By Kenneth Jones
26 Jan 2004
Chaffin and partner Tommy Krasker formed PS Classics Inc. in 2002 to concentrate on the restoration and recording of vintage musicals that otherwise might never be recorded. There is now a mechanism in place to solicit a variety of funding (including tax-deductible donations from fans) for the projects. (Also on the PS Classics wish-list is Rodgers and Hart's Spring Is Here.)
"Tommy and I have always been interested in recording forgotten works of the American musical theatre," Chaffin told Playbill On-Line. "Tommy of course got started as a record producer doing cast albums of old Gershwin shows. His background is as an archivist. But the bottom line is that these projects take years - [musical director] Aaron Gandy and [orchestrator] Russell Warner have been working on the restoration of Fine and Dandy since the fall of 2001. And then when you get around to recording, and factor in the size of the orchestra and cast, and the potential sales, these projects simply don't pay back. The truth is that there's a passionate audience for these vintage cast albums - we count ourselves among the fans - but it's a limited audience. Tommy learned that lesson early on when the Gershwin recordings, one by one, lost money. We simply couldn't bring investors aboard promising them any hope of a return, but at the same time, we didn't want to give up on a lot of hopes we had to restore and record vintage works. So we opened a nonprofit company designed specifically for the locating, restoration and, ultimately, recording of vintage American works."
PS Classics Inc. got its 501(c)(3) status from the IRS in fall 2003.
"We've been approaching individuals, foundations, and corporations, but anyone can go to our website and make a donation, large or small, and we hope they will," Chaffin said.
The PS Classics Inc. website, distinct from the commercial PS Classics LLC site, is located at www.psclassics.org.
Why Fine and Dandy?
Krasker previously told Playbill On-Line, "Back in the fall of 2001, I received an e-mail from Kay Swift's granddaughter Katharine Weber. I had spoken with her briefly back when I was recording Pardon My English for the Gershwin Trusts a decade ago. Kay had restored a lot of Gershwin's unnotated songs from memory in the years following his death, and we thought she might have some sketches from Pardon My English that would help us with the restoration. Katharine obliged very kindly and very quickly, but I hadn't spoken to her since.
"Katharine was writing because of her desire to see Fine and Dandy, Kay's biggest musical comedy, recorded. The lyrics were by Kay's husband, James Warburg, writing under the pseudonym Paul James. Kay had been working with orchestrator Russell Warner restoring the score just before she died, and Russell in turn had been working on the restoration for over a decade. Katharine sent me a vocal score, and I thought it was delightful. I really didn't know Kay's work at all, other than the title song, but she was an accomplished classically-trained musician and composer. I think the work will surprise a lot of people, and although the original charts survive for only one number, Russell has been orchestrating the remainder of the work for the original number of musicians: 28."
In addition to the aforementioned cast, the recording will also feature several bonus tracks of other songs by Kay Swift (including her now-standard "Can't We Be Friends?"), newly recorded by jazz and cabaret artists Ann Hampton Callaway, Jack Donahue, Natalie Douglas, and Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli.