The Musical Magic Of The City Of Light
Few places have attracted and inspired artists of every stripe as passionately as Paris. Impressionist composers and painters, photographers, filmmakers, poets, fashion designers, popular songwriters.
La Vie Boheme as romanticized in countless stories and tragic operatic glory, lived and expressed: on canvas by the struggling young painters-Picasso, Seurat, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec; in the novels of Balzac; the personal odysseys of that distinctive “Lost Generation” of American expatriates-Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller.
Le Jazz Hot! of Harlem, Chicago and New Orleans provided welcoming entrée for American Blacks seeking artistic appreciation and personal freedom in Paris: Ada “Bricktop” Smith, Sidney Bechet, Josephine Baker.
Inevitably, the glamour and heady temptations of Paris would find their way into American Popular Song, early on in response to all those WWI doughboys who were not about to go back to the farm once they’d seen Paree.
Likewise, the average American was not about to go back to those proper Victorian ways once seduced by seasoned expatriate Cole Porter’s suggestion that if birds and bees do it, why shouldn’t we do it too in Jazz Age Broadway shows with titles like PARIS and 50 MILLION FRENCHMEN. Porter’s shows would be repeatedly set against French backgrounds throughout his 30 year career, and Paris looms as a prevailing muse throughout the whole golden age of American popular music: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, “April In Paris,” “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Gigi.”
France is a country that has traditionally idolized its singers, many of them immensely popular on American shores as well: Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Yves Montand, Charles Trenet, Maurice Chevalier.
Not to mention, those many Americanized versions of their songs: “La Vie En Rose,” “C’est Si Bon,” “Autumn Leaves,” “La Mer,” “I Wish You Love,” “My Man,” “Our Language Of Love,” “The Poor People Of Paris,” “Under Paris Skies…”
“Paree! Paree! Oh, what did you, what did you, what did you do to me?!!”
As Bogie said to Bergman: whatever happens, as time goes by, we’ll always have Paris.
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.