Friday, June 13, 2014

Stepping Back in Time for the Warm Embrace of Melinda DeRocker's 'I'll Be Seeing You'

Melinda DeRocker belts one out in the studio. Photo by Stefan Falke.

IT'S a romantic record that conjures up an image of soulmates snuggled near a crackling fire on a cold winter night.

How apt, considering that “I'll Be Seeing You” is a soundtrack of the union of two young people about to be separated by the call of World War II in the winter of 1944. It is also the debut album of veteran singer, musical director and actress Melinda DeRocker. The aforementioned couple is her parents.

“The songs on this album were the musical backdrop for their story along with countless others in that remarkable time in American History,” writes the Mississippi native in the liner notes.”

"I'll Be Seeing You" is a gift. Photo from Melinda DeRocker Facebook page.

MDeR's parents introduced her to this music, from Porter, the Gershwins, Carmichael and others. These ditties belong to that vast musical catalog lovingly and reverently known as the “Great American Songbook.”

Many are familiar because they are used to sell cars and laundry detergent. Occasionally, they show up on Broadway and are frequently mined on the regional theater circuit. Fans of old films will have familiarity with them, too.

For senior citizens in their 70s and up, though, these old chestnuts – classics – are the songs of their youth, just as a generation is coming up on BeyoncĂ© and Bieber. Just as a generation came of age on “The Beatles and the Motown Sound. “I'll Be Seeing You” will resonate with everybody, regardless of age; the sentiments they express know no era. These well-crafted songs will never go out of fashion.

How many times have songs like “Embraceable You” (Track 4) and “Love Is Here To Stay” (Track 10) been covered? Countless, of course. Yet MDeR, who grew up singing in the church and has European classical and musical theater training, makes them her own. In her hands and those of co-producer Paul Kim, they are delivered with freshness and a jauntiness. They are jazzy; they swing. They bring smiles and laughs.

No parental controls are necessary because "I'll Be Seeing You" is suitable listening for everyone, from cradle to rocker. Particularly engaging is “Day By Day” (Track 12). (Sample "I'll Be Seeing You" on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MelindaDeRockerMusic/app_470868196288052)

Melinda DeRocker and her band set feet to tapping at the Warner Library in Tarrytown, New York. Photos by Penni Urquhart.

Recently, MDeR, whose credits include a national touring production of "The King and I," performed tunes from “I''ll Be Seeing You” to a full house at the Warner Library in the Hudson River village of Tarrytown. She resides there with her public relations executive husband.

On Monday (16 June), this daughter of Hattiesburg will be on stage for a soldout concert during the city's FestivalSouth culture fair. Before MDeR set off for Dixie, she commented briefly on her record and going home again.

YOUR TRULY: You have been singing since you were knee high to a June bug. Why your very first album in 2013?
MELINDA DeROCKER:
I just didn't think of myself as a recording artist. I'd done musical theater and classical singing and been a choral director all these years. Recording wasn't on my radar until very recently.

YT: The Great American Songbook is a thick “tome,” chock full of beautiful songs. Explain briefly the song selection process. What are some classics that did not make the cut, that you really wanted to include but were not able to?
MDeR:
Yes, there are thousands to choose from. I chose my songs first of all based on the theme of the album, enduring love, a tribute to my parents' 68-year long marriage. That automatically eliminated a lot of songs. Then I chose for variety – uptempo, ballad, sassy, humor, etc. – to create an entertaining album to listen to. But probably the overall question I asked myself was, is this a song I LOVE to sing? If I don't love singing it, the listener is probably not going to love hearing me sing it.

YT: What inspired the title, “I'll Be Seeing You?”
MDeR:
Part of it was going down the list of song titles and saying to myself, does this one resonate? There were some obvious no's, like "Day By Day", which people might confuse with the song from "Godspell." But also, when I was rehearsing "I'll Be Seeing You" instead of singing it only as a slow, kind of melancholy ballad like it's usually done, I went into a gentle swing that reflected the kind of jaunty hope that the lyrics imply – "I'm going away for now, but I'll see you again." So there's love and hope in the title, two of my favorite words.

YT: Who are some of your all-time favorite singers and why? (At least two examples, please.)
MDeR:
Wow, there are so many. I grew up listening to Barbra Streisand, who did things vocally that were unique at the time. Many singers have tried to imitate her but not many successfully. In recent years I've loved seeing Barbara Cook in concert, who puts a song over so beautifully. She's in her 80s but can still sing in perfect pitch, with such a pure quality of tone and vulnerability in her voice brought about by life experience and impeccable musicianship. She's a real role model for me. And I love Peggy Lee anytime.


YT: Describe the audience for this record.
MDeR:
I hope it's a very diverse one. I'd like to think that these iconic songs can resonate with all ages, and I've had comments to that effect on my music page – old and young, in-between, and from rock music lovers, country music lovers, classical music lovers. I think when good music is done well, most people recognize it and appreciate it. (https://www.facebook.com/MelindaDeRockerMusic)

YT: What are some of the feelings/emotions you hope this record will stir in listeners?
MDeR:
I aimed to produce something beautiful to listen to, so first beauty. And then, joy, hope, warmth of love – just overall good feelings!

YT: How long were you in the studio recording?
MDeR:
We recorded in a small studio, so it was done in segments and layers. In the first session with piano, bass and drums, nine songs were laid down in four hours with scratch vocals. Then I came back in and recorded the real vocals in two sessions of about three hours each. We went from there, adding in the other songs and instruments. The entire time span was over a period of about six months.

YT: Growing up mainly listening to and enjoying the classical music (jazz, standards) of the United States, how was this proclivity received by your peers who were mainly grooving to the beat of pop and rock?
MDeR:
I don't remember experiencing any pushback from my peers. I just remember being in my own world musically, and happy in it.


YT: You are journeying HOME to Mississippi for a concert that will include songs from this record. How are you feeling?
MDeR:
Excited to see old friends and family, to get to share this music live with them. It's where I had my first experiences singing and I'm grateful for the opportunities that community gave me.

YT: Would you like to add anything?
MDeR:
The Psalms are full of the exhortation to "Sing!" I hope to be doing just that the rest of my days, if the good Lord allows it!

YT: Thank you.

Visit http://www.bit.ly/1oZJtqB to purchase “I''' Be Seeing You”; visit http://www.festivalsouth.org/events.html to learn more about Melinda DeRocker's concert and “FestivalSouth.”

1 comment :

  1. She has really attractive voice. I'm so relaxed while enjoying her songs.

    ReplyDelete

 
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