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Pop / Rock 13/08/2011

Melissa Errico's Epic Collaboration With Michel Legrand & Phil Ramone Gets 10/18 Release On Ghostlight Records, 'Legrand Affair'

Melissa Errico's Epic Collaboration With Michel Legrand & Phil Ramone Gets 10/18 Release On Ghostlight Records, 'Legrand Affair'
New York, NY (Top40 Charts/ Ghostlight Records) An Epic, Cinematic 'Legrand Affair' is Readied, as Melissa Errico's Eagerly-Awaited Collaboration with Michel Legrand and Phil Ramone Gets October 18th Release on Ghostlight Records!

Imagine a Passionate Kiss Backed by a 100-Piece Orchestra - Errico Delivers an 'Enormous, Intimate, Sensual' CD, Years in the Making

Few projects convey the sense of scale, ambition and passion as Melissa Errico's 'Legrand Affair.' Literally years in the making, this improbable endeavor has become a reality, and is confirmed for October 18th release on Ghostlight Records. 'Legrand Affair' is a collection of songs written by the legendary Michel Legrand, performed by Errico with a 100-piece symphony orchestra in Brussels, and produced by Phil Ramone. Their goal was to juxtapose something enormous with something create epic, larger-than-life, cinematic art...but at the same time, make it feel akin to the most sensual kiss you've ever experienced. Listeners will soon be able to appreciate the delicate grandeur of their efforts. For now, learn more, and hear samples, via this link:

The story behind the making of the album (which will feature a range of classic Legrand compositions as well as new material written for Errico by Legrand with Alan and Marilyn Bergman,) is as sweeping as the final product. As seen in Errico's detailed 'Musing' essay, below, the process sounds more like a James Bond film than a trip to the recording studio, and indeed it was...the epic journey included stops in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Brussels, Switzerland, Normandy, Andorra, Toronto, Costa Brava and a listening session while flying over the Pyrenees to Spain, with Legrand himself piloting a private plane. Errico even had three children over the course of the six years it took to see 'Legrand Affair' to completion, but recognizes it was all worth the wait: "I'm proud to have gotten it to the place it was always meant to be, in honor of Michel Legrand who I love and respect beyond words."

Highlights abound on the upcoming CD, from the Oscar-nominated 'What Are You Doing For the Rest of Your Life' to 'The Windmills of Your Mind' (winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Song, from 'The Thomas Crown Affair'.) On 'I Will Wait For You', another Oscar-nominated track, Errico delivers an unexpected song for our times, a sentiment warmly conveyed to her by military families following a recent concert in Maryland. Read a preview of the event, here:

The album was Co-Produced by Richard Jay-Alexander, Errico's concert director, close collaborator and longtime friend (responsible for casting Errico as Cosette in the first national touring company of Les Miserables, when she was an 18 year-old freshman at Yale.)

'Legrand Affair' marks Errico's third solo release, following 'Blue Like That' (EMI) and 'Lullabies and Wildflowers' (VMG/Universal). Additionally, it is her third collaboration with Ghostlight Records. She appeared on the label's 'Finian's Rainbow' recording, as well as on their Broadway cast album of Michel Legrand's 'Amour'. Ghostlight will also reissue 'Lullabies and Wildflowers'.

'Legrand Affair' - Abbreviated Credits:
Produced for Records by Phil Ramone. Album Co-Producer Richard Jay-Alexander. Mixed by Lawrence Manchester. Album Executive Producers - Kurt Deutsch and Patrick McEnroe. Associate Producers - Marc Silag and Pat Rains.
Featuring The Flemish Radio Orchestra (newly renamed The Brussels Philharmonic) - recorded in Leuven, Belgium, July 5th - 10th, 2005. Orchestra conducted by Michel Legrand. All Piano by Michel Legrand. CD Booklet contains never-before-seen photos, full album credits and a note from Melissa Errico.

