Today’s ‘Inside Story’ feature is composer-in-residence and debut PARMA artist Leonard Lehrman, composer, conductor, and educator. Enjoy!
Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?
Mary Martin (Peter Pan), Rex Harrison (Henry Higgins),
Jerry Orbach (The Fantasticks, The Cradle Will Rock),
Leonard Bernstein (just about everything), Feodor Chaliapin
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?
When I first wrote an opera, at age 8, but really when I started studying composition with Elie Siegmeister at age 11. Music I wrote when I was 12 for a show about atomic testing persuaded my social studies teacher to produce it, even when the school music teacher was afraid to touch it. That’s when I realized the power of music to get people to do things they ought to do, which they might not do otherwise. In Marc Blitzstein’s words, “You don’t just write a tune into an empty space.” There has to be a good reason to spend the time writing anything, and people need to know it.
I found my compositional voice in 1970, setting Karl Shapiro and Mayakovsky to music (the latter in Russian and in my English translation), and in completing works by Marc Blitzstein, with the blessings of his family, Elie Siegmeister, and Leonard Bernstein.
What was your most unusual performance or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
On Dec. 5, 1970, I performed the lead in and directed the Boston premiere of Marc Blitzstein’s I’VE GOT THE TUNE and heard Leonard Bernstein shout “Bravo!” as I marched off the stage at the end. I could not stop crying, for joy, for at least 10 minutes.
Two months later, when I was performing Bertolt Brecht in a readers’ theatre re-enactment of his HUAC testimony, I suddenly realized my script was missing a page, and had to ad lib, working up to a frenzy, prepared to snatch a copy of the page out of someone else’s script if necessary. Fortunately, it was not necessary; we got to the end of the page and I did have all the other pages in my script.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Naturism. I co-founded and direct The Opera/Musical Theatre Special Interest Group of The Naturist Society, wrote The International Naturist Anthem (which has been published and sung in English, French, and German), and staged a number of nude plays and ballets, including 3 on YouTube, which account for about 100,000 of the nearly 240,000 times our over 2500 videos there have been viewed.