For Immediate Release — Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Mary E. McCrank
Media Relations Officer
Musical Tribute to Great American Composer Harold Arlen Nov. 8 at SUNY Geneseo
GENESEO, N.Y. — Eastman School of Music piano professor Tony Caramia and retired Eastman voice professor Thomas Paul will pay tribute to American composer and Buffalo native Harold Arlen at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 8, in Wadsworth Auditorium at the State University of New York at Geneseo. The concert is free and open to the public.
The multi-media event, "Celebrating the 100th Birthday of Harold Arlen (1905-1986)," is one of numerous events taking place this year throughout the world as part of the Harold Arlen 2005 Centennial. In fact, Caramia performed the tribute this summer at the 2005 Australian Piano Pedagogy Conference.
Earlier this year, in February, when Caramia and Paul performed this tribute concert at Kilbourn Hall, about 250 people were turned away at the door, said Paul. The Geneseo concert is a chance for those folks and scores more to catch the show.
"It is a chance not to miss it," said Paul, adding the centennial is the perfect opportunity to educate audiences about Arlen. "We've got to keep it (Arlen's legacy) alive as long as they'll have us."
One of the most significant songwriters of the modern era, Arlen composed more than 400 songs, including the songs for the film "The Wizard of Oz," (including "Over The Rainbow"), "Stormy Weather," "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive" and "Come Rain Or Come Shine." He collaborated with major lyricists, including Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, Ted Koehler and Dorothy Fields. His songs have been recorded by every great artist of the 20th century and have become among the best-known songs in the world. However, many folks still don't recognize Arlen's name as the composer of these songs.
"He's the greatest unknown songwriter in the world, but we're working on it," said Paul, who recalled the year 1944, when he was a 10-year-old boy growing up in southern California and would sing Arlen's tune "That Old Black Magic" while riding his bicycle.
The Geneseo performance will take a look at Arlen's life in pictures and film clips, including Arlen himself singing and playing the piano. In addition, the audience will hear such songs as "Blues in the Night," "Let's Fall in Love," "Get Happy," "Last Night When We Were Young" and "My Shining Hour," as well as some of his most famous melodies, such as "Stormy Weather" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea." The Power Point show will involve 160-plus slides of Arlen, his life, the people with whom he associated and many covers of sheet music. It also will feature video clips of legendary singers, including Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme. One clip features Sinatra singing "One For My Baby." A 30-slide tribute to the "Wizard of Oz" will show photographs of Arlen, while Caramia performs "Over the Rainbow."
Caramia began his journey of discovering Arlen while preparing his 2004 recording, "Upstate Standards." The CD featured the music of three Upstate New York musicians, including Arlen. When he discovered that 2005 would have been Arlen's 100th birthday, he decided to devote his concerts in 2005 to Arlen's music as a celebration of the composer's life. In addition, he became acquainted with Arlen's granddaughter, Sharon Marotta, who had moved to Rochester. Marotta helped Caramia secure the rare photographs and film clips, as well as a wealth of family perspectives to help with this musical journey.
Arlen was born Hyman Arluck on Feb. 15, 1905, in Buffalo. When he was 9, he started piano lessons and rapidly advanced in his studies of classical music. As a teenager, he developed a deep passion for jazz and took jobs playing the piano in local bands, movie houses, vaudeville troupes and cabarets. He left school when he was 16 to pursue a career in music. He played for several years with various bands and went on a multi-city tour before moving to New York City at the age of 20.
In 1929, he was introduced to Koehler. The two joined forces as a songwriting team and turned one of Arlen's song ideas into the much-loved tune "Get Happy." The song's incredible success landed them a job writing music for the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem. They wrote five shows for the Cotton Club from 1930-34, turning out some of the era's biggest hits, including "Stormy Weather," "I've Got the World On A String," "I Love A Parade" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea."
During his years with the Cotton Club, Arlen continued to perform in various shows, record his own compositions and write songs for Broadway. It was on the set of one of the revues that he met the young model Anya Taranda and fell madly in love. After several years, the couple married and moved to Hollywood, where Arlen worked from 1934 through 1963 composing scores for feature films, including the "Wizard of Oz." Eight of his songs from films have been nominated for Academy Awards. In 2000, "Over the Rainbow," which won the Academy Award for Best Song in a Motion Picture in 1939, was recognized as the Number One Song of the 20th Century out of a list of 365 songs compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Between 1934 to 1973, Arlen also wrote scores for several Broadway musicals, including "Bloomer Girl," "St. Louis Woman" and "House of Flowers." In total, Harold Arlen composed more than 20 musical revues and theater works and 30 scores for Hollywood films during his career. He collaborated with more than 20 lyricists, in addition to writing his own lyrics on numerous songs. He composed several solo piano pieces and created more than 500 songs during his lifetime.
Arlen was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971. Along with other great American songwriters, such as George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers, Arlen has laid the foundation of musical history in the 20th century with his standards. He died in his New York City apartment on April 23, 1986.
For more information about the concert at SUNY Geneseo, please call (585) 245-5829. To learn more about Arlen and the centennial celebration, visit the Official Harold Arlen Website: www.haroldarlen.com.