The Voice

 

Fans in Houston, Texas were relieved when Mother Nature didn’t interfere with Linda Eder’s highly anticipated concert with the Houston Symphony at Jones Hall on May 29, 2014, a date more than three months after the originally scheduled date had to be cancelled. The bad weather had prevented Linda from flying to Houston for what was to be a special Valentine’s Day concert. As difficult as it was to wait for the new date to arrive, fans including Bruce Autry, Jessica  Zeller, and Michael Cooke definitely agreed it was well worth the wait. Linda was in top form to the delight of a packed Jones Hall.

Linda and her friend Kim Scharnberg, who conducted the Houston Symphony on this night, have shared their own personal thoughts on the evening.

Linda with Kim Scharnberg and Gwynn Griffin

“For many years now, I have been lucky enough to sing to the beautiful arrangements of the wonderful Kim Scharnberg. He has written Big Band, Orchestral, and Small Group arrangements for me for a variety of music styles, for original and cover songs. Every now and then, I also have the opportunity to not just sing his arrangements, but to perform with him when he conducts the Orchestra for my Symphony shows.

We had that chance once again on May 29th with the wonderful Houston Symphony. Houston and I go way back. I’ve never had anything but a fantastic time in Houston and this concert was no exception. It was made all the more wonderful for the fact that so many years have passed since I first “rode into town.” I no longer take as much for granted. I am grateful for what I have been given and I am grateful for the support, friendship and incredible gifts of my buddy, Kim Scharnberg.”
~ Linda Eder

“Once again, I had the opportunity to stand on the podium and listen to one of the finest voices on the planet from just a few feet away! At one point I was so entranced in whatever she was singing that I forgot to cue the strings to play, but fortunately they came in on their own without me just fine. Linda always sounds great but that night in Houston she was ON!”
~ Kim Scharnberg, Conductor

Bruce Autry from Texas writes…

Linda Eder Dazzles Her Houston Fans

For three days, the Houston skies opened up and let the rain fall like hurricane weather. “Oh, no,” I thought. “Linda Eder won’t be able to get here for her make-up concert.” Surely, the musical muses wouldn’t conspire so callously to keep me from seeing Houston’s sweetheart in person. Memories of the Valentine’s Day cancellation when Linda’s New York home was buried under a late winter avalanche reminded me that Mother Nature’s tricks can encompass more than disdain for artificial butter. 

Thursday, May 29th arrived, and just like the Harold Arlen classic, Linda must have flown somewhere over the rainbow to find the clear blue sky that greeted me that morning. The rain skipped town with a promise to return for the weekend, but Linda’s concert was safe. No flooded streets closing down the theater district would stop the show. 

My wife and I arrived early, not wishing to miss a moment of the excitement before the concert would begin. Jones Hall, built on the site of the old Municipal Auditorium, was adorned with modern art and posters proclaiming all the major productions held there. The area around the hall looked somewhat like Christmas with the hundreds of orange signs promoting the Houston Symphony. I got that old southern nostalgia for Christmas in May with Linda’s concert being the best present of the current batch.

We parked in the garage across the street from Jones Hall and walked through the tunnels until we emerged at the doors where already Houston’s diverse community was making its way into the facility. Many had donned their fancy duds, expensive suits and designer outfits, but sprinkled among the upper-class aficionados, I could see the diversity that makes Houston such a unique cosmopolitan city.  Democracy — living and breathing — united us in our love for Linda Eder.

The doors to the orchestra section did not open until 7:00pm, so my wife and I stood for 30 minutes observing the quiet dignity with which the fans awaited the moment when they could find their seats and really feel that their expectations of Christmas in May had finally come to their finest fruition. Then the ushers began opening the doors. The stairs outside the doors descended from top of the orchestra section down to the stage where we would be sitting in the third row.  My anticipation of the gifts to come reminded me that I would always be the boy from the wrong side of the tracks who had identified so fully with Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz that I never wanted that film to end. And so we descended from the top to the very last door opening up a new world.

The stage was packed with the music stands of the Houston Symphony, and closest to our seats, I could see three large basses resting on their sides. I observed the aged wood of those instruments and marveled that in just a few short minutes from the clutter of the stage would come the magic of music — a gift from the gods — to transform our few short minutes together into a work of art. Already a few of the musicians were letting a few stray notes fly out of the strings and soar into the atmosphere above the plush red seats of the concert hall. 

Later a distinguished gentleman brought out a stack of musical scores — thick like an Old Testament for a synagogue — and placed it upon the conductor’s podium. I thought, “He looks like Kim Scharnberg, Linda’s own conductor. A few minutes later, a young man with spiked blond hair walked to his position at a set of drums. My wife remarked, “I bet he’s Linda’s drummer.” Then a young man entered and took his position at the piano. Yes, indeed, Linda’s band was taking shape — soon her guitar player was ready as well. The excitement was growing as the auditorium was nearly full. In the first row, a man had a sign proclaiming Linda as a gold-medal winner, and I surmised that he had meant the sign for the cancelled concert which had been scheduled during the Winter Olympics.

The crowd expressed its excitement when the concert master moved to the front of the stage for the ritual tuning up before the grand beginning. Then Kim Scharnberg took his position at the podium, opened his thick book of scores, and the concert began with an energetic go at Irving Berlin’s “Putting on the Ritz.”  I marveled that Mr. Scharnberg turned the pages of his musical testament with one hand and kept his other arm slicing through the air like a valiant knight slaying a dragon. He never missed a turn through Berlin’s classic homage to the dandy in us all. When the orchestra had concluded, Mr. Scharnberg reached down for a microphone and introduced the evening’s star.

Linda Eder entered wearing a burgundy gown, tasteful and elegant, with one shoulder bare. She added a taste of the ritz with a diamond bracelet on her left wrist, a diamond broach on her left side, and matching diamond earrings. As she moved across the stage, her gown revealed white high heels that glimmered like the diamond bracelet. And then she was off into the land of romance with a medley—“Looking Through the Eyes of Love” paired with “Almost Like Being in Love.” Those who had hoped to see her at Valentine’s Day knew that Linda was sending her fans a belated set of hearts even if the temperature outside Jones Hall had hit 90 that afternoon. 

Linda’s concert became a collage of her memories of how she became the leading interpreter of Broadway. Ironically, she shared her memory of her first public performance when she sang “I’m Not Lisa” between bouts with the dishes in her father’s inn when she was a teenager in Brainerd, Minnesota. Only a little of the Minnesotan accent remains in her conversational voice, just a hint of the prairie girl riding her horse into the sunset of dreams.  
    
Shifting from her country cover of Jesse Colter to Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll and Hyde,  Linda brought out for the audience the first expected gem of the evening — “Someone Like You.” The magic of Eder’s premier days in Houston stirred the memories in her devoted fans, and I wished that I had been there in the Alley Theater when she played Lucy for those first captivated audiences. 
The emotional high point for me came when she concluded a trilogy of Judy Garland’s classics. Her arrangement of “Over the Rainbow” brought tears to my eyes, and the big drops ran down my cheeks. Yes, “Them There Eyes” and the clang-clang of the trolley had resurrected more than the spirit of St. Louis — but Linda’s voice took me from this world into that other place — those lost days of lonely dreams which unite us all in the darkened hall.

The audience was moving with Linda now — moving with her through the big numbers of the modern stage. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” brought a huge roar of delight from the crowd, as another song of a woman’s dream to escape from the farm to the glory of the palace met with universal approval. 

After a bit more Judy Garland, Linda turned to The Sound of Music. The audience again expressed its delight with this choice by a roar of affirmation.  “Climb Every Mountain” has something to say to every generation, and Linda shared her interpretation with perfect control of Rogers and Hammerstein’s score.

One of the largest ovations of the evening followed Linda’s version of Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” I was wondering if Linda was going to get to “Vienna,” and then the poetry of that song slowed the audience down and let us feel the loneliness of lost love. Then came the magic of Don Quixote as Linda took the masculine role and rode off toward the windmills bringing the audience to its feet.

