Q&A With Tony DeSare
Fanfare Cincinnati: New Year’s Eve tends to lend itself to wonderful music and concerts around the world. Why do you think New Year’s Eve concerts have become such a tradition?
Tony DeSare: Anyone who’s been around for enough New Year’s Eves can understand that New Year’s Eve has a different energy to it. To me, the thing that makes New Year’s Eve unique is that while it’s a night to go out to have fun, you kind of also have this reflection on the past year—the tough times and the great things that happened—and also the hope and fear of the future, as time goes by. So as you get closer and closer to midnight, everyone kind of takes account of their life—what happened this year, what you hope to happen next year. And music has the ability to take all of this into account at once. Especially the concert we’re doing. For those who were around in Frank Sinatra’s era it evokes memories. And here in 2015 we’re listening to Sinatra, indicating that as time goes by, everything’s different but everything remains the same. Music has a way of pushing these buttons—it’s kind of a strong cocktail.
FC: This concert pays tribute to the music of Frank Sinatra. Why has his music become such a mainstay in American culture?
TD: I think the thing that I responded to when I discovered him as a teenager is that music doesn’t have a time frame associated with it. When I first started listening to it, I didn’t feel like I was listening to something old. It spoke to me; it sounded very fresh. It’s like certain films. The Wizard of Oz, for example, never feels old even though it’s a very old film. Technology changes, but there’s such beauty and soul in the music of Frank Sinatra that speaks to a common thing in everyone. As long as people are people I don’t think that’s going to change.
FC: Do you have any memories you associate with Frank Sinatra’s music, or favorite songs of his?
TD: I became such a fan in my mid-teens, and I think I was 18 when I saw Frank Sinatra perform live at the very end of his career. It was just a really memorable thing, and I remember being there and how it felt to watch this guy who had such a career and whose music I loved that much. Even now as I step on stage with an orchestra and sing his music—first of all it is such a privilege to be able to do it—I have fun with it but I have a sense of responsibility to do his music justice. Because beyond all the celebrity shenanigans and things that revolved around his personality, he took his art and music very seriously. If I’m going to step on stage and have the guts to sing one of his arrangements, I want to make him proud. As for favorite songs, he really had two distinct moods— the swinging, fun Technicolor Sinatra and the very lonely, film noir. He had his young crooner phase when his ballads were so beautiful. It’s hard to pick one. If I were to pick one or two of my favorites, you could ask me next week and it would probably be different. All the ones we’ve selected for this program are on my list of favorites, though, such as “My Way” or the slightly more obscure “I Have Dreamed,” which is a beautiful Nelson Riddle arrangement. It’s the attention to detail in the songs he sang and the standards of excellence in producing, recording and arrangements that stick out to me as opposed to any one song.