JOANNE MCGAHON In her own words QUESTIONS BY CHANTELLE CONSTABLE
How it All Began As a girl, I started singing in my school choir and we were lucky enough to sing on the BBC and at St. Albans Cathedral. I loved being in a choir during my school days and after leaving school I initially performed in musical theatre shows such as 'Guys and Dolls' and 'Oliver'. It was then that I started some vocal training and my singing teacher encouraged me to try opera which he assured me would help with all aspects and styles of singing. I began by learning some arias from Bizet's 'Carmen' and I immediately fell in love with the music. Within a year I had auditioned and successfully gained a place training with English National Opera, which resulted in performances of some modern operas - one in particular at the Hackney Empire. I was then fortunate to win 'The Voice of North London' and was asked to sing at Trent Park Open Air Prom. I sang ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ and all the Last Night of the Prom
favorites with full orchestra which was one of the most exciting nights of my life – all my family and friends were there, a very special moment! This ignited my passion further and I then performed a huge amount of oratorio with choirs and choral societies – the hardest being Bach's Mass in B Minor which was one of the most challenging but definitely very rewarding! I have been very fortunate to have been asked to sing at many events in Britain and abroad and some of these experiences have been the most fulfilling and happy times. It's exciting working with new people and sharing music with audiences. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunities that have come my way. I love the diversity of my work - Corporate and Sporting Events, Concerts and Oratorio, Opera roles, session recording and last year I sang live on Absolute Radio as well as joining the panel on BBC 3 Counties Radio. A highlight of my career was recently touring with 'All Souls Orchestra' in Vienna, they are an amazing group of musicians,
working together to perform moving programs which were truly uplifting.
New Album My first classical album ‘Laudate Dominum’ was recorded back in 2010 with piano, trumpet and violin and I thought it was time for a follow up album! I am so excited about my new recording with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the amazing conductor Paul Bateman. Travelling to Prague to sing live at Smecky Studios was a dream come true and I was well looked after by the Tadlow Music production team. I had to pinch myself when I was in the studio as it was such an amazing experience – of course, there was pressure singing live but it was worth it as the orchestra responded organically to my singing and we created some magic moments. The new album consists of popular operatic arias and classical favorites as well as some Gershwin and musical theatre pieces, hopefully, there is something for everyone. I can't wait to share the album and I hope to release the recording early 2018.
The Voice My voice type is a dramatic soprano – last year I made my debut in the title role of Tosca by Puccini. It was my dream role – I loved every minute of it and I hope to play the part again someday. I love Puccini's music, it's very emotional and it never fails
to move me. I will normally sing at least one Puccini aria at a solo concert as it has the ability to connect with the audience like nothing else. After my concerts, audience members regularly say they are inspired to go and watch a whole opera for the first time and I like to think I am a stepping stone to mainstream opera. When I put a program together I always try and chose songs that the audience will find familiar, the best bits from operas, shows, and musicals that will take them on a journey of emotions but I will always end with something joyful, preferably with a big ending! I admire the voice of Maria Callas, her early recordings in particular where her voice was at its best. I am also a massive fan of Julie Andrews, her voice is like a bell and her diction is so clear and endearing. Performing the role of Maria and singing Do Re Mi with children's choir at the Alban Arena a few years back was a moment I will always treasure!
Charity In my spare time, I work for a charity called Lost Chord providing therapeutic concerts for Alzheimer and Dementia patients. I perform lots of familiar songs and arias, often holding the patient's hands and using eye contact and musical expression to encourage participation. The concerts are very moving as the music reignites memories and brings so much happiness to patients, families, and careers. It's such a privilege to see the power of music and use my singing in this way.
Busking the nerves away
A few years ago, I began opera singing in the lower piazza in Covent Garden. Even though I was a seasoned performer, I was struggling with nerves at that time so I decided it would be good to have a regular showing platform to help normalize performance and take some of the pressure off that I would often pile on myself to be perfect! (of course, no one is perfect!) I had never done anything like busking before and it was quite daunting to start with as the audience is transient but I worked hard to connect with the crowds and the rewards were joyous! I now get so much lovely feedback when I sing there and lots of people buy my CD! The atmosphere is very exciting and although I still get nervous on occasion, singing there has really released me to perform freely and built my confidence as a performer.