'Legrand Affair' - Track Listing:
Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Norman Gimbel

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Hal Shaper

8. "DIS MOI"
Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Francoise Sagan

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Johnny Mercer

15. "CELUI-LA"
Music: Michel Legrand Lyrics: Eddy Marnay

Melissa Errico's 'Musing' -
A Chronology of the Project:
Michel Legrand showed up at my door on the day after Valentine's Day, February 15th, 2005 and stayed for a week in NYC. We hadn't seen each other since the Tony Awards the year before where AMOUR was celebrated with many nominations. I had since been on Broadway in Dracula and it had just closed. Michel had always said he would like to consider making an album together and the time had come. He came to New York to spend time together, to listen and practice and sing and see if we could find an idea that felt right. On the first day, he sat at my table and mused, saying that we will only make a recording if we can find something that speaks to us, a spirit, a connection to certain songs and a vision. And then he never talked again about it. Michel isn't a big talker. He likes to DO. He likes to play music and focus (or wander) and get enveloped in work. So, we began to go through his music. I had compiled a massive binder of his songs, perhaps every song he ever wrote (I had a wonderful time before he arrived researching and finding experts with impressive libraries). Michel was astounded by this binder and poured through it for days, sometimes not even remembering certain songs or collaborations, seeing handwritten songs from films long forgotten. We went through mountains of unknown songs, and then would come to a famous song, and around it went; Michel would sit and play quietly in our apartment, and I would sing along, with my husband Patrick tip-toeing in and out, kindly bringing us sandwiches or we would never have stopped to relax ever. It was a dream come true. Michel sometimes suddenly wanted to watch a film, and we would call his manager who would messenger over copies of old movies and we would sit and watch them in the afternoon. Michel told stories about his life during the war, of his piano teachers, of his mother, of his career and incredible collaborations and friendships, and some of the maverick things he has done such as spending three days frolicking on a beach with Miles Davis when they were meant to be composing, or the time he wasn't finished orchestrating a movie and asked the airplane pilot to circle around and not land in Los Angeles yet. It was a magical time for me, and Patrick will never forget those days of our home filled with this music. It was almost surreal for me. My father is a pianist, and since I was a little girl, he has played Legrand's music. To think that the universe had brought me this incredible good fortune to meet Michel and then to work with him on Broadway and now to even THINK together about a recording was beyond any imaginable expectations.

So, Michel and I played through his songs, and always quietly and tenderly. Neither of us seemed to want to do anything theatrical or bombastic-we found ourselves exploring the poetic words, and meandering through his painfully gorgeous melodies, always with intimacy. I knew the stories of his films, and if I didn't know the stories behind the songs, he would let me know. The lyrics themselves would hit me and I'd know right away if something was mine to sing. Michel would feel it too, and he would play and decorate and inspire me along with his extraordinary pianistic color, which flows from him like water. I'd hold the melody and the meanings while he would go to wild corners of his imagination, sometimes bringing in classical motifs or jazz or folk. He would write notes in the margins like "Mozart meets folk" or "Ravel concerto in G major" and then his hands would sort of combine these elements in a fascinating way. I would sit at the piano bench and delight in his creativity, and at the same time I would feel completely lost in the simplicity of a truthful song, and I'd feel totally balanced. It was a strange thing but it started coming together. We spoke of some of our favorite cds (such as Shirley Horn Here's To Life/with Strings and Joni Mitchell including her beautiful orchestral Both Sides, Now album) and Michel was certain it had to be a huge symphonic recording. How on earth would that actually ever happen I thought!? , "enormone, intime, sensuelle" he said. 100 musicians in a symphony for an intimate cd? Well, that's just what we set out to do.

What happened next is something of a dream, and a dream with momentum, as we started writing lists and trusting ourselves. By the fifth day, Michel jumped up and said we had to call Phil. He got on his cellphone and with his petulant charm and heavy French accent said "hello Phil!? Phil! How are you!? It is Michel! Oh hello my friend. I want you to come over, I am with Melissa, Melissa ERRICO, we have something to sing for you, I want you to hear it. Come. Come come." The next day, Phil (who turned out to be PHIL RAMONE) was in my apartment and I was singing these arrangements for him. (I had met him once before when I was chosen to sing for Jimmy Webb's induction into the Hall of Fame.) Michel and I had about 30 songs on a favorites list, and six arrangement ideas to present to Phil that day: The Summer Knows, Windmills, Something New In My Life, I Was Born in Love With You, Maybe Someone Dreamed Us, Once Upon A Summertime, and a spare Dis-Moi. Phil was clearly a good friend to Michel, and approached him (and me) full of warmth, with ready hugs and a calm demeanor, entering the unknown. He had no idea what we were up to, and he wasn't phased one bit, perhaps sensing a journey was upon us, totally willing. After some small talk, Michel unplugged from socializing and started playing the piano, in sometimes manic dashes up and down the entire keyboard, as if to warm up his hands for a race, or perhaps to get some energy out before his concentration would kick in. Michel had his head down and we would all just watch, and then he would lift his head and smile and want to chat again-and then he drew me to his piano bench and was ready to sing. I sat down, at what by now had become a familiar spot at his side.

