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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Exclusive Q&A with Musical Director Tracy Stark about her Tribute to Lesley Gore

With Tracy and Nick Lion
I had already approached Ms Stark about doing a Q&A with regards to her forthcoming Lesley Gore show at 54 Below. At the tme, the performers list had yet to come together, so we postponed it. Well. it developed into quite an interesting ensemble and I look forward to the show. Here, then, is our conversation. The shows are tonight at 7 and 9 pm. I met Ms Stark in person for the first time when she was musical director in April for Gretchen Reinhagen. Thank you so much, Tracy, and see you tonight.

Buddy Beaverhausen: Hello, Tracey, and thank you for doing this Q&A with me. You recently celebrated your birthday (another fellow Taurus; we're the best)! Did you do anything fun or exciting?
Tracy Stark: On my birthday, I did arrangements and band charts for this show!  So, basically I worked on my birthday. But, I took a birthday nap!

BB: It was so nice to meet you at Gretchen Reinhagen's show last month and hope to be at 54 Below Wednesday night for the Lesley Gore tribute. I recently saw the line-up. Wow! How did you get The Marvelettes and Sarah Dash on-board?
TS: I met, and played with Denise Spann-Morgan, (who is in the "Marvelous" Marvelettes) some years ago. And, I've recently been doing shows with Sarah Dash. Both of those women are so talented and generous, and they eagerly agreed to hop on board.

BB: Was the show your idea from its original inception?
TS:Not at all. 54 Below does a whole series of shows, honoring various artists and shows.   It's a wonderful series, and the shows are always extremely high quality.  I'm actually not sure who had the original idea to do this tribute. Scott Coulter was asked to direct it, and he called me, because he knew I had worked with Lesley in the past.  I said yes immediately, and I gathered some of the musicians I had worked with, when I worked with her.

BB: What was it about Ms Gore that attracted you to doing this show celebrating her music?
TS: I just really admired her as a strong, funny, down-to-earth human being.   As a musician, she was so versatile.  In her live shows, she'd do a lot of different styles of music - her hits, of course, but she'd also do rock, jazz, disco, etc. - and do them all extremely well.   And, she wrote such incredible songs. I've been re-immersing myself in her music for this show, and finding an entirely new level of respect.

BB: Her birthday was May 2nd (another Taurus). Was it your idea to plan the show close to that date?
TS:  I think it might have been a coincidence!   You can ask the producers this question.

BB: When I last talked to you, you were just starting to put together the singers/cast for 54 Celebrates Lesley Gore. How did you choose the performers who will be in the show?"
TS: Sarah Dash and Denise Spann-Morgan had both known Lesley. And, they are both incredible vocalists.   Lorraine Ferro had sung with Lesley for over 10 years.   (Lesley had referred to Lorraine as "the best rock vocalist around" and I might be inclined to agree.) Some of the other vocalists, are people whom I just love.  For example, I will take any opportunity to play music with Gabrielle Stravelli, and Molly Pope.   Both Scott Coulter and I know and love a lot of the same vocalists, so there was a lot of agreement in our choices.

BB: You were Lesleyy's musical director. What are your favorite or most outstanding memories of her?   
TS: My musical memories range from the sublime to the bizarre, mostly depending on whether we got to play with our own hand-picked musicians, or if we had to do 1-nighters with a local pick-up band, that was chosen for us, by the producers. Although, no matter what the quality (or lack thereof), the audience always had a great time. They were there to see Lesley, who was ALWAYS a superb performer.  

BB: Your hometown is Philadelphia. What was growing up in Philly like?
TS: My best memories of Philadelphia, were of high school. I went to the Philadelphia Creative and Performing Arts.   I was in the very 1st graduating class.   At that time, the school was so new, there was not even a building for us. We were using 3 floors in the College of Art building.  And, some of the classes took place in the hallway. So, you'd have people writing in 1 area, dancing in another, and you'd hear singing coming from the stairwell.   It was such a great place to be, as a budding musician.

BB: What's the best part, for you, about being self-employed as an artist?
TS: Other than a couple of months of survival jobs in my 20's, making my living as a musician, is all I've known.   The best part, is being able to be exactly who I am.   I feel like this is what I was born to do.  It is my own responsibility. Although, being self-employed absolutely has its difficulties.  Most of the difficulties come because there are so many great vocalists I love to play with, that I end up with too much on my plate.  That's when music meets stress.

BB  Besides Ms Gore, who were the voices that most inspired you throughout your life?
TS  Oh my god.  I'm not sure I can answer this question without listing a thousand names...So, I'll just list the first few who influenced me as a teenager. Janis Ian was the first musician whose songs I analyzed within an inch of their existence. I knew every note, orchestration, lyric, and phrase of her first 7 or 8 albums. Of course, Joni Mitchell has to be on this list.  Genius. Innovative. Poet. Inventor. Musician. Painter.  She was the first artist for me, who had albums that were completely different genres from each other.  Each song inspired me, and the fact that she could go from one genre to another, so effortlessly, was illuminating for me. Rickie Lee Jones inspired groove for me. Phoebe Snow has the most other-worldly voice, that I could not stop listening to.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful Interview with/about TWO truly talented talented Artists; Tracy Stark who thank God is still with us, and of course the late Leslie Gore. I was lucky enough to have seen Leslie perform in person back in 1964 at the old Palisades Amusement Park in NJ. I then got to see her one more time just a couple of years ago in a "Girl Power" Concert at Lincoln Center in NYC where, BTW, Tracy did an awesome job on the Keyboards backing Leslie. Those are two great memories that will live with me forever!