I recently did a course at the National Opera Studio working with some amazing tutors and I still regularly meet with my original singing teacher (who sang at Covent Garden) for coaching and he is wonderfully encouraging and honest. Over the years I've learned to trust in my technique and for me, one of the most important things is to prepare and practice properly so that I'm completely ready and confident â€“ this particularly helps with nerves.
Keeping Active Being an active performer can be hard work, especially when juggling family life and managing gigs and bookings so I think it's important to try and keep fairly fit as a singer. You need stamina to get through some of the schedules and the rollercoaster of performing life. Running helps with breathing technique and aids sleeping which all combines to aid well-being. I have two Labradors (Bernard and Stanley) so I jog with them wherever possible. I have been known to run for charity but it's more of a jog!
Travel I have been very blessed to sing in some wonderful places: Turkey, New York, Italy, France, Scotland, Sweden, and Prague. A highlight for me was recently touring with 'All Souls Orchestra' in Vienna, an amazing group of musicians, working together to perform moving programs which were truly uplifting.
Most of my performances are in London where I live and recently I have been nicknamed 'The London Soprano' which I love as I'm proud to be associated with our capital city. My main ambition is to use my music to bring pleasure to audiences and I hope to get involved in more charity work in
the future using music to impact on people's lives. I'm looking forward to working on new projects and fingers crossed
collaborating with some exciting artists and composers. Please watch out for my new album and I hope you enjoy! God Bless, Joanne xxx
To learn more about Joanne visit her website: www.joannemcgahon.com you may also follow her at facebook.com/joanne.mcgahon
Nicknamed the â€˜Nightingale,â€™ Christina Johnson has been singing her whole life. From the age of nine on she began to take lessons. "I loved every minute of singing, it was my favorite part of the day and week at school apart from acting and painting." As she has matured Christina has gained a reputation for a sound that is crystal clear with an incredible upper range that has been carefully cultivated. "I think my high notes were always there but teachers never pushed my voice as not to damage it. I only realized how powerful my top range was when I was 21 during my training at the State Opera House in Prague." She encourages other singers to "try and find a really good teacher who can train you and show you the right technique in using your voice. However, I think singers have to be aware not to push the voice as it is a delicate muscle and you wouldn't want to overstrain the voice too early." She continued to study at Framlingham College with fellow alumna Laura Wright. This was an especially important step as Christina was unsure of her musical direction. "I always wanted to be a singer, but I didn't know which genre I wanted to go into as I loved musical theatre, classical and pop." The support of her teachers especially from the Head of Music, Rob Goodrich,
proved to be a turning point. "He encouraged me to enter BBC Choir Girl of the Year and he also gave me opportunities outside the school to perform solos to gain more experience and grow as an artist." Interestingly, although Suffolk was her home, Christina would make Prague her base. "Prague has been fantastic for me to begin my career there and gain valuable experience, wonderful teaching and showed me that classical music is still thriving. Czechs of all generations go to classical concerts often and there are concerts held almost daily around the country! I would love to bring that to the UK and show classical music is for everyone!" One of the highlights of Christina's career so far has been participating in the International Mozart competition. "My wonderful singing teacher in Prague entered me for the competition as he thought it would be very good for me and I was awarded 3rd place, which was wonderful. Through that, I was then heard by the director at the opera house and I got chosen to debut as Queen of the Night there. It was extremely exciting for me as I was only 22. From there I then sang in many more operas in Prague, Europe and across the world."
