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Dawn Upshaw and Tommy Krasker Discuss Broadway Music.

A Fresh Air favorite, opera soprano Dawn Upshaw. She has a new CD, "Dawn Upshaw sings Vernon Duke" (Nonesuch). It features Fred Hersch on piano and John Pizzarelli on guitar. We'll also hear from the producer of her new CD, Tommy Krasker. Upshaw has more than two dozen albums to her credit and has become widely known for her ability to perform both in the opera as well as sing Broadway tunes. Upshaw joined the Metropolitan Opera in 1984 and has performed at the Met. Many of the world's leading conductors have invited Upshaw to appear with some of the finest orchestras, including The Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic.


Other segments from the episode on February 11, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, February 11, 1999: Interview with Dawn Upshaw and Tommy Krakser; Review of Janet Malcolm's book "The Crime of Sheila McGough."


Date: FEBRUARY 11, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 021101np.217
Head: Dawn Upshaw and Tommy Krasker
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

After establishing herself as an opera star and great performer of art song, Dawn Upshaw started performing American popular song. She's recorded an album of theater songs by Bernstein, Blitzstein and Weill. And an album of songs by Rodgers and Hart.

Now she has a new CD of songs by composer Vernon Duke, who's best known for "April in Paris," "Autumn in New York," "I Can't Get Started," and "Taking a Chance on Love." She does a couple of his well known songs and several of his lesser known ones. My guests are Dawn Upshaw and her producer Tommy Krasker, an expert on music theater who has also produced several Broadway cast recordings and recordings of music theater restorations.

Vernon Duke worked with such lyricists as Yip Harburg, Ira Gershwin, and Howard Dietz. But Duke wrote the words and music for his song "Autumn in New York." Here's Dawn Upshaw's recording.


It's time to end my lonely holiday
And bid the country a hasty farewell
So on this gray and melancholy day
I'll move to a Manhattan hotel

I'll dispose of my rose colored chattels
And prepare for my share of adventures
And battles
Here on the 27th floor

Looking down on the city
I (unintelligible) and adore
Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so inviting

Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill of (unintelligible)
Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
And canyons of steel

They're making me feel (unintelligible)
It's autumn in New York
That brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York

Is often mingled with pain
Dreamers with empty hands
(Unintelligible) for exotic lands
It's autumn in New York

It's good to live it again

GROSS: Dawn Upshaw, Tommy Krasker, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Dawn Upshaw, your previous songbook record chose songs by one of the best known songwriting teams, Rodgers and Hart. Why did you choose a lesser known composer, Vernon Duke, for the new CD?

DAWN UPSHAW, OPERA SOPRANO: I actually didn't know anything about Vernon Duke. And it was Tommy Krasker who called one day and said, "I think I've got an idea for our next project together. How about Vernon Duke?" And I said, "who?"


And he said, "well, actually he's the guy who wrote the song `April in Paris' and `Autumn in New York.'" And I said, "Oh, sure I know those songs." And it turns out that I knew quite a few of them. But there were many more that I didn't know.

GROSS: Now, you passed on doing two of his best known songs, "I Can't Get Started" and "Taking a Chance on Love." Why did you decide to leave those out?

UPSHAW: Want me to take that one?


UPSHAW: Well, it was a song -- "I Can't Get Started" is a song that perhaps was done enough and heard enough by the public that they had particular preferences even, as to how they wanted to hear it done. And so we stayed away from that because I personally felt like maybe I couldn't bring it off.

You know, I went through all these songs and I look for songs that I have a connection to, and songs that I think I can bring something to, personally. And that one, maybe even because of my own memories of hearing it sung by so many different singers in the past, just -- I didn't think that I could maybe pull it off.

So we stayed away from that one. And "Taking a Chance on Love," we actually recorded and we may get back to it some day and find another place for the song. It just didn't work the way that we wanted to in this particular project.

