Ann-Thology Number Eleven
Ah, October. Autumn is my favorite time of year with the blazing colors of the trees and the skies, and the air, cool and crisp for long walks, cozy sweaters and apple picking. Fall is the time for harvest, and so far this year has brought a horn of plenty.
When I last wrote to you in April, America was a nation at war and I was a woman in search of answers to impossible questions. Questions like- how can civilization live up to its name and make violence an endangered species, instead of human beings? And- how can we work together to become more kind, tolerant and compassionate neighbors in this increasingly shrinking world? I don't know if I've found any easy answers all these months later, but I have been cultivating faith and a renewed spirit of gratitude for life, love and the power of music. So many times this year, I have felt that music has expressed more powerfully than any words I have found, what is in my heart. In my travels to cities around the world, music has built bridges between people of different backgrounds, between who we've been in the past and who we might be in the future, and between the knowable and the unknowable. I love that music both acknowledges and awakens a sense of mystery in all of us. And in the absence of immediate answers, I have decided to settle for mystery and the awe it inspires.
One of the most awe-inspiring concerts this year was my debut in Berlin on September 17th. I consider "Ella Live in Berlin" to be one of the great moments in music, so when I heard that Jazz Radio 101.9 wanted to produce me at the famed Philharmonie, I was thrilled. This award winning radio station has been playing my CD's on heavy rotation for the past several years so, thanks to them, the hall was at full capacity. Even before I walked on stage, I was moved to tears by the feeling in the air and the sense of history in those walls. For two hours, Ted Rosenthal and our quartet performed with a fervor and intensity that set the place on fire. Doing a sort of "best-of" show of jazz, standards and Ann-dards, the enthusiasm of the German listeners far exceeded my hopes and expectations. I snuck in the "medley of my hit" at the last minute when I found out that "The Nanny" airs several times a day in Berlin. It was wild to hear everyone singing along with a German accent as if a thousand Marlene Deitrichs were cheering me on. The most powerful moment in the show was my improvisation using both English and German words from the audience, which resulted in an anthemic ballad that began with the image of reading The New York Times in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, and carried through it the themes of peace and renewal. I give my thanks to Matthias Kirsch and Lily Halim for making that unforgettable night possible and I look forward to next year's jazz tour across Germany.
September also brought several exciting moments with symphony orchestras. The Rosie O'Donnell Show's John McDaniel and I headlined at the gala for the Kansas City Orchestra and realized our dream of working together on the concert stage. I adore this multi-talented man and wish him the best in his upcoming Broadway musical "Taboo", which promises to be a smash hit. I was also happy to be reunited with the brilliant Jack Everly, first at the gala for The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and then at the opening of the Pops season with The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Every time I get to work with Jack is a fantastic experience because under his baton, every musician and audience member gets to experience the toe-tapping, finger-snapping sizzle of swing at its best.
As I write this, I am in the capital of my home state, (go Cubs!) having sung two electrifying concerts with The Illinois Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Karen Lynne Deal. If any of you think that there are no great women conductors out there, take a trip to Springfield or Bloomington, where her splendid orchestra can be heard, and watch this woman at work. She is the real Deal and you'll see why her first rate musicians travel hundreds of miles to perform with her through out the year. I was delighted when Nick Rogers wrote in his rave in The State Journal Register,
"Her voice was alternately big enough to bring down the sky and so vulnerable it could bring the most non-romantic guy to his knees." This I want to see.
This summer offered the pleasures of the more intimate side of my performing- one-woman shows at The DeSisto Cabaret, Bradstan, The Arizona Inn and Odette's. I always enjoy the heightened spontaneity of these nights at the piano and the gorgeous intimacy that these venues help to create. The loyalty of my fans never ceases to amaze me. I didn't realize that on my Saturday night at Odette's recently, I was seeing the wonderful Darrell Henline for the last time. When Keith Meritz told me after the show that Darrell was battling pancreatic cancer, I was shocked and deeply moved that in his fragile state he still found the strength to continue his support of cabaret artists and come to my show. That was Darrell. Blessings to the soul of this man who was always the epitome of class and warmth, and to the legacy he leaves behind him- his superb magazine Cabaret Scenes as well as The Cabaret Scenes Foundation. I am honored to be invited to sing a tribute to him at his memorial at St. Thomas Church on 53rd and 5th Ave. in New York, this October 17th at 6:30 p.m.
Another highlight of the summer was the Transatlantic crossing on The QE2. Despite the famed "Blackout of 2003", we managed to put together an exciting show choreographed by Maria Torres, featuring three of the top dance couples working today and audiences on the historic ship seemed dazzled by the results. Stay tuned for future QE2 appearances with this act as well as Ann-ticipated shows on The Queen Mary 2 in the year to come.
