As requested in her Last Will and Testament, a memorial was held for Barbara on April 16, 2012 at St. Peter’s Church (Lexington Avenue, New York City), the jazz church where she and others produced so many jazz concerts.
Below is a pdf of the lovely color program created by Melissa Hamilton for the memorial with a listing of the participants. Also testimonials from Loren Schoenberg and Nat Hentoff who were unable to attend.
PDF download of the booklet distributed at the memorial.
I Walk With Music (Carmichael/Mercer) recorded by Barbara and played to close the memorial service.
Loren Schoenberg’s Tribute to Barbara Lea
Billy Wilder had a sign on the wall of his office with a simple question that he looked to for inspiration whenever he was at a creative crossroad. The sign read: What would Lubitsch do?
For the 30 plus years that I had the privilege of knowing Barbara Lea, I followed Billy Wilder’s example, and just substituted Barbara’s name for Lubitsch’s.
That’s because Barbara possessed the best taste about virtually everything. We all know about her musical instincts, which attracted admirers ranging from Johnny Mercer and Alec Wilder to virtually every musician she ever worked with.
The song was the thing, and Barbara worked tirelessly to realize her conception of the composer’s vision .
But that discriminating taste extended into so many other areas that I always wanted to know what Barbara thought about a play, a film, a politician, a musician, or virtually anything else.
On a personal note, it was Barbara who opened up the magical world of what great acting in a musical context was all about for me, and for that alone, I’m eternally in her debt. It happened one night in Brooklyn around 1978, while we were with Bob January’s band. The song was Stardust, which I had already heard her sing dozens of times and to which I had been as deaf as a doorknob. Then…boom! I got it, and music was never the same for me. It’s commonplace that your first sensual experiences remain with you for a lifetime, and I’m certainly more than fortunate that it was Barbara Lea who showed me what a great singer could do with a great song.
I also appreciate more and more, as time passes, how generously she suffered this fool through the years.
Until her illness took her away from us, Barbara and I had many laughs and many a good time, but first and foremost, Barbara was a teacher, a leader, a shining example of purity and dedication to her ideals. She never compromised her integrity, and also never made an issue of it.
Every time she opened her mouth to sing, it was for keeps.
Probably the most concentrated experiences we had together occurred during the Mr. Tram years in the late 1980’s. That was a quartet we created along with Dick Sudhalter and Daryl Sherman. We recorded one of Barbara’s favorite tunes, A Woman’s Intuition, and I remember being in tears as she sang.
Nat Hentoff’s Tribute to Barbara Lea
One of my guaranteed pleasures over the years was listening to a new Barbara Lea release or going back to one I had because her singing was truly personal — no showing off with technical shallow virtuosity and when, as she often did, bring the classic American Songbook to life, she brought the essences of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Hoagy Carmichael and others into the room. Each of those composers wrote from inside their own lives and dreams and Barbara, able to hear this inside the songs, brought her own life experiences into what felt like her conversation with them. And when it was jazz, she sang with a keen ear and a natural beat that made her one of the musicians in the band. Barbara Lea and her recordings will never be out of date.
April 16, 2012