For nearly an hour and half, Linda Eder had revealed why she is the beloved sweetheart of the American song book: from the moment she stepped onto the stage until her final wave goodbye, we experienced not only her perfect voice but her grace — long after the notes have faded away, the girl from Brainerd, Minnesota, will remain with us as a charming beauty who has mastered her gift and shared it with the world without betraying the source of that gift, without letting the glitz and ritz of the world turn our girl next door into a narcissistic diva. We came to hear a songbird, and we left with memories of a heart made glad by the pouring out of her soul a scale of notes that surpassed the arias of heaven.

Linda with Fan Jessica Zeller


Jessica Zeller from Texas writes…

Linda performed with the Houston Symphony on May 29, 2014, which was a rescheduled concert originally to be performed on Valentine’s Day. Thankfully, no snowstorm was going to prevent Linda from coming to see us in May. It was worth the wait, however, because I was able to do another countdown! Surprise! Instead of pictures, I posted a different song of Linda’s every day for 100 days. I’m taking suggestions for what to use for the next countdown.

The orchestra played Puttin’ on the Ritz, a very entertaining opener. Afterwards, as I predicted, Linda came out on stage and began to sing Through the Eyes of Love, the theme from Ice Castles. Not only was I thrilled to see Linda again because I hadn’t seen her in a while, but I was tickled pink (or red) to see that she was wearing a very similar red one-shoulder dress to the one I was wearing! Cool beans! We coordinated! I was sitting in the second row so I was hoping she would look my way and notice me as she sang because we have been working on the song together in voice lessons. As per usual, Linda delivered a stellar concert. She explained that this show would be a combination of her “Memory Lane” songs and love songs because hey, this was supposed to be a Valentine’s Day concert. Linda told us that the opener, which most Eder fans already know, is special to her because she won Star Search (the kinder and gentler America Idol) singing it waaaaaaaay back in 1988. She followed that up with the more upbeat Almost Like Being in Love/This Can’t Be Love and Jessie Coulter’s torch song, I’m Not Lisa, which was sung with delicacy and purity in every note. It was the first song she ever sang in front of an audience as a teenager, which is an impressive testament to the incredible talent that is Linda Eder.

Linda then took a moment to reminisce about her time spent in Houston as part of a little musical that went on to Broadway. Because the musical (ahem, Jekyll and Hyde) became such a significant hallmark of her career, Texas, and Houston in particular, holds a special place in her heart. A few seconds in, the audience applauded wildly because it was time for Linda’s signature, favorite song (and mine), Someone Like You. I tried my hardest to stifle the tears, but resistance is futile. Oh well. Happy tears are okay. What can I say? It only gets better every time I hear it. Listening to Linda’s memory lane unfold is like hearing my own. This song makes me feel 12 years old again, listening to it for the first time. That is the indicator of a good performer, when they sing a song they’ve sung a billion and one times before, and can still make it sound brand new, even when the listener has also heard it a billion and one times.

After that, Linda proceeded to sing several Judy Garland tunes, which are all very special to Linda since Judy is the reason she became a singer. She sang Zing, Went the Strings of My Heart, The Trolley Song, I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, and the song that started it all for Linda: Over the Rainbow. The wonderful thing about this song is that everyone from generation to generation has heard it, and has probably sung it too, so you can’t help but smile and feel all warm and fuzzy when you hear it. Linda’s rendition comes straight from her heart to ours knowing how influential Judy was to her. When the final note resolved, the room fell silent.

Keeping with the mood, Linda continued with the heartbreaking ballad, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina from Evita, which was the first musical she ever saw live. She saw the understudy of the understudy of the understudy in an off-Broadway production. Then she sang Judy’s By Myself, the title song from her tribute album to Judy. By the way, if you haven’t heard this album, you are missing out. “Wow” is the only word there is to describe it. Okay, maybe “phenomenal” fits too, or “extraordinary.” I could go on and on. Anyway, the next song Linda sang is traditionally sung by men, but we all know Linda raises the bar with these songs (the perfect example of this to come later) so why not break the rules? She sang Anthem from Chess before giving us another taste of Judy with The Boy Next Door, and You Made Me Love You. Linda then recollected her high school days when she wanted so badly to be Maria in her choir’s production of The Sound of Music, but because she was 7 feet tall, they had a different role in mind for her: Mother Abbess. I must say, Rodgers and Hammerstein gave the matriarchs the best songs, and Climb Every Mountain is no exception.

