You’ll hear old tunes and learn new information.
Juneau Cabaret’s ongoing “Great American Songbook” Series focuses on learning through live performances of music by classic songwriters and typically includes excerpts from more than a dozen songs and biographical information about composers and lyricists.
“What I think is really handy is a little bit of context, understanding some of the stories, some of the motivations for the composer,” said Heather Mitchell, who will be narrating and performing during upcoming performances. “People really like to hear those stories.”
Mitchell said people also like to hear standards performed in the cabaret style, an intimate format that includes a singer with simple accompaniment.
“It’s not a big band,” Mitchell said. “It lets the performer have a conversation with the audience.”
Tom Locher, music director for Juneau Cabaret, provides backing on piano and Clay Good will sit behind the drums for the December shows. Experienced Juneau Cabaret performers Alyssa Fischer, Ericka Lee, Margeaux Ljungberg and Mitchell will be the vocalists.
Pulling music from “The Great American Songbook” means the shows have strong material with which to work.
“Every five years, you will find a major rock or pop singer who will put out a standards album,” Mitchell said. “They’re standards for a reason.”
She said the songs tend to be easy to mold and kind to singers, too.
Typically, shows last for about 75 minutes and include snippets of as many as 20 songs
Performances slated for 2 p.m. Saturday Dec. 1 at the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum, and 6 p.m, Sunday, Dec. 2, at the Mendenhall Valley Library, will specifically focus on the work of Harry Warren.
“People say they don’t know Harry Warren, and I say, ‘Yeah, you do. You just don’t know it,’” Mitchell said.
Warren wrote the music for “42nd Street,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “Jeepers Creepers,” and “The Gold Digger’s Song (We’re in the Money)” among hundreds of other songs. He also racked up three Academy Awards.
Mitchell said even in his day, Warren found success without ever being the most well-known songwriter. She described him as a consummate professional, who had one wife, two children and lived to be 87.
“There’s not a lot of scandal going on with Harry Warren,” Mitchell said.
January’s show will be centered on the music of Hoagy Carmichael, March will include a variety of lyricists and May’s season-capper will by all about Peggy Lee.
This is the “Great American Songbook” series’ third year, and new to this season is an expansion from a downtown-only series to a presence in the valley.
Saturday shows are at the state museum and Sunday shows are at the Mendnehall Valley Public Library..
“Both of those places are beautiful,” Mitchell said.
Also, it’s hoped the Sunday shows might help draw in some new interest in Juneau Cabaret and “Great American Songbook” songs.
“I really want to get more teens coming,” Mitchell said. “It really does play to all of our populations.”
Know & Go
What: Juneau Cabaret “Great American Songbook” Series Concerts
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 and 6 p.m. Sunday Dec. 2
Where: Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building, 395 Whittier St., and Mendenhall Valley Public Library, 3025 Dimond Park Loop.
Admission: Pay as you can
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.