KRASKER: Yeah, I mean with a lot of these songs the question we ask ourselves is, can we find a way in? And I'll tell you a little secret, "Autumn in New York" was on the fence for a while and it was actually the great orchestrator Jonathan Tunick (ph), who came aboard to orchestrate a couple of numbers on this recording, who suggested doing it.

And, you know, we had heard so many recordings of that, and it was so etched in our minds as having a bit of a cabaret feel to it. We didn't know how to get back to the song itself. And we went over to Jonathan Tunick's apartment and he suggested what I think was a very elegant, legitimate approach to it.

And suddenly, we found we were game back to the core of the song, to the lyric, to the essence of it. And suddenly, it was like discovering it anew. And we thought, wow, how could we have been on the fence about that? It just seemed so obvious what a great song it is for Dawn. So sometimes we really need to find our way back to the core of these well-known songs before we want to try them.

GROSS: That's a beautiful version of it, so I'm glad you did it. Vernon Duke thought of himself as having two separate musical personalities. He wrote classical music for orchestras and ballets under his birth name, Vladimir Dukelsky. And he wrote songs for Broadway and Hollywood under the name Vernon Duke.

And in his autobiography he says, "there isn't a note of jazz in my serious music. And there are no symphonic overtones to my musical comedy output. I don't think that's anything to be proud of. And the wide gulf between the two styles has proven entirely too wide for most people's comfort. Particularly the critics and fellow composer's."

Dawn Upshaw, I was wondering if you identify with his feeling, because you have two separate identities too in a way. You use the same name, but you, you know, you're working in the opera world and the world of art song. And you're also working, now, in the world of songs from movies and musical theater.

Do you identify with the sense of having two different identities and some people being uncomfortable with that?

UPSHAW: I've certainly hoped that there is a big difference in my approach in performance style between the more classical music and the Broadway music that I've been singing. At the same time, though, I've really learned a lot by getting back to the more popular music about simplicity and straightforwardness, and kind of no baloney.

And I've realized that maybe even in my training in classical music there's been this approach that it's, you know, such high art that it's unattainable and that it's anything but down to earth. And so I've been trying to bring that of my work back into the real world. So in that way I'm trying to bring them together, in fact.

GROSS: That makes -- that makes a lot of sense. Vernon Duke, in his autobiography, pointed out that, you know, there were other composers who wrote both symphonic and pop music, you know, Gershwin and Bernstein and Kurt Weill. But Duke thought that whether they were writing the symphonic or the pop music you still recognize them as themselves, or as he felt that Dukelsky was in no way resembling Duke.

I wonder if you agree with that, that Dukelsky -- the name he used to write his classical works, was really different from the Vernon Duke pop music. Because it seems to me that there is a strain of art song in the pop music too.

KRASKER: Yeah, I certainly think -- I don't know a lot of the Dukelsky music, although we did include, of course, one art song. One song from a song cycle on this recording. And I think it blends beautifully into the more popular songs.

I certainly do know the Broadway songs, and they are incredibly complex. They are certainly much more complex, melodically daring, harmonically challenging and chromatic than the typical song of the day. So even if you felt, I guess, that those worlds were very dissimilar he was certainly writing a much more serious strain of pop song than most of his fellow composers of that day.

GROSS: Well, I want to play one of the pop songs that Vernon Duke wrote that sounds almost like an art song to. And it's not officially an art song. It's a song called "Water Under the Bridge." And it has a lyric by Yip Harburg, who also wrote lyric for one of Vernon Duke's most famous songs, "April in Paris."

And Vernon Duke described this song, "Water Under the Bridge," as a "weird mood song." He says, "Yip Harburg and I wrote for Everett Marshall to sing and Patricia Bowman to dance. This was probably the first of the out of this world songs that I wrote. Not heavenly, just plain uncommercial."

And Vernon Duke's publisher apparently refused to publish this song saying, "if you can't sing it -- and Vernon Duke said he couldn't sing it -- then how do you expect to sell copies of this?" Dawn Upshaw, is this a hard song to sing?

