Friday, July 4, 2008

It made me laugh . . .

Still finishing up some non-blog writing that's exhausting all my blogging energy - but, it's not exhausting all my time-wasting energy, which is inexhaustible. So it is that I stumbled across the following.

It began with a post from the inexhaustible Patty of Oboeinsight. She linked to birthday boy Mitch Miller (97 today!) - I followed, curious about what those Sing-Along-with-Mitch moments actually looked like. It all seemed about right: kitschy, bad clothes, goofy smiles, Bob from Sesame Street. For reasons that I can't even explain, I clicked over to another Mitch moment and, in the middle (about 1 minute in) of the barbershoppy Heart of My Heart, I hear Mitch introduce his guests: 1) Rosemary Clooney (yeah, that seems about right), 2) Bob McGrath (yeah, I'd heard he'd started off as one of the Miller gang), 3) Irene Cara (a little new wave for Mitch, but OK), and 4) virtuoso violinist, Mark Kaplan. !?!?! That last one surprised me, although here's the odd part. Moments before I'd Wikipediad Mitch Miller and discovered that he'd conducted a well-regarded Gerswhin recording featuring the pianist David Golub. I knew I'd heard of David Golub somewhere, but couldn't place it until Google reminded me of the Golub/Kaplan/Carr trio (great trio/bad name). I have several of their recordings, I used to accompany students of cellist Colin Carr, and of course the violinist is Mark Kaplan, Mitch's singalong guest.

Mark Kaplan is a fantastic violinist who's had one of those big, but not quite really big careers. I actually heard him play all the unaccompanied Bach live in two recitals about twenty years ago, and I have his excellent Stravinsky/Berg concerto CD. Anyway, even though I've since seen that he recorded at least one concerto album with Mitch Miller on the podium, it still seemed odd for him to be a guest. The best part, though, is that at the end of the Heart of My Heart, you can see Kaplan (decked out in full dress tails) singing and swaying along. In fact, if you go back to Patty's link and watch the very end, you can also see Kaplan marching along, Strad in hand, singing "Be Kind to Your Fine Feathered Friends." Sadly, I can't find a way to figure out what Kaplan played (or sung!) on the show, or whether they had a way for viewers to follow his bouncing bow. Also, as far as I can tell, this was from a 1981 broadcast, not the show's primary run from 1961-1964.

It's quite possible that I'm the only one in the universe who finds this sort of thing amusing, but that's the beauty of the long tailed internet. Even with hundreds of cable channels, I'll probably never get the "Great Moments in Awkward TV Appearances by Classical Musicians" show that I'd like, but this'll do.

P.S. That Mitch Miller has had some career: played in Gershwin's orchestra, played for Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, recorded oboe concertos, turned down Elvis Presley, ticked off Frank Sinatra, made people sing in front of their TVs, conducted classical orchestras, all while sporting a hip Van Dyke, even when surrounded by polyester.


Fusedule Tecil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fusedule Tecil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fusedule Tecil said...

Well, I'm learning about the html coding allowed for this site. I had posted two messages with coding that looked fine in the preview but when posted "live" went goofy. Hence the two deletions. Here's the essence of my comment:

Mitch Miller WAS (and to a much lesser extent, is still) an interesting character. All that you mentioned and more.

As a conductor, he was famous for quipping, "A conductor is just an idiot with a stick." He understood, as an orchestral player himself (he was a fine oboe and, in particular, english horn player), that the conductor was not the one making the music.

Perhaps his most interesting collaboration was playing on the album, Charlie Parker With Strings. Many people felt Charlie Parker was selling out by recording an album of ballads with string orchestra (with oboe solos by Mitch Miller). But in many ways this is Parker's most poignant album. It's worth hearing; you can catch some short clips on the page where you can order the CD from. Find it

[NB: If the rest of this post is a hyperlink, it's because the link to the page for Parker's CD looked find in "preview" but didn't stick when I published the comment. We who post comments may have fewer html rights than the owner of the blog. Perhaps that's only fair.]

This particular release of the classic has terrific notes and is in excellent sound.

Mitch Miller was not alone with his van Dyke beard. The late Skitch Henderson (with whom Miller was in active competition with for the attention of the "sleazy listening" crowd) also had one. While beards are usually reserved for men with weak chins, Miller has a chin like the top of Mount Everest.

-Fusedule Tecil