It is fitting then that her debut album was recorded in Prague and is entitled ‘Blessing.’ It marks a new phase in her career as she strives to fulfill lifelong dreams. "Since I was about 16 I have wanted to be a recording artist and tour the world with orchestras. I have always wanted to make an album with beautiful music and get to number 1 and touch people's hearts." "I was singing for the Film Music Festival in the famous Rudolfinum Hall in Prague 2 years ago (where I now am a regular soloist) and James Fitzpatrick (my wonderful producer) had his orchestra, The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra playing for the festival. After he heard me sing, we had a chat and he believed there was a gap in the market for me and my voice, as he had discovered Lesley Garrett in the past. This was the beginning of our album together!" Christina was especially excited about recording with a live orchestra. "There is such an electric feeling and atmosphere when singing alongside a live orchestra. I knew a lot of the orchestra members from the operas I had sung in and we all worked as a team to create something really beautiful. There was such a wonderful atmosphere in the studio during the
recording sessions, it was a lot of hard work but we also had a lot of fun!" The album was released September 22nd on Tadlow Classics and also marks the beginning of a homecoming tour entitled ‘The Miracle of the Voice.’ "I will be touring with my very talented Russian pianist, Inga Goldsmith. We will be performing a collection of beautiful songs from the album and also a few special pieces that I plan to feature on my next album. For this tour, I have chosen a lot of easy listening pieces for audiences who are new to classical music and also a couple of difficult pieces that will show off the agility of my voice and what I can do (the technical ability my voice has)." Christina will also be featured on the upcoming album ‘On Stage’ singing a duet of ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story with Paul Potts. In addition, she shares her knowledge with other young performers through masterclasses in schools. "I would love to help young singers find their passion for classical music and all genres of music. I would love to sing more old musical theatre for example: Bernstein, Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gershwin." Additionally, she hopes to do some songwriting as well. "I would say my ambitions are endless."
Follow Christina on facebook.com/TheChristinaJohnston/
The Up & Comer TAYLA ALEXANDER
You began singing at the tender age of 5. Do you think it's important for younger singers to be encouraged early on?
From a very early age, I've had an incredibly deep relationship with all music. From Maria Callas to The Beetles, country musicians, even Michael BublĂŠ!
I definitely feel that it's so important to allow young creatives to feel supported and inspired to create and do more of what they love, just as I was. So that you then have the confidence to make your own decisions.
How much do you practice daily and do you have any advice for other young musicians on how to stay disciplined?
Who were some of your earliest influences?
It's incredibly important to create a strong routine which allows you to practice every day. The most important thing that I would
encourage is to make sure that practice is quality-concentrated over quantity, focused productivity is the most important thing in order to create good habits for sure! Tell us a little bit about your first album "Songbird." Songbird is my first album that I created when I was 11, it's a classical crossover creation which says a huge amount about that stage in my life and really represented my passion for music. It's essentially a combination of songs which are internationally loved by not only me but people across the world. Although girl's voices do not change as dramatically as boys they certainly do change. Have you experienced any changes in your range or timbre? The voice definitely changes quite drastically over the years. My voice has been developing from a clear timbre to deeper and richer, strong sounds. These changes have had to be supported quite lovingly with the way I sing and how my vocal technique can carry a different voice. Not only do I sing higher the older I get but I also have a much lower range as well! You have been involved with Auckland Opera Studio and New Zealand Opera Idol. Tell us a little bit about what you learned through these experiences and if you wish to continue studying opera in the future? Over the past few years, as my voice has developed and grown my focus and love for opera has developed greatly. By being a part
of the Auckland Opera studio and Opera Idol, I've been able to understand that my passion for performing incorporates not only the singing but also the entire process, including acting. Opera allows me to express my creativity in the most incredible ways. You were voted the "Best Buskers Award." Please share a little bit about busking with our listeners. When I was younger and growing into my performance style, I used busking to allow me room to grow and experience. After the "best buskers" competition I was able to truly understand the importance of connecting with the audience and using an emotional connection to create beautiful music! You have collaborated with Victoria Tocca (Do you hear what I hear) and Gray Bartlett (Fields of Gold). What was it like working with them? Having the opportunity at such a young age to perform and collaborate with such talented and forward-thinking performers is such an honor for me. I still think about how lucky I truly am, both of these performers have one thing in common apart from their talent, and it's their ability to incorporate different genres that they love. Classical music especially is so flexible, it allows a huge amount of opportunity. You have lived in South Africa and New Zealand. Do you ever dream of living in another country?
