Joan Streit

Live music makes all the difference.

Whatever special event you are planning — a wedding reception, birthday or anniversary party — my piano playing and singing will make the occasion even more unforgettable.

Performances

February 18, 2010

Singing in Sarasota

Mansion at Selby Gardens

Mansion at Selby Gardens

It’s always great to get away from the cold and snow of winter. So for the last few years, my husband and I have taken a short vacation to Sarasota on Florida’s west coast. In addition to the obvious reasons (warmth, sunshine, magnificent Siesta Key beaches) Sarasota is also a cultural mecca – theater, the Ringling Museum of Art, the Selby Botanical Gardens, and great music. In fact, the musical scene runs the gamut from classical to pop and jazz.

One of the highlights of this trip was getting to hear a cocktail pianist at Michael’s on East, a very popular Sarasota restaurant. Since I play and sing at a New Jersey restaurant, it was a treat to listen to another musician do the same. I even got to sing “La Vie en Rose” (en francais) while the pianist accompanied me!

Filed under: Performances — Tags: , — Joan Streit @ 3:41 am

January 13, 2010

Favorite Songs

Broadway“What’s your favorite song?” That’s a question I ask very often. Whether I’m playing the piano and singing at a New Jersey private home, restaurant or country club, I love doing requests. And I know people appreciate being asked.

How do they answer this question? Well, a big favorite for years has been “All I Ask of You” from “Phantom of the Opera.” Others favorites are “Stardust” “Over the Rainbow” “As Time Goes By” songs by Billy Joel and Sinatra, and songs from Broadway — often from specific shows, such as “South Pacific” or “Cabaret.”

Many people don’t have a favorite song, or else they need time to think of one. Others have so many that I need to write them all down! I often need to learn a new song if it’s requested, and I don’t know it. This was the case with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” requested by a couple. By the way, I sometimes don’t remember people’s names, but I always remember their favorite songs!

So many people come up and thank me for playing their favorite songs. I know they appreciate the gesture, and I get great satisfaction from knowing I’ve made them happy.

So…..what IS your favorite song? I’d love to know! And by the way, mine is “Someone to Watch Over Me” written by the Gershwins in 1926.

Filed under: Performances — Tags: , , — Joan Streit @ 2:15 pm

December 10, 2009

A Montclair Art Museum Soiree

Mont Sainte-Victoire, Seen from the Bibemus Quarry

Mont Sainte-Victoire, Seen from the Bibemus Quarry

Montclair, New Jersey is a special town, not a typical suburb. It’s ethnically and culturally diverse, with many great restaurants and theaters, and also Montclair State University.

Another major cultural institution is the Montclair Art Museum, which is devoted to American Art, including Native American artforms.

Currently (until January 3, 2010) the museum’s “Cézanne and American Modernism,” is an impressive exhibit with 131 works, including 18 significant pieces by the French master that cover a thirty year period of his career. It examines Cézanne’s influence on a diverse group of American artists.

Ten years in the making, the exhibit was organized by the Montclair Art Museum and The Baltimore Museum of Art, which will have the display from February 14, 2010, through May 23, 2010. It will then travel to the Phoenix Art Museum, where it will be on view from July 3, 2010, through Septermber 26, 2010.

Last month, I had the pleasure of playing and singing at the museum for a soiree organized by friends at Bnai Keshet, a local synagogue. The gala fundraiser began with a private lecture and slide show, followed by a tour of the exhibit gallery. Afterwards, attendees enjoyed French wine and hors d’oeuvres while I entertained on the grand piano. Naturally I played and sang French songs, as well as American standards.

Following my music, the audience was treated to a lively performance by “The Loose Canons,” singing in a wide range of styles, including political satire, Doo Wop, and folk music.  It was a rousing performance which capped off a wonderful evening!

To view a video, produced by Reuben Meltzer, of my performance at this event, click here.

Filed under: Performances — Tags: , , — Joan Streit @ 1:00 am

December 2, 2009

Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”

iStock_000004721880XSmall
In a previous post, I mentioned that for one New Jersey Christmas party I play the piano for the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.” The guests sing it in four-part harmony, and the results are thrilling.

You can hear a discussion of why this piece of music is so brilliant at the NPR program Performance Today.

Composer-conductor Rob Kapilow analyzes the “Hallelujah Chorus” to explain why the “Hallelujah Chorus” works so well. Going over it note by note, Kapilow explains how the musical simplicity builds and builds to yield an extremely powerful whole.

At the end of the eight minute segment you can hear a wonderful performance by the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.

If you want to skip the discussion and go right to the music, click here.

Filed under: Performances — Tags: , — Joan Streit @ 7:00 am

November 23, 2009

Playing Musical Trivia

Ira Gershwin

Ira Gershwin

In my last post, I mentioned one aspect of Michael Feinstein’s performance that so inspired me: not just singing a song but also talking about it, giving the background about songwriters, songs, and singers. Depending on the venue, I now do the same when I perform.