Fan Jessica Zeller with Kim Scharnberg
and Gwynn Griffin

Other than Judy Garland, one of Linda’s biggest influences is Barbra Streisand, and it shows, so it would be an injustice not to include of Barbra’s songs in her “memory lane” show. Linda wowed us with a powerful rendition of Don’t Rain on My Parade. Barbra is the Funny Girl, but Linda’s performance of this song is far superior. Next, one of the quintessential songs of Linda’s early career, which is near and dear to her and all her fans, could not be left out since she was singing with an orchestra, and this song was meant to be sung with one. Yes, Vienna is back! The song speaks for itself. It is simply gorgeous, just like the woman singing it. Linda took a moment to thank the orchestra and the patrons of the Houston Symphony for coming together to make the concert a successful one. She is an incredibly gracious person and we were all blessed to be in her presence as she shared her talent with us once more.

The show was coming to a close, but I knew it wasn’t over yet because Linda hadn’t sung Man of La Mancha yet. I remember the audience demanding it as the encore at the last concert I attended, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it made the set this time. Like I said earlier, Linda can sing anything and make it her own, and make it better. I can’t think of anyone, and not a male singer even, that can surpass Linda’s rendition. It is instantly recognizable and it still sounds brilliant. Linda brought the crowd to its feet for a well-deserved standing ovation. Someone in the audience shouted “We love you Linda!” which reminded me of my very first Linda concert experience on December 11, 2011. I doubt Linda remembers this, but when she told us that she loves Texas, someone shouted back to her “Texas loves Linda!” We sure do, and always will.

Linda came back on stage for an encore and told us someone told her as she walked away “You still got it, baby!” which had us all laughing and cheering because it’s true! The closing number was a very tender one, If I Had My Way. It is a beautiful song with powerful lyrics by the great Jack Murphy, and it was an honor getting to hear it live. After the concert ended, I walked outside and found a crowd awaiting Linda’s presence. I ran up to her and gave her a hug before getting another picture. We talked about lessons and what I had been up to. It is always a joy getting to chat with her. I even got an autograph for a good friend of mine who is also a huge fan. Later, I met the very talented Kim Scharnberg, who conducted the concert, and his lovely fiancé Gwynn. It was yet another fabulous show, one I thoroughly enjoyed and will cherish just as much as I do the others. Thank you Linda and Kim for all your hard work and for coming to see us in Texas! Come back soon!


Michael Cooke from Texas writes…

For Linda Eder fans in Houston, Valentine’s Day 2014 came twice. On Thursday, May 29, 2014, the “Eder-Nor’easter” blew thru Houston with a force. Linda performed with the Houston Symphony conducted by Mr. Kim Scharnberg and accompanied by Billy Stein on piano. The concert was previously scheduled for Valentine’s Day, but due to severe weather conditions in New York, Linda could not travel to Houston. Thursday was well worth the Wait! LOVE was definitely in the air and according to Linda so was the Houston humidity. Welcome back!



Houston, the theatrical birthplace of Linda Eder with a voice as big as Texas, welcomes her home every time. She never disappoints. For me, the excitement of a Linda Eder concert begins with the very first announcement of a Houston show. Tickets  are purchased as soon as they become available. Then, what to wear? Then dinner? Then the show! This one was no exception.

Linda stepped onto the stage and the Magic began. To remind us of Valentine’s Day, the  night was nothing short of a Love Fest. We were reminded of her incredible run on Star Search and the inevitable meeting of Frank Wildhorn. Together, in 1990, they debuted the World Premier of Jekyll & Hyde right here in Houston, Texas at the Alley Theatre. That first production kept being extended and extended, largely due to the remarkable voice of the female lead. To express her gratitude to Houston, she dedicated her signature song, “Someone Like You.” This town has clearly not forgotten someone like her.

