“The Future of Cabaret” – the 2nd night of the virtual Mabel Mercer Foundation Cabaret Convention featured winners of The Elow Songbook High School Competition.

by Linda Amiel Burns

Adela and Larry Elow
KT Sullivan

Cabaret patrons Adela and Larry Elow created an Endowment Fund specifically to encourage teenagers to learn and perform The Great American Songbook with songs composed between the years 1900-1970. The participants are nominated from NYC public performing arts high schools, and the evening featured winners and 2 finalists. Artistic Director KT Sullivan began the evening singing “While We’re Young” and introduced the performers. 

First up was Savannah Lee Henry who is now studying at Carnegie Melon. She sang a lovely rendition of “Secret Love.” Then Kylie McNeill performed the fun “I Can Cook, too.”  Jennifer Poroye with John Prestianni on piano performed the classic “Misty.” Thomas Hogan’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” was enhanced by a graceful dance segment during the instrumental. Julia Parasram, a senior at Frank Sinatra High School, performed a lively “Lullaby of Birdland.” Leonay Shepherd’s “Everybody’s Got a Home But Me” was very moving, and Christina Jimenez, bravely singing through a case of laryngitis, performed the ballad “I Have Dreamed” from The King and I.

It Is wonderful to see and hear young people learning the Great American Songbook, and all these young singers showed a lot of potential. I’m sure that with continued study and coaching, they will find their voices and improve. However, the most experienced teenager of the evening was Hannah Jane, recipient of the 2019 Julie Wilson Award, who sang “Ten Pins in the Sky” and Comden & Green’s challenging “If.”

I have been following the career of 2019 winner 16 year old Anais Reno for a few years and she is simply a phenomenon. This prodigy is a poised, natural jazz singer, and performs with a sophistication well beyond her years. With Billy Stritch on the piano, she sang, “Centerpiece” and closed with torch song written in 1930, “Body & Soul.”

At the conclusion, Larry Elow at the piano with Adela on the bench beside him, spoke of their love for the American Songbook. We are grateful to them for helping to keep the tradition alive by encouraging young people to learn, perform and cherish these classic songs.  www.mabelmercer.org 

Photos: Maryann Lopinto