I think it was sometime in 2011 — after I'd been performing A Date with Judy! The Songs of Young Judy Garland for a couple of years and had just done a string of highly enjoyable appearances with orchestras — that I got the idea to put the two together and create a Hollywood-era Judy Garland concert with orchestra (Get Happy! Judy Garland in Hollywood). I already knew that I'd have to commission arrangements, because Judy's early films were made by MGM, and MGM's pre-1970 orchestral scores and parts currently reside in a landfill by the Golden State Freeway north of L.A. And I already knew the arranger who had the experience, steeped-ness, and plain heart to do it: Paul Ferguson. I'd performed one of his Gershwin charts with the Cleveland Pops on a few occasions and felt like I was singing on a '50s recording session for Capitol Records. (And if you've read any of my other featurettes on this blog, you'll know how much time travel sends me!)
Thankfully, Paul was able and willing to take on the project, and with the support of conductor Carl Topilow, we rolled out the first two: "Over the Rainbow," and a crazy arrangement of "I Got the Sun in the Morning" based on a 1951 radio performance, on the Cleveland Pops' "Songwriting Giants of Broadway" concert in November 2012. An additional eight tunes followed and last summer received their debut as a complete concert with the Lakeside Symphony. Here's a little live video of that performance:
I'll be reprising the songs from that concert this August 8th with the Wheaton Symphony in Illinois, and also a set of Garland songs on summer concerts with the Cleveland Pops. (You can hear live audio clips with various orchestras here.) And based on a very helpful and thought-provoking conversation with a conductor whom I recently had the pleasure of meeting, converging with my own growing interest in Judy's later concert career, I'm now working on expanding the concert to include Judy's triumphant comeback in the '50s and '60s. Fingers crossed!