Michael Feinstein, vocalist and pianist, is a music revivalist and archivist of the Great American Songbook. He is the Principal Pops Conductor of the Pasadena Orchestra and the Artistic Director of The Palladium Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana, home to an international arts festival and diverse, live programming. He is a multi-platinum-selling and five-time, Grammy-nominated recording artist. He has hosted a PBS, three-part documentary on the history of the American popular song up to 1960 and an eleven-part, prime-time series for PBS that featured theater performances and guest stars singing Broadway hits. Mr. Feinstein has also opened four cabaret nightclubs in New York, San Francisco, and Carmel; composed the score for two stage musicals; appeared on Broadway several times in solo concerts; and on TV talk shows. He has also hosted a radio show and authored a memoir. Mr. Feinstein gives over 100 performances on tour every year. He is a member of the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress and has designed a piano for Steinway called “The First Ladies,” inspired by the White House piano and signed by several former First Ladies.
In 2008, Mr. Feinstein founded The Great American Songbook Foundation for the research, preservation, promotion, and exhibition of early and middle, 20th century American popular music. The non-profit foundation also educates high school students on the relevance of this music to their lives by holding an annual vocal academy and competition as well as master classes.
Mr. Feinstein was in fine voice and performed with a trio of superb musicians…
Judy Garland’s career is a definition of the Great American Songbook in itself. In her early career, she appeared in many Hollywood musical films and later in live concerts throughout the world. In 1963-64, she had her own TV musical variety series and was a prolific recording artist. In a career spanning over 30 years, she sang and recorded the most enduring and popular American songs written for stage and film, which became “standards.” They have stood the test of time in their life and legacy. This performance celebrated the 100th anniversary of Judy Garland’s birth. The show was produced by her oldest daughter, Broadway and Hollywood star, Liza Minnelli.
All the songs in this program were recorded by Ms. Garland. Mr. Feinstein was in fine voice and performed with a trio of superb musicians—a bassist, drummer, and pianist. For two of the songs, he also played the piano himself. He has a very strong tenor quality and handles ballads, jazz, and show tunes with an infectious sense of rhythm, enhanced by an outgoing stage presence and radiating enjoyment of what he performs. In between the songs, Mr. Feinstein imparted interesting facts, funny stories, and descriptions of important events in Ms. Garland’s career in chronological order. He acknowledged the admiration of other artists, such as Frank Sinatra, Whoopi Goldberg, and Count Basie, for her contribution to American song. From the opening “Get Happy,” to the closing “Come Rain or Come Shine,” he highlighted those composers and others who contributed to the singer’s rise from vaudeville as one of the Gumm Sisters to a major vocalist and movie star. Mr. Feinstein performed many of the songs in medley fashion. He sang “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” in three different variations—Ms. Garland rearranged her original MGM audition song as her career progressed.
As Mr. Feinstein sang, photos projected on a big screen included Garland’s early career in vaudeville, her children, her face on the colorful covers of various movie magazines of the 1940s, stills from scenes of her MGM movie musicals, TV series, and various concerts. Of particular interest was hearing a rare, home-made “a cappella” recording of Ms. Garland singing “I’ll Be Seeing You”—a song which she never sang in public—to live accompaniment by Mr. Feinstein. The celebratory concert ended with a selection of songs honoring Ms. Garland’s children and her belief in using heart and mind to ease the struggles of life. The encore was a film clip of Ms. Garland performing her signature song, “Over the Rainbow,” with a CBS studio orchestra in the 1940s, with Mr. Feinstein joining in harmony for the last few bars.
Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
“Get Happy! Michael Feinstein Celebrates the Judy Garland Centennial” was performed on September 21, 2023 at The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda MD 20852. For information on upcoming events and to purchase tickets, visit here.