

We'll begin our hike by visiting The Lincoln Center itself, where Leonard Bernstein appointed me as the New York Philharmonic's first-ever composer -in-residence, and go the the park outside near the fountains where i did concerts of every variety for years. 

We'll go to the old site where  Birdland once stood, as the final remaining landmark from the golden days of 52nd street, where i played with the jazz greats during the 1950s.

We will see some of the Broadway theaters where I composed incidental music for fifteen dramatic productions

We will walk by  Thelonious Monk's old dwelling (which now is landmarked by the city), where he took me under his wing and mentored me in the early 50s, when i was playing with Charles Mingus at night and studying composition at Manhattan school of /music during the day.

We will take a stroll to the old site where Shakespeare in the Park had their first season, before the Delecourt Theater was built, where Joseph Papp had me as the festival's first composer and musical director for 12 seasons, where i composed  scores for 30+ productions,

We will visit  the Lincoln Center Repertory Theater where i worked with Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan as their first composer for three years, while the building was being completed and many other venues in the neighborhood  where i conducted free out of doors Symphony concerts, played jazz.folk and world music concerts, performed for peace gatherings, political campaigns, jazz/poetry readings and all kinds of events. 

Programs, photographs, articles and videos of all of these endeavors are now documented in my archive which the Lincoln Center Library has acquired.

 I hope these activities and viewing of the archive itself  will be of value to young people who may come to any of the events this April and then check out the archive.

Hopefully it will make them feel that everyone of us can have a great life if we work hard, stay the course, refuse to accept career councilor's advice (which is usually to give up pursuing your path before you are even sure what that path is) and just go out start all over every day with renewed energy, share what blessings we have with others, show respect for every person who crosses our path, try to always do better than is expected and ENJOY life!!