2003 has had some memorable diva-bonding moments. The AIDS benefit I did earlier this year in Washington D.C. with Diane Schurr, Rita Moreno and Betty Buckley was a smash hit and I haven't experienced that many standing ovations in one night since I shared the stage with Michael Feinstein last year. I don't know what was more fun: sipping martinis with Rita, jammin' with Deedles, or arm wrestling with Betty (guess who won?); but I had a ball and I hope we can all do it again. My favorite diva-bonding sound bite this year took place at "Divas on the Hudson", a benefit for The Hudson Stage Company. I performed my set, closing with an improv for the audience, and was followed by the three time Tony Award-winning actress, Audra MacDonald, who exclaimed upon her entrance, "Rule number one: NEVER follow children, dogs or Ann Hampton Callaway!" Thank you, Audra…I think you're pretty swell, too. Now try to imagine what it was like sharing a dressing room at Carnegie Hall with Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jane Monheit. Put three frisky, feisty divas together and we could have had our own Broadway musical with all the stories told and pranks played. It was a thrill paying tribute to the great Peggy Lee that star studded night. I was asked to sing Peggy's hit "Manjana" and then got a call on the morning of the show to step in and sing an additional number, "It's a Good Day", a song I'd never sung in my life. It wouldn't have been sane to agree to producer Richard Barone's request, when all morning and afternoon I was producing and performing a TV theme I wrote for E! Entertainments's new show "Nick Scotti's Blue Collar Style", followed by a sound check, rehearsal and performance at the annual NYC Gay and Lesbian Garden Party in Greenwich Village, only to rush into a taxi to barely make the 8:00 tribute to one of America's greatest singers. But that morning, I heard myself say that increasingly popular word in my vocabulary, "Yes", and I'm glad I was crazy enough to do so. Thanks to the gods above, I was spared a moment of jazzheimer's and "It's A Good Day" proved to be a bright moment in the show and a welcome addition to my repertoire.
Have you been doing something in your living room or bedroom and suddenly thought you heard my voice? No, you're not imagining things.
You've probably caught one of my jingles playing on the air. I am currently singing "The Girl From Ipanema" for Coke and "How Lucky Can You Get?" for Talbot's. It's nice to get a chance to sing swinging standards on TV as a part of my diva conspiracy to put tasteful, timeless music back into the ears of America.
Fans have been asking me when I'm going to be appearing in New York next. It is ironic that in the place I make my home, it's not often I get to make a musical splash. But I am happy to announce some dates to put in your calendar. I'll be singing on the opening night of this year's Cabaret Convention at Town Hall on October 20th. I want to publicly congratulate Don Smith for producing this event each year and for working so devotedly to bringing unity and recognition to the performers of cabaret across the country. I also want to thank him for inviting my mother, Shirley Callaway, and my sister Liz and I to perform next year at the convention on a special night celebrating family ties in music. What a delight it will be to have the chance to bid farewell to 2003 at the posh Regency Hotel this New Year's Eve. Stay tuned for the details of this sexy, swinging night, which promises to sneak in a few duets with my friend, Michael Feinstein as we pay a visit to each other in our rooms. He'll be presiding at Feinstein's and I'll be in The Ballroom. Michael and I have had the pleasure of performing together in Orange County, Las Vegas and Long Island at the Westbury Music Fair, but this December 31st marks our New York City debut together. And I am excited to announce that my amazing sister, Liz and I have been invited to do a brand new show at Feinstein's, March 23rd through April 3rd. What will we do to try and top our famed act, "Sibling Revelry"? Make reservations now and see!
Two new recording of mine are being released. As you have heard in "Latest News", I am pleased that my CD "Holiday Pops!" with Peter Nero and The Philly Pops is out in stores starting October 7th. I've been a great admirer of Peter's since the beginning, and it was an honor and a joy to record with him and his phenomenal orchestra after our numerous performances together. Fans of Barbra Streisand's CD "Christmas Memories will be pleased to hear my rendition of the song I penned for her, "Christmas Lullaby". It marks my first recording of an original song with a symphony orchestra. I want to publicly dedicate the performance to my beloved nephew, Nicholas Callaway Foster, who enjoys hearing his auntie sing the tender ballad each Christmas Eve before he goes to bed. Also, world-renowned jazz pianist and composer, Fred Hersch, has included me in his beautiful recording "Two Hands, Ten Voices" due later this fall as a benefit CD to Equity Fights AIDS. I chose the Carole King song "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" and Fred's reading of this classic is soulful and stunning.
I have a dream to launch a television show. It would be a talk/variety show in which I would host and invite great artists of music, dance, theater and film to perform and discuss their lives and their work. If anyone was in attendance at The Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center this May 10th, you saw the seed of this show and how mesmerizing and powerful it could be. The format was simple: I had three phenomenal guests per hour long show, who each performed a song, talked with me and let me do an improvised song portrait of them at the piano, based on their performance and their interview. On that unforgettable night I had Barbara Carroll, Rupert Holmes and Polly Bergen for the first show and John Bucchino, Betty Buckley and my sister, Liz Callaway, for the second show. Their performances were stellar, their conversation was rich with warmth, wit and wisdom, and the music and lyrics that they inspired in me for those six improvisations was my absolute best. Will this TV show happen? I believe it will. Cross your fingers and let's see how soon the pendulum will swing away from contest and reality shows and back to television that's gutsy enough not to underestimate the intelligence of American viewers.
Thank you for staying in touch, my friends. I wish you a beautiful, inspiring autumn and I hope to see you very soon.