As we sang for Phil, I had a calm feeling that Michel and I had become something of a team; after all, we had already been through a lot of excitement. In the last two years, we had already done a month-long workshop and a Broadway show. We had done press appearances, had our own opening night bash at The Tavern On The Green and been on the red carpet at The Tony Awards. During Broadway preview performances, Michel was given the task to add more music for my character. While much of our previews were embroiled with technical issues (the central character walks through walls, but some of those walls were falling), Michel and I found ourselves in a quiet place in the lower lobby of The Music Box Theatre where there is a grand piano. It was at that piano where he would present new songs to me, and I would sit down to learn new melodies to be put into the show that very night. (Because it was written overnight and put into the show immediately, I did have the lyrics to "Other Peoples Stories" pasted discreetly in the magazine my character conveniently carried as a prop.) We had a way of not noticing the chaos of a Broadway tech rehearsal around us, and just staying in a fantasy.

So, as I sat at Michel's side in my apartment, Phil Ramone may have sensed that we were quite happy to share our ideas for a cd. I recorded those at-home performances, and Phil was a wonderful audience. He reveled in the colors, and he seemed to understand me and want to support us. I was so grateful. At the end of that day, it was agreed that we would go into the studio the next day to make demos at Right Track. Michel sat at my kitchen table and started writing on music paper which he always carries with him. He hadn't stopped to eat or drink, so I made him food and he didn't look up. He was writing arrangements for trio, for tomorrow. He was writing for an hour or so, and then we met the next day, where I think I saw him scribbling a few more times as we settled into the recording studio. That was the day I met Steve Gadd and David Finck. And what a revelation that was! Michel presented them with charts for The Summer Knows, Windmills, Maybe Someone Dreamed Us, Once Upon a Summertime and Something New In My Life. And off we went. I'll never forget hearing Michel suddenly change tempos completely and Steve Gadd flawlessly following him, making things funky and delicate at the same time, tender and groovy, suddenly jazzy and then suddenly quite classical. Michel probably wasn't reading his arrangements. At the end of the day, we recorded the two French songs Dis-Moi and Celui-La. Dis-Moi was always a heartbreaker for me, as it tells the story of a woman who has given up her children and left her husband for a lover who is now drifting from her. It is a song of fear and pleading, but most of all a portrait of a woman who has surrendered entirely; from a film - and with lyrics- written by the novelist Francoise Sagan. Celui-La was a song I wanted to sing. Michel told me he wrote it the day he heard that President Kennedy was dead. In that song, I feel so much about Michel's values and his sense of honor. We made a one-take demo and that is the song that ends the cd, never touched.

After the demos were made, Michel went back to Paris and Switzerland, and began to write the orchestrations. My husband and I visited him once to rehearse in France, and Phil Ramone accompanied us, enjoying wonderful afternoons where Michel's wife Catherine treated us with such graciousness at their home, including a breathtaking impromptu performance one day on her harp. None of us will ever forget the view from the car approaching Michel's house in Normandie, dominated as it was by an enormous spiraling water mill. We all played by the water mill and enjoyed the blossoms falling all around us in the grass. We filled a week with rehearsals and discussions about the music, and by the end of our trip, we had solidified a recording song list and Michel could continue to write. When I returned to New York, I was working on a hit production of Finian's Rainbow and preparing to do Camelot with Jeremy Irons. Then one day, I was asked by Michel to fly to Toronto to learn a new song he was writing for our cd. And it was in Toronto where Michel presented me with "In Another Life," and I cried. Catherine was there, standing by the piano to support Michel as he played it to me for the first time in their hotel suite, and it was truly a moment where I felt so touched and thankful to be with them both.