Travel is a huge part of Opera specifically in Europe and America. My biggest dream is to study either at Julliard or the Royal Academy of Music, where I can continue to grow in my musical education! I have incredible dreams of living in Italy one day where I can perform and train. Outside of singing what is your favorite thing to do? Acting is one of my biggest passions alongside my personal passions such as cooking and love for animals. There's also secretly nothing I love more than to sit down
with a cup of tea and a journal, as creative writing and poetry are two of my most treasured pastimes. Your latest release was a cover of "Nella Fantasia." What does this song mean to you? This song really means so much to me, not only because of all the incredible opportunities it's allowed me, but also because it signifies a time of hope. "Nella Fantasia", is about imagining a future which is kind and peaceful, the kind of message which I believe needs to be universally spread.
Since our interview took place Tayla has released a cover of "A Time for Us" that is available to watch now visit: facebook.com/Taylasmusic/
FEATURED SONG Loveliest of Trees by George Butterworth â€œThis is a song about the beauty of life, the importance of time and the essence of living life to the very fullest. Something we all aspire to do, even though times can be difficult. It reflects the concept that we don't live forever, so we should live each day in beauty, harmony & peace.â€?
Available on the on "Classic Collection" from Victoria Paterson www.victoriasoprano.co.uk
In an age of electronic instruments composer Glen Austin is breathing new life into popular hits with his ensemble aptly named â€˜New Airs.â€™ From the beginning, Glen was raised in a home "where everyone listened to different types of music and I soaked it all
up." It developed a real eclectic taste in him that has continued to this day. "I grew up loving guitar music as a kid so I connected with groups like The Beatles and Thin Lizzy. When I started learning guitar Oasis was big at the time so I learned to
play a lot of their songs. I discovered Led Zeppelin in my teens so they took up quite a lot of my listening and practice time! All that music is still with me and I enjoy listening to it now. As I became more interested in music I wanted to understand it more and through my music studies that led me to classical and orchestral music."
arrangements were written as exercises for study but as he says, "It's all a process of learning. I consider my version of the traditional Irish air â€˜She Moved Through The Fairâ€™ for string quartet, as being the first arrangement I wrote that is true to my own personal style. I wrote this for The Mountain Ash in Connemara which was
Glen's interests quickly developed beyond solo playing to arranging. "Once I learned how to play guitar I was improvising with everything I learned so I was writing songs and little riffs and instrumental pieces from my early teenage years. As I got more interested in music as a career I studied composition and arrangement together." Some of Glen's first compositions and
collaboration with the Irish Poet Joan McBreen." Listeners can hear the arrangement on the first New Airs album, a collection of instrumental arrangements of Irish popular and folk songs played by the RTE Contempo String Quartet. "At the time I felt that Irish rock and pop music had not been shown reimagined in a classical chamber ensemble setting so that's
why I focused on Irish artists and groups for the first CD collection," Glen shares. "I also wanted to include a more contemporary element with the electronics and a traditional Irish element with the bodhran (a traditional Irish drum). So the idea of setting new and old Irish airs in a different way led to the name New Airs."
