This Lecture-in-Song is a musical guessing game: Fred presents the unfamiliar Verse, the audience guesses the famous Chorus/Refrain…and sings it! This program also provides a look into the evolving forms that American Popular Song took in its Golden years from the turn of the century thru the Fifties.
The real beginning of the sheet music publishing industry dates from 1892 with the publication and unprecedented success of “After The Ball.” This multi-versed melodrama about an innocent misunderstanding ruining every life within range sold millions of sheet music copies and effectively launched the commercial publishing industry that came to be known as “Tin Pan Alley.” In line with boosting sales, the chorus of the song, rather than the verse, became the hook by which music creators & merchants would catch the public´s fancy…and ear. Despite the 3 long verses laying out the whole sad story, it´s “After the ball is over, after the break of dawn…” that people sang then and sing now. Most popular songs thereafter became known almost exclusively for their beguiling choruses, and the verse(s) became secondary, providing a brief introduction to the Main Event/Chorus/Refrain.
The reverse was true in the earliest days of American songwriting. The verses came first [in both senses] as a showy turn for a soloist followed by what was usually a brief afterthought for a chorus ensemble, thus the source of the term “chorus” itself.
“Well, I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee….It rained all night the day I left…” leading to “Oh, Susannah, oh don´t you cry for me…”
Another example: “Dashing through the snow….” You know the rest. Somehow, “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way…” by itself isn´t enough.
Contrary to this Cole Porter sentiment, “The verse I´ve started seems to be/The TinPanTithesis of melody/So to spare you all the pain/ I´ll skip the darn thing/And sing the refrain,” VERSE & CHORUS provides its audience with the delight and discovery of the Verses and a chance to fully enjoy some of our most beloved Chorus/Refrains. Yet another delightful treasure hunt in the bountiful hills of American Popular Song.
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.