For example, did you know…

As Time Goes By”, one of the most popular songs ever, was written by someone you probably have never heard of, Herman Hupfeld of Montclair, New Jersey. When I play and sing for Montclair-area senior citizens, some of them have heard of Hupfeld and even know on which street he lived.

Our Love Is Here to Stay” was the last melody George Gershwin wrote. Ira wrote the lyrics after his brother’s death. If you listen to them, you might agree with me that it’s a love song from Ira Gershwin to his deceased brother.

Lew Fields was a well-known vaudeville comedian. His daughter Dorothy became the first female lyricist, writing the lyrics to over 400 songs and 15 Broadway shows. Early in her career, she wrote “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern were scheduled to write the songs for “Annie Get Your Gun”, but Kern died suddenly. The project was given to Irving Berlin, who wrote all of the music and lyrics in just 10 days!

When Billy Joel was a boy, his mother often said to him, “Billy, I love you just the way you are.”

Where do I find all this information? Well, I must thank my husband Roger in large part. Every year for my birthday I receive a biography or autobiography of a famous composer, lyricist, or singer, such as George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Dorothy Fields, or Michael Feinstein. I have also learned a great deal reading Jonathan Schwartz’s autobiography, “All In Good Time”, and listening to his weekend radio shows. As the son of composer Arthur Schwartz (“Dancing in the Dark”, “Haunted Heart” etc.), Jonathan grew up knowing many of these musicians personally.

Whether I’m playing the piano and singing at a restaurant or a private event, I know how much my audience enjoys this “musical trivia”, because they tell me how much it enhances the songs.

Filed under: Performances — Tags: , — Joan Streit @ 9:28 pm

November 11, 2009

I’m Dreaming of a Musical Christmas

christmas cactus

I love this season. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and right after that come holiday parties and celebrations. I entertain at some New Jersey parties that have long histories, often going back for decades.

December is a busy season, playing piano and singing at both private parties and corporate events. Many of them have annual traditions I always look forward to. One particular house party includes an elaborate sing-along with not only the usual classics, but also the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah”, sung in four-part harmony. I actually spend a lot of time rehearsing this, because I want to match the high quality of the singers. And my piano playing is not the only musical entertainment; a bagpipes player is a special treat.

Another Christmas party has a charming custom of asking guests to bring small items symbolizing something they’ve done in the past year, and hanging them on the tree. For another party, close friends jointly host the event at their country club.

And then there are the great songs. In my opinion, Christmas songs are some of the best ever written. Among my personal favorites are “White Christmas”, “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts roasting…”), and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” originally sung by Judy Garland in the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Finally there is “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow.”  Would you believe this song was written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne in 1945 on one of the hottest July days recorded in Hollywood?

At these parties and all others, the camaraderie, warmth, and joy are palpable. I leave each one feeling honored and privileged to have been a part of it.

However you celebrate your holiday, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a Happy Holiday season.

Creative Commons License photo credit: anee.baba

Filed under: Performances — Tags: , , — Joan Streit @ 9:17 pm

October 29, 2009

A Reunion to Remember

Nancy Evans Herman & Morty Weinstein

Nancy Evans Herman, Joan, Morty Weinstein

Recently I entertained at the 60th class reunion of Weequahic High School. I’ve played for all ages, from baby namings and christenings to 90th birthday parties. But there is a special kind of good feeling when old friends, some of whom have not seen each other for 10 or more years, get together. I shouldn’t use the word “old.” These were very young and spry individuals.

The reunion took place at Cedar Hill Country Club in Livingston. My contact was Nancy Evans Herman, a member of the class of 1949 whom I had met, with her husband, years ago while playing at Nordstrom at the Short Hills Mall. I actually played for Mr. Herman’s high school reunion a number of years ago! I must thank Nancy; it was her idea for the reunion committee to hire me to entertain at the event.

I  enjoyed  meeting committee member Morty Weinstein. A few weeks before, Morty called me and suggested a few particular songs for me to play and sing – some “oldies” like “Unchained Melody” and “As Time Goes By”. And of course, as always happens, several other attendees came up to me at the piano to request songs. It is always such a pleasure to play requests, wherever I’m performing. I know these particular songs triggered some happy memories from decades ago.

During musical breaks, a few reunion attendees were asked to come up and share their memories of being at Weequahic in the late 40’s. One gentlemen remembered a particular teacher and her unique way of cajoling the students to be quiet. “Do you remember what she used to do?” And of course they all did remember. She threatened to jump out of the window, if they didn’t behave! I wouldn’t recommend that threat these days.

What a great time we all had, including myself!

Filed under: Performances — Tags: , , , , — Joan Streit @ 1:16 am