New York Public Library Series Celebrates Centennial of Broadway Composer

News   New York Public Library Series Celebrates Centennial of Broadway Composer The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will present an eight-program series celebrating the centennial of the late Broadway, film and classical composer, Vernon Duke.

Entitled Autumn in New York: Vernon Duke at 100, the celebration kicks off Sept. 25 at 6:30 PM with "An Evening with Barbara Carroll." The celebrated jazz pianist will offer her renditions of several Duke classics. Among the composer's most famous songs are "April in Paris," "I Can't Get Started," "Taking a Chance On Love" and, of course, "Autumn in New York."

On Oct. 9 the Library will present a two-piano evening with musicians Richard Rodney Bennett and Scott Dunn. Duke's widow, Kay Duke Ingalls, and other special guests will also participate in the 6:30 PM evening. An afternoon performance (3 PM) that will examine the history and reconstruction of the 1932 Vernon Duke/E. Y. Harburg musical revue, Walk a Little Faster, is scheduled for Oct. 11 and will feature lecturer/performer Anna Wheeler Gentry and pianist Vicki Ohl.

On Oct. 14, also at 3 PM, members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus will perform songs from the 1940 musical Cabin in the Sky as well as other Duke shows. Donald Saddler, who choreographed the 1952 film "April in Paris," will discuss working on that movie, which starred Doris Day. Excerpts from the movie's musical numbers will be screened during the Oct. 25 afternoon (3 PM).

George S. Irving will be among the special guests taking part in the Oct. 27 evening that focuses on the unknown music of Vernon Duke. Entitled "You Took Me By Surprise," the 6 PM performance will also feature Max Wilk (narrator) and Michael Lavine (music director). The chamber music of Vernon Duke will be featured on Nov. 20 (6 PM). Those taking part in this evening will include Metropolitan Opera cellist Samuel Magill and pianist Scott Dunn. The Vernon Duke celebration concludes Dec. 11 at 6 PM with the "Art Songs of Vernon Duke and Libby Larsen."

To theatregoers Duke is, perhaps, best known for his score to Cabin in the Sky (lyrics by John La Touche), which played the Martin Beck Theatre Oct. 1940-March 1941. Among the all-black cast were Ethel Waters, Todd Duncan, Rex Ingram, Dooley Wilson and Katherine Dunham. George Balanchine choreographed and co-directed (with Albert Lewis). Duke's many other Broadway credits include It Happens on Ice, Banjo Eyes, The Lady Comes Across, Jackpot, Sadie Thompson and Two's Company. All programs will be held at the New York Public Library's Bruno Walter Auditorium, which is located in Manhattan at 111 Amsterdam Avenue (south of 65th Street). Admission is free and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about Autumn in New York: Vernon Duke at 100, call (212) 642-0142.