MUSIC: Jerome Kern: The Way You Look Tonight, performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John McGlinn [EMI CDC 7 49830 2,Track 12] [under the following]
Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. Iím your guide, Fred Flaxman. Stay with me for the next hour to hear some of Jerome Kernís greatest hits and find out why they would never have been created had Kern not loved to play poker. Youíll also learn the unique way Kern escaped going into his fatherís business, and how this Jewish boy from New York City managed to marry a gentile English barmaid way back in 1910, when this sort of thing was not very common.
And in between all that youíll hear such Kern favorites as Olí Man River, Iíve Told Evíry Little Star, Why Do I Love You?, Bill, Long Ago and Far Away, All the Things You Are, Yesterdays, A Fine Romance, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and The Song is You. And theyíll be sung by Kiri Te Kanawa, Sylvia McNair, William Warfield, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Barbara Cook, and others.
MUSIC: Fades out
Jerome David Kern was born on January 27, 1885. In 1897 his family moved to Newark, New Jersey. Kern showed an early aptitude for music and was taught to play the piano and organ by his mother.
Kernís father insisted that his son work with him in business, instead of composing. But Kern didnít last long in his fatherís store. He was told to purchase two pianos, but instead ordered 200. Shortly after that his father relented and Kern became a student at the New York College of Music, studying piano and harmony. His first published piano piece appeared the very same year.
Between 1903 and 1905 Kern continued his musical training under private tutors in Heidelberg, Germany, returning to New York via London.
On his return to New York, Kern worked as a rehearsal pianist in Broadway theaters and as a song-plugger for Tin Pan Alley music publishers. When he was in London he secured a contract from an American impresario to write songs to place in Broadway versions of London shows. He began to provide these in 1904.
Starting the next year Kern spent large blocks of time in London, contributing songs to West End shows. In 1909, during one of his stays in England, he took a boat trip on the Thames with some friends. When the boat stopped at Walton-on-Thames, they went to an inn called the Swan for a drink. Thatís where Kern met the proprietorís daughter, Eva Leale, who was working behind the bar. They were married at the Anglican church in Walton the following year.
Kern was particularly good at writing the music for beautiful love songs. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sings five of the most famous: The Song is You, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Yesterdays, All the Things You Are, and Long Ago and Far Away.
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: The Song is You, sung by Kiri Te Kanawa with The London Sinfonietta conducted by Jonathan Tunick [Angel/EMI Classics D101437, Track 4] [3:00]
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, sung by Kiri Te Kanawa with The London Sinfonietta conducted by Jonathan Tunick [Angel/EMI Classics D101437, Track 5] [2:53]
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: Yesterdays, sung by Kiri Te Kanawa with The London Sinfonietta conducted by Jonathan Tunick [Angel/EMI Classics D101437, Track 9] [2:31]
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: All the Things You Are, sung by Kiri Te Kanawa with The London Sinfonietta conducted by Jonathan Tunick [Angel/EMI Classics D101437, Track 10] [2:44]
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: Long Ago and Far Away, sung by Kiri Te Kanawa with The London Sinfonietta conducted by Jonathan Tunick [Angel/EMI Classics D101437, Track 12] [2:51]
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sang five of Jerome Kernís most famous songs: The Song is You, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Yesterdays, All the Things You Are, and Long Ago and Far Away. They were all from a 1993 Angel/EMI release with the London Sinfonietta conducted by Jonathan Tunick.
You are listening to an hour devoted to Jerome Kernís most famous songs on Compact Discoveries. Iím your guide, Fred Flaxman.
[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]
Kern is believed to have composed music for silent films as early as 1912, but the earliest documented film music he is known to have written was for a 20-part serial, Gloriaís Romance, in 1916. Another score for the silent movies followed in 1919, and Kern was one of the founding members of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers and Publishers.
By the First World War, more than 100 of Kernís songs had been used in about 30 productions ó mostly Broadway adaptations of European shows. The best-known of Kernís songs from this period is probably They Didnít Believe Me. We hear that now as performed in a review of Kernís songs called The Land Where the Good Songs Go, released on the PS Classics label in 2012. The singers are Matthew Scott and Kate Baldwin. The review was orchestrated and conducted by David Loud.
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: They Didnít Believe Me, sung by Matthew Scott and Kate Baldwin, orchestrated and conducted by David Loud [PS Classics PS-1211, CD1, Track 8] [4:38]
They Didnít Believe Me, sung by Matthew Scott and Kate Baldwin. This song could have easily been Kernís first and last great hit, if it werenít for his love of playing poker. In May, 1915, Kern was scheduled to sail from New York to London on board the Lusitania, but Kern literally missed the boat. He had overslept after staying up late playing the card game. The Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat, causing the deaths of 1,198 passengers and crew.
