-Souvenir Program Cover, mid-1960s
Two years after composing hit songs "Moon River" and "Days of Wine and Roses", Oscar-winning music man Henry Mancini blew into Kalamazoo and took up the baton to lead the Kalamazoo Symphony in a Starlight Pops Concert on Wednesday, July 15, 1964, at 8:30 p.m.
-Postcard photo by Lance Ferraro, c.1964
The stars were out that night atop Gilmore Brothers Department Store Auto Park in downtown Kalamazoo. The record-setting audience of 4,500 was treated to the suave, stylish movie and television scores that had that magic touch of Henry Mancini.
"He has the genuine gift of melody along with an ability to score music
that fits every section of the orchestra like a glove. His arrangements
are smooth without being slick."
-Diane Heintz, Kalamazoo Gazette Special Writer,
Thursday, July 16, 1964
The mere mention of movie titles such as Breakfast at Tiffany's, Charade, and The Pink Panther evoked a kind of '60s cool in music that appealed to all ages. What piano student couldn't plunk out the opening bars of "Pink Panther"? What high school band couldn't play the jazzy and jaunty "Baby Elephant Walk", and what request for a romantic slow dance didn't include "Moon River" or "Days of Wine and Roses"?
"Baby Elephant Walk" - Famous Music Corp. ©1961
"Days of Wine and Roses" - M. Witmark & Sons © 1962-63
Born in Cleveland in 1924 to Italian immigrant parents, Henry Mancini grew up in the steel town of West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. His father, Quinto, a steel worker, introduced his son to the flute and piccolo at an early age. Father and son played together in a band called "The Sons of Italy".
Young Henry took up the piano at age 12, and became interested in arranging a few years later.
"From the time I was fifteen", he said, "all I wanted to do was write movie scores."
-Quote from an article by Gene Lees, "Hollywood's New Master of Melody",
Published in the Souvenir Program, mid-1960s.
Teenaged Henry Mancini went on to study with Max Adkins, the conductor and arranger at the Stanley
Theater in Pittsburgh.
Mancini then set off for New York City and the Juilliard School. After about a year, his studies there were interrupted in 1943 by a draft notice to serve in World War II, where he joined the Air Force, and later, the Infantry. Henry Mancini was in a unit that liberated a German concentration camp in 1945.
After he returned from the war, "Hank" Mancini established himself in Los Angeles, and joined the re-formed Glenn Miller Orchestra as a composer-arranger. He met a singer with the band named Ginny O'Connor, who became his wife and the mother of their three children. (At the time of Mancini's death in 1994, Henry and Ginny had been married 43 years.)
Being based in Los Angeles gave Mancini an opportunity to resume serious musical study. He took private lessons from well-known classical composers Ernst Krenek, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Dr. Alfred Sendry.
In 1952, Mancini joined the music department at Universal Studios, and score music for over 100 films, including The Glenn Miller Story, which received an Academy Award nomination.
After six years, he left Universal and became an independent composer/arranger in 1958. Mancini composed music for a new television series, Peter Gunn, an early collaboration with director Blake Edwards, the first of many. This jazz-influenced score garnered Mancini a Grammy Award. In 1960, he picked up another Grammy for yet another new television series-- Mr. Lucky.
Henry Mancini returned to scoring music for film in 1960, and began work with Blake Edwards on movie projects which continued throughout his career.
"So smooth is their working relationship that Edwards will turn a film over
to Mancini and promptly forget about it. He usually doesn't hear the score
until the film's première...'Oh, Blake will perhaps come to one of our recording
sessions, stay awhile, and then leave.' " -Henry Mancini Souvenir Program,
-Mancini, as quoted by Gene Lees
Mancini continued to collect multiple Oscar, Grammy nominations and/or awards, and countless Albums of the Year from Billboard Magazine, Playboy, and Cashbox Magazine. In 1962, he was awarded two Academy Awards for the movie theme songs for Breakfast at Tiffany's ("Moon River"), and the song "Days of Wine and Roses" from the movie of the same title. His record albums sold in the millions.
Every year, Henry Mancini performed with about 50 symphony orchestras coast to coast-- some 600 concerts over his entire career. Kalamazoo was honored that Mancini included a stop in Michigan to lead the Kalamazoo Symphony on his 1964 tour.
Henry Mancini at the keyboard with the KSO,
July 15, 1964
Kalamazoo Gazette music reviewer Diane Heintz was glowing in her summation of the Mancini Starlight Concert:
-Kalamazoo Gazette, Thursday, July 16, 1964
"If one does the impossible and fails to succumb to Henry Mancin's
personal charm as an entertainer, it is still necessary to concede that
he is a supremely competent musician who believes in what he is doing.
He is a very non-phony artist in a phony field."
"Mancini is reported to have added several numbers to the program
when he found he was dealing with a well-trained professional group.
This ought to be a point of interest to those Mancini fans who are unaware
of what we owe to Gregory Millar and the orchestra."
-Excerpts from a Kalamazoo Gazette review by
Diane Heintz, Thursday, July 16, 1964.
Gregory Millar, the Kalamazoo Symphony's Music Director and his wife Roslyn threw a big post-concert party at their rambling Victorian house on Wheaton Avenue. A crush of people were there to party with the guest artist-- an unassuming and modest man who cut a fine figure in his 1960s-era suit and skinny tie-- a class act. "I like your outfit, Mr. Mancini!" blurted one of Alice's teenaged daughters, much to the surprise and delight of the man himself. Alice shared the piano bench with Mancini for an impromptu jam session. "What a neat guy!" exclaimed Alice.
SEE ALSO Alice's Archives 2 "The Miscellaneous Files", for a related posting on Henry Mancini: "Henry Mancini Immortalized by the USPS"-- just click on this link and scroll down, or type in the search field provided in the upper left hand corner: www.alicesarchives2.blogspot.com .
Photo montage of Henry Mancini at work on his movie and television scores.
-Souvenir Program, mid-1960s
AND NOW... Henry Mancini fans, for your listening pleasure, served up with a dollop of nostalgia...
The Pink Panther Theme by Henry Mancini, courtesy of YouTube: