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HARAN, BENNETT TURN OLDIES INTO 'TODAY' TUNES

Nostalgia, undeniably, is what the next Tillett Garden Series performance, a cabaret show on Wednesday, March 15, by vocalist Mary Cleere Haran and her accompanist, Richard Rodney Bennett, is all about. But it's also about sitting back, settling in and savoring the personable stylings and polished delivery of song melodies and lyrics that have proven staying power.
So don't get the idea that "Isn't It Romantic?" is aimed at senior citizens just because it's a showcase of the music of the 1920s, '30s and '40s.
In fact, Haran and her pianist-collaborator, Bennett, have crafted a show with appeal that cuts across generational lines, interspersing songs with carefully researched background material about the composers' lives and times and witty chit-chat to tie it all together. The songs encompass not only the hits but also some of the lesser-known output of the icons of the Golden Era of Song — George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hart, Johnny Mercer and more.
What Haran and Bennett provide, according to The New Yorker critic Whitney Balliett, is "a masterful evening in which the emotions of an earlier era are respectfully maintained while being informed and enriched by a wry, intelligent modernity."
Vanity Fair's Wilfred Sheed wrote that Haran "sings the songs of the era as if they'd just been written this afternoon. . . No one can get more good, unsentimental juice out of a love song than she can, or turn the mood around more sharply and charmingly with a wisecrack or a funny story."
The show the duo is bringing to the Virgin Islands draws on two supper club acts they presented last fall and the year before in the Oak Room at New York's venerable Algonquin Hotel — home in that very Golden Era to the famed Round Table gatherings of the creme of the literary and arts scene. Haran, in fact, made her mark at the Oak Room in 1993 with her one- woman show "You Might As Well Live," a highlight of the hotel's centennial celebration of Dorothy Parker.
In the fall of 1998, Haran and Bennett brought "The Memory of All That," a revue of George Gershwin music, to the Algonquin to mark another centennial, that of the composer's birth. Last fall, they were back with "Crazy Rhythm: Manhattan in the '20s," a showcase of songs from the ragtime and charleston age. Both shows drew raves from the New York critics. "Isn't It Romantic" promises to be a blend of songs from those two acts and more.
Haran started out doing theater with a boyfriend in San Francisco's Haight area in the early '70s. "I wasn't a real hippie," she recalls. "I was more into revival movies and Bette Midler and vintage clothing." She has since appeared in musicals on Broadway, Off-Broadway and on the West Coast, but is best known as a supper-club chanteuse in New York specializing in songs of earlier eras. She's also an accomplished music historian, having worked on PBS documentaries on the lives of Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Rodgers and Hammerstein and child film stars.
Her CD albums, all well received, pretty much tell it all: "There's A Small Hotel: Live at the Algonquin," "This Heart of Mine: Classic Movie Songs of the '40s," "This Funny World: Mary Cleere Haran Sings Lyrics by Hart," "Pennies From Heaven: Great Songs of the Depression," and "The Memory of All That: The Songs of George Gershwin." And can "Crazy Rhythm: Manhattan in the '20s" be far behind? And "Isn't It Romantic? [subtitle to come]" after that?
The British-born Bennett, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for his service to music, is a prodigious composer of classical orchestral and choral works but is equally at home in the world of American popular song. His film soundtrack credits include "Murder on the Orient Express, "Far From the Madding Crowd," "Enchanted April" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral." He's the kind of singer-pianist that writers throw such adjectives as "sophisticated" and "stylish" at with abandon, whether he's performing solo or accompanying a chanteuse — which he has been doing since he backed Cleo Laine a quarter-century ago.
Bennett assisted another "sir," Paul McCartney, on the former Beatle's symphonic work "Standing Stone" that had its premiere at Carnegie Hall in 1997. This will be Bennett's second performance on the Tillett Gardens stage. He appeared in a Classics in the Garden concert five years ago as accompanist to featured oboist Gerard Reuter.
The Tillett Gardens program begins at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15. Tickets are $25. A three-course pre-performance dinner with concert seating is $30 additional, excluding bar service and tip. Limited cabaret seating at small tables is available on a first-come basis to concert- only patrons. Reservations are required for dinner and recommended (seating is numbered) for the concert only. To reserve, call 775-1929, fax to 775-9482 or e-mail to tillett@islands.vi. For more information about events in the arts complex, click on www.tillettgardens.com.