Kern composed 16 Broadway scores between 1915 and 1920. These shows were unique on Broadway for their clever, coherent plots, integrated scores and naturalistic acting. They were a sharp contrast to the large-scale operettas then in vogue or the star-studded revues and extravaganzas of producers like Florenz Ziegfeld.
The year 1925 brought a major turning point in Kernís career when he met Oscar Hammerstein II. They maintained a lifelong friendship and collaboration, working together on what became Kernís most famous musical: Show Boat. The story, based on the novel by Edna Ferber, dealt with racism, marital strife and alcoholism ó unheard of subjects in the escapist world of musical comedy. The music included Olí Man River, Why Do I Love You, and Bill. The show has been revived many times since its 1927 run of 572 performances on Broadway. Weíll listen to these three songs now from the 1966 Lincoln Center revival staring William Warfield, Barbara Cook, Constance Towers, and Stephen Douglass.
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: Olí Man River, sung by William Warfield from the Lincoln Center 1966 revival [RCA Victor 09026-61182-2, Track 4] [2:47]
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: Why Do I Love You? sung by Barbara Cook and Stephen Douglas from the Lincoln Center 1966 revival [RCA Victor 09026-61182-2, Track 9] [4:15]
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: Bill, sung by Constance Towers from the Lincoln Center 1966 revival [RCA Victor 09026-61182-2, Track 10] [4:27]
Three songs from the 1966 Lincoln Center revival of Jerome Kernís Show Boat staring William Warfield, Barbara Cook, Constance Towers, and Stephen Douglass. First you heard Olí Man River, then Why Do I Love You?, and finally Bill.
One more of the famous songs from Show Boat now, this time sung by Julie London: Canít Help Loviní Dat Man.
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: Canít Help Loviní Dat Man, performed by Julie London, EMI 0946 312129 2 5, Disc 1,Track 7] [3:11]
Canít Help Loviní Dat Man from Show Boat. The music is by Jerome Kern; lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II; singing by Julie London.
Kernís Show Boat was filmed twice: the first time in 1936, and the second time in Technicolor in 1951. In 1989 a stage version of the musical was presented on television for the first time, in a production from the Paper Mill Playhouse, telecast by PBS on Great Performances.
One of Jerome Kernís most beautiful songs, Why Was I Born?, was written in 1929 for the 1930 musical, Sweet Adeline. The lyrics were also by Oscar Hammerstein II. It is sung next by Sylvia McNair with Andrť Previn at the piano. The track is from ďSure Thing: The Jerome Kern SongbookĒ on a Philips compact disc from 1994.
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: Why Was I Born?, performed by Sylvia McNair with Andrť Previn at the piano [Philips 442 129-2, Track 8] [3:59]
Why Was I Born? Music by Jerome Kern. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Singing by Sylvia McNair. Piano playing by Andrť Previn. Itís from the 1930 musical, Sweet Adeline.
Kern was also successful in Hollywood where, in 1936, he wrote the score for Swing Time. It included the song The Way You Look Tonight, which won the Academy Award that year for best song. The film also included A Fine Romance. Here are both songs as recorded by Ella Fitzgerald from her album ďElla Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook,Ē arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle.
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: The Way You Look Tonight, sung by Ella Fitzgerald, arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle [Verve B0003933-02, Track 9] [4:28]
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: A Fine Romance, sung by Ella Fitzgerald, arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle [Verve B0003933-02, Track 2] [3:36]
Ella Fitzgerald singing first Jerome Kernís The Way You Look Tonight and then A Fine Romance.
In the fall of 1945, Kern returned from Hollywood to New York to oversee auditions for a new revival of Show Boat, and began to work on the score for what would become the musical Annie Get Your Gun, to be produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein. But on November 5, Kern, at age 60, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while walking at the corner of Park Avenue and 57th Street. He was identified only by his ASCAP card and initially taken to the indigent ward at City Hospital. Hammerstein was at his side when Kernís breathing stopped. Hammerstein hummed or sang the song, Iíve Told Evíry Little Star in Kernís ear, knowing it was a personal favorite of the composer. When Hammerstein didnít receive a response, he knew Kern had died. The assignment of writing the music for Annie Get Your Gun was then given to veteran Broadway composer Irving Berlin.
MUSIC: Jerome Kern: Iíve Told Evíry Little Star sung by Bing Crosby [2:53]
Bing Crosby. Iíve Told Evíry Little Star by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.
And that concludes this hour devoted to the songs of Jerome Kern. If you missed part of the program or would like to hear it again, you can stream it on demand at compactdiscoveries.com. This is program number 241. And this is your guide to Compact Discoveries, Fred Flaxman, thanking you for listening.
ANNOUNCER (Tana Flaxman): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, Art and Eva Stevens, and ArkivMusic dot com, the online store for classical music CDs, DVDs, downloads, and over 10,000 on-demand reissued titles. Thatís A-r-k-i-v Music dot com.
Program Ends at 59:00