FEBRUARY 8, 2018 – When people mention the “Great American Songbook,” many reminisce about legendary composers such as Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, and George and Ira Gershwin.
However, with 12 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award), membership in the Grammy Hall of Fame, inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall as both part of a duo with Art Garfunkel and as a solo artist, and 2006 recognition as one of Time Magazine’s 100 People Who Changed the World, singer/songwriter Paul Simon seems to be worthy of such lofty status.
So it stands to reason that one of America’s greatest music schools – the Berklee College of Music – would pay tribute to one of its best-known and most beloved honorary graduates as part of its popular “Great American Songbook” series.
On Sunday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m., Berklee faculty and students will come together on stage at the Berklee Performance Center to pay tribute to this international musical hero. The show, which is being produced by Rob Rose, will feature faculty members Melissa Ferrick, Nancy Marshall, and Donna McElroy, alongside student performers and special guests.
Sarah Vaughan, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, and like Simon & Garfunkel, another famous pair of Jewish musicians – the Gershwins – are other stars who have been featured in Berklee’s Songbook series.
“We try and bounce back and forth between the past and present, and the audience seems to enjoy the diversity of styles,” Rose said.
Speaking of diversity, since Simon has penned so many songs in so many styles – from the touching ballad “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to the African-inspired “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and the South American-spiced “Can’t Run But” – Rose admitted that choosing the repertoire for the concert was challenging but enjoyable.
“There is a group of faculty and a few administrators and myself that meet to choose the material for each show,” he said, noting that Simon is aware of the event and has been invited to participate, or at least to attend.
Even if “Rhymin’ Simon” does not make the gig, the Berklee faculty and students will offer plenty of talent and star power.
“The concert features students who come by recommendation from faculty, chairs, and deans,” Rose said. “It’s a great learning experience and provides an opportunity for students to perform music arranged and played by many of the college’s best student arrangers, musicians, and vocalists.”
In addition to giving the performers a chance to try new songs and new arrangements, Rose says the GAS series also offers audience members opportunities to dive deep into a given performer’s work and to revisit old favorites while discovering new ones as well.
“We hope the audience will understand the depth and breadth of Paul Simon’s music,” Rose says. “He is a true American musical icon whose music will impact future generations and continues to live in our hearts and minds.”
Admission is $8 to $12 in advance, $12 to $16 day of show at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass. Ave., Boston. For tickets, go to www.berklee.edu/BPC.