On Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 12 pm, Phil Kline honors the 90th birthday of the great song composer Ned Rorem with special guest Steven Blier, the co-founder and artistic director of the New York Festival of Song. Here Steven describes his earliest encounters with, and connection to, Rorem’s music:
Ned Rorem’s songs have resounded in my musical world ever since I was a teenager, when I came across an LP of his music at the Performing Arts Library. I had recently read an interview with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in which she said that no American could possibly sing German Lieder properly—and I felt that by extension I would be completely shut out from a career as a collaborative pianist. But here was an American making a passionate stand for the songs of this country.
Ned didn’t write jazzy music—not rhythmically, anyway—and yet he wrote chords that sounded like the great jazz icon Bill Evans. Since I have always been more easily seduced by harmony than by rhythm, Ned’s piano textures and Haagen-Dasz chords worked their wiles on me. And “The Lordly Hudson” rocked my world. Here was an art song about the river that I could see from my window; I didn’t need to go to the Schwarzwald for sixth months to understand it. Maybe after all there was a repertoire of songs I could call my own.
Help us celebrate this milestone anniversary in the life of a legendary American composer by leaving your thoughts, well wishes and comments below.