The next time I saw Michel was in Belgium in early July on a Monday morning. I had a closing night performance the prior Saturday eve in Westport CT for the grand re-opening of the Westport Country Playhouse where I had champagne with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and was in London the following afternoon to pick up my husband from the Wimbledon final, only to hop a train together at dawn en route to Leuven. And we were only 10 minutes late for the recording session at the concert hall that Monday at 10am! As I walked in the room, Michel was playing "In Another Life" with 100 musicians. I have it all on video, thanks to my manager. I was speechless, I was elated. We were there. A symphony orchestra. I had never seen so many people in one orchestra. I counted 11 upright bass players. It was a glorious week, and a glorious 6 day experience, and Phil Ramone was steady and brilliant.

The first time I heard the recorded orchestrations, I was at Patrick's side in a small airplane, being flown by Michel Legrand (yes, as the pilot!) over the Pyrenees to Spain where he wanted us to all go and celebrate for a few days with his friends. Fortunately, I had a portable cd player and Michel presented me with the recording at the little airport with its little cafe, surrounded by grassy fields, just outside of Paris. I was in the clouds (literally) when I listened for the first time to all that had been captured in Belgium. It wasn't all play and Michel was working upstairs all the time on a new musical, and new songs, and for 2 days he asked Patrick to drive him 7 hrs to Andorra where we spent a long weekend with Chucho Valdez, enjoying a very exciting concert. Michel travels with a small wooden piano and practiced the entire car ride, asking my husband to drive with less swerving, as we twisted through the mountains. I had to return to Los Angeles for Camelot, or I might never have left the Mediterranean air of the Costa Brava, and the sense of sunlit wonder at what had been created.

In Los Angeles, I spent some time with Alan and Marilyn Bergman and don't expect I will ever see a more radiant flower garden (or witness a more gentle and beautiful marriage). That August in LA, Michel arrived to do jazz concerts and included me and my Amour co-star Malcolm Gets on stage. In the months to follow, we all continued to work in NYC recording piano over-dubs and vocals, until my life became a true manifestation of "Something New In My Life" as Patrick and I welcomed our first daughter that year. I never lost sight of the recording or the mixing process, but motherhood had an immediacy I could not deny. I thought I would release the cd several times along the six years to today, but I held it close, and had two more daughters. Michel did not rush me, and Phil the same. Over the years, Michel visited New York and we appeared together on stage at Joes Pub and Dizzy's at Lincoln Center, as well as did a photoshoot for this cd, and I came to see Michel perform at Birdland. Surrounded by beautiful babies and several sleepless years, I would work on the music and then take time to step away from it, letting life and air just breathe around it for a while. I would return to it vigorously and then I would let it wait a moment, as I thought about certain details of it. Then, I'd return again. And for long periods of time I didn't see Michel. Now, with the three vibrant graces at my side, I feel I have sung this recording as I always meant to sing it. I did the final vocals in a concentrated few days, with only two takes per song, or sometimes merely one. Perhaps it was with renewed energy due to the twins just beginning to stand on their own two feet, literally, or perhaps it was the sweet experience of returning to Broadway in White Christmas. I sang the music in the presence of an old friend, Richard Jay-Alexander, and we didn't seek perfection, we sought to connect to the meanings, and all the years I had cherished these songs. And in my head and in my heart I always thought of my days with Michel, wanting to give him and his orchestrations the voice we had wanted, never losing sight of our vision, never letting go of that feeling of being at his side.

More about Melissa Errico:
Melissa Errico is one of the most versatile women to have come out of this Broadway's young generation, proving herself both a great interpreter of classic musicals and modern music alike, as well as a gifted recording artist and film/television presence. She has starred in seven Broadway musicals and released two major solo cds: Blue Like That (EMI) and Lullabies and Wildflowers (VMG/Universal). She has been called everything from "divine" to "the voice of enchantment" to "one of the most valuable assets of the musical theater" by the NY TIMES as well as "incandescent" (Daily News) and "blessed with every attribute a grand dame of Broadway requires: star power, voice, looks, ability, personality, technique. An aphrodisiac, as it were, that galvanizes a musical into life." (Clive Barnes). "Our most earthy and soulful ingenue... She both sparkles and is unmannered." (USA Today) Her recordings have been praised as "intimate exhalations, sung with her heart-on-sleeve" (Billboard) and "a classy classic sound, with taste and imagination" (Washington Post) and "...ethereal, gorgeous, elegant, popular. Delivered with inward emotion and real artistry" (NY TIMES). Upon coming to hear her sing the role of Fiona in BRIGADOON in a one-night only concert on Broadway in June 2010, Ben Brantley of THE NY TIMES wrote "this beautifully sung performance had the bewitched aura of the exquisitely ephemeral. I left the Shubert feeling blessed and privileged, and I knew many of my friends would feel envious when I described what I had seen."

