4 time Grammy Award recipient, Chapman Roberts, has been in show business for over 50 years and is still going strong. He was the original vocal arranger for Smokey Joe’s Café and boasts an extensive and impressive background.
Roberts started his career as part of the cast of the original Broadway production of Hair and has appeared on- and off-Broadway in Salvation, Hello Dolly, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Fantasticks.
He has recorded with Gregory Hines, Horace Silver, Weather Report and B.B. King. His vocal arrangements were used in eight original Broadway and West End cast albums of shows that garnered 25 Tony nominations.
His vocal arrangements and musical direction have also been utilized in such Broadway and West End successes of Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope, Eubie, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Your Arms Too Short to Box With God, Blues in the Night, Five Guys Named Moe’ and Avenue X.
His off-Broadway endeavors include Three Mo Tenors. On film, Roberts appeared in Year of the Comet and Solomon and Sheba.
Courtesy of Chapman Roberts
Roberts’ served as a special event musical director and supervisor for President Jimmy Carter; Ronald Reagan’s Kennedy Center Honors; Mrs. Lyndon Johnson; The Inaugural gala of Gov. Ann Richards of Texas; India’s Jazz Yatra Festival; Lincoln Center; Manhattan Plaza; the Kool Jazz Festival and St. Peter’s Jazz Church in New York City. He has also worked with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Henry Mancini, Al Green, Patti LaBelle, Bette Midler’s Harlettes, Eubie Blake, Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Willy Nelson, Foreigner, the Manhattans, Leslie Uggams, Ruth Brown, Freda Payne, Eartha Kitt, Della Reese, Lena Horne, Savion Glover, Paul Simon, The Public Theatre, the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art, the Morgan State Choir, the Harlem Gospel Singers, “American Idol” and President Barack Obama.
On the producing side he was on Fela!, Stick Fly, Mountain Top and The Trip to Bountiful. He also conceived and produced Black Stars of the Great White Way.
The Gospel According to Broadway, was a Chapman Roberts concept chronicling 300 years of African-American sacred music, was recognized in 2007 with a recording by the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Michael Terry Singers USA and the London Community Gospel Choirs.
T2C: When did you first move into Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?
Chapman Roberts: I met Father Rodney Kirk at a concert for Mahalia Jackson at St. John The Divine. Rodney told me about Manhattan Plaza. When I retired, I moved back into the city. That was 15 years ago.
T2C: What are your fondest memories of living in the plaza?
Chapman Roberts: It is the care that is given by the staff and the administration. It is their hearts and the spirits that surround these buildings. It was designed to be a safe haven for the artist and it is precisely that.
T2C: Where you there during the AIDS crisis? Tell us about that time.
Chapman Roberts: When I heard about it, I directed benefit shows for AIDS victims. We would raise $30 000 a night at the Westside Arts. They would give us the space and Broadway actors would volunteer their time. At each benefit we would raise $30 – 40k, all going to The Actors Fund.
T2C: Who have you gotten close to in the building?
Chapman Roberts: Yolande Bavan, an actress from Sri Lanka who was with me in Salvation. She is a jazz singer. Sipho Kunene a South African percussionist who was with Harry Belafonte for years, Natalie Carter, a singer and an actress of film and TV. Sue Mingus, Terria Joseph, Peter Link who wrote Salvation lived here for a long time. Jeffrey Thompson who was in the orginal Eubie. Manhattan Plaza is full of residents who include: Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Basset, Norm Lewis, Maurice Hines, Donald Faison, Pauletta (Mrs Denzel) Washington, and a host of other “Black Stars of The Great White Way”.
T2C: What have been the biggest changes to the neighborhood and your business?
Chapman Roberts: That Theatre Row has truly achieved all of its aspirations. We can walk out of our door and there is an artistic awareness in the neighbor that exists only in pockets in the village. We are a village within a city. We are surrounded by each other and you never know of who you might see in the elevator. Jessie Norman’s photographer lived in the building so we use to see her. Chita Rivera’s family lives here. It is not uncommon to see tux’s worn by musicians going to concerts with their instruments strapped to their backs. There are rehearsal rooms you can sign up for. People are always rehearsing in The Duke Ellington Room. We are members of a large extended family.
T2C: What does living in the building allowed you to accomplish?
Chapman Roberts: It allows me to stand in the window and look out to the old Biltmore Theatre and see where I made my debut in Hair. Now it is MCC. I am on the 31st floor with an unobstructed view of the Theatre District. I am directly in front of the old New York Times building. That clock is my time piece. I can see the spire where the ball drops and from 9th to Central Park. I can see the old Madison Square Gardens, which is now New World Stages. I can see the hills of New Jersey, Weehawken, and all the other towns there. I see the ships arrive and where the plane crashed in 2015.
T2C: How does living in the building make you feel?