The influence of Judy Garland resonated throughout. Linda’s version of “Over the Rainbow” wowed the audience. No surprise! The night continued with her salute to Broadway. Her rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina" left me a bit teary eyed, as it was also the first Broadway Musical I experienced. Then unexpectedly Linda told the story of her High School Musical, The Sound of Music. This was also my Senior H.S. Musical. Regrettably, I cannot sing, so the role of Captain Von Trapp was not for me. That’s probably why I live vicariously thru Linda Eder. Fortunately for Linda, the role of Mother Abbess was hers. Her “Climb Every Mountain” left

Jones Hall filled with the sound of music. The self-acclaimed Martha Stewart wannabe treated us to “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” Once again making it clear, Linda Eder is no Barbra Streisand wannabe. Linda Eder is truly her own self and should be compared to no one. Anxiously I awaited “Vienna.” This Houstonian is never as proud of the Houston Symphony as when it is musically intertwined with the extraordinary vocals of Ms. Linda Eder. Truly, poetry at its best. This song should be a staple of all Linda Eder concerts as well as “The WOMAN of La Mancha” As an encore we were treated to “If I Had My Way,” a dedication to and remembrance of September 11, 2001.  I must tell you, it doesn’t get any better than that. WOW! What a Song! WHAT A SHOW! If I had my way, this show would have never ended. Color Me Blessed.

Needless to say, it was time for a celebratory martini at the Lancaster Hotel across the street. Just one, as it was time to visit with Linda. I must say this is probably the part I look forward to the most. Visiting with her is such an awesome experience. As many of you know, Linda is the most GRACIOUS of entertainers when it comes to her fans. She immediately puts you at ease and you marvel at the attention she gives each and every person. She is just so kind and down to earth.
After expressing my gratitude for the night, she exclaimed,

“Not bad for an old broad”. “REALLY!” I said. “You are far from an old broad. As long as you’re here, God willing so am I.” As always, she looked amazing and was in rare voice. Picture time!

The first time I experienced the mega talent of Linda Eder was in 1995 at the old Music Hall in Houston, Texas. It was the first time I ever heard “The Voice.” It was the second tour of Jekyll & Hyde. Like most of us, I said to myself, “Who is this woman? She is absolutely amazing!” I immediately became a “Jekkie” and most importantly an EDER-itte.

I first met Linda in the fall of 1998 after a production of The Civil War, another Eder/Wildhorn premiere at the Alley. My first impression was that she is tall and beautiful. Well, as you can imagine, I was completely star struck and tongue-tied. Probably not a good first impression for her. Shortly thereafter she did a cabaret style concert followed by a cocktail reception at the Alley Theatre. I had her sign my J&H Complete Works CD insert in red across her throat, signifying the tragic demise of Lucy Harris. After almost ten years of Lucy and about ten days before Halloween, she gladly and humorously obliged. Notice the red bloody squiggly she added to her signature. I thought, “Wow, this woman is for real.” I was right.  Since then I have never missed a Linda Eder concert in Houston. She always brings “JOY.”

                             
In 1999, Houston was one of the few cities that got to experience the voice of a very pregnant Linda Eder. Even at six months pregnant, this Super Star took time for her fans. I am telling you this woman is AMAZING! Hard to believe Linda’s son Jake will soon be fifteen years old. And can we talk about “Baby It’s Cold

Outside,” my favorite track on the “Christmas Where You Are” CD? You can feel the love.

After several meet and greet opportunities and feeling a whole lot less nervous, I finally got a chance to express to Linda what Linda Eder honestly means to me.

Like Linda, I too am a huge JUDY GARLAND FAN. With us being about the same age, I asked her to imagine herself as a “forty something” year old at a Judy Garland concert. I said, “Linda Eder, you give me that.” The rest has been nothing but icing on a sweet sweet cake. I have been a fan of Linda’s for almost twenty years and never miss an opportunity to say hello and personally welcome her back home. She is a treasure.

As a beacon for humanity, Linda Eder gives us all “Something To Believe In.”

She is “GOLD.” 

We are all Blessed to know this extraordinary woman with this incomparable voice.

Thank You Linda for the Joy, the Music, and “The Voice.”

 

 

                -MJC June 2014

 

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