In 2003, Melissa won a Tony-nomination for Best Leading Actress in the Broadway musical AMOUR,
composed by multi-Oscar-winning composer Michel Legrand (Yentl), her musical idol, who went on to orchestrate and conduct a 100-piece symphony for the recording of Legrand Affair produced by Phil Ramone, to be released October 18th 2011. This recording is a true celebration of his songs and rare occasion for her to collaborate with Michel in the way he has only done a handful of times, including for singers such as Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughn and Johnny Mathis. AMOUR happily reunited Melissa with author/director James Lapine as she had starred the year before at The Kennedy Center opposite Raul Esparza in The Sondheim Celebration's SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE where Stephen Sondheim wrote some new lyrics for her interpretation of Dot.

Melissa's career began as Cosette in LES MISERABLES when she was only 18, for which she took a leave of absence from Yale University and returned to graduate with high honors and an art history/philosophy degree. That year, she went on to star as Eliza Doolittle in Howard Davies' daring and unusual revival of MY FAIR LADY on Broadway, and was called "beguiling" in the opening sentence of the NY Times review. Melissa revived her spunky and "frisky" (NY Times) portrayal of Eliza in 2003 opposite John Lithgow in Los Angeles. She has also starred on Broadway in HIGH SOCIETY, ANNA KARENINA and DRACULA. It was at The Hollywood Bowl in 2006 where Melissa first starred opposite Jeremy Irons in CAMELOT (a production which Variety praised as "fast, funny, inspired and deserving of a long run") and the next year in an acclaimed SOUND OF MUSIC.

In 1996, in what many recall as a major breakthrough, Melissa's witty sensual portrayal of Venus at City Center in Weill's ONE TOUCH OF VENUS took NYC by storm ("an overnight sensation! a star is born"- "divine" NY Times). She has a long resume of Broadway and off- Broadway starring credits, including the 2009-2010 Broadway revival of WHITE CHRISTMAS in which she played the Rosemary Clooney role. Over the years, she has regularly won acclaim in non-musical plays by Shaw, Wilde and modern works such as by Wally Shawn. In 2010, she was nominated for Best Actress in a Play at the Drama Desk Awards for her work in the title role of George Bernard Shaw's CANDIDA, and starred in an independent film called PATRIMONY opposite Robert Vaughn. Her other film credits include Frequency and Life Or Something Like It (opposite Angelina Jolie) and her TV credits include a series regular on Darren Starr's CBS show Central Park West and many network guest star roles including Six Degrees and Miss Match.

During the summer of 2011, Melissa co-starred with Alec Baldwin in GIFT OF THE GORGON by Peter Shaffer, and reprised CAMELOT with Jeremy Irons for one-night only on Broadway at The Shubert Theater. Melissa has sung solo engagements at The Cafe Carlyle and The Algonquin's Oak Room and has sung on many of America's most esteemed concert halls as well as on smaller stages and readings supporting developing new modern musicals. She is active in several charities, especially The Bowery Babes, a NY 501c3 non-profit she founded in 2005 which supports parents in downtown Manhattan, and provides education, counseling and connection. Since becoming a mother (to Victoria in 2006; and Diana and Juliette in 2008), Melissa has appeared with symphonies all over the country, including The Cleveland Orchestra and The New Jersey Symphony with Steven Reineke. She made an acclaimed London debut in the summer 2008 (while pregnant with twins!) with The Royal Philharmonic at The Palladium Theater with Angela Lansbury in celebration of Jerry Herman, a concert she reprised to great acclaim at The Kennedy Center in March 2009 with The National Symphony. She has toured with such conductors as Michael Tilson Thomas, and concert artists like Brian Stokes Mitchell and Michael Feinstein. Errico is married to Patrick McEnroe and they live in Manhattan. For more:


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