and consistency to record in a live recording setting. I also wanted the style to blur the lines between the classical and rock/pop genres further so I wanted a singer that could sing in a rock/folk style rather than the classical soprano type sound. Rachel is classically trained but she is also one of those rare singers that can sing in both styles exceptionally well so as an arranger
The idea was so intriguing that even after the album was completed, Glen looked for ways to continue the production experimenting with different instruments and a vocalist. He knew many of the instrumentalists already from other gigs and had met singer Rachel Voloczi in college. "Rachel Voloczi was the only choice as she is an incredible singer with the talent, skill,
and producer I am very happy to work with her." As the group emerged their repertoire expanded to include music written by international artists and helped him form new relationships. "One of the great joys of the production is working with such great musicians and getting to know new musicians also as the project grows." Thanks to suggestions from the other
musicians their list of suggested songs is "Quite long at this stage!" Glen's personal favorites are classic rock and pop from the 80's "These songs are top of my list." One of the unique qualities about New Airs is that each track is recorded live in a different venue. "The pop-up studio idea grew organically from the first New Airs album. I realized as I was editing it after the
recording sessions that a lot of the sessions had their own magic and individual quality about them and choosing one take for each song was difficult. I had the idea about capturing the studio live experience outside of the room but with all the equipment. I wanted to turn the recording process on its head; take the equipment out of the studio, set up in a beautiful venue, get the musicians together and capture what they can do anywhere anytime."
"One of the things I feel that is lost today with a lot of the new performers is the ability to play to a high standard in a live setting; to just do it and go with it. Classical musicians are trained to a very high level, with live performance being the ultimate showcase. Their performances are always very consistent and a lot of times the spark can be lost with the recording session. I find
that sometimes more takes and rehearsals lose the character of the music, even in a show. I felt that one of the elements that is unique to classically trained musicians is the standard of performance; the difference between a live concert and studio recording can be minimal so I wanted to showcase this." Of course, preparing for one of these pop-up sessions takes time and commitment.
"Firstly, there is the musical element; the arrangement itself is the most important thing. I like to spend a lot of time with the music and focus on the melody and setting for a long time. In addition to this, there is the scheduling with the musicians, logistical element and communication with the venue, it's a pretty big task!" When working on an arrangement, Glen tries to "reimagine the song and focus on what the melody is communicating both musically and lyrically" so that it's more than just playing a popular piece with stringed instruments. "I like to completely change or include extra elements within the music. I approach it as a composition, where the melody is completed and now you have to turn it into a dialogue or develop it within the group." Glen is often also hired to create arrangements for other projects. "If I'm
being hired I first ask what they are looking for from the arrangement and what it will be for, just so I have a context and idea what the music is for. After this, the arrangement process begins with simply listening to the song a lot and holding back on getting into the process of analyzing the melody, harmony etc. I think to arrange or produce a song properly you have to connect with it and get it on an emotional level and understand what is being communicated. After the listening process, I then choose instrumentation if that is not already decided upon by the group." As far as new music Glen teases us that there are "exciting collaborations on the way" but remains tight-lipped saying "I generally don't like talking about things until they are done but what I can say is that we are very excited about the new recordings so watch this space!"
Subscribe for the latest videos from New Airs: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGnxcLjOGd9Va9-4jR360QA Official website newairsmusic.com
atalie Orlie is an experimental classical crossover singer from the Ukraine. She is currently
at work on an album entitled ‘Song of Wind.’ The project will see Natalie writing new lyrics and arrangements to popular arias and will also feature her compositions. Her ability to change from a more trained classical sound to a breathy, sensual pop sound is thanks to a "very rich creative musical life" which included singing in a rock band before receiving further training at the music academy. "The music that is closest to my heart is Classical Crossover." Her album inspiration came first from the music, and after feeling that personal connection Natalie says she "Immediately wrote the text." Her goal is to make her music accessible around the world so the lyrics on the album will be in English, Czech, Italian, French, Russian and Ukrainian. "In the future, I want to write songs in more complex languages such as Chinese and Japanese." ‘Songs of the Wind’ is produced by Roman Nepomnyaschiy whom Natalie has known for almost 10 years. "He is a very gifted sound producer. He works in many musical directions and creates a quality product." They have worked together previously but she says their creative energies "moved to a higher level" with this crossover album. She is hopeful that the "combination of hard work and creative compatibility" will result in a product that resonates with the crossover audience.
