What an honor it is to be named as one of the five finalists for WFMT’s 2011 artist of the year! You can listen to the segment which will include a special broadcast of a track from the upcoming HEARTbeats album today (Friday, December 30) starting at 4:00pm CT. The station asked me to write an introduction for the track so I thought it would be nice to include it here as well.
Our work with HEARTbeats Foundation, a non-profit organization that my wife, Helen Nightengale, and I set up for helping children around the world to better cope with the circumstances of their lives, is one of the most gratifying parts of my professional career that now is over 50 years in the running. It is particularly a joy that my relationship with WFMT in Chicago has been there for me for so many years as well; it was in 1966 that I first performed live for the station, and in a few weeks I will be going to Chicago to continue that tie with more music.
My friendship with great artists over the years has given me immense vital input to this human growth aspect of what music can and does mean: I have been changed in many ways to what our art is, and can mean to people. These friends’ excitement on joining us is truly amazing: The immeasurable talent of Christine Brewer, Randy Kerber’s remarkable arrangement of the great song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen, and the great composer, John Williams, who took time to conduct this for us, was an amazing gift. By the way, when we were doing this recording we realized that we were in the same space, the same sound stage that was used in the late 30’s for Judy Garland’s recording of it for “The Wizard of Oz.” We all felt something very special indeed that afternoon: music can reach parts of our collective past that is, well, a religious experience.
I believe you can listen to the station online at their website, http://www.wfmt.com.