UPSHAW: I don't find it vocally demanding. I think for it's time, harmonically, it was way out there. And I don't think -- you know, when they say "if you can't sing it how are we supposed to sell it?" They're talking about a general public that wanted to sit down at their pianos at home and play along while they sang a simple melody.

And it was a bit too difficult and complicated to do that. So I think for the general public that's what he's talking about, that it won't sell.

KRASKER: I think the song is in some way extremely complex for 1932. When you recognize what publishers were looking for of course, were, you know, jingly songs that would create instant sheet music sales. I think that's also one reason now music has become more complex.

We're used to the complexities of the song which is why I think that Vernon Duke is certainly due for a rediscovery now. Is what once seemed unfamiliar or scary to a publisher in 1932, certainly doesn't seem that way to a vocalist today.

GROSS: Good points. Well, let's hear "Water Under the Bridge." Music by Vernon Duke, a lyric by Yip Harburg. And the singer is my guest, Dawn Upshaw.


Where are you today
Don't tell me you've drifted away
Like water under the bridge
Dreams seem glamorous dreams

Don't tell me you're caught in the stream
Of water under the bridge
Please (unintelligible)
Like ships that have sailed into the silence of night

Leave shadows of light
(Unintelligible) that glittered and burned
(Unintelligible) that faded and turned
To water under the bridge

GROSS: That's Dawn Upshaw from her new CD of Vernon Duke songs. My guests are Dawn Upshaw and Tommy Krasker, who has produced all of Dawn Upshaw's Broadway music CDs.

That's really a beautiful song. Tommy Krasker, did you find that song?

KRASKER: Yeah, actually it was Vernon Duke's autobiography, "Passport to Paris," that led me to that song. We had -- Dawn and I put together a list of songs that interested us. And as we were in the final stages of putting together the recording I decided that I would take one more look at Duke's autobiography to see if he led me toward certain material.

And of course, he talked about that number and how daring it was for the time, and how his publishers wouldn't publish it. And I thought I'd love to get my hands on that. Of course it was hard. It wasn't published. The Yip Harburg Foundation actually had a very sketchy lead sheet of it, which I was able to get a copy of.

And I could see from that that it was a song that interested me and might interest Dawn. I was very fortunate, however, because Duke had recorded it. And I was able to locate an old 78 of his arrangement of him playing the piano with a clarinetist and a vocalist from, I guess, 1934.

And we heard it. We liked it. We knew we couldn't actually do better than that, and so we lifted that arrangement. So, what you're actually hearing, which is rather unique I think, is Vernon Duke's own arrangement of his song that he did in 1934 re-interpreted by Dawn Upshaw and Eric Stern, our pianist and conductor.

GROSS: My guests are singer Dawn Upshaw and the producer of her music theater CDs, Tommy Krasker. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guests are singer Dawn Upshaw and her producer Tommy Krasker. Their new CD features Upshaw performing songs by Vernon Duke.

Vernon Duke wrote classical music when he lived in Russia. And he lived there until he was in his late teens. He came to America in 1921 and didn't start writing pop songs for musicals until several years after that. And I believed he was encouraged by George Gershwin.

Tommy Krasker, do you know how he met Gershwin and what Gershwin did to help Vernon Duke?

KRASKER: Well, I -- as I understand the story, he was in -- he was in the United States basically earning a living anyway he could as a pianist. I think he was playing for magic acts and things. And George Gershwin heard him and he befriended him.

Duke, whose name was Vladimir Dukelsky, played him some things that he had written. And George Gershwin basically said, "look, you have a great talent, but to be quite honest with you I have discovered that there is no money in that particular field. If you want to earn a living you need to start writing popular tunes."

He gave him the name, actually, Vernon Duke at that point and said, "when you get around to writing popular things that's the name you should use." Dukelsky then went back to Europe, wrote some ballets, wrote some symphonies, but I think eventually decided George Gershwin was right.

He moved back to America, I think, around 1929. George set him up with a budding lyricist friend of his brother Ira's named Yip Harburg. And they became a songwriting team. And suddenly there was a new Broadway composer named Vernon Duke writing a series of revues for Broadway.

