Hershey Felder is a Canadian pianist, award-winning actor, playwright, composer, producer and director. On June 6th Hershey will bring the story and music of America’s composer Irving Berlin to life at Town Hall (123 West 43rd Street). The Town Hall engagement is the New York premiere of Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, which has previously played to rave reviews and broken box office records at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse, Chicago’s Royal George Theatre, the La Jolla Playhouse and Boston’s Majestic Theatre. On August 31 – October 16 at 59E59 Theaters Mr. Felder will bring Leonard Bernstein alive in Maestro. Bernstein, is arguably America’s greatest musician, as he broke through every artistic ceiling possible to become the world’s musical ambassador. Maestro previously played Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse, Berkeley Rep, Chicago’s Royal George Theatre, Cleveland Play House and a one night only engagement at New York’s Town Hall last year.
Hershey has portrayed Frederic Chopin, the Polish composer/pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven and Gerhard von Breuning in Beethoven and Franz Liszt. As director, Felder premiered the award-winning concert pianist Mona Golabek in The Pianist of Willesden Lane.
His many compositions include Noah’s Ark, Aliyah Concerto on Israeli Themes for piano and orchestra, The Suite Les Anges de Paris for violin and piano, Etudes Thématiques, as well as Song Settings. These pieces have been performed by The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra, composed of members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra and throughout Canada and the United States.
Felder is the President of Eighty-Eight Entertainment, a music-based production company, producing new performance works worldwide. He is also married to Kim Campbell, the former Prime Minister of Canada.
T2C: Why Irving Berlin, why now?
Hershey Felder: For years, producers and theatre owners pestered me to create the role of Irving Berlin. I didn’t think that I was right for the role, or that the music would be interesting enough to me being some kind of snobby classical guy. Then, the NY producer Eva Price insisted that I meet Ted Chapin (head of Rodgers and Hammerstein and the Berlin catalogue) who then introduced me to the three Berlin daughters and I was more than intrigued, I was fascinated. I began my research and my musical study. That’s when I realized that I was dealing with real genius. And any time is a good time for genius.
T2C: What are the similarities and differences between you and Irving Berlin?
Hershey Felder: He loved storytelling and music and so do I. He has immigrant blood, so do I (my family is all Polish and Hungarian, I am first generation North American). He was a committed worker. So am I. As for differences? He was a genius.
T2C: What is your favorite composition of Berlin’s?
Hershey Felder: That’s a rough one, but “Suppertime” is up there, along with “What’ll I Do.”
T2C: What is your favorite story?
Hershey Felder: The Berlin story in its entirety is quite a favorite of mine. The fact that this immigrant boy who came to this country with nothing, observed his surroundings and then translated those surroundings into poetry is very much a favorite story. His ability to make people laugh and cry within the context of one song is miraculous – and if one looks to his lyrics, one realizes they are all stories – and whatever the story may be the lyric “What’ll I do with just a photograph to tell my troubles to?” Is perhaps a bit of a favorite.
T2C: What do want audiences to take away from your performance of Berlin?
Hershey Felder: I tend not to try and answer that question. I only give what I believe is a faithful performance.
T2C: What other composers would you like to take on?
Hershey Felder: To date I have taken on Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven, Bernstein, Liszt, Berlin, next up is Tchaikovsky and that begin in San Diego followed by various cities in 2017.
T2C: What is the hardest piano piece for you to play and why?
Hershey Felder: Every piece played well is hard to play. There is so much thinking and work always going on – that it’s never easy. But that difficulty is part of the fun.
T2C: You also compose and direct, where does your heart lay?
Hershey Felder: In whatever project I am doing at that very moment, whatever it is.
T2C: What’s next for you?
Hershey Felder: I’ve begun my Tchaikovsky studies. much much MUCH practice and information study. I am also working on several pieces for three artists that I will write and direct, and a new theatrical musical of my own. Busy busy BUSY.
T2C: What would you like audiences to know about you?
Hershey Felder: That I love art, that i love my work, and I am entirely devoted to it and to the people who help me make it happen.