What other people have said about Phil Klein and his unique OurMusic
Week at Unitarian institute nourishes the
mind and spirit
The Chesapeake Clipper
I am just back from a week at SUUSI and it was good. No, I did not linger in
a Japanese restaurant eating raw fish. That's sushi. SUUSI stands for
Southeastern Unitarian-Universalist Summer Institute and I am a member of the
Unitarian-Universalist Church of Norfolk.
The institute, held on the semi-mountainous campus of Virginia Tech, is a
wonderful mix of nourishment for the mind and spirit. There are workshops on
dozens of different subjects. There are mini-sermons and concerts and a chance
to meet maybe 1,000 folks from all over the south-eastern United States of all
imaginable ages, shapes, sizes and colors.
One of the workshops I took was the most fun I have had since watching a guy
get stopped for reckless driving after he passed me on the right, cut me off and
hooted at me on a road to North Carolina. The workshop was called Our Music and
it was taught by a pistol of a pianist from Syracuse, N.Y., named Phil Klein.
"Our" meant people of an age to enjoy the popular music of the days when
there were melodies and harmonies and lyrics performed by singers who could sing
and musicians who didn't sound like clanging garbage can lids. Phil dwelt on a
list of oldies from the turn of the century to the end of the '50s. That's when
rock 'n roll became funeral music for the big bands and ballad singers.
Phil's class was hog heaven for folks in their music maturity. He played and
sang the oldies while we sang along. Sometimes he'd jump up and dance a bit
while his keyboard went on automatic pilot. He even ran off a version of "Stars
and Stripes Forever," enthusiastically playing air piccolo and air trombone.
While I was revisiting the old, I learned something new: there are lyrics to
"Stars and Stripes Forever." Phil's father taught them to him when he was a kid
and, at 74, he can still recite them. A sample: "Hurrah for the flag of the
free. May it wave as our standard forever. The gem of the land and the sea, the
banner of the Right.
He told stories to go along with the songs. One was about "Old Man River,"
music by Jerome Kern, words by Oscar Hammerstein. One day, Mrs. Kern and Mrs.
Hammerstein were together when Mrs. Kern told someone "My husband wrote 'Old Man
River.'" That's when Mrs. Hammerstein snapped "He did not. Your husband wrote 'dum
dum dum dum.' My husband wrote 'Old Man River.'"
But my favorite story involved the song "I Wanna Be Around To Pick Up the
Pieces When Somebody Breaks Your Heart." A lady in Ohio named Sadie Vimmerstedt
sent an angry letter to famous songwriter Johnny Mercer. She was mad at Frank
Sinatra for divorcing his first wife, Nancy, and wrote a note on lined calendar
paper asking Mercer to write a song which should be entitled: "I Wanna Be Around
to Pick Up the Pieces When Somebody Breaks Your Heart."
The rest is, of course, pop music history. Mercer wrote the song and put her
name on it along with his, Tony Bennett made it famous and Sadie got a $50,000
royalty check. Whether or not it bothered Sinatra, surely Sadie was smiling all
the way to the bank.
s, Phil invites audience participation: comments,
questions, requests and sing-alongs.
Phil Klein has chosen the "timeless melodies" of the great standards of
Broadway, the movies, and radio of the early decades of the 20th century and
claimed them for himself and for us: his happy, loyal audience.
For booking information, please
Click here to contact Phil Klein.