GROSS: How well did he fit in on Broadway and in Hollywood?

KRASKER: I think it took a while certainly for the critics to adjust him. He was certifying writing a much more complex kind of art song than they were used to. And I think it's rather telling, actually, that his first song hit was "April in Pairs," just a couple of years after he arrived in the States.

And the song itself, of course, is a major achievement and everybody knows it now, but I think we've sort of forgotten what an unusual song it is. Very chromatic melodically with some soaring skips in the melody that make it rather challenging, I think, and difficult to sing.

The critics pretty much didn't notice that song when it premiered in, I think, 1932. They simply didn't know what to make of it. And I would say it wasn't really until the mid-'30s that the critics understood that, yes, he was complex. That he was also brilliant.

GROSS: I'm glad you mentioned "April in Paris," it's one of Vernon Duke's best known songs. And I think his first pop music success. Dawn Upshaw, do you think of it as a challenging song?

UPSHAW: No. Not really. I think, as Tommy said, in peoples ears and the musical language changes over the years, and we become much more accustomed to hearing certain kinds of surprises and harmonically or leaps that were not so common at one time -- become more understandable or we were conditioned to hearing them and understanding them after years.

I think that there actually were a couple of moments in some other songs that I didn't know as well. Of course, I've grown up hearing "April in Paris." But there were some other places in other songs that I did have to get down at the piano and make sure I was singing the right notes and play along with myself. So it did happen occasionally, and then I would get did into my ear.

GROSS: You've said that you didn't include the song "I Can't Get Started" because so many people had done it before and you didn't know what new you could bring to it. Now, "April in Paris" has been a jazz standard for years, and so many people have recorded it. Tell me what you wanted to bring to your version of "April in Paris."

UPSHAW: I really enjoyed singing it, first of all. I find it gratifying to sing. In terms of the message, I thought, well, if I really get down to exactly what this is about, this sort of feeling a description of what's going on is something that I have felt before.

And I think that I, for whatever reasons, related better to it this time in my life than I did "I Can't Get Started." And it could be that I would change my mind, you know, in five years about that, but at the time that we were getting together and going through the pieces together and talking to arrangers about where can we take this song. How might we shape it? Do we want to start with the chorus or with the verse? What kind of mood do we want to set? Everything seemed to make sense to include "April in Paris."

GROSS: Singer Dawn Upshaw and producer Tommy Krasker will be back in the second half the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is "FRESH AIR."


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with singer Dawn Upshaw. Her new CD features songs by composer Vernon Duke. Also with us is the producer of her music theater CDs, Tommy Krasker. He's an expert on music theater.

One of the things I particularly like about this new CD is that you've managed to include, you know, a few familiar Vernon Duke songs. And you've managed to include a lot of really virtually unknown Vernon Duke songs that are quite beautiful.

And I think that's a kind of almost a daring thing to do in a sense that I think most of us expect pop music to be familiar. And there's a special pleasure that we all have as we listen to a familiar pop song sung because we sing along with it in our minds.

And hearing that melody take all those familiar twists and turns, you know, that's one of the things we all really like about pop music. So I think it's a kind of daring thing to do to take unfamiliar songs and present them.

KRASKER: I mean, the truth about Vernon Duke's music is so much of it is unfamiliar, and I think we're really able to show with this CD, and one of the things I'm most proud of, is we really do show -- I mean, songs don't necessarily die because they're bad. The truth of Vernon Duke, of course...

GROSS: ...oh, yeah, right.

KRASKER: he was very successful in the '30s when he was writing revues and could do these brilliant songs like "April in Paris" and "Autumn in New York," and the shows were by and large successful. So the songs endured.

In the '40s, Broadway took a different turn and musical revue turned into musical play with the Rodgers and Hammerstein era. Vernon Duke really didn't seem to have a particular aptitude for that. The demands of the musical play: finding the right collaborators, finding a good theme, really putting the pieces together very carefully was something that alluded him.

