Long before there was Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Astaire, Broadway, Hollywood, even before there was Stephen Foster, there were the folk songs of the Old World and early America.
These colorful musical tales of yore enjoyed a huge resurgence of interest beginning in the late 1950s, extending on through the 60s. What made them and their many celebrated interpreters (Baez, Seeger, Collins, Lightfoot, PP&M) popular was their simplicity and the quaint, anonymous antiquity of their authors. This musical leap back into the mysteries of history allowed millions of imaginations to live in a romantic past, an idyllic respite from the realities of the post-WWII present.
These songs are by and about “folks,” people of history who worked & played and loved and painted vivid portraits of their agrarian lives and natural surroundings.
Hootenanny! begins in the Old World-Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England, France, Germany, Spain, Russian, Australia, Hawaii-and then travels on to the New World of 18th & 19th century America. Whether from patriotic Scottish bards, black slaves, tired railroad workers, impassioned warriors, steadfast pioneers, disappointed lovers, reflective old folks, these songs have a universal appeal because the essence of human life is immutable.
Fittingly, the program concludes with a crisp medley of several dozen nursery rhymes that will startle almost any audience of a certain generation for their familiarity. What we are taught early stays, and over time it is this shared culture that genuinely unites us. And what more binding medium of unity is there than the deathless old songs?
If you would like to engage Fred Miller for one of his Lectures-in-Song, please contact him directly at any time. For a full listing of all Lectures, click here.
Fred Miller’s Lectures-In-Song comprise a series of solo programs, each an historical, anecdotal and musical profile of some great personality or important aspect of American Popular Song. These Lectures are delivered by singer/pianist/narrator Miller at the piano, and each reflects his lifetime passion and appreciation for great music. He studied classical piano in his hometown of Albuquerque from ages 7-15 but early on gave up any notion of music as a profession. At that time, Fred assumed a musical career was either one devoted to the rigid discipline of classical music or being a freewheeling rock star, and he accurately decided he had no aptitude for either. However, at age 22, upon hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter, he found his calling and life’s mission.
Through the Seventies and Eighties, Miller studied and absorbed in minute detail the life and times and songs of nearly all the great American composers and lyricists who thrived during Broadway & Hollywood’s Golden Age between the two World Wars. In 1987, he founded Silver Dollar Productions in order to produce operettas, dramas, musicals and small cabarets. Silver Dollar Productions required ensemble casts, props, costumes and, most significantly, the challenges of publicity and selling tickets, and for a dozen busy years, the company presented an unbroken string of varied and highly lauded performances.
In 1999, Miller was simultaneously underwritten by both his local Hunterdon County Library and the Art Alliance of Philadelphia to present a series of six solo Lectures-In-Song, each devoted to one of the premiere Broadway/Hollywood songwriters: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen.
In presenting history, biography and psychology while sitting at a piano singing the superlative songs of his heroes, Miller has found a single performing medium that utilizes most of his intellectual and musical passions.The list of Lectures-In-Song that began with six in 1999 is now more than seventy(and growing!), a joyful tribute to the boundlessly rich field of American Popular Song.