(Gagliano’s remembrance appeared 6/26.)

I met lyricist Sheldon Harnick (died Friday, 23 June, 2023: age 99) once, at the Eugene O’Neill Musical Theatre Conference. Composer Claibe Richardson and I were working on our musical, “From The Bodoni County Songbook Anthology.” Harnick (“Fiddler On The Roof,” “She Loves Me,” “Fiorello”) was working on a one-act opera, “That Pig Of A Mollette.” 1980’s sometime? I don’t recall much of those lunches (though I suspect we talked about Harnick writing operas (and he wrote many). 

But I do remember recognizing specifically his laugh, because I had heard a recording of an evening devoted to him and his career on the famous NYC  “Lyrics and Lyricists” series, 92nd Street Y, New York City, 2005. Harnick’s sense of delight and whimsey were apparent from the program’s beginning. He started off by singing many of his very early comedy songs: “The Suave Young Man In The Trench Coat,” (A Bogart homage) “They’re Rioting in Africa” (a funny take on man’s inhumanity to man),—“The Boston Beguine” (his first Broadway hit, from the musical revue, “New Faces of 1952”), Below: “The Basilica Of St. Anne” (“I kissed her under that nave/ At The Basilica of St. Anne./There in a scene celestial/ She acted clean/ And I acted bestial. . .”).

 

Researching Sheldon Harnick’s Oeuvre for the Facebook posting, I was amazed at the range of his lyric (and translating and adaptations) genius, and in so many disparate genres. For a Placido Domingo 1985 Special, he translated the Verdi Rigoletto aria, “Questa o Quella.”For Concerts: One of my favorite song cycles, the Canteloube, “Songs of the Auvergne.” For Bill Baird Marionettes: the Stravinsky Theatre Piece “L’histoire du Soldat” and “Alice In Wonderland.” Bach Cantatas, “The Contest between Phoebus and Pan.” Movie to stage: “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

 

And of course, we had the glory of the great —now classic— Theater songs. 

Now —more than ever —I would have welcomed more lunches with Sheldon Harnick.

 

RIP Mr. Harnick.

 

FG

(Visit Frank Gagliano’s Web site)

 

 

[Above Attached: Mp3: Sheldon Harnick sings—“The Basilica of St. Anne” and “Garbage”— at the 2005 “Lyrics and Lyricists” series, 92nd Street Y, New York City, 2005.]

 

[View New York Times obit./]

 

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