Here are four performances from a delightful concert by Yaala Ballin, vocal; Michael Kanan, piano — at St. John’s in the Village, a welcoming Episcopal church on West 11th Street in Greenwich Village, New York. Valentine’s Day 2020 was a perfect reason for the charming event that Yaala and Michael have perfected, where audience members were given a list of classic songs and asked to pick two they especially wanted to hear . . . then, in true quiz show fashion, Yaala reached into the basket of paper slips, drew one out, showed the name to Michael, and that was the next number. Joyous and alive.
Yaala and Michael love and respect the melodies and the emotions that animate the songs, and they are also playful explorers: with the secure magic carpet of Michael’s accompaniment, Yaala can stretch the line, deliver some words in speech, offer suspenseful pauses: in effect, build new houses on familiar ground. Michael continues to be heartfelt, swinging, and sly — within the space of an eight-bar bridge — his solos translucent marvels where melody and variations float as if skywritten.
From OKLAHOMA, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s PEOPLE WILL SAY WE’RE IN LOVE, with lyrics that never fail to charm me:
Irving Berlin’s THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL, from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN:
The Gershwin perennial, OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY:
and AT LAST, by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon (the wedding song — who knew?) with touches of HEART AND SOUL, appropriately:
“A thrill to press my cheek to.”
There are more performances from this rare concert to come.
May your happiness increase!