Chapman Roberts: Superior and lucky. A sense of elevated privilege, a sense of grandness that evokes emotions, gives inspiration. That contributes unobstructed energy that can free flow so you can receive it.
T2C: What would you change from your time living in Manhattan Plaza?
Chapman Roberts: I can’t think of anything I would change. I took a cabin in the hills of Guadalupe, where it was three miles to anything. I was invited to a home to eat and there in the home was a painting of all of Manhattan Plaza’s neighbors. This was their idea of nirvana and I was living it.
T2C: What is your fondest memory of New York?
Chapman Roberts: Appearing in Hello, Dolly! with Pearl Bailey and Cab Callaway. When I first came to New York I had standing room to see this show. When I saw Charles Nelson Reilly perform, I mumbled I want to do that. The people I was with laughed, because it was inconceivable that a black man could be cast in this show. Later on when I was in Salvation, one day I see an elegant woman step out of a cab in a autumn haze mink coat. I knew the color because my mother had one. I go into the theatre and it was Pearl Bailey who wanted to take the cast out for a Chinese dinner. I declined and went to lay down. Later on Pearl Bailey arrives at my dressing room with a brown paper bag and said, I’m going to take you to Broadway and your going to be my Cornelius. Days later after four days of rehearsals I was performing the role. As I was singing “It Only Takes a Moment” I saw in the balcony, where I had had this dream so long ago, myself, in both past and present. When I finished Mary Louise looked at me in awe, Cab Callaway told me I sang very pretty and the conductor applauded. I don’t know what I sang to this day.
T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?
Chapman Roberts: Put yourself in the position of all those not working on Broadway, because of this virus. Their shows have ben slammed down and thrown in their faces, the house has gone to black, they had to empty their dressing rooms and go back to the apartments they can no longer afford. The diiference is we here at Manhattan Plaza have found refuge. We are living the MP dream, because it was designed for times like these. Now the artist can still survive, so we can go onto create and to delve into our creative deposit. We almost never have resources or outlets available to us, which is the story of our lives. But with shutting down of the Great White Way going to black, in this virus/ plague Manhattan Plaza becomes urgently relevant in a new way and more than ever before.
The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream.
The Glorious Corner
A CHER STEAL — This year’s 97th edition of the Macy’s Day Parade was a rather underwhelming one, save for Chicago – inexplicably singing “Your My Inspiration” – and the always, indefatigable Cher, singing a track “DJ Play a Christmas Song” off her new holiday-themed album. The first few bars will terribly auto-tuned, but that seemed to disappear and Cher’s vocals rang full and bold.
She was, typically, a pro. Mixing effortlessly and emotionally with the dancers in a terrific set. Some pundits reported the clip was shot days earlier, but she was live and, just sensational. I wish more of today’s performers possessed her vigor and skills. That’s why most of the current acts, here today, will be gone tomorrow.
As we went to press, we learned that this parade was Macy’s most-watched edition ever! Congrats.
HALL VS. OATES — Some terrible news appeared in Wednesday’s media that Daryl Hall had taken out a TRO against partner-John Oates. I’ve loved what these two have done for decades and I loved Hall’s solo albums; especially the one he did with Robert Fripp in 1977 Sacred Songs. His record company at the time (RCA) hated it so much, they held up its release for three years.
I also well remember them in the 80’s when it seemed you could’t turn on a radio without hearing their music. 29 of their 33 singles were major chart hits on Billboard. But I do go back to them even in the 70’s, with their terrific “She’s Gone” which basically launched them. And, my favorite album of their War Babies, produced by Todd Rundgren. Quick note: That album sounds as good and relevant as it did when it came out in 1974.
The problem seems to arise from Oates wanting to sell his portion of certain songs to Primary Wave Artists – which ironically owns several of their songs already. It’s a small point, but that seems to be the issue. In all actuality, it’s another case of a classic-rocker selling his music.
In Oates’ book several years ago (Change of Seasons: A Memoir), he hardly mentioned Hall and regrettably that animus has apparently reared its angry head. They’re Philly boys, I’m from Philly and it’s just an awful coda to what was one of music’s major success stories. Sad all around.
SHORT TAKES — Terrific article in this week’s Closer on Micky Dolenz. Check it out here: https://www.closerweekly.com/posts/micky-dolenz-on-telling-stories-on-stage-and-in-his-book/
btw: Dolenz tapes KTLA’s Countdown To 2024 this week in LA …
I first met Phil Quartararo in the lobby of the old Mondrian Hotel in LA with John Sykes and we struck up a friendship that lasted until he passed last week. He was at Virgin for a time and worked with the artists there including The Spice Girls and Paul Abdul. In these fast-changing-times in the music business, he remained somewhat behind the scenes of late, but admitted he missed working with the artists. Phil was a guy you never ever heard a bad word about. Huge loss. Here’s Billboard’s take on Phil:
… As you’ve not doubt read, there is trouble in the Marvel-comic kingdom. The latest Captain Marvel movie (The Marvels) didn’t perform nearly as well as everyone hoped for and their newest star, Jonathan Majors as Kang, is tied up in several court matters.
