Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music songwriting students reimagine Johnny Mercer's music with 21st century swag. The award-winning lyricist penned over 1,400 songs ranging from "Skylark" to "Moon River."
Weaved into the fabric of American life are the songs of Johnny Mercer. Whether you think you know his music or not, he created and performed a steady stream of hits that are in our upbringing, our lyrical references, and still relevant today. Crafted in the discipline of exact rhyme, Mercer’s works are part of the Great American Songbook, a collection of the most influential American compositions from the early 20th Century.
The award-winning songwriter and lyricist penned over 1,400 songs, including the timeless classics “Moon River,” Skylark,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” and “That Old Black Magic.” His oeuvre is rich and diverse, from the lighthearted “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” “Accentuate The Positive,” and “Jeepers Creepers,” to the dramatic “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “Blues In The Night, and “One For My Baby.” His songs also brought life to the great Hollywood musical with “Hooray for Hollywood” and “On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe.”
Mercer’s songs nurtured the talent of such artists as Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, among many others, and have been heard by millions of people all over the world on recordings, radio, films, television programs and Broadway shows, both then and now. He was also known for collaborating with dozens of award-winning songwriters, including Henry Mancini and a young Barry Manilow.
A compelling new concert, Johnny Mercer Reimagined—Songwriter’s New Takes on Beloved Classics will be presented on October 20 at the Frost School of Music’s Festival Miami in UM Gusman Concert Hall, 1314 Miller Drive, Coral Gables, Florida. Talented songwriters and performers from the Frost School’s Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program (CAM) will pay homage to Mercer’s poetic genius by taking a fresh spin on his classic songs, and showcasing new songs inspired by his brilliant writing. Staged for the first time ever, Reimagined presents Mercer’s master works told in a completely new and contemporary way.
To prepare for the concert, Rey Sanchez, Frost faculty host and director for the CAM program, worked closely with Jonathan Brielle, Vice President of The Johnny Mercer Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to preserving Mercer’s legacy by celebrating and nourishing the craft and discipline of songwriting that Johnny himself mastered and mentored.
“The fabulous talents at the Frost School are being given the opportunity to re-create some of Johnny’s arrangements in today’s vernacular, “says Brielle. “That could mean putting a different kind of rhythm track behind it, sampling parts of a song, or taking a memorable phrase to create something new.”
Songwriting duos chosen from Frost’s Creative American Music program will perform modern interpretations of Mercer songs while competing to win “Most Compelling Rendition.” They’ll be joined on stage by the 2014 Downbeat Award-winning Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Ensemble, under the direction of Frost professor Dan Strange. Judges for the competition include Brielle, along with hit songwriters Craig Corothers, David Berg, Tony Arata, and Annie Mosher. The winning duo will earn a performance spot opening for Festival Miami’s “Nashville All-Stars” show the following night.
In addition to several exciting performances of the songwriter’s most popular songs, Johnny Mercer ReImagined will feature Brielle performing a brand new unreleased song of Mercer’s. A songwriter himself, Brielle points out the importance for today’s songwriters to study Johnny Mercer’s Great American Songbook style of writing. “ It broadens songwriting vocabulary,” he says. “The broader your vocabulary, the more specific your choices become, which is essential to good songwriting.”
The Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program at the Frost School is designed to develop the creative skills of talented young artist/songwriters by immersing them in the diverse traditions that form the foundation of modern American songwriting.
“The music of Johnny Mercer always evolved with the times,” explains Professor Sanchez. “Our CAM songwriters will showcase their vision of Johnny’s music by imagining what he would sound like if he were still writing today. In that sense, it’s like Mercer is collaborating, once again, with young songwriters.”
About the Johnny Mercer Foundation
The mission of the Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) is to support the discipline of songwriting in the tradition of the Great American Songbook as exemplified by the life and work of the legendary Johnny Mercer: lyricist, composer, performer, collaborator and producer. The Foundation continues Johnny’s legacy by partnering with individuals and organizations dedicated to celebrating and nourishing the disciplines he mastered and the causes he and his wife Ginger Mercer championed.
JMF has created a number of dynamic creative joint ventures with several prestigious institutions to facilitate its goals including; the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, Accentuate The Positive Programs (New York-Kaufman Music Center, Los Angeles and Miami), The Musical Theater Program at NJPAC, Georgia State University Fellowship Program, University of Miami Frost School of Music, Florida International University Fellowship Program, the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project with Northwestern University and the Johnny Mercer Archives at Georgia State University, In addition, JMF also supports various charitable causes including UCLA’s Art of The Brain, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (Mark Taper and Johnny Mercer Artists Program), Braille Institute (Johnny Mercer Children and Adult Choirs) and KCET TVs Cinema Series. For more information please visit www.johnnymercer.org.