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Nostalgia, undeniably, is what the next Tillett Garden Series performance, a cabaret show on Wednesday, March 15, by vocalist Mary Cleere Haran and her accompanist, Richard Rodney Bennett, is all about. But it's also about sitting back, settling in and savoring the personable stylings and polished delivery of song melodies and lyrics that have proven staying power.
So don't get the idea that "Isn't It Romantic?" is aimed at senior citizens just because it's a showcase of the music of the 1920s, '30s and '40s.
In fact, Haran and her pianist-collaborator, Bennett, have crafted a show with appeal that cuts across generational lines, interspersing songs with carefully researched background material about the composers' lives and times and witty chit-chat to tie it all together. The songs encompass not only the hits but also some of the lesser-known output of the icons of the Golden Era of Song -- George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hart, Johnny Mercer and more.
What Haran and Bennett provide, according to The New Yorker critic Whitney Balliett, is "a masterful evening in which the emotions of an earlier era are respectfully maintained while being informed and enriched by a wry, intelligent modernity."
Vanity Fair's Wilfred Sheed wrote that Haran "sings the songs of the era as if they'd just been written this afternoon. . . No one can get more good, unsentimental juice out of a love song than she can, or turn the mood around more sharply and charmingly with a wisecrack or a funny story."
The show the duo is bringing to the Virgin Islands draws on two supper club acts they presented last fall and the year before in the Oak Room at New York's venerable Algonquin Hotel -- home in that very Golden Era to the famed Round Table gatherings of the creme of the literary and arts scene. Haran, in fact, made her mark at the Oak Room in 1993 with her one- woman show "You Might As Well Live," a highlight of the hotel's centennial celebration of Dorothy Parker.
In the fall of 1998, Haran and Bennett brought "The Memory of All That," a revue of George Gershwin music, to the Algonquin to mark another centennial, that of the composer's birth. Last fall, they were back with "Crazy Rhythm: Manhattan in the '20s," a showcase of songs from the ragtime and charleston age. Both shows drew raves from the New York critics. "Isn't It Romantic" promises to be a blend of songs from those two acts and more.
Haran started out doing theater with a boyfriend in San Francisco's Haight area in the early '70s. "I wasn't a real hippie," she recalls. "I was more into revival movies and Bette Midler and vintage clothing." She has since appeared in musicals on Broadway, Off-Broadway and on the West Coast, but is best known as a supper-club chanteuse in New York specializing in songs of earlier eras. She's also an accomplished music historian, having worked on PBS documentaries on the lives of Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Rodgers and Hammerstein and child film stars.
Her CD albums, all well received, pretty much tell it all: "There's A Small Hotel: Live at the Algonquin," "This Heart of Mine: Classic Movie Songs of the '40s," "This Funny World: Mary Cleere Haran Sings Lyrics by Hart," "Pennies From Heaven: Great Songs of the Depression," and "The Memory of All That: The Songs of George Gershwin." And can "Crazy Rhythm: Manhattan in the '20s" be far behind? And "Isn't It Romantic? [subtitle to come]" after that?
The British-born Bennett, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for his service to music, is a prodigious composer of classical orchestral and choral works but is equally at home in the world of American popular song. His film soundtrack credits include "Murder on the Orient Express, "Far From the Madding Crowd," "Enchanted April" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral." He's the kind of singer-pianist that writers throw such adjectives as "sophisticated" and "stylish" at with abandon, whether he's performing solo or accompanying a chanteuse -- which he has been doing since he backed Cleo Laine a quarter-century ago.
Bennett assisted another "sir," Paul McCartney, on the former Beatle's symphonic work "Standing Stone" that had its premiere at Carnegie Hall in 1997. This will be Bennett's second performance on the Tillett Gardens stage. He appeared in a Classics in the Garden concert five years ago as accompanist to featured oboist Gerard Reuter.
The Tillett Gardens program begins at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15. Tickets are $25. A three-course pre-performance dinner with concert seating is $30 additional, excluding bar service and tip. Limited cabaret seating at small tables is available on a first-come basis to concert- only patrons. Reservations are required for dinner and recommended (seating is numbered) for the concert only. To reserve, call 775-1929, fax to 775-9482 or e-mail to tillett@islands.vi. For more information about events in the arts complex, click on www.tillettgardens.com.