And one by one in the '40s and '50s his shows just failed. I mean, a lot of them didn't even get to Broadway they just closed out of town. And with the failure of these shows went some wonderful songs that were never published, were never heard. I mean, Lord knows there weren't a lot of sheet music sales.

There weren't dance bands playing them. There obviously wasn't a movie version of the show that was going to close out of town. So what happened was as these shows died, all of these wonderful songs just got buried.

GROSS: Well, I'd like to feature a song that really did get buried. And Tommy Krasker, this is a song that you basically had to track down and restore. The song is called "Roundabout." Tell us what existed of this song before you tracked down the rest of it.

KRASKER: Sure. "Roundabout" is a song that Vernon Duke and Ogden Nash wrote for a 1946 musical called "Sweet By and By" (ph) and "Sweet By and By" was another one of those Vernon Duke shows that -- well, I don't know, I think he called it a "real stinker" in his autobiography or something like that.


It closed out of town. I mean, I think it closed in Philadelphia. And so, of course, the score never really got heard. They loved the song. And I think "Roundabout" is actually Vernon Duke's own favorite of all his songs. They loved the song so much they kept trying to put it in later works.

And I think it later found a place in a show called "The Littlest Revue." But it was a very -- it was really like an art song. Very long, a five or six minutes song. Well, of course, they did publish it, but they published it in a very simplified version with just a verse and a refrain.

And it was when I was working in the mid-'80s in Secaucus, New Jersey actually at the Warner Brothers music warehouse, where a huge discovery of musical theater manuscripts had been found, that I chanced upon a lot of the score to "Sweet By and By" and found this manuscript version of the interlude -- a two-minute interlude -- of the song. Just the music, no lyric.

And I held onto it because I recognized the quality of it. And later I was digging through some materials at the New York Public Library and I found the lyric to this interlude. So, I mean, this was a song that actually took me couple of years of digging to put back together.

And I think I'm fairly secure in saying that what we're presenting on this new CD is the full version of "Roundabout" as it really hasn't been heard since "Sweet By and By" played out of town in 1946.

GROSS: And which is the part of the lyric that you found?

KRASKER: Of the lyric -- of the middle interlude...

UPSHAW: ... "you wake each morning alive and gay. You think today is another day."

GROSS: Dawn Upshaw, did you like the song when you first saw it?

UPSHAW: I loved the song. This was one of -- and remains one of my favorites. It is one of the simplest tunes, in a sense, what he does musically, actually, is describe what he's got in the lyric by Ogden Nash. And that is that the notes in the chorus:


You go roundabout and roundabout and roundabout

UPSHAW: So they're all kind of sliding around this one note. And, no, it doesn't travel much distance. And that's sort of the whole point. That through life, even though we have different experiences and different loves, essentially we're re-living our mistakes everyday. And perhaps nothing ever changes.

KRASKER: I will say one thing about the part of the song we found, it's so telling that that middle interlude of course was not published. Because, as Dawn said, the rest of the song sits in a fairly limited range. This middle interlude on lines like, "and that's the moment not to be astounded to find that you've been merry go rounded," is full of these wild melodic skips. And it really does take a certain kind of singer to pull that off and to make it seem natural.

GROSS: Let's hear the song. This is "Roundabout" from Dawn Upshaw's new CD of songs by Vernon Duke.


You wake each morning alive and gay
You think today is another day
Your future seems (unintelligible)
You hum to your pillow

And you sing in your bath
Your stockings hug you along the seam
Your girdle fits like a sophomore (unintelligible)
You walk the world like a romantic (unintelligible)

You find today is just yesterday one over
You meet a man that (unintelligible)
You think he is different from all the rest
You start to dream of a cozy flat

With milk for the kids
And cream for the cats
And that's the moment not to be astounded
To find that you've been merry go rounded

You go roundabout and roundabout and roundabout
You go (unintelligible) about the game
That is swing around and swing around
(Unintelligible) as you go

But the more they change the more they are the same
When the dancing is done
You wonder where you started
Each time I (unintelligible)

Then it's roundabout and roundabout and roundabout

GROSS: That's Dawn Upshaw from her new CD of songs by Vernon Duke. The lyric is by Ogden Nash. And my guests are Dawn Upshaw and Tommy Krasker, who produced this CD.

