Something wonderful happened to me one summer afternoon in Vermont in July. I was playing the role of Dolly Levi at the Weston Playhouse. Weston is a picturesque New England town and home to the Vermont Country Store. One matinee day, as I walked from the Victorian cast house to the theatre, I saw bouquets of ladies throughout this quaint town, all dressed in purple and topped in radiant red hats. A surreal picture was brought to life before my eyes Grand ladies in red and purple, strolling the great lawn of the playhouse, sitting in the town square gazebo, and rocking easily in rockers on the front porch of the Vermont Country Store. There was laughter in the air and so much color illuminated against the summer greenery. A spell was cast over me.
With determination, I set out to discover more about The Red Hat Society and these vibrant ladies. I read two charming books by their founder and Queen Mother, Sue Ellen Cooper. The ladies adopted a poem entitled WARNING, by Jenny Joseph, which inspired their dress code of red hats and purple dresses as well as their "Hattitude" for frivolity. Their hearty philosophy, at age 50, is that life is just beginning, again. Energized, I was challenged to seek a collection of songs with poignant lyrics that would embrace the wisdom and gratitude in how we ALL, men and women alike, have earned our "laugh lines and our cry lines."
Collaborating with my musical director, Philip Fortenberry, we created a tapestry of music with contemporary art song interpretations. Completely inspired by the lyrics, each selection is woven together with carefully chosen tonalities and arrangements that embrace the emotional overtones harmonized by the voice, piano and cello -
I am thrilled to introduce four original compositions by Keith Thompson, recorded here for the first time, including INSTEAD, created with his writing partner, Morris Sheffield, for their musical Idaho!, EAT, DRINK, AND BE MARY! -
Joseph poem, WARNING. At Virginia's request, both WARNING and VIRGINIA'S RESPONSE were read as part of her eulogy. Virginia was not a member of the Red Hat Society, but Virginia's personal response, indeed, illuminates independence, true character and vitality.
There is comfort in earning and sharing the wisdom, acquired through the years, and giving one's self permission to live life to the fullest, however individually defined. The Vangelis melody from A PRAYER, newly arranged as a vocalise, offers a positive reflection upon our evolving life force -