90 Years! Concerts for the Library of Congress 2015–2016. Monday, October 19, 2015 — 8pm. Coolidge Auditorium. Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building.
With a packed house, conductor Ted Sperling charmingly addressed the audience with stories about Composer Marvin Hamlisch, giving details of the selections included in the program. Many of the selections were “new” and everybody was pleasantly surprised to hear them. Some of the “never-before-heard” pieces were composed by Marvin Hamlisch when he was very young (11 y/o).
His first “copyrighted” composition (15 y/o) was performed.
A very amusing composition by “Marvin-Hamlisch-The Kid” — with his very own lyrics was heard for the first time.
Ted Sperling also picked one of the compositions by Marvin Hamlisch for the poems of Ogden Nash (that Marvin titled “Nashional” ) Marvin’s Music and the Poem were really funny and sweet. Frederic Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971) was an American poet well known for his light verse. At the time of his death in 1971, The New York Times said his “droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry.” Nash wrote over 500 pieces of comic verse. The best of his work was published in 14 volumes between 1931 and 1972.
Killer Wingfield: A selection from the musical score that young Marvin Hamlisch composed for the 1944 play by Tennessee Williams “The Glass Menagerie” was included in the program. The selection performed had the title “Killer Wingfield.” (The play has strong autobiographical elements, featuring characters based on Williams himself, his histrionic mother, and his mentally fragile sister Rose. )
You could feel the young Marvin Hamlisch’s joy, intensity, melody and rhythm in these charming musical compositions.
In short: It was a very entertaining evening. Brilliant performances by guest vocalists Whitney Bashor, Capathia Jenkins, Lindsay Mendez, Bryce Pinkham and by the 5‑piece orchestra with Ted Sperling conducting from the piano.
All of them made Marvin Hamlisch proud!
For The Record: The complete Program follows:
“Classical Music” — Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh (unused for Smile, 1983) - Performed by Whitney Bashor
“Music in My Mind” — Lyrics by Rupert Holmes for the book Marvin Makes Music (2011) - Performed by The Company
“The Beautiful Changes” (1957) Lyrics by Howard Liebling. — Performed by Ted Sperling (Piano)
“At The Ballet” from A Chorus Line (1975) — Lyrics by Edward Kleban. Performed by Capathia Jenkins, Lindsay Mendez, Whitney Bashor
“Killer Wingfield” from The Glass Menagerie (unproduced; c.1959) Lyrics by Howard Liebling. — Performed by Bryce Pinkham
“Nobody Does It Better” from the film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) — Lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager. — Performed by Capathia Jenkins
“How Can I Win” from The Goodbye Girl (1993) — Lyrics by David Zippel — Performed by Whitney Bashor
“Nashional” (date unknown) Based on poems by Ogden Nash — Performed by The Company
“Walking in the Sunshine” unused for Smile (1983) — Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh — Performed by Bryce Pinkham
“I Cannot Hear the City” from Sweet Smell of Success (2002) — Lyrics by Craig Carnelia — Performed by The Band (Instrumental version)
“Nothing” from A Chorus Line (1975) Lyrics by Edward Kleban — Performed by Lindsay Mendez
“There’s Gotta Be a Better Way to Make a Living” (date unknown) — Lyrics by Marvin Hamlisch — Performed by Whiteny Bashor, Bryce Pinkham
“Rita’s Tune” from Sweet Smell of Success (2002) — Lyrics by Craig Carnelia — Performed by Lindsay Mendez
“Theme from Ice Castles” (Through the Eyes of Love”) from the film Ice Castles (1978) — Lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager — Performed by Whitney Bashor
“At The Fountain” from Sweet Smell of Success (2002) — Lyrics by Craig Carnelia — Performed by Bryce Pinkham
“It’s the Least We Could Do” from Jean Seberg (1983) — Lyrics by Christopher Adler — Performed by The Company
“Dreamers” from Jean Seberg (1983) — Lyrics by Christopher Adler — Performed by Lindsay Mendez
“If Your Really Knew Me” from They’re Really Playing Our Song (1979) — Lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager — Performed by Ted Sperling
‘Stella” from The Nutty Professor (2012) — Lyrics by Rupert Holmes — Performed by Bryce Pinkham
“The Way We Were” from the film “The Way We Were” (1973) — Lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman — Performed by Capathia Jenkins
“That’s How I Say Goodbye” cut from Sweet Smell of Success (2002) — Lyrics by Craig Carnelia — Performed by The Company
“What I Did For Love” from A Chorus Line (1975) Lyrics by Edward Kleban — Performed by The Company
About Marvin Hamlisch:
Composer, songwriter, pianist, conductor, and raconteur Marvin Frederick Hamlisch was born in New York City on June 2, 1944. His parents, Lilly (née Schachter) and Max Hamlisch, and accordionist and bandleader, escaped from Vienna in the lead-up to World War II. Hamlisch’s musical talents became evident by the time he was five when he began to play songs on the piano that he learned by ear from listening to the radio. At the age of six, Hamlisch was accepted into what is now the Juilliard School Pre-College Division — the youngest student to that date.
