Perhaps the spirit of Frank Sinatra will preside over the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Jack Everly, when the ISO pays tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes’ in “Sinatra Centennial,” a Printing Partners Pops Series concert on Friday, Feb. 12, Saturday, Feb. 13, and Sunday, Feb. 14. Featuring noted singing artists Liz Callaway, Tony DeSare and Frankie Moreno, the performances will take place at Hilbert Circle Theatre where Sinatra performed for the last time with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra on Sept 3, 1942, before he launched his solo career.
To honor Sinatra’s 100th birthday, the vocalists will deliver interpretations of some of the music icon’s most famous songs. Sinatra, who is considered one of the most versatile entertainers in music history, sold more than 150 million albums. Another of of his most important achievements was an Academy Award he won for Best Supporting Actor for the 1953 drama “From Here to Eternity.”
Both Callaway and DeSare are familiar faces to local audiences and have played multiple times in Indy. Callaway last appeared with the ISO when she co-hosted “Yuletide Celebration” with her sister, Ann Hampton Callaway, in 2012. DeSare last performed in the city at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club in 2015.
Recently byteclay.com chatted separately by phone with Callaway and DeSare from their homes, which are coincidently, 15 minutes away from one another in Westchester County, New York. The discussions centered on the “Sinatra Centennial” concert, their careers and projects they both have in the works.
How many times I have you played Indy?
With the ISO and the Cabaret at the Columbia Club— it has been five times.
Wasn’t your fist time here with the ISO?
Yes. My very first solo symphony show with the ISO was for Valentine’s Day.
Have you ever performed with Liz Callaway?
No. I see her all the time at events in New York and we have been part of the same circuit— whether it has been a cabaret festival or benefit. We have been involved in the same things but have never sung together before. We are also neighbors and live a short distance from each other.
What is the program for the “Sinatra Centennial?”
The program will be something I am doing a lot this yea—celebrating the music of Frank Sinatra. I am singing “That’s Life,”” “Night and Day,” “Luck Be a Lady, and others.
How is your career coming along?
I have been performing with a lot of symphony orchestras. I think I have done over sixty orchestras or something like that. This year was my biggest yet. I played the New York Pops, The Kennedy Center, Houston, Seattle, Phoenix. I sang the national anthem at a Pittsburg Steelers game. I am, thankfully, in demand on the road. I have a very busy touring schedule and I have gone completely independent. I love it, as far as releasing music. I put out a lot of videos from my home studio so I bring my band over and we record. I release it on iTunes and YouTube. My biggest project was a Christmas album which I recorded with a small chamber orchestra. I produced it and mixed it myself. It was a lot of fun so I am really looking forward to building a catalogue of a lot of works. I record when I want to record and I amazed with the kind of quality that is possible now.
Sounds like you have become pretty seasoned as far as performing with symphonies?
I feel very comfortable and have a lot of fun doing it. I think it’s the thing I am best at. The first couple of years, though, were a little bit terrifying.
Do you see many young people at your concerts?
I have started to notice more of them attending, especially this year during the Frank Sinatra programs. For a while there, before this centennial year, it seemed like Frank Sinatra wasn’t really in the forefront and his music wasn’t getting a lot of production. I was worried that younger people weren’t discovering him but to my surprise, there were lots of people in their 20s and 30s at these concerts who love the music. I think it gives me a lot of hope that people will still want to see me perform this genre and style of music and keep these great songs alive.
What do you hear from your younger fans?
I get YouTube comments all the time for my videos, from all over the world. People send me messages on Facebook. It is always fun to see someone show up at a show with a CD they bought years ago that they want me to sign. They tell me how they use my music in their weddings or whatever it may be, so yes it is a really great thing to see. This is a reason why I wanted to get into the music in the first place—to share my music in that kind of way. It’s always fun to interact and hear proof that my music is really out there.
Jack Everly has really been supportive of your career, hasn’t he?
Yes. Jack is really the one who got me into this wonderful scene of playing symphonic pops. It matches everything I do and if not for Jack giving me my first crack at symphony pop shows I don’t know if I would be doing the same thing. I haven’t worked with Jack for a couple years so I am very much looking forward to being in Indianapolis. He has such a high musicality and is such a skilled conductor. He is fun to hang out with but he is also serious about his work. He is at the top of his field and is all one could ask for in a conductor.
Who is the other performer on the bill?
Frankie Moreno. I have worked with him. We did some Frank Sinatra shows together last year. Frankie is a very talented performer who is based in Las Vegas. He was headliner of the year last year in Vegas and he’s a real force to be reckoned with. He’s a very fine performer and we are going to have a lot of fun doing the show.
I take it all three of you will all do solos, duets, etc.?
The basic kind of which Jack is really good at. It will be a balanced show where everybody gets their moment and also do songs together. People who love Sinatra and the Rat Pack will love this concert. And since it is also Valentine’s Day weekend, there are also going to be some nice romantic songs included as well.
What can your fans look forward to as far as projects you are working on now?
I am always trying to make the quality of the music I am releasing, better and better. I hope your readers will check out my videos on my YouTube page. I am also working on a musical which will hopefully end up on Broadway someday. It’s about a story loosely based on the all-female, interracial band called “Swing Sisters.” We have half the songs and most of the book done. We’ve received nice interest from possible investors and hope to workshop it this summer.
Have you ever written a musical ?
No. But I am finding it to be a lot of fun. I like the assignment of writing for story and developing a character and going from point A to point B. In some ways it is easier and in some ways it is more challenging to write that way.
What is your timeline for completion?
