Monday, September 19, 2011
Norman Mathews art songs were featured, along with the works of John Kander, Charles Strouse, and Galt MacDermot, on February 2003 at the Kennedy Center by The Other Side of Broadway, a New York City organization directed by Barbara Irvine and devoted to the classical music written by theatre composers. That program was broadcast live on the Kennedy Center website.
Mathews’ one-woman musical play about Dorothy Parker, You Might as Well Live, starring Broadway and cabaret star Karen Mason, was performed at at the sold-out 1,500-seat Harris Theatre of Music and Dance as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. It was also a winner (along with works by Arthur Kopit, Wally Harper and Sherman Yellen) of the Stages 2003: a Festival of New Musicals, sponsored by Theatre Building Chicago. The play, for which Mathews wrote both the book and music, has also been given a reading at the York Theatre Company in New York City and an Equity workshop under the sponsorship of Rattlestick Productions. In these performances, Dorothy Parker was played by 2003 Tony Award winner Michele Pawk, who most recently starred in the new Stephen Sondheim musical, Bounce.
Mathews received a $3,500 grant from The Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation for this work, which was also a finalist for the Stanley Drama Award and the Mill Mountain Playhouse (Roanoke, VA) Best Play Competition. Selections from You Might as Well Live were featured in Bound for Broadway III, 2003, hosted by Stephen Bogardus, at the Merkin Concert Hall, in New York City.
Mathews began his career as a dancer-actor-singer. After two summers of stock at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and St. Louis Municipal Opera, followed by a summer tour of Half a Sixpence, he made his Broadway debut in the original cast of Tom Jones’ and Harvey Schmidt’s Celebration. He danced in the film version of Hello, Dolly, as well as in the Dorothy Lamour National Company of Dolly. He played several roles in Irma La Douce, starring Pat Suzuki, at the O’Keefe Center in Toronto and Place des Arts in Montreal.
After a back injury, Mr. Mathews returned to school and earned a B.A. Degree in music from Hunter College, where he was the recipient of the Geraldine Saltzberg Memorial Prize for Scholastic Excellence, the Irene Steinman Memorial Award, and the Roosevelt Memorial Scholarship for Graduate Study. He completed an M.A. Degree in music from New York University. He studied classical piano with John Ranck of the Mannes School of Music and jazz piano with Harold Danko at the Manhattan School of Music. He studied composition and orchestration with Richard Danielpour (Grammy-Award winner for his Cello Concerto performed by Yo-Yo Ma), Richard Hundley, and Charles Turner. He was also a participant in Richard Adler’s Musical Theatre Workshop at the YMHA.
As a composer, Norman Mathews has written for symphony orchestra, the concert stage, jazz performers, and musical theatre. His works have been performed by Broadway and cabaret performers Karen Mason, Michele Pawk, Liz Callaway, Debbie Gravitte, John Dossett,Danny Gurwin, and Peter Samuel; jazz pianists Harold Danko and Barry Levit; soprano saxophonist Anders Paulsson; pianists Dick Gallagher, Philip Fortenberry, Christopher Denny, Bruce Coyle, and Kelly Horsted; sopranos Maire O’Brien, and Theresa Snyder, and mezzo-soprano Mary Ann Hart.
His song cycle, Songs of the Poet, composed to Walt Whitman poetry, was premiered in Germany by Gregory Wiest, an American tenor with the Munich Opera, in June 1997. Mr. Wiest, with pianist Oresta Cybriwsky, has recorded the piece for Capstone Records (CPS 8646). Soprano Tracy Bidleman (who made her Avery Fisher Hall debut in April 1999) performed Songs of the Poet in New York City on the Music in Chelsea series on October 4, 1998. Selections from Songs of the Poet were performed by soprano Maire O’Brien and pianist Colette Valentine at The New York Historical Society in a program entitled Whitman and Music, a presentation of The American Composers Orchestra. Following the performance, Mathews participated in a discussion that included Dennis Russell Davies, William Bolcom, Joseph Horowitz, and Paul Sperry.
The song The Last Invocation was one of three finalists, receiving the Recognition of Excellence award at the Fifth Diana Barnhart American Art Song Competition in 2003 (adjudicators were John Harbison, composer of the opera The Great Gatsby and tenor Paul Sperry.) Songs from the cycle were published in the fall of 2004 in The Anthology of American Art Songs after 1900 (Classical Vocal Reprints of New York). Many of Mathews' works have been published online by Graphite Publishing.
Somebody Write Me a Song, a musical revue by Mr. Mathews and lyricist/collaborator Patty Seyburn, was performed on the Arts and Artists Series at the Donnell Library in New York in October 2002. The program featured Tony Award winner Debbie Gravitte, Liz Callaway, and Peter Samuel, with Dick Gallagher as musical director. Ms. Seyburn is the winner of the 1997 Marianne Moore Poetry Prize and 2002 Ohio State University Poetry Prize, both of which resulted in published books of poetry.
Mathews and Seyburn, along with book writer Todd Lehman, have collaborated on a musical version of Lost Empires, J. B. Priestley’s novel about English music hall. This piece is to have a first reading in 2006 at The York Theatre in New York City with, 2003 Tony Award Winner Michele Pawk and John Dossett (Tony nominee for the role of Herbie in Gypsy) in leading roles.
In addition, Mathews’ large-scale orchestral work, The Triumph of Night, and the orchestral version of Songs of the Poet are being considered for performance by several symphony orchestras.
Norman Mathews has also worked as news editor for Dance Magazine and managing editor of Sylvia Porter’s Personal Finance Magazine. He is a current member of ASCAP, the Dramatists Guild, The Harry Fox Agency, and the American Music Center, and is listed in Who’s Who in America. He is listed on the Classical Composers Database.
Visit his website at www.normanmathew.com.