Thursday, August 22, 2013

Richard Sherman/Alan Menken Disney Songbook 2013 D23 Expo

Richard Sherman/Alan Menken Disney Songbook Concert at the D23 Expo

The fan favorite event at the 2013 D23 Expo was a concert by Richard Sherman and Alan Menken on Saturday evening. Even before the Expo started people were talking about how they would make sure they got to see these two men play their music. The concert was scheduled to start at 6 PM Saturday evening. The line outside the D23 Arena started to form well before 2 o’clock. I hopped into line at about 2 o’clock and was at least 1000 people back in line. The concert was to last about two hours instead it lasted closer to three.

Richard and Alan came out on stage together and were introduced. You could see the warm affection between these two fantastic artists. Alan Menken spoke warmly of how Richard Sherman welcomed him into the Disney musical family years ago. There was only one piano on stage so they were asked how they would play. Alan Menken laughed and said, “4 handed?” It was announced that one would play in the other would come out later. They joke about who would play first and Menken joked, “age before beauty?” And Richard Sherman jokingly took to the piano.

The next hour was filled with Richard Sherman playing the wonderful music that he and his brother Robert wrote over the years. He started with the early music of the Jungle Book, Mary Poppins and even touched on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. As he played he told stories about the writing and special memories of songs.

The most poignant moment was when Richard was talking about the Mary Poppins song, “Feed the Birds”. Richard told the audience about the day he and Robert took a stack of songs for Mary Poppins to Walt Disney’s office. They finished playing all the songs and Walt walked over to the north facing window and stood with his arms behind his back looking out the window. Walt said, “Play that Birdsong again”. So Richard and Robert played “Feed the Birds” for Walt again. When they finished the song Walt said, “Thats it! That song is the reason for the story.” Richard and Robert said, “Yes Walt”. That day Walt signed The Boys to work with him.

Richard shared one more memory of “Feed the Birds”. In 2001 there was a rededication of the Partners Statue at Disneyland. A beautiful white piano was placed in front of the statue in the Central Hub. Richard had play the selection of Disney songs and all of a sudden stopped. He looked at the approximately 2000 people gathered around for this rededication. He told them, “This next song is not for you, it’s for Walt. It was his favorite song.” He then proceeded to play “Feed the Birds”. Not a sound was made as he played but as he played the final phrase and sang, “Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag” there was a great collective sharp intake of breath. A single bird      came streaking out of the blue sky and swooped down low over the piano and then flew up and away. Richard had not seen the bird, when he got backstage he asked what had happen. When he heard the story and then saw the video of the bird he looked around and said, “Walt came.”

The first half of the evening was filled with wonderful moments like this from Richard Sherman.

Alan Menken came out with a stack of paper and set it on the edge of the piano. He started with his early works that he did for Disney and went through the list movie by movie playing the music he wrote. He spoke fondly of working with Howard Ashman and other talented composers over the years.

He joked about how you never know what is going to be a hit. He affectionately remembered “Newsies”. He spoke of how “Newsies” was a flop when it came out in the theaters but now has one Tony awards on Broadway!

Alan joked about being the only composer to have won an Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Razzy!

The evening ended with both men together on stage singing their songs about the world. Alan Menken sang Part Of You are World and Richard Sherman sang It’s a Small World.

These two men did not disappoint the audience! Even though I was in an arena with 4000 people I felt like they were playing for a small intimate group that I was blessed to be a part of. This evening was made even more special because in the row behind us was John Lasseter. He was the biggest fan in the room! You could hear him clapping, whistling and cheering Richard and Alan on.

So now, find a comfy chair, get yourself something to drink and turn up the sound. Enjoy the video of the Disney songbook by Richard Sherman and Alan Menken.

Sherman/Menken Disney Songbook part 1/3

Sherman/Menken Disney Songbook part 2/3

Sherman/Menken Disney Songbook part 3/3

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