This album does not signal Natalie's departure from classical music however she assures us that, "I will continue to develop as a classical and opera singer. I am learning new operatic roles as well as concerts and performances, where I sing classical arias and romances." Natalie hopes her music will provide entertainment and joy to her listeners. "Music is a very powerfulâ€Ś It affects our moods, our thoughts, and our souls. I would very much like my music to touch the sad and disillusioned people and fill them with warmth and spiritual joy and make the world a little happier." Although Natalie tells us, "My parents are not musicians," she is grateful that "They always supported me in everything." She describes herself in the following words: sincere, purposeful, goodwill, stubborn, and willful.
Keep up to date with the â€˜Song of the Wind' album at www.natalieorliemusic.com
Music Changed Me Completely By Jennie Watters
Howard stared at his father writhing around in pain on the floor. His parents had been arguing when Homer Keel, a forty-fiveyear-old alcoholic, shouted, "I'm going to kill myself" and downed a bottle of carbolic acid front of his family. Coal-miner by trade, Homer may have acquired it through his work since the chemical (also known as Phenol) is extracted through coal-tar. As the agonizing seconds dragged by, Howard Keel, only eleven years old, started to run for help. On the way to his uncle's house, he remembered that he had left his dog, Wiggles, behind. Afraid that his father might kill the little dog, he turned around and dashed back to his house. Scooping up Wiggles, he could hear cries and moans coming from the bedroom. Those were the last sounds he would ever hear his father make as by the time help came later, Homer Keel was dead. "The father I needed, but never knew, was gone. It was June 26, 1930. I was beyond consolation, young, and lost. I crawled inside my anger, and locked the whole world out. I cried for days...it wasn't until years
later that I sat down and tried to figure out what had caused my father to do what he did." Even as an adult, the exact reason why his father committed suicide remained a mystery. So was the man himself. Howard Keel didn't see him much, and was fearful when he was around. So why did his strong religious mother marry this distant and abusive alcoholic? It appeared to have been a shotgun wedding (Howard's older brother was born eight months later.) The two of them were as different as could be. Mrs. Keel was part of the temperance movement and was even against allowing root beer in the house. Meanwhile, her husband squandered his money on booze and cigarettes. Needless to say, Howard Keel (born Herold Clifton Keel) did not have the sort of childhood one would imagine for the man who would grow up to play the leading man in many of MGM's technicolor musicals. After his father's death, he fell into a depression, became an apathetic student and started smoking and drinking at a very young age. When he was fifteen, he was
Howard Keel in ‘Kiss me Kate’ with frequent co-star Kathryn Grayson
cutting through a neighbor's yard on his way to school when their teenage son befriended him. As they walked together, Chuck asked him, "What's wrong with your teeth?" Confused, Keel asked what he meant. "Your teeth are green! Don't you ever wash your teeth? You'll never get a girl with teeth like that!" For the next year, Chuck became a mentor to the lonely youth, teaching him good grooming habits, encouraging him to stop slacking when it came to schoolwork and including him in his social circle. Howard's life changed again when his mother sold their four-room house, furnishings included, for $400 and decided to make the trip from Illinois to California. Driving through the Midwest during the dust bowl was a hellish experience, especially once they reached New Mexico. Chugging along at 20 miles of hour through the heat, wind and billowing dirt, Keel marveled that their poor old Ford didn't fall apart. Once they reached their destination, his mother managed to buy a new house, found a job working as a cook and sent Howard to Fallbrook High School. Now sixteen, he was tall, skinny and awkward but at least now he knew to keep his teeth clean! Howard made a few friends in his new school but he had a bitter streak like his father and sometimes made the mistake of taking his pain out on others. "I was mean and rebellious and had a terrible temper...I would have stayed in that narrow kind of life if I hadn't discovered art. Music changed me completely," he later said. One day after graduating High School, Keel was hanging out with a couple buddies, having some drinks and listening to the
