Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Frank Sinatra: My Shining Hour (Video, from Trilogy: Past Present Future)



Re-posted by Nicholas Stix
Expanded on September 16, 2015, 2:48 a.m.
Corrected on September 16, 2015, 2:58 a.m.
Last expanded on September 19, 2015, 1:20 p.m.

I am going to try and re-post something every day between now and December 12, which will be the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s birthday.

I won’t deny it; there are definite imperfections in the cadences of Sinatra’s performance of this song. Over the years, his phrasing was arguably his enduring strength, yet there are moments here where it goes awry. And yet, he still gives a moving performance of a lovely Arlen-Mercer song, in his last major album.

[Postscript, 3:07 a.m. I’ve figured it out. The imperfections come when he sings the introduction. American popular songs from circa the 1910s (earlier?) until circa the early 1940s typically had an introduction that did not match the rest of the song. Was this padding? Beats me. However, at some time during the 1940s, songwriters dropped the intros. The young Sinatra had cut his teeth singing songs written by the likes of Irving Berlin, which all had the introductions. However, with the passage of time, singers, Sinatra included, dropped the introductions. By the time he cut this album in 1979, he hadn’t sung standards as they’d been written for almost his entire career. Either he needed to develop a different strategy for singing the introduction, or its clunkiness was insuperable. There was the option of dropping the intro, but wouldn’t have fit the concept of the album. This was the “Past” portion, which required that he sing the songs old-school.

Once Sinatra gets past the introduction, he gives as moving a performance of this deceptively simple song as you’re going to hear.]

This recording, made in Los Angeles in September, 1979, is something of a make-up. Sinatra had first performed this song during the war, on the radio, I believe. (I seem to recall Jonathan Schwartz playing an unofficial recording of it on the radio.) There was a musicians’ strike at the time, and Sinatra was a big union man, so he refused to break the strike by hiring non-union musicians. Thus, the performance was given a capella, with Sinatra and a choir, with no instrumentalists.

This performance has a lovely arrangement by Billy May and orchestral and backup (really, choir) singer performances to match, supporting Sinatra. However, I can only identify Al Viola, for his delicate turn on acoustic guitar, and Gene Cherico on the bass. I can’t identify the rest of the orchestra, or any of the backup singers. Sorry, folks.

As trumpeter and arranger, Billy May was the quintessential, swinging, big band jazz man. As the unsigned biography at Big Band Jazz Music History recounts,
“May was soon contributing swinging arrangements described by the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz as ‘wailing, scooping saxophones voiced in thirds.’”

But May’s arrangement for “My Shining Hour” is the antithesis of his reputation, and without knowing who wrote it, one would be more likely to name Gordon Jenkins as having written the charts. Strings, strings, everywhere, and almost no brass. But it isn’t the Jenkins sound.

Jazz guitarist Al Viola plays a decisive role on this recording, with a tender, restrained turn that is one of the motifs that distinguishes this from a Jenkins arrangement.

This recording should tell you that the conventional understanding of Billy May is much too narrow. He clearly wrote the arrangement based on the song, rather than trying to force the song into a supposed Billy May groove.

This record is a bit of an anachronism, but a glorious one. It is part of “Past.” In that vein, May put together a big orchestra and a choir evoking the big band girl singer choirs of the 1940s, e.g., the Pied Pipers. However, his use of Viola breaks with that scheme. And yet, Viola takes the record to a higher level. Without him, the record would have had a cloying, Jenkins-like sweetness. Viola cut that sweetness.

On paper, “My Shining Hour” is a delicate little flower of a song, with brief lyrics, and yet it has always had such a power over me that I can remember the first time I heard it. It was the summer of 1979 (?), and I had the radio on in my old man’s huge but largely unused carpenter’s shop on Martha’s Vineyard. I was working as a dishwasher—“Hobart engineers,” they called us, for the machine we used—and I was up in the loft, writing letters to friends. I was writing to a very dear friend—not a girlfriend, but “a friend who was a girl”—and I used the song to open and close my letter.
This will be my shining hour,
‘Til I’m with you again.

If anyone worked on this recording, or knows who did, I’d greatly appreciate it, if you’d contact me at , to help fill in the gaps. Thanks, in advance.



My Shining Hour (1943)
Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer

This moment, this minute,
And each second in it,
Will leave a glow
Upon the sky,
And as time goes by,
It will never die.

This will be my shining hour,
Calm, and happy, and bright,
And in my dreams, your face will flower,
Through the darkness of the night.

Like the lights of home before me,
Or an angel, who’s watching o’er me,
This will be my shining hour,
‘Til I’m with you … again.


Choir: Like the lights of home before me,
Or an angel, watching o’er me,
Sinatra: This will be my shining hour,
‘Til I’m with you … again.


Recorded at United Western Studios, Hollywood, California

Engineered by Ed Green and Lee Herschberg

Music Preparation by Vern Yocum

Conductor: BILLY MAY

Contractor: Carl L. Fortina

Sue Allen
Dick Bolks
Bill Brown
Kathrine Louise Brown
Vangie Carmichael
Peggy Clark
Alan Copeland
Alan Davies
Walt Harrah
Ron Hicklin
Tom Kenny
Karen Kenton
Gene Merlino
Julie Rinker Miller
Gene Morford
Loulie Jean Norman
Michael Redman
Terry Stillwell
Bob Tebow
Jackie Ward
Jim Wheeler
Linda Wheeler
Jerry Whitman
Dave Wilson

Small Group
Sue Allen
Dick Bolks
Gene Merlino
Mike Redman

Concertmaster: David Frisina

Israel Baker
Harris Goldman
James Getzoff
Glenn Dicterow
Marvin Limonick
Joseph Stepansky
Sheldon Sanov
Norman Carr
Robert Sushel
Mary Debra Lundquist
David D. Turner
Harry Bluestone
Marshall Sosson
Stanley Plummer
Judith Aller-Talvi
Daniel Shindaryov
Rochelle Abramson
Jennifer Small

Pamela Goldsmith
Louis Kievman
Archie Levin
Linn Subotnick
Allan Harshman
Barbara Simons

Douglas L. Davis
Raymond J. Kelley
Christine Ermacoff
Mary C. Lane
Ronald B. Cooper

John Allen Hornschuch
Gene V. Cherico
Meyer Rubin

John Audino
Charles B. Findley
Uan Rasey
Charles Henry Turner
Robert Findley
John McClanian Best

William R. Watrous
Charles C. Loper
William C. Booth
James M. Self
Richard Nash
Lloyd Ulyate

John Thomas Johnson

Wilbur Schwartz
Ted Nash
Jules Jacob
Gene Cipriano
John E. Lowe
Robert Steen

Vincent J. Falcone, Jr.

Verlye Mills

Alfred Viola

Irving Cottler

Dale L. Anderson

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