As 2023 approaches, we look back at the artists we lost

As 2023 approaches, we look back at the artists we lost

As we arrive at the final Saturday column of this musical year, we give thanks for the many musicians and opportunities that we have had this year to share, perform and listen to the euterpic, terpsichoric and polyhymnic offerings of our muses. Pardon me as I remember back and look forward at a few notable people. 

Those of us who have gravitated to musical theatre remember two giants of the theater who have brought down their final curtain. Stephen Sondheim came to the fore over 65 years ago. His first show was in 1954 and his last premiere was in 2008. In between, he gave theatre aficionados hours of thrilling music and storytelling. Most of his catalog is revived and programmed year after year around the country. He is truly a giant in the industry.

In a career of nearly 80 years is Angela Lansbury, actress and chanteuse. She is well known across several generations from her days in “Gaslight” to her turn as Jessica Fletcher to Mrs. Lovett and Mrs. Potts. I first got to know her work in “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.” I remember her in Jerry Herman’s “Mrs. Santa Claus,” a made-for-TV musical movie. She brought Herman’s “Mame” to life on the stage 30 years earlier. My children know her from “Beauty and the Beast” as the charming singer of the Academy Award-winning title song. However you know her work, you saw a consummate professional. 

This was the year that Ned Rorem died. I know Ned Rorem as a composer of song cycles that many of us used in our voice lessons. But he composed symphonies and operas as well. His 20th-century outlook in music was tonal in nature and not given to some of the other classical compositional styles that have been popular in the recent past. He is perhaps best known for evoking the French impressionists in his compositional style. It is said he regarded all music as lyrical, even if no words were associated with it. 

Loretta Lynn and Meat Loaf sang in two very distinct genres, but each influenced new generations of musicians. Ms. Lynn showed us that, despite growing up in one of the poorest parts of this country, one can rise above circumstances and create careers of which to be proud. Meat Loaf showed it’s okay to have fun with your music; at least that’s what I take from his appearance in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” To that, I can relate. 

To look forward, we look no further than King Charles III. If past coronations are any indication, we can expect many newly commissioned compositions to celebrate this change of the reigning monarch. We will see several old favorites trotted out (Zadok the Priest), as well as new coronation music reflective of the British style of composition (consider that “Orb and Sceptre” was composed for his mother’s coronation and “Crown Imperial” for his grandfather’s). What British composer will step forward for this important musical event?

Farewell, 2022. Hello, 2023. Show me what you’ve got! 

Richard Tiegs is a local musician. His periodic contributions reflect his broad interests in music.