football game. Their landlady sat down at the piano and one of the fellows asked him to sing. Because he had some liquid courage in him, he wasn't bashful about belting out â€˜In the Still of the Nightâ€™ to the landlady's accompaniment. When the song came to a close she complimented him on his fine voice. "You should study," she said, "Where would I do that?" he wanted to know. Mom Ryder, as the boys called her, suggested a place for him to go, and he took his first lesson for 25 cents. Not long after, he landed
"You can take the pitchers and this job and you know where you can put them!" Just like that he quit and never even went back for his last paycheck. After that Howard became an airplane mechanic. When World War II started, he was unable to enlist, even though he wanted to. He felt that at least he was doing something useful working for the Douglas Aircraft Company. Keel continued his music lessons and used his operatic pipes to woo a certain young lady, a showgirl named
Seven Wives for Seven Brothers with Jane Powell
a job as a singing busboy. He liked the job but not the head busboy who would boss him around. One day his temper g ot the best of him. When the head busboy told him to "get the lead out," he threw two pitchers of water against the wall and said,
Rosemary Randall. It must have worked because she fell madly in love with him. Soon after they started dating, his company offered him a better paying position if he would agree to move to Detroit. When he told her he was leaving in a few days, she
started crying. "I just found you and now you're leaving me?" she sobbed. He impulsively proposed marriage. The young couple had to move a few different times that year, but they enjoyed attending shows together in their spare time. While he didn't quit his day job quite yet, Howard had begun to perform and was quickly receiving recognition for his powerful voice. Once he signed with N.C.A.C., an opera concert management group, he was asked to audition for the great Oscar Hammerstein!
Showboat with co-star Ava Gardner
It must have been an impressive audition, because after that Keel became the understudy for John Raitt in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical ‘Carousel.’ Immediately he felt a sort of kinship with the troubled character of Billy Bigelow, and was thrilled when he got to perform when the lead actor was out on vacation. "I walked on air for three of the most exciting weeks of my life," he said. After ‘Carousel,’ he went on to play the part of ‘Curly’ in another great Rogers and Hammerstein musical, ‘Oklahoma.’ When the cast was traveling to London, he decided to go too. His career took off but his marriage suffered. In his autobiography, ‘Only Make Believe: My Life in Show Business,’ Howard Keel admits that the failure of his first marriage was due to his distance and unfaithfulness. Strangely, although he confessed his guilt, he also seemed to recount his many affairs and flirtations with nostalgia. His first love was always his love for music though, and when MGM offered him the opportunity to become a musical star, he didn't hesitate! His first starring role was in the musical, ‘Annie Get Your Gun,’ which was originally supposed to be a vehicle for Judy Garland. Howard described Judy as "cute as a button and awesome to work with" but
also incredibly anxious. After singing ‘Falling in Love is Wonderful’ for studio head Louis B. Mayer, Howard noticed Judy trembling and put his arm around her for support. He later acknowledged the irony of HIM reassuring someone as experienced and talented as Garland, but he also realized she was insecure and overworked. Judy's workload increased when during filming a horse fell on Keel's leg and they had to shoot around his scenes while he recovered. Judy could not keep up the energy level needed for the physically demanding part of Annie Oakley. It seemed unfair to Howard when the studio replaced her with another actress, a boisterous spitfire named Betty Hutton. In all his years at MGM, Keel had the opportunity to co-star with many incredible women, including Esther Williams, Jane Powell, Ava Gardner, Ann Blyth, Doris Day and Kathryn Grayson. In fact, starting with the musical ‘Showboat,’ Kathryn Grayson was one of his most frequent co-stars. Her trembling, bird-like soprano perfectly complimented his masculine baritone. Their onscreen chemistry reflected a real-life affection that the two of them deeply felt, but could rarely express since by this time Keel had already married a second time, and even had children. Although there was a sadness that they could not be together, they still had a lot of fun on-set, and Keel would treasure many wonderful memories. In their third movie, ‘Kiss Me, Kate,’ there was a scene where Kathryn was supposed to slap him, but he could tell that she kept holding back. Keel urged her to let loose, even when she warned him, "Howard, I can hit pretty hard. I had two big brothers, and they didn't