Hamlisch secured a job as an assistant to Buster Davis, vocal arranger for the original Broadway production of Funny Girl (1964), where his duties included working with Barbra Streisand as a rehearsal pianist for the show — establishing a close working relationship that would continue until his death. His first song hit, “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” was written when he was twenty-one. The recording by Lesley Gore shot to number four on the charts and was quickly followed by her hit recording of “California Nights.” Meanwhile, Hamlisch continued as Buster Davis’ assistant on NBC’s The Bell Telephone Hour while simultaneously attending Queens College, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1967.
After playing the piano at a party for the film producer Sam Spiegel, Hamlisch auditioned for him as a composer, and was hired to score his first film, The Swimmer (1968). This was quickly followed with scores for two Woody Allen films — Take the Money and Run and Bananas — establishing an unanticipated career as a film composer, which would ultimately have him composing and arranging over 45 scores for films and television movies throughout his career.
There was a brief detour when Hamlisch toured with Groucho Marx as his accompanist (and straight man) culminating in a concert at Carnegie Hall in 1972. It was the next year that Hamlisch’s career took off, making him a household name. He composed the score and title song for The Way We Were and adapted Scott Joplin rags for the film The Sting (and was also the pianist for the recording). In 1974 he was awarded an unprecedented three music-related Oscars, for original score, title song, and adapted score. Accepting the third award he famously blurted out: “I think we can talk now as friends...” This, followed by innumerable appearances as a guest on television shows — where he revealed self-deprecating charm, a talent for composing songs on command, and an easy humor — made Hamlisch an in-demand celebrity.
In 1975 Hamlisch finally accomplished his long-dreamed-of goal to compose the score for a Broadway musical. That show, A Chorus Line, went on to become one of the longest running Broadway musicals (Closed 1990) with 6.137 performances, and garnered Hamlisch a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He followed that up in 1979 with the score for the musical They’re Playing Our Song written by Neil Simon, and based on the relationship between Hamlisch and his collaborating lyricist at the time, Carol Bayer Sager. That show ran for 1,082 performances, with Hamlisch having two shows running on Broadway simultaneously.
Scores for films and musicals continued, including the score for the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), with its seductive theme song, “Nobody Does it Better.” Three more Broadway musicals followed, Smile (1986), The Goodbye Girl (1993), and Sweet Smell of Success (2002).
In 1988, Hamlisch began a long-distance relationship (via telephone) with Terre Blair, a broadcast journalist. They finally met in person the following year, and they married on March 6, 1989.
Meanwhile, Hamlisch had begun yet another career, as a conductor for both concert tours with singers, particularly Barbra Streisand, and of pops orchestras, becoming principal pops conductor for several of them, including the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. In 1991 he composed the concert work: Anatomy of Peace, Suite in one Movement for Full Orchestra and Chorus, which was premiered by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. His last film score was for The Informant! (2009). On August 6, 2012, at the age of 68, Hamlisch died unexpectedly in Los Angeles. At the time of his death he had just completed adapting the music for the HBO film Behind the Candelabra (which aired in 2013), and a new musical aiming for Broadway, The Nutty Professor, which premiered in Nashville.
‑Mark Eden Horowitz, Senior Music Specialist, Library of Congress