The Center for the Performing Art’s held its Encore Celebration Gala Saturday June 16. Amidst an evening filled with generous amounts of food, cocktails, fine dress and a number of local celebrity sightings, the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame put on a performance featuring a number of award-winning performers as well as inducted its first three members at the Palladium in Carmel.
With the three inductees announced prior the event all of the build up and cliffhanger moments of many award ceremonies was put to the side in place of consistently great music and videos digging into the history of each inductee.
Starting with the Initiative’s first inductee Cole Porter, Michael Feinstein went through his personal history with Porter’s music and performed one of his favorite Porter songs. Andrea McArdle, an actress best known for playing the original little orphan Annie on Broadway, sang another one of Porter’s classics.
Alan and Marilyn Bergman, whose work as songwriters are well known to many (even though they may not know it), were sadly unable to attend, but through their video and Lari White’s astonishing performance of “Papa Can You Hear Me?” from Yentl, which the Bergmans wrote, their profound effect on the history of American music was undoubtedly felt. For me, White’s performance was the most memorable of the night. She perfectly encapsulated the story and emotion of the song and the song’s wonderful range from quiet singing to full blown crescendo captivated me entirely.
Focusing momentarily on the Great American Songbook Initiative’s focus on education and continuing to grow the legacy of the Great American Songbook, Feinstein introduced the winner of the previous evening’s Great American Songbook Vocal Academy and Competition Nick Ziobro, a 15-year old singer with an absolutely breathtaking voice. His voice carried an age well beyond his years and he perfectly captured the classic style of singing that fits so many of the evening’s great songs. The crowd was audibly taken aback when Feinstein unveiled Ziobro’s age, unable to believe that someone sounding as he did could, in fact, be so young.
Barry Manilow was next to be appreciated with a song by Michael Feinstein, elegantly sung and another by one of the night’s most famous guests Clay Aiken. Both songs were breathtakingly emotional and hit on all cylinders. I found myself especially impressed with Aiken and how well he handled the song. It was a far cry from the pop style that made him famous on American Idol.
After receiving the final award of the evening, Barry Manilow, who Michael Feinstein referred to as “the billion dollar man because he has sold one billion albums, has one billion “Fanilows” and will be around for a billion years,” performed three songs including the classic “Copacabana.” The crowd was singing right along with some audience members even standing and dancing in front of their seats. It was clearly the performance of the night for many in attendance and while it was not as emotionally captivating as some of the previous performance, it was wonderful to see classics sung by the man himself (and on his birthday to boot).
To get your fix of the Great American Songbook locally, visit The Center for the Performing Arts’ Great American Songbook Gallery and Archive located on the Gallery level of the Palladium (1 Center Green, Carmel). The Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday and free to the public.