Jamie Bernstein to share memories of her father, Leonard Bernstein.
Jamie Bernstein, the daughter of the late composer-conductor-instrumentalist Leonard Bernstein, is returning to Michigan to narrate a free concert of her father’s music and privately experience a piano at which he briefly expressed his creativity.
The concert is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at Birmingham First United, a Methodist church in the city of Birmingham, where Casey Proch will be conducting a full orchestra. Bernstein’s visit to see the piano will happen the next day in the Cranbrook community.
“My talk is about the music we’re going to hear, and I will weave it all together,” said Bernstein, who has visited this area in past years among her travels to talk about her father’s work and introduce her own film, Crescendo: The Power of Music, which is about children and music.
“As Bernstein material is being performed, those pieces will give me a springboard to talk about my dad, and the evening should be a nice combination of music and talk.”
The evening’s selections, spotlighting singers, will include numbers from the Broadway musical West Side Story, move into the operetta Candide and present “Chichester Psalms,” sung in Hebrew by the Birmingham First Choir.
“I love to emphasize how multifarious my father was,” Bernstein said. “He was the ultimate guy who didn’t do just one thing. When it came to being a composer, he wrote for so many different kinds of venues in music. He wrote Broadway material, symphonic works and choral works in many different styles.
“He could incorporate Latin American flavors and any kind of European genre. He loved the blues, so there are a lot of blues and jazz elements in his music. Because he could do a lot of different things, his music was so much fun.”
Jamie Bernstein, who travels the world speaking of her father, called attention to his interest in education and how that affected the family as written in her book Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein. She reminds people of his televised Young People’s Concerts that reached millions of children around the world.
In the book, she tells about their father-daughter time together. She went with him to Israel and saw the special attention he received, and just the two of them went boating during summer vacation time at Martha’s Vineyard.
“A big thing with my father that affected everything he did was that he was a lifelong humanitarian and activist,” the daughter said. “He took the concept of tikkun olam very seriously and used his music to try to make the world a better place.
“He used his music to rise above political considerations. He believed music transcended that level of disagreement, and he believed music could help people rise above their differences and find their common humanity.”
As Bernstein communicates about her dad, she has taken on three recent projects — one about him, another about the history of the New York Philharmonic and the third as she begins a new book.
The presentation about him is divided into four parts for the streaming platform Idagio. The narrative about the orchestra in her hometown is a podcast presented by the classic radio station WQXR.
While Bernstein is looking forward to her narrative program, she is also eager to see the piano that her father worked on in the 1940s and 1980s when he came to the area for concert presentations. There are conflicting stories about what he was working on during those times.
“I don’t have a conscious plan (of what I will say), but I’ve discovered over all of these years making presentations on all sorts of musical topics, I love to share stuff that I know about,” she said. “One of those things is my dad, and I love talking about him. I get excited the way he used to get excited.
“I find myself leaning into my listeners and making sure the last row can hear me and is getting into what I’m talking about. I think I got that from my dad.”