The Pittsburgh Symphony Pops will perform for the first half of the event.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
They were the songs soldiers heard when they came back to America after the war. They were the songs that generations of grandparents and parents fell in love to. They were the songs that formed the soundtrack for life for a number of decades.
Songs like "Stormy Weather," "The Best Is Yet To Come" and "On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)" are the songs Michael Feinstein fell in love with during his early years as a performer. And he plans to bring them to life during a performance Wednesday in New Castle, Pa.
The first half of the performance will feature the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops, conducted by Edward Cumming and John Oddo, performing selections from the musical "West Side Story" and more.
Songs from CD: Feinstein will join the orchestra for the second portion to perform songs from his upcoming CD.
"Michael Feinstein with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra" is a salute to classic American songs, many of which come from great composers like Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer and David Raskin and Ira and George Gershwin.
"My opinion is that there is never enough appreciation for these songs as there should be," Feinstein said. "They resonate in a way other music does not. It is music that transcends time."
Many of the songs hold a personal note for Feinstein, as they were the songs his parents played for him as a child. He learned to play piano by ear at age 5 while growing up in Columbus (he still is barely able to read music), and performed at parties and weddings throughout his teen-age years.
As he got paid for his performances, he realized he could make a living in the music industry, and moved to California at age 20.
Through concert pianist-actor Oscar Levant, Feinstein was introduced to Ira Gershwin in 1977, forming what became a solid friendship between the famed composer and the student who idolized him.
Feinstein continued to work in Hollywood, performing at local piano bars and the like until his big break came along. Liza Minelli sponsored his 1986 New York debut and he became a well-known name in the performance world with his 1988 Broadway show "Isn't It Romantic."
To date, he continues to give live performances at large venues and intimate clubs, and is busy with songwriting and scoring music for films such as "Get Bruce."
His good fortune: "My career really found me," he explained. "I was lucky enough to be discovered by what you would call the 'Hollywood Elite,' and that truly solidified my desire to be immersed in this world."
Though he enjoys recording songs like those on his latest CD, which will be in stores May 7, live performances bring them to a whole new level for both him and the audience.
"Entertainment is very different, especially when it is experienced live," he said. "Music is made up of vibrations, and that is what we are made up of -- vibrations.
"First and foremost, I want to entertain audiences," he continued. "I love making recordings, but I also love performing live, when it can be so spontaneous and exciting. I love that interaction with the audience."
The songs Feinstein will perform locally will receive lush treatment with the backing not only of Feinstein's piano and voice, but the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops as well.
"These songs are all very adaptable," he said. "Each has a different construction that can really be brought forward with an ensemble. Many come from Broadway musicals and were used in a plot situation, therefore they were originally conceived with large orchestras in mind. They deserve to be performed that way, and that is what I hope to do."