Dawn Upshaw, it must be really interesting for you to take a song that hasn't been sung much before, that isn't familiar and interpreted because you don't have to worry about doing something different from what everybody else has done. You can just do it how you want to do it and not even think about other interpretations.

UPSHAW: Yeah, that is a definite advantage. I think it also keeps me thinking and tries -- I think it keeps me true, I hope, to the text when I'm not worried about how others have done it in the past.

GROSS: Tommy Krasker, you say you first stumbled onto the song when you were working on the Warner Brothers warehouse?

KRASKER: Mmm-hmm.

GROSS: What were you doing there? That must have been interesting.

KRASKER: There was a huge discovery of musical theater manuscripts sometime in the early '80s, I guess, which included Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers and Hart, along with Arlen Duke (ph), Arthur Schwartz. And sometime in the mid-'80s they were cataloging, and I was pulled in to help catalog the material.

As I said, some of the material that impressed me the most at the time mostly because I didn't know it. I mean, the Gershwin was great and the Porter was great, but I knew a lot of those songs. I was so impressed by the Vernon Duke material, and as I think I mentioned to you, the -- one of the shows that was there in manuscript form -- one of the lost shows -- was this Vernon Duke show, "Sweet By and By."

I happen to think it's one of his finest achievements, but again, totally forgotten. And from that, actually, for this recording we pulled several numbers that haven't been heard in 50 years, including "Roundabout," including a gorgeous ballad called "Born too Late," which was originally written for "Sweet By and By," although it wasn't heard until about 10 years later. And a novelty piece called "Seagull and the Eagle." Oh, I guess one more as well, "Low and Lazy." You know, it's in an example of an incredible score that simply got buried when a show folded.

GROSS: My guests are singer Dawn Upshaw and the producer of her music theater CDs Tommy Krasker. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guests are singer Dawn Upshaw and her producer Tommy Krasker. Their new CD features Upshaw performing songs by Vernon Duke.

Dawn Upshaw, earlier you were saying that you said that your performances of pop music are encouraging you to strip away the baloney from certain classical approaches to performance. And I'm wondering if you could talk more about what the baloney is that you were exposed to that you are now trying to strip away.

UPSHAW: I think a certain kind of training that is much too centered around sound and around creating a certain quality of sound that should, in some people's minds, remain consistent through a song. Just working from the angle of sound rather than working from the idea that this is a combination of text and music and how -- and trying to understand how the music expresses the text.

And I think that there -- that people can even get caught up in creating certain sensations in their bodies that also have nothing to do with the sentiment or the mood or the -- the poem itself. That you can get so caught up in feeling a certain sensation and understanding your vocal mechanism that starts taking you away from imaginative interpretation.

GROSS: What kind of physical sensation are you talking about? Can you describe a certain sound that gives you that sensation?

UPSHAW: In a voice lesson, for instance, one might be working on feeling a certain lift in a certain space at the top of your head so that things are kind of buzzing. This especially happens if you're singing up in the upper range and more classical operatic repertoire.

And you can also work on vibrato, making sure that there is no real change in color and in vibrato working towards a legato of smooth connected sound. And sometimes I just think you can lose track of what we're trying to express to begin with as singing actors. I don't know if that makes any sense.

GROSS: It does. I think perhaps that classically trained singers are trained to sing primarily European opera and art song, and learn Italian vowels and French vowels and German vowels. And are perhaps discouraged from certain sounds in America vernacular pronunciation.

And I'm wondering now that your singing more pop songs whether your sense of how just language -- how words should be pronounced has changed.

UPSHAW: Definitely it's changed. And of course, it makes me wonder for all the other languages that are not my first.