tangle with me." When he reassured her that it would be all right, she slapped him across the face with so much force that "I saw stars! From then on, I ducked. God, she could hit - all five feet of her!" The two of them remained lifelong friends. His next success was ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,’ which was a surprise hit. "Jane Powell, as Milly, was perfect," Keel later reminisced, "and I loved working with her. She was cute and persnickety and a multi-talented pro." This soundtrack is fabulous and includes many upbeat songs sung with great gusto by Keel. It's a movie full of pure joy. One year later, 1955, he was eager to get started filming ‘Kismet,’ a comedy set in old Bagdad that featured some of the most exciting music of his career. But the atmosphere on set was stressful. Director Vincent Minelli was in a foul mood, he had lost two of the actors he wanted for the film and stopped caring about the finished product. Ever the professional, Keel fumed "I hate performers who quit performing, and directors who stop doing their job. The Play is the thing." It upset him to see a project with so much potential go to waste. In my opinion, the film is still definitely worth seeing for Keel's hilarious performance as the clever but destitute poet for hire and the stunning musical score. Just as in real life, although the music was his first love, Keel's career had a side-chick too: straight acting. He appeared in Westerns and even a Biblical epic called ‘The Big Fisherman.’ At first, the producer thought he would be too sophisticated for the role of apostle Peter, but through his audition, Keel captured their attention with
his compelling acting and got the role. Although currently out of print, at the time the film was nominated for three Oscars: for cinematography, art direction, and costume design. They lost to a similarly religious film that also came out in 1959, ‘Ben Hur,’ and ‘The Big Fisherman’ faded into obscurity. In the years that followed, it became more and more difficult to find good movie roles. Like so many other unemployed former movie musical stars, Howard Keel returned to the stage. Audiences got to see him in plays like ‘Camelot’ and ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown,’ and over the years he also reprised roles from some of his best films. Two things happened to change Howard's life again. After over twenty years of staying in a marriage that he was never fully committed to, Keel left his wife and got married for a third and final time to Judy Magamoll. He became a father again when his fourth child, Leslie, was born. Then in 1981, he got an unexpected call asking him to meet with Leonard Katzman, the writerproducer-director of the hottest soap opera on television at the time: ‘Dallas.’ He had
thought that his years of fame were over, but in his 60s, Howard Keel was once again a household name! Although surrounded by beautiful women, he finally gave up his womanizing ways and stayed true to his wife. He even began a recording career as a solo artist for the first time! He released records and gave concert tours. He also became involved in charity, raising money for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. When Howard died of colon cancer in 2004, his wife, Judy, wrote this touching tribute: "Although there was a twenty-fiveyear age difference between us, I was the one who struggled to keep up with his energy and the fight he gave to everything he faced in life...he cared for his voice his entire life and that in itself was a tremendous burden to carry on one's shoulder. As a perfectionist, he tried to never disappoint an audience. 'Give 'em everything you've got,' he'd say, and he meant it. I know how much his fans loved him, and he loved them just as much. I met a wonderful man who loved me so much more the day he died than on that first blind date almost thirty-six years ago. And I was given the gift to love and care for him in the brilliant winter of his life."
As heartwarming as Judy's thoughts on her husband's life were, I believe Howard said it best at the conclusion of his autobiography: "If you're ever in the market for a trombone player, a pool shooter, dancing fool, a fighter, skin fitter, a mechanic, horseback rider, gun-handler, fast-draw artist, bullwhipper, airline or boat pilot, motorcyclist, actor or singer, call me. I'm available. The timing of my life has had some wild ups and downs, but the timing of my meeting Judy has been one of the constant joy and love. She is the love and joy of my life! What's the best part of me? My singing. I can still peel the paint off the walls."
Featuring Christina Johnston, Howard Keel, Joanne McGahon, Tayla Alexander, New Airs (Glen Austin), Natalie Orlie
Published on Oct 17, 2017
Featuring Christina Johnston, Howard Keel, Joanne McGahon, Tayla Alexander, New Airs (Glen Austin), Natalie Orlie