Of historical interest
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I've always been interested in history. When I was young our family made regular summer pilgrimages to Farmers Museum and the Fennimore House in Cooperstown, NY where my father worked and took classes (he was a historian and teacher himself). My college career coincided with the building of the cabin in Schoharie County in the northern Catskill Mountains so I immersed myself in the local history of the area for fun and credit. I learned that the deserted crossroads at the top of our hill was once a thriving small community, silenced by the railroads that came through the nearby lowlands and demographic changes brought on by the Civil War. I learned the names and histories of some of the families in the area and traced the foundations of their long gone farmhouses. I still love to visit the overgrown cemetery on a summer night when the moon is full, the names on the stones only vaguely discernable, to experience that cosmic connection with the past that historians thrive on.
I've had an interest in the history and architecture of old theater buildings from the time I managed movie houses in Boston in the mid-seventies. Sadly, one of the places I worked at was torn down (the Gary, formerly the Plymouth) but most have been saved and even restored to a semblance of their former glory: the Saxon, now the Majestic again; the Music Hall, once the Metropolitan now the Wang Center; and the Savoy, once the Keith Memorial, now the Opera House. Noel Coward said there is something magical about an empty theatre with its dim ghost light illuminating the bare stage and I quite agree. Graceful and opulent, I get excited every time I enter the buildings and think about the wonderful performances and history made on those stages. Its akin to the thrill I feel every time I walk up the ramp into Fenway Park and see the green grass for the first time- a mix of appreciation of the past and anticipation of what's about to come.
Scratching around in Old Schoharie
I've collected photos and artifacts of Boston's glorious theatrical history including a series of posters that were rotting away in the basement of the Gary (formerly the Plymouth) when it was about to be demolished. I was allowed to keep them. They look deceptively small here but they're each about 8-feet high and could be seen for blocks.
Boston's beautiful and historic theaters
My undergrad thesis was on popular music between the world wars and although I like pretty much every kind of music, that's what I know the most about. The show music of Irving Berlin, Irving Ceasar, Kern & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, Noel Coward, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, and others set a very high standard. Just as it was a part of that continuum that included, among other things minstrelsy, early jazz, European operetta and African folk it made way for the great talents that followed: Bernstein, Comden & Green, Kander & Ebb, Adler & Ross, Frank Loesser, Stephen Schwartz and Sondheim. The writers of that era that didn't write primarily for shows were also significant and wonderful: Hoagy Carmichael, Walter Donaldson, Buddy DeSylva, Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, Jimmy Van Heusen, Dorothy Fields, Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer. It's the music of these writers and those of their era that I know best and like most.
Pop music, showtunes and jazz
AL HIRSCHFELD, the eminent portraitist of the arts and entertainment worlds, was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution Press to create these drawings for the American Popular Song collection. They are now part of the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery.
I've spent years gathering audio and video recordings from commercial sources and from collections at the Smithsonian and other libraries. I've got about five thousand musical clips, mostly from films, in my collection and about eight hundred full length features. I have been enabled by my friends Steve Finn, Lloyd Schwartz, David Stang and Beverly Orlove, who have joined me for periodic musicale evenings for almost twenty years. Two other friends, Joe Beckmann and Steve Finn, have fed my addiction to films for about as long. Sue and Paul Kilrain arranged for me to see the wonderful City Center Encore presentations of almost-lost musicals. They all have a lot to answer for!
My enthusiasm about Boston's history led me to begin offering private tours of the city, concentrating on Boston's history and architecture. I've had guests from all over the US and the world, and I love showing the city off. Click here to visit my Easy Tours of Boston site.