I think by early this summer. We have enough to submit for the workshops and showcases and things like that. We won a writer’s retreat which is really a competitive thing when we were first developing the show and gathered some resources. But these things take time.
What can audiences expect to experience at “Sinatra Centennial?”
It will be a fun, relaxed show with some of the energy of 60s Vegas.
For more information about Tony DeSare visit tonydesare.com. To view his YouTube videos visit https://www.youtube.com/user/adesare and to learn more about “Swing Sisters,” visit swingsistersthemusical.com.
How do you feel about sharing the stage with Tony?
I love Tony. I am looking forward to singing with him.
He mentioned that you two are neighbors.
He lives about 15 minutes north of me. He’s so great and I am such a fan. We have done benefits together but have not really performed together so I am really looking forward to it.
Do you know Frankie Moreno?
I don’t. This is going to be fun. This is going to be a different kind of concert for me to do. I have a pile of music on my dining room table that I am learning for it. It is just such great music and it is going to be a lot of fun.
What are some of the songs you’ll be singing?
We’re doing a lot of stuff individually. I have a few duets with Tony. I am looking forward to singing with him. We are doing “Something Stupid.” I get to be Nancy Sinatra. (Laughs) I am learning the lyrics first from the lyrics sheet before the music, which I try to do whenever I can. And I thought “You know what—this is a really good song.” I am also singing “Something’s Got to Give,” and “Time After Time.” And we have a great big medley with a fantastic line up of songs.
Looking forward to returning to work with the ISO?
I love Jack (Everly) and Ty (Johnson, Pops executive producer). I still have great memories of doing “Yuletide.” I loved it. It has been a while since I worked with them so I am thrilled. The ISO is a fantastic orchestra.
Tell me about your career these days.
I am doing so many different things at the moment. It is one of the craziest three month periods I can remember. I am learning a bunch of Sondheim songs to do in a concert in France. Then I am doing an Adele song and “Let It Go” in another concert in Paris. I am also doing Carol King symphony concerts. Right before I come to Indianapolis I will be with the Philly Pops doing a Carol King Tribute. The variety of things I am doing is so interesting and it is nice to be singing great standards.
Are you and your sister Ann still doing shows together?
We do our show “Boom” which is 60s and 70s music. We have a new show that we are doing, actually, for the second time. In Newark we are performing “West Side Story to Wicked” with the Callaways.” It’s really fun. We did “Sibling Revelry” this past summer and are doing our “West Side Story to Wicked Show” in San Francisco and Tampa in May. So we do perform together. Not that often, but our concerts together are sprinkled throughout the year.
Any thoughts of putting “West Side Story to Wicked” on a CD?
Yes. We are still fine tuning the show. But yes, absolutely, I think it would make a great CD. In a perfect world we want to do our own thing and also work together. I definitely want to do more recording. Ann and I produced a couple of albums and I actually enjoy that too. Also, the thought has occurred to me that someday I would like to produce an album of Ann’s singing all originals.
How many times have you played Indianapolis?
Not too much. I’ve performed twice with the ISO. Ann and I debuted the symphonic “Sibling Revelry” with them and then we did “Yuletide.” I also did several shows at the Cabaret at the Columbia Club. It’s been awhile. I have also gone up to Ball State University. Last year they did “Baby” and I did a bunch of master classes and worked with them during rehearsals a couple of nights with the cast. They also did “Merrily, We Roll Along.” I came back and did more master classes and sat in on a couple of rehearsals and worked with them then as well. One of these days I want to do a concert up there, hopefully with the students. I have gotten to know the faculty. They are just great. Bill Jenkins, the head of the theatre department is terrific. I told him I want to come back. It’s been very gratifying.
Where did attend college?
I went to the The University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music for one quarter. (Laughs) They have a great musical theatre department but I actually left after one quarter to work. I got a job in California that fell through, and then I worked in a theme park. Later I moved to New York the following fall with Ann when I was 18.
Any plans to return to Broadway?
I have some readings and things that are in early stages hope one of them keeps going. Intriguing things but nothing on the immediate horizon. I would love to go back to Broadway, but in the meantime, I am enjoying my crazy free-lance life and all my travels and stuff.
Do you miss home when you are on the road?
I do. I do. I do miss cooking. But I do love to travel.
Are you getting any tennis in?
I am not. I have four gigs in Florida this month. I have one final one. I am going to Ohio on Saturday to do a concert in Findlay and I am going to West Palm Beach, Florida to do something with Michael Feinstein and the Kravis Center Pops Orchestra and I have three trips there this month. It’s been so cold so my tennis has taken a back seat so it is not going to happening until April. In April things are a little calmer but the next but until April 1st I am on the road.85% of the time.
Will the “Sinatra Centennial” concert be good for couples celebrating Valentine’s Day?
It’s an evening with great music, dare I say, performed extremely well with a great orchestra. Some of it is romantic. Some of it is sexy. It is a perfect concert for Valentine’s Day weekend.
A week after my interview with her, Callaway sent this writer a copy of her CD “The Essential Liz Callaway,” which was released in Nov. of 2015. Celebrating her 30-year career, the album includes some of Callaway’s definitive recordings of “Meadowlark,” “The Story Goes On,” “Journey to the Past,” as well as five brand new tracks. On this CD, Callaway, described as “the voice of a generation,” lives up to her prodigious reputation.
“The Essential Liz Callaway” CD is available on Amazon, iTunes and CDbay.com and is a must for Callaway and musical theater lovers. For more information visit lizcallaway.com.
At press time, tickets for “Sinatra Centennial” were nearly sold out. For tickets and information call (317) 639-4300 or visit indianapolissymphony.org.