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Review: Bill Murray Blurs the Lines of Literature, Classical Music, and Comedy, with Jan Vogler & Friends

By Mercedes Vizcaino, Contributing Writer, October 18, 2017

Comedian, actor, writer, and now singer: Is there anything Bill Murray can’t do? Not likely. A chance encounter on a plane brought Murray and acclaimed cellist, Jan Vogler to the stage at Carnegie Hall this past Monday evening. While in-flight the two men shared their love for music and literature. They attended each other’s passion project: the Brooklyn Bridge Poetry Walk, frequented by Murray, and Vogler’s concert in Germany. The New Worlds album would soon be born.

In true Bill Murray fashion, he drew laughs and admiration simultaneously from the audience as he entered the Carnegie stage with the incredibly gifted violinist, Mira Wang, and talented pianist, Vanessa Perez. The performance starts off with Murray reciting passages from Ernest Hemingway’s “Did You Even Play a Musical Instrument?” from “The Art of fiction No. 21” (The Paris Review). In it, Hemingway describes to magazine editor and co-founder, George Plimpton, how his mother made him play the cello in an amateur chamber music ensemble. In between passage readings, Vogler, Wang and Perez play Johann Sebastian’s Bach Prelude from Suite No. 1 in G Major, BMV 1007. A fusion of literature and music abound. Seamlessly. Murray and Vogler chose the works of famed authors and musicians, Walt Whitman, Stephen Foster and Van Morrison to name a few — beloved by many for their talent, but more so for their contribution to American culture.

Bill Murray’s vocal abilities are tested when he sings George Gershwin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess. What the actor lacks as a professionally trained singer, he more than makes up for with a flair for dancing and comedic timing, as he animatedly sashays between Vogler and his classical trio. I can’t think of any other 67 year-old entertainers up for the challenge. Murray’s rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s songs from West Side Story, character-acted — as only Bill Murray can — brings a light and unconventional adaptation to the stage. While singing “America,” Murray shouts out ending the song with the phrase “Puerto Rico’s in America!” A not-so-subtle jab at the current political administration; the crowd went wild with applause and cheers.

The Bill Murray fun-train didn’t stop with the program’s final musical selection. Murray and friends returned for several encores. “Blessing the Boats” by Lucille Clifton, “Did You Ever Have the Feeling?” by Jimmy Durante and “The Waltz” from Jazz Suite by Dmitri Shostakovich are just a few of the memorable selections that closed the night. Murray, not one to shy away from the element of surprise, started flinging roses to the audience and even the patrons in the balcony, and revealed the score of Yankee Playoffs game. Murray’s ability to go in and out of character is a skill for which he’s known and his fans revel. New Worlds: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends is currently on tour, and is a performance sure to delight and entertain all tastes, whether you love literature, classical music or Bill Murray.

For upcoming tour dates, click here.

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New Worlds: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends presented by Dorn Music at Carnegie Hall on October 16, 2017. Featuring: Bill Murray, actor; Jan Vogler, cello; Mira Wang, violin; and Vanessa Perez, piano.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY “Did You Even Play a Musical Instrument?” from “The Art of Fiction No. 21” from The Paris Review

JOHANN SEBASTIAN Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BACH BWV 1007

WALT WHITMAN From “Song of the Open Road” and “Song of Myself”

JAMES FENIMORE COOPER from The Deerslayer

FRANZ SCHUBERT Andante un poco mosso from Trio in B-flat Major, for piano, violin and cello D 989

ERNEST HEMINGWAY “Group Feeling” from “The Art of Fiction No. 21” from The Paris Review

MAURICE RAVEL “Blues” from Sonata for violin and piano No. 2

ERNEST HEMINGWAY “With Pascin at the Dome” from A Moveable Feast

ASTOR PIAZZOLLA “La Muerte del Ángel” arr.: Jose Bragato

GEORGE GERSHWIN “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess arr. Jascha Heifetz

ASTOR PIAZZOLLA “Oblivion”

BILLY COLLINS “Forgetfulness”

STEPHEN FOSTER “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”

Musical Surprise

VAN MORRISON “When Will I Ever Learn To Live in God” arr. Stephen Buck

MARK TWAIN From The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

HENRY MANCINI “Moon River” arr. Manfred Grafe

DIMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH “Allegro” from Sonata for cello and  piano in D minor, Op. 40

JAMES THURBER “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” from Writings and Drawings, The Library of America

LEONARD BERNSTEIN “Somewhere,” “I Feel Pretty” and “America” from West Side Story arr. Stephen Buck

Encores

CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS The Swan

LUCILLE CLIFTON Blessing the Boats

MARTY ROBBINS El Paso (arr. Stephen Buck)

JIMMY DURANTE “Did You Ever Have the Feeling?”

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH “Waltz” from Jazz Suite

MIKIS THEODORAKIS Women

 

Cover: (l. to r.) Mira Wang (violin), Bill Murray, Vanessa Perez (piano) and Jan Vogler (cello); photo: Jennifer Taylor.


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