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My Funny Valentine-Chopin meets Rodgers & Hart

About 38 years ago I felt the need for some improvement in my classical piano technique. So, for a period of time, I went back to study with Marian C. Hanshaw, at my Alma Mater, Holy Cross College.

She shared something I have never forgotten. Over the years I’ve told my students that pianists who want to grow and develop, recognize that they may have gaps in their musical background. This awareness inspires them to seek out the teacher who will help to fill the void. This way they can move to the next musical level.

You may now be wondering what this has to do with My Funny Valentine. It’s because the introduction and ending of my rendition of My Funny Valentine are in fact Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor. This short gem was among the ones I learned during my studies with Chris Hanshaw those many years ago. As I’ve discovered in music as well as in other areas, when you personalize something, you “own it.”

My Funny Valentine was composed for the 1937 Broadway musical Babes in Arms. Two years later, after 289 theater performances, the show was made into a film. My Funny Valentine’s commercial success notwithstanding, it was embraced by the jazz community and has become a very popular jazz standard.

Other artists were influenced by Chopin’s Prelude in C minor. For example, the young Barry Manilow (a skilled pianist who was Bette Midler’s accompanist), was influenced by this composition when he created his early hit Could It Be Magic. Whereas the Manilow piece was based on the actual Prelude in C Minor, my use of it was inspired by a strong connection between the Chopin piece and the verses of My Funny Valentine. The verses of this Rodgers and Hart classic are steeped in C minor, and this harmonic palette drew me to connect the two selections separated by nearly 100 years.

If you would like to learn how to make musical connections in your own piano playing, let’s talk about it. Contact me today.



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