How would a cellist deeply rooted in the Central European classical
music tradition, whose first piano teacher had been a member of Brahms' Viennese musical circle, end up on tour with Frank Sinatra? Well, stranger things have happened!
as popular as ever, would record a few new songs almost every time he came through New York.I recall working with him several times at the 30th Street Columbia Records Studio (a converted church).
ill-fated Presidential campaign against Richard Nixon. And Sinatra (then
a Democrat!) went on a campaign fund-raising swing sponsored by Citizens for Humphrey.These rallies were held in huge halls or arenas, such as Public Auditorium in Cleveland, New Metro Sports Arena in Bloomington (near Minneapolis), Civic Center in Baltimore, Cobo Hall
in Detroit and The Spectrum in Philadelphia.
The format for each show was about the same: first, an opening act, usually a lesser known singer or comedian to "warm up" the audience, followed by a longer set by Sinatra. Humphrey would be introduced by
a local dignitary and make a short speech. Then Sinatra would close the rally with a few more songs.
The musical rewards were many, and lasting. It is very common for highly trained classical musicians to look down on instinctive "Pop" musicians. That's a mistake, especially in the case of Frank Sinatra,
who was at the top of his profession, and with good reason.
The orchestra assembled for a rehearsal in Studio 3K at NBC. The tour conductor, a Zombie-like soul (who shall remain nameless), led us through the first song. Then Sinatra took over and conducted, rehearsing the complete tour program for the next six hours. These were wonderful arrangements, and he knew every subtlety of every song. He was prepared!
The shows were revelations of a different sort: from the first notes he
was able to pull the audiences in these vast spaces to him and make each song an intimate experience - quite a feat! There were other things a classical performer could learn from: he was an absolute master of Rubato and timing! There was a wonderful elasticity, a give-and-take around an ever- present energetic basic beat. Of course the styling of the song content, the color changes, the contrasts within each group were all things to marvel at!
There were many amusing incidents crammed into this brief adventure: I
recall, on our first charter flight, the United Airlines flight attendants bringing out proper little bite-sized tea sandwiches. As the cart was being wheeled through the isle, hungry musicians' hands reached out and completely emptied the cart of all food and drink bottles. I'll never forget the bewildered expression on the attendants' faces! Needless to say, the food service on the next flight was a vast improvement. While backstage in Detroit, two Secret Service agents made me open my cello case to look for hidden weapons. I guess they had seen too many Prohibition-era movies! At the end we all received Florentined key holders as a 'thank you' memento with Frank's embossed gilded signature. A gold-plated tour!
HomeContinue your walk around the The Wall of Fame Gallery:?
Itzhak PerlmanLeonard RoseFrank Sinatra
Michael TippettPablo Casals
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