Review: 1.28.2017 Dick Smith

The 47th concert season of the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society (DTOS) featured Dick Smith on Saturday, January 28.  During my conversation with Dick before the show, he told me that this show was going to knock my socks off!  He spent 4 full days working on setting the stops for this show.  So it was only appropriate that he started the show, rising from below stage level, playing This Could Be the Start of Something Big!  In his opening remarks, Dick commented that the Mighty Kimball is his favorite instruments of all time.  He played this console at the Stanley Warner Theatre in Baltimore, MD (1963-1965).  Dick, a student at the Peabody Conservatory, dedicated this show to his first organ teacher, who recently died at the age of 97.

His next piece, Beyond the Sunset, featured a mix of soft and mellow tones with a pronounced bass, followed by a hit from Walt Disney’s “The Jungle Book,” The Bare Necessities.  One of Dick’s surprises during his concerts is that he sings along while he plays, as he did with this one.

Dick performed a tribute to what he called the greatest American icon ever – The Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which will be retiring in May, 2017 after 46 years.  The Entry of the Gladiators, also known as The Thunder and Blazes March, is the opening song for the circus.

Dick highlighted the piano, as well as the Kimball’s snare and bass drums, cymbals, and a hint of the chrysoglott and even the glockenspiel, as he played The Entertainer, the ‘70’s era Marvin Hamlisch ragtime-style song from the movie “The Sting,” followed by Moon River, by special request, a song composed in 1961 by Henry Mancini, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.  As Dick sang and played the second verse, it was as if he was sitting in his living room enjoying a quiet, peaceful evening at home.

Despite the lack of a revolving stage, Dick performed My Heart Belongs to Daddy, written by Cole Porter for the 1938 musical “Leave it to Me!”  Dick sang the lyrics and requested audience participation during the “Da-da-da, da-da-da, da-da-da.”  Dick was quite the entertainer – playing, singing, as well as narrating as he played.  He followed up with the title song from the 1952 Broadway show, “Wish You Were Here.”

Dick recreated the 1930 mind-blowing version of an organ duet played at the Paramount Theater (NY).  The Moonlight Reminds Me of You was originally performed by Helen and Jesse Crawford on two organs (first verse – Helen, second verse – Jesse, third verse – together).  Dick did it all on the Mighty Kimball, with full use of the keyboards.  Dick pointed out that in 1930 Jesse Crawford earned a total salary of $158K which equates to about $5M today!

La Comparsa, a piece from the Andalucia Suite written by Ernesto Lecuona, was unique in that it was a reverse samba, where strong beat was on the third beat.  This was followed by Shiny Stockings, a piece written by Frank Foster and performed by Count Basie in 1964.  Dick used the numerous voices of the Kimball to recreate the Basie band style throughout the piece.

Dick finished the first set with The Nearness of You, a beautiful arrangement written by Hoagy Carmichael in 1938, complete with a beautiful ending featuring the bells, followed by the Tolchard Evans accordion classic adapted for the organ, Lady of Spain, a fast and energetic number, where Dick’s feet moved non-stop on the pedals and his hands traversed up and down all three keyboards.

Dick started the second half with The Stanton Kimball Waltz, a number he had written himself in 1964 at the Stanton Theatre, followed by Jesse Crawford’s (1927) Song of the Wanderer.

Dick surprised the audience with an old fashioned sing-a-long, with the words to Bicycle Built for Two, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, and Let Me Call You Sweetheart, on the screen with full audience participation.  The audience was then treated to another surprise as he accompanied the 1927 Laurel & Hardy Silent Film entitled “Two Tars.”

Dick filled in for Jo Stafford, the lead singer of the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, as he played and sang the 1952 grammy award winning You Belong to Me.

Demonstrating some pretty fancy fingering on the keyboards, Dick performed a song that also featured 12 grammatic key changes at the end, written by Felix Arndt for his wife, Nola.

The concert ended with an Americana Patriotic Medley, featuring such greats as Give My Regards to Broadway, Yankee Doodle Dandy, You’re a Grand Ole Flag, and Over There (The Yanks Are Coming) – all written by George M. Cohen, for which he earned the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor presented by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.  Afterwards, members of the audience who are presently serving or who have served in our armed forces were honored as Dick played all of the fight songs and hymns of the various branches of our US military forces.  As a finale, the audience rose to their feet and sang God Bless America.

Dick topped off the night with his version of Till We Meet Again.  It was a great night at John Dickinson High School, home of the Dickinson Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ.  Tell everyone about these great concerts and bring them along next time!

David A. Ruth, Ph.D., Concert Reviewer
Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
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