By: Sandi Durell
Speaking with Hershey Felder the other day provided a new understanding as to how an icon creates – in this case Leonard Bernstein. Mr. Felder is a masterful entertainer and virtuoso pianist with a great passion for music and storytelling that has taken him all over the world. When I categorized what he does as a tribute, he immediately corrected my misconception stating that what he does is “create portraits of interesting characters combined with stories and music . . . some of which is the greatest music ever composed.” Think “interesting form of a jukebox musical” (at which he chuckles).
It’s more of an analysis of the stories that allowed an artist to create the kind of music they did; a path to understand where great music or art comes from. As he says “part of the fun is the discovery.”
As for a synopsis of what an audience will witness – – it’s like a memory play, a last concert that takes place only in the Maestro’s mind; it didn’t actually happen. But what it allows is lots of funny storytelling and raises questions about why things happened. Bernstein was married and a homosexual, living a gay life as well. Did the times in which he lived influence his music or did his music influence his lifestyle? To accommodate the storytelling, Hershey Felder plays the musical portions or full compositions that bring the intriguing life of Maestro Bernstein alive along with 40 characters that he creates.
When Mr. Felder creates he “looks for the story, and the music has to guide the story” and what was particularly interesting to Felder were Bernstein’s thoughts at the end of his life.
According to Felder, Leonard Bernstein wanted to be remembered as a symphonist not a theater writer and, so, much more will be revealed during the course of Hershey Felder’s narrative with music. In fact July 17th (the date of this upcoming event) marks Leonard Bernstein’s first compositional piece which he played in 1943 at The Town Hall and which the audience will hear via Mr. Felder as part of “Maestro Bernstein.” Felder says “it’s wonderfully sacrilegious.”
Hershey Felder is a critically acclaimed pianist and entertainer. He grew up with studious, hard working European immigrant parents. He worked hard studying and perfecting his skills as a pianist and was also a child actor who, In his 20s, re-pursued the theater and music, not just to entertain, but to create characters. Felder was determined, as a young man, because he loved this art form so much.
Felder likes a good story, a good idea and good music. Although his very busy professional life keeps him traveling here, there and yonder, his second passion – cooking – is always high on his agenda.
Hersey Felder in “Maestro Bernstein: A Play with Music” at The Town Hall, 123 West 43rd Street, NYC on Thursday, July 17th 2014, 8 p.m., directed by Joel Zwick.