It’s been a few months since I’ve written, but I just had to come up for air to share some exciting news with you: Michael Feinstein has invited me to join the Judy Garland Carnegie Hall Concert Restoration Project team as Editor, for The Judy Garland Heirs Trust. As part of this project to preserve Judy Garland’s musical legacy, our aim is to restore all of the original symphonic arrangements from the 1961 Carnegie Hall Concert and make them available for live performance once again. Since late last summer I have been restoring and performing a handful of Judy’s original arrangements that the Trust, of which Michael Feinstein is a trustee, very graciously shared with me. But to get the chance to work on a preservation project like this is so exciting that I still have to stop and pinch myself. (And then I look at the long road ahead and it sobers me up in a hurry, but I digress…)Read More
“And all around me I hear voices that I can’t ignore,
The voices of the stars who played the Palace long before.
The stars who entertained you until the rafters rang —
You don’t need their names, for the whole world acclaims them
For the wonderful songs they sang…”
~Roger Edens, introduction to the "Judy at the Palace Medley"
As someone who spends a lot of her time listening to voices emerging from scratchy recordings and then trying to inhabit them, these lines were insistently reaching out to me every time I got to this point in Judy Garland's recording of her "Judy at the Palace Medley." It was some time back in the autumn of 2015, and I was trying to decide which tune to add next to my Garland repertoire — either to the second half of my Symphonic Pops concert or to my nascent cabaret show. I'd been “auditioning” a lot of numbers from her many post-1950 recordings, but this one was having the same dramatic effect on me every time I heard it...
…And I was resisting it tooth and nail. Despite feeling an undeniable connection to it, there was the very real worry that a nearly-seven-minute song about long-gone Vaudevillians wouldn’t play to a 21st-century audience. As my husband said, it’s one thing when you’re Judy Garland, and quite another when you’re not! And, of course, when Judy revived Vaudeville for a record-smashing 19-week run at the Palace Theatre in 1951, the audience would have remembered all of the originators of the songs in the medley as clearly as today’s audiences would remember Michael Jackson and Madonna — in fact, some of those Vaudevillians were still very much alive and sitting in the theater on opening night listening to her sing about them.Read More
Last March, Mark and I were perched on the comfy bar chairs in the WCLV Ideastream studio waiting for our interview to promote the premiere of Get Happy! Judy Garland 1944-’54. Just before we went on-the-air, the host, Bill O’Connell, asked me whether Judy Garland’s singing technique was healthy. I replied, “Yes, but she wasn’t always healthy.” Then I had to add that her technique is very efficient, but also very athletic — so, essentially, “Don’t Try This At Home!” Just like you wouldn’t want to try to run a marathon without significant training and practice, you also wouldn’t want to try to sing the Carnegie Hall Concert at full tilt without thousands of hours of training and conditioning.Read More
By this time, it should go without saying that I am a lifelong card-carrying Judy Garland fan. But until fairly recently, I’d shied away from “Judy the Icon” — Judy post-Hollywood, even (mostly) Judy post-1944. I was always more drawn to the sweetness and vulnerability, the sunniness and unspoiled humor she brought to her film roles, recordings, and radio broadcasts circa 1936-1944, and found the later recordings and appearances I’d randomly run across brittle, edgy, and somehow off-putting and disturbing. Perhaps I just wanted her to stay Dorothy and Betsy Booth forever. And I’d heard a few recordings over the years in which she clearly had laryngitis, so I’d made the completely erroneous extrapolation (reinforced by some biographers and playwrights, I’m sorry to say) that it was all downhill, when in reality it just varied depending on her health and the tour or shooting schedule.Read More