By Mary O’KEEFE
St. George’s Episcopal Church in La Cañada Flintridge has produced several musical fundraisers for a variety of organizations; however, this time, for the City of Hope event, they wanted something a little different from their traditional event. So they turned to Anthony Keller, St. George’s deacon.
“Connie (Grisham, director of music at St. George’s) asked me to come up with something different, a little more showy, more in the theatre vein,” he said.
Prior to becoming a deacon, Keller was in the entertainment industry for 20 years. He worked in all aspects of the industry including live stage and grew to love the music of Noel Coward.
“I have personally been a fan [of Coward] since my 20s,” he said.
It was natural, therefore, for the event to turn into a tribute to Noel Coward.
Coward was born in England in 1899 and made his theatrical debut playing Prince Mussel in the children’s show, “The Goldfish.” He continued his acting career for some time, but then turned to writing. His first production was, “I Leave It to You” in 1920. Although he continued to act, often in his own plays and musicals, Coward’s real star was rising as a writer. Some of his titles include, “Blithe Spirit,” “Hay Fever” and “Private Lives.”
“It is a mini musical review…We will perform two of his more famous songs, ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out In The Midday Sun’ and ‘I’ll See You Again’ (from an operetta ‘Bitter Sweet’) that will be sung by Daniel Chaney,” Keller said.
Chaney is a tenor who has appeared with the L.A. Phil and on stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In addition to Chaney, other performers include Veronica Christenson, Meghen Miles Tuttle, Karen Altabet Freed, Michael Freed and Katie Forester. And, because this is a special night, Keller will step from behind the pulpit to the stage to perform.
“I will be performing a few numbers. ‘I Went to a Marvelous Party,’ ‘Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington’ and ‘Uncle Harry is Not a Missionary Now,’” Keller said with a chuckle.
Listening to Keller describe the night as a “Marvelous Party,” it is obvious he not only admires Coward’s talent but enjoys his great sense of humor.
In addition to performing, Keller also arranged the opening melody of Coward’s songs for the concert.
He hopes to introduce a whole new audience to the writer’s works while not losing sight of the fact that this is a fundraiser for a good cause that has become personal for the church.
“We can’t wait to perform this work of Noel Coward’s; soloists and choir can’t wait to see the beautiful pictures of Coward’s England, and our very own Anthony is going to do some of the performance for this show,” Grisham said.
Chaney and Bishop Diocesan Jon Bruno have both benefited from the City of Hope – both battled cancer.
The concert, “A Marvelous Party” a musical tribute to Noel Coward, is on one night only on June 11 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free with donations made to the City of Hope. St. George’s Episcopal Church is located at 808 Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada.