By Tulis McCall
PS In 2016, Betsyann Faiella interviewed Maye for the Clyde Fitch Report. Faiella asked what Maye would do if she won the $20,000,000 lottery. Maye said, “Oh, I’d hire the New York Pops, rent Carnegie Hall and do my symphony concert. I’d buy an apartment in New York City, and I’d have a party! I’m a party girl.”
Don’t we know it.
I cannot remember – was it 15 standing ovations for Marilyn Maye last Friday at Carnegie Hall or was it 16? I lost count. The only thing I can tell you is that I NEVER witnessed a show where it seemed that people spent more time standing and cheering than they did sitting. As a matter of fact the only people who were sitting for any period of time were the musician in the New York Pops and even they were cheering.
Anyway – in case you have been living under a rock for the past few years – here is the skinny on Marilyn Maye. She is from Kansas and has been singing since 1931 when she was three years old. That’s a lot of singing. She was just coming of age in the 1960’s when those damn Beatles showed up and she was more or less sidelined. Which only means she was not performing in New York. She was everywhere else, honing her craft and gifting her audiences.
In 2005 she was invited to perform at the New York Cabaret Convention. While she was an astonishing success she did not return again until 2006. This time Billy Stritch invited her to do a show at the newly opened Metropolitan Room downtown. Sur, why not? When she arrived at the venue there was a line of people waiting, and Maye wondered who else was performing.
No-body. And after that it was all hands on deck. May decided to invest in performing in New York. It took money, and time, and patience. She was 78 when she made this shift. Hello? This is inspiration speaking to you!
She planned her engagements carefully and returned two or three times a year. She taught master classes and took on private students, and when she is not performing she is out there supporting someone who is. She is and always has been a non-stop, full throttle artist.
And all of that paid off in spades on March 24th at Carnegie Hall. “This is the most extraordinary night. I guess I deserve to be here. I’ve practiced long enough.” Over 3,000 people were there to agree.
At 95, Maye is an explosion of joy tempered with a touch of sarcasm and voice that is like velvet and knows where to lead us. She is famous for her medleys and never refers to a song list. Cole Porter swung into Jerry Herman’s “It’s Today” from “Mame” followed by a Rainbow Medley featuring music by Yip Harburg, Burton Lane and Harold Arlen. Her version of “Over The Rainbow” makes the memory of Judy Garland fade gracefully. She sticks to musicals because that is where the stories are, and Maye telling a story is the real deal.
The second act took on a slightly more somber tone and featured her most requested song, “Guess Who I Saw Today” (“I don’t know why they keep on asking for it – they KNOW how it turns out!) coupled with a song from the Other Woman’s POV, “Fifty Percent.” So completely does Maye immerse herself into each song that it seems as though she is singing directly to you.
So when she closes the show (it took a few encores because no one wanted her to leave the stage) with Anthems to life – “Here’s To Life” (Butler and Molinary),”Secret O’ Life” (James Taylor, “It’s Today” (Jerry Herman) you feel as though she has grabbed you by shoulders and imbued with that elixir of gold that runs through her veins.
“You have a life! LIVE IT!” she says, “I am!”
This from a woman who was born when the Depression was on its way. Got sidelined mor than once. And kept on ticking. This is not Taylor Swift or Lizzo or Rihanna. They could learn a thing or two from this broad. This woman lived through more crap than most of us will ever see. Talk about opportunities for having the blues. And yet she chooses the crow’s nest as her permanent home.
Lucky lucky us. And one more thing – the New York Pops musicians were blown away as well. You could see it in their reactions and the very, very chatty way they left the stage. You don’t see that often.
Carnegie Hall Presents The New York Pops “The Marvelous Marilyn Maye” Steven Reineke, Music Director and Conductor, Marilyn Maye, Guest Artist