You know, because I think that I have learned that you can really take things a much further distance and enjoy consonants much more than we're typically taught to. We're taught to sing on the vowels all the time. But there are many expressive consonants and consonants that you can actually sing on for quite a while. I have really enjoyed that investigation.

GROSS: Has recording more pop songs changed the music that you listen to if you have time to actually listen to records when you're at home?

UPSHAW: I always listen to a lot of different kinds of music. Certainly, Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan. I have been listening -- I guess, I've listened to more Frank Sinatra actually since I've been working on the popular music. And I've been turning on the radio to some popular stations certainly more often than I would have before.

GROSS: I would be interested in hearing you talk about Sinatra. What do you like about his singing?

UPSHAW: I like the fact that I feel it's relaxed and spontaneous at the same time, and that there is a true personality coming through every minute. I don't feel like he's thinking about the sound he's producing. Again, we're getting back to the same sort of thing.

It's interesting because I've had this conversation with people who do not agree with me about Frank Sinatra. I think that -- of course, he has a huge following out there, but believe it or not there are some people who don't get it.

And I think the fact that it does sound so relaxed turns some people off. But for me, it seems like something completely natural. And I'm attracted to that.

GROSS: I'm with you. Tommy Krasker, you're obviously very immersed in American popular song. And I'm wondering if you sing or play yourself.

KRASKER: I do play the piano -- not a lot anymore. But certainly a lot of my tastes are influenced by what I used to play at the piano when I was growing up. I really don't get around to playing much anymore except on those opportunities, actually, on recordings like this where the first step of the process is my looking at all the material picking a couple of dozen.

And poor Dawn, I actually put them down on tape with me playing and singing them.

UPSHAW: And I keep all of them.

KRASKER: She keeps them to use against me at some point. And somehow from those tapes she is able to actually determine what's a good song and what's a bad song. That's actually one of the most fun times for me though, is actually to sit down and play through a great deal of material and decide what might be appropriate for a recording.

UPSHAW: It's one of the best times for me too because he always speaks to me on these tapes as well and tells me jokes.

KRASKER: They're like long extended letters. "Hi, Dawn, I'm about to play 24 songs. Here's one I can't begin to sing, but you can." That kind of thing.


GROSS: Do you know what your next project would be?

UPSHAW: We were just beginning to talk about that on the train coming in today.

KRASKER: Yeah, I don't think we actually do. I think, like the Vernon Duke, something will strike us and just seem intuitively right. That was one of the loveliest things about the Vernon Duke, is when we first thought of the idea it seemed right. When then I sent to music to Dawn I was so gratified when she then called me.

I think she was in Europe somewhere doing something, and she said, "yes, I like the material. I respond to. It's a go." It's always nice when that happens when we're both thinking the same thing. And we'll just have to see what the next thing we both click on is.

GROSS: Well, thanks to both of you. Tommy Krasker, the producer of this new CD and Dawn Upshaw. The new CD is called "Dawn Upshaw Sings Vernon Duke." Thank you both very much

UPSHAW: Thank you.

KRASKER: Thank you.


This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Dawn Upshaw and Tommy Krasker
High: FRESH AIR favorite, opera soprano Dawn Upshaw. She has a new CD, "Dawn Upshaw Sings Vernon Duke." It features Fred Hersch on piano and John Pizzarelli on guitar. Upshaw has more than two dozen albums to her credit and has become widely known for her ability to perform both in the opera as well as sing Broadway tunes. Upshaw joined the Metropolitan Opera in 1984 and has performed at the Met. Many of the world's leading conductors have invited Upshaw to appear with some of the finest orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic.
Spec: Entertainment; Music Industry; Lifestyle; Culture; Dawn Upshaw; Vernon Duke; Tommy Krasker

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Dawn Upshaw and Tommy Krasker

Date: FEBRUARY 11, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 021102NP.217
Head: Maureen Corrigan
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:52

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Janet Malcolm has investigated the murky worlds of psychoanalysis, photography journalism and biography in her books. Her latest, "The Crime of Sheila McGough," delves into the legal realm. Book critic Maureen Corrigan says Malcolm, even at half wattage, is illuminating.

MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BOOK CRITIC: A newspaper editor friend of mine once came up with what I thought was a fascinating idea for a feature article. She suggested calling up famous writers and asking them, "who is the writer, living or dead, who you would most like to write the story of your life?"

When I heard that question I immediately blurted out, "Janet Malcolm." "Oh, scary," my friend said. "Choose somebody like Chekov instead. He'd put a better spin on things."

It's true. Malcolm is merciless. Her subjects, like the Freud apostate Jeffrey Mason and the ghost of Sylvia Plath, have paid a high price for her scrutiny.

As a portrait painter in words, Malcolm is a graduate of the Dorian Gray school of rendering her sitters warts and all. But, oh, the clarity she brings to the chaos of daily life. For Malcolm, as for Freud, the most random gestures and banal house furnishings figure as telltale clues to the unconscious.

If she were my biographer I might not want to open the book, but I'd never doubt that it would be worth reading. Just about anything she writes is worth reading, even her latest book which is hard to like because it takes on the qualities of its main character.

"The Crime of Sheila McGough" is about a woman who is sent to jail, Malcolm claims, merely for the crime of being irritating. Here's the story: in 1996, Malcolm received a letter from McGough who had just been released from prison after serving two and a half years on 14 counts of felony.

McGough had been a defense attorney practicing in Virginia. She was in her 40s, single, a nice Catholic girl who lived at home with her aged parents. Her downfall came in the shape of a charming con man client named Bob Bailes, who tried to scam people by selling them titles to unregulated insurance companies that didn't exist.

McGough was found guilty of being Bailes' accomplice. Specifically, by letting him use her attorney's trust account as a drop for the investor's money. Malcolm, though, sees McGough as a victim of her own naivete and loyalty to her unworthy client.

She buys McGough's story that because she kept appealing Bailes' convictions she annoyed federal judges and prosecutors. And those prosecutors eventually framed her with the felony charges just to shut her up.

In the closing pages of her book, Malcolm says that McGough has settled into my imagination as an exquisite heroine whose idealism about the law is inspiring. Malcolm also admits that she never dreaded talking to a subject more than she did McGough.

The problem is McGough's manner of speaking: tedious, literal, and filled with the most irrelevant details. Malcolm's own account here is sometimes bogged down by all the rehashing she does of legal proceedings. Unless you agree with her premise that, "the transcripts of trials at law are exciting to read," you'll probably feel as I did that parts of this book are as drab as the suits those lawyers wear to court on "The Practice."

Malcolm even frustrates our expectations that McGough was seduced by Bailes, and that's why she remains so steadfast to him. No romance plot here. Instead, we get something much more compelling, the tale of terror that Malcolm has been developing throughout all of her books

Malcolm's grand subject is the elusiveness of truth, and the wobbliness of language as a vehicle for truth. Scrutinizing all those dull trial transcripts, she concludes that, "trials are won by attorneys whose stories fit. And lost by those whose stories are like the shapeless house coat that truth, in her disdain for appearances, has chosen as her uniform."

Because McGough's rhetorical style is so distended by the bounty of truth, she can't make yourself be understood. Implicitly here, Malcolm invites readers to think about all those people much less educated than McGough who can't mold their stories into the familiar shapes that people in power -- doctors, cops, teachers -- expect to hear.

Sure Janet Malcolm is a brilliant and controversial journalist, but I also think she ranks right up there with our greatest contemporary horror writers.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She reviewed "The Crime of Sheila McGough" by Janet Malcolm.

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.


Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, DC
Guest: Maureen Corrigan
High: Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews "The Crime of Sheila McGough" by journalist Janet Malcolm.
Spec: Entertainment; Lifestyle; Culture; Janet Malcolm; Sheila McGough; Maureen Corrigan

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
ÆASØCopy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Maureen Corrigan
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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