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Subject: Remembering Barbara Cook
From: Gerald Waldman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Gerald Waldman <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 8 Aug 2017 13:11:14 -0400

text/plain (108 lines)

It is with intense sadness that I just learned from NPR noon news that the 
legendary, beloved Broadway and cabaret star, Barbara Cook died this 
morning after a debilitating rare disease, which left her housebound for the 
past many months.  I had an elderly friend who saw Barbara Cook in all of her 
Broadway triumphs and said that The Music Man, Candide and She Loves Me 
were some of the most unforgettable musical experiences of his lifetime.  I 
completely concur with Jon Dorsch, Peggy, and so many others on opera-l 
about the legendary Broadway, cabaret and concert singer, Barbara Cook, one 
of the most gifted and beloved of American Broadway sopranos, born, October 
25, 1927.  It seems impossible that she has died.  She truly seemed ageless.  
I was fortunate to see her 7 times in concert, the last time on 4/6/2013 with 
John Pizzarelli, solo concerts in 2009 and 2006, October, 2003, in a concert 
with Marilyn Horne at Symphony Hall, twice in 1999, first at Gala at the 
Huntington Theater and at a concert at Symphony Hall, and then again in a 
concert at Symphony Hall, and the voice still had that effervescent beauty.  
She is an artist to be cherished.  She is one of the few Broadway stars, who is 
adored by opera lovers, and they flock to her concerts and for good reason, 
for there is no one who can sing like her today.  She also was an opera lover 
and frequently attended opera at the MET.  With her excellent classical 
training, she combined beauty of voice, superb breath control, spinning out 
long limned phrases effortlessly, immaculate diction and extraordinary depth 
of expression, to make her singing absolutely unforgettable.  Unfortunately, I 
am too young to have seen her on Broadway, or in her first 2 decades of 

At the Gala at the Huntington Theater in her honor in 5/1999, she sang a 
wonderful program of American songs (including rending renditions of "I'm 
Always Chasing Rainbows", and "Walking Among my Yesterdays", closing with 
a delightful version of "Ice Cream" from She Loves Me, and at the age of 72, 
she capped it with an excellent high B! She also closed the program with her 
tradition of singing without amplification, by singing an eloquently moving 
rendition of "We'll be Together Again".  Like all great artists, she continues to 
refine her interpretations and delves so deeply into the essence of the songs. 
She lets the music speak for itself.  She says that her two idols were Mabel 
Mercer and Judy Garland, which you can hear in her phrasing, delivery and 
enunciation.  One can hear every syllable and she has that unique quality of 
making it seem that she is singing not only for the whole hall, but also just for 
you.  She can create such an extraordinary intimate world of expression that 
you can hear a pin drop.  Barbara Cook was also is a wonderful raconteur with 
a delightful sense of humor.

She has so many wonderful recordings.  How can one forget her Jerome Kern, 
such as Showboat, and her effervescent rendition of "Glitter and be Gay" with 
its four high E flats which Bernstein wrote especially for her, due to her 
excellent technique.  One of her most unforgettable renditions of a song is 
Janis Ian's "Stars".  The beauty of tone, legato phrasing (those long-limned 
phrases that just melt the listener), her heartfelt expression of sadness of an 
artist looking over one's life, is absolutely sublime and unforgettable.  When I 
play this for friends who have never heard it before, they fall in love with 
Barbara Cook all over again.  That is another of her unique gifts; she is one of 
the special few artists, who can make you fall in love with her, because she 
sings with her heart and soul.

How many (popular or operatic) singers at 77 can sing a high B!  This is due 
to her classical training and knowing how to sing, which she demonstrated 
countless numbers of times in her program.  Her voice still had a lovely 
soprano lilt and warmth, which enveloped you.  She also had marvelous comic 
timing, which she showed with great flair in "Another Hundred People", "You 
Can't Get a Man with a Gun", "Hard Hearted Hannah", "When In Rome, Do as 
the Romans Do" and "You can Drive a Person Crazy".  She spoke glowingly of 
Sondheim's talent, not only with a lyric, but also melody and demonstrated 
this with "Happiness"and "Loving You" from Passion.  She brought down the 
house with an all stops out rendition of "I Had Myself a True Love" and with 
rendingly heartfelt and definitive renditions of three of Sondheim's greatest 
and most loved songs:  "In Buddy's Eyes", "Send in the Clowns", and "Losing 
my Mind" and Berlin's "I Got Lost, But Look What I Found". She closed the 
program with a tribute to Garland and sang the "Trolley Song".  Then after 
several standing ovations she came out and sang without amplification a 
lovely rendition of "Anyone Can Whistle".  Barbara came out on October 3 and 
followed her tradition of always singing her encore without amplification, in an 
eloquent rendition of Laine's "We’ll Be Together Again".  Here she showed 
what she is famous for, a shimmer and warmth that envelops you and how 
she can move you to tears with her uncanny connection to the text.  Who else 
can do this today? Certainly, Barbara Cooks was one of the greatest artists to 
ever grace the Broadway Musical stage.

Barbara Cook was a beloved and cherished artist and an American treasure, 
who finally was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.   Barbara Cook and 
Wally Harper’s recordings together remain the most enduring testament to 
their combined inimitably beautiful artistry.   Peggy said that Barbara Cook's 
first concert since Wally Harper's death in a benefit concert at Tanglewood, 
was one of the most profoundly moving in her concert going experience.  
Barbara Cook also gave many Master Classes over the past 15 years. Shirley 
Verrett felt it was paramount that Music Theater students heard Barbara Cook, 
and made sure Barbara Cook was brought to the University of Michigan for a 
set of Master Classes.  Barbara Cook was very close with many opera singers 
and today, Marilyn Horne, one of her dearest friends, must be devastated. My 
deepest condolences to Barbara Cook’s family and closest friends.  GOD BLESS 

Warm Regards to Opera Lovers,

Jerry Waldman

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