[Dixielandjazz] Songs for us old folks.

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 13 08:24:08 PDT 2011

For us old folks, songs from the World War 2  years are still fresh  
in  our ears. Wish I'd seen this show. Funny thing is, that at our  
prostate cancer survivor gig last sunday, we had requests for, and  
played many of the songs mentioned here. Like "It's Been a Long, Long  
Time", "Ill Be Seeing You", Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree", "G.I.  
Jive" and one not mentioned, "I'll Be Home For Christmas".

Steve Barbone

Wartime Songs Keep Luster From Long Ago and Far Away


“Someone Talked!” the World War II propaganda poster screams. A  
terrified young soldier, drowning, points his finger in accusation  
toward the viewer, with the implication that his friend’s or  
neighbor’s gossip about his ship’s location was overheard by a German  

The poster lent its title to a concert of songs from the period  
performed at the Metropolitan Museum on Friday evening by the mezzo- 
soprano Joan Morris, the tenor Robert White and the pianist (and  
celebrated song composer) William Bolcom. Hazen Schumacher provided  
interstitial narration.

Mr. Bolcom and Ms. Morris are married, and the show was a cozy,  
familial affair well stocked with little anecdotes — Mr. Bolcom’s  
memories of his boyhood newspaper route, Ms. Morris’s story about  
Frederick Siebel, who designed the “Someone Talked!” poster — and  
gentle laughter: more a casual get-together for “Bill, Joanie and  
Bobbie,” as Mr. Schumacher called them at one point, than an  
exhaustive, formal survey.

But the 28 selections, by names like Loesser and Mercer and Berlin,  
gave a good sense of the range of work during the period, from peppy  
anthems to melancholy ballads. The audience was told to “just imagine  
you’re in a radio station during World War II,” but the mood was  
really closer to Mr. Schumacher’s observation about Eddie DeLange and  
Sam H. Stept’s stirring “This Is Worth Fighting For,” which closed the  
first half: “It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting in music.”

Mr. White’s sweet tenor warmed up as the concert progressed,  
culminating in a series of intimate confessions that he delivered with  
expert, easy grace: perfectly wrought songs like “It’s Been a Long,  
Long Time,” “Long Ago and Far Away” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” As  
“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me)” proved, Mr.  
White is also — good to know — a first-rate whistler.

Ms. Morris, a wonderful artist who introduced many of Mr. Bolcom’s  
works, including his masterpiece, “Songs of Innocence and of  
Experience,” pointed the texts of her selections with purpose, but she  
sometimes aimed for unrealistically big, high climaxes. It was brave,  
but it wasn’t always pretty.

When the range was more congenial, and she settled on a charming  
speech-song, she was quietly moving, as in Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s  
“Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night in the Week),” far more  
devastating here than in Frank Sinatra’s suave version, and “I Came  
Here to Talk for Joe.” Mr. Bolcom’s accompaniment was self-effacingly  
elegant throughout.

It’s natural for an evening bathed in nostalgia to value the era it’s  
depicting, but there’s never a good reason for the infamous  
proclamation that Mr. Schumacher made in reference to the cute Johnny  
Mercer lyrics for “G.I. Jive,” which play on Army abbreviations. “They  
don’t make ’em like that anymore”? They do, and sometimes even better,  
but these 28 were pretty darn good.

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