So, we hear that Kang is out and Doctor Doom is in. Stay tuned …
And Forbes’ James M. Clash has released Amplified; culled from his terrific interviews with the icons of rock ‘n roll; including Grace Slick; Art Garfunkel; Ginger Baker; Micky Dolenz; and Roger Daltry. Here’s the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CNJZYW2J?ref_=cm_sw_r_apan_dp_WKCSH7AC0ZTK18RZF4ED&language=en-US NAMES IN THE NEWS — Steve Leeds; Kate Hyman; Bono; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Peter Abraham; Bobby Bank; Dina Pitenis; Frank DiLella; Donnie Kehr; Steve Leber; Don Wardell; Anne Adams; Billy Smith; John Boulos; Kimberly Cornell; Sam Rubin; Nexstar; and ZIGGY!
Tin Pan Alley American Popular Music Project and The Madison Square Park Conservancy Holiday Tree Lighting
Did you know the first public Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the country’s history took place in Madison Square Park? Celebrate the 111th anniversary of the first holiday tree lighting, with MSPC, the park community and neighborhood partners on December 6th from 4 – 6 PM
Enjoy this free joyful event with a photo op, baked-goods, and live music performances by acapella group, New York Life Singers, from New York Life Insurance Company and featuring guest vocalist Gabrielle Lee with Broadway Pianist and Musical Director, Alvin Hough Jr. in partnership with the Tin Pan Alley American Popular Music Project.
Know before you go:
- Giveaways while supplies last.
- No stroller parking is available so please consider leaving strollers at home if possible.
- Free and open to the public, no reservations are necessary.
Events For December
Cabaret, Talks and Concerts For December
Tis the season to be entertained. Here are picks:
92 Street Y: 1395 Lexington Ave. 12/2 – 4: Lyrics & Lyricists In the Key of Life: The Genius of Stevie Wonder. Led by Broadway’s Darius de Haas; 12/5: Recanati-Kaplan Talks Death, Let Me Do My Show: Rachel Bloom in Conversation and 12/14: Sharon Stone and Jerry Saltz Talk About Art.
Birdland Jazz: 315 West 44 St. Every Monday at 5:30 Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks and 9:30pm Jim Caruso’s Cast Party; Every Tuesday at 8:30pm The Lineup with Susie Mosher; Every Saturday at 7pm Eric Comstock with Sean Smith (Bass) & special guest Barbara Fasano (Voice); 12/11: Karen Mason for her annual Christmas show “Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!”; 12/12 – 16 Stacy Kent; 12/18: James Barbour returns to Birdland with his annual Holiday Concert: 12/21 – 25: “A Swinging Birdland Christmas” starring Birdland regulars Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch and 12/28 – 31: Marilyn Maye.
Cafe Carlyle: 35 E 76th St. 12/1 – 9: Sutton Foster; 12/12 – 16: Gavin DeGraw and 12/19 – 31: Michael Feinstein.
Carnegie Hall: 881 7th Ave at 57th St. 12/5: Christmas with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith; 12/6: Dee Dee Bridgewater with Sean Jones and the NYO Jazz All-Star Big Band; 12/13: Michael Feinstein and Jean-Yves Thibaudet and 12/22 – 23: The New York Pops The Best Christmas of All with Norm Lewis
Don’t Tell Mama: 343 W. 46 St.
Dizzys Club Coca Cola: Frederick P. Rose Hall, Broadway at 60th Street.
Christmas in Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting and Kelly Clarkson
The Christmas in Rockefeller Center special will air on NBC and Peacock at 8 p.m. ET on November 29, 2023 with the iconic Christmas tree lighting taking place at the end of the special.
The 2023 Christmas in Rockefeller Center special will be hosted by Kelly Clarkson, who will also be performing. Clarkson recently moved her talk show from Los Angeles to New York, where it shoots in 30 Rock. That makes her an obvious host for the tree lighting as it will be glowing right outside her office. Clarkson announced the new gig on her show on October 26, 2023.
Look for Cher!, Chloe Bailey, Adam Blackstone, Keke Palmer, David Foster, Katharine McPhee, Liz Gillies, Darlene Love, Seth MacFarlane, Barry Manilow, Carly Pearce and Manuel Turizo.
The Christmas at Rockefeller Center special will be available to watch on the NBC app, on NBC.com and on Peacock as well as NBC.
The tree is lit daily from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. On Christmas Day, it’s lit for a full 24 